10 February 2012
The Eparchy of Kalyan’s dance troupe rehearses a traditional Keralite routine during an annual celebration for mothers’ groups in Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the January 2012 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux tells the story of Keralite migrants in Mumbai and the strong community they’ve created with their common faith and traditions:
Many of the migrants were Christian. Known collectively as “Thomas Christians” after St. Thomas the Apostle — who, according to tradition, evangelized among Kerala’s coastal communities in the mid-first century — most Christian Keralites belong to one of several Eastern churches. By far the largest is the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, with some 3.6 million faithful worldwide.
“Keralites who migrated to Mumbai had very deep faith,” says Father Eluvathingal. “Once they came here and found jobs — on the railways, in government or in banking — and were happy in terms of their stomach, with bread on the table, they immediately began searching to satisfy their spiritual needs.”
Without a church of their own, the first Thomas Christian migrants joined one of the many local Latin Catholic parishes. Since the 16th century, when Portuguese missionaries settled in Mumbai and the neighboring state of Goa, the Latin Catholic Church has been the predominant church in the region.
To learn more about this group of Keralite migrants, read A Church of Their Own. Check out the rest of the articles and multimedia features from the January 2012 issue online.
9 February 2012
Tags: India Cultural Identity Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Emigration
In this unpublished photo, taken in 2003, two young boys play in front of a church in a Christian Village near Homs, Syria. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
As the situation in Homs, Syria, continues to grow more bloody and violent by the day, Independent Catholic News reports that many Christians have fled the city in large numbers, including three bishops:
This is not because they have received threats — most churches and places of worship have escaped attack — but because the situation generally is “becoming more dangerous by the hour.”
Three bishops — one Catholic and two Orthodox from the Dioceses of Homs and Hama, have left. Syria’s third largest city is now mainly inhabited mainly by Alawites (President Bashar al Assad’s tribe) and Sunnis.
Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the United States closed its embassy in Syria as a result of the escalating violence.
To learn more about the history of Christian villages in Syria, read Syria’s Christian Valley from the January 2011 issue of ONE.
8 February 2012
Tags: Syria War Emigration
An elderly Armenian tends his flock. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In the January 2008 issue of the magazine, Gayane Abrahamyan wrote about the difficulties faced by elderly Armenian refugees:
In cooperation with the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Apostolic Church — perhaps the most dominant force in Armenia — provides daily meals to needy elderly people and orphaned children in six locations in Yerevan and three other towns, feeding an estimated 1,200 people per day.
“Before the soup kitchens, there were days my wife and I didn’t even have bread so we just drank water for dinner,” said 75-year-old Grisha Ohanjanian. “About four years ago, our pension was very small, just $8, which isn’t even enough to sustain a dog.
“Both of us lost 22 pounds.”
For more from this story, read Pensioners in Crisis.
7 February 2012
Tags: Refugees Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Caring for the Elderly
Sister Mariam Almiron of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word spins a small child around following Sunday Mass at the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza. There are only about 3,000 Christians in Gaza, of which a little more than 200 are Catholic.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
As a small minority in many countries of the Middle East, Christians often face great challenges. Last summer Sami El-Yousef, regional director of CNEWA-Pontifical Mission for Palestine and Israel, paid a visit to Gaza to see how the Christian community there is faring:
Life in Gaza is not easy. While the government there tolerates Christian institutions and the Christian presence, it is clear that adopting a more conservative Islamic way of life does conflict at times with the more open society these Christian institutions and individuals are accustomed to.
There is an uneasy balance that seems to be maintained and holding thus far. It is certainly not easy for a teenage girl who follows a literary Tawjihi stream and finishes tenth grade and has no option but to complete her high school education in the public school system and finds herself being veiled to go to school. Neither it is easy for college-age females who are locked up in Gaza due to the blockade and want to get a college education and have no choice other than the Gazan universities and again must be veiled to go to classes. This also applies to men and women, boys and girls engaged in joint sports activities at the local YMCA who feel that they are under the watchful eye of a conservative class that does not approve of gender integrated activities.
There are other trivial matters that affect Christians, too, such as the Muslim ban on the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. These may be little inconveniences and some of them actually may be good for you, but these are additional restrictions Christians have to deal with on top of the pressures and restrictions of the occupation and the blockade. There are no easy answers, but one needs to be aware of the difficulties of daily life in Gaza, especially to the Christian community, and to appreciate the need to strengthen the Christian institutions and the Christian presence. There are many possibilities for assistance, and we hope to be able to fundraise and implement some of the projects in the near future.
After all, Christian institutions promote Christian values of worship, love, respect, honesty, humility, hope, forgiveness, compassion, integrity and self discipline among others. Gaza can only be a better place if these values are ingrained in society, and what better way to do this other than to strengthen the Christian institutions and empower them to continue to provide their services to all Palestinians alike with these values in mind.
You can read much more here. And visit our website to learn how you can join CNEWA and support Christians in the Middle East.
6 February 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Gaza Strip/West Bank
The faithful proceed to St. George Kvashveti Church in Tbilisi, Georgia for its patronal feast.
