6 February 2014
In this image from 2010, Sister Shubba Poovattil visits with an elderly resident in Malayatoor, India, at a home devoted to caring for the “poorest of the poor.” Read more about the work she and other sisters are undertaking in Fearless Grace. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
This week Pope Francis released his first message for Lent, which begins on 5 March. The message focuses on the needs of the poor, taking for its starting point this verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).
In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.
No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members — often a young person — is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.
Read the full message here.
And if you want to offer your support to women like sister Shubba Poovattil in India, visit this page to find out how.
4 February 2014
Tags: India Pope Francis Sisters Poor/Poverty Caring for the Elderly
Altar server Andriy Palchak, 14, holds a candelabra in a tradition known as the “Great Blessing of Water” during the Divine Liturgy celebrated for the feast of Theophany at St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church in St. Louis on 12 January. (photo: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)
As the crisis in Ukraine continues to unfold, churches around the world are offering prayers of support. Catholic News Service recently carried a story profiling one church in St. Louis, Missouri:
Olga Shulga said her father has never lived in fear. So when she learned he had joined the protesters in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, she wasn’t all that surprised.
Shulga and her husband, Alex, members of St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Parish in St. Louis, are among those prayerfully watching as the unrest continues to unfold in Ukraine.
“My father will fight with everything he has, because we were raised Ukrainians,” said Olga Shulga. But the 37-year-old, who came to the United States from Kiev almost 15 years ago, worries about her family members who have frequently been bringing food and other necessities to protesters or stand with them in solidarity.
The ongoing protests started last fall after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych withdrew from a promised trade deal with the European Union. The situation has brought together members of St. Mary’s Assumption to support one another and their homeland as they watch from afar. In mid-January, parishioners took up a collection to be sent to support protesters.
Many of the parish’s 30 households are recent immigrants and some came after the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991, said the parish’s administrator, Deacon Eugene Logusch.
“The people in Ukraine have no fear,” he said. “They are prepared to stand up and they want change. They don’t want the country to continue in this way and the government was completely shocked” at the reaction.
Shulga said that while her heart is with her family, she’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had in the United States. In Ukraine, “there’s no future there. That’s why I left. It’s a fight for every person to build a new life for you and your family,” she told the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the archdiocese of St. Louis.
3 February 2014
Tags: Ukraine United States Ukrainian Catholic
Kostas Patitas sits in his apartment in Kipseli, Athens. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Winter issue of ONE offers a powerful look at how the people of Greece are coping with their country’s ongoing economic crisis:
Kostas Patitsas, 59, who lives in the working-class Athens neighborhood of Kipseli, regularly takes advantage of his local parish’s food aid. Mr. Patitsas’s case is a classic example of Greek recession misfortune: In February 2012, his position was made redundant before he reached retirement age. Now he finds himself without a pension in an anemic job market that has become increasingly discriminatory against mature applicants as the recession deepens. He depends on his brother and other family members to pay the property tax on his small apartment and his electricity bills. He needs about $135 a month for cigarettes and tea. For food, he lives on the fare from his local parish, Hagia Zoni Church.
“I am quite optimistic by nature,” he says in the yard of the church as he lines up for food. “And I believe growth will return in 2014.” All the people lined up around him burst into laughter. He is quoting the much-maligned Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who uses this phrase as a boilerplate response to any interrogation regarding the future. It becomes clear that for Kostas Patitsas, and for many others, humor is a coping mechanism.
Some 300 people have come to the soup kitchen at Hagia Zoni. They joke and laugh, but it is a heavy, trudging humor. Before long, they have all departed with their food to eat at home alone.
Mr. Patitsas eats his food on a small table in a communal garden outside the back door of his ground-floor apartment, which is dark, damp and shabby.
Along with humor, he says, his other big coping mechanism is his faith.
“I go to church every Sunday,” he says, “and when I feel low and hopeless, it fills my soul.”
Read more about A Greek Tragedy in the Winter 2013 issue of ONE.
31 January 2014
In this 2007 photo, a 3-year-old orphan helps a nun wash the dishes at the Antiochene Orthodox Monastery of St. Thecla in Maaloula, Syria. Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch recently announced that the sisters are still alive and well, though efforts are still underway to secure their release from the Islamist fighters who abducted them a month ago. To learn more about life in this monastery before the war, read Echoes of Jesus From Syria’s Mountains or An Antiochene Legacy, from the May 2008 and January-February 1999 issues of the magazine, respectively. (photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)
30 January 2014
Tags: Syria Violence against Christians Sisters Monastery Nuns
A Coptic farmer walks through his field near Minya, Egypt. To learn more about the lives and struggles of Coptic farmers, read Seeds of Survival, from the Winter 2013 issue of ONE. To view this issue in its full graphical layout, click the image. (photo: David Degner)
29 January 2014
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Farming/Agriculture Copts Coptic
A large drawing of Pope Francis depicting him as a superhero is seen on a wall near the Vatican on 29 January. The Argentine pope is shown taking off into the air with his right fist clenched in classic Superman style. In addition to this super-heroic rendering, the pope also also recently received a “rockstar” treatment as the subject of Rolling Stone magazine’s cover story. (photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)
28 January 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Art Rome Media
Antranig Chakerian transformed the walls of his house in Anjar, Lebanon, into a canvas for icons, images and poems dedicated to his ancestral homeland: historic Armenia. Click the image to read more. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)
Today, Lebanon’s interim minister of communications unveiled a new stamp in honor of those Armenians who perished in the Turkish mass-killings of nearly a century ago:
Caretaker Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui announced Tuesday the commission of a stamp to honor the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
Lebanon has a large and vocal Armenian community with around 200,000 Lebanese of Armenian origin in the country, a result of forced displacement after the partition of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the World War I.
