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Volume 45, Number 3
2 July 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; and Pope Benedict XVI meet at the end of the ROACO general assembly in Rome. (photo: L'Osservatore Romano)

“Rome has a way of bringing it all into focus,” Monsignor John Kozar observes. It is the “universality” of the city that the CNEWA president credits with providing a unique sense of perspective on the matters at hand.

Two weeks ago, he visited Rome to meet with religious and civil leaders at several important events, including the 85th annual ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Eastern Churches) and the meeting of the Bethlehem University board of regents. Now, back in his New York office, he recounts the details of his trip.

Convoked by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and hosted by the pope, ROACO gathers representatives from Catholic donor agencies serving the Eastern churches and church leaders to plan and coordinate aid.

“It’s exciting to know firsthand how many other agencies there are committed to reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the Eastern tradition,” Msgr. Kozar says enthusiastically. He adds that engaging with Eastern churches has been a source of growth for him. “It’s like learning to use my other lung.”

The proceedings gave Msgr. Kozar the opportunity to confer with members of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches — Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect; Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, secretary; and Msgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, undersecretary — as well as church leaders, such as Cardinal George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Joining them were other important leaders, such as Archbishop Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio to the Holy Land; and Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., custos of the Holy Land (the leader of the Friars Minor in the Holy Land) and a “dear friend and great collaborator.”

With world-class translators working in four languages, they discussed the pressing issues facing the churches and regions they serve. “We all want to improve: to do good works better,” Msgr. Kozar says.

One of the most important subjects discussed was Christian emigration: Iraqi Christians migrating to Switzerland, Ukrainian Christians moving to Canada, and other such trends in the wake of political upheaval and strife. These trends, Msgr. Kozar notes, require not only attention, but also the ability to change some operations to accommodate geographically shifting needs.

At the event’s conclusion, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address to the assembly, discussing the challenges facing the churches of the East, insisting that “every effort should be made” to achieve peace in Syria. “May you always be eloquent signs of the charity that flows from the heart of Christ and presents the church to the world in her true mission and identity by placing her at the service of God who is love.” Following tradition, the pope then warmly received each participant.

“I had the opportunity to thank the Holy Father for the honor and privilege of doing this great work on his behalf,” reports Msgr. Kozar.

The work of sharing the light of charity and cooperation with the churches of the East is great, with much to be done the world over. However, those who attended the assembly left ready and eager to continue this work — armed with clear focus and two strong lungs.

Tags: Unity Eastern Churches Msgr. John E. Kozar Eastern Catholics Rome

25 June 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

On Friday night, the Catholic Press Association held its annual awards ceremony. Shattering our previous record, ONE left with a whopping 20 awards across an array of categories — including first place in “General Excellence” and “Best Blog”!

The full list follows, along with commentary from the members of the judges' panel, which included journalism professors and staff from the Catholic University of America; Spring Hill College, of Mobile, Alabama; and Marquette University, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as well as professionals from the field.

First Place

  • General Excellence (Mission Magazines)
    ONE Magazine
    “... consistently features quality title stories, captivating headlines and intriguing images. The layout and feel are solid and inviting.”
  • Best Blog (Group or Association)
    “In-depth articles, eye-opening issues. Addresses social justice from a global perspective. Blog is well designed with strong photography...”
  • Best General Publisher Website
    “In-depth coverage of important contemporary issues affecting our global community.”
  • Best Essay (Mission Magazines)
    Is Islam Compatible With Democracy?” by John L. Esposito
  • Best Regular Column (General Commentary)
    Perspectives (“Cover Story,” “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “On Being Catholic”) by Robert L. Stern
    “ ‘Singularly strong’ are words that describe these columns, devoted to a kind of unity prayed for by many believers.”
  • Best In-Depth Writing
    A Wounded Land,” by Peter Lemieux
    “...well written and well organized with an engaging opener.”
  • Best Online / Multi-Media Presentation of Visuals
    Meet the Author: Sarah Topol,” by Dana Smillie and Erin Edwards
    “The simple on-camera interview mixed with multiple camera angles and compelling background makes this a captivating video.”
  • Best Web and Print Combination Package
    Spotlight: Coptic Women,” and “Meet the Author: Sarah Topol,” by Sarah Topol, Holly Picket, Dana Smillie and Erin Edwards
    “Important journalism. Admire the bravery of these correspondents. Intense images bring print and Web to life.”

