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Current Issue
Spring, 2016
Volume 42, Number 1
  
3 May 2016
Greg Kandra




Sister Micheline Lattouff stands in her office in Deir el Ahmar, Lebanon. “I believe that even if a person is in a very bad situation,” she says, “my mission is to show him the spark and light it.”
(photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)


In a corner of the world facing increasing desolation and despair, Sister Micheline Lattouff is a true hero. She has devoted her life to helping provide healing and hope to Syrian refugees in Lebanon:

“There is an ancient saying, ‘The candle that is just smoking, not lighted, still has a life in it, still has hope in it,’” says Sister Micheline. “I have no right to turn it off. I believe that even if a person is in a very bad situation, my mission is to show him the spark and light it.”

She began this journey at the age of 17. While on a high school retreat, she met a Lebanese sister of the Good Shepherd who had lived in Sudan and worked with women prisoners.

“These women were in bad shape — no toilets, no sanitary napkins — losing their dignity with no one to help them,” she says. “I was inspired that these were not nuns who just prayed; they were nuns who helped the poor. That is when I decided to become a Good Shepherd sister,” she says. “The mission of the Good Shepherd Sisters is to defend the rights of women, children and families — to help them regain their dignity.”

...She arrived in the Bekaa Valley in 2004, seven years before the war in Syria began, and soon began teaching in nearby Deir el Ahmar.

“I felt this region needed support, like sheep without a shepherd,” says the 44-year-old sister, citing concerns such as high rates of illiteracy. According a 2009 study by the United Nations Development Program, some 16.8 percent of adults in the Bekaa region cannot read — the highest rate in Lebanon. Many students drop out, drifting away from school to focus on farm work. Worse still, many become embroiled in the drug trade, which thrives in the region due to the cultivation of cannabis crops.

“The children were watering the hashish,” she says. “So, I started thinking: ‘What can I do for the children in this area?’ ”

Wasting no time, the nun sought resources — faculty volunteers, a public space and basic materials — and in late 2005 started an after-school program. It opened for just two hours each afternoon, but those two hours allowed for healthy socializing, study and play. It gave students another choice in how to spend their time, and provided an incentive to stay in school.

Read the rest of her story. She summed this up beautifully and reflected on her vocation in a 2015 interview:

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.



3 May 2016
Greg Kandra




An image of Our Lady of Sinj is decorated at St. Jerome Croatian Catholic Church in Chicago. In Catholic tradition, May is the month devoted to Mary. Learn more about the traditions of Balkan emigrants living in Chicago in “Sharing Space in an Adopted Home” from the May 2004
edition of ONE. (photo: Hryhoriy Prystay)




3 May 2016
Greg Kandra




A child is seen in a hospital bed after being injured in a 10 March bombing near Damascus, Syria. The Syrian army has extended a “regime of calm” around Damascus after a recent resurgence of violence. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

Syria extends “regime of calm” (Vatican Radio) The Syrian army confirmed on Monday that a “regime of calm” has been extended for a further 48 hours around Damascus, the country’s capital. This cessation of hostilities in the capital comes after a resurgence of violence in the country’s northern Aleppo region, which has seen more than 250 people killed in the last 9 days, and threatens to destabilize the 9 week truce put in place by UN officials...

Metropolitan offers prayers after fire destroys Serbian cathedral (OCA.org) On Bright Monday, 2 May 2016, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, sent a letter to His Grace, Serbian Orthodox Bishop Mitrophan, offering prayers and concern in the wake of a four-alarm fire that engulfed Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral near West 25th Street and Broadway in New York City...

Chaldean Patriarchate condemns destruction of church as an attack on Christian memory (Christian Today) The Chaldean Patriarchate has condemned the destruction of the historic Clock Church by the Islamic State (ISIS), saying it was undertaken “to erase Iraq’s Christian memory in favour of a state of strangers who commit terror in the name of Islam.” The iconic Clock Church, a Christian church known for its soaring clock tower which was built in the 1870s, is one of the best known remaining churches in Mosul, Iraq, which was named after its tower and funded by Empress Eugenie, the wife of the last French Emperor Napoleon III...

