12 April 2013
A boy rides his bicycle past damaged buildings in Deir al Zor, Syria, on 3 April. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Turkey building new refugee camps for Christians, Kurds (Daily Star Lebanon) On Wednesday, a Turkish government official announced the nation's plan to build two camps along its far southeastern border with Syria to house a growing number of refugees from Syrian minority groups — mainly Assyrian Christians as well as ethnic Kurds. More than 250,000 Syrians fleeing civil war in their homeland have registered in Turkey, with most staying in 17 camps along the 560-mile border, although Turkish leaders say the total number of refugees is closer to 400,000. Those who have fled are predominantly ethnic Arabs from Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, most of whom largely support the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al Assad…
Percentage of Christians in Palestinian territories drops by half (Fides) The percentage of Christians in the population of the Palestinian territories has been cut in half since the year 2000, from 2% to 1% over the last 13 years. And in Jerusalem, home to 27,000 Christians in 1948, today counts only 5,000. This is some of the data collected by the Hanna Issa, professor of international law…
After cathedral clash, Copts doubt future in Egypt (Reuters) After days of fighting at the cathedral and a town outside Cairo killing eight — the worst sectarian strife since Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was elected in June — many Copts now question whether they have a future in Egypt. An angry young fringe of a community that has lived in Egypt since the earliest days of Christianity may also be turning to violence…
Russian Catholics concerned over raids on churches, charities (CNS) Russia’s Catholic Church expressed surprise and concern after a wave of raids on its parishes and charities, part of a government clampdown on organizations with foreign links. “The Catholic Church is classified as an organization benefitting from foreign funds,” explained Father Kirill Gulbunov, spokesman for the Moscow Archdiocese, who added: “We can’t help feeling surprised that associations linked with our church are viewed as possible sources of extremism or terrorist activity…”
11 April 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Turkey Holy Land Christians Russian Catholic Church
Retired priests at St. Joseph’s Home in Chalakudy make time for recreational activities. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India has taken a pro-active approach to caring for its retired priests, as we first reported in 2009:
The church has invested in facilities for its aging priests, building modern and well-equipped residences, such as St. Paul’s Home, and phasing out deteriorating ones, such as St. Joseph’s Home in the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda, which will be replaced by the Vianney Home in Puliuilakunnu.
The new residences provide retirees with modern amenities, comfortable living quarters, community support and various recreational activities. These retirement homes have even launched web sites. In caring for its elders, the church has made its position clear: retired clergy deserve the same dignity and respect they earned and enjoyed during their lifetime of service to the community and to the church.
Read more about Redefining Retirement in the March 2009 issue of ONE.
11 April 2013
Tags: India Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Caring for the Elderly
A groom and bride hold hands on their wedding day. (photo: CNS/Jon L. Hendricks)
The Vatican is taking a closer look at the challenges facing couples from different faiths who marry:
Catholics need to know that marrying someone from a different Christian community or, even more so, from a different religion will create extra challenges in their marriage, but church leaders also must learn how to help people in mixed marriages meet those challenges, a Vatican official said.
“We can express a positive judgment only when the conditions are met for a family life where the values and purposes of marriage are respected, and where a common faith in God helps the spouses to weave together an authentic communion of life and love,” said Bishop Jean Laffitte. …
He was commenting, in part, on a research project conducted by the Catholic bishops of Lebanon, which looked at the realities and challenges of marriages between Christians of different traditions and between a Catholic and a Muslim.
In an interview for the family council’s website — www.family.va — Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter, the Maronite patriarch, said Lebanon “is a mixed society: in schools, universities, towns and cities. We all live together,” and, naturally, that has given birth to many mixed marriages.
The study said there are positive experiences of marriages between a Christian and a Muslim in countries like Lebanon, where followers of the two faiths have lived side by side for centuries. The diversity of the country is one of its riches, which is reflected in the number of mixed marriages and strengthened by them as members of the communities grow closer, the study said. However, it also found that different understandings of the family, conjugal life and the roles of men and women can make Catholic-Muslim marriages a challenge.