Second Place

  • Best Essay (Mission Magazines)
    On Being catholic,” by Robert L. Stern
  • Best Web and Print Combination Package
    Answering the Call” and Author's Impressions (“Camping and Caring” and “Ordination Observations”), by Mariya Tytarenko and Petro Didula
    “Well integrated across platforms. Excellent photography draws you into well-written stories.”
  • Individual Excellence (Photographer/Artist)
    Daria Erdosy, Graphic Designer
    “Beautiful, crisp, dramatic images!”

Third Place

  • Best Multiple Picture Package (Feature)
    Brewed to Perfection,” by Peter Lemieux
    “Very nice photography.”
  • Best Online / Multi-Media Presentation of Visuals
    The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony,” by Erin Edwards
    “The video presents an educational and entertaining look behind the scenes of Ethiopian culture.”
  • Best Magazine or Newsletter Stand-Alone Site
    “A highly visually engaging website with touching stories.”
  • Best Web and Print Combination Package
    Slumdog Sisters” and “A Quick Walk with Sister Leema Rose,” by Peter Lemieux and Erin Edwards
    “Touching minds and hearts. Hopeful and uplifting story. Beautifully produced. Impressively beautiful photography.”
  • Best Electronic Newsletter
    Discover ONE Online
    “Provides coverage of stories reaching far and wide ... accessible...”

Honorable Mention

Congratulations to all of our staff members and contributors who made this possible!

Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine

21 February 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this image from November 2008, students at the Don Bosco Institute attend a welding class in the Rod el Farag neighborhood of Cairo. Some students, including those pictured here, are workers who came back to the school to enhance their skills. (Photo: Shawn Baldwin)

The economic conditions in the years following the global financial crisis have left many in need of work. In the face of widespread deleveraging and downsizing, the best that most people can do is focus on honing the skills that will make them marketable, or even able to start their own business. ONE contributor Liam Stack covered a school dedicated to this very pursuit - Egypt’s Don Bosco Institute - in his January 2009 article, Building Persons, Forming Good Citizens:

To ensure students can compete in Egypt’s rapidly changing economy, the school’s three-year curriculum focuses on vocational skills consistently in high demand. Most graduates secure employment in their respective trades upon leaving the institute, an accomplishment in which the whole Don Bosco community takes great pride.

“Almost every day we receive faxes from different mechanical and electrical firms asking us to recommend students for jobs,” said Don Riccio, headmaster. “Within two or three months of graduation, all of our students are working.”

In line with the charism of their founder, St. John Bosco — the Industrial Revolution-era Italian priest who used education to help impoverished children secure a better life — the Salesians believe education should both enrich the mind of the student and also serve as a steppingstone to a better life. In turn, a higher employment rate contributes to society’s overall economic development and benefits all members of society.

You can find the full article here.

Tags: Egypt Education Employment

1 December 2011
J.D. Conor Mauro

Children welcome visitors to the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Sister Arousiag Sajonian is a remarkable woman. An Armenian Sister of the Immaculate Conception, she has dedicated her whole life to the care, education and spiritual development of the young. In the 1960s, she helped establish the Armenian Sisters Academy in Radnor, Pennsylvania, which provides high-quality, affordable primary education to the local Armenian community.

