27 September 2012
A damaged building is seen after heavy shelling in Aleppo, Syria, on 26 September.
Saving the lives of Syria’s refugees (Washington Post) If you need a measure of how desperate Syria’s refugees are, contemplate this: Many are fleeing to Iraq. It’s astonishing that Iraq, once the refugee equivalent of the Titanic, has become a lifeboat. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.) reports that there are 15,096 Syrian refugees in Iraq, and that they are among 100,000 Syrians who have fled to Jordan, Turkey, and beyond since Bashar al-Assad’s regime began fighting with opponents in March 2011. Who are these refugees? Children and families make up a huge number. At Jordan’s Za’atri refugee camp, according to a U.N.H.C.R. spokesperson, children accounted for 60 percent of new arrivals in one week. Syrian troops recently killed a 6-year-old boy fleeing to Jordan.
Jordan’s King warns against attempts to erase Jerusalem’s Muslim, Christian identity (Jordan Times) His Majesty King Abdullah warned against attempts to erase the Arab, Muslim, or Christian identity of Jerusalem or invade Al Aqsa Mosque. Delivering an address at the plenary session of the 67th U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, the king urged the international community to send a clear message that any such transgressions will not be tolerated. “We are extremely concerned by threats to Jerusalem and the sanctity of its Muslim and Christian holy sites,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech.
Coptic, Islamic scholars agree on new Egyptian constitution (Fides) Representatives of Egyptian political parties, Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church met at the Shura Council of Parliament to resolve disputes over eight articles in the new constitution. In particular, the participants agreed to keep Article Two as it was in the 1971 Constitution, which states: “Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language and the principles of Islamic Shari’a are a main source legislation.”
Church leaders blast Indian film as blasphemous (Fides) The Bollywood film “Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal” (”Laugh, be happy”), to be released tomorrow, 28 September, “is blasphemous, an offense against Christian faith and the faithful’s feelings.” For this reason, Father Domic D’Abrio, spokesman for the Catholic Episcopal Conference of India, told Fides, “the Indian bishops are offended and saddened by the failure to report the competent bodies in charge of controlling films destined for the general public. … They deplore the producers’ irresponsible behavior [and ask civil authorities] to ensure full respect for the symbols and content of the Christian faith in India.”
Ethiopians celebrate Demera procession (ENA via Ethiopsorts) Demera, the bonfire traditionally burnt on eve of the Finding of the True Cross (Meskel) upon which Jesus Christ was crucified, was celebrated on Wednesday throughout the country. In the capital, the day was celebrated in the presence of tens of thousands of residents of the Addis Ababa City, members of the diplomatic community and foreign tourists, as well as senior government officials. Deacons, priests and students of Sunday schools garbed in white, traditional clothing played religious songs and hymns that added color to the holiday.
Muslim prayer room welcomed at Canadian Catholic school (Catholic Register) Concerns that the establishment of a prayer room, requested by Muslim students, at a London, Ontario, Catholic high school will water down the school’s Catholic faith are just plain wrong, says the school board’s education director. “First of all, it’s a prayer room; it’s not named after a particular faith,” said Wilma de Rond, director of education for the London District Catholic School Board (L.D.C.S.B.). “When a request comes from another faith there is no request for us to provide any sort of accommodation for them that in some way impacts our faith.”
Russian Patriarch calls for victory in sports (Voice of Russia Radio) Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, met with Russia’s best athletes on Wednesday. “A victory in sports is a real feat,” His Holiness said. “Among other components, a victory in sports has a strong spiritual component.”
26 September 2012
Tags: Egypt Refugees Syrian Civil War Jordan Christian-Muslim relations
In this image from 9 September, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, celebrates the Divine Liturgy at Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Cathedral in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (photo: CNS/David Lipnowski)
Yesterday, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church spoke to Canada’s bishops, and had some harsh words about the threat from secularism in the West.
