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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
21 August 2017
Greg Kandra

The altar, or Holy of Holies, is seldom revealed during the liturgy at Debra Zion in Ethiopia.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

Several years ago, we took readers to Ethiopia’s Lake Ziway, a place celebrated for its rich and exotic history:

Its largest island, Tullu Gudo, shelters the oldest active religious community south of Ethiopia’s Christian heartland, Debra Zion. Tradition holds that Tullu Gudo once housed the Ark of the Covenant, said to contain the Ten Commandments.

Around the ninth century A.D., when reportedly the Ark was sheltered there, the island was home to more than 500 monks. Today, there are three. Numerous factors have contributed to this decline, including the return of the Ark to Aksum, immigration over hundreds of years to the less impoverished mainland and the anti-church policies of Ethiopia’s Marxist dictator (1974-1991), Mengistu Haile Mariam.

According to legend, the Ark had been kept in Aksum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, ever since it was taken from Jerusalem sometime after 587 B.C. But during the ninth century A.D., the Ark’s Ethiopian protectors fled Aksum with the Ark, to escape Queen Judith, whose forces threatened to steal it. Journeying south, the Ark and its guardians eventually settled on the uninhabited island of Tullu Gudo. They built a church, Debra Zion, to hold the Ark and other treasures. About half of the monks returned with the Ark to Aksum some 40 years later, when the city was deemed again safe.

Though it was no longer necessary to guard Tullu Gudo, the monks maintained a significant presence there for more than a thousand years. During the reign of Haile Selassie (1930-1974), Ethiopia’s last emperor, about 100 monks lived on the island. That changed after Mengistu, then a colonel in the army, seized power. Along with the murder and forced relocation of hundreds of thousands, the Marxist dictator also nationalized all land and discouraged religious practice.

Now, religious life is flourishing again in Ethiopia. And the monks of Tullu Gudo, who live amid an Orthodox lay community of several hundred, are trying to recapture some of the island’s celebrated past.

Read more about Ethiopia’s Island Sanctuary in the January 2005 edition of ONE.

21 August 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from February, women hold placards as they take part in a protest demanding better living conditions at the refugee camp of the former international Helliniko airport in Athens, Greece. Pope Francis has released a message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, underscoring the Church’s responsibility to extend aid. (photo: CNS/Yannis Kolesidis, EPA)

Pope releases message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees — 14 January 2018 — was released by the Vatican on Monday. In the message the Holy Father says that providing aid to migrants and refugees is a “great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities...”

Cardinal Parolin discusses goals of upcoming Russia visit (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who is on a 4-day visit to Russia, gave a wide-ranging interview with the Russian state news agency TASS, ahead of his arrival on Monday...

Jets destroy ISIS convoy in Syria (BBC) Dozens of so-called Islamic State (IS) militants are reported to have been killed in a Russian air strike near the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour. Russia’s defense ministry said at least 200 jihadists had died after its air force targeted a convoy of about 20 4x4’s, armored vehicles and tanks. It did not say when the strike took place, but a monitoring group reported that a convoy had been hit last Friday...

Peace returns to Minya village after skirmishes between Muslims, Copts (The Egypt Independent) Calm returned to Ezbat al-Forn, of Abyouha village in Abu Qurqas city of Minya governorate on Monday, following skirmishes Sunday between Christians and Muslims. According to head of Abu Qurqas city council, Brigadier Mohamed Salah, fights broke out on Sunday after some Coptic citizens in the village of Ezbat al-Forn tried to pray at the house of a citizen under the guidance of a priest, prompting some Muslims to intercept for not possessing a license...

Indian prime minister’s Independence Day address leaves Christians ‘disappointed’ (The Tablet) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence day address has done little to reassure the country’s Catholic population, as numbers of targeted attacks against Christians continues to rise. Addressing the nation from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on 15 August, Modi declared that India is “the land of Gandhi and Buddha, we have to move forward taking everyone along...We have to successfully carry it forward and that is why in the name of faith, violence cannot be allowed.” Yet Christians have said the Prime Minister failed to denounce the targeted sectarian violence that minority Christians and Muslims have been subjected to under under Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party, known for espousing a Hindu nationalist agenda...