After decades spent teaching, she returned to Armenia in 1990 and has continued her work there ever since. The superior of her community in Gyumri, she founded the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center, and currently directs the Our Lady of Armenia Camp (Diramayr, for short). Of the latter, ONE contributor Paul Rimple wrote in 2007:

Having just wrapped up its 13th year, the camp brings together 850 needy children, ages 7 to 14, for three weeks of rest, exercise and physical and spiritual nourishment. Divided into four three-week sessions in the months of July and August, Diramayr is a refuge for Armenian orphans living in state orphanages as well as children invited by social workers and the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, an Armenian Catholic community that sponsors the camp.

For Sister Arousiag, who returned to the land of her ancestors in the summer of 1990, the camp strengthens the emotional well-being of children scarred by abandonment and poverty and deepens their exposure to their Armenian culture and heritage.

"I like to think that here the children are camping with Christ," Sister Arousiag said. "Many of the kids had never been to church before coming here."

To read more about the fine work of Sister Arousiag, see the above-referenced Kid’s Camps in the Caucasus by Paul Rimple, as well as Armineh Johannes’s Tackling Pastoral Challenges in Armenia and John Hughes’s A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics.

Tags: Education Armenia Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception

10 November 2011
J.D. Conor Mauro

An altar server assists with communion at the Chaldean Church of the Mother of God in Detroit. (photo: Fabrizio Costantini)

The influx of Arab Christians to the United States has begun to attract attention from the press. Associated Press reports:

As war, the economy and persecution by Muslim extremists push Arab Christians and religious minorities out of the Middle East, the refugees and immigrants are quietly settling in small pockets across the U.S. They are reviving old, dormant churches, bringing together families torn apart by war and praying collectively in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Religious experts say their growing presence in the U.S. is all about survival as Christians and religious minorities continue to get pushed out of the Holy Land.

And religious leaders said if violence continues, more can be expected to seek safety in the U.S. while disappearing in lands where they’re lived for 2,000 years. …

According the U.S. State Department’s 2011 reports on International Religious Freedom, for example, Iraq had an estimated Christian population of around 1.4 million before the U.S.-led invasion. The report says only around 400,000 to 600,000 remain and face increasing violence.

You can read the full story here.

ONE has been reporting on this demographic shift for years, as exemplified by Monsignor Robert Stern’s highly detailed essay, Middle East Christians on the Move. Over the past decade, the topic has been broached repeatedly — for example, in Vincent Gragnani’s East Goes West in 2004 and Dorothy Humanitzki’s Going West in 2002. Not just limited to the United States, the movement of Arab Christians to the West can also be observed in the nations of Central and South America — such as Honduras and Brazil, respectively.

Though it does not focus exclusively on Christians, Lori Quatro’s discussion on Detroit’s growing Arab-American population, Forging a New Detroit, is also of interest. The image used above was selected from this article.

Tags: Middle East Christians United States Emigration Arabs Arab-Americans

28 October 2011
J.D. Conor Mauro

Religious leaders attend the gathering for peace outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi 27 Oct. Pictured from left are: Archbishop Norvan Zakarian of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople; Pope Benedict XVI; Rabbi David Rosen, representing the chief rabbinate of Israel; Wande Abimbola, representing the traditional religion of Nigeria's Yoruba people; Shrivatsa Goswami, a Hindu delegate; and Ja Seung, head of South Korea's Buddhist Jogye order. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (27 October 2011)

On 27 October 1986, Pope John Paul II organized a summit of various religious leaders from around the world in Assisi, Italy. This World Day of Prayer for Peace was noteworthy for both its message - that all peoples yearn for world peace and must work to achieve it through mutual understanding - and its historical nature as a large-scale, pluralistic religious conference.

This year, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Day of Prayer, Pope Benedict XVI has made another pilgrimage to Assisi. Once again, the pope has called spiritual leaders of the world to speak and to listen, to join in a larger, ongoing dialogue of cooperation and to recapture both the passion for peace and the diversity underpinning the event a quarter-century ago.