The cardinal said that in Lebanon, “the judgment about mixed marriages is positive,” because they contribute to peaceful coexistence, including on a social and political level.
However, he also said, “we try not to encourage mixed marriages in order to preserve the faith and traditions” of the various communities, because studies show that often couples handle belonging to different faith communities by one or both of them limiting or eliminating their involvement in the community.
11 April 2013
Tags: Lebanon Unity Interreligious Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Interfaith
Pope Francis greets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a meeting at the Vatican
on 9 April. (photo: CNS/Vincenzo Pinto, pool via Reuters)
Pope meets with UN head, discusses crisis in Syria (CNS) Each recognizing the important role the other plays on the global stage, Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met at the Vatican 9 April, discussing common efforts to promote peace and protect human dignity. “The United Nations and the Holy See share common goals and ideals,” the U.N. secretary-general told the pope as the two sat across from each other at a desk in the papal library. Reporters were ushered out of the room at that point. The two spoke specifically about “situations of conflict and serious humanitarian emergencies, especially in Syria,” but also about the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula and in several African countries “where peace and stability are threatened,” said a statement from the Vatican press office…
Patriarch expresses concern about Christians in Syria (Christian Post) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter expressed concern on the situation of Christians in Syria and the increasing number of displaced Syrians living in Lebanon. During his meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris Tuesday, the patriarch said a large number of Orthodox Christians — about 60 percent of those displaced — had left Syria, and that the solution there must be political. He stressed that President Bashar al Assad is not worse than those who are fighting in Syria…
Kerala Muslim man receives gift of life from Catholic priest (Indian Express) Diagnosed with chronic kidney disease a year-and-a-half ago, 30-year-old Rasad Muhammad’s hope of living had sunk with each passing day as a donor remained elusive. Until last month, when his saviour appeared suddenly — in the form of a Christian priest he had never met before. Father Kidangathazhe Sebastian, 41, will donate one of his kidneys to Rasad so he can live. Preparations are under way, and the transplant surgery is likely to be performed next month…
‘Pacem en Terris’ 50 years later (Vatican Radio) Thursday, 11 April, marks half a century since Blessed John XXIII published his encyclical “Pacem in Terris.” This encyclical, which as the Latin title indicates focuses on peace on earth, called for social and international peace. With this document which can be perceived as Pope John XXIII’s last testament, published as it was only a couple of months before his death, he broke new ground…
10 April 2013
Tags: Kerala United Nations Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Patriarch Kirill
The Soorp Badarak, or Divine Liturgy, is celebrated daily by the Mekhitarist community of Armenian Catholic monks. A seminary is now flourishing in a land that suffered under decades of Communist oppression. Read more about it here. (photo: Onnik Krikorian)
9 April 2013
Tags: Armenia Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist Monasticism
In this image from last year, Cardinal and CNEWA Chair Timothy Dolan, wearing the cape of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, prays the rosary on steps of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer/NY Daily News)
The Catholic World Report recently offered a special report on the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem — an ancient charitable order that has close ties to CNEWA:
Almost a thousand years after its founding, an order of crusader knights remains active in the Holy Land. Its mission is not armed battle but the carrying out of the order’s original ideals: personal holiness, evangelization, defense of the weak and charity towards all. Its members also pledge to support the upkeep of the shrines where Christ was born, prayed, mounted his cross and rose from the dead.
Founded soon after the First Crusade, the pontifical Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem currently has some 28,000 clerical, religious and lay members across the globe. While the order’s titles, regalia and ceremonies of investiture come with great honor and dignity (and a rigorous nomination process), membership comes with a lifetime pledge of spiritual and worldly support for the Holy Land. As a result, the order offers countless prayers and millions of dollars annually to build, operate, maintain and expand schools, youth centers, hospitals, seminaries, homes for religious, pre- and post-natal clinics, and the only Catholic institution of higher education in Israel, Bethlehem University.