Pope encourages Methodists and Waldensians to walk path to full Christian unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged Methodist and Waldensian Churches to continue to walk together with the Catholic Church on the path towards full Christian unity, pointing out that in a world lacerated by violence and fear it is all the more important to live and to convey the Christian message of welcome and fraternity...

18 August 2017
Greg Kandra

The Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office is marking the 100th anniversary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches with a stamp featuring details from the chapel in the congregation’s office. The stamp will be released 7 September. Read more about the congregation’s anniversary here.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office)

18 August 2017
Greg Kandra

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Syrians who were staying at a temporary shelter in Jibrin, on the outskirts of Aleppo, are transported to areas currently controlled by the Syrian regime in eastern Aleppo on 16 August 2017. An advisor to Syria’s president says the war is nearly over.
(photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)

Assad advisor says war nearing an end (Reuters) An advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the six-year war is nearly over as foreign states cut backing for rebels, and vowed the government would confront any “illegitimate” forces, whether Turkish or American. Bouthaina Shaaban said the fact that Syria was staging the Damascus International Fair for the first time in the war “sends a message that the war has ended ... and we are at the start of the path towards reconstruction...”

Mosul faces struggles with reconstruction (BBC) “My husband is buried over there!” says Ishar, pointing towards a pile of rubble where her house once stood. Draped in a dark blue shawl and a long black abaya, the 32-year-old mother-of-four stumbles through the ruins of the Old City in the west of Mosul, which was recaptured by Iraqi government forces in July after an almost nine-month battle with so-called Islamic State...

Deepening drought hits Ethiopian herders (Reuters) Livestock are dying in parts of Ethiopia that are overwhelmingly reliant on their milk as deepening drought pushes up the number of districts in need of life-saving aid by 19 percent, according to a report released on Thursday...

Indian Catholics in Philadelphia celebrate heritage ( It was Indian Catholic Heritage Day on 12 August, sponsored by the Indian American Catholic Association of Greater Philadelphia and celebrated at St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Northeast Philadelphia. The congregation was mostly India-born adults and their American-born children, many in the colorful festive garments of their native land. For the most part they were members of the Syro-Malabar Rite Catholic Church, and the Syro-Malankara Rite Catholic Church, with a smattering of Roman-rite Catholics, all with a common heritage...

17 August 2017
Greg Kandra

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Indian motorists and residents wade through rain water flooded streets of a low lying area in Bangalore on 15 August 2017. (photo: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

Heavy rains continue to batter parts of India; thousands displaced (The Indian Express) Heavy rains, inundation, and floods continue to wreak havoc in India, with the death toll rising in Assam, Bihar and West Bengal this week. Thousands have been affected by the situation, with many shifted to relief camps and temporary shelters. Train and rail services of the Eastern Railway have also taken a hit, with many lines inundated or damaged in the rains...

New life amid ruins in Mosul’s maternity hospital (Reuters) Al-Khansa Hospital in East Mosul may be a shell of its former self but it is still the city’s main government-run maternity facility. Last month alone, despite severe shortages of medicines and equipment, it delivered nearly 1,400 babies...

Russian Orthodox Church will discuss Ukraine during cardinal’s visit (Crux) Ukraine will be on the agenda when the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, visits Moscow on 20-24 August. Parolin will be the highest-ranking Vatican diplomat to visit Russia since one of his predecessors, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, consecrated Moscow’s Catholic cathedral in 1999...

Tired by war, Syrians seek respite by the sea (CNN) Children splashing in the Mediterranean, young men and women in swimwear smoking hookah — this could be any holiday hot spot, but it’s Latakia, a seaside town in war-torn Syria...

Congregation centennial: Supporting Eastern Catholics against all odds (CNS) The Vatican is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, an office that supports the Eastern Catholic churches and strives to ensure that the universal Catholic Church treasures its diversity, including in liturgy, spirituality and even canon law...

