12 February 2016
As Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill make history in Cuba today, here’s a glimpse at some Russian Orthodox faithful making a splash of their own. In this image from 2010, Orthodox believers plunge into frigid waters to commemorate the feast of Baptism of the Lord. Read more in “Orthodoxy Renewed” in the March 2010 edition of ONE. (photo: Julia Vishnevets)
12 February 2016
Pope Francis tries on a sombrero while meeting journalists aboard his flight to Havana on 12 February. Traveling to Mexico for a six-day visit, the pope is stopping briefly in Cuba to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the Havana airport. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
U.S. and Russia announce plan for humanitarian aid, cease-fire in Syria (The New York Times) Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, announced that they had agreed on the delivery over the next few days of desperately needed aid to besieged Syrian cities, to be followed by a “cessation of hostilities” within a week on the way to a more formal cease-fire. “We have agreed to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities in one week’s time,” Mr. Kerry said early Friday morning, after all-day meetings. “That is ambitious...”
Pope, patriarch to hold historic meeting today (The Miami Herald) Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill will meet in Havana on Friday, the first rapprochement between the two churches in the nearly 1,000 years since Christianity split between East and West. Despite a separation that dates back to the Great Schism of 1054, the Russian Orthodox Church has said that Islamic extremist attacks on Christian populations in the Middle East and North and Central Africa require urgent measures and closer cooperation between the Christian churches. “In the present tragic situation, it is necessary to put aside international disagreements and unite efforts for saving Christianity in the regions where it is subjected to the most severe persecution,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said in Moscow during a news conference on the patriarch’s trip...
Canada asked to recognize genocide of Christians (Catholic Register) The Canadian government should join the European Union in labelling the persecution of Christians by Islamic State jihadists a genocide, said Aid to the Church in Need. The Catholic charity, which supports the Church worldwide, has asked the Canadian government to follow the EU Parliament’s 4 February resolution that called ISIS attacks on Middle East Christians a genocide, a crime punishable under international law...
The “nuns of life” in Ethiopia (Scottish Catholic Observer) The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is not blessed with numbers. Most people here are either Ethiopian Orthodox or Muslim. Yet the work of the Catholic Church here still packs an incredible wallop. No one demonstrates that better than two nuns, who between them have saved thousands of lives: Sister Celine Louise and Sister Haimanot Amanuel...
High unemployment leads Gaza couple to crowdfund their wedding (The Washington Post) It’s a classic problem faced by many young couples the world over: How to finance one’s wedding? But for Abd El-Hakim Zughbor and his fiancée, Falastin Al-Tanani, residents of the Gaza Strip, which is partially blockaded by Israel and Egypt, governed by the hard-line Islamic group Hamas and guided by deeply entrenched social traditions, the challenge of making it to the happy day is compounded even further. That’s why, after seven years in love and no wedding date on the calendar, the two 27-year-olds opted for a new, rather unusual, method of celebrating one of society’s oldest institutions: with an online fundraising campaign via the website GoFundMe...
11 February 2016
A pedicab with a Vatican flag passes in front of the Russian Orthodox church in Havana on 7 February. Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill will hold an historic meeting in Cuba on Friday 12 February. (photo: CNS/Alexandre Meneghini, Reuters)
11 February 2016
Displaced Iraqis, who fled regions controlled by ISIS near Fallujah, carry their belongings on 8 February 2016 as they arrive in the Jwaibah area, on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi. Iraq now faces a growing economic crisis caused by war, plunging oil prices and an influx of refugees.
(photo: Moadh Al-Dulaimi/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope asks for prayers for meeting with patriarch (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has asked for prayers for his forthcoming meeting with his “dear brother,” the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Head of the Russian Orthodox Church. That meeting is scheduled to take place on 12 February 12 at Cuba’s international airport as the Pope travels to Mexico for an apostolic journey...
War, plunging oil prices create economic crisis in Iraq (AP) Plunging oil prices have pitched Iraq into a severe financial crisis as it struggles to combat ISIS, play host to millions of refugees and rebuild cities and towns ravaged by war...
Turkey keeps borders closed to Syrian refugees (The Washington Post) Turkey angrily rejected demands Wednesday that it open its border to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees driven from their homes by relentless Russian airstrikes, saying that to do so would amount to complicity in the Russian-backed offensive to drive rebels out of the province of Aleppo...
Russia: U.S. Planes bombed Aleppo Wednesday (Reuters) Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday that two U.S. aircraft had bombed the Syrian city of Aleppo on 10 February and that Russian planes had not been operating in the area. A Pentagon spokesman had accused Russian and Syria government forces on Wednesday of destroying Aleppo’s two main hospitals with air strikes, though he did not specify when the strikes were alleged to have taken place...
