28 April 2017
Pope Francis has arrived in Egypt to begin his historic visit. Click on the embedded video below to watch live streaming updates of his trip, from the Vatican’s official news site.
His itinerary, from the Vatican via Catholic News Service:
Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses.
Friday, 28 April (Rome, Cairo)
— 10:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.), Departure from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport for Cairo.
— 2 p.m. (8 a.m.), Arrival at Cairo airport. Official welcoming ceremony at the Heliopolis presidential palace. Courtesy visits with el-Sissi and Sheik el-Tayeb. Speeches by the grand imam and the pope to participants in an international conference on peace.
— 4:40 p.m. (10:40 a.m.), Meeting with local authorities. Speeches by el-Sissi and Pope Francis. Courtesy visit to Pope Tawadros. Speeches by Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis.
Saturday, 29 April (Cairo, Rome)
— 10:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m.), Mass in Cairo. Homily by pope.
— 12:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m.), Lunch with Egypt's bishops and the papal entourage.
— 3:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.), Prayer gathering with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians. Speech by pope. Farewell ceremony.
— 5 p.m. (11 a.m.), Departure from Cairo airport for Rome.
— 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m.), Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.
For more background on Egypt, and for context on the lives and struggles of Coptic Christians, check out these stories from ONE magazine:
Anxiety in Cairo: Christians Confront Challenges and Change
Finding Common Ground
Egypt’s Good Samaritans
Seeds of Survival: A Family Faces Fear in Egypt
Faith Under Fire: Young Copts Persevere in Egypt
12 April 2017
Ragaa and Emad Anwar hold a picture of their late son, Mina. (photo: David Degner)
The recent horrific events in Egypt have turned the attention of the world to the plight of Christians in Egypt. In the current edition of ONE, Magdy Samaan writes about Copts in Cairo:
The parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation Coptic Catholic Church has grown with the neighborhood. The Rev. Youhanna Saad says its first Divine Liturgy, 18 years ago, had only four attendees; now, the church serves more than 600 families. Through his close relationship with the tight-knit community, Father Saad understands the concerns within his congregation.
“There is a state of anxiety of the future and a feeling of fear because of the economic situation and increasingly sectarian incidents against the Copts,” Father Saad says.
As it is the only Catholic church in a large area, buses bring families from a wide radius every Friday and Sunday to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. After the Friday liturgy, parishioners of all ages — but from one common economic background — come together to share an inexpensive breakfast of beans and falafel.
The church acts not only as a place of worship, but also a site for activities such as nursery school, elder or youth meetings, Sunday school and programs to assist people with special needs. But the congregation continues to grow, outstripping the building’s capacity and prompting Father Saad to seek a license to turn a new building nearby — currently a service center — into a more ample church.
“The situation is normal for us as Christians,” says Raof Rateb, 53, a local shopkeeper. “But regarding making living, we don’t feel secure. The rising of prices is horrible.”
...Renowned as one of the most beautiful, cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the world in the first half of the 20th century, Cairo integrated people from different nationalities and religions into Egyptian society — where they could live, work and worship freely.
This tolerant face of Cairo has gradually faded. Much of the country’s Jewish population left the country in the 50’s because of state persecution amid the Arab-Israeli conflict. Many of those who remained later faced expulsion — along with foreign-born Egyptian citizens who lost their citizenship — amid a wave of Arab nationalism intensified by events such as the Suez Crisis. And for a variety of reasons that often relate to economic mismanagement and a restrictive and heavy-handed state, many middle-class Egyptians, including Copts, have emigrated since the 60’s.
Meanwhile, Egypt has witnessed the steady growth of the Muslim Brotherhood and other more militant Islamic groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Islamic Jihad.
From a population of about two million in the 50’s, Cairo has expanded to some 23 million, growing in uncontrolled spurts. Among other factors, high rural unemployment has driven millions to Cairo in search of a better life.
As a result, it has become one of the most polluted and congested cities in the world, ringed by unplanned districts where newcomers carry with them various, relatively isolated rural cultures, creating enclaves and slowing assimilation.
Nowadays, Muslims and Christians in Cairo enjoy a mostly peaceful relationship. The megacity keeps its people busy with other daily crises. Moreover, the shared memory of a highly cosmopolitan city does live on in the old neighborhoods, old movies and other cultural relics.