(photo: Molly Corso)
In the March 2007 issue of ONE, Molly Corso wrote about the return of Orthodox traditions and practices in Georgia some 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and imposed atheism:
A crowd swelled around Bishop Tevdora Chuadze as he blessed the faithful in Tbilisi’s St. George Kvashveti Church on 23 November, the feast of St. George.
Hundreds of believers filled the church, spilling into the adjoining courtyard where they waited to kiss and venerate the patronal icon of St. George. That afternoon, all of Georgia’s television stations broadcast the baptism of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s son by the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II.
On that day, some 15 years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Communist-imposed atheism, it seemed the Georgian Orthodox Church had made a full recovery. A recent poll by the Caucasus Research Resource Center found that 63 percent of Georgians “fully trust” the church. (About 80 percent of Georgia’s 4.7 million citizens belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church.) In contrast, only 22 percent placed similar trust in President Saakashvili.
“The Georgian people were very strong, and did not lose their faith,” said Father Giorgi Getiashvili of the Kvashveti Church, one of the capital’s premier parishes.
Under Communist rule, people continued to go to church in secret. And after the fall of the Soviet Union, the church was reborn, Father Giorgi explained. “It was freed.”
For more, read A Georgian Revival.
3 February 2012
Tags: Georgia Georgian Orthodox Church
Students of the Asela school and orphanage, administered by the Consolata Fathers, a Catholic community of brothers and priests, play soccer on the playground. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
This Sunday, millions around the world will be watching American football’s biggest game of the season, Super Bowl XLVI. In many parts of CNEWA’s world, soccer is the game of choice. In this unpublished photo from the January 2008 issue of ONE, students of the Asela school and orphanage in Ethiopia practice some tricks.
Asela school and orphanage, run by the Consolata Fathers, has helped to educate many abandoned and some disabled boys since it opened its doors nearly 30 years ago. To learn more about the Asela school and orphanage, read Revealing Hidden Talent by Sisay Abebe.
2 February 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Orphans/Orphanages Disabilities
Filipino domestic workers sing choir songs, as they crowd into the tiny shelter to attend Mass with Father Kevin O’Connell at English-speaking Sacred Heart Latin Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
Yesterday the Independent Catholic News reported on a convention held by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) that has provided some hope for international domestic workers:
The Convention constitutes an international commitment to work at improving the living and working conditions of a very large segment of the work force employed in the informal sector. The very first commitment is to recognize domestic workers as employees who are legally entitled to the minimum protection that all other categories of workers enjoy.
By establishing the principle that like any other workers, domestic workers are entitled to a minimum set of protections, the Convention is an acknowledgment of the crucial social and economic contribution of care workers. Since 90 to 92 percent of the domestic work force is made of women and girls, this principle is also very significant for gender equality.
Specific provisions in the Convention address the vulnerability of particular groups of domestic workers: migrant domestic workers, young domestic workers — those above the minimum age of employment but below 18 years of age — and for live-in domestic workers.
In November 2011, we featured a story about Filipino migrant workers in Jordan who — in spite of the tough circumstances they face as domestic workers — have found solace in faith:
Some have fled abusive employers, but most cite nonpayment of wages as the main reason why they left their jobs. As runaways, they are considered in breach of their work contracts under Jordanian law and no longer have the right to work in the country. Repatriating them is a complicated process, involving possible hefty fines and other legal and diplomatic wrangling. Some have lived at the shelter for years, waiting for official clearance to return home.
Father O’Connell proceeds to one of its administrative offices. He heads to an old desk at the front of the room. Atop the desk sit several small statues of the Virgin Mary in between an outdated computer monitor and a cheap, cardboard desk calendar.
The priest smiles at the some 35 Filipino women who have gathered in the small room. Some are middle-aged, but most are very young. Sitting on stackable plastic chairs, they gaze eagerly at the priest. From behind the desk, which also serves as an altar, he begins Mass.
For these migrant women, Mass offers them the spiritual solace they need to cope with the despair that otherwise can fill their daily routine. During the Rite of Peace, the women hug each other and laugh freely. At the celebration’s end, they applaud and cheer. New arrivals often cry, moved by the joy of their first Mass in months.
For more, read Far From Home by Nicholas Seeley.
1 February 2012
Tags: Jordan Amman Teresian Association
Elderly Roma men sit and chat together in the main square in the town of Hodasz, 240 miles east of Budapest, Hungary. (photo: Balazs Gardi/VII Network)
In 2008, we visited a village in Hungary with an unusual blend of cultures:
Hodász is different,“ said Father Tibor Egri, a Greek Catholic priest in this village of some 3,500 people in northeastern Hungary.
What makes Hodász exceptional is not its assorted parishes — Greek and Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant — or its mixed population of ethnic Hungarians and Roma, commonly called Gypsies. Rather, it is how these distinct groups have forged a cohesive community.
“People here get along easily,” Father Egri continued. “Many Hungarians associate the Roma with criminal activities. And the media reinforce the stereotypes and feed the prejudices.
