25 January 2012
Pope Benedict XVI, seated next to Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, applauds during a concert at the Vatican 20 May 2010. The concert was a gift from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Also pictured is Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at right. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Today ends the 104th observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a week that has a rich history and a special connection to my own life.
It was begun in 1908 as the Chair of Unity Octave by Rev. Paul Wattson, an Anglican priest who would later become a Roman Catholic. Paul Wattson and Sister Laurana White — founders of my religious order, the Society of the Atonement — were disturbed by the divisions among Christians and were inspired by a vision of Christian unity. So they launched this eight-day period of prayer from 18-25 January, and it’s now grown into a worldwide observance. Pope Benedict XV in 1917 extended the observance to the entire Roman Catholic Church.
A sense of the importance of Christian unity grew among Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox during the first half of the 20th century. For the average Roman Catholic, the Second Vatican Council (1963-65) committed Catholics to work and pray for the unity of Christ’s followers.
What began as a small observance among Roman Catholics has been transformed into a truly ecumenical undertaking. Every year, a commission comprised of members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches (Geneva) meets to set the theme for the next year’s observance. The theme for this year has been We Will All Be Changed by the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
Pope Benedict XVI referred to this special week during his General Audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. Describing Jesus’s priestly prayer at the Last Supper, the pope said, “He asks the Father to consecrate his disciples, setting them apart and sending them forth to continue his mission in the world. Christ also implores the gift of unity for all those who will believe in him through the preaching of the Apostles. His priestly prayer can thus be seen as instituting the Church, the community of the disciples who, through faith in him, are made one and share in his saving mission.”
For the past eight days, Christians have been praying for unity and working together to overcome centuries of mistrust. In a world of increasing division, xenophobia and tribalism, the observance of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives witness to the prayer of Christ “that all may be one” (John 17:21).
24 January 2012
A young student at the Ephpheta Institute responds to hearing a new sound through an external hearing device. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Today is the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, the patron of journalists and writers. He is said to have developed a sign language to teach a deaf man about God, and is therefore the patron saint of the deaf as well. Since 1971 the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem has provided hearing-impaired youth with an education and the confidence to participate in their communities.
Last month, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited the Holy Land, making a stop at the Ephpheta Institute, where he took this photo. He described this moment as “a wonderful level of affirmation when a sound is recognized.”
To learn more about the history of Ephpheta, read The Miracle of Ephpheta from the January 1996 issue of the magazine. To learn how you can help support the work there visit our website.
23 January 2012
Tags: CNEWA Education Bethlehem Disabilities
Sister Leema Rose makes her evening home visits to the sick and those struggling to make ends meet in Dharavi, a slum in the center of Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Yesterday, Al Jazeera reported that the Indian government is pushing forward with a plan to re-develop Mumbai’s largest slum, Dharavi. The plan could compromise the livelihoods of millions. In the July 2011 issue of ONE, Slumdog Sisters profiled the work of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters in Dharavi.
Already, local authorities, under pressure from powerful developers, are planning a large–scale development project for the area. Ironically, Dharavi’s now international notoriety as India’s worst slum has only intensified efforts to reclaim and gentrify the squatted government land.
In response, Father Pinto and other leaders have begun mobilizing the community, informing its members of their rights and advocating on their behalf. Though Father Pinto senses he faces an uphill battle, he refuses to stand by quietly and watch his parishioners, friends and neighbors forcibly displaced from or priced out of their homes.
“In 25 years,” the priest sighs despondently, “you’ll find a different face on Dharavi.”
Whatever the future holds for Dharavi and its residents, one thing remains certain: the Nirmala Dasi Sisters will continue to serve Mumbai’s destitute, abandoned and marginalized.
For more from the Al Jazeera story, check out the clip below.
20 January 2012
Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty
Nohad El Shami, who attributes her miraculous recovery from a stroke to St. Sharbel, embraces a pilgrim’s head at the saint’s tomb. (photo: Sarah Hunter)
In the the July 2009 issue of ONE, Marilyn Raschka wrote about the reach and impact of one of Lebanon’s most celebrated religious men, Saint Sharbel. Sharbel is known for having performed numerous miracles, and continues to touch lives even today. Every year thousands of pilgrims travel to Saint Sharbel’s hermitage and tomb seeking the saint’s intercession. The most famous miracle attributed to him is that of Nohad El Shami, who credits the saint for healing her after a paralyizing stroke on January 22, 1993:
And so, on the 22nd of every month, Mrs. [Nohad] El Shami visits Sharbel’s hermitage, and with a group of pilgrims, she walks from there to the monastery and church — about a mile away — to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Afterward, she greets the pilgrims.