Syrian women gaining confidence in Turkish refugee camp (Al-Monitor) A Turkish teacher taught the group of 20 Syrian women stitching, embroidery and how to make blankets and mend clothes. The clothes and blankets are sold in shops and bazaars in the city of Gaziantep and inside the camp. Not only did Maysa, [one of the refugees,] earn some extra money, the sewing club gave her something much more valuable...

Ethiopian farmers fighting drought with land restoration (The Guardian) Although the recurrent famine that plagues Ethiopia is too complex to be explained by a single cause, environmental degradation has played a big role. Ethiopia has long been a victim of land degradation, driven by increased human use of land and unsustainable agricultural practices. Grazing of animals and collection of firewood haven’t helped — with less cover and protection against erosion, soil is more easily washed away. Now, Ethiopia is drawing on its business community and public sector to do something about it...

Tribal Christians flee Indian village following threat (UCANews.com) Six families of Gond tribal Christians have fled their village in the central Indian Chhattisgarh state after Hindu neighbors allegedly threatened to kill them if they didn’t convert, their pastor has said. Following a week of harassment and attacks, all 37 Christians fled Katodi village in Kanker district on April 29, Moses Annel told ucanews.com 2 May. They were “beaten up and their houses were destroyed" after they refused the majority Hindu tribal villagers’ “demand to give up their Christian faith,” Annel said...

Jesuits and Rotary partner to help refugees (Vatican Radio) What do millions of refugees — many of them children, adolescents and young adults — who have fled conflict or persecution need to start a new life in host countries? What do they need to be able to go home one day, form a new life and contribute to their communities and to their country? The answer is simple: quality education. Education provides skills, opens the doors to employment, promotes peace and stability...



2 May 2016
Greg Kandra




Celebrating Easter yesterday, a boy looks at a huge traditional egg on 1 May 2016. Some 374 large eggs and 40,000 small ones decorated by Ukrainian artists are displayed at St. Sophia Square in Kiev. To learn more about the delicate art of egg decorating in Ukraine, read “The Colors of Easter” in the March 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)



2 May 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian Greek Orthodox Christians hold candles during the Easter procession in the capital Damascus on 1 May 2016. (photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope sends Easter greetings to faithful of Eastern churches (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent his greetings to the faithful of the Eastern Churches who are celebrating Holy Easter on Sunday, 1 May according to the Julian calendar. Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Regina Coeli prayer he said: “May the Risen Lord bring to our brothers of the Eastern Churches all the gifts of His light and His peace. Christos anesti!”...

Pope appeals for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday reiterated his plea for peace in Syria appealing to all parties involved in the conflict to respect the cessation of hostilities and commit to dialogue...

Protestors leave Iraqi parliament building but vow to return (Voice of America) Baghdad is largely back to normal after it teetered on the edge of political chaos. Anti-government protesters who had taken over the Iraqi parliament building disbanded in a mostly peaceful fashion as loud speaker announcements urged them to leave...

World must respond to ISIS genocide, UN conference told (CNS) While religious freedom in much of the Middle East is under siege and the civil war in Syria seems to have no end in sight, Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, and others called the United Nations to action...

Bishops of Aleppo: let us participate in the Passion of Christ (Fides) “We are children of the Resurrection, of hope, and we firmly believe that this suffering will not be in vain: following the footsteps of the saints and martyrs, we add them to the Passion of Christ, so they may become sanctified and sanctifying suffering, for peace in Syria and the salvation of our city.” This is what the Catholic bishops of Aleppo said in a message addressed primarily to the faithful, offering words of consolation and hope to the inhabitants of the martyred Syrian city...

Palestinian president: we have a duty to protect presence of Christians in Middle East (Fides) The protection of the Christian presence in Palestine and all the East “is for us a duty and a mission”: this is how Palestinian President Abu Mazen reiterated his commitment to do everything he can to honor this duty, for the common good of the entire Palestinian people. The Arab Head of State confirmed his commitment in the message addressed to Christians at Easter, celebrated yesterday by churches that follow the Julian calendar...

Russian Orthodox “Holy Fire” flown to Russia from Jerusalem (The Jewish Press) A special aircraft carrying a flame of “Holy Fire” from Jerusalem landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport Saturday, TASS reported. Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Apostle Andrew the First Called Foundation Vladimir Yakunin delivered a capsule containing the fire to a Moscow Cathedral for the Easter service officiated by Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church. The Holy Fire is described by Russian Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, or Holy Saturday, the day preceding Russian Orthodox Easter...

Foundation to host major conference on refugees at the Vatican (Vatican Radio) The Centesimus annus — pro Pontifice Foundation has organized a major international conference to take place 12-14 May, to mark the 25th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s watershed encyclical on politics, economics, and society one hundred years after his predecessor, Leo XIII’s seminal social encyclical, Rerum novarum...

Religious leaders call on faithful to sustain peaceful co-existence in Ethiopia (The Ethiopian Herald) Religious fathers of various denominations have conveyed messages in connection with the celebration of the Ethiopian Easter. In their message, they urge the faithful to support efforts of the government in helping drought affected citizens and ensuring peace, stability and good governance and fighting terrorism...



29 April 2016
Greg Kandra




Today, 29 April, marks the feast of St. Catherine of Siena. In the picture above from 2015, Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena settle in to their makeshift convent in Erbil, Iraq, where they are serving displaced Iraqis fleeing ISIS. Read more about their heroic and selfless work here. (photo: Don Duncan)



29 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a Syrian refugee carries the Olympic torch while passing through a refugee camp near Athens. The city of Aleppo, Syria has come under renewed attack recently, with medical facilities being bombed. (video: Rome Reports)

Aleppo rocked by fresh fighting (BBC) Deadly fighting has resumed in Syria’s divided second city of Aleppo, after a brief lull overnight. State media say rebels shelled a mosque in the government-held district of Bab al-Faraj, killing eight people. Rescue workers report that a clinic in rebel-held Marja was targeted in an air strike, the second medical facility to be hit in a week...

Lebanese cardinal calls for EU to help end Mideast conflicts (CNS) Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai urged the international community and the European Parliament to stop the wars in the Middle East through dialogue, and he called for a return of the displaced to their countries of origin. In a speech 27 April to the European Parliament in Brussels, the Maronite Catholic patriarch warned that the crisis in the region has direct consequences not only for Christians, but also for the Mediterranean Basin as well as Europe...

Russian Orthodox, Catholics launch joint project to rebuild Syrian churches (CNS) Russia’s Catholic Church has launched a joint project with Russian Orthodox leaders to rebuild churches and monasteries destroyed during the war in Syria. Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference, said the project should be viewed as the “first concrete outcome” of Pope Francis’s February meeting in Cuba with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill...

Indian bishop kidnapped, released (CNS) A Catholic bishop in southern India was kidnapped and assaulted by unknown attackers demanding money. Bishop Prasad Gallela of Cuddapah was blindfolded, handcuffed and forcibly taken away while he was traveling home after celebrating Mass at Karunagiri Shrine 25 April, reported ucanews.com. He said unidentified kidnappers came in two vehicles and took “me to an undisclosed location.&rdquo: “They hit me and punched me, resulting in injuries all over my body. I did not resist,” Bishop Gallela told ucanews.com. “Police are trying to find those behind the incident.”

Ethiopia “on the edge of a crisis” (The New Internationalist) Ethiopia’s most severe drought for 30 years is currently sweeping across the country. It has triggered prolonged dry spells, delaying the much sought-after rains that allow farmers to harvest their crops and leaving over 10 million people in immediate need of aid assistance. ‘We have to find a way to ration our animal feed during periods of drought,’ says Roba...

Indian Catholics respond to papal mandate on environment (Vatican Radio) Nearly a year after Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, dioceses and church agencies across India have launched several projects implementing the spirit of the papal document...



28 April 2016
Greg Kandra





Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios oversaw a period of explosive growth in the Syro-Malankara church in India — and was dubbed “India’s Renaissance Man” for his wide-ranging interests
and tastes. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)


A figure who had a profound effect on the people of India was Benedict Mar Gregorios, the Syro-Malankara Archbishop of Trivandrum. Profiling him in 1992, Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M. wrote of “India’s Renaissance Man”:

Mar Gregorios is the major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, a community that achieved full communion with the Church of Rome in 1930. Ordained a bishop in 1955, his efforts to renew the Syriac liturgy within a truly Indian context has led to the Church’s tremendous growth. Today more than 300,000 people are baptized members. When the archbishop was ordained in 1955, the Syro-Malankara Church numbered just over 70,000 members.

