26 February 2018
A rare snowfall covers St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 26 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
23 February 2018
Worshipers pray at St. George Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Eskof, Iraq, which was damaged by ISIS militants. Iraqi Catholic leaders are urging Christians to remain steadfast in this Lenten season as they encounter challenges of ISIS’ legacy in their historic lands.
(photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters)
Iraqi Catholic leaders are urging Christians to remain steadfast in this Lenten season as they encounter challenges of the ISIS’ legacy in their historic lands.
In a Lenten pastoral letter, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad urged Iraqi Christians to pursue unity with other Christians at this sacred time with “open hearts.”
“Many Christians today live in a crisis of faith and intellect because of the circumstances of war, instability, migration and the dominance of social media on the details of their daily lives,” he wrote in the letter, released on 21 February.
Many Chaldean Catholics lost their homes, properties and other possessions as they fled ISIS militants in the summer of 2014. Many are destitute, still living in camps for the internally displaced or sheltering abroad.
“However, these challenges should not discourage their determination and dissuade them from renewing their faith and deepening it, to witness of the Lord and his church,” the patriarch said, calling on Christians to “increase within themselves strength, confidence and enthusiasm.”
Patriarch Sako also repeated his appeal to fellow Iraqis from different religious backgrounds to recognize Christians as “part of the national fabric of Iraq and to stop their decline, for Christians have had a historical presence in this country, where they have a role and a message.”
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah estimates that between “40-45 percent of the Christians have returned to the some of their ancestral villages, particularly Qaraqosh.”
But he and other Catholic leaders told Catholic News Service there are many challenges to those Christians hoping to return home after the ISIS occupation and expulsion.
“There are problems with Bartella. Although Bartella is not far from Qaraqosh, the Shiites have been imposing themselves and using the force of Iran to take over territory, etc. The Christians of Bartella are very upset by this situation,” Archbishop Mirkis told CNS by phone.
“Maybe the Americans and Baghdad government are not very aware of what is happening in these villages,” he said.
“The Christians of Bartella tell me: ‘We cannot go back. We don’t dare to go back.’ So, these people are still sheltering in Irbil or in the camps for internally displaced people in Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah,” Archbishop Mirkis said of the northern Iraqi cities providing Christians with refuge.
“Qaraqosh is a little bit better. There, houses are being repaired. Now, the people are returning, but many houses are burned and are completely destroyed. These Christians cannot afford the prices to reconstruct the houses,” he said.
The archbishop and his dioceses have been helping displaced Christians with material and spiritual support as well as providing transportation for hundreds of their university students. Many Christian supporters claim Christian organizations have been the sole sponsors of reconstruction efforts, without help from the government.
But Father Emanuel Youkhana told CNS that so far, the planned “return, reconstruction and rebuilding movement did not meet our expectations and hopes. Thousands of families are hesitating and/or unable to return, and they are still displaced in Kurdistan.”
The archimandrite, a member of the Assyrian Church of the East, heads the Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, CAPNI. He spoke to CNS by phone and email.
22 February 2018
Youngsters at Our Lady’s Catholic School in Dubbo, Ethiopia, show the youthful promise of Catholic education in a country where Catholics are a small minority. Read more about how Catholic schools are helping students like these go to the Head of the Class in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
21 February 2018
Soldiers gesture as the car carrying Lebanese President Michel Aoun leaves after his 20 February visit to Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, Iraq. Aoun arrived in Iraq on his first visit to the county since he was elected in 2016. The church was attacked by Islam militants during an evening Mass in 2010, killing at least 58 people and wounding dozens.
(photo: CNS/Ali Abbas, EPA)
20 February 2018
In this 2013 file photo, interreligious leaders gather in Beirut for a meeting of the Adyan Foundation. The foundation has been named the recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Adyan Foundation)
Adyan, a Lebanese foundation for interreligious studies and spiritual solidarity, is the recipient of the 35th Niwano Peace Prize.
Lebanon now moves “a firm step further toward its recognition as a world center for dialogue between cultures and religions,” said the Rev. Fadi Daou, president of Adyan Foundation, in announcing the international award in Beirut on 19 February.
“Peace has a specific name in Lebanon, and that is ‘living-together,’ ” he added.
Maronite Father Daou is one of the five founders of Adyan (“religions” in Arabic), each of whom are followers of different denominations of Christianity and Islam.
Since its foundation in 2006, Adyan “has worked to take interreligious dialogue from apologetic debates and populist complacency, to a common commitment in what we call ‘religious social responsibility,’ ” Father Daou said.
The Tokyo-based Niwano Peace Foundation established the Niwano Peace Prize in 1983 to honor and encourage individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to interreligious cooperation, thereby furthering the cause of world peace. It is named for Nikkyo Niwano, founder and first president of the lay Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai.
The award’s selection committee commended Adyan for valuing “religious diversity in promoting peace and social justice” and cited Adyan as “a visible and committed actor for peace in Lebanon and the broader region.”
Past Niwano Peace Prize recipients include Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara; Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal; retired Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa, Israel; the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico; Father Hans Kung, a Swiss theologian; the World Muslim Congress; and the Sant’Egidio Community.
Father Daou recalled St. John Paul II’s declaration that “Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message” of coexistence for East and West.
“I really believe that this award, coming from Japan, is ‘another voice’ — now from the East — to remind us of what John Paul II said,” Father Daou said.
“Worldwide, peace today signifies justice and the liberation of oppressed people,” Father Daou said. “It also means stopping the implication of religion in political choices and ending linking religion to violence and extremism.”
While it is important to discover what is common among religions, Father Daou noted, even more important is “to discover the differences between religions and to educate people — especially the youth — to respect those differences, as an expression of our belief in freedom of conscience and our refusal of all forms of coercion and takfirism (considering others as infidels),” he said.
