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June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
2 January 2013
Greg Kandra

A defaced religious painting is seen with the eyes and mouth scratched out in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, on 27 December. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)

Bishops describe Christmas in besieged Syria (CNS) Because of ongoing fighting in the city, Catholic leaders in Aleppo, Syria, canceled their traditional Christmas visits to local government officials, but the local governor dropped in on a meeting of bishops and priests on 27 December to offer his best wishes, said Bishop Giuseppe Nazzaro. The bishop, who is the Latin-rite apostolic vicar of Aleppo, said Gov. Mohammad Vahid Akkad, an appointee of besieged President Bashar Assad, expressed his appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas appeals for peace in Syria. After praying for peace in Syria in his midnight Mass homily, Pope Benedict expressed his concern Christmas Day for the “deeply wounded and divided” Syrian people. He called for “an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict”…

Pope sends greetings to new Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch (Vatican Radio) At a time when the Middle East is so unstable and prone to violence, “it is increasingly urgent that the disciples of Christ offer an authentic witness of their unity, so that the world may believe the Gospel message of love, peace and reconciliation.” These are the words of Pope Benedict XVI, in a message of fraternal greetings in Christ’s love, to Youhanna X, the new Greek Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and All the East…

Bishop of Udaipur resigns (Fides) On 21 December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Msgr. Joseph Pathalil from the pastoral care of the Diocese of Udaipur, India, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law. The Holy Father appointed Bishop John Devprasad Ganawa of Jhabua as bishop of the Diocese of Udaipur. The same prelate was appointed apostolic administrator of the vacant et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis of the Diocese of Jhabua…

Russian Orthodox church favors law banning adoptions (AsiaNews) Despite a wave of criticism from civil society groups and members of the Russian government, the Russian Orthodox Church has backed the controversial ‘anti-Magnitsky bill’ that President Vladimir Putin signed into law last Friday. As of 1 January, the new law bans adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens…

Dozens of religious items stolen from Russian Orthodox church in Hollywood (Los Angeles Times) Los Angeles police continued their investigation Monday into the theft of nearly 40 religious artifacts from a Russian Orthodox church in Hollywood. Thirty-seven items were taken from an altar room at the Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Cathedral the night of 22 December, Los Angeles police said. No arrests have been made in the case...

Tags: Syrian Civil War Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox Church Patriarchs Indian Bishops

21 December 2012
Greg Kandra

We’ve just posted online the final issue of ONE for 2012. Check it out here.

Features include a look at Ethiopia’s thriving Catholic school system; a glimpse at life among the “untouchables,” the Christian Dalits of India; analysis of “Communion and Witness,” the apostolic exhortation to the churches of the Middle East; and the conclusion of Michael J.L. La Civita’s seven-year-long series profiling the Eastern churches.

His series was a massive undertaking, and one of the most ambitious in the history of the magazine. He talks about it in the video below.

We’ll see you in the new year! Until then, a blessed Christmas to all of you, from all of us at CNEWA!

Tags: Lebanon Ethiopia CNEWA Eastern Churches

21 December 2012
Greg Kandra

A Christian pilgrim touches the star in the grotto of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on 13 December. The church is the oldest in the Holy Land still used for regular worship. The silver star — parts worn smooth by the veneration of pilgrims — marks the site of Christ’s birth. This year, as is customary, CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar will be celebrating Mass over this spot. Read his account of last year’s visit. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Tags: Bethlehem

21 December 2012
Greg Kandra

A woman walks past a house destroyed in an airstrike in Azaz, Syria, on 18 December.
(photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)

Second refugee camp to open in Jordan (Fides) In the coming days a second UN camp for refugees fleeing from Syria will be opened in Jordan. This is confirmed to Fides Agency by the director of Caritas Jordan, Wael Suleiman. The new facility is located near Zarqa and can accommodate 45,000 people. Priority will be given to women and children...

Pope will turn attention to Iraq during new year (Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI has convoked a Synod of bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church for January, 2013. The aim of the Synod will be to elect a successor to His Beatitude Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, whose resignation was accepted by the Holy Father on Wednesday...

