15 February 2017
Volunteers, many of them Muslim, help to repair a Chaldean church damaged by ISIS in Mosul.
Young Muslim volunteers help repair church in Mosul (Fides) About 30 young people, belonging to an organization of civilian volunteers, mostly Muslims, cleaned and tidied the Chaldean church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in Drakziliya, in Mosul on the left bank of the Tigris River and now under the control of the Iraqi army...
Refugee camp teachers struggle to help displaced Syrian children (ABC.au) Refugee camp administrators say they fear for the future of Syria’s children as the civil war enters its sixth year. Many kids in refugee camps across Syria are learning to read and write in leaky tents with little more than tables and chairs for them to sit on...
Catholic group in India calls for release of kidnapped priest (Asia News) The All India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest lay Catholic organization in India, is calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use his influence and that of his government to negotiate with the countries of the Middle East free the Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen on 4 March 2016...
Russian Orthodox Church, Vatican to work closer on Christians’ persecution (Pravmir.com) The Russian Orthodox Church plans to strengthen its cooperation with Vatican on the issue of monitoring persecution of Christians in the Middle East and other regions, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion said on Sunday...
East Africa food prices reach record highs due to drought (Reuters) Drought in East Africa has sent prices of staples such as maize and sorghum soaring, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday, warning that a sharp increase in food prices could lead to renewed hunger in the region. Prices of staple cereals have doubled in some markets, reaching record and near-record levels in swaths of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, FAO said...
14 February 2017
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan greets displaced Iraqis after the eucharistic liturgy in Erbil.
(photo: Paul Jeffrey)
One of the more energetic and visible advocates for CNEWA’s work among the persecuted and the poor has been the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. His support has been tireless and, indeed, heroic.
In his capacity as CNEWA’s chair, the cardinal has visited a number of regions we serve, to meet those who are facing challenges and difficulties far removed from his work in New York City.
Just last year, he traveled with CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre to Erbil, where he met some of the Iraqi Christians who have been displaced by ISIS — men, women and children who have been literally running for their lives.
He spoke about that visit in an interview with the National Catholic Register:
What I saw was this blend of terrible sadness, and yet amazing charity and hope. Sadness, because these people who had come from Mosul or the plains of Nineveh — their families go back centuries and centuries, some to the time of St. Thomas the Apostle — had to abandon their homes in a couple of hours’ notice and couldn’t bring anything. They brought their children, obviously, and they brought their elders. The priests and nuns accompanied them on the [10-hour] walk, and they made it safely there. All these people want to do is go back home.
What’s hopeful is that they still have an extraordinarily vivid faith — their resilience is nothing less than profound. What’s moving as well is the remarkable charity and hospitality with which the Christians of Kurdistan have welcomed them.
So, we toured a number of camps. There would be thousands of these people in the refugee camps, which are actually rather secure and safe and where the local Christians have opened up schools, medical dispensaries and pharmacies. The people there will be the first to say that they are well taken care of — so, thanks be to God — because of a lot of international Christian support, and, yes, some support from the Kurdistan government and the Iraqi government.
At least they have these secure makeshift caravans, which we would call “trailers,” to live in. And the camp seems to be secure, and their needs and health and food are taken care of, as well as the education of their children. So the charity that has been shown them is remarkable.
Last summer, ONE published a photo essay, chronicling the cardinal’s visit. As we noted then:
“Pope Francis keeps saying that we priests must be with our people,” Cardinal Dolan said in his meeting with seminarians. “We just came from a refugee camp where we met a priest who slept outside on his mattress because he said he couldn’t sleep inside if his people were outside.
“We’ve met with sisters and priests who walked with the people from Mosul as they were fleeing. That’s the model of the priesthood. That’s Jesus: To be with our people all the time, to be especially close to your people in the difficult times.”
That closeness to people is emblematic of Cardinal Dolan’s priesthood. And again and again during that visit, it was striking to see how eagerly he embraced those he met — and how joyfully the people in the camps reached out to embrace him and make him feel welcome. In the true spirit of CNEWA, he seeks to accompany others in their struggles, sorrows and hopes.
When the Register asked what spiritual lessons he took from his trip, he offered an answer that beautifully encapsulates so much of CNEWA’s own mission:
We learn, first of all, that our faith is indeed as Jesus said: our “pearl of great price.” We tend to take it for granted, but these are people who literally have lost everything, rather than give up their faith. So, first of all, we learned the primacy of faith. We learned that we need to ask ourselves: Are we prepared to live our faith in such a way as we are ready to die for it? Because these people are. They will give up anything but their faith. As one lady said, “They can’t take our faith away from us.”
No. 2, we learn the importance of solidarity. This is the lesson of St. Paul in Corinthians come alive: When one member of the body suffers, all suffer. So we are suffering with them, and we cannot be callous to their suffering. So that solidarity is a second lesson.
Thirdly, we learn the importance of hospitality and charity, in that, even though it’s a long-range hospitality, we’re all at home in the Church. I said to them, “You know I don’t understand your language, we look different from you, we have come from a nation far, far away — and yet, I feel at home with you, because we are members of the household of the faith, and we are one.”
14 February 2017
Two young men take a break in the wood workshop of Caritas Georgia. To learn more about the skills being developed at Caritas, read A Letter from Georgia in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Antonio di Vico)
14 February 2017
Members of Free Syrian Army encounter a flock of sheep in Aleppo during ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ on 10 February 2017. A study released Monday says Syrian helicopters dumped banned chemical weapons on residential areas of Aleppo last year.
(photo: Muhammed Nour/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Holy See calls to protect civilians from terrorist attacks (Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, on Monday said “it is the obligation of the international community, in accord with the U.N. Charter, to protect civilians and their critical infrastructure from the brutality and barbarity of terrorist groups...”
Report: Syria used chemical attacks in Aleppo (The New York Times) Syrian military helicopters systematically dumped canisters of chlorine gas, a banned weapon, on residential areas of Aleppo at least eight times late last year in the final weeks of the battle to retake the city from rebels, Human Rights Watch said in a detailed study released Monday...
ISIS counterattacks as Iraqi forces prepare for Mosul push (AP) The Iraqi army has been moving troops around Mosul ahead of an expected push to retake its western half from the Islamic State group in the final decisive battle for the city, a commander said Tuesday. “We are preparing ... to launch a big operation in order to liberate the rest of Mosul,” said Brig. Walid Khalifa, deputy commander of the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division...
Hardliner elected new leader of Hamas in Gaza (Al Jazeera) Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement has chosen Yahya Sinwar, freed in a 2011 prisoner swap with Israel after more than 20 years in jail, as its new chief in the Palestinian enclave following an internal election, sources close to the group said. Sinwar will be a key decision-maker for Hamas and a member of the executive leadership that draws up policies, including towards Israel...
Violence flares in Ukraine (The Guardian) Since the war started in 2014 more than 300 shells have fallen on the grounds of the factory, the largest coking plant in Europe, which sits on Ukrainian-controlled territory just a few miles from the frontline with Russia-backed separatists. The big guns have been mercifully quiet for months, but the past fortnight has seen a new flurry of violence, linked in Kiev to a Russia apparently newly emboldened by the election of Donald Trump in the U.S...
Archeologists plan to excavate site linked to Ark of the Covenant (Times of Israel) One of the few remaining unstudied major biblical sites, where according to the Bible the Ark of the Covenant was kept for two decades, will be excavated by archaeologists this summer for the first time. Organizers hope the anticipated study of Kiryat Ye’arim (also transliterated as Kiriath Jearim) will shed light on the site’s significance during the Iron Age, the period associated with the biblical account of King David...
13 February 2017
Opposition fighters backing Turkish troops drive past stones blocking a road on the outskirts of the Syrian town of al-Bab on 12 February 2017. Turkish troops backed by Syrian rebel fighters have entered the center of the ISIS bastion of al-Bab and will soon capture it, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday. (photo: Rafat Ahmad/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish troops enter ISIS stronghold in northern Syria (AP) Turkey’s president said Sunday that his troops and allied Syrian fighters have reached the heart of the Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab in northern Syria and will eventually join the effort to recapture Raqqa, the extremists’ de-facto capital in Syria. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ISIS fighters have begun deserting al-Bab, which has been under attack for weeks...