From Catholic News Service:
“The current economic crisis is merely the symptom of a much deeper spiritual and cultural crisis,” Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the annual plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on 25 September. “As Western society rejects old moral structures and values, it finds that its moral GPS has no fixed and stationary points of reference.”
Archbishop Shevchuk said the church must find “new courage” to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to contemporary society to provide “an anchor and compass.”
”We live in societies where virtue and goodness are frequently a veneer for religious intolerance, personal gratification and moral decay,” he said. “Secularism would like us to be closed in a little box of Sunday worship.”
The former Soviet Union used that approach to religion, he said.
”Separation of church and state has become separation of faith values from society, yet our mission is to preach the word of God to all and to be a constant sign of God’s loving presence through social ministry,” he said.
26 September 2012
Tags: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk
Altar servers assist a liturgy at the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Lviv. (photo: Petro Didula)
In the September issue of ONE, read how Armenians are practicing their faith in western Ukraine in the story Restoring Faith.
26 September 2012
Tags: Ukraine Eastern Christianity Armenian Apostolic Church
Pope Benedict XVI greets Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III during his visit to St. Paul's Basilica in Harissa, Lebanon on 14 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Patriarch Gregorios III receives representatives of European Union (Byzcath.org) The day after Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon, which was a constantly reiterated call for peace, His Beatitude Gregorios III, patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, tenaciously pursued his efforts and appeals for a cessation of hostilities in Syria. On Thursday 20 September, the patriarch received representatives of Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Greece and Poland, as well as a representative of Canada, in the patriarchal residence of Rabweh, Lebanon.
Hostages released in Syria (Fides) Bells ring in celebration, hugs are shared among family members reunited, a Mass of Thanksgiving and a solemn interfaith ceremony of reconciliation are celebrated: this all happened yesterday in the village of Rableh, in the region of Homs, on the border with Lebanon. The joyous city commemorated the release of about 240 Christians, mostly Greek Catholic faithful, recently taken hostage by armed groups while working in the fields.
Christian, Muslim leaders reflect on pope’s Lebanon visit (Fides) Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon is increasingly shaping up to be the beginning of a new season for Lebanon. This is confirmed by the summit of the heads of the local religious communities and their representatives held yesterday at the headquarters of Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara in Bkerke.
Middle Eastern speakers in Rome denounce Western interference (Catholic News Service) Western nations need to respect the people of the Middle East and trust them to solve their own problems, said an Iraqi diplomat, an Iraqi archbishop and a Syrian-born representative of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The two religious leaders also called for an end to foreign military intervention and other interference in the region that they said only foment strife and hinder their citizens’ desire for peace. Their comments came during an event sponsored by the Iraqi Embassy to the Vatican on 24 September. Ali Nashmi, a Muslim professor and historian spoke on the contribution by Iraqi Christians throughout history to the preservation of both Eastern and Western cultures.
Russian lawmakers call for jail for “blasphemous acts” (Reuters) Russian lawmakers are calling for jail sentences for people guilty of offending religious feelings, in a move that could tighten the bonds between President Vladimir Putin and the resurgent Orthodox Church.
Hasidic Jews experience a slow rebirth in Russia (NPR) About a dozen men prayed recently at Darkei Shalom, a Hasidic Jewish synagogue in the working-class neighborhood of Otradnoye in northern Moscow. Except for the Star of David on its squat tower, the building is as plain and utilitarian as the linoleum on the floor. It sits — along with a Russian Orthodox church and a mosque — on a leafy stretch of land surrounded by towering apartment blocks. Dovid Karpov has been the rabbi here since the synagogue was built 15 years ago. He says he’s fairly typical of the people who form this community: Jews who grew up in Soviet times with little connection to their religious roots.