Christian churches participating in national dialogue in Egypt (Fides) There were representatives of three Christian churches at the fourth session of the Egyptian national dialogue chaired by the Deputy President Mahmoud Mekky, which took place on 18 December...

Orthodox leaders discuss outreach at White House ( More than 80 representatives of the nation’s Orthodox Christian service organizations gathered at the White House here on Friday, December 14, 2012 to discuss strategic service alliances with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The White House Conference on Orthodox Christian Engagement was hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement in conjunction with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and facilitated by International Orthodox Christian Charities[IOCC]...

Syrian Christians prepare for somber Christmas (Canada Free Press) “Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright...” Many Christians all over the world will sing this Christmas carol in the next few days. Millions look forward to Christmas. What about the Syrian Christians in the midst of a terrible civil war? Will they have the “heavenly peace” this Christmas classic speaks about?

Bartholomew seeks to reinvigorate dialogue with Catholics (National Herald) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is attempting to inaugurate a new path and new dynamics of rapprochement and reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church in conjunction with the Theological Dialogue working towards the Eucharistic Union of the Churches...

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Refugees Orthodox

19 December 2012
Greg Kandra

A female refugee from Syria prepares food for her family as her son helps her with the stove at a refugee camp in the village of Jeb Jennine, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Harsh winter looms for Syrian refugees (Vatican Radio) With Syrian refugees now numbering over half a million, many of them face grim conditions as temperatures drop in the region and there is a looming shortage of essential winter supplies. Father Peter Balleis is the International Director for Jesuit Refugee Services and he says the Syrian refugees and displaced people face great hardship in the coming winter months. He told Vatican Radio’s Susy Hodges that conditions are particularly acute in Syrian’s second city of Aleppo which “is cut off from supplies” as it’s virtually besieged. He says there are shortages in the city of “food and electricity” and therefore a lack of heating and that life for the local population “is getting very difficult”…

Pope accepts resignation of Chaldean patriarch (VIS) Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the Chaldean Church presented by His Beatitude Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq, and convoked the Synod of Bishops of the same church in Rome on 28 January 2013 to elect a successor…

Gaza Christians will be permitted to visit Bethlehem (Jerusalem Post) The I.D.F. is set to issue permits to some 500 Palestinian Christians residing in Gaza, allowing them to travel to the West Bank — specifically Bethlehem, for Christmas. Additionally, at least 20,000 entrance visas will likely be issued to Christian pilgrims who are expected to visit Bethlehem from abroad for the holiday...

Former hostage Terry Waite writes about his return to Lebanon (The Guardian) Last week I returned to Lebanon, a quarter of a century after being kidnapped and held captive for almost five years, most of the time chained to a wall and denied many basic comforts. You might think such a trip foolhardy, but the crisis developing there desperately needs attention. I had been invited to go back to see for myself the plight of the many Christian refugees who are flooding across the Syrian/Lebanese border, and travelled to the Bekaa Valley to visit the refugees who have been forced into exile from Syria. The situation there is tragic…

Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Pope Benedict XVI

18 December 2012
Greg Kandra

The church at Saint George’s Monastery houses rare Arab icons. (photo: Sean Sprague)

This morning, some big news in the Orthodox world:

His Eminence, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Western and Central Europe, has been elected Patriarch of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East.

The Patriarch-elect Youhanna X [Yaziji] was elected by the members of the Holy Synod earlier today, 17 December 2012, during a special session held at the Balamand Patriarchal Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Born in Syria in 1955, the Patriarch-elect received his primary, secondary and university education in Latakiya, Syria graduating with a degree in civil engineering. He earned a degree in theology in 1978 from the Saint John of Damascus School of Orthodox of Theology at the Balamand University and a doctorate in theology (emphases in liturgy and Byzantine music) in 1983 from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. He was tonsured a monk at the Athonite Monastery of Saint Paul on the Holy Mountain, was ordained to the holy diaconate in 1979 and to the holy priesthood in 1983, and in 1981 became professor of Liturgical Studies at the Saint John of Damascus School of Orthodox Theology at the Balamand University. He assumed the position of dean of that theological school from 1988-1991 and again from 2001-2005.

