Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
5 November 2019
Catholic News Service

Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel is seen at the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington last month. (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Ethiopia is now managing nearly a million refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen and even Syria, said Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel. Because so many Ethiopians are refugees, those who remain in the country work to make newcomers feel welcome.

The cardinal, who visited Washington in late October, said his country had been “a country of hospitality, a country of open doors to migrants and refugees who suffer in other parts of the world. And if a poor country shares meager resources she has with migrants and refugees, how much more should the richer countries (do). Because one day, you might be a refugee or a migrant yourself.”

“I was surprised when I saw Syrian refugees in Addis Ababa and Ethiopia,” he added. “I don’t know how they arrived, the mothers arrived from Syria, and they have written on their chests in Amharic …’We are Syrians, we have come from Syria, please help us.’“

In separate interviews with Catholic News Service and with Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Souraphiel told of how the church is helping refugees and how the country’s poverty is forcing you people to emigrate from their homeland.

Souraphiel said the church is his country “is very much open to receive the refugees.” He said besides the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat, the church works with international agencies such as Jesuit Refugee Service, Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Caritas and affiliated agencies such as the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services. Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity especially help with trauma counseling, he said.

When refugees arrive, church workers want “to let them know that they are welcomed” and get them registered with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. If refugees register with a parish, they have access to Catholic education and Catholic health services.

“Ethiopians themselves are refugees in other countries in some areas. So they know the need of refugees,” he said. Ethiopians “have sympathy and empathy for refugees and also people on the move.

“They never had grudges with refugees, and that is why I think Ethiopia is blessed by the Lord.”

Part of what drives young people to become refugees is poverty, and that is the biggest challenge facing the church, the cardinal said.

“We live with the poor and we stay with them. Wherever they are, we try to be the voice of the disadvantaged, the displaced people,” he said. The church especially tries to help “abandoned children, and also mothers who suffer because of the big burden of taking care of the family, which they bring with them when they migrate from their own villages to the cities.”

As of May, more than 2.8 million Ethiopians were displaced within their country. As of 2018, Ethiopia’s unemployment rate was more than 19 percent.

Economic growth on the national level “might not trickle down to the poor,” so millions of unemployed young people — including those with college degrees — want “to go abroad, especially to the Arab world and to South Africa and to Europe.”

“Their aspiration is to escape the networks of poverty and change their own individual lives and the lives of their family members,” he said. And although many do, the majority struggle. They may end up abused, and many return home.

Church leaders try to encourage people to have hope, “especially the youth,” and they work with them to try to find employment within the country.

The cardinal said he is disturbed when he hears of Europeans closing their borders.

“This is not biblical; it’s not Christian,” he said.

He noted that the United States also is also a country of migrants and refugees.

“This has been what has made America a special country … to be a home for persecuted persons or for persons who looked for refuge from violence in their own countries,” he said.

He said Christians and Muslims were very moved when, in March, Pope Francis kissed the feet of politicians from South Sudan.

“Each politician whose feet was kissed — behind him are millions of refugees,” he said. The gesture was “to prick their conscience, to say to them, ‘You are responsible for the suffering of millions of mothers and children and elders because of, say, love of wealth and political power.”

“He did that just by bending down and kissing the feet, not by many other words.

“If you ask me to bend down and kiss your feet I might try, but I don’t know if I will get up,” the 71-year-old said, laughing. “He, at 82 years old … they gave him some help … is able to do that.”

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel visited the New York offices of CNEWA last week.
(photo: CNEWA)

Tags: Ethiopia Refugees

4 November 2019
Greg Kandra

A child in Ethiopia peers out from beside a handful of khat, the popular but addictive crop that is causing widespread problems in the country. Read how some families are Breaking Free of the drug, with help from the church, in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Tags: Ethiopia

31 October 2019
Catholic News Service

Sister Marie-Therese and Sister Muntaha Hadaya visit a family who returned to Qaraqosh, Iraq, two years ago, after fleeing ISIS. Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs this week pressed the importance of preserving the Christian presence in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA/Raed Rafei)

Syrian-born Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs pressed the need to preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The patriarchs -- Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X of Antioch -- met with Peter Szijarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, in addition to Putin and Orban during their official visit to the Hungarian capital 29-10 October.

In a speech to Szijarto, Patriarch Absi said the exodus of Christians from the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Iraq, and most recently Syria, has become “an alarming issue” for Christian leaders.

“The failure of different groups to live together in harmony in Middle Eastern countries is a threat to convivial relations between different groups all over the world,” he said.

“Failure to help the Middle-East to remain an oasis for different religions to live peacefully together will set a dangerous historical precedent,” Patriarch Absi warned. “Soon, similar conflicts will start to take shape in different places of the world.”

The patriarch stressed that the Christian presence in the Middle East “gives us a special role regarding our Muslim compatriots: that of witnessing the Gospel through a commitment to the service of all, whether in our schools, our hospitals, our centers for the elderly or our orphanages.”