Father Daou said the “problematic reality” in the Middle East “pushes us to go a step further in order to promote interreligious solidarity in the combat of extremism and of injustice.”
Recent Adyan initiatives include offering interfaith mediation dialogue and peace education to vulnerable Syrian citizens, both in Lebanon and Syria. In Iraq, working with journalists and civil society activists, Adyan focuses on spreading the values of inclusive citizenship and interreligious solidarity, particularly to heal the society from the traumas of Islamic State.
Father Daou said that Adyan will continue on its path “for the adoption of pluralism as a social and political value in Arab countries.”
“It will also work for the promotion of resilience to all forms of extremism and for the development of social cohesion, spiritual solidarity, intercivilizational encounter and world stability,” he added.
By 2016, a decade after its foundation, Adyan had more than 3,000 members with some 35,000 direct beneficiaries in 29 countries.
The Niwano Peace Prize ceremony will take place in Tokyo on 9 May.
16 February 2018
An Indian villager cradles her baby while she joins others in a multi-linguistic Lord’s Prayer. Read about how catechists and missionaries are Reaching the Unreached in India in the Winter 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
15 February 2018
The Rev. Miguel Maria Cobo Guzman of Spain sprinkles ashes on a young Palestinian woman from the Latin Patriarchate School during Ash Wednesday Mass on 14 February at Annunciation Church in Beit Jala, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
14 February 2018
Sister Eman Fawzy chats with students at the St. Vincent de Paul School in Alexandria. Learn more about the school and the Daughters of Charity who run it in the December 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
13 February 2018
Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Education Catholic education
Msgr. Peter Azar reads as Chorbishop Dominic F. Ashkar, pastor of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church in Washington, prepares ashes during Mass on 12 February. In the Maronite Catholic Church, ashes are distributed on Monday, two days ahead of the Latin rite’s traditional Ash Wednesday distribution. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
At the Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi in Bayada, north of Beirut, faithful gathered for Ash Monday Mass in the chapel on 12 February.
In the Maronite Catholic Church, ashes are distributed on Monday, two days ahead of the Latin rite’s traditional Ash Wednesday distribution. This allows Catholics to observe 40 days of Lent, but also celebrate two church feasts for which fasting is not required: the feast of St. Joseph and the feast of the Annunciation.
“To change our character, it is difficult, but we ask God for the grace to be able to fast,” Melkite Father Nidal Abourjaily said in his homily before distributing ashes.
“Fasting will help us to grow closer to God as we unite our sufferings with him, and this is the most important thing,” said Father Nidal, a Franciscan Capuchin and superior of the monastery.
Typically, in Lebanon, Catholics follow the recommendations of their respective rites regarding their fast for Lent. The Maronite Church, for example, asks for fasting daily from midnight until 12 noon, and abstinence from meat and dairy products for those in good health. Sundays are not considered days of fast or abstinence.
“All fast, in some way,” Father Nidal told Catholic News Service of the faithful — a blending from Catholic rites, including Maronite and Melkite as well as some Roman Catholic — who attend St. Francis.
Berthe Obeid, a Melkite Catholic, told CNS she fasts until noon and sometimes until 3 p.m.
“I like chocolate and nuts, so I try to stop eating those as well,” said Obeid.
“It’s not so difficult when I know I am doing this for the Lord. I want to do something to please him, to be near him, so he gives me more strength to do it. Lent is a time to draw closer to God, to leave the things that can pull us away from him,” she explained.
“Looking back over the years, I can see now how I’m growing in my faith because of Lent,” Obeid added.
During Lent, Myrna Chaker, a Maronite Catholic, will be fasting each day until noon and will abstain from dairy and meat.
“I also try as much as possible to give up the things I really like,”
Chaker said, noting that she likes crispy foods such as crackers and toasted bread. “And definitely sweets. I love chocolate.”
“When I give up material things, it helps me more in the spiritual life. I should forget myself during Lent and focus on how to help people and how to show more and more love. I want to offer up this Lent more for the people around me,” Chaker explained.
Aside from fasting, Chaker said she tries to devote more time to prayer and to attend Mass every day as well as eucharistic adoration.
“I ask God to use me as an instrument,” she noted, adding that social media offers an opportunity to share Scriptures, prayers and inspirational tidbits to encourage others in their Lenten journey.
Joseph Haddad, a Melkite Catholic, is a self-described cheese addict, but said he will not eat meat or dairy products during Lent.
“Lent is the time to work on the will. It’s the least I can do for the Lord,” said Haddad. “I need to step forward to the kingdom of God.”
“Actually, I was waiting for Lent. For Christians who don’t experience Lent, they don’t know what they’re missing,” Haddad said. “You might not see any difference during Lent but, afterward, surely there’s a blessing, even if it’s a few months later. And you see yourself maturing more with God.”
Haddad said he would intensify his fast during Holy Week. For three days, beginning on Holy Thursday until noon on Holy Saturday, Haddad fasts completely, taking only occasional sips of water.
Especially during Holy Week, Father Nidal senses that the faithful “really suffer with Christ and participate in his sufferings.”
“You can sometimes see people crying” in church, he said. “They know that Jesus saved us by giving himself on the cross. Knowing that, they in turn participate strongly.”
While some faithful have different ways of fasting during Lent, Father Nidal noted, “the most important thing is to arrive to a spiritual resurrection with Christ.”
12 February 2018
Pope Francis meets at the Vatican on 12 February with Italian young people, adults and migrants rescued from human traffickers. The pope responded to the questions five of the young people asked about preventing trafficking and assisting survivors. “Human trafficking,” the Holy Father said, “is a crime against humanity.” Read more here. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)