As the liturgy ended, the now 70-year-old, gray-haired mother of 12 walked outside and stood quietly. Pilgrims crowded around her, trying to get close enough so she could place her hands on their heads and shoulders. Parents lifted their children for her to touch.
Mrs. El Shami’s gentle smile reassured the infirmed among the pilgrims. Her peaceful demeanor affirmed the message written on a sign across from where she stood: “Shine on me, Father, that I may reflect your light.”
For more, read A Saint Without Borders.
19 January 2012
Tags: Lebanon Saints
Bishop Selim Sayegh meets with students at the Our Lady of Peace Center, a school for the developmentally disabled set up by the Latin Vicariate in Amman, Jordan.
(photo: Nicholas Seeley)
Today Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Selim Sayegh, the patriarchate vicar general for Jordan. This was in accord with Canon Law, which requires that bishops resign when they reach age 75.
We profiled Bishop Sayegh in our ‘Year For Priests’ series:
“The most [important] thing, for these poor children — for these angels, I call them — is to let them feel that they are loved,” say Bishop Sayegh. “They need love, and that’s it. And then they are happy. Spiritually, psychologically, they give us much more than we give them.”
The bishop says he never once entertained a doubt about his vocation in the roughly 63 years since that fateful moment. Today, he serves as the patriarchate’s vicar general for Jordan. And yet despite his many achievements, Bishop Sayegh considers his work with Our Lady of Peace Center his most meaningful endeavor.
“The only time we see him smile is when he joins the activities of the center,” Mr. Dayyat adds playfully.
Bishop Sayegh discusses his work in Jordan in this video from our ‘Year For Priests’ series.
The Holy Father also announced Bishop Sayegh’s replacement today: Archbishop Maroun Elias Lahham of Tunis, Tunisia.
18 January 2012
Tags: Children Jordan Disabilities Amman
A woman waits for healthcare in Palestine. This is an unpublished photo from the January 2005 story, The Ties That Bind by Ben Cramer. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently met with church leaders in the United Kingdom to discuss the plight of Christians in the Holy Land and issues affecting the ongoing peace process. This comes on the heels of the Holy Land Coordination Meeting, which we’ve also covered on this blog:
“Having worshipped in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, I have seen the struggle of the Palestinian people in the very basics of living but also their deep desire for a negotiated peace between the peoples who share the land. I urge everyone to grasp this opportunity,” said the Right Reverend David Arnott.
“Last week as part of the Holy Land Coordination, where we shared our faith with the Christian communities, we witnessed the effects of occupation and insecurity on the people of this land. There is an urgent need for strong and creative leadership in order to address the core issues of this long conflict. The people’s desperate yearning for peace needs to be fulfilled and this meeting today with President Abbas reinforced our determination,” said Archbishop Patrick Kelly, who was representing the international affairs department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Today also marks the start of the The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Benedict had these words for those participating in this week of prayer:
“By his teaching, his example and his paschal mystery, the Lord has shown us the way to a victory obtained not by power, but by love and concern for those in need. Faith in Christ and interior conversion, both individual and communal, must constantly accompany our prayer for Christian unity.”
We at CNEWA ask that you remember the people of the Middle East in your prayers this week. To learn how you can support Middle East Christians, visit our website.
17 January 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Palestine Health Care Palestinian Refugees
Youth from all religious communities participate in an urban dance workshop in Beirut.
(photo: Spencer Osberg)
In the July 2010 issue of ONE, Spencer Osberg photographed and wrote about life for youth living in Beirut, Lebanon:
Mr. [Muhammad] Ayoub belongs to a declining but active group of Lebanese youth committed to remaining in and improving their country. He and two friends founded Nahnoo as college students, organizing small outreach projects that brought together youth from Beirut’s disadvantaged neighborhoods.
“Even with the divisions, you have the same problems; you share the same goals and dreams. So why don’t you work together?” he says about the organization’s mission.
Today, Nahnoo coordinates some 60 volunteers, who tutor and mentor youth across the city. It also holds workshops for young people, aimed at teaching them the importance of tolerance and how to express themselves and solve their problems without violence. The workshops often include activities involving critical thinking, which, Mr. Ayoub says, help youngsters to better understand the complexity of the situations they encounter and that people may have different perspectives.
For more, read Lebanon’s Urban Youth.