Ukrainians: don’t throw us under the bus (The Catholic Register) Nobody wants the Pope to meet Moscow’s Orthodox patriarch more than the Ukrainian Catholics, but the Eastern-rite Catholics want to be sure their Church is treated as a full partner in the dialogue between Rome and Moscow. “We want this. It’s about time... If anything we would like for these meetings to happen more often,” said Father Peter Galadza, acting director of the Sheptytsky Institute at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. “We don’t want to return to the old ostpolitik where the Eastern Catholic churches, especially the Ukrainian Catholic Church, get thrown under the bus...”
4 February 2016
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Turkey Russian Orthodox
Sister Micheline, center, talks with a refugee about the needs of his camp in Bechouat, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
In the Winter edition of ONE, readers meet Sister Micheline Lattouff, a Good Shepherd Sister working among the growing population of Syrian refugees settled in the Bekaa Valley. In the interview, she speaks of her vocation and her desire to serve her people.
ONE: What motivates you?
ML: I try to find what message God is sending me. I try to learn what God is trying to have me do. In 2005, I started looking at people in the villages and their suffering. The children used to play in a graveyard. Once, they burned the tail off a cat for fun. They had no normal games or activities. Their parents are illiterate and have no resources to rear their children.
I felt the Bekaa region needed support, like sheep without shepherd. I was frustrated; I thought, “What can I do for children in this area?”
ONE: So what did you do?
ML: I started asking teachers in public school, “If I make a center for children to visit after school, will you help?” And the principal offered benches and desks for free, and teachers volunteered. On Christmas 2005, I began a new experiment: From 3 to 5 p.m. an after-school program for Lebanese children from 9 to 15 years of age.
ONE: What have been some of your more rewarding moments?
ML: The best moment for me is when I see the children happy, successful in their studies and their life, when I see them able to pass through the difficulties and continue to achieve.
ONE: What have been some of your more difficult moments?
ML: The more difficult moments are when I have nothing to give the refugees. It is so difficult for me.
ONE: What thoughts sustain you during difficult times?
ML: I believe in human beings and God. I believe that God is capable of changing a person, when I see people improving from work, when I see success of people and developing.
Read more in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
4 February 2016
Syrian refugees wait at the border on 13 January near Royashed, Jordan. World leaders pledged billions on Thursday to help support refugees. (photo: CNS/EPA)
Leaders pledge billions for Syrian refugees (Voice of America) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged nearly $1 billion in new U.S. aid for Syrian refugees at an international donors conference and is calling for the Syrian government and Russia to halt attacks on rebel-held areas in order to let humanitarian aid through. The donors conference opened Thursday in London with European Union nations pledging more than three billion dollars to support people in Syria as well as in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, neighbor countries that are strained by the exodus of refugees fleeing the fighting...
Syria peace talks suspended (BBC) The third round of Geneva peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition has been suspended three days after a shaky start, underlining the mammoth challenge of putting an end to Syria’s five-year war. Riad Hijab, the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) co-ordinator, arrived in Geneva on Wednesday to give an extra weight to the troubled talks. But comments of Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who said Russian strikes will not cease “until we really defeat terrorist organisations like al-Nusra Front” clearly made it difficult for both the UN and Syrian opposition to press ahead...
Iraq building a wall around Baghdad (BBC) Iraqi security forces have begun building a wall around the capital Baghdad in an effort to prevent attacks by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The reported 300km (186 miles) barrier will surround the city from all sides, an official said...
Christian associations react to rumors about discovery of weapons in a church in Turkey (Fides) The Federation of Assyrian associations have reacted harshly to the rumors — circulated in recent days on the Turkish media — that a cache of weapons and ammunition belonging to Kurdish armed groups was discovered by the army in Ankara at the Syrian Orthodox church of Santa Maria, in Diyarbakir. “More lies, another disgrace, still an operation aimed to hit a target,” wrote the international network of associations linked to Assyrian Christian communities scattered throughout the world in a statement. “We” says the statement sent to Agenzia Fides, “condemn this hostile attitude, which affects all Syrians and which was intended to indicate a target...”
Coptic patriarch visits dioceses, speaks out against domestic violence (Fides) Domestic violence, whose victims are mainly women and children, represent a devastating social phenomenon that has severe effects on people’s lives and also on civil society. This is what Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II said during his catechesis and prayer meeting on Wednesday, at the church of St. George, in the suburb of Guizeh, attended by thousands of faithful...