He was elected and consecrated to the sacred episcopacy in 1995 with the title Bishop of al-Hosn. He has served as superior of the Monastery of Saint George al-Humayrah in the Christian Valley (Wadi al-Nasara) in Syria, superior of the Our Lady of Balamand Monastery, and spiritual father to the Convent of the Dormition in Blemmana, Syria. In 2008 he was elected and enthroned as the Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Western and Central Europe.

Last year, we took readers to the monastery where he served as superior:

In its heyday, the monastery was one of the region’s major theological centers. Scores of monks once lived, prayed, studied and worked there, and its seminary trained the region’s priests. But dwindling enrollment forced the monastery to close its doors not long ago. Father Andrew, a priest in the nearby village of Amre, studied at St. George’s.

“We are sad that St. George’s is no longer a seminary,” says the priest, adding, “there is talk to start it up again. There is a convent in the nearby village of Marmarita, where students can study theology for three years and then go on to Lebanon to finish their studies.” But only three monks remain at St. George’s, which has become a favorite stop for bus loads of pilgrims and tourists.

“We get up at 5 a.m. to pray in the chapel and then do various chores like cleaning or working in the library, until breakfast at 8:30,” says Mar Christo, the monastery’s energetic abbot. Cloaked in his traditional black cassock, his woolly hat outlining his pointed beard and laughing eyes, he says that soon after breakfast, “the tourist buses start to arrive, so we show them around.

“Our two big feast days are Saint George’s Day on 6 May and the Triumph of the Cross on 14 September — plus of course Christmas and Easter,” he continues. “On feast days, many pilgrims come to stay at the monastery. A big market is set up outside selling icons and food. On Sundays, the villagers come to the liturgy, but not so many.”

Read more about Syria’s Christian valley in the January 2011 issue of ONE.

Tags: Syria Christianity Monastery Syriac Orthodox Church

18 December 2012
Greg Kandra

The date of Patriarch-elect Youhanna X's enthronement has not yet been announced. (photo:

New patriarch of Antioch elected ( Patriarch-elect Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East, formerly the metropolitan archbishop of Western and Central Europe, was elected by the members of the Holy Synod earlier today, 17 December 2012, during a special session held at the Balamand Patriarchal Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos…

In India, mourners crowd the funeral of nurse caught in hoax (ABC News) Family and friends of the nurse found hanging in her room days after she had been duped by a “royal” hoax call from Australian disc jockeys gathered in a church in south India for her funeral Monday. Jacintha Saldanha’s body was kept at her husband’s home in the town of Shirva for a few hours before being taken to the church for a prayer service and burial. Mourners crowded the Our Lady of Health Church in Shirva for the memorial service before heading to the cemetery in the church grounds. Catholic priests recited prayers as Saldanha’s body was interred in a grave marked by a simple black cross. Saldanha’s husband and two children had accompanied the body from London, where her death on 7 December is being investigated as an apparent suicide...

Syrian war fueling Christian flight from Middle East (BBC) The Lebanese city of Zahle sits high in the Bekaa valley, on the ancient highway that connects Damascus to Beirut and the world beyond. To reach it from the coast by road in December, you must climb sharply through a series of hairpin bends — every few minutes you catch a glimpse of the steep highland scenery as a gap appears in the raw, foggy air. This Christian city has known dark times. It became a dangerous frontline as the armed forces of Syria intervened in Lebanon’s long, complex and bitter civil war in the 1980s. In a very similar conflict in the 1860s it was torched by besieging Druze and Turkish fighters after its Christian defenders were defeated. Civilians were massacred in the bloody aftermath. These days, Zahle is a place of safety. Christian families fleeing the violence and chaos of Syria’s civil war just a few kilometers further down that ancient highway are arriving in the city where Christian aid agencies care for them…