25 September 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Iraqi Christians Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox Church
In this image from 2003, a poor family struggles to survive in Ethiopia. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Several years ago, writer and photographer Peter Lemieux visited Ethiopia and documented the efforts to help children orphaned by AIDS:
Selecting needy children in a country as poor as Ethiopia may seem an easy task. In almost any direction, blight, poverty and despair are visible. Ethiopia has the third largest number of H.I.V.-positive people in the world after India and South Africa.
Spiritan Father Brendan Cogavin, director of CNEWA’s needy child program in Ethiopia, said, “If you look at the files, they show case histories of children who are genuinely orphaned. The father and mother have died from AIDS or AIDS-related illnesses. They are desperately poor. If you don’t work, you don’t eat, and you don’t get any education either, because the government doesn’t provide it for free. So without sponsorship, many of these kids wouldn’t have any education at all.”
While need is everywhere, the sisters take seriously the task of selecting the neediest children for the program. Working closely with the local municipality, the sisters survey the community for families and individuals who appear to meet their criteria. Orphaned children, children of single mothers, children between 3 and 6 years of age and children from low-income families receive the highest priority.
Orthodox? Muslim? Catholic? Religion does not matter. “We see the person, not the religion,” said Sister Enatnesh Eshetu, who is on the selection committee for the Good Shepherd Day Care Center, the congregation’s other day care center in Addis Ababa.
Continue reading A Flicker of Candlelight Amid the Darkness from the September 2003 issue of the magazine.
And to explore ways to support the work that we do in places like Ethiopia, visit our Ways to Give page.
25 September 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Unity Orphans/Orphanages HIV/AIDS
Choir members sing during Mass at St. Michael's Chaldean Catholic Church in El Cajon, California, in this June 2010 photo. (photo: CNS/David Maung)
A recent conference in Ohio brought together hundreds of Eastern Catholics, expressing their love for their faith and their hope that their numbers will grow.
From Catholic News Service:
The message hit Patrick Keegan loud and clear: He’s a leader in his Byzantine Catholic parish just as much as his pastor.
A catechist at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Barberton, outside of Akron, Keegan said he wants to assume a greater leadership role in his parish and in the wider community by living out his faith.
“You have to make yourself known. You have to listen at the feet of Jesus, but you can’t just stay at the feet of Jesus. You have to go out,” Keegan told Catholic News Service during a break at Encounter 2012 near Cleveland Sept. 22 sponsored by the Eastern Catholic churches.
“I can’t teach what I don’t live and to know what I have to live I have to read Scripture,” Keegan continued. “I have to read the church fathers. I have to pick a side of the fence, so to say. I either live for Christ or I don’t.
“It’s tough. It’s really tough.”
Keegan, who joined St. Nicholas after years in the Latin Catholic Church, said he travels 60-mile round trip from his home in Wooster, Ohio, to his parish once or twice a week to teach the faith to young people. He said he hopes his example inspires others.
He was one of 200 laypeople and 85 Eastern Catholic clergy to attend the conference on 20-23 September.
Conference organizers hoped the events featuring well-known speakers mixed with a healthy dose of worship and prayer will inspire and reinvigorate lay members and clergy to collaborate in evangelization, invite newcomers to check out their churches and to raise the profile of the Eastern churches in their communities.
The Eastern churches are diverse, encompassing cultures from Eastern Europe, throughout the Middle East and India. Among the churches participating in the conference were the Armenian, Chaldean, Syro-Malankara, Syro-Malabar, Maronite, Melkite, Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian Byzantine, Syriac, Ukrainian Byzantine and Ukrainian Catholic churches. The Slovaks of the Byzantine Rite of Canada also participated in the conference. All are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Many attendees described the Eastern Catholic churches as the “best-kept secret” of the North American Catholic Church and expressed hope that the conference series will be the start of a major effort to boost membership in their not-very-well-known parishes. Several said collaboration — especially in religious education, Bible study, cultural programming and prayer — is vital.
“We need this. We need people from our churches to interact with people of our faith,” said Mary Snell, a member of Nativity of Mother of God Slovak Byzantine Church in Toronto. “Our churches are empty and we need to get people back in.”