“Roma here,” he added, “tend to be more ‘Hungarian,’ which makes it easier.“
With up to 800,000 Roma now living in the country — between 5 and 10 percent of the overall population — Hungary typifies the Romany experience as a disenfranchised minority and yet offers hope for greater Romany social and political inclusion.
For generations, Hungary’s Roma have endured institutionalized discrimination in education, housing and employment. Societal prejudices run deep as well; hate crimes against Roma remain relatively common. But this central European nation’s Roma enjoy better legal protection and greater representation in government than most Romany populations in other European nations of the former Communist bloc.
Roma, who now make up nearly half the village population, have lived in Hodász at least since 1820, when local authorities recorded the first Romany baptism.
As in the rest of Europe, Roma now constitute the fastest-growing ethnic group in Hungary; one out of every five or six newborns is Roma. In Hodász, however, all villagers tend to have small families, which usually include no more than two children.
Read more in the story Our Town.
31 January 2012
Tags: Hungary Central Europe
Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, wearing the cape of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, prays the rosary on steps of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer/NY Daily News)
Just days before he is scheduled to become a cardinal in Rome, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York is making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. From the New York Daily News:
Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s swing through Israel took him Monday to one of the most sacred sites in Christianity, the place where Jesus was crucified and buried.
New York’s Catholic leader, a cardinal-designate, bowed his head in prayer and held rosary beads at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Dolan and his entourage also worshiped at Gethsemane Garden Center, where Jesus prayed the night before he was nailed to the cross...
...Dolan, who is in the Holy Land ahead of his trip to Rome to be made cardinal, also visited the Western Wall, one of the holiest spots in Judaism. He’ll be back at the church Tuesday for Mass before heading to Bethlehem.
“One benefit of being the Archbishop of New York is that you become friends with the Jewish community — they have been exceptionally good to us,” he said.
Catholic News Service caught up with him at one stop:
“Just to be here ... at a pivotal moment in your life, a time of transition, (that) you would turn to the Lord in prayer and reflection, this is good,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center during a brief meeting with a group of Catholic journalists from the United States also visiting Israel.
In the picture shown above, the Cardinal-designate, who also serves as the chairman of CNEWA, is wearing the distinctive cape of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. We profiled the order and its colorful history in our magazine in 1995:
At the end of the 11th century Pope Urban II, who had proclaimed and enforced the “Truce of God” and the “Peace of God” to limit warfare in Europe, turned his attention to the Holy Land. The Seljuk Turks, who by this time had conquered most of the Middle East, harassed the Christians traveling there as pilgrims. Dismayed by these actions, the Pope proclaimed a crusade to regain access and control of the holy places. In 1099, Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Brabant (which is located in modern Belgium), leading a mixed force of noblemen, knights and peasants, conquered Jerusalem.
In an effort to secure the safety of the Holy Sepulchre, the shrine marking the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Godfrey established a religious order of knights to protect the holy places and provide security for pilgrims. In 1113, Pope Pascal II approved the rules and constitutions of the order, which had adopted the Rule of St. Augustine.
Following the collapse of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1189, the knights were exiled to Europe. In exile, their standards of chivalry were directed toward charitable works: some served in hospitals while others cared for the poor and society’s outcasts. As a recognized religious order it survived until the end of the 15th century.
In 1847, Pope Pius IX restored the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, after a hiatus of some 400 years, and he reactivated the order with a mandate to practice “the virtue of charity [by] supporting and aiding the church and the Catholic Religion in the Holy Land.”
The order continues its invaluable work to this day. You can read more here. And Msgr. Robert Stern offered his own perspective on the order in 1996 here.
30 January 2012
Tags: CNEWA Jerusalem Holy Land Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Sister Cincy Joseph, MSJ, a Medical Sister of St. Joseph, visits with Daisy Choorakattu, a cancer patient in the pain and palliative care center at St. George’s Hospital. Daisy and her family have been forced to sell their home to pay for her treatment, a last resort option for Kerala’s poor. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Countless cancer patients around the world seek solace and intercession from a special patron, the seventh-century abbess St. Aldegonde (sometimes called Aldegunais), whose feast is 30 January. Aldegonde herself reportedly died from cancer at the age of 54.
Today, those battling this disease find a more earthly kind of help from modern-day religious, like the Medical Sisters of St. Joseph working in Kerala. These sisters work to provide care and comfort, often under difficult circumstances. We told their story in the September 2011 issue of ONE:
With limited resources, the sisters do what they can. These days, the hospital mostly cares for terminally ill cancer patients.
Sister Cincy enters one such patient’s room. She walks to the bed and takes the woman’s hand, checking her vitals. The woman, Daisy John, hardly notices. She is in her final hours. Around the bed stand Mr. John, the couple’s son and extended family members. The room is itself spartan: no sophisticated medical equipment, just an assortment of basic medical supplies. Sister Cincy visits with the family briefly and then exits the room.
“After their treatment elsewhere — chemotherapy and radiation — they suffer a great deal of pain,” Sister Cincy explains. “We give them free accommodations and medication. We try to help relieve their suffering.”
You can read more at this link. And visit this page to learn some of the ways you can help support the work of the church in India.
Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty