16 October 2018
Paul VI meets with leaders of the CNEWA/Pontifical Mission family at the Vatican, including Cardinal Francis Spellman, chair of CNEWA, and Archbishop Joseph Ryan, then-president of CNEWA.
(photo: CNEWA archives)
On Sunday, 14 October, Pope Francis canonized seven saints — including Pope Paul VI, who was the bishop of Rome from 1963 until his death in 1978. The man who is now St. Paul VI was long a champion of our work around the world — beginning in the 1940’s.
During World War II, then-Msgr. Giovanni Batttista Montini, who served Pope Pius XII, organized and directed the Holy See’s relief efforts for refugees. At a November 1948 meeting in the Vatican — during which the idea of a papal mission specifically for displaced persons in Palestine was discussed — it was Msgr. Montini who penciled in the name of the head of CNEWA, then Msgr. Thomas J. McMahon, to lead such an effort. Thus was born the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, which Pius XII entrusted to CNEWA as its operating agency in the Middle East.
Years later, as Pope Paul VI showed an even deeper commitment to the work of CNEWA. To begin with, he announced plans to open his pontificate with a historic trip to the Holy Land:
In December 1963, during the council [Vatican II], Paul VI announced his intention to begin his pontificate with a “pilgrimage of prayer and penance” to the Holy Land:
“We will bring to the Holy Sepulchre and to the Grotto of the Nativity the desires of individuals, of families, of nations; above all, the aspirations, the anxieties, the sufferings of the sick, the poor, the disinherited, the afflicted, of refugees, of those who suffer, those who weep, those who hunger and thirst for justice.”
He made the trip in January 1964:
Fired with the Gospel message of hope, the pope met with heads of state and religious leaders in the Holy Land. These visits culminated with his embrace in Jerusalem of Orthodoxy’s spiritual leader, Patriarch Athenagoras I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Before departing the Holy Land, Pope Paul VI assured [CNEWA’s Secretary and President of the Pontifical Mission] Msgr. Joseph Ryan, who accompanied the pontiff, of the Holy See’s commitment to the refugees and encouraged Ryan to further the Pontifical Mission’s efforts with Palestinians.
Paul VI’s pilgrimage resulted in social rehabilitation and development projects that, with support from the Pontifical Mission, changed the lives of many: Bethlehem University; Ephpheta Institute for hearing-impaired children; Tantur Ecumenical Institute; and Notre Dame of Jerusalem Pilgrimage Center. These diverse initiatives testified to the pope’s belief in the church as an instrument of reconciliation and hope.
At the Mount of Olives, Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras I lift the mutual excommunications dividing the Catholic and Orthodox churches, in January 1964.
(photo: CNEWA archives)
The following year, Pope Paul VI issued the groundbreaking document, Nostra Aetate, a declaration on the relation of the church to non-Christian religions, which noted not only Christianity’s historic connection to Jews, but also its respect for Muslims:
The church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself; merciful and all-powerful, the creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even his inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
In the years that followed, he never lost his concern with and affection for the peoples of the Middle East:
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Mission, Pope Paul VI wrote to [CNEWA’s] Msgr. John G. Nolan … : ”The work of the Mission for Palestine has been one of the clearest signs of the Holy See’s concern for the welfare of the Palestinians, who are particularly dear to us because they are people of the Holy Land, because they include followers of Christ, and because they have been and are still being so tragically tried. We express again our heartfelt sharing in their sufferings and our support for their legitimate aspirations.” (16 July 1974)
Also in 1974, the Holy Father noted in Nobis in Animo that the Holy Land “is also a country in which, besides the Shrines and Holy Places, a Church — a community of believers in Christ — lives and works. Were their presence to cease, the Shrines would be without the warmth of the living witness and the Christian Holy Places of Jerusalem and the Holy Land would become like museums.”
Cardinal Jacques Martin, a co-worker of then Msgr. Montini for many years in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, in speaking of Pope Paul VI, noted, “The thing that most struck those who were close to him was that he gave himself entirely to the service of the church, without second thoughts, without holding back any of his time or energy. At one a.m. the light was often still burning in his office. He was a man consumed by his work, a man who gave himself entirely.”
We remain deeply grateful for the love and passion he brought to his papacy — and which he shared so selflessly with the suffering peoples in the Holy Land, a place now so fraught with division, hardship and violence. So many of those we serve need his prayerful intercession now, more than ever.
Pope Paul VI prays at the River Jordan during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964.
