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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
28 September 2018
Greg Kandra




A Bedouin family picks cherries in an orchard in Deir El Ahmar. (photo: Laura Boushnak)

In 2012, we visited a corner of Lebanon that was flourishing, thanks to a reservoir and irrigation system CNEWA helped to provide:

The presence of water gave us a means to stay here,” says 65-year-old Hana Habshi, a resident of the Maronite Catholic town of Deir El Ahmar. The once-bustