30 September 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis lands in Georgia and begins his trips to the Caucasus.
(video: Rome Reports)
Pope Francis arrives in Georgia to begin visit (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Georgia at the start of a three day trip to the Caucasus which will also take him Sunday for a brief visit to Azerbaijan. On Friday, Georgian government, civil and religious leaders and members of the Catholic community turned out at Tbilisi’s international airport to greet the pontiff, whose plane touched down shortly before 3:00 pm local time...
Pope Francis calls for respect of international law (Reuters) Pope Francis called for respect for international law and the sovereign rights of nations as he arrived in Georgia on Friday, an implicit criticism of Russia, which keeps troops in two breakaway areas of the ex-Soviet state. But Francis measured his words carefully, in an apparent attempt not to hurt the Vatican’s increasingly warm ties with the Kremlin-backed Russian Orthodox Church...
Archbishop expresses hope over papal visit (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Raphael Minassian hopes that the Papal visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia will promote peace in the region. The small Catholic community in Georgia, which Pope Francis is visiting on Friday and Saturday, is made up of Latin, Chaldean and Armenian rites...
Syria military says it retook hospital, refugee camp in Aleppo (USA TODAY) Syrian government forces took control of a hospital in the besieged northern city of Aleppo on Friday, a day after seizing a Palestinian refugee camp in the city from rebels, according to Syria’s military. The military said its forces captured the Kindi hospital and were strengthening their positions in the Handarat refugee camp, the Associated Press reported...
U.S. surpasses Syrian refugee goal (The Washington Post) The United States has admitted 12,500 refugees from war-
ravaged Syria over the past year, surpassing President Obama’s target, and expects to admit even more next year, a State Department official said Tuesday...
29 September 2016
Sister Maureen Grady, C.S.C. worked for CNEWA in Beirut during a dangerous time in the 1980’s.
(photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Some of our CNEWA heroes have witnessed remarkable moments of suffering, courage and grace. One who worked closely with us for many years even described her tenure in the Middle East as a time of “amazing grace.”
Sister Maureen Grady, a member of the Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Cross, served in Beirut as the chief operating officer of Pontifical Mission, CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East.
When she stepped down from that post in 1993, she wrote of her early days in Lebanon in the 1980’s:
Lebanon was in the midst of its own civil war, a war that witnessed the unlimited capacity of hatred, greed, corruption and the thirst for power. While emergency relief programs for displaced families and the handicapped were implemented, I fell in love with the people and country.
The hope of the young and the courage of the women religious inspired in me a passion for a people who were saddened and burdened by the destruction of their country by their own.
We Americans know the danger and extent of the power of hatred as it was unleashed in Lebanon. It was a very dangerous time. How I survived I do not know; and now that I think of it, I do not know why I took the risk. I know taking such a risk is something you only do once. However I made calculated decisions and took advice from those in the know.
I was protected. There are many incidents I could describe that illustrate this protection: lunching in a quiet restaurant that 30 minutes after I left became the scene of a bloodbath; boarding a ferry to travel from Cyprus to Beirut as I habitually did, only to change my mind and fly into Beirut instead — that ferry was bombed that night. It was God who invited me to begin this journey and it was God who sustained and protected me.
Not long after that, she began working with CNEWA and Pontifical Mission full time. She described meeting the agency’s chair, Cardinal John O'Connor:
[CNEWA’s National Secretary] Msgr. John Nolan arrived in Lebanon with Cardinal John O’Connor, president of the Pontifical Mission’s sister agency, Catholic Near East Welfare Association. The cardinal approached me and asked, “Could you handle this?” and I responded, “Yes.” Msgr. Nolan then formally asked me to accept the position of director.
Later at a gathering of Lebanon’s religious, male and female, the cardinal introduced me as his representative in Lebanon, saying, “remember, my last name is O’Connor, and hers, O’Grady!”
It was a perilous period. In 1989, her convent was shelled during heavy fighting in east Beirut. A report at the time noted that she spent the night in the convent basement after the windows were blown out. But she persisted:
The greatest resource of any organization is its people. I recruited a young, energetic and intelligent staff; a group of people who were interested in doing their part to bring peace to their country. And though they could profit from formation and guidance, their dynamism and energy strengthened our efforts to work with the poor. And unlike the majority of the populace, they were freer of the prejudices that have haunted their homeland.
For four years, the biggest decision each day was whether or not to call each person to the office. Every morning we communicated with one another via walkie talkie — the phone lines were almost always down. Usually we discussed the fighting in each individual’s neighborhood and whether it was relatively safe to leave the security of a stairwell or a bunker. I was responsible for the safety and lives of each staff member. Yet in those four years of fighting, we only missed two working days. In a nation that saw schools, businesses and basic social services disrupted 50 percent of the time, our staff’s desire to work was amazing and their accomplishments, astounding.
“Astounding” could well describe the heroic work of this tireless sister, whose tenacity and resourcefulness paid off — and her work reminds us still of the spirit that guides all who work among the poor and suffering of the world.
29 September 2016
In the video above, the UN Special Envoy to Syria expresses his gratitude to Pope Francis for his efforts to bring peace to Syria. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope Francis speaks to Mideast aid agencies (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received representatives from the various Catholic aid agencies and charitable organizations under the leadership of the Pontifical Council Cor unum working in Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region affected by the ongoing conflicts in both Syria and Iraq. The Pontifical Council Cor unum is the Pope’s special instrument for carrying out humanitarian initiatives, promoting integral human development, coordinating the initiatives of Catholic Organizations, and encouraging the faithful to give concrete witness to the Gospel through charitable activity...
Russia rejects U.S. demands for resumption of Syrian cease-fire (The New York Times) The Russian government vowed on Thursday to press ahead with its operations in Syria, dismissing Secretary of State John Kerry’s threat to cut off talks if the bombardment of Aleppo continued. “We have more than once suggested 48-hour pauses in order to ensure humanitarian access,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, told reporters in Moscow on Thursday. “But our American colleagues are totally fixated on demands of a seven-day pause for reasons that only they know...”
Patriarch: Palestinian refugees have right to return to their homeland (Fides) The international recognition of the Palestinian State is an act which cannot be delayed if one really wants to favor the re-establishment of peace in the Middle East. And one must also support and ensure the return of all Palestinian refugees, still scattered in the Middle East, to their homeland, which is one of their “natural rights.” This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai defined the prerogative claimed by the descendants of the Palestinian Arab populations who fled from Palestine after the birth of the State of Israel...
Baby born in jungle symbolizes suffering of India’s Christians (Crux) When Father Madan Singh was recently appointed the director of Jana Vikas, a grassroots organization based in the eastern Indian region of Kandhamal, the very first thing he did was to visit a young girl named “Jungle Rani,” whose mother gave birth to her in 2008 when tens of thousands of Christians took refuge in a forest during ferocious anti-Christian riots...
Vatican publishes theme for 2017 World Day for Social Communications (Vatican Radio) The theme for the Church’s 2017 World Day for Social Communications was published on Thursday. The theme or motto chosen for this event is: “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43.5). Communicating hope and trust in our time...
28 September 2016
Children help one another at the Our Lady of Armenia Education Center in Tashir, Armenia. For more about the spirit and perseverance of the Church of Armenia, check out An Unshakable Faith in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
28 September 2016
In this image from 2014, Pope Francis welcomes former Israeli President Shimon Peres during a meeting at the Vatican. Peres died Tuesday at the age of 93.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)
Pope Francis offers condolences on death of Shimon Peres (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his “heartfelt condolences” to the people of Israel upon learning of the death of their former President, Shimon Peres. He died on Tuesday at the age of 93. “I fondly recall my time with Mr Peres at the Vatican and renew my great appreciation for the late President’s tireless efforts in favor of peace,” Pope Francis said...
Children of Aleppo, trapped in a killing zone (The New York Times) Among the roughly 250,000 people trapped in the insurgent redoubt of the divided northern Syrian city are 100,000 children, the most vulnerable victims of intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies. Though the world is jolted periodically by the suffering of children in the Syria conflict — the photographs of Alan Kurdi’s drowned body and Omran Daqneesh’s bloodied face are prime examples — dead and traumatized children are increasingly common...
Pope renews appeal for Aleppo (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has once again appealed for peace in Syria. At his General Audience on Wednesday, the Pope said, “dramatic news continues to reach me concerning the fate of the people of Aleppo, with whom, through prayer and spiritual closeness, I feel united in suffering...”
Among young Lebanese, only 25 percent are Christians (Fides) Today, Christians account for 34 percent of the Lebanese population registered in the civil Status register. But if the focus is placed on the Lebanese population up to 25 years of age, the percentage of Christians drops to 25 percent. This is the most eloquent demographic data on the current number of Christians in Lebanon, released by the vice president of the Maronite League Hiam Boustany at the Conference convened yesterday by the Movement for the Earth at the convent of Mar Yacoub, in the village of Karm Saddeh and dedicated to the sale of land belonging to Christian owners...
