1 February 2012
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.
27 January 2012
Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty
A demonstrator holds up a crucifix and a Quran during a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday. Scores of Egyptian youth protesters marking the one-year anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak bedded down in Tahrir Square and pledged to stay put until the ruling military council hands power to civilians. (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters)
Yesterday, thousands of protesters filled Tahrir Square to mark the one-year anniversary of the uprising that led to the ouster of Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. What took place in Egypt last year seemed to echo similar protests throughout the Middle East, part of a wider movement that came to be known as the “Arab Spring.”
In the July 2011 issue of ONE, John L. Esposito, Ph.D., a professor of international affairs and of Islamic studies, wrote about the Arab Spring uprising and delved into the question, “Is Islam Compatible With Deomcracy?”:
The relationship of Islam and democracy remains central to the development of the Middle East and the Muslim world in the 21st century. As U.S. President Barack Obama stated in his Cairo speech: “All people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”
Check out this video from our September 2011 issue, in which journalist Sarah Topol talks about how it felt to be a reporter in Tahrir Square during last year’s uprising.
26 January 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Africa Arab Spring
Monks process toward Abuna Garima Monastery, near Adwa, Ethiopia, to celebrate the visit of Patriarch Paulos, who was once a monk at the monastery. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE Michael La Civita wrote about how Ethiopia honors Mary, with a celebration that takes place annually on 30 November:
Not far from Ethiopia’s disputed border with Eritrea lies the sleepy town of Aksum (population, 41,000). Though not a common tourist destination, Aksum holds its place as an important heritage site. It is littered with archaeological ruins, including the steles for which it is famous. Once the capital of a prosperous empire that stretched from eastern Africa to Arabia, Aksum controlled the East-West trade routes linking India and Rome. Its emperors were among the first to embrace Christianity, using it to forge a distinct culture and nation from a bewildering number of ethnic and linguistic groups.
Each year, on 30 November, Aksum is aroused from its sleep. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians, wrapped in their white pilgrimage attire, or gabis, converge on Aksum to celebrate one of Ethiopia’s holiest days, Mariam Zion, or Mary of Zion. They focus their attention on a modest shrine that is actually part of a cluster of churches all dedicated to her. Surrounded by a simple iron fence, and guarded by a solitary monk who alone has access to its contents, the chapel houses Ethiopia’s greatest treasure, the Ark of the Covenant.
To learn more about this tradition, read Ethiopia Celebrates Mary.
25 January 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Monastery Aksum
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.
Tags: Children Jordan Disabilities Amman