21 December 2016
Sister Guadalupe Rodrigo, who has lived in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and is one of the last Christians left in Aleppo, says Muslims in Syria fear for their country without Christians.
(video: Rome Reports)
Russia, Iran, Turkey meet for Syria talks (The New York Times) Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Moscow on Tuesday to work toward a political accord to end Syria’s nearly six-year war, leaving the United States on the sidelines as the countries sought to drive the conflict in ways that serve their interests. Secretary of State John Kerry was not invited. Nor was the United Nations consulted...
ISIS in Mosul reportedly targeting civilians as it retreats (AP) Islamic State militants in Mosul are deliberately targeting civilians who refuse to join them as they retreat ahead of advancing Iraqi forces involved in a large-scale government operation to retake the militant-held city, an international watchdog said on Wednesday...
Catholic Church in Ethiopia promoting peace and tolerance (Vatican Radio) he Catholic Church in Ethiopia has joined other religious leaders and the government to promote peaceful coexistence in communities in conflict. The head of the Justice and Peace Department of the bishops’ conference says in the past year the Church managed to bring together disputing ethnic groups in different parts of the country. Conflicts have arisen in some parts of the vast nation due disputes over grazing land and the stealing of herds...
Pope prays for Russia after attack (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to the family of the Russian ambassador to Turkey who was shot dead by a police officer at an art exhibition. In a message sent by the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Pope said he was “saddened to learn of the violent attack in Ankara, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Andrei Karlov.” He assured the people of the Russian Federation of his prayers and “spiritual solidarity” at this time...
Catholic University receives donation of Ethiopian manuscripts (CUA.edu) The Catholic University of America is now home to one of North America’s most important collections of Ethiopian religious manuscripts, thanks to a generous donation from Chicago collectors Gerald and Barbara Weiner. The handmade manuscripts, which originate from Ethiopia and which date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, include more than 125 Christian manuscripts, 215 Islamic manuscripts, and 350 “magic” scrolls. With this donation, which is valued at over $1 million, Catholic University is now the holder of the fifth largest collection of Ethiopian Christian manuscripts in the United States and the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside of Ethiopia...
Salt + Light moves to new headquarters (Catholic Register) It has been 14 years since the tiny digital television service launched on a shoestring in the afterglow of Toronto’s 2002 World Youth Day. For 2017, the TV station which strives “to give the flavor of the Gospel and the light of Christ to a world that is steeped in darkness and tastelessness at times” has acquired the tools and the space to do the job. On 9 December, Salt + Light moved from its century-old building at the corner of Richmond and Jarvis in Toronto into new space at Davisville and Mt. Pleasant in mid-town. The broadcaster has added a real studio — a broadcast theatre big enough to stage event broadcasts — and nearly tripled its floor space from 8,500 square feet (790 square meters) to 22,000 (2,044 square meters)...
20 December 2016
Ani Kaloust helps families in need through a CNEWA partner, Caritas Lebanon.
(photo: Dalia Khamissy)
In 2015, we introduced readers to a powerhouse: Ani Kaloust, a 65-year-old Lebanese Armenian Catholic who lives in Beirut and works for Caritas, a CNEWA partner and charity of the Lebanese Catholic churches.
She described some of her work to journalist Don Duncan:
I have been with Caritas for more than 25 years, working in Geitawi, receiving and helping families in need. We give them money and food aid. Besides that, we have families struggling with illness — even cancer. We help them however we can.
My other job is with the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, as a member of their charity arm. I’ve been with them for 40 years. In order to help the people of the area, you need to have someone who knows the families, right? Well, I know all the families in this community: rich, middle class and the poor. In the patriarchate, when people come knocking on the door asking for help, they say: “Go see Madam Ani.” I do a little interview to see what they need, and the patriarchate helps them if able.
ONE: How did you become so deeply involved in charity work? Isn’t it all overwhelming?
