5 April 2016
A pharmacist distributes medicine to displaced Iraqis in Kurdistan from the back of a
CNEWA-supported mobile clinic. (photo: Raed Rafei)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, will be traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan this week on a pastoral visit to that region’s displaced Christian families. The purpose of the pastoral visit is fourfold:
- Demonstrate solidarity with the families — many of whom are Christian — displaced when ISIS swept through northern Iraq in summer 2014. The delegation will visit displaced families taking refuge in camps and villages; stop at schools, nurseries and clinics serving their needs; and pray together in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
- Show gratitude and solidarity with the caregivers — the priests, sisters and laity who, although displaced as well, have responded in meeting the needs of those expelled by ISIS. The pastoral visit will highlight the efforts of the religious sisters and parish priests who have partnered with CNEWA in setting up schools, nurseries and clinics.
- Demonstrate solidarity with and support for the leadership of the local church. The delegation will spend time with the patriarchs and bishops of the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
- Assert the Christian commitment to support all those wounded by ISIS: Christian, Muslim and Yazidi.
Cardinal Dolan’s pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan initiates year-long observances in commemoration of CNEWA’s 90th anniversary. Traveling with the cardinal will be CNEWA board member Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre; CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar; and the Executive Director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan.
The cardinal also spoke about his trip this week in an interview with Crux in Rome:
CNEWA has a renowned track record of helping the suffering Church, particularly in the Middle East. I’m proud of CNEWA. Every other year, I try to go on a trip with them, so I’ve been to Jordan, Lebanon, the Holy Land, and I now I want to go to Kurdistan.
What can Catholics do to help persecuted Christians in Iraq and other countries? Is donating to CNEWA a way of getting involved?
CNEWA does stand out because of its geographical precision and because of its nine-decade track record of bringing relief to troubled areas. So yeah, CNEWA would be one excellent way of showing solidarity.
To learn more about what CNEWA is doing in Iraqi Kurdistan, check out the Spring 2016 edition of ONE and our story about a busy mobile clinic serving displaced Iraqis.
And as the cardinal suggested, to “show solidarity” and support the work of CNEWA on behalf of Christians in Iraq, visit this link.
31 March 2016
Pope Francis waves from his Fiat during his visit to the United States last September. One of the cars used during his trip will be auctioned to benefit a number of Catholic charities,
including CNEWA. (photo: Getty Images)
Place your bid.
From The New York Times:
The used hatchback up for auction comes with low mileage, a premium sound system and a glass roof. But because it once carried Pope Francis around New York City, bidders are willing to pay several times its Kelley Blue Book value.
On the bidding site CharityBuzz.com this week, a Fiat 500 Lounge (list price: $24,695) is one of the biggest attractions, alongside items such as tickets to Beyonce’s “Formation” tour or a chance to meet Paul McCartney.
The car was one of six that Francis used on his three-city United States tour in September. Officials with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York decided, like their counterparts in Philadelphia, to auction the car for charity.
“We’ve never had a papal Fiat before,” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said. “They’ve always taken the Popemobiles home with them.”
The auction for the car started on St. Patrick’s Day, when it appeared in the parade in New York, and the bidding had reached $130,000 by Tuesday evening, surpassing the $82,000 fetched by the hatchback used in Philadelphia. The auction ends on Thursday afternoon.
The proceeds will go to Catholic schools and charities, including Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. “We decided to use them to help further the work that Pope Francis was so supportive of while he was here,” Mr. Zwilling said.
Read the rest.
23 March 2016
Iraqi refugees Sabhan Jinan Maqadas Hasso and Lina Safaa Najeeb Alkes Asahq and their three children live now in Amman, Jordan.
(photo: GSR/Chris Herlinger)
Correspondent Chris Herlinger of the Global Sisters Report, a project of the National Catholic Reporter, spent three weeks reporting in Lebanon and Jordan on the refugee crisis. While there, he also spoke with some refugees about the significance of the Lenten and Easter season:
For many Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria now living in Jordan and Lebanon, this year’s Easter will be celebrated in the heart — but not necessarily on the table.
On a warm spring day in their bare apartment in the Al-Hashni neighborhood of Amman, Jordan, Sabhan Jinan Maqadas Hasso and Lina Safaa Najeeb Alkes Asahq smiled as they recalled past Easter feasts in their hometown of Mosul, Iraq, when the centerpiece of the meal was a lamb stuffed with meat and rice.
