11 December 2017
The video above, from a French TV station in October, offers a brief tour of Qaraqosh and shows some of the damage to the Church of Al Tahira (the Immaculate Conception) and efforts to repair the building. (video: KTOTV/YouTube)
Over the weekend, we received this email with some uplifting news from CNEWA’s Michel Constantin in Beirut, with some details culled from a report by AFP:
Iraqi Christians celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception on Friday 8 December 2017 in the town of Qaraqosh for the first time since their displacement from Nineveh Valley that was previously occupied for three years by jihadists of ISIS.
The bell tower of the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al Tahira) is still scarred by war, but its interior has been cleaned and signs of damage erased.
Some 300 faithful, mostly women and the elderly, attended Friday’s service.
Qaraqosh is about 18 miles from Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. Before being taken by ISIS, it had some 50,000 residents.
Qaraqosh used to have the greatest concentration of Christians in the country, estimated at 52,000 people in 2014. However, only a small number (estimated at 30 percent) have returned after the town was retaken from the jihadists.
The first Mass in the town following its liberation was held on 30 October last year.
“This is our first celebration of Holy Mary after three years when we were displaced,” said Hanaa Qasha, a 48-year-old teacher.
6 December 2017
The gold-covered Dome of the Rock at the Temple Mount complex is seen in this overview of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump planned to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, heads of local churches today wrote a letter to the president, pleading for him not to change the city’s status. (photo: CNS /Atef Safadi, EPA)
This morning, the patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, addressing concerns about the status of Jerusalem. The full text is below. You can find the original document on the website for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Dear Mr. President,
We are fully aware and appreciative of how you are dedicating special attention to the status of Jerusalem in these days. We are following with attentiveness and we see that it is our duty to address this letter to Your Excellency. On July 17, 2000, we addressed a similar letter to the leaders who met in Camp David to decide the status of Jerusalem. They kindly took our letter into consideration. Today, Mr. President, we are confident that you too will take our viewpoint into consideration on the very important status of Jerusalem.
Our land is called to be a land of peace. Jerusalem, the city of God, is a city of peace for us and for the world. Unfortunately, though, our holy land with Jerusalem the Holy city, is today a land of conflict.
Those who love Jerusalem have every will to work and make it a land and a city of peace, life and dignity for all its inhabitants. The prayers of all believers in it — the three religions and two peoples who belong to this city — rise to God and ask for peace, as the Psalmist says: “Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see!” (80.14). Inspire our leaders, and fill their minds and hearts with justice and peace.
Mr. President, we have been following, with concern, the reports about the possibility of changing how the United States understands and deals with the status of Jerusalem. We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division. We ask from you Mr. President to help us all walk towards more love and a definitive peace, which cannot be reached without Jerusalem being for all.
Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm. We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfill its destiny. The Holy City can be shared and fully enjoyed once a political process helps liberate the hearts of all people, that live within it, from the conditions of conflict and destructiveness that they are experiencing.
Christmas is upon us soon. It is a feast of peace. The Angels have sung in our sky: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to the people of good will. In this coming Christmas, we plea for Jerusalem not to be deprived from peace, we ask you Mr. President to help us listen to the song of the angels. As the Christian leaders of Jerusalem, we invite you to walk with us in hope as we build a just, inclusive peace for all the peoples of this unique and Holy City.
With our best regards, and best wishes for a Merry Christmas.
Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
+Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate
+Fr. Francesco Patton, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Antonious, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
+Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+Msgr. Georges Dankaye’, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
28 November 2017
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, seen in this photograph from October 2016 during a visit to CNEWA’s New York office, is urging President Trump to give aid to persecuted Iraqi Christians.
During this week devoted to raising awareness about persecuted Christians in the Middle East, a leading voice for Christians there is speaking out, in an interview with AFP:
With ISIS routed at last, one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East has a chance to reoccupy its ancestral towns.
But the Chaldean and Syriac people of the Nineveh plain in Iraq need support to rebuild to their homes and are still anxious that fighting will return.
Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, hopes President Donald Trump’s administration will redirect US aid to his persecuted people.
And, in an interview in Washington with AFP, he suggested Christians could help quell tensions on frontline between Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
US Vice President Mike Pence and the ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, have suggested redirecting funds from UN aid agencies to Christian charities.
But with almost 20,000 Iraqi Christian families — around 100,000 people — driven from their homes, the bishop is calling for urgent action.
“This is a just case,” he told AFP of his people. “They are persecuted, they are marginalized and they are in need.”