(photo: CNEWA archives)
With humble gratitude and boundless hope, we join our voices to so many others around the world this day to pray for his accompaniment, his prophetic vision, and his courage. May his spirit help us to help others, and may his prayers guide us on our way.
”St. Paul VI, pray for us!”
9 October 2018
Tags: CNEWA Pope CNEWA Pontifical Mission
The September edition of our award-winning magazine ONE is on its way to your mailbox, but you can get a first look online right here.
In this edition, follow a young man’s journey to the priesthood in Egypt; learn how the church is continuing her mission to children in India; hear from a mother rebuilding her family’s life in Iraq; and share the hope and promise of at-risk mothers and young children in Georgia. All that, plus important news from the world we serve, along with journalism that was recently hailed for its “breath-taking photography, innovative design and (above all) textbook storytelling.”
The theme of this ONE is proclaimed proudly on the cover: “Sharing Hope.” And in the video below, our president Msgr. John E. Kozar offers a more detailed preview of just what that means.
We’re pleased to be able to share our hope with you — and grateful for all that our readers and donors have made possible. Thank you!
Check out more.
25 September 2018
Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine
A donor sent us this note and shared his story. (photo: CNEWA)
Recently, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received a letter from one of our donors. You don’t get letters like this every day.
The author wrote from a prison in the United States, where he receives our magazine, ONE. He scribbled a few sentences on lined notebook paper:
Enclosed is $25 to help out your ministry. Glad I can help a little. Enclosed is my testimony.
Attached was a single sheet of paper titled “Journey of Faith.” Msgr. Kozar was so moved, he wanted to share some of this man’s witness with you. It reads, in part:
When I was 14 years old, I already was asking myself what is the meaning and purpose of life? Why are we here on earth? God wasn’t a part of my life at 14. I spent my first 5 years of school going to a Catholic parochial school and attending Catholic Mass, but I never connected with God. I couldn’t make heads or tails of my life at 14 and it bothered me. Eventually, I drifted to a group of kids in my San Francisco Marina neighborhood who were dealing with the same identity crisis. They were juvenile delinquents and I became one. I stole cars to joy ride, shoplifted, burglarized businesses, cut school, ran away from home and got into alcohol and drugs. I became a criminal going to jail. Eventually, I went for a big score that went sour and ended up with a life sentence in Florida.
…Once I was back in prison, finding myself stripped of everything, I was forced to reflect. In the depths of my abjection, God gave me the grace to recall his goodness. I acknowledged my sins, repented and asked for his forgiveness. God forgave me. Today I’m reconciled with God, myself and the Catholic Church. Since then I’ve been living a sacramental life of weekly Mass, weekly communion, frequent confession, daily prayer and scripture readings...
…Being at peace with God has a future. This world is passing away. Many people sadly believe this world is all there is to life, that this is our final destiny. They’re wrong. Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds true happiness. St. Augustine said it so well. “For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
If you have been away from God and the Church, come back. Jesus is waiting for you. No matter what you have done, God forgives all sin. God is a very merciful and forgiving God.
We remain forever grateful to donors like this man — people who give what they can, however they can, to help those who have even less. These quiet acts of love are bringing hope and dignity to those who are otherwise forgotten.
As Msgr. Kozar writes so poignantly in the upcoming edition of ONE:
Many of the good works supported by CNEWA reach out to all and proudly proclaim that God loves all his children. There is no “pecking order” with our God—we are all embraced by his love. We do not exclude and only offer help to “our own”—Jesus makes it clear that we love all.
All of our CNEWA family thank you for your support—and, better yet, they promise to remember you in their prayers. God bless you.
God bless all our donors who give so generously and share so selflessly!
21 September 2018
Over the last several weeks, thousands of Ethiopians have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed by interethnic violence. CNEWA has rushed emergency aid to help them recover.
In August we reported on the crisis facing thousands of people in Ethiopia, who were forced to flee interethnic violence. Many found shelter and sanctuary in a Catholic parish. Yesterday, our regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, sent us this update:
Last week, I met with Matewos Dangiso [the social development director of the Hawassa Vicariate, the Catholic jurisdiction where much of this violence in south central Ethiopia has taken place] to get an update on the current status of the displaced people in Gedeo and West Guji. He also gave me an overview of the Catholic Church’s efforts to help these people.
Currently, most of the displaced have returned to their home areas. The government and international humanitarian agencies have played the main role in this process. Since their displacement occurred at the beginning of the school year, officials urged families to return in order for their children to resume classes in their home areas — despite not having anything to return to.