Best not to dwell on the past, said Hasso and Asahq. The family fled war-torn Mosul in early 2015 for Amman. As the young couple and their three young children await word of their official application for asylum and the possibility of new life in Europe or elsewhere, Easter will be a simple affair. Their celebration will be focused on religious observances at a nearby Syrian Catholic Church.
“The most important thing is to celebrate the Mass,” Asahq said. An Easter meal can await another year.
The immediate family is together — reason enough to give thanks. But any sense of stability in life is gone in the waiting and anxiety about their immigration status. “Inside there is no peace,” Hasso said. “It brings us sadness.”
A five-minute drive from Hasso and Asahq’s small walkup apartment is the home of Wilsin Salim Dawood Agla and Lina Behnam Majeed Hanusi and their young daughter. Like the other couple, they are Christians from Mosul, Iraq. Though new to Amman, they, like Asahq and Hasso, left Iraq because of threats from the so-called Islamic State group (ISIS), aerial bombardments and other acts of violence that made living an unwelcome test and endurance.
The mood is uncertain. Yet Hanusi in particular takes comfort from attending Mass daily and in the assurance, she said confidently, that God has not forgotten her family — and never will. “God will not abandon us,” Hanusi said. “God will not leave us. We are sure he will help us get out of this situation.”
...Sr. Nesreen Dababneh, a Jordanian nun who works at a Caritas clinic for refugees in the neighborhood, calls this kind of faith “touchable” because it is deeply felt, an example of incarnation.
“Easter is the most appropriate feast for this time of year,” she said, because it is Easter, not Christmas, that tries to make sense of the mystery of how to live amid pain. “It’s not a philosophy, it’s a reality,” said Dababneh, a psychologist by training who oversees a program to help refugees with trauma and other effects of war, flight and displacement.
...“This is his [Jesus’] land, and we are his people,” said Marlene Constantin, a project manager at Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission. As she reflects on this year’s Easter, she thinks it is essential for all Christians to embrace the essential teachings of Jesus. “These problems we face in the region are far from his experience and teaching,” Constantin said. “I think everything starts from that point.”
She worries about the “power of evil” and the “evil stance” she sees in the region now. The Christian community often feels under threat. And yet, she believes Easter’s quintessential message is that “even with these problems, Jesus will not abandon us.” So she continues to affirm her faith.
Read the full story.
23 March 2016
Four seminarians from Iraq fled the country for Lebanon after the invasion of ISIS, but chose a church in an Erbil refugee camp for their ordination as deacons.
(photo: CNA/courtesy Remi Momica)
A remarkable story of sacrifice and solidarity in the face of suffering, from CNA/EWTN:
After their seminary in Qaraqosh was dissolved following a brutal ISIS attack in 2014, four Iraqi seminarians chose not to give up after being forced to flee, but to continue their path to the priesthood.
Now, a year and a half after the attack that uprooted them from their homes, the four men will be ordained deacons, and chose a church in an Erbil refugee camp for the 19 March ceremony.
“People want hope, and when they see that there are four young people who will become deacons and after a few months they will be priests, that will give them hope and the power to stay,” Remi Marzina Momica told CNA 17 March.
Momica is one of the four seminarians from the Syriac Catholic Church of Mosul who will be ordained Saturday. All of them formerly studied at St. Ephraim’s seminary in the mainly Christian city of Qaraqosh, which is now under the control of ISIS.
The young seminarians were forced to flee the city when the militants attacked on 6 August 2014 driving out inhabitants who didn’t meet their demands to convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax or face death.
Before being forced to leave Qaraqosh, Momica and his sister were among the victims wounded in a 2010 bombing of buses transporting mainly Christian college students from the Plains of Nineveh to the University of Mosul, where they were enrolled in classes.
Since the Qaraqosh seminary has been closed following the 2014 attack, the four seminarians were sent to finish their studies at the Al-Sharfa Seminary in Harissa, Lebanon.
After completing their studies in Lebanon, the four Syriac Catholic rite seminarians returned to Iraq for their ordination.
Momica, whose family fled to Erbil, where they are still renting a small house, said he and the other three seminarians told their bishop that they specifically wanted their ordination to take place in a refugee camp, “because we are refugees.”
“We want our people to know, we want to tell everyone that there are young people who will become priests,” he said, explaining that the event will be a sign of hope for the Christians who are left.
Read the full story.
11 March 2016
In this image from 2012, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar visits St. Anthony’s Dayssadan in India, a home for children with physical disabilities run by the Preshitharam Sisters.