India’s Muslims and the price of partition (The New York Times) Seventy years after independence, India’s Muslim population has begun to fear that the dark fantasies of the Muslims led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League in the 1930’s and 1940’s — who fought for the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan as a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims — could well be coming true...

16 August 2017
Greg Kandra

Though settled in Australia, Ukrainian Greek Catholics have not forgotten the traditions of their homeland, such as dance. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Several years ago, we looked at Diversity Down Under, and the vibrant heritage of Eastern Christianity in Australia:

In 1975, the Australian government passed the Racial Discrimination Act, which ended these racially based immigration policies. Subsequently, the country has seen an influx of non-European immigrants. In addition, the indigenous population has rebounded.

Among these recent arrivals have been Eastern Christians — Armenians and Assyrians; Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite Greek and Ukrainian Greek Catholics; and Coptic, Greek, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Syriac Orthodox — whose small but vibrant communities are developing a multicultural Australia. To learn more, I visited three.

Over a lunch of New Zealand mussels, kangaroo steaks and a bottle of local cabernet sauvignon, Bishop Peter Stasiuk, who prepared the meal with relish, spoke about his small but growing community of Ukrainian Greek Catholics.

“Our liturgy attracts many outsiders, and several hundred have crossed over to join us, especially people wanting to become clergy.”

The Canadian-born bishop is responsible for 34,000 souls scattered throughout Australia and New Zealand. Most Ukrainian Greek Catholics, however, live in Melbourne and Sydney.

“There are 1.5 million Latin [Roman] Catholics in Melbourne, and many of our people attend their churches if they are closer to where they live.”

This back-and-forth is representative of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic experience in Australia, Bishop Peter said, an experience not unlike that of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in North America.

To a large degree, Australia’s Ukrainian Greek Catholics have assimilated, though they remain proud of their cultural heritage.

Check out more in the May 2007 edition of ONE.

16 August 2017
Greg Kandra

Families affected by flooding are seen in Jakhalabandha, India, on 13 August.
(photo: CNS/Anuwar Hazarika, Reuters)

Rains, floods across South Asia (Vatican Radio) Heavy monsoon rains in parts of Nepal, Bangladesh and India have killed more than 160 people in the last week, officials said on Tuesday, as authorities rushed to rescue those missing or stranded in flooded areas...

India’s Prime Minister denounces violence in the name of religion (Vatican Radio) On India’s 71st Independence Day on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the nation to reject religious violence, after a series of attacks against minorities sparked debate about whether a surge of Hindu nationalism is undermining the country’s secular ideals...

Report: Genocide of Christians in Middle East continues (CNS) The Trump administration renews its commitment to the protection of religious minority groups threatened by the Islamic State in the Middle East, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the preface of the annual State Department report on international religious freedom, released 15 August. “ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled,” Tillerson said in a statement. “ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other minorities...”

Oxfam: 700,000 at risk of starvation in Ethiopia (Voice of America) Food insecurity in the Somali region of Ethiopia has worsened, putting 700,000 people on the verge of starvation, according to Oxfam International. The humanitarian organization says that about 8.5 million people across the country face a high risk of hunger, a 30 percent increase since the beginning of the year...

Syriac patriarch says West has ‘betrayed’ Christian minorities (CNS) The Syriac Catholic patriarch doesn’t mince words about the ongoing violence and unrest in the Middle East. Nor does he shy away from calling out the West for not doing enough to protect Christian minorities. “I can tell you, we’ve been not only abandoned by the Western countries, but even we have been betrayed,” Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego...

14 August 2017
Greg Kandra

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In this image from 3 August, the first Syrian refugees return from Lebanon as part of a cease-fire deal. (photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Refugees, rebel fighters leaving Lebanon for Syria (Al Jazeera) Buses carrying thousands of Syrian refugees and rebel fighters have begun leaving the Lebanese territory of Arsal for government held areas of Syria, according to the Hezbollah-owned al-Manar TV station. The evacuation on Monday is part of a deal between rebels and Hezbollah, which ensures the safe passage of refugees and the fighters themselves...