13 January 2012
Tags: Lebanon Children Beirut
A Sudanese girl walks with her Egyptian friend, left, at the private school, Yed el Hesshan, in Alexandria, Egypt. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the September 2009 issue of ONE, Liam Stack wrote about life for Sudanese refugees in Alexandria, Egypt. While Alexandria provides a better life for many, these refugees still face some challenges:
Sudanese families must also meet the additional expense of enrolling their children in private schools. Under Egyptian law, non- Egyptian students do not have guaranteed access to public schools.
Fortunately, the vicariate goes to great lengths to fill the gap, locating and paying for suitable private school programs for Sudanese children in Alexandria. Last year, it put 113 Sudanese children through school, from kindergarten through the last year of high school, at a cost of $25,626.
Father Jal keeps a record of every student supported by the vicariate — as well as his or her school registration and receipts — in a crisp manila folder in his desk. It bulges with slips of paper.
“The public schools are cheap, but they are for Egyptian children,” explained the priest. “[The vicariate] has some places in those schools, but only a few.”
Among the private schools where children are placed is Yed el Hesshan, located near the seashore in downtown Alexandria. A high wall encloses an adjacent schoolyard where children play games, sing songs and talk about the popular American show “Hannah Montana.” It could be anywhere in the world.
To learn more, read Alexandria’s Struggling Sudanese.
12 January 2012
Tags: Egypt Refugees Africa Sudan
Useyin Karimov, born in 1921, shows his Soviet army medals. (photo: Petro Didula)
This photo was originally published in the March 2009 issue of ONE in a story that described the painful history of Crimea in the 20th century:
“Soviet soldiers came and forced five or six families, each with lots of kids, onto a truck,” recalled Khatidzhe Zhurayeva, a Crimean Tatar. “At first, we didn’t believe they were really sending us away for good. But when we finally reached the border, one old man pulled himself up so he could see where we were. When he saw, he started to cry. And then all of us began crying.“
The beauty of the sun-drenched Crimean peninsula belies its recent gloomy history. Connected to the European mainland by tiny strips of land, the Crimea juts into the Black Sea from its northern coast and is home to a bewildering number of ethnic groups, including Armenians, Greeks, Karaim, Tatars, Russians and Ukrainians...
...By the dawn of the 20th century, the Crimea’s Tatar community consisted of some 250,000 people. Numbers vary for the Crimea’s Karaim, who forbade intermarriage and refused converts, but probably they did not include more than 15,000 people.
While most Karaim and Tatar men of fighting age served the Soviet Union as members of the Red Army or as anti-Nazi partisans, a minority aided the Nazis. As punishment for this collaboration, Stalin in 1944 deported to Soviet Uzbekistan all the peninsula’s Tatars — regardless of age or state of health. Nearly half of those deported died of exposure, malnutrition and disease. The Karaim, who after World War II numbered just 6,357 souls, eventually assimilated with the Slav population or immigrated to Israel or elsewhere.
For more, read An Ethnic & Religious Patchwork.
11 January 2012
Tags: Ukraine Crimea
The rooftop prayer service at the Good Samaritan Center in Jerusalem’s Old City.
(photo: J. Carrier)
In November 2009, writer Hannah Foighel described the work of the Elderly Community Support Center, also known as the Good Samaritan Center, in Jerusalem:
The Good Samaritan Center was founded in 2000 and received recognition as a nonprofit three years later. Since 2005, the center has been based in a former hostel owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the heart of the Christian Quarter, but Raja Salameh emphasizes that the center does not belong to any one church. Rather, it provides services for all those who live in the city’s ancient Christian Quarter.
“We serve the Lord in a good way,” he says, adding that seven Muslim families who live in the quarter also use the services of the center.
The center receives funding from the Finnish government, CNEWA-Pontifical Mission, international groups and charities....
...The Good Samaritan Center has three floors. The ground floor functions as a club, an entertainment center of sorts with a television, a number of card tables and board games. The second floor houses a clinic-like facility and the center’s administrative offices. A flat roof is the center’s third floor and it is Mr. Salameh’s pride and dream. The roof is at the same level as the lead-covered domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is just two buildings away. In the distance, one can see the Mount of Olives.
Here prayers are conducted each Monday.
“When we started the center, all the churches were a bit skeptical. Now they all want to come here to conduct prayers and celebrate liturgies,” he adds. “A few weeks ago, the former Latin patriarch, Archbishop Michel Sabah, led a prayer service. The Greek Orthodox patriarch has been here and next week we will have a priest from Lebanon.”
To read more, check out Jerusalem’s Good Samaritans.
Tags: Jerusalem Health Care Caring for the Elderly Pensioners