It was 90 years ago today — 11 March 1926 —that what we now know as Catholic Near East Welfare Association was born:
On 11 March 1926, Pope Pius XI decided to unite permanently into one organization and under one administration all the American Catholic associations working for assistance to Russia and other areas of the Near East and in general working for the same goals as the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church and the Pontifical Commission for Russia. This new pontifical organization was to be called the “Catholic Near East Welfare Association” (CNEWA). It was placed under the immediate direction of the archbishop of New York, and he was invited to form a governing body selected from the American hierarchy. The funds raised by the new association were to be placed directly at the disposition of the Holy Father, who would disburse them in response to the requests for assistance coming to him from all over the world or recommended to him by CNEWA itself.
It has been a remarkable 90 years, and a time worth remembering with humble gratitude and joy. Over the next several months, in our magazine and here on the blog, we'll be taking note of this milestone in a variety of ways. Beginning today, we launch a special series, “90 Years / 90 Heroes,” saluting just a few of the ordinary people who have done extraordinary work on behalf of CNEWA — and, as a result, on behalf of the poor and suffering throughout our world. During this Year of Mercy, we feel especially privileged to have been messengers of mercy to the poor, the hungry, the persecuted and the marginalized. And we owe a profound debt of gratitude to countless donors and benefactors who have helped us carry out our mission.
Two years ago, our president Msgr. John E. Kozar articulated that mission eloquently in this video below. Embarking on our 10th decade of service on behalf of
the Holy Father, we are forever thankful to those who have joined us on this journey. As our mission statement declares: “Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.”
A blessed and happy anniversary to all who are part of our CNEWA family — and be assured of our continued prayers!
10 March 2016
Bishops from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican
on 5 March. (photo: L’Osservatore Romano/Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church)
After meeting with Pope Francis on 5 March, the Permanent Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) issued a statement which, in their words, “reflects the position of our Church on the current situation in Ukraine.”
The statement reads in part:
The UGCC has demonstrated with its very blood its solidarity with the Bishop of Rome and the worldwide Catholic communion. Now, during the Year of Mercy, is the time for the Catholic Church to bring the healing balm of mercy to their suffering brothers and sisters in Ukraine in reciprocal solidarity. The Ukrainian people are proving their commitment to European values of human dignity and the rule of law. Now is the time for Europe to understand that if it does not stand up for these same values in Ukraine, they become endangered throughout the continent. This is a time to confirm what the nations of Europe and its religious communities hold most dear; a time to see whether the blessings of freedom and prosperity that Western powers and societies enjoy might be shared more fully with a long-suffering people.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church ceaselessly prays for and promotes peace, and in Rome its leadership appealed to the Holy Father and to the world to help stop the war and stem the humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For Ukrainians who belong to different Churches and religious organizations and even secular citizens, the Holy Father is a global moral authority who speaks the truth. This voice of truth is particularly important for the suffering people of Ukraine. If the people do not hear or understand this voice they becomes confused, anxious and feel forgotten.
“The people are suffering, Holy Father, and they await your embrace, the active support of the Catholic communion and all people of good will” was our word. His Holiness made it clear that he would act. It was most important that on the eve of the sad anniversary of the Pseudo-synod of Lviv Pope Francis wholeheartedly acknowledged the faithfulness and heroic witness of generations of Greek Catholics. He prepared a warm pastoral statement calling the events of March 1946 by their proper name. The Holy Father emphasized that one cannot solve ecumenical problems at the expense of an Eastern Catholic Church.
We hope that His Holiness will initiate and support new steps to help relieve the dire hardships endured by millions of Ukrainians, that he will speak out on their behalf and encourage international aid. The UGCC stands ready to facilitate responsible, transparent, ecumenically sound administration of international assistance, serving the Ukrainian population without regard to ethnicity, political or linguistic preferences or religious affiliation. We are ready to cooperate in a well-coordinated plan that includes governmental and non-governmental bodies in order to lift the suffering out of their need, meeting both short-term and enduring needs of those affected by the humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine. Enough of this suffering! It can be prevented. It can be healed. Let us make the “Year of Mercy” a reality for the people of Ukraine.
Read the full document here.
26 February 2016
In this image from January, a priest gives Communion to a woman during a Mass for Iraqi Christian refugees at Our Lady of Peace Center on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, Amman.
(photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)
The current issue of America Magazine features a compelling essay on religious freedom by CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., PhD:
The status of religious freedom in the world is not something to celebrate these days. The situation in the Middle East remains dire. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, and religious minorities are being persecuted and slaughtered. But this sad state of affairs is not unique or limited to that region. South Asia has recently seen a disturbing increase of sectarian violence against Christians and Muslims. Together the Middle East and South Asia are home to most of the major religious traditions of the planet. Not surprisingly, they are also home to many of the violations against religious freedom.
“Freedom of thought, conscience and religion” is guaranteed as a human right in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which most countries of the world have bound themselves by treaty and international law. Nevertheless, the sad fact is that abuses against freedom of religion are probably the most widespread and varied of all abuses. Issues involving the freedom of religion vary from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act in the United States to the genocidal tactics of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. They run the gamut from the legal to the existential.
Read the full essay at the America link. Meantime, check out the Sirius satellite radio interview below, which offers more from Father Elias on the topic.
12 February 2016
Below, video of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill meeting at the Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport on 12 February.
At long last, Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow embraced, kissing each other three times.
“Finally,” the pope told the patriarch on 12 February as they met in a lounge at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport. “We are brothers,” he told the patriarch.
Amid the clicking of cameras and multiple flashes, Patriarch Kirill was overheard telling the pope, “Things are easier now.”
“It is clearer that this is God’s will,” Pope Francis told him.
A flight of almost 12 hours capped months of intense negotiations and more than two decades of Vatican overtures to bring a pope and a Russian patriarch together for the first time.
Cuban President Raul Castro played host to the pope and patriarch, who was on a visit to Russian Orthodox communities on the island-nation. Pope Francis had a pastoral visit to Mexico planned for months; the stop in Havana was announced only a week before the meeting.
The addition of a stopover in Cuba was widely seen as a sign of Pope Francis’ willingness to go the extra mile to reach out a hand in friendship. At the same time, observers said, it gave those Russian Orthodox opposed to ecumenism a sense that their church is special and that it bowed to no one in agreeing to the meeting.
In a commentary distributed 11 February, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris said: “The pope is demonstrating humility; he is going to the territory of the other. In the eyes of nostalgic Russians, Cuba is almost home territory, a last outpost of a lost Soviet Empire.”
For decades, the Russian Orthodox told the Vatican that a meeting between the patriarch and pope was impossible because of the activities of Latin-rite Catholics in Russia and, especially, the Eastern-rite Catholics in Ukraine.
The Moscow Patriarchate had said that while those problems still exist with the Catholic communities, they take a backseat to the urgency of defending together the rights and very existence of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
The harsh persecution of Christians and other minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the region has been a cause Pope Francis has pleaded before world leaders and for which he has rallied the prayers of Christians across the globe.
He speaks often of the “ecumenism of blood,” the fact that Christians are killed for believing in Christ with the persecutors not knowing or caring what denomination or church they belong to. Christians are fully united in that suffering and, the pope has said, those who die for their faith are in full communion with each other and with centuries of martyrs now in the presence of God.
But the fate of persecuted Christians was not the pope’s primary motive for meeting Patriarch Kirill. Simply meeting him was the point.
Metropolitan Hilarion Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s external affairs department, told reporters a week earlier that Patriarch Kirill chose Havana in the “New World” because Europe, the “Old World,” was the birthplace of Christian division.
Ukrainians, Catholic or not, have expressed concerns about Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill given the patriarch's apparently close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a time of ongoing fighting in Eastern Ukraine.
“The topics of discussion will not be explicitly political ones,” Bishop Gudziak wrote. “The gist of the rendezvous will be the encounter of church leaders representing very different experiences, agendas, styles and spiritualities of ecclesial leadership. One can hardly expect revolutionary results.Yet, it is through encounter that spiritual change occurs. Let us pray for good spiritual fruit.”
1 February 2016
The image above shows a detail of the baptistery painting from Deir ez-Zor, Syria,
that may portray the Virgin Mary.
(photo: Tony De Camillo/Yale University Art Gallery/The New York Times)
Sunday, Fordham theology professor Michael Peppard published a fascinating essay in The New York Times, taking a closer look at an image from Syria that he believes may have rich historical meaning:
At the Yale University Art Gallery hang wall paintings from one of the world’s oldest churches. Buried by the middle of the third century, this house-church from eastern Syria had images of Jesus, Peter and David. The gallery showcases a well-preserved procession of veiled women that once surrounded its baptistery, a room for Christian initiation.