It is all the more clear that Pope Benedict desired a synergy between the two events because they share another trait: their status as “historical” meetings. Indeed, this year’s pilgrimage is the first to extend its pluralistic mission to include even nonbelievers. For Catholic News Service, John Thavis reports:

[Julia] Kristeva, a Bulgarian-born philosopher and psychoanalyst, was one of four nonbelievers the pope invited to the Assisi interfaith meeting for peace. Their presence was an innovation that sparked questions and even criticism in some conservative quarters.

The program gave Kristeva and the pope the same podium and a global audience, and both spoke in bridge-building language. The pope said he invited the nonbelievers because he was convinced they were seekers who, by looking for truth, in effect are looking for God.

Kristeva said the world today needs to create forms of cooperation between Christian humanism and the humanism of the Enlightenment -- a risky path but one worth taking, she said. …

Certainly, the pope and Kristeva offered quite different perspectives. For the pope, God is the key to every possible human solution to problems of peace and injustice. Kristeva never mentioned God and described the task of renewing culture solely in terms of human efforts.

But they both appeared to agree that they need to talk to each other.

Regarding the decision to include non-religious perspectives, the pope maintains that “All their struggling and questioning is, in part, an appeal to believers to purify their faith so that God, the true God, becomes accessible.” CNS’s Cindy Wooden continues:

[Pope Benedict] said, many nonbelievers also are “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace.”

“These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practiced. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God,” he said.

“They challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others,” the pope said.

John Thavis extends further analysis of the issues informing the various talks:

A common thread ran through many of the speeches and invocations of this year’s “prayer for peace” encounter in Assisi: the uneasy sense that the world is facing not merely conflicts and wars, but a much broader crisis that affects social and cultural life in every country.

Environmental damage, the rich-poor divide, erosion of cultural traditions, terrorism and new threats to society’s weakest members were cited as increasingly worrisome developments by speakers at the interfaith gathering in the Italian pilgrimage town Oct. 27. …

The pope said [the world’s] discord has taken on “new and frightening guises,” and he singled out two forms: terrorism, including acts of violence that are religiously motivated; and the spiritual erosion that has occurred in highly secularized societies.

“The worship of Mammon, possessions and power is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage,” he said. He cited the illegal drug trade and drug dependency to show how desire for happiness today can degenerate into “an unbridled, inhuman craving.” …

[A]t Assisi 2011, it seemed clearer than ever that building world peace will require much more than eliminating armed conflict.

This morning, the pope noted to delegates that the event was “a vivid expression of the fact that every day, throughout the world, people of different religious traditions live and work together in harmony.”

Transcripts of Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks can be found here. Catholic News Service video coverage can be found here.

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Unity Interreligious Assisi Assisi Interreligious Meeting

24 October 2011
J.D. Conor Mauro

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai spoke to reporters at
our office in New York last week. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Last week, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai held a press conference at CNEWA’s headquarters. Since then, several news publications have released articles documenting his hour-long talk.

Writing for Catholic News Services, Beth Griffin reports:

[The patriarch] said the church does “not side with any government or regime,” but asks whoever is in power to respect the rights of the people and guarantee freedom of speech, religion and conscience.

Patriarch Rai said that in Lebanon, 18 distinct religious groups live together, “not in ghettoes.” He said Lebanon is a sign of hope for peoples of the region, and “the church in Lebanon is considered a guarantee for the Christian presence for that part of the world.”

In a detailed piece for the National Catholic Reporter, Tom Gallagher spotlights the following statements by Patriarch Bechara:

“We want to see a Middle East renewed in its respect of human rights and dignity, especially for her minorities. We want to see people electing democratic governments and holding them accountable. ...

“It is important to point out the role the Christians played in upholding democratic principles, freedoms and human rights in the Middle East. This is why a Christian presence there should be safeguarded and strengthened,” he said.

As part of his prepared remarks, Rai also spoke strongly for Palestinian refugees and said Israel needs to withdraw from parts of Lebanon.

“I ask the world community to commit itself to implementing the U.N. Resolutions concerning Lebanon in a direct way, such as 1701, which requires Israel to withdraw from the village of Ghajar, the Shebaa Farms and the hills of Kfar Shuba, and to refrain from violating Lebanese sovereignty,” he said.

The National Catholic Reporter piece is of particular interest; not only does Mr. Gallagher summarize the patriarch's address, but he goes as far as to conclude with a transcript of the event.

The full articles can be found by following their respective links: National Catholic Reporter and Catholic News Service. Other links of interest might include our previous blog entry and our Picture of the Day capturing a scene from the event.

Tags: Lebanon Middle East Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter

21 October 2011
J.D. Conor Mauro

Yesterday, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, released a message to Hindus preparing to celebrate the feast of Deepavali (often contracted to Diwali). In his remarks, Cardinal Tauran applauds the values celebrated in this festival and asserts that religious freedom is an essential component of peaceful coexistence. The Vatican Information Services site reports:

... The message, which also bears the signature of Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, secretary of the pontifical council, is entitled: "Christians and Hindus: Together in Promoting Religious Freedom". Deepavali celebrates the victory of truth over falsehood, of light over darkness, of life over death, of good over evil. The celebrations, which begin this year on 26 October, last three days and mark the beginning of a new year, a time for family reconciliation, especially among brothers and sisters, and adoration of the divine.

Religious freedom, the text reads, currently takes "center stage in many places, calling our attention to those members of our human family exposed to bias, prejudice, hate propaganda, discrimination and persecution on the basis of religious affiliation. Religious freedom is the answer to religiously motivated conflicts in many parts of the world. Amid the violence triggered by these conflicts, many desperately yearn for peaceful coexistence and integral human development."

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is a dicastery (department) of the Roman Curia that strives tirelessly to achieve three central goals. The council’s profile on the Vatican website summarizes them thus:

  1. to promote mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of others religious traditions;
  2. to encourage the study of religions;
  3. to promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue.

The VIS article in full can be found here. For the full text of Cardinal Tauran's message, click here.

Tags: Interreligious Hindu Hinduism Christian-Hindu relations

6 October 2011
J.D. Conor Mauro

For decades, Iraq's Christian population has been in a state of steady decline. Recently, however, Vatican Radio reported on a key exception to this trend. Via Vatican News:

In the last decade, the Christian population in Iraq has plummeted from 800,000 to an estimated 150,000. Many have fled their homes and even the country to escape attacks and religious intolerance. But one area in Northern Iraq is seeing an influx of Christians.

The town of Ain Kawa, a suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, has seen an increase from over 8,000 in the mid-1990’s to more than 25,000 today.

“There are two main reasons [for this influx]. One is [that] this is the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, where the safety and general security is thought to be that much better than elsewhere in Iraq. That’s the first reason; the second reason is because that particular suburb … is already quite well populated with Christians,” says Senior Press Officer for Aid to the Church in Need, John Pontifex.

Mr. Pontifex reports to Lydia O’Kane that many Christians are leaving everything behind to make the journey to Ain Kawa.

The full broadcast, clocking just over seven minutes, can be found in mp3 form at the Vatican News site.

Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians

23 August 2011
J.D. Conor Mauro

A boy emulates adults at noon prayer in the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei. (photo: Michael Yamashita/ Corbis)

"The readers of ONE know well many of the differences that exist within Christianity, with its various churches and communities, each with its own rites and customs. They should not be surprised to learn, if they do not know already, about the diversity that exists within the Islamic world: how the interpretation of the five pillars of Islam – the fundamental obligations incumbent on all Muslims – differs among Muslims."

In his article, "Islam's Many Faces," Michael L. Fitzgerald, M.Afr., explores the various sects and traditions which fall under the broad banner of Islam. This and more can be found in the September 2008 issue of ONE magazine.

Islam Sunni Shiite

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