And for more on the Eastern Christian Churches, check out Ronald G. Roberson’s book and profiles of the different churches that have appeared in the magazine over the last several years.
25 September 2012
Tags: United States Eastern Churches Chaldean Church Eastern Catholics
A boy sits in his home, damaged in shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, near Homs on 31 August. (photo: CNS/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)
Greek Catholics kidnapped in Syria (Fides) The kidnapping of 150 Greek Catholic faithful has shocked the Christian community in the village of Rableh, between the Lebanese border and the city of Qusayr, in the province of Homs. Victims include workers and farmers, men, youth and women who were just a few kilometers from the village, working in the fields for the apple harvest — a major livelihood for the local population.
Pope Benedict XVI and the road map of peace (L’Osservatore Romano) Benedict XVI pointed out the way to peace. It is now up to those who have the destiny of the Middle East in their hands to decide whether to take it — and thus put an end to the suffering of the peoples who dwell in that troubled region — or to continue to leave room for violence nurtured by the exploitation of religious convictions that have nothing to do with violence.
Catholics in India angry over depiction in new film (Times of India) Catholics have threatened to stop the screening of a forthcoming Hindi movie directed by Priyadarshan, “Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal” if certain scenes making a “disrespectful portrayal” of the community and its priests are not deleted, an official said.
24 September 2012
Tags: Syria Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI Indian Catholics
Msgr. John Kozar, top center, shares a joyful moment with the Vincentian Fathers of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in southern India. (photo: CNEWA)
In the newest issue of the magazine, Msgr. Kozar reflects on his recent visit to India:
Earlier this year, I was blessed to visit with the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara churches in southern India. It was, for me, a Pentecostal experience. Let me explain.
The energy and enthusiasm of these churches takes one back to the celebration of the first Pentecost. The mandate of our Lord to preach and teach the Good News is alive and active with our brothers and sisters in southern India.
The photo above captures a little of the joyful feeling expressed by a group of Vincentian Fathers of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, who joined about 10,000 faithful of every age in the culmination of a week-long “Popular Mission.” Imagine this huge crowd of souls who have processed from near and far, gathered in the open air — singing, dancing, shouting their praises to give honor and glory to God and to give witness of their faith to each other. Turn up the decibels, look out at the army of faithful and celebrate that this is what Pentecost is all about.
Read more in the September issue of ONE.
24 September 2012
Tags: India Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, reports that responses to the pope's Lebanon trip have been overwhelmingly positive. This 9 September 2010 photo was taken prior to his elevation to cardinal that year. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope’s Lebanon trip promoted unity with the Christian Orthodox churches (L’Osservatore Romano) “A big step forward in achieving unity with the Christian Orthodox churches” — that’s the way that Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, described the most recent visit of Benedict XVI to Lebanon. The cardinal, who participated in the visit as member of the Holy Father’s entourage, analyzed the ecumenical meaning of the visit in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano.
Opposition leader tells pope the Syrian regime is a threat to Christians (Lebanon Daily Star) Syrian Christian opposition leader George Sabra told Pope Benedict XVI that the survival of the Damascus regime poses a threat to the country’s Christians, the Syrian National Council said Sunday. “The survival of the Assad regime is a danger to Christians and Muslims in Syria alike,” Sabra told the pontiff during a visit to the Vatican on Saturday.
Pope to pilgrims: “Continue to pray for Christians in the Middle East” (Fides) After the Angelus prayer at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo yesterday, 23 September, the Holy Father addressed the French-speaking pilgrims with these words: “Dear French-speaking pilgrims, I thank you with all my heart for your prayers that accompanied the success of the apostolic trip to Lebanon and the whole Middle East. Continue to pray for Christians in the Middle East, for peace and for peaceful dialogue between religions.”