Read more. And take a moment to watch the video below, about one family’s struggles.
11 April 2017
A young student reviews his classwork at St. Joseph’s Home for Children. (photo: Don Duncan)
In the March 2017 edition of ONE, journalist Don Duncan explores efforts at Breaking the Cycle of addiction and suffering that has scarred so many young people in Kerala, India:
Alcoholism strongly afflicts Kerala, reputed to be the heaviest drinking of India’s 29 states.
A 2007 report by the Alcohol and Drug Information Center (ADIC)-India, estimated Kerala’s consumption at more than two gallons of pure alcohol per person per year. Other studies suggest rising consumption rates since then — part of a broader trend spanning several decades.
In the last ten years, Kerala’s government has made a number of attempts to combat alcoholism — including, in 2014, announcing phased prohibitionary measures, restricting alcohol sales in hotels and limiting liquor license renewals, resulting in the closure of hundreds of bars and liquor distributors. The effects have been inconclusive, and recent election results have likely signaled a shift away from such heavy-handed measures.
Primary knock-on effects of alcoholism — domestic violence, marital crisis and the premature deaths of men — are clearly detrimental to children. But secondary consequences, such as the squandering of family income and the perpetuation of negative behaviors, also disrupt the lives of Keralite youth and obstruct them from reaching their full potential.
With no easy answers in sight, it has fallen to the church and its institutions to seek solutions for a problem that seems only to be growing worse.
And one way the church is trying to help is through education: creating institutions that help families struggling with a wide range of financial, medical or social issues. For more, check out the video below.
11 April 2017
Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, poses with a villager on 2 April in Batnaya, Iraq. Msgr. Kozar was on a pastoral visit to Iraq. Read more about his visit and his impressions of Iraq here.
13 March 2017
Late last week, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar received a note from Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, along with a letter he’d written describing the situation his church in Syria is facing this Lent.
His note — written on the back of a postcard (shown above) depicting St. Paul and quoting from his letter to the Corinthians — said:
“Dear Msgr. John...Damascus church is going into Lent, time to find the peace way. Please pray for us. Thank you for all that CNEWA is doing to help.”
Please remember the men, women and children of Syria in your prayers as they continue living their own long Lent.
The text of the accompanying letter, translated from the original French, paints a grim and painful picture:
An Apocalyptic Scene
In six years of war, the face of Syria has changed quite a lot.
It is a huge disaster zone of debris, carbonized buildings, burned down houses, ghost neighborhoods and towns destroyed to the ground. More than 12 million Syrians, 50 percent of the population, are lacking a roof.
They form the largest mass of refugees since the Second World War. Several million have left the country in search of more merciful skies. Many are waiting for mercy in camps of misery, some of have attempting to leave and others are in line at embassies — nomads in search of a welcoming land. How can they leave this Syria of torments?
A Shattered Family
The family — which fortifies church and nation and has saved the country in the past — is heavily shaken. Seldom is a complete family found. Violence has scattered this basic cell of society. Some family members are in graves, others in exile, in prison or on the battle field. This painful situation is the cause of depression and anxiety and forces those few left without support to beg.
Young fiancées, separated by this exodus, the immigration of their partner or military mobilization, cannot marry. Crisis surrounds them. A hope for their future has crumbled. How is it possible to follow a course without a family or with a broken family?
A Sacrificed Childhood
The children are the most fragile. They have paid a great price for this merciless violence. According to UNESCO, more than three million Syrian children haven’t attended school because they have to prioritize their physical wellbeing. Those that have been to school witness the demise of the quality of teaching due to fewer faculty and students in remaining schools. Academic failure is imposed by these overwhelming circumstances.
The centers of psychological support cannot overcome the number and depth of wounds and psychic blocks. How do we restore the spirit of these children destroyed by violence and barbaric scenes?
Parishes have seen the number of parishioners diminish and pastoral activities reduced considerably. The priests are deprived of the means to provide human and spiritual support. The Church of Damascus has witnessed the departure of one third of their clergy (27 priests). This is a hard blow weakening the place and role of the Christian minority already in decline.
The priests struggling to remain without any reassurances consider negotiating their eventual departure. They only wait for humanitarian agencies to arrive to assist broken families.
How do we fix this alarming hemorrhage?
Can we imagine a Church without priests?
Between Pain and Freedom
The Syrian people are no longer looking for liberty. Their daily combat is finding bread, water, gas and fuel which are harder and harder to find. Electrical shortages have become more frequent and lengthy. These darken nights and reduce any social life.
The search for lost brothers, parents and friends is a very discrete, anxious and hopeful undertaking.
Finding a little room for shelter in a country in ruins has become an impossible dream for families and even more for young couples.
Fighting for liberty or searching for bread, what course should one take?
This little Syrian population lives this reality with pain visible in silent looks and streams of tears.
This bitter Lent of 2017 offers us time in the desert to take a good look at our commitment to the Church in the midst of faithful who are in distress, to lead the way towards Christ resurrected. Christ, light of the world, who knows the hearts of men and women says: “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
7 March 2017
Msgr. Kozar made a pastoral visit to Ethiopia in April of 2016 and met some of the Daughters of St. Anne at a clinic they run. (photo: CNEWA)
This morning, we received the following email from Argaw Fantu, CNEWA’s regional director in Ethiopia:
This morning we received the tragic news of the car accident involving the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne. Eight of the sisters were driving to Hawassa to attend the funeral of a relative of Sister Tinsae Tirkaso, administrator of Asella Boys’ Orphanage.
Near Meki, 133 km (83 miles) south of Addis Ababa, a truck overtook their vehicle and four of the sisters died on the spot, including Sister Weinshet Gebru, Provincial Superior in charge of a formation house partnering with CNEWA; Sister Motu Baba, former administrator of Guder Girls’ Orphanage from September 2009 to May 2016; and Sister Hanna Bekute, Directress of Guder Catholic School from September 2012 to October 2014. The other four sisters survived; three are in critical condition.
The sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne are a jewel of the church, engaged in pastoral and human formation initiatives. They run schools, health facilities, cutting and sewing schools, vocational training centers, orphanages, and a school for the visually impaired. They partnered with CNEWA for a formation house in Addis Ababa, and also serve the Guder Catholic School, Guder Girls’ Orphanage, Asella Boys’ Orphanage, St. Raphael School for the Blind, and Bodit Catholic School.
In December 2016, the Daughters of St. Anne celebrated the 150-year anniversary of the founding of their religious congregation. On the occasion of the celebration, Sister Weinshet had said “this celebration is an occasion where the sisters can reflect on their service and thank God for the time He has given them.” Sister also asked all those who joined the celebration to pray for the Daughters of St. Anne so that God may bless them with the grace to keep on serving the people.
God in “the time He has given them” called them back for eternal rest. Taking the words of Sister Weinshet, let us pray that “God may bless them with the grace to keep on serving the people” through the survivors. Let us also join them with prayer for the consolation of this grieving community. May their souls rest in peace!
Learning of this news this morning, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar said, “The news of the traffic death of four sisters in Ethiopia, the Daughters of St. Anne, touches our hearts and souls very deeply. Having met the superior and many of the sisters in previous pastoral visits, I know the church of Ethiopia has lost some very devoted servants. For over 150 years, this congregation has served selflessly in Ethiopia and Eritrea. To their community and the entire church of Ethiopia and its people, we offer our collective prayers and support. May God welcome these servants into his heavenly kingdom.”
16 February 2017
Host Derrick Fage, left, interviews CNEWA’s Carl Hétu on “Breakfast Television Montreal.”
(photo: from Breakfast Television Montreal)
CNEWA Canada’s national director, Carl Hétu, appeared on the popular Canadian program “Breakfast Television Montreal” earlier this week. He discussed some of the crises facing the world and sparking violence, particularly in the Middle East.
“Our world is going through a big transition right now,” he said. “Our world is facing great instability...when you don’t live in dignity, that’s part of the problem...you look for people to accuse.”
What can be done? “The world needs an infusion of love,” he explained. Check out the complete interview at this link.
13 February 2017
Tags: Middle East Christians CNEWA Persecution
Students walk around during recess breaks at the Shashemene School. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
This morning, we received an email our regional director in Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, with some welcome news about an institution CNEWA has long supported, the Shashemene School for the Blind.
He included a report from Sister Ashrita, one of three Franciscan Sisters of St. Mary of the Angels who run at the school. As she put it in the first paragraph of her report, “With the support of people of goodwill, we strive to share with the poor the love that God has for all giving our children a sense of hope and belonging.”
Among the highlights she mentioned:
During the past year, we had enrolled 96 students in the Residential School. (46 girls and 50 boys) from Grade 1 to Grade 6. In addition we had about 50 students in high school and college level who received support. The newcomers included some exceptional cases. Two girls whose mental capacity was very low had to be trained with all the basic day-to-day activities. Slowly they are trying to do things on their own. We have a new store keeper, and for the coming year we will have an academic director and other new staff.
After several trips to Addis Ababa, we managed to get some Braille text books in English and Civics. One can imagine how delighted the children were to run their fingers though the pages of their new books.
...Woletebihan Wolde, the boys’ child care taker, retired after 35 years of dedicated services. As a token of our appreciation for her services the administration and the staff gave her a loving farewell. Thank you and God bless you, Woletebirhan!
...We look with joy to those who completed their studies and are ready to take up a job. There are four with diplomas from teacher training colleges and six with degrees from Addis Ababa and Awassa University. Meanwhile there are new entries into institutions of higher learning, giving us fresh hope. These will take four or five years before they can take up a career. The Government is accepting and employing the blind, when they are qualified, respecting their rights and giving them equal opportunities. It is amazing to see how the blind make their way through life. “I can do all things in Him, who strengthens me.” These words of St. Paul can very well be applied to them.
To learn more about the school and its wonderful work, visit this link. And to discover how you can support the school’s mission, visit this giving page.
13 February 2017
In this image from December, Jordanian mourners carry the coffin of Ibrahim Bashbsha during his funeral in Karak. He was one of 14 people, including a Canadian tourist, killed in an attack by terrorists linked to ISIS. (photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)
CNEWA’s national director in Canada, Carl Hétu, last week published a reflection in the Canadian edition of Huffington Post. The topic: violence and the quest for peace in the Middle East.
On a daily basis, the news is saturated with reports of violence around the world.
Although it wasn’t covered widely in Canadian media, in recent months, a
Canadian tourist, along with 13 Jordanians, was killed by terrorists in Karak, Jordan. According to reports, the terrorists’ real plan was to attack the local Catholic Church on Christmas Day.
As Canadian National Director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, I visited Jordan in January. There, I joined a small group of Catholics and Muslims deeply shaken by this event to pray where the Canadian tourist was killed. The question on everyone's mind was: Why? Why did six young men from the Karak region decide to join the Islamic State and attack their own families, friends and neighbours? This is a first in Jordan, the most peaceful country in the Middle East.
On other trips I took this past year to the region, I also met Muslims and Christians from Gaza, Syria and Iraq who have experienced the worst atrocities imaginable. They, too, ask: why?
Back in Canada, the shooting at a mosque in Quebec City was a rude awakening, as the violence we see unfolding far away is now too close for comfort. Ironically, these victims came to Canada to escape violence and to live in security and freedom.
On January 30, I joined 300 Muslims and Christians who gathered at the Gatineau mosque. At the invitation of Archbishop Paul-André Durocher Catholics and Muslims started talking to each other — embracing, shaking hands and some even hugging — to find human beings that needed one another in this time of crisis. Once again, people asked why.
The reasons are multiple and complex, but at the root of it all, our world has changed in the last 30 years and we face many unresolved issues.
Read the rest.
8 February 2017
Late last month, we received an email and some video clips from Ethiopia that showed, in a wonderful and uplifting way, how donors are making a difference in the lives of those we serve.
The email explained that a generous family of donors had made it possible for the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home to host a Christmas party for dozens of the children and some former residents.
Sister Lutgarda Camilleri, the head of the home, wrote to the donors:
The celebration was led by Father and Mother Christmas...the program started by a blessing by the parish priest and a welcome speech. The children started with their program, of Christmas drama, cultural dancing and songs. They also enjoyed all the delicious goodies. Afterwards, gifts were given and everyone went to rest, thanking God for the day.
We have no words to thank you for your generosity. Every small donation counts. With the money you donated to our organization, we bought different items, which helped to buy all sorts of presents for the children, which made them happy.
Wow! It was so nice to see the children full of happiness and joy and their love and enjoyment. This is an unforgettable day.
Check out the video below, from the Christmas party — a joyful testament to the generosity of our donors, who make what we do possible. Thank you!