3 February 2016
This structure marks the location of an ancient church, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. (photo: Greg Kandra)
Yesterday, UNESCO recognized the place of Christ’s baptism in Jordan as a “World Heritage Site.” In 2011, ONE magazine reported on efforts to preserve the site:
In a rustic wooden structure perched on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, Father Gianluigi Corti leads a group of Italian pilgrims in renewing their baptismal vows. The river is now little more than a muddy stream, drained over the years to meet the demands of the growing populations of the Holy Land. The air is still, apart from the singing of Italian hymns and a chorus of chirping insects. The latter is a constant sound in this dry, hot region of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan known as the Valley of Trickling Water, or Wadi el Kharrar in Arabic.
As Father Corti concludes the simple renewal service, he dips a plastic bottle into a heavy stone basin filled with water from the river and slowly pours its contents on the heads of the pilgrims. As a parish priest, he has led many such tours to the Holy Land.
“The Bible was not lived in Europe,” he says. “If you don’t know the land of the Bible directly, you cannot know what the Bible is.”
A short walk from the pilgrims lie the remains of an early Christian church.
Uncovered in the late 1990’s by a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Muhammad Waheeb, the ruins belong to a complex built at the end of the fifth century. They mark the site where early Christians believed Jesus was baptized — the same complex described in pilgrims’ accounts from the fifth to seventh centuries.
Above the brush, not far from the river’s edge, rises the golden dome of a new church built on land donated by the Jordanian royal family. Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the Orthodox shrine is the most prominent monument in an area long believed to be the biblical Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where John lived, preached and baptized his cousin, Jesus. It also stands as a reminder of the Hashemites — Jordan’s royals who descend from the prophet Muhammad — and their personal commitment to develop the kingdom’s holy places, Christian, Jewish and Muslim.
Jordan is home to a mosaic of biblical places. For example, near the Zerqa River, Jacob wrestled the angel and received the name Israel. At Mount Nebo, Moses looked upon the Promised Land. The Prophet Elijah ascended to heaven on a chariot of fire from the Jordan River’s eastern bank, which also later served as the center of John the Baptist’s ministry.
These holy places, coupled with the country’s arid landscape, drew thousands of early Christians, such as St. Mary of Egypt, who led lives of penitence and prayer. Their monastic cells, caves, chapels and tombs in turn became important venues of pilgrimage for generations of Christians, who traveled along a well–beaten circuit from one site to the next for much of the first millennia of the Christian era.
Today, these sacred areas draw considerable numbers of pilgrims and tourists each year, but less traffic than one might expect. Most of the locations receive scant publicity and are overshadowed by better–known holy sites in Israel and Palestine. And, until recently, some of the most important sites in Jordan have been long lost or neglected.
Read more in “On Jordan’s Bank” in the January 2011 edition of ONE.
3 February 2016
In the video above, the plight of a 10-day-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon illustrates the challenges facing many who have been displaced by Syria’s civil war. World leaders are gathering in London this week to try and find solutions for Syria’s refugee crisis. (video: Rome Reports)
World leaders aim to raise billions for Syrian refugees (The Guardian) World leaders are gathering in London for a conference aimed at raising $9bn for Syrian refugees and preventing the creation of a permanent underclass of uneducated, restless and jobless Syrians living in countries’ bordering their homeland. Organizers want the aid to be diverted from food handouts towards work and education opportunities for Syrians in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan...
Report: More than 10,000 refugee, migrant children have disappeared in Europe (Al Jazeera) More than 10,000 unaccompanied refugee and migrant children have disappeared in Europe, the EU police agency Europol said on Sunday, fearing many have been whisked into sex trafficking rings or the slave trade. Europol’s press office confirmed to Al Jazeera the figures published in British newspaper The Observer. The number relates to the past 18-24 months...
Pope greets UN peacekeepers at audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday met with a group of soldiers serving as United Nations peacekeepers from Paraguay and Argentina. The group was attending the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square...
UNESCO recognizes baptism site of Jesus as World Heritage Site (Fides) The site of Jesus’ baptism on the Jordan River has been officially declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, during a ceremony held in Paris on the evening of Tuesday 2 February. The ceremony was also attended by a delegation from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, including the Jordanian Minister for Tourism Nayef H Al-Fayez and Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem...
Chaldean monastery in Tehran reopens (Fides) On the eve of the meeting in the Vatican between Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Pope Francis, it was possible to reopen the Chaldean monastery of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary in Tehran. This was reported by official sources of the Chaldean Patriarchate, recalling that the monastery had been closed since 2013...
Why the Middle East’s largest Christian community is fleeing Egypt (International Business Times) Egyptian churches across New York and New Jersey have seen their communities swell in recent years as Egypt has faced political turmoil, a slumping economy and a growing militant insurgency. The exodus has intensified fears for the future for Christianity in the Middle East, as some now worry for the fate of Egypt’s Christians, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities...