Russian implicated in shooting down Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine (The New York Times) A Dutch-led investigation has concluded that the powerful surface-to-air missile system that was used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine two years ago, killing all 298 on board, was trucked in from Russia at the request of Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night. The report largely confirmed the already widely documented Russian government role not only in the deployment of the missile system, called a Buk, or SA-11, but the subsequent cover up, which continues to this day...
Patriarch Kirill signs petition urging Putin to ban abortion (AFP) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Tuesday signed a petition calling for a legal ban on abortion, the Church said in a statement. The Patriarch met anti-abortion campaigners and signed a petition to be handed to President Vladimir Putin urging a ban on abortions. The Patriach’s signing of the petition apparently represents a hardening of the Church’s position as it has previously only called for a ban on state-provided abortions without a medical necessity...,/p>
Ethiopians mark Meskel (Reuters) Orthodox priests lit a bonfire in the heart of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday evening to mark the eve of Meskel, a festival to mark the finding of the cross of Jesus. Tens of thousands of people, many holding up candles in the failing light as the sun set, crowded on terraces around the square where the ceremony was led by the head of Ethiopia’s Christian Orthodox church, Patriarch Abune Mathias...
27 September 2016
The Ethiopian Catholic bishop of Emdibir celebrates the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The Autumn 2016 edition of ONE turns a spotlight on the Eastern churches, celebrating their rich history and diversity. To learn more about the Church of Alexandria and its flourishing faith in Africa, check out this profile. (photo: John E. Kozar)
27 September 2016
Staffan de Mistura, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, addresses the Security Council
on 25 September. (photo: U.N./Kim Haughton)
‘If we lose this generation, we lose Syria’ (Al Jazeera) Millions of displaced Syrian children have been forced to quit school amid a protracted civil war that has left the country in ruins. In Turkey, which has grappled with a massive refugee influx over the past five years, more than half of Syrian refugee children are not receiving a formal education, according to Human Rights Watch. Finding few alternatives, many of these children have taken jobs in factories or turned to the streets, selling tissues or gum to earn a meager income...
U.N. briefing: ‘Chilling days for Syria’ (UN.org) The past week has been one of the worst ones in Syria during the near six years of this devastating conflict. Earlier in the week I had to deeply regret the fact that the meeting of the International Syria Support Group did not yield the results we were hoping...
Crisis in Ethiopia: Drought persists, nutrition suffers (Aleteia) Spring brought rain, and some relief, but in some places too much rain led to severe flooding, which displaced 190,000 people. “The majority of Ethiopian farmers are dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Rain failure is a disaster for farmers,” said Argaw Fantu, regional director in Ethiopia for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. “Some areas are also naturally disadvantaged areas as the rainfall is so erratic, [and because of the] rocky and mountainous nature of the area...”
Vatican releases details of pope’s upcoming visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan (Vatican Radio) At a briefing for journalists at the Holy See press office on Monday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke gave details of Pope Francis’ forthcoming three day visit to the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It’ll be his 16th pastoral visit outside Italy and it’ll be focused on the themes of peace and brotherhood, following on from the message of peace that he took with him to the neighboring republic of Armenia last June...
New program helps refugees in Canada develop job skills (The Catholic Register) Refugee youth in Calgary are learning essential job skills through a new program run by the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS). On 6 September, CCIS announced the launch of the program that will benefit young refugees in the Archdiocese of Calgary. The Enhancing Refugee Youth Employment Outcomes project will help 48 young refugee, ages 15 to 30, develop job skills and gain work experience...
26 September 2016
A picture taken on 25 September 2016, shows trucks carrying humanitarian aid, parked on a road in Idlib after entering Syria through a border crossing with Turkey.
(photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)
Syria: aid reaches Madaya and other besieged towns (BBC) Aid has been delivered to four besieged towns in Syria for the first time in almost six months, the International Committee of the Red Cross says. Seventy-one lorries reached rebel-held Madaya and Zabadani, near Damascus, and government-controlled Foah and Kefraya, in Idlib province, on Sunday. They brought food, medical supplies and hygiene kits for 60,000 people. Last week, the UN suspended aid deliveries across Syria for 48 hours after a deadly attack on a convoy.
