19 December 2013
A girl in St. Peter’s Square holds baby Jesus figurines for Pope Francis to bless during his Angelus at the Vatican on 15 December. Children observed an annual tradition by bringing their Nativity figurines for the pope to bless. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
18 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Children Vatican
Britain’s Prince Charles speaks to religious leaders during a visit to a Syriac Orthodox Church in London on 17 December. The prince of Wales was accompanied by Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal during the visit, celebrating Christian communities from the Middle East in Britain. (photo: CNS/Toby Melville, Reuters)
The prince of Wales spoke yesterday about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East:
Christians in parts of the Middle East are being deliberately targeted by Islamist militants in a campaign of persecution, Prince Charles has said.
The prince of Wales made his comments after visiting the British branches of churches based in the region.
The prince heard accounts of Christians being murdered and families forced from their homes.
Charles, accompanied by Prince Ghazi of Jordan, visited the Egyptian Coptic Church center in Stevenage and the Syriac Orthodox cathedral in west London.
The two royals met church members who had either suffered intimidation or family members whose safety they feared for.
Later at a reception at Clarence House, attended by the archbishop of Canterbury, archbishop of Westminster and the chief rabbi, Prince Charles said he felt deeply troubled by the plight of Christians.
“For 20 years I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding,” he told the audience. “The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so. This is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution including to the Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.”
To learn how you can help Christians in Syria, visit this page. And read more here about how to provide aid to Egypt’s Christians.
17 December 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Interreligious Middle East Peace Process United Kingdom
Pope Francis talks with three men on 17 December who live on the streets near the Vatican. As part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday, the pope celebrated morning Mass and had breakfast with the men. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis, in characteristic fashion, celebrated his birthday on Tuesday with some of Rome’s poor:
As part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday, Pope Francis celebrated morning Mass and had breakfast with three people who live on the streets near the Vatican. A small dog, belonging to one of the homeless men, was also on the guest list.
The pope requested that the daily morning Mass held in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae be attended by the staff of his Vatican residence “in order to create a particularly family atmosphere for the celebration,” the Vatican press office said in a written statement on 17 December.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, also invited the three homeless men to the Domus for the Mass and to greet the pope. In addition, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, represented the world’s cardinals at the Mass, and Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, attended.
All those present sang “Happy Birthday” to the pope, the Vatican statement said, and then joined the pope for breakfast in the residence dining room.
Happy birthday, Holy Father!
16 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Poor/Poverty Rome
The faithful pack into St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo for a funeral liturgy for slain Christian protesters. (photo: David Degner)
Sunday night, the American news magazine program “60 Minutes” on CBS broadcast a report on the plight of the Copts. The story throws a spotlight on the difficulties these Christians are having in Egypt, living as a tiny minority in a mostly Muslim country.
As the script for the report notes:
Copts have never had it easy there. They’ve been persecuted and discriminated against by the Muslim majority for centuries. They’d hoped the Egyptian revolution would change that. But it hasn’t. Instead, the last year has been one of their worst ever. Copts have been murdered by Islamic extremists. Dozens of their churches have been gutted...
Watch the report below, which includes an interview with the Coptic Pope Tawadros II. You can read more about the Copts and Faith Under Fire in the Autumn issue of ONE, and learn how to support them by visiting this page.
13 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Copts Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Coptic
Italian Marcello Piacenti, project manager on the renovation of the roof of the Church of the Nativity, points to a mosaic from 1100, the Crusader period, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
As the world prepares for Christmas, the “little town of Bethlehem” is seeing one of its historic landmarks undergo a massive restoration project:
Helping restore the roof of the Church of the Nativity is like touching a piece of the beginning of Christian history, said an Italian restorer who is heading work on the first phase of the long-awaited repairs.
“I am not a practicing religious person, but working on this church is very emotional,” said Marcello Piacenti, 53, the on-site project manager and a restorer with his family’s company, Piacenti Spa, which began the work in September. “I have restored many old churches in the world, but when I arrived here I knew I had arrived to the center of everything.”
More than five years in the planning and researching, the restoration of the church’s wooden beams and lead roof and its 38 windows represents the beginning of an ambitious project, said engineer Imad Nasser, technical representative of the Palestinian Authority’s national committee for the restoration of the Church of the Nativity. Nasser said that, two years ago, it was estimated that the repairs would cost $15 million, not including the construction management fees.
Repairs are being done in several phases, as the funds become available, he said, with essential repairs such as the roof given priority. The next stage will include the completion of protection of the stone facade of the external walls once the funds are acquired, he said, noting that more than $2.7 million is still needed for that phase.
A member of the Franciscan order noted that members of the Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian churches, all of which have a presence at the Church of the Nativity, have agreed not to speak to the press in order to avoid any conflicts over sovereignty issues.
Though much care has been taken not to disturb the visitors and the church, Christmas pilgrims this year are being met with metal scaffolding, inside and outside, and protective wooden coverings around the marble columns inside the church.
Read more about the restoration.
12 December 2013
Tags: Bethlehem West Bank Architecture Church Church of Nativity
Bishop Borys Gudziak addresses protestors in Kiev and expresses solidarity with them. (photo: Bishop Ken Nowakowski)
Yesterday, Ukrainian authorities stormed the central square in Kiev, intensifying the standoff with protestors. After nine hours, security forces withdrew. The demonstrators remained.