AK: Since my childhood, I liked to help people. I was small and I worked in a dispensary beside our house. I liked that. I was in my 20’s during the civil war here in Lebanon and I helped everyone. I spent the whole war in this neighborhood. I didn’t leave it even for one day.
I am no longer a young girl, but I work more than a young girl does! And people say: “Oh, I’m tired.” Me, I can’t say that; I don’t get tired!
One story of hers left an indelible impression:
In 1978, when the Syrians attacked us with the bombs, I was pregnant. I was taking shelter in the basement under our building and I could feel that I was going to give birth. I couldn’t breathe. I said I must go to the hospital, or will I have to give birth before 400 people! My brother came to take me there, and I was sure either I’d die or my baby would. I went to the hospital in a car of a Christian militiaman. I arrived with the baby’s head already coming out and I gave birth on the bathroom floor in about five minutes. Then a sister said: “You must leave. The hospital is burning.” I took my baby and she was black from the dirt. There was no water. About 10 or 15 minutes after having given birth, I was running through the streets with the baby to get back to the shelter. I arrived and could see my husband and kids across the street, but couldn’t cross because the bombs were falling so heavily. Finally, I got back to safety. Two hours later, there was a cease-fire.
ONE: Did such experiences — or indeed, does your charitable work — change you spiritually?
AK: No. I was a student of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and I have had my faith since I was a child. Every day, when I wake up, before leaving the house, I have a picture of Jesus and I say to him: “I am leaving the house and I leave it to you. It’s up to you to decide if I make mistakes or not and you’ll always be with me.”
But prayers help me when life is tough. Without prayers, how do you live? Prayers are our protection. God stays with us when we pray and he doesn’t let us go astray.
For her tireless work on behalf of the poor — and her fearlessness in the face of hardship and war — we consider Ani Kaloust a true CNEWA hero, one who embodies so much of our own mission and vision.
20 December 2016
Tourists walk past a large Santa Claus on 17 December near the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
20 December 2016
A Syrian child, who was among the people evacuated, flashes the victory sign upon arriving 19 December at a temporary housing center in the countryside outside Aleppo. (photo: CNS/EPA)
Pope Francis pleads for end to “homicidal madness” of terrorism (CNA) What are being called two major acts of terrorism in just the past 24 hours have prompted Pope Francis to again beg for an even stronger commitment to putting such bloody attacks, which have marred many parts of the world over the past 18 months, to an end. “Pope Francis unites to all men and women of good will who commit so that the homicidal madness of terrorism no longer finds space in our world,” a 20 December telegram from the Vatican read...
Aid agencies race against time in Aleppo (Vatican Radio) Tens of thousands of people have fled eastern Aleppo city in the past weeks, seeking safety and protection. However, their new reality could be bleak if they aren’t properly equipped for winter, as temperatures are low and will dip to –5 degrees Celsius at night in the coming days...
Father Murad: reconciliation in Syria will take a long time (Fides) While the evacuation of the population from the east districts of Aleppo controlled for years by rebel militias continue with great difficulty, the Rev. Jacques Murad, Syrian monk of the Deir Mar Musa Community, in a statement issued to Agenzia Fides said that a possible authentic reconciliation will take a long time. “The victims of violence in Syria are all Syrians, Muslims and Christians. And the poor are those who suffer most, those who have not had a chance to escape...”
Iraq unable to treat huge numbers of wounded (The Washington Post) Doctors in an array of medical facilities around Mosul — including military-run field clinics and mobile treatment centers — are struggling to keep up with demand as the offensive against the Islamic State grinds on. As Iraqi forces have pressed deeper into crowded neighborhoods, more than a third of the civilians fleeing require trauma care, a significantly higher proportion than international health experts have seen in other conflicts...
Nuncio to Ukraine brings greetings from the pope (Vatican Radio) The Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, visited the Catholic communities of both the Greek and the Latin rites in Donetsk and Luhansk from 16 to 18 December 2016. It is customary for the Nuncio to visit different communities on the eve of major religious holidays to convey the greetings and blessing of Pope Francis...