He praised “the courage of the Hungarian position against immigration,” citing in particular the government’s Hungary Helps program, which has benefitted war-torn Syrian communities.

While the churches in the Middle East are trying to encourage Christians to stay in their homelands, Patriarch Absi said, “this is a mission that needs the work of governments because the needs are truly big and go beyond the capacity of the church.”

“What we need is countries with a similar vision to Hungary and Russia,” Patriarch Absi said. “That is, to help people the way they want to be helped rather than to change entire countries to befit political agendas.”

Patriarch Absi continued, “We hope that other countries will follow their example and encourage Christians to stay. This can be done by the lifting of economic sanctions, putting an end to the embargo, and by helping to achieve lasting peace. The Russian Federation and Hungary can have an impact on the international community; they can show other countries the way to achieve peace and how to safeguard nations in conflict.”

In a news conference on 30 October with Putin, Orban said that Hungary and Russia have a shared interest in stopping migration and achieving stability in the Middle East.

Tags: Syria Iraq Orthodox Persecution

29 October 2019
Greg Kandra

Filipino members of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate harvest olives in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem on 19 October 2019. Catholic nuns, locals and international volunteers gathered to pick olives that will be made into liturgy oil used during the Chrism mass on Maundy Thursday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Tags: Jerusalem

25 October 2019

Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel stopped by our New York office Friday afternoon for a visit. He’s pictured in the center with (from l-r) the Rev. Abayneh Gebremichael, who leads the Ethiopian Catholic community in Washington; and CNEWA staff members Greg Kandra, Thomas Vargehese, Noel Selegzi, Haimdat Sawh and Christopher Kennedy. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA

24 October 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

In this image from January, Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta, Pope Francis and the Rev. Tim Macquiban, minister of Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo Methodist Church, leave an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Working for Christian unity and engaging in formal theological dialogues to promote it obviously raises questions about what the nature and mission of the church is.

In a project that took two decades of work by Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal theologians, the World Council of Churches in 2013 published a document summarizing the points of greatest consensus.

In late October, the Vatican gave the WCC its formal response to the document, which was called “The Church: Towards a Common Vision.”

The response, coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and posted on its website, included input from Catholic theologians from around the world, bishops’ conferences and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

What is meant by “church” is a key ecumenical question as Christians work and pray for the unity Jesus wanted his followers to have, the Catholic response said.

Or, as the WCC document said, “agreement on ecclesiology has long been identified as the most elemental theological objective in the quest for Christian unity.”

In the Creed, Christians profess a belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” yet they differ on what Christ intended for his church, how it should be governed and how it should minister in the world.

“From a Catholic perspective,” the Vatican said, “the term ‘church’ applies to the Catholic Church in communion with the bishop of Rome. It also applies to churches which are not in visible communion with the Catholic Church but have preserved the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, remaining true particular churches. Other Christian communities which have not preserved the valid episcopacy and Eucharist are called ‘ecclesial communities’“ in official Catholic documents.

The Vatican said of the WCC document, “While it presents a remarkable degree of common thinking on a wide range of important issues, it does not claim to have reached full consensus, the full agreement on all issues which is necessary in order to achieve full visible unity among the churches.”

The text, however, does show common agreement on “significant ecclesiological doctrines,” the Vatican said. Further theological dialogue is needed and, especially, study of the WCC document by Christians of all denominations.

Of fundamental importance, the Vatican said, is the document’s affirmation that “certain aspects of church life are to be considered as determined by God’s will,” although the WCC did not find enough consensus yet to affirm that “the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyter and deacon” is one of those aspects. The Catholic Church, of course, believes it is.

Still, the Vatican said, the document “traces ordained ministry to the Lord’s choice of the Twelve” and, in that way, “promotes the view that certain aspects of the church’s order were willed and instituted by Christ himself.”

The Vatican praised the WCC document for recognizing that “the three essential elements of communion concern faith, worship and ministry or service” and for acknowledging that both Scripture and tradition are necessary sources for determining what “church” means.

While the document uncovers “greater common ground in ecclesiology” than many people would have imagined possible, the Vatican noted that it did not treat the papacy or the role and ministry of the pope, the successor of St. Peter.

Other “unresolved concerns include who may be baptized, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the relation of the Eucharist to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and churches who do not practice baptism or Eucharist,” the Vatican said.

Many modern developments within the Catholic Church, like a growing understanding of the church as a communion given life by the Trinity and an increasing emphasis on the need for “synodality,” also are recognized by other Christian communities and present in the WCC document, the Vatican response said.

“The most fundamental convergence is found in the affirmation that unity among Christians is vital for fulfilling the church’s mission of proclaiming the good news of reconciliation in the Lord and that this is a biblical mandate,” the response said.

The WCC also asked churches and Christian communities to look at areas in their lives that may need “renewal” in the light of the agreed principles and the commitment to Christian unity.