Read the full story here.
Iraq’s Archbishop Warda: ‘Persecution Started on Good Friday’
27 November 2017
The video above shows some of the people you can help through CNEWA on #GivingTuesday. (video: Chris Scazzero/Regis High School)
It’s the time of year again. Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, the annual global online event designed to raise funds for a variety of important causes. Please remember CNEWA and the people we serve around the world.
On Tuesday 28 November, CNEWA will raise funds to ease hunger in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Scores of hospitals, orphanages, schools and care facilities need your help, so struggling families and elderly have enough to eat.
To help us help them, please visit this link.
Thank you and God bless you!
21 November 2017
The U.S. bishops have designated Sunday, 26 November, as a day of prayer for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Watch the video above for more details. (video: U.S.C.C.B./YouTube)
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated this Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King, as a day of prayer for persecuted Christians, and the bishops have marked next week, 26 November to 2 December, as a time to raise awareness about the challenges our suffering brothers and sisters around the world are facing.
As the U.S.C.C.B. notes:
The Christian presence in the Holy Lands traces its roots to the earliest days of Christianity. These small, diverse communities have historically contributed to the vibrant social fabric of their societies in the fields of science, medicine, and philosophy. Their fraternity with the diversity of Churches and other religious groups helps to foster greater interreligious dialogue, unity, and peace in the Middle East.
In the midst of the turbulence in the Middle East, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expresses solidarity with Christians and all those who suffer from the conflict and persecution in the region. The Church stands at the service of all people in the Middle East, both Christians and Muslims.
CNEWA is proud to be a part of this initiative and to offer our resources to help educate the public about this urgent issue.
The U.S.C.C.B. website has a wealth of material—including prayer cards, logos, homily notes and intercessions— for parishes to use in the days ahead.
We encourage you to explore all that CNEWA has to offer as well, with some of the most comprehensive journalism and reporting on this issue to be found anywhere:
In Advent of 2014, Pope Francis sent a letter to Christians in the Middle East. As we near the season of Advent once again, and look with hope to the coming of Christ, his words today have even greater resonance:
Every day I follow the new reports of the enormous suffering endured by many people in the Middle East. I think in particular of the children, the young mothers, the elderly, the homeless and all refugees, the starving and those facing the prospect of a hard winter without an adequate shelter. This suffering cries out to God and it calls for our commitment to prayer and concrete efforts to help in any way possible. I want to express to all of you my personal closeness and solidarity, as well as that of the whole Church, and to offer you a word of consolation and hope.
Dear brothers and sisters who courageously bear witness to Jesus in the land blessed by the Lord, our consolation and our hope is Christ himself. I encourage you, then, to remain close to him, like branches on the vine, in the certainty that no tribulation, distress or persecution can separate us from him (cf. Rom 8:35). May the trials which you are presently enduring strengthen the faith and the fidelity of each and all of you!
Please join us in prayer this Sunday, to express what the bishops have called our “solidarity in suffering,” and pray for an end to persecution.
30 October 2017
Tags: Middle East Christians CNEWA Middle East U.S.C.C.B.
In one Indian village, a volunteer explains how to stay healthy and battle encephalitis — one of the most serious health issues in Uttar Pradesh. (photo: CNEWA)
This morning, we received an email from M.L. Thomas, CNEWA’s regional director for India, describing efforts to combat encephalitis in the region — and how CNEWA is helping:
The Diocese of Gorakhpur took the initiative for major awareness and cleanliness activities essential to control an outbreak of encephalitis, implementing the project “JEEVAN,” through the financial support given by CNEWA. The support was very extensive — providing encouragement for the church’s volunteers in reaching out to the poor, especially when a large number of children succumb to the illness.
Encephalitis, or “killer brain fever,” is one of the most serious health issues of eastern Uttar Pradesh. It is categorized as Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). The villages in Gorakhpur district have a been the most affected. It is an epidemic — a silent witness to the innumerable deaths (mostly children under the age of 15, some of them infants). It destroys many with life-long mental or physical disabilities. Mosquitoes and contaminated water are the major known causes of the disease. Tragically, the season when the disease is most prevalent stretches too long, beginning with the advent of monsoons in July and lasting until December and winter every year.
As part of the project:
- The trained leaders share different themes associated with encephalitis — its symptoms, cause, prevention and cure in monthly meetings in 20 villages.
- They demonstrate the use of hand pump bleaching (purifying water through bleaching, helping to encourage cleanliness of of surroundings and the house).