Mosul orphans face unknown fate (UPI) “Scores of children have lost their parents in the intense bombardment or in booby traps and suicide bombings perpetrated by ISIS. We have given them names to facilitate sorting them out until we can establish their identity and trace their kin to hand them over,” said Sukaina Mohamad Ali, the head of the Office of Women and Children in Nineveh province...

Egypt opens Gaza crossing for hajj pilgrims (Daily Mail) Egypt reopened its border with the Gaza Strip Monday for the first time in months to allow Muslims from the blockaded Palestinian enclave to travel to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, authorities said...

Turkey’s Jews stay calm in face of synagogue attacks (The Jewish Chronicle) On a warm Istanbul night in late July, the silence outside the city’s Neve Shalom synagogue was broken by chants of “Allahu akbar.” A group from the Alperen Ocaklari, an ultranationalist network, had gathered outside the building in the city’s Beyoglu district to protest Israel’s latest security measures around the al-Aqsa mosque...

Sheptytsky Institute grounded in freedom (Catholic Register) It should surprise no one that at a time of rising authoritarianism, democracy will be on the curriculum when the Sheptytsky Institute reopens in Toronto. Along with teaching liturgy, Church history and systematic theology, professors at the institute’s new home in the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College are also preparing democracy lessons. And that makes perfect sense to those who know how the Eastern rite Ukrainian Catholic Church was forced underground by Stalinist Soviet rule between 1946 and 1989, said Borys Gudziak, Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Paris...

Our Lady of Kazan and Mary’s affinity for Russia (CNA) One hundred years ago, at the height of a cultural about-face in Russia, Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Portugal, predicting and encouraging prayer for Russia’s conversion. Years later, a well-known and beloved Russian Orthodox icon known as Our Lady of Kazan, commonly referred to as “the protection of Russia,” would become tied to the site of the Fatima apparitions, where Mary predicted that “the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world...”

11 August 2017
Greg Kandra

A pair of young Ethiopians greet a visitor at a clinic operated by the Daughters of Saint Anne. Learn more about the resilient and faith-filled people of Ethiopia — and take a pictorial journey there with CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar — in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: John E. Kozar)

11 August 2017
Greg Kandra

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Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim speaks to media after Friday prayers at a mosque in Ankara. He expressed concern over “radical groups” emerging along the Syrian border.
(photo: Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkey says it’s taking ‘precautions’ along Syrian border (AP) Turkey says new precautions are being taken along its border in response to recent developments in northwestern Syria as it engages in international efforts to broker a deal. Speaking after Friday prayers in Ankara, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said “radical groups have taken over control” in Syria’s Idlib province...

Shootout in Egypt kills three ‘jihadists behind anti-Copt attacks’ (The Sun Daily) Egypt’s interior ministry said on Thursday a policeman and three jihadists suspected of involvement in deadly attacks against the country’s Coptic Christian minority were killed in a shootout...

Lebanon town rejects additional refugees (The Daily Star) The municipal council of West Bekaa’s Khirbet Qanafar released a statement Wednesday opposing further attempts to establish refugee settlements in the town...

Indian Church reiterates commitment to indigenous cause (Vatican Radio) India’s Catholic Church observed the International Day of Indigenous Peoples on Wednesday with a call to protect indigenous people and their cultural heritage and prevent their exploitation. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India(CBCI) and the CBCI Office for Tribal Affairs organized a conference in New Delhi to mark the 10th International Day of Indigenous Peoples...

Russian activists gather more than 900,000 signatures for ant-iabortion bill (TASS) More than 900,000 signatures for legal prohibition of abortions have been gathered by activists of the Russian social movement “Pro-Life,” the organization’s president Sergey Chesnokov told TASS ahead of the namesake seventh international festival of social technologies for family values protection that will be held on 14-17 August in Moscow...

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