Activist: India’s anti-Christian massacre carefully planned (Vatican Radio) The untold atrocities that Christians in eastern India’s Odisha state were subjected to in 2008, are the result of careful planning by Hindu nationalist groups of the “Sangh Parivar” network at the highest level, an Indian journalist and rights activist told the media on Thursday, alleging illiterate masses of militants were manipulated by propaganda and incited to kill. Thanks to the investigation carried out by Anto Akkara, “one can rewrite the history of Kandhamal,” the district in Odisha where the atrocities were concentrated...
Keeping Jordan’s balance amid crisis (CBS News) The bombs in New York and New Jersey last week brought the specter of terror home, again. It seems no country is safe, but there is one that is beating fearsome odds. ISIS burned through Syria and Iraq until it hit a firewall, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The king, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, is holding the front and sheltering millions of refugees despite his struggling economy, no oil wealth and precious little water. If the king can keep his balance, Jordan may prove that an Arab state can remain peaceful, tolerant, and modern...
‘Couples for Christ’ movement thriving in India (Vatican Radio) Evangelization, renewal of families and care of the poor are part of the mission of a Filipino lay group called Couples for Christ (CFC) that visited Odisha, eastern India, from 13 to 18 September. The Vatican-approved CFC lay movement began their unit in Odisha’s main Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese in 2013...
Relics of Russian Orthodox saint to be sent into space (Radio Free Europe) After spending nearly nine decades forgotten in a Moscow storeroom during the Soviet era, some relics of Russian Orthodox St. Serafim of Sarov should soon be circling the globe aboard the International Space Station (ISS)
15 September 2016
The Rev. David Mickiewicz of Oneonta, New York, has been a generous CNEWA donor for close to 25 years. (photo: courtesy David Mickiewicz)
Many of CNEWA’s most ardent supporters are priests and religious — and a lot of them, we’ve discovered, have been donors for many years. We met one such donor earlier this year, when we made a parish visit to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Oneonta, New York to speak about CNEWA’s work on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
The pastor, Rev. David Mickiewicz, mentioned that he had been a longtime donor, and that he had a deep love and affinity for the Eastern churches. I sent him an email recently and asked him to share some of his thoughts with our readers. He wrote back:
The Mohawk and Hudson Rivers were my backyard, north of Albany, where I was raised in Waterford, New York, and where my mother and brother still reside. What attracted me to CNEWA, I expect, has roots that go back to Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and Saint Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church, places that I had to pass to arrive at Saint Michael, my Polish Roman Catholic parish. Onion-shaped domes and multiple crosses, Slavic choral music and the spirituality of the icon seduced me into the Eastern Christian experience — broadening and allowing me to more fully breathe in my Roman tradition.
Father Paul Pascavage introduced me to the Byzantine Rite and I started singing Old Slavonic with the choir for Divine Liturgy. Two Christmases and Easters! What a joy. This nascent initiation led to other Eastern Christian experiences throughout my life, which included serving for a few years in the Syriac tradition at Saint Anne Maronite Catholic Church in Troy, New York. Experiencing, participating in and teaching about Easter Christianity have become staples of my life, with the assistance of CNEWA. It must be close to 25 years that I have been receiving the CNEWA publication ONE and financially supporting the association. The magazine and its website reporting on Eastern Christians — so little known or acknowledged in the West — and the ecumenical and interfaith efforts to better the lives of all people really drew me to support them.
What is most challenging and humbling about my support of CNEWA is that, while Eastern Christians are paying a heavy price — as refugees, living in poverty, experiencing discrimination and violence, even to the giving of their lives for believing in Jesus — my following the faith over the last 60 years has cost me nothing. Growing up in a predominantly Catholic area and living in a country that, even as religion is pushed further and further from the public square, still bears a Christian veneer, I am insulated. CNEWA, through its publications and works, regularly reminds me of my responsibility to that part of the Body of Christ that is crucified. I have had to grapple with this question: what part of the experience of the Body of Christ do I embody for my suffering sisters and brothers?
Might you consider your own situation in relationship to our sisters and brothers? This needs to be more than just charity; charity in the long run must also change us.
Father David exemplifies so many of the committed men and women who are unsung heroes in our world — priests, sisters, religious whose generous and prayerful support makes so much possible.
To all of them: Thank you!
15 September 2016
Pope Francis greets Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, during a private meeting at the Vatican on 15 September.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)