The return of people to their homes has not been a smooth process. It was very difficult to distribute emergency food and non-food items. The area is poverty stricken, so those not displaced also tried to obtain emergency support — further complicating an already challenging process.
The returnees are now sheltered in seven districts in Gedeo and West Guji. They are without clothing, shelter, tools — in short, they are penniless — which is making serious demands on the church and aid agencies in their efforts to help. In addition to providing food and water, aid efforts include the provision of non-food essentials, such as cooking utensils, blankets, hygienic and medical items.
There is also reconstruction underway— building shelters, rebuilding schools, then furnishing them and providing basic farm needs so that people can try and make a living. At the same time, efforts are underway to support the peace-building process.
The government is developing a coordinated year-long plan that will require substantial funding. The Catholic Church is designated to serve in three shelter areas: Gedeb and Kochore in Gedeo for people displaced from West Guji and Garba, and in West Guji for people displaced from Gedeo area.These areas are where the church — with funding from CNEWA —previously served people through schools and health facilities. There are efforts underway to determine how many people are still in need, but the number is expected to total about 4,500 individuals.
CNEWA was among the first organizations to rush emergency aid, as well as Caritas Austria and Caritas Bolzana-Italy, which enabled the vicariate to purchase food items, medicines, hygienic supplies and household utensils to distribute to those affected.
Catholic Relief Services has also gotten involved and recently provided $25,000 for reconstruction work. Caritas Austria has also contributed additional €50,000.00 for the same purpose.
As we noted in our news roundup yesterday, this crisis is far from over. To help those in need in Ethiopia during this challenging and dangerous time, please visit this page. Thank you!
19 September 2018
CNEWA's external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., speaks at Holy Family Parish in Lawton, OK, during a parish visit in 2015. (photo: Christopher Kennedy)
We were heartened to see this recent report in The Sooner Catholic about a parish in Oklahoma that has been supporting CNEWA’s work:
There has been a war in Syria since 2011, and half the country has been displaced, meaning families are no longer living in their hometowns, cities or villages. Thousands are victims of the war and are in dire need of help.
For the past three years, Holy Family in Lawton has made it their mission to help those war-stricken families by giving Lenten offerings to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
“Every Lent, we have a special Lenten Project. The past three years it has been Syrian refugees, the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, and refugees,” said the Rev. Phil Seeton, pastor of Holy Family.
“People are invited to drop an envelope into a basket that we have marked with CNEWA information. As they come up, they are bringing their gifts to the altar. I know from letters that the money has gone to medical clinics, and to some refugee camps. The refugees served in the camps are mainly members of the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches, the Assyrian Church of the East as well as Yzdidis and Muslims.”
Father Phil expressed the need to do more.
“These folks are brothers and sisters in the faith, and they are not getting much help from governments. It comes through the generosity of the different Christian churches in Europe and the United States. These people are modern day confessors to the faith. Maybe they have not been martyred, but there are thousands who have been martyred for Christ over there. They are confessing their faith with their lives.”
Luscia Hankins is the co-chairman of Holy Family’s Spiritual Life Committee, along with Mary Beth Mullins. The committee helps organize the Lenten fundraiser for CNEWA. In 2017, they raised $6,200.
“This year, we raised $10,200. It was for the displaced Syrians who were placed in camps. The donation was to build camps of their own. They are being persecuted for the religion we share. It is an obligation to our fellow Christians,” Hankins said.
Since 2013, they have given $38,000 to CNEWA.
We remain deeply grateful to Father Phil and the people of Holy Family for their generous and prayerful support, helping so many of our brothers and sisters in need. Thank you!
4 September 2018
Tags: Syria CNEWA
Many homes and businesses have been wiped out from the catastrophic flooding in Kerala, and recovery efforts are ongoing. (photo: CNEWA)
Over the weekend, we received an extensive report from Syro-Malabar Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, of the Archdiocese of Trichur, describing in great detail what his people have been facing in flood-ravaged Kerala:
Many bridges collapsed and houses were sunk or destroyed due to heavy water flow. The flood affected some churches also to the extent that we could not celebrate Mass even till today (30 August).
Most of our parish halls, schools and some presbyteries became relief camps. Auxiliary Bishop Tony Neelankavil and myself personally visited several relief camps. I am happy to report that priests, sisters, seminarians, lay church leaders and especially our youth were in the forefront in the rescue work and relief activities. People, irrespective of caste and creed, are helping us. Many parishes and religious houses distributed relief kits with food, clothes, cleaning materials and other essentials. Under the leadership of the Archdiocesan team, more than 5,000 family relief kits (each kit costing about Rs. 4000) were distributed to the neediest families.
The Archbishop’s house in Trichur became a store house of food and other essentials where many volunteers including Rev. Sisters, youth and seminarians were working day and night preparing and dispatching family kits. We are happy to report that some dioceses like Tellicherry, Ramanathapuram and some voluntary organizations sent in trucks materials for family kits with great generosity.
CNEWA, you will recall, has rushed emergency aid to those affected by this crisis. But the story is far from over:
The aftermath is very grave. Although schools opened on 29 August, many are still in relief camps, since their houses were destroyed or seriously damaged. Many cannot enter into their houses because of mud. Many have also lost their livelihood. As snakes and venomous reptiles have inhabited the houses during the flood, people are in a panic. The greatest challenge for us is to provide facilities for people as they go back to their own houses and rebuild. The government, NGOs and the church are preparing short-term and long-term plans for rehabilitation with the help of the local and international agencies.
A persistent threat right now is illness. CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, writes that many residents are battling the risk of leptospirosis, or rat fever:
The recent excessive rainfall and uncontrolled release of water from various dams in Kerala virtually paralyzed and flooded the state; the people had no option but to struggle through the water-logged areas and pump out the contaminated water at their house. Animals—rats, cattle, dogs, pigs, and many birds and reptiles—carry the infectious bacteria. These animals for hours and days in the flood before they died, which ended up contaminating the water.
There are high risks of infection from leptospirosis, especially to those involved in the rescue operations, along with agricultural workers, shop workers, sewer workers, daily wage workers and many survivors of this disaster.
The health department of the government of Kerala is making all efforts to raise awareness and offer vaccinations throughout the flood-affected areas. But, still more and more people are being admitted to hospitals daily with fever and symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Latin rite Archbishop of Verapoly, Joseph Kalathiparambil, has decided to raise funds by putting his car up for sale. Local news reports explain that proceeds from the sale of the car — a Toyota Innova Crysta — will be used to construct houses for flood victims.
Finally, we can’t overlook the exceptional faith and perseverance of the people. Archbishop Andrews Thazhath concluded his report on this dire situation with a note of prayerful hope:
God has His plans for us. Therefore, even in the worst of calamities, we have hope, since God is faithful and we trust in His Providence. “We know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom.8:28) With the help of God and with the support of all people of good will, we hope and pray that we will be able to rebuild Kerala, “God’s Own Country.”
To help our brothers and sisters in need in India, please visit this page. And please remember them all in your prayers! Thank you.
29 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Children in Kerala finally returned to school on 29 August after days of devastating floods. Many lost everything, including books, clothes and school supplies. (photo: CNEWA)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, sent us this update from Kerala today:
After a long spell of forced holidays due to floods and vacations surrounding the Hindu Onam festival, millions of children in Kerala started back to school today, 29 August.
While most schools reopened, there is much more work to do. About 250 schools are still closed while the cleanup work continues; in some places, the toilet facilities have to be rebuilt. For some, the buildings remain unsafe. In a few places, they are still waiting for the water to recede. At one school that was turned into a relief shelter, helicopters dropped food packets, damaging some of the roof tiles, resulting in leaks in some of the classrooms; that school is still not open.
Volunteers and school teachers have pitched in to clean class rooms, benches and tables. But in many places, furniture and equipment are still lying outdoors.
The main task of the teachers now is to help the children recover from the terrifying shock of seeing their homes and schools swept away by floodwaters.
The children came through a terrific emotional trauma. Most of the students lost their books and study materials. They are worried about their belongings and how to continue their studies without books. We have to make arrangements to supply books and other materials, with the help of book suppliers and publishers. Most children also lost their uniforms and clothing.
Many church organizations and voluntary agencies are trying to minimize the trauma for children. The teachers will mainly focus on helping students to relax and regain confidence.
To help those in Kerala in need during this difficult time, please visit this page.
28 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Residents of Kerala sort through the extensive damage from the floods that swept through the region last week. (photo: CNEWA)
Early Tuesday, we received this update on the crisis in Kerala from M.L. Thomas, CNEWA's regional director in India.
As you know, the flood has devastated many districts in Kerala. Millions of people had to flee to the rescue camps. This has been the most frightening and dangerous situation the people of Kerala have had to face in recent decades.