Ukraine’s economy minister quits (Bloomberg) Ukraine’s government, splintering over issues from the war in the nation’s east to faltering anti-corruption efforts, suffered a new setback as its reform-minded economy minister stepped down. Aivaras Abromavicius, 40, a Lithuanian-born former fund manager, said Wednesday that he wouldn’t be a “puppet” for officials he accuses of blocking overhauls of the ex-Soviet republic’s economy and institutions...
2 February 2016
Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Jordan Chaldeans
Sister Liza Mundamattom, of the Deen Bandhu Samaj Sisters, greets a member of the Chamba Mahara caste in Bastar, India. The Vatican’s Year of Consecrated Life officially came to a close today. To read about some of the sisters we have profiled since the year began, visit this link. And to support the formation of more sisters around the world, visit this giving page.
(photo: Jose Jacob)
During Mass he celebrated today, Pope Francis marked the end of the Year of Consecrated Life:
Pope Francis has called on consecrated men and women to make courageous and prophetic choices, to not be afraid of getting their hands dirty and of walking the geographical and existential peripheries of mankind today.
The Pope was speaking to consecrated men and women during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life.
The Year, which was celebrated throughout the world, began on the First Sunday of Advent in November 2014 and came to a close on the World Day of Consecrated Life on 2 February, 2016.
The initiative, called for by Pope Francis, aimed to be an occasion of renewal for men and women in consecrated life, of thanksgiving among the faithful for the service of sisters, brothers, priests, and nuns, and an invitation to young Catholics to consider a religious vocation.
During his homily the Pope described the just ended Year of Consecrated Life as “a river” saying “it now flows into the sea of mercy, into the immense mystery of love that we are experiencing through the Extraordinary Jubilee.”
He concluded: “May the Lord Jesus, through the maternal intercession of Mary, grow within us, and each increase in each of us the desire of encounter, the custody of wonder and the joy of gratitude. Then others will be attracted by His light, and will be able to meet the Father’s mercy.”
You can read the pope’s homily here.
2 February 2016
In the video above, Jordan’s King Abdullah II describes the difficulties his country is facing dealing with the influx of refugees from Syria. (video: BBC)
Jordan’s king says citizens are “at a boiling point” over refugees (International Business Times) Jordan’s King Abdullah II has said that people in his country are at “boiling point” due to the influx of thousands of refugees from Syria, BBC reported Tuesday. Abdullah’s comments came on the heels of the U.N. refugee agency’s statement Sunday that about 20,000 Syrian refugees have been stranded on the war-torn country’s border with Jordan. Jordan has been accepting refugees from Palestine and Iraq for decades and now asylum-seekers from Syria make up nearly 20 percent of the country’s population, BBC reported. “For the first time we can’t do it any more,” Abdullah said...
Russia open to hard-liners attending Syria peace talks (AP) Russia said Tuesday it supports the inclusion of all opposition parties in Syrian peace talks, including representatives of two hard-line Islamic groups, as President Bashar Assad’s troops captured a village north of Syria’s largest city with the aid of Russian airstrikes. Syria’s official SANA news agency reported the capture of Hardatneen, north of Aleppo, as U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura kicked off what he called a second day of peace talks in Geneva by hosting a government delegation for the second time since Friday. He also planned a separate meeting with the main opposition group later in the day...
U.S. weighs options to speed Iraq’s fight to retake Mosul (Reuters) The United States is willing to deploy Apache attack helicopters and advisers to help Iraq retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State as it considers options to speed up the campaign against the militant group, a top U.S. general said on Monday...
Winter plunging Iraqis deeper in debt (Huffington Post) These days, 40 year-old Syrian father of three, Faruq Mohammed Hamo, tells me there are local shops where he dare not go and show his face. Faruq is deep in debt and is ashamed to go to stores where he can’t pay back the food items he’s bought on credit. His family fled conflict in the Kobane, Syria, in September 2014. They now live in Qaladze, north of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, just a few kilometres from the border with Iran. They fled with nothing and have been helped by neighbours as well as getting help from UNHCR. But, Faruq says, he has been unable to find regular work and things are going from bad to worse...
Pope: Consecrated life must be close to the people (VIS) Pope Francis spoke to participants in the Jubilee of Consecrated Life yesterday, noting: “Men and women are consecrated, not to distance themselves from people and to live in comfort; no, to become closer to and to understand the life of Christians and non-Christians, their suffering, their problems, the many things that can be understood only if a consecrated man or woman is close to them. ... Consecrated life is not a status that allows us to watch others from a distance...”