- Leaders implement a community-level awareness campaign on safe drinking water, nutrition (intake of nutritious diet for decreased malnutrition in children) and sanitation.
- They organize street plays, puppet shows, and distributed pamphlets to raise the awareness of the disease.
- They host awareness sessions at schools, speaking about the importance of education, vaccination, hygiene and sanitation.
CNEWA is proud to be a part of this important initiative which — thanks to the generosity of our donors — is helping to save lives and foster hope among some of the most vulnerable people of India!
23 October 2017
In the video above, members of the community gather for the great consecration ceremony at St. Martin Orthodox Church in Corvalis, Oregon, on Saturday 21 October. (video: YouTube)
The video above offers a fascinating glimpse at the consecration of a new Orthodox church in Oregon.
From the Corvalis Gazette-Times:
Even before the archbishop arrived to start the great consecration ceremony at St. Martin Orthodox Church, members of the community were there, praying and singing psalms.
And their worship would continue for hours, as an archbishop, two bishops and nine other priests worked to consecrate the church and construct and sanctify its altar.
The complex ceremony, in the eyes of the church’s congregants, makes the space where the altar was built holy ground, which should never have anything else built on it again.
“To receive a great consecration is very much a reception of God’s grace,” said Father James Baglien, the church’s rector for 15 years.
The ceremony is only done once in the life of a church, Baglien said, and is so rare that people came from Greece just to see it.
12 October 2017
Pope Francis celebrated Mass on 12 October to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Editor’s note: Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, which CNEWA is proud to be a part of. Pope Francis marked the event with a Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major — you can watch part of his homily above — and spoke powerfully about the subject of Christian persecution.
Carol Glatz of CNS filed this report:
No matter how much suffering Christians face in the world, God never forgets those who trust in and serve him, Pope Francis told leaders of Eastern Catholic churches.
The courage to “knock at the door” of God’s heart and “the courage of faith (are) needed when you pray — to have faith that the Lord is listening,” the pope told patriarchs, metropolitans, bishops, priests and lay members of the Eastern churches during his homily in Rome’s St. Mary Major.
The special Mass of thanksgiving on 12 October marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, an office that supports the Eastern Catholic churches, and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, which offers advanced degrees in Eastern Christian liturgy. During the morning Mass, the Sistine Chapel choir sang with a choir of Eastern seminarians studying in Rome, and an Eastern priest chanted the day's Gospel reading in Arabic.
In his homily, the pope recalled the congregation was founded during the tumultuous time of World War I and that, today, another kind of world war continued to rage with “so many of our Christian brothers and sisters of the Eastern churches experiencing tragic persecutions and an ever-more disturbing diaspora.”
The 23 Eastern Catholic churches include the Chaldean, Syriac Catholic, Coptic Catholic, Melkite and Maronite churches as well as the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the largest of all the Eastern churches. Their presence in the East and Middle East has been threatened by decades of crises, oppression and war.
Pope Francis celebrates Mass during the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches on 12 Octoberat St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope Francis said the difficult situations they face beg many questions, most of all, “Why?”
How many times do they hear from the lay faithful or experience the feeling that “We see the wicked, those with no scruples, look out only for themselves, crushing others, and it seems that everything goes so well for them, they get whatever they want, and they only think about savoring life,” the pope said.
Like in the day’s first reading from the prophet Malachi, the people wonder why evildoers prosper. But God tells them he listens “attentively” and has noted all those who fear the Lord and trust in him no matter what, the pope said.
“God does not forget his children, his memory is for the righteous, for those who suffer, who are oppressed and ask, ‘Why?’ and yet they do not stop trusting in the Lord,” the pope said.
“How many times the Virgin Mary, on her journey, asked herself, ‘Why?’ But in her heart, which reflected on everything, God’s grace made her faith and hope shine,” he said.
What is needed is the courage to “knock on God’s heart” and pray. “When you pray, you need the courage of faith,” the “courage to knock at the door” and the faith that God is listening, he said.
Like the Gospel says, “Ask and you will receive,” God will always give his greatest gift: his Spirit, he said.
Before the Mass, Pope Francis visited the nearby Pontifical Oriental Institute and greeted the members of the Congregation for Eastern Churches as well as the patriarchs and major archbishops the congregation supports.
Pope Francis shovels dirt under a tree during a visit to the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome on 12 October to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
With students gathered in the garden, the pope blessed a cypress tree, and then he met with guests and the Jesuits who run the educational institute.