We received an e-mail from Bishop Ken Nowakowski, Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop of New Westminister, Canada. He is in Kiev and following the protests in the city. He wrote:
Early Wednesday morning, 11 December 2013, Bishops Borys Gudziak of Paris, Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, Yaroslav Pryriz of Sambir-Drohobych and Bohdan Dzyurakh of Kiev went to Independence Square in Kiev to be in solidarity with those on the square as a result of the siege that was happening during night. They appeared on the stage, and spoke to the protestors, assuring them that the church stood in peace with them.
The bishops, who are members of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, also spoke directly to the military and special forces, urging them not to commit violence against their own people. The bishops led the people in prayer, blessed them and then went to the chapel tent that the Ukrainian Catholic Church erected. There, they celebrated Divine Liturgy. The chapel tent is on the spot where blood of the peaceful and unarmed students was spilled when special forces brutally beat these young defenseless people.
After the Divine Liturgy, the bishops went to the front lines, where the military was lined up, to urge them not to use violence against those on the squares and streets.
The Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church also released the following statement:
We are profoundly disturbed by the actions of the state security forces on the Maydan Square in heart of Kiev conducted under the cover of the night.
We condemn the action directed towards restricting civil liberties, especially the freedom of expression and peaceful civic manifestation of the citizens of Ukraine.
We declare our support and solidarity with all those on the Maydan Square who are standing with dignity and witnessing to the dignity of their fellow citizens and of the whole nation.
We strongly support the peaceful character of this civic gathering and declare our rejection of any type of violence.
We pray to God Almighty for peace, justice and the triumph of truth for our people.
In this time of great trial by the words of Jesus Christ that were proclaimed in all of our churches this past Sunday offer encouragement: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed!” (Lk 8:50)
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you!
11 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada
The cover of Time magazine’s Person of the Year issue, featuring Pope Francis. (photo: CNS/Time Inc., handout via Reuters)
This morning, Time magazine named Pope Francis its Person of the Year—the third pope, following Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, to earn that distinction.
Pope Francis is not seeking fame or accolades, but being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year will make him happy if it helps attract people to the hope of the Gospel, said the Vatican spokesman.
“It’s a positive sign that one of the most prestigious recognitions in the international press” goes to a person who “proclaims to the world spiritual, religious and moral values and speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice,” said the spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.
The choice of Pope Francis “is not surprising, given the wide appeal and huge attention” to his pontificate so far, Father Lombardi said in a written statement on 11 Decemberr, shortly after Time announced it had named the pope for the annual feature.
“Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly — young and old, faithful and cynical — as has Pope Francis,” Time said on its website. “With a focus on compassion, the leader of the Catholic Church has become a new voice of conscience.”
Blessed John Paul II was named Person of the Year in 1994 and Blessed John XXIII in 1962.
Other past honorees include several U.S. Presidents, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. The magazine says the title goes to the person or idea that “for better or worse ... has done the most to influence events of the year.”
In explaining the choice, Time writer Nancy Gibbs notes:
Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly—young and old, faithful and cynical—as has Pope Francis. In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.
At a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge. The world is getting smaller; individual voices are getting louder; technology is turning virtue viral, so his pulpit is visible to the ends of the earth. When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church. …
For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest church to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is Time’s 2013 Person of the Year.
10 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Pope John Paul II
Children in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, such as 13-year-old Tiblets Gebray, suffer from chronic malnurishment and depend on outside support during lean years. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Pope Francis is helping to launch a “wave of prayer,” drawing attention to the plight of starving people around the world:
People must stand united against the scandal of hunger while avoiding food waste and irresponsible use of the world’s resources, Pope Francis said.
People should “stop thinking that our daily actions do not have an impact on the lives of those who suffer from hunger firsthand,” he said in a video message on 9 December, launching a global campaign of prayer and action against hunger.
Organized by Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based federation of Catholic charities, a global “wave of prayer” was to begin at noon on 10 December on the South Pacific island of Samoa and head west across the world’s time zones.
Pope Francis offered his blessing and support for the “One Human Family, Food For All” campaign in a video message released on the eve of the global launch.
With about one billion people still suffering from hunger today, “we cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist,” he said in the message.
There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, he said, but only “if there is the will” to respect the “God-given rights of everyone to have access to adequate food.”
By sharing in Christian charity with those “who face numerous obstacles,” the pope said, “we promote an authentic cooperation with the poor so that, through the fruits of their and our work, they can live a dignified life.”
In the Autumn edition of ONE, we reported on efforts to eradicate hunger among students in one corner of Ethiopia. There remains much to be done. To learn what you can do in that part of the world to answer the pope’s plea, visit our Ethiopia giving page.
9 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia Children Prayers/Hymns/Saints Hunger
Protesters gather around small bonfires lit throughout the main square in Kiev. (photo: Ken Nowakowski)
The dramatic standoff in Ukraine has intensified, with protesters yesterday toppling a statue of Lenin in Kiev and riot police taking to the streets.
A few days ago, Carl Hétu, national director for CNEWA Canada, received an email from Bishop Ken Nowakowski, Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop of New Westminister, Canada. He is in Kiev and described the scene:
It is out of this world. … It is cold, but hearts are warm. It is somewhat scary, yet one feels among family.
The Ukrainian [Greek] Catholic Church has set up a little tent chapel with priests on hand and prayers being offered, very near the spot where the students were brutally clubbed by the Special Forces last weekend. There are tens of thousands out throughout [Independence] Square and the streets.
Keep us all in your prayers.
6 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Eastern Europe Kiev
In 2007, Sister Christian Molidor captured the image above: A family left homeless by the December 2004 tsunami settles in to a new house, thanks to CNEWA’s generous donors. To discover more ways to help families in need in India today, check out our giving page. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Tags: India CNEWA Homes/housing