Hezbollah urges Lebanon plan for return of Syrian refugees (AFP) The head of Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement on Sunday urged the government to coordinate with Damascus to help refugees to return now that “large areas” of Syria are “safe”...
Ukraine turns a blind eye to ultra rightist militias (The Washington Post) Despite Kiev’s pledge to rein them in, rogue militias continue to fight against Moscow-backed separatists. When war erupted in 2014, Ukraine’s army was on its knees after decades of corruption and neglect. So the top brass joined forces with volunteer battalions to counter the pro-Russian insurgency. But these informal groups proved difficult to control, with some committing heinous abuses. Almost all have been incorporated into Ukrainian state forces...
Canada’s churches consider court action over refugees (Catholic Register) As the storm over the fate of refugees intensifies in the United States, Canada’s churches are deliberating whether or not to take the federal government to court to pull Canada out of its Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S...
Using art to heal: battling cancer in Gaza (Al Jazeera) Aya Abdulrahman was informed by her doctors that she would be dead by the end of 2014. At 21, she had seven malignant tumors. “Your daughter has two months left to live. You cannot do anything. Go home,” the doctor told Abdulrahman’s mother. The painful news, however, did not stop her from pursuing her dreams. Since childhood, all Abdulrahman wanted to do was become an artist and leave her mark on the world through art...
10 February 2017
Tags: Syria Ukraine Refugees Turkey ISIS
In this image from last month, Syrian children transport their salvaged belongings from their damaged house in Doudyan, a village in northern Aleppo. A Caritas official who has just returned from Aleppo describes parts of the city as “post-apocalyptic” and “beyond human imagination.”
(photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Parts of Aleppo described as ‘post-apocalyptic’ (Vatican Radio) A senior Caritas official who’s just returned from the Syrian city of Aleppo says the devastation and humanitarian crisis there are “beyond human imagination” with many areas in the east looking as though they had been hit by a nuclear bomb. Patrick Nicholson is the head of Communications for Caritas Internationalis and has just returned from a visit to the war-ravaged city. In an interview with Susy Hodges he described the scenes, especially in eastern Aleppo, as “post-apocalyptic” because of the extent of the destruction and shared with her a shocking story of how he discovered 6 young children, including a baby, living on their own amidst the rubble of their bombed-out house...
Retaken parts of Mosul return to life (The New York Times) The last time I was in Iraq, two months ago, I stood next to the highway out of the city of Mosul and watched ambulances screaming by, carrying dead and wounded soldiers. During my reporting in Mosul this week, the picture couldn’t have looked more different in the eastern half of the city, which was recently taken back by government forces. Even in places where soldiers were still partly on edge — like above, patrolling along the banks of the Tigris River near the front line with the Islamic State — I still was able to walk alongside them...
Assad: U.S. troops welcome in Syria to fight terrorism (AP) Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview released on Friday that the United States is welcome to join the battle against “terrorists” in Syria — as long as it is in cooperation with his government and respects the country’s sovereignty...
Syrian women arrive in Canada to continue their education (CBC) Five young women who were unable to finish their education in war-torn Syria landed at Pearson International Airport Thursday to start their journey as students in Canada. The women will be studying English at the International Language Academy of Canada (ILAC), after winning scholarships from the organization...
Melkites bring fresh signs of life to Catholic cathedral in Canada (Catholic Register) After being closed for more than a decade, the Cathedral of the Transfiguration north of Toronto has quietly re-opened its doors. The cathedral has welcomed parishioners of nearby Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church to use its yet unfinished space for Sunday services. The Melkite Catholics had been homeless after their Thornhill, Ont., church was engulfed in flames last October...
8 February 2017
Tags: Syria ISIS Melkite
Sister Seraphina of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary visits with a refugee family from Iraq now living in Jordan. To learn more about how the sisters are Welcoming the Stranger in Jordan, check out the current edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
8 February 2017
Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican 8 February. The pope called for action in the fight against human trafficking and asked for prayers for migrants.