Mar Gregorios has initiated programs with the Tamils in the south, and with the dispossessed — the so-called “untouchables” — in his own state of Kerala.

We met the archbishop on several of his visits to New York and were certainly familiar with his projects funded by the benefactors of Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Now we were seeing him for the first time on his own turf.

We came to see what we might do. We left feeling he had done much for us.

This simple priest/erudite scholar insists, “Our Lord didn’t come to save souls alone, but to save people! We must realize that the God who gave us a body and who himself assumed a body, cannot be thought of as indifferent to our material needs, for he made us to live in human dignity — dignity that presupposes a certain material well-being.”

After his death in 1994, our magazine noted:

An agricultural expert, the Archbishop started model farms and experimented with various plant forms to bolster the lives of his people, most of whom live on farms. Many of these small plots are supported by our Association.

As Archbishop, Mar Gregorios encouraged the renewal of the Syriac liturgy within a truly Indian context, enabling this small community, which numbered just 70,000 members in the 50s, to grow at a tremendous rate. Today the Syro-Malankara Catholic community numbers more than 300,000 people.

We mourn “the loss of this great and good man of God,” wrote Msgr. Robert L. Stern in a letter of condolence, “...the boldness of his vision and the strength of his trust in Almighty God will ever be an inspiration and a consolation to me.”

His extraordinary vision and outreach to the dispossessed helped transform India and spread the faith — and his legacy lives on to this day in schools and institutions. This is heroism in action. As Sister Christian wrote all those years ago:

It is this reservoir of respect and good will that enables Mar Gregorios, religious men and women, and the laity, to demonstrate their love and concern for the people — the power of Christian charity in action, not just words.



28 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2010, a dance group performs at the annual Greek Festival in Salt Lake City. To learn more about a thriving community of Greek Americans preserving their culture in Mormon country, read “Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion” in the July 2010 edition of ONE.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)




28 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video interview above, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio accuses Europe of behaving “like Pontius Pilate” when it comes to refugees from the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)

Airstrikes hit Aleppo hospital (The New York Times) On Thursday, with civilian casualties rapidly mounting on both sides, government airstrikes destroyed a hospital affiliated with Doctors Without Borders, killing 27 people. The location of the destroyed hospital in rebel territory was well known, Doctors Without Borders said in a statement in which it called for an end to the targeting of health facilities. Among the dead were three children and six staff members, health workers and witnesses said, including one of the area’s last remaining pediatricians. The death toll was expected to rise...

Lebanon’s army kills ISIS leader near Syrian border (Reuters) Security officials in Lebanon say Lebanese military forces have killed a leader of Islamic State (ISIS) militants during an army operation in the country’s mountainous border region with Syria. The ISIS leader in the border region was named by security officials and Lebanon’s National News Agency as Nayif al-Shaalaan...

Regional war between Armenia and Azerbaijan? (The Hill) his is not only a battle over territory. Rather, it is simultaneously a struggle over culture, diversity, inclusiveness and, most importantly, independence and diverging vision for the future of the South Caucasus...

Coptic priests on mission to proclaim Easter (Fides) In Egypt, Coptic churches — who follow the Julian calendar — are celebrating Holy Week. In view of Easter, greetings and good wishes are expressed to the Copts by representatives of institutions. Even Ahmed al Tayyeb, great Imam of Al Azhar, went to the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo to personally express his Easter greetings to Orthodox Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II. And in the imminence of the Christian solemnity, also pastoral initiatives flourish in the large North African country: in recent days, some Coptic Orthodox priests of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Minya, Upper Egypt, decided to leave their parishes to go to celebrate moments of prayer in the streets, in cafes and in public places, in order to announce the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ to the many baptized who do not attend churches and sanctuaries even on the occasion of the liturgical solemnities...

Report: Indian officials halt Christian church wedding over claims bride was forced to convert (AFP) A group of hardline Hindu activists and police stormed a church in central India and stopped a wedding midway after accusing the pastor of forcefully converting the bride to Christianity, an official said on Thursday (28 April). As the wedding got underway at the Church of God in India in Madhya Pradesh state, men belonging to the fringe Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal barged in accompanied by the police, who arrested ten people, a church spokesman said...







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