CRS board chair wants to share agency’s work more widely (CNS) The humanitarian work of Catholic Relief Services and its partner agencies directed toward refugees in the Middle East deserves far more attention than it has received and Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour says it’s time Catholics in the pew know about it. The work of feeding, sheltering and providing health care for hundreds of thousands of people who have trekked to safety in Jordan and Lebanon from Iraq and Syria is a story that the mainstream media largely has ignored, much to the chagrin of Bishop Mansour, the incoming chairman of the board at CRS...
India’s ancient Christmas tradition (News India Times) Christmas is celebrated by Indians the world over not just as the more visible manifestation of the Hollywood, mass-produced version, but also as an ancient festival with indigenous Indian traditions...
19 December 2016
In this image from December 2011, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar meets with children of Blessed Sacrament Orphanage in Ain Warka, Lebanon. You can read more about that memorable visit here. (photo: CNEWA)
19 December 2016
Civilians from the remaining rebel-held pockets of eastern Aleppo are evacuated from the embattled city by bus on 19 December 2016. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)
Evacuations from Aleppo resume (BBC) Thousands of people, including dozens of orphans, have left Aleppo in one of the besieged Syrian city’s biggest evacuations yet. More than 4,500 civilians have left rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo so far on Monday...
Jordan attackers planned further assaults (Al Jazeera) Assailants who staged attacks in Jordan’s southern city of Karak on Sunday had suicide vests and other weapons, and were planning further attacks, Interior Minister Salamah Hamad has said. Hamad on Monday did not give details on the identity or nationality of the attackers, saying an investigation was still ongoing...
Church, state seeing eye to eye in Putin’s Russia (AP) The Russian Orthodox Church is expanding its influence in what was once an officially godless state — and President Vladimir Putin appears eager to harness that resurgent power of faith to promote his own agenda. Long consigned to society’s margins in the Soviet era of “scientific atheism,” religious activists in today’s Russia can get theater performances banned and exhibitions closed. Their next target is to end state funding for abortion in a land where nearly half of all pregnancies end in termination...
U.S. House passes religious freedom bill (CNS) The U.S. House 13 December passed the bipartisan Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act and sent it to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature. The measure gives the Obama administration and the U.S. State Department new tools, resources and training to counter extremism and combat a worldwide escalation of persecution of religious minorities...
U.S. bishops form working group to monitor needs of migrants, refugees (CNS) The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is establishing a working group charged with developing spiritual, pastoral and policy advocacy support for immigrants and refugees...
Byzantine art on a grand scale in Winnipeg Ukrainian Catholic Church (Catholic Register) Nativity scenes are common during the Christmas season but few in Canada can match a stained glass window in a Winnipeg church for size and splendor. Created by prominent iconographer Sviatoslav Makarenko of Yonkers, N.Y., the window is a rare example of Byzantine iconography in the leaded stained-glass medium. It dazzles above the main entrance of St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church...
16 December 2016
Pilgrims light candles at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 11 December.
(photo: CNS/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)
16 December 2016
Deserted Christmas stalls are seen in Thiruvananthapuram, India on 11 December. The country’s vendors are facing an economic crisis since the prime minister ordered the withdrawal of a large percentage of rupees in circulation. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
Syria evacuation grinds to a halt (BBC) The evacuation of east Aleppo has been halted, with Syrian rebels accused of failing to respect a deal to lift their own siege of two pro-government towns. At least 6,000 civilians and rebels are said to have left Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, since Thursday after the government recaptured most of the city. But the UN believes that some 50,000 people are still trapped there...
Limit on bank withdrawals dampens Christmas spirit in India (CNS) For vendor Elizabeth Antony, who ekes out a living selling fish on the roadside in the heart the capital of Kerala state, the Christmas season is not very festive. “This Christmas will be the worst in my memory,” said Antony, 63. “Fish sales have gone down to one third. Even if I stay back on the road till 11 p.m., the little fish I bring is not sold,” Antony told Catholic News Service, blaming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “worst misery” in her life. Modi shocked India on 8 November in an unprecedented and controversial move that saw the banking system withdraw high-valued 500-rupee ($7.30) and 1,000-rupee ($14.60) notes that account for 86 percent of the currency in circulation...
Cardinal issues Christmas Message, praying for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) The President of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, has issued a Christmas Message discussing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. This war has been the bleakest winter for Syria, but we know that after winter comes spring,” — Cardinal Tagle writes — “With your support, Caritas around the world has been working towards peace in Syria...”
ISIS shows no sign of weakening in Mosul (Reuters) Islamic State fighters have stepped up counterattacks on Iraqi forces in Mosul amid bad weather as the U.S.-backed offensive to capture their last major city stronghold in Iraq enters its third month...
Catholic schools in Ethiopia asked to contribute to eradication of FGM (Vatican Radio) Catholic Schools in Ethiopia are asked to integrate the issue of reproductive health to their system. The Ethiopian Catholic Church Social and Development Commission (ECC SDCO) Education team in collaboration with Women and Family Affairs team organized a 3-day workshop for School Directors and teachers in Addis Ababa from 12-14 December on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other harmful practices...
Start-ups develop technologies to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Financial Times) Local entrepreneurs are developing web services, smartphone apps and hardware for an “internet of things,” with its connected devices, to address the refugee crisis as it grinds through its sixth year...
15 December 2016
Pope Francis kisses the foot of a refugee during Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Center for Asylum Seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, about 15 miles north of Rome on 24 March 2016. The pope washed and kissed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Copts.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)
Pope Francis celebrates his 80th birthday this Saturday, 17 December, and it seems a good opportunity to take note of his profound commitment to the poor and suffering of the world — a commitment that became clear from the moment he took the name Francis. He described his choice of that name in his first homily as pope in 2013:
During the election, I was seated next to the archbishop emeritus of São Paolo and prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor!’ And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man. ... How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!
It was a theme he elaborated on just a few days later:
The church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
His search for a “more humane and more just” society has taken him to some of the most troubled corners of the world — and inspired dramatic gestures that still resonate. In 2014, the pontiff made his first trip to the Holy Land, where he repeatedly urged peace and dialogue among different faiths. At one point, in a historic and controversial move, he stopped his motorcade so he could pray at the Separation Wall:
It is an image that will define Pope Francis’s first official visit to the Holy Land. Head bowed in prayer, the leader of the Catholic church pressed his palm against the graffiti-covered concrete of Israel’s imposing “separation wall,” a Palestinian girl holding a flag by his side. It was, as his aides conceded later, a silent statement against a symbol of division and conflict.
His concern for the marginalized and suffering has also inspired Francis to become a leading voice in the world — perhaps the leading voice — crying out on behalf of refugees and displaced persons. In 2013, he wrote:
Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more. The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history. As the Church accompanies migrants and refugees on their journey, she seeks to understand the causes of migration, but she also works to overcome its negative effects, and to maximize its positive influence on the communities of origin, transit and destination.
Again and again across the first years of his pontificate, Pope Francis has heroically championed the poor, the displaced, the forgotten. He serves as an example to all of us at CNEWA — and to the rest of the world — of what we are called to be as Christians.
As he put it during a general audience in March of 2013:
Following Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves ... to meet others, to go toward the outskirts of existence, to be the first to take a step toward our brothers and our sisters, especially those who are the most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, comfort and help.
There is such a great need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!
Happy birthday, Pope Francis. Ad multos annos!
15 December 2016
An Egyptian girl wants a closer look at Verbo Encarnado Sister María de la Santa Faz. The sister and her congregation serve some of the poorest of the poor outside Alexandria, Egypt. To learn more, read Building a Brighter Future from the November 2004 edition of ONE.
(photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)