The pope gave them a written message asking them to reflect on ways the school can continue to fulfill its mission given that the dictatorships of the past have often left behind fertile terrain for the spread of global terrorism.
“No one can close their eyes” to the current situation of persecution against Christians and their forced exodus from their homelands, he said. Many now find themselves settled in Western nations where Latin-rite parishes and dioceses are the norm.
He invited the pontifical institute, which helps members of the Eastern churches strengthen their faith before the many challenges they face, to prayerfully listen to “what the Lord wants in this precise moment.”
It may be, “for example, encouraging future priests to instill in their Eastern faithful, wherever they find themselves, a deep love for their traditions and the rite they belong to; and at the same time, to sensitize bishops of dioceses of the Latin rite to take on the task” of offering adequate spiritual and human assistance to these families and individuals.
3 October 2017
Sami El-Yousef served for eight years as CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel. In September, he became Chief Executive Officer of the Latin Patriarchate. (photo: Don Duncan)
CNEWA’s former regional director for Palestine and Israel, Sami El-Yousef, has taken the reins as the Chief Executive Officer of the Latin Patriarchate —the first lay person to hold the position.
An interview with him was just posted on the patriarchate’s website:
What do you hope that this change will bring to our diocese?
It was a great honor to be asked to be the first lay administrator to assume the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Latin Patriarchate. Though there has been a trend within the universal church to turn over such responsibilities to lay leadership, on our local scene which is overburdened with history and tradition this constitutes a major and historic change. It is my hope and dream that this change will bear fruit and the emerging partnership and shared responsibility between the religious and lay leadership will lead the Latin Patriarchate to new highs and position it ideally to serve our local community. Thus, teamwork will be key in the coming period as no one can succeed alone without the collective efforts of all our committed staff and collaborators.
Throughout your professional career, you assumed many positions within the institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, could you talk to us about your background and work experiences?
By way of a personal introduction, I am a native of the Old City of Jerusalem and have worked for most of my professional career for the institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. After completing my university education in the United States, I returned to Palestine in 1980 and started working at Bethlehem University in various positions over two periods for a total of 24 years. There I assumed a number of responsibilities including teaching assistant; lecturer; dean of faculty of business administration; assistant vice president for academic affairs; and finally, the first lay person to assume the duties of vice president for finances and planning from 2000-2009. Feeling the heavy burden of administration and routine work, I moved to a new line of work as I joined the CNEWA — Pontifical Mission for Palestine (PMP) office team in Jerusalem in 2009 as the second lay regional director for Palestine and Israel. There I was exposed to humanitarian and development work and was involved in institutional support to tens of mostly Christian institutions providing quality services to marginalized communities in the sectors of education, health, and social services.
How will you incorporate your work experiences in your new duties as Chief Executive Officer at LPJ?
After eight years at CNEWA — PMP, I again felt that now is a time of change for me personally as I’m called to tackle the challenges and opportunities at the Latin Patriarchate given the nature of the services it offers. At LPJ, I will combine my administrative and financial management experience acquired at Bethlehem University along with the humanitarian and development experience of CNEWA — PMP. Not only is the Latin Patriarchate the local church with a diocese covering four countries in the Holy Land, but its services are rich through its many institutions of service in a number of sectors, most notably in the area of education through a network of 45 schools in Jordan, Israel and Palestine. In addition, we should not underestimate the humanitarian, medical, scholarship and pastoral support provided to thousands on an annual basis nor the centers that provide quality services ranging from senior citizens in Taybeh to severely disabled children in Amman to mention just a few.
Read more at the link.
20 September 2017
We’re pleased to announce that the September edition of our award-winning magazine ONE is now available online.
This edition focuses on the Middle East — with stories of perseverance and faith that reveal the impact CNEWA’s donors are having on that troubled corner of our world.
Among the many stories in this issue:
- Raed Rafei takes readers to Iraq, where Christians are facing Hard Choices as they return home in the wake of ISIS.
- Dale Gavlak introduces us to Jordan’s Christian Shepherds, and their efforts to preserve a vanishing way of life.
- And Diane Handal meets members of a family in Palestine who are overcoming tragedy with Love as a Healing Balm.
Plus: news, profiles, videos and photographs that help bring our world to you with passion and power. It all begins right here.
Meantime, take a moment to watch the video below, as CNEWA’s president Msgr. John Kozar gives us a preview of the magazine.