But now, with the flood waters receding, the Catholic Church — along with many volunteers from social services organizations, along with individuals and local governments — has taken up the challenge of the clean up.
The house owners who are healthy are doing much of the cleaning work—pushing out the dirty mud and stinking water from their homes.
The Kuttanad region, where the flood waters reached last, now has the worst flooding in the state. Around 200,000 people from the region have been evacuated and are waiting in camps. The government plans to begin cleaning operations there on 29 August. Many homes are still overwhelmed by water.
Some who have returned home are working to clean mud and filthy water from their homes, trying to salvage whatever they can. (photo: CNEWA)
There is an acute shortage of clean water; drinking water is being supplied through water tanks loaded on trucks.
The toilet facilities have been washed away. Most families lost everything— including clothing, food, household utilities, school books and even official documents, including deeds and property titles. Many also lost their domestic animals, such as goats and poultry.
The Catholic dioceses in many parts of the state have taken immediate steps to help the families in the relief camps, ensuring they receive food, medicine and clothing. The government alone is not able to meet all the demands of the flooded areas and the needs of the victims. Medical camps have also been set up to help the sick.
The need remains great. CNEWA is rushing aid to the people of Kerala, but more help is needed. Visit this page to learn more. And please: keep our brothers and sisters in India in your prayers!
23 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
In India, massive flooding has destroyed thousands of homes in Kerala. CNEWA has released emergency aid to help some 4,000 families in need in the devastated region. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic Near East Welfare Association has released $67,000 in emergency aid to help some 4,000 families cope with the flooding that has devastated much of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. Nonstop monsoon rains have swelled rivers, creeks and ponds, immersing heavily populated low lying areas in muddy waters. The rains have triggered landslides, severing power, washing away roads, livestock, crops and homes. More than a million people have fled their homes for refuge in camps set up on higher and drier ground. Up to 400 deaths have thus far been recorded.
The emergency aid includes food kits, potable water, medicines and sanitary items, said CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, as well as household materials and school supplies for children. These items will be delivered to families in higher elevations in Kerala by social service teams of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches, including the High Range Development Society of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Idukki, the Shreyas Social Service Center of the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of Bathery and the Center for Overall Development of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Thamarassery. Aid to low-lying areas will follow.
The latest reports indicate that the rains have subsided, allowing some of the waters to recede. Recovery efforts are just beginning.”The local government and social service organizations of the church are all involved in rescue operations in many places around Kerala,” writes CNEWA Regional Director M.L. Thomas from his own flooded village near Cochin. “Food packets and clothing are being supplied to the hundreds of relief camps. [But] with so many people stranded in so many places, there is difficulty supplying essential materials.
“Right now, the needs are urgent and immediate. This is a terrible situation and will soon require help to rebuild and rehabilitate many neighborhoods and help thousands who have lost everything.”
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the subcontinent of India, the Middle East, Northeast Africa and Eastern Europe. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to displaced families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the children, elderly and disabled; and offering formation and supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders.
CNEWA is a registered charity in the United States by the State of New York and in Canada. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800‑442‑6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022‑4195. In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1‑866‑322‑4441.
20 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Floodwaters have left thousands of people in Kerala stranded or homeless. (photo: CNEWA)
Late Friday, we received the following message from M.L. Thomas, our regional director in India, regarding the devastating floods that have swept through the region:
The flood situation in Kerala is very scary and unpredictable right now. People — including many of our staff — are overwhelmed by the water and not able to move. Almost all of Kerala is now under water. The telephone and other connections are not working properly. Utilizing all sources possible, I am in touch with some of our priests and I have already received requests for help from many of them. I am personally involved right now in the rescue work.
The local government and social service organizations of the church are all involved in rescue operations in many places around Kerala. Food packets and clothing are being supplied to the hundreds of relief camps. With so many people stranded in so many places, there is difficulty supplying essential materials. However, everything possible is being done by the government and the Catholic church.
My own village is surrounded by floodwaters. There are two relief camps set up at my parish, and at another parish nearby. Thousands of people were evacuated to these two places.
A woman surveys the damage in her flooded home. (photo: CNEWA)
Almost all the dams are releasing water, which is now finding its way into many parts of Kerala through various rivers. In some places, the rain is still pouring.
Right now, the needs are urgent and immediate. This is a terrible situation and will soon require help to rebuild and rehabilitate many neighborhoods and help thousands who have lost everything.
To help support those in need in India, visit this page. And please keep all affected in your prayers.
Tags: India Kerala