Aleppo: Faith and courage in a city of conflict (Vatican Radio) For five years the Syrian city of Aleppo has been a key battleground in the country’s brutal civil war. This former financial hub was home to 250 thousand Christians with hopes and dreams. Now it has become a place of loss and suffering. With a fragile ceasefire in place, aid agencies are keeping up their work to help those who have lost everything as a result of the conflict...
Pope calls for action in fight against human trafficking (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to government leaders to be strong in the fight against the scourge of human trafficking. Marking Wednesday’s ‘International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking’ marked annually on 8 February, and focusing this year on the trafficking of children and adolescents, the Pope had words of encouragement for all those who in different ways, help minors who have been enslaved and abused to be freed from this terrible oppression...
U.N. says 30,000 have returned to Mosul (AP) Some 30,000 people have returned to Mosul since Iraqi forces launched a massive operation in October to retake the country’s second largest city from the Islamic State group, the U.N. said Tuesday...
Bishop: ‘legalization’ of Israeli settlements is against the virtues of justice (Fides) Bishop William Shomali, Patriachal Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for the Holy City and Palestine, said the law the Israeli Parliament passed yesterday — which “regulates” houses and Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian territory illegally occupied by the army of Israel — “makes the solution two peoples-two states almost impossible. It offends justice...”
Bishops to Secretary of State: don’t move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem (Catholic News Agency) The Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires wise U.S. engagement to build a better future for both peoples, and this future could be endangered by an embassy relocation, the U.S. Catholic bishops told the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson...
7 February 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Palestine Israel
In this image from 1999, CNEWA’s John Faris and Elizabeth Weese meet the Rev. Shaji Mekkara, whom “Grandma Elizabeth” had sponsored as a seminarian. (photo: CNEWA)
Many of the unsung heroes of CNEWA have worked tirelessly behind the scenes, changing lives in ways that often go unnoticed. One of those heroes is Elizabeth Weese.
She was a volunteer in our New York office for a number of years — but before that, sponsored a seminarian in India. She described her experience recently in an email to us:
About 1984 an Irish friend urged me to sponsor a seminarian. Bless her good soul! I filled out an application and it wasn’t too long before I received a letter and picture of Shaji Mekkara from India. And so it began. We corresponded all through his seminary days, learning about each other. Two or three years after his ordination, he was sent for two years to Lugano, Switzerland, to continue his studies. Plans were made pretty quickly for a visit to Lugano so that we could meet. Actually, I went twice, thinking I would never see him again. It was after these visits that he decided he should call me “Grandma” — and so I have been ever since.
But we did meet again when I brought him here, to the United States for three weeks. It was during that visit that we had a lovely meeting with [CNEWA’s Deputy Secretary General] Msgr. John Faris and some of the staff. That was also when I asked about doing some volunteer work for CNEWA and was invited and became a small part of the CNEWA family. It was all very fulfilling and I’ve continued to be a sponsor of various projects within the “family.”
I’m afraid my volunteer days are over, but not my affiliation with CNEWA. Never.
More on Shaji: I find it hard to believe that on May 8, 2017, he will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination! God gives us such lovely gifts.
Among her many other charitable activities, Elizabeth Weese is also a Lady of Charity and a Lady Grand Cross in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
We asked her what led her to volunteer with CNEWA, and she wrote back:
It was a sudden inspiration at the time Shaji and I had our visit. I had done some volunteering before but had never thought about CNEWA. I’m glad I did. It has been a rewarding experience for me and I hope my stuffing envelopes was helpful — although it’s difficult to understand how that might have an effect on someone half way around the world!
Then, again, God’s ways are mysterious and you never know how he’ll make use of our talents or even the every-day things we can do.
Amen, Elizabeth. Thank you for helping us to do what we do — and for helping nurture another vocation!
To learn more about how CNEWA supports seminarians and helps form church leaders, both religious and lay, visit this link.
7 February 2017
These young people greeted CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar during his trip to the Divine Renewal Retreat Center in Margherita, India. You can learn more about his recent visit here.
(photo: John E. Kozar)