While Turkey still resolutely denies genocide took place, last April saw over 10,000 Armenians rallying in downtown Beirut on the 98th anniversary of the genocide.
The stamp depicts a drawing of a statue honoring Armenian martyrs found in Bikfaya.
The stamp will be in circulation in a month’s time.
In the Winter 2013 issue of ONE, Doug Duncan shined a spotlight on people of Armenian descent in Lebanon, focusing specifically on Syrian Armenians displaced across Syria’s southwestern border:
A peaceful, pretty town, Anjar is itself a product of Armenian displacement. It was founded to house Armenians who left the Syrian region of Hatay when Turkey annexed it in 1939. The town’s population is normally around 2,500, but the recent influx of refugees from the war in Syria has doubled that number.
“That puts big pressure on the municipality,” says Nazareth Andakian, a municipal lawyer in Anjar. “We don’t have any more empty houses; all are full. On top of that, because there is currently no government in Lebanon, public funds are not being released to us from Beirut, so the village is going into debt to manage the situation.”
This dilemma is playing out all across Lebanon, in both Armenian and non-Armenian domains. This small country of just four million people has had to bear the brunt of the Syrian displacement crisis; to date more than a million Syrian refugees have fled to the country, according to the United Nations. And the flow shows no signs of stopping.
Before the war, there were between 100,000 and 150,000 Armenians in Syria. Of this population, some 20,000 have already fled to Lebanon, while others have fled north, to Armenia, or to Jordan in the south. …
Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave, has seen its capacity stretched to bursting since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011.
“There have been many problems, but we manage,” says Sarkis Joukhjoukhian, a Lebanese Armenian who sells thyme-covered bread snacks called manoushe from his small store in the heart of Bourj Hammoud.
“We help them whether they are family or not, because when we had war here in Lebanon we often left to Syria, and they helped us then.”
You can read the rest online, either in a plaintext layout or complete with the full magazine graphics.
27 January 2014
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Armenia ONE magazine
The Rev. Manolis Nirakis of Hagia Zoni Church Greek Orthodox Church in Athens overlooks the activity at the church’s soup kitchen. To learn more about the difficulties the people of Greece face under the ongoing economic crisis, and what churches and charities are doing to help, read A Greek Tragedy in the latest issue of ONE. You can also click the image above to browse the issue graphically. (photo: Don Duncan)
24 January 2014
Tags: ONE magazine Greece Economic hardships Greek Catholic Church Orthodox Church of Greece
In this photo from 11 January, Pope Francis greets participants in the annual meeting of the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration. Those in attendance included CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar, shown in the first row, fifth from the left. (photo: The Holy See)
Earlier this month, Pope Francis took part in a remarkable gathering of Christians — a foreshadowing, in some ways, of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concludes tomorrow. Vatican Radio had details:
The audience was attended by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, who provided the opening remarks. Also present were members of the management committee of the board which comprises the principle benefactors and scholarship students who are studying in Rome.
“The path of reconciliation and renewed fraternity between the churches,” said the pope in his address, “required the experience of friendship and sharing that arises from the mutual understanding between members of different churches, and in particular the young people initiated into sacred ministry.”
He went on to praise the work of the committee, and thanked the many benefactors who have supported its work. He assured those present that he would remember them in prayer, and asked for their prayers in exchange.
The Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration was established on 27 July 1964 by Pope Paul VI as one of the initiatives aimed at “reestablishing fraternal ties between the Catholic Church and the venerable Eastern churches.”
The committee promotes the exchange of students between the Catholic Church, Orthodox churches of the Byzantine tradition and Eastern Orthodox churches, who wish to study theology or other ecclesiastical disciplines at Catholic or Orthodox institutions.
23 January 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Unity Ecumenism Interreligious Christian Unity
A Syrian refugee boy carries wood in the Al Yamdiyeh refugee camp near the Syrian-Turkish border in Latakia province on 10 January. (photo: CNS/Khattab Abdulaa, Reuters)
Pope Francis has issued another plea for peace in Syria. From CNS:
As world leaders gathered in the hopes of finding a peaceful solution to Syria’s three-year-long brutal conflict, Pope Francis asked that they spare no effort in bringing an end to the violence.
The pope also urged the people of Syria to rebuild their nation and see in the other “not an enemy, a rival, but a brother or sister to welcome and embrace.”
The pope made the appeal at the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on 22 January, the day a major peace summit, dubbed “Geneva II” began in Switzerland.
The U.N.-sponsored talks — scheduled to run at least until Jan. 24 — were to bring world leaders together to help forge a solution to the crisis and bring representatives of the Syrian government and major opposition figures together for direct talks for the first time.
A two-person Vatican delegation, led by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva, was also invited to attend the peace summit.
In his appeal to summit participants, Pope Francis said he was praying that “the Lord touch the hearts of everyone so that, by exclusively seeking the greater good of the Syria people, who have been greatly tried, they spare no effort in urgently bringing an end to the violence and conflict, which already has caused too much suffering.”
The pope said he also was praying that the people of Syria would begin a journey of reconciliation and peace “with determination.” He asked that the country be rebuilt “with the participation of all citizens,” so that everyone would see each other as family and not as rivals.
And visit our Syria emergency relief page to learn how you can help.
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War United Nations Middle East Peace Process