“The Catholic Church,” the Vatican said, “commits itself to respond to the call to grow in holiness,” to continue the process of renewal begun at the Second Vatican Council, “to being the church of the poor and for the poor,” to continue developing its “current practice of synodality,” and to strengthening laypeople in their role as missionary disciples.

While it is “painful,” the response said, the Catholic Church insists its members cannot celebrate the Eucharist with members of other churches. However, it said, “we will renew our commitment to do together whatever we can do together, even in the context of the liturgy.”

Those possibilities, the Vatican said, include the rite of washing the feet, the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday and celebrating prayer vigils and liturgies of the Word for major feasts such as Christmas, Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Tags: Ecumenism

23 October 2019
Greg Kandra

CNEWA’s president Msgr. John Kozar met with members of the Filipino community in Tel Aviv during a pastoral visit to Israel in December 2017. Read Msgr. Kozar’s reflections on how the church creates a sense of family in the current edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)

Tags: CNEWA Migrants Msgr. John E. Kozar

22 October 2019
Greg Kandra

Thousands continue to protest in Beirut, demanding government reform. The protests have been going on for six days. (photo: Rod & Roy / Instagram)

Protests in Lebanon are continuing and show no sign of abating, according to Al Jazeera:

Protesters in Lebanon insisted on Tuesday they will stay in the streets for a sixth day even after the government approved an unprecedented package of economic reforms.

The protesters have declared a general strike, sending a clear signal they reject the measures Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government agreed upon on Monday.

Among the reforms is a 50-percent reduction in salary for former and current politicians and ministers; the abolishment of the Ministry of Information and a number of other state institutions; and the establishment of an anti-corruption panel.

CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, sent us the picture above on Monday — which has been widely circulated on social media — and added this note:

This has become Lebanon’s biggest protest movement in modern history.

Accordingly, our office in Beirut was affected as the main road in front of Boutique Hotel has been closed by demonstrators and wheel burning since Friday, preventing the access to the office.

On Monday, church leaders expressed solidarity with the protestors, with Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, stating: ”We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger.”

Tags: Lebanon

21 October 2019
Catholic News Service

Demonstrators near Al-Amin mosque in Beirut carry national flags during an anti-government protest on 20 October. Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, protests were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)

Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese of various religions sounded their cries in unison in streets and public squares throughout the country calling for government reforms.

Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, a fifth day of protests on 21 October were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes.

Lebanon’s Catholic patriarchs — who have repeatedly raised their voices against political corruption, imploring the government to address the country’s dire economic situation — expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, cut short a pastoral visit in Africa to return to Lebanon amid the unprecedented uprising.

Speaking from Laos, Nigeria, on 20 October, Cardinal Rai said that Lebanon’s government officials “know that they are the ones who brought their country to this situation and they must find successful ways to reform.”

The cardinal reiterated that more than one-third of Lebanese citizens are below the poverty line, the country’s unemployment rate stands at nearly 40 percent and that “hunger and destitution threaten many citizens.”

“We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger,” which the cardinal said threatens the lives of the Lebanese as did the famine in 1914.

The crisis, “imposed from within,” Cardinal Rai said, led elderly and youth alike to demonstrate their rejection of such political practices. “In so doing they (the demonstrators) have all shown that they are united from all spectrums demanding a decent living.”

In an effort to quell the demonstrations, Lebanon’s coalition government on 21 October approved a package of economic reforms that reportedly included a plan to overturn the new taxes and cut by half the salaries of top officials.

Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi also declared his solidarity with the people “who express today their pain and bitterness and loss of confidence in those who brought them to this bitter reality.”

He appealed to government officials “to respond to the demands of the Lebanese people and not drown them with promises, after reaching the brink of despair.”

Patriarch Absi emphasized that “serious reform and the elimination of waste and hot spots of corruption and respect for the dignity of the citizen is urgent and necessary to restore confidence in officials and the salvation of the homeland.”

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan offered his support to the protesters’ demands as well. “We appeal to the consciences of officials, if there is a conscience in this world of hypocrisy, to be within the responsibility assigned to them,” he said.

He urged officials to “listen to the voice of the people, and immediately undertake the necessary and fundamental reforms,” including fighting corruption and holding the corrupt accountable, ending the theft of public money, stopping waste in state facilities and refraining from imposing any tax increase.

“We ask God to inspire officials to get out of this current crisis and to implement the demands of the people, to return to Lebanon its peace, security and prosperity, and to its citizens to reassure, stability and a decent life, through the intercession of our mother, the Virgin Mary of Lebanon, and all the saints and martyrs,’’ he said.

In affirming their solidarity with the demonstrators, each patriarch pointedly called for maintaining peacefulness and rejected any violent means or destruction by protesters. “We are well aware of the role of the fifth column,” Cardinal Rai cautioned, referring to groups that foment violence.

Tags: Lebanon

18 October 2019
Greg Kandra

Students attend class at Bethlehem University. Learn more about what makes this school so distinctive in A Letter from Bethlehem in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

Tags: Bethlehem University

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