Orthodox leaders seek European help to stem anti-Christian violence (Byzcath.org) The Orthodox patriarchs of the Holy Land have appealed to the European Union for help in combating a rising tide of anti-Christian violence. In a statement issued this week, four Orthodox leaders remind their European counterparts that their Christian communities have survived for centuries with Muslim neighbors. “However, the recent increasing influence of extreme fundamentalist elements in the region directly jeopardizes the lives of Christians in their ancient cradles,” the statement says.
Consumer group wants Russian Orthodox patriarch defrocked (RT.com) The Society for Consumer Rights’ Protection has addressed the top board of the Russian Orthodox Church with a request to defrock Patriarch Kirill over alleged violations of the church canon.
Meet Bethlehem University’s first female vice president (Catholic News Service) Thirty-five years after the first class graduated from Bethlehem University, one of its members became the first woman and Palestinian to hold the Catholic school’s highest academic position. “No one ever imagined this position not being held by a [Christian] brother,” said Irene Hazou, newly appointed academic vice president.
21 September 2012
Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI Unity Ecumenism
Archbishop Foaud Twal with Msgr. John Kozar meets CNEWA’s director of major gifts, Bob Pape.
CNEWA received a visit today from His Beatitude, Archbishop Foaud Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The patriarch — who has responsibility for Latin Catholics in Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Cyprus — met with Msgr. John Kozar and members of the New York staff. During a wide-ranging interview, he shared some of his thoughts about what his happening in the Middle East.
“I feel more than ever,” he began, “that Jerusalem is not for us alone. It welcomes all the faithful. And it divides the faithful at the sametime. We love it so much that everybody is ready to die for it.”
Living in a land so often torn by violence, he yearns for peace.
“If there is peace in Jerusalem,” he asked, “can we have peace in all the Middle East? I think we can, we can. With its religious dimension, I think Jerusalem is key to peace.
“We must have the courage to look at peace for everybody,” he continued. “The dream, my dream, is a dream of men of good will: when their children and our children can play soccer together and study together and they can eat together.”
The patriarch, who was born in Madaba, Jordan, noted that Christians are a minority in the Holy Land — making up only about two percent of the population — but he believes Christians have a special role to play. “I want the church to be a bridge for peace between people, between Muslims and Jews,” he explained. “Charity does not know any borders, any limits. In this atmosphere of violence, charity is the language that everybody can and must understand.”
The patriarch said he appreciates the value of all the pilgrims who flock to his country every year, and feels they have a message to carry back to the world.
“I ask them, when they go back, to be advocates, to let others know what they have experienced, what they have felt. It must be a point to start again in your life when you come back — enriched by experience, by knowledge, by culture, by love.
“This is our strength,” he said, “We are not alone. We are happy to have the collaboration of the pilgrims and Catholic institutions. I want the American Christian people to be with me, co-responsible for the small Christian community in the Holy Land and the holy places. Holy Land is land AND people.”
The patriarch also stressed the importance of education in achieving understanding and peace. He takes great pride in Jordan’s American University in Madaba that was started two years ago.
“I believe in education. The pope was the one who blessed the cornerstone of the university,” he said. “Now we have about 600 students.”
Speaking of the apostolic exhortation delivered last weekend by the pope, he said the final text was more moderate, more universal, than some of the original proposals that were presented to the Holy Father. The patriarch said it needs to spread to others throughout the region and demands more study.
And he concluded his conversation with us the way he began: by speaking poignantly, and powerfully, about Jerusalem. He will be taking part in the synod on the New Evangelization, and he finds its roots in the very beginnings of the church.
“The Lord is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he said. “We have the same sacraments, same Gospel, same grace, same sin. What is new is the context we have. The mass media. That’s what is new. A good example of first community where they loved each other, where they had a leitmotif where they were disposed to work, to struggle, to sacrifice, that was Jerusalem.”
The key to the New Evangelization?
“We must go back and start again from Jerusalem,” he said.
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Jordan