Off to the side, seldom noticed among the likes of Jesus and Peter, stands a different wall fragment, faded but still discernible: a woman bent over a well. Holding the rope of her vessel, she looks out at the viewer or perhaps over her shoulder, seemingly startled in the act of drawing water.
Who is she? The museum’s identification is certainly plausible: “The painting most likely depicts a scene from the encounter between Christ (not shown) and a woman from Samaria,” as recorded in the Gospel of John. But historians also know that the Samaritan Woman, a repentant sinner who conversed at length with Jesus, was usually depicted in dialogue with him. This woman appears to be alone.
Is it possible that a painting from a building excavated in 1932 and publicized around the world has not been correctly identified?
He makes a compelling argument that the figure is, in fact, the Virgin Mary:
...While the Samaritan Woman at the Well was a respected biblical figure for early Christians, there was actually a more prominent “woman at the well” in Syria: the Virgin Mary during the Annunciation, when an angelic visitor informed her of her miraculous pregnancy. Where does this episode take place? The setting of the canonical account, in the Gospel of Luke, is not specified. But the second-century biography of Mary’s early life, usually called the Protevangelium of James, describes how one day, during a break from her work, “she took the pitcher and went forth to draw water, and behold, a voice said: ‘Hail, you are highly favored, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.’ And she looked around on the right and on the left to see from where this voice could have come.” During this first encounter, at a well or spring, the angel was heard but not seen. Mary appeared to be alone.
Archival photographs and drawings made by the archaeologists on site show that the supposed absence behind the female figure is not totally silent — it speaks a couple of lines. That is to say, a field sketch of the wall done “to show additional details” depicts two painted lines touching the woman’s back, along with a kind of starburst on the front of her torso, features described as “unexplained” in the archaeological report. But with the new interpretation of the figure, in connection with the Eastern iconography that came later, the lines invite a rather evident meaning. They appear to represent a motion toward the woman’s body and a spark of activity within it, as if something invisible were approaching and entering her — an incarnation.
If correct, this woman at a well is the oldest securely datable image of the Virgin Mary.
Read more at The New York Times.
1 February 2016
The pages shown above depict ancient biblical manuscripts being preserved by the Museum of the Bible. The Rev. Elias Mallon of CNEWA says misinterpretation of Scripture gives rise to religious fundamentalism in all faiths. (photo: CNS)
CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias Mallon, was interviewed recently by Michael Swan of the Catholic Register, and he offered some insight into what gives rise to religious fundamentalism:
Most people have never heard a homily preached on Deuteronomy 20:10-18. It’s kind of difficult to apply these God-given rules of war to daily life in the 21st century.
The part about enslaving the women and killing all the men and boys if the village resists attack has little application when asking a boss for a raise or negotiating a mortgage renewal.
The Bible was written in a very different place at a very different time by people whose self-understanding and world view was formed by forces people today might understand intellectually but struggle to feel deep inside.
Father Elias Mallon, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, said it need not be so: It is possible to find some deeper Christian meaning in difficult texts from the Bible. But it requires study and an understanding of the history embedded in biblical literature, which was collected over a 1,000-year span and finally accepted as part of the Bible more than 17 centuries ago.
Father Mallon was recently in Toronto for a three-way discussion among Catholics, Muslims and Jews about reading and interpreting difficult texts. The event was hosted by the Archdiocese of Toronto.
The New York priest has spent a lifetime reading, translating and understanding the ancient languages which, once mastered, gave him insights into the Bible and the monotheistic cultures of the three Abrahamic religions. He’s been a contributor to Muslim-Christian dialogue since 1985, and he is the author of “Islam: What Catholics Need to Know.” He also serves as external affairs officer of Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Learning to interpret tricky, terrible and difficult texts in sacred Scriptures is not some obscure, academic challenge. When preachers and ordinary believers misinterpret their sacred texts, the result is almost always fundamentalism, Father Mallon said.
“Fundamentalism is probably, and I mean this sarcastically, the ecumenical reality,” he said. “We all have it. It’s a problem for all of us — Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists. Right down the line, that’s the problem.”
Fundamentalism is usually the result of reading an ancient, sacred text as if it were a newspaper or a modern textbook — reading the words without any awareness of the culture or the historical circumstances in which they were first spoken, he said.
“All of our texts are ancient. All of our texts come out of a context,” Father Mallon said. “It’s a world that wasn’t pluralistic. It was more violent.”
Read the rest.