Catholics in Kerala may have to confess drinking to a priest (The Asian Age) For Catholics in Kerala, alcohol consumption will soon be a sin, which has to be confessed before a priest. That is, if a church panel has its way. The temperance commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (K.C.B.C.), which has taken up the issue, is also seeking a ban on employing people who drink in institutions run by the church…

Celebrating Hanukkah with the last Jews of Egypt (Foreign Policy) There were fewer attendees than usual at Thursday night’s Hanukkah celebration in the Egyptian capital, perhaps due to the political unrest that has gripped the city — or maybe just because of the cold weather. The tiny Jewish community of Cairo consists almost entirely of elderly women, and they have weathered the current period of national crisis just as they survived hardships decades ago. As the wax dripped from the candles on the menorah at the downtown Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue, protesters continued to mass outside the presidential palace across town and blocked off Tahrir Square, only a short walk away. The first round of voting in a contentious constitutional referendum took place Saturday, the penultimate day of Hanukkah…

Tags: Egypt Lebanon Syrian Civil War Indian Christians Patriarchs

17 December 2012
Greg Kandra

A Christmas tree decorates St. Peter’s Square after a lighting ceremony at the Vatican on 14 December. The 78-foot silver fir tree is from the Italian province of Isernia.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Tags: Vatican

17 December 2012
Greg Kandra

Pope offers prayers for Newtown victims (CNS) After 20 children and six adults were shot dead in Connecticut, Pope Benedict XVI offered his condolences and prayers, urging all to dedicate themselves to acts of peace in the face of such “senseless violence.” After reciting the Angelus on 17 December, the pope, speaking in English, said he was “deeply saddened” by the 14 December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. In addition to the students and staff killed, the gunman took his own life. “I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer,” he said. “May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain...”

Pope receives Palestinian president This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace Pope Benedict XVI received in audience Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States. In a press release Monday, the Holy See’s Press Office said “the cordial discussions made reference to the recent Resolution approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations by which Palestine was recognised as a Non-member Observer State of the aforementioned Organization...”

Bombs in Kirkuk during Cardinal Sandri’s Mass (Fides) Terrorist attacks struck yesterday, Sunday, 16 December, in the city of Kirkuk, causing nine deaths (including two children) and more than 50 injuries. Two coordinated attacks — carried out with two car bombs and seven bombs placed on the sides of the roads — targeted two Shiite mosques on the outskirts of the city. But the explosions were felt distinctly even in the Chaldean Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, during the celebration of the Mass where Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, presided...

Russian Nationalists criticize plans to build mosques in Moscow (RT) Moscow city authorities are about to announce the allocation of plots of land for three new mosques in the city, but ethnic Russian nationalists have voiced their protests saying that no one asked local residents before passing this decision...

Holy See releases pope’s message for World Day of Peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Peace Day 2013 was presented to journalists at a press conference in the Vatican on Friday by the president, secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council. Entitled ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’, the message looks at both the theological and practical foundations for promoting justice and peace in today’s world...

Tags: Iraq Palestine Pope Benedict XVI Russia

14 December 2012
Greg Kandra

In a scene from the Hindi film “Christaayan,” Jesus is shown teaching the people.

The story of Jesus has been told many times on film, but never quite like this:

“Christaaya”, the first Hindi production about Jesus, has been presented to the public. Situated in India, it is inspired by the country’s traditional culture.

The six-hour epic was produced by Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra in Indore for the Divine Verb Society and will be broadcast nation-wide as a TV series. Directed by Fr Geo George, the movie was shot over a seven-year period in several states, including Tamil Nadu, Goa and Kerala, with the participation of more than 200 actors, almost all amateurs.

The presentation was held at the Miriam School in Indore, a school for the mentally disabled.

According to Mgr Leo Cornelio, archbishop of Bhopal, movies like “Christaayan” “are a great inspiration” because “they do not look only at the Christian community, but at each member of society.”

The movie presents actors dressed in saris of different colours within a context representative of the Indian tradition. What is more, 80 per cent of the actors are not Christian. For example, Ankit Sharma, who plays Jesus, is a Hindu.

You can read more at the link.

And check out the movie’s trailer, below.

Tags: India Kerala

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