“Our primary aim is personal sanctification,” stresses Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, grand master of the worldwide order. “I am convinced that with this focus on holiness, the charism [to support the people and shrines of the Holy Land] comes into full bloom.” …
Michael La Civita is a knight commander in the order’s Eastern United States Lieutenancy. For over two decades he has worked for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a North American-based charitable provider that regularly partners with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. La Civita describes the work done in the Holy Land by the order as “mind boggling.”
In speaking of how the order’s local Lieutenancies partner with CNEWA, La Civita said that “whatever problem there is in the Holy Land, there is a lay person or priest or religious to heal, care and nurture people who absolutely need it.”
La Civita is especially pleased with the sponsorship of American seminarians for two-week pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The future priests pray, study Scripture and learn first-hand about the social and economic hardships of Christians and all people in the Middle East.
There’s much more. Read the rest. And you can learn more about the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem by checking out this profile from our magazine.
9 April 2013
Tags: CNEWA Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre
A young student poses for a picture at a Jesuit-run school in Minya, Upper Egypt. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we profiled some ambitious Jesuit-run schools in Egypt:
The Jesuits have a long history of being educators in Minya. On the same campus as the Center for the Handicapped is a primary and preparatory school founded in 1889. The Jesuit Fathers school also receives scholarship grants from CNEWA. The 800-pupil school is run by five Jesuit priests and one brother, two of whom are Egyptians, two are Maltese, one is French and the other is Dutch. Also on staff are a number of Christian and Muslim teachers.
Jesuit Father Joseph Mizi, the school’s director, said the school is one of the best in the district even though it primarily serves the poorer children of the area. Built in the 1880’s, the school was disguised so it would not look like a church. Today, it looks like any other school building, but the spire looks surprisingly like the minaret of a mosque. …
Christians make up about only 6 percent of the population, but with their many outstanding schools they have made a significant impact on the country. The Jesuits, by working with disabled persons and the very poor, are helping the nation’s most underprivileged to shine.
Read more about schools taking children From Dust to Dignity in the November-December 2002 issue of the magazine.
8 April 2013
Tags: Egypt Education Interreligious Catholic education
Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga presides over the Sunday liturgy at St. Nicholas Church. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
In 2006, we took readers to Uganda, for a glimpse at Africa’s thriving Orthodox faith:
Kampala is a city of clamor. Uganda’s capital, a metropolis of 1.2 million, lies in the rolling highlands surrounding Lake Victoria. The acoustics of the place are such that sounds rise to wash over its green hills like a gentle tide. Climb one of them any Sunday and listen, and up will waft Uganda in all its varied devotion: a muezzin’s call to prayer, an Anglican hymn, the gravelly bark of a born-again preacher — “Ha-lle-luiah!” The Church of St. Nicholas stands atop a hill called Namungoona on the outskirts of Kampala, up a winding dirt road from an open-air evangelical congregation and a Catholic church shaped like a pagoda. St. Nicholas’s is prim and yellow, with a peaked roof and windows of brightly colored stained glass.
On a recent soggy Sunday, worshipers filed inside to the clank of a bell, taking care as they entered to kiss a gold-bound copy of the Gospels that lay on a pedestal near the door. At the front of the church, before icons of Jesus, Mary and the congregation’s patron saint, stood a gray-bearded man bedecked in white vestments and a jeweled crown. He was Jonah Lwanga, Metropolitan of Kampala and All Uganda, and crammed into the rows of wooden pews before him, singing heartily in the local language, Luganda, was one of the most unlikely congregations in a nation renowned for its religious diversity. They were African followers of the Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa. According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But “all Africa,” for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara. Orthodox missionaries sat out the 19th century’s “scramble for Africa,” when European Catholics and Protestants fanned out across the continent to save souls and build colonies. The story of how the Alexandrian Church came to have an affiliate in faraway Uganda, a country with no previous connection to the Orthodox world, is therefore not a tale of white men bearing the message of God to a dark continent. Rather, the Ugandan church traces its roots to two Africans who, rebelling against colonial rule, fled to a religion they felt was pure and politically uncompromised. This makes Uganda’s small community of 60,000 Orthodox Christians nearly unique within their home country. They found their faith on their own.
Read the rest in the March 2006 issue of ONE.
5 April 2013
Tags: Christianity Africa Orthodox Church Orthodox
A street vendor in Beirut sells ka’ak, a bread stuffed with spices. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
Several years ago, we took a bite out of Lebanon — looking at some of the unique foods of the land of cedars:
Although you can list the essential ingredients of Lebanese cooking on the fingers of two hands, the variations and combinations are beyond simple arithmetic. These 10 ingredients are: wheat, olive oil, lemon juice, rice, onions, yogurt, garlic, (sesame seed paste), lentils and chickpeas.
Every vegetable and every fruit has its season. Lebanon’s varied climate guarantees fresh produce all year long while greenhouses coax tomatoes, cucumbers and beans into maturity.
Following harvesting, the local wheat becomes bread, and bread is a daily purchase. During the war, there were many curfews but doctors and bakers were excluded. An increase in the price of bread often triggers civil unrest in the Middle East. Give us this day our daily bread is not only a line from the Lord’s Prayer, it is a cry for action.
Read more “Food for Thought” in the September-October 2002 issue of the magazine.
5 April 2013
Tags: Lebanon Beirut
A man mourns the death of relatives while people search for casualties under the rubble at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 March.
(photo: CNS/Ziad Rev, Reuters)
Aleppo Christians fleeing rebel-held areas in Syria (Fides) The conquest of the district of Cheikh Maksoud by the anti-Assad militia could mark the fate of Aleppo, the metropolis battered for months by a bloody civil war. “Father David Fernandez, a missionary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, confirms that neighborhood- is located on a hill overlooking Aleppo and is a strategic point for those who want to conquer the central area of the city, where there are also government buildings...
Kidnappers target Christians in Egypt (Associated Press) Ezzat Kromer’s resistance to his kidnappers did not last long. One of the masked gunmen fired a round between his feet as he sat behind the wheel of his car and said with chilling calm, “The next one will go into your heart.” The Christian gynecologist says he was bundled into his abductors’ vehicle, forced to lie under their feet in the back seat for a 45-minute ride, then dumped in a small cold room while his kidnappers contacted his family over a ransom. For the next 27 hours, he endured beatings, insults and threats to his life, while blindfolded, a bandage sealing his mouth and cotton balls in his ears. Kromer’s case is part of a dramatic rise of kidnappings targeting Christians, including children, in Egypt’s southern province of Minya, home to the country’s largest concentration of Christians but also a heartland for Islamist hard-liners...
Building collapse near Mumbai kills dozens (BBC) At least 40 people have died, including 11 children, after a building under construction collapsed near the Indian city of Mumbai, police say. Dozens have been injured and many others are feared trapped beneath the seven-storey building in Thane. Police said the block was an illegal construction and building work was going on even though four floors were already occupied. Building collapses are common with poor construction practices often blamed...
A Bosnian Muslim welcome to Pope Francis (Lebanon Daily Star) The election of Argentine Pope Francis, the 266th Bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church, deserves both our congratulations and our reflection for the future of Muslim-Christian coexistence and dialogue. As a survivor of genocide at the end of 20th century in Bosnia, I am very interested in the policy of the Vatican and the message of the Holy See, which speaks for the Catholic Church. While the political influence of the Vatican might be limited to public diplomacy, the spiritual influence has great significance for millions of Christians worldwide. Consequently, the pope has always had a great impact on global peace and security. Pope Francis.. may find in his two immediate predecessors important lessons that could guide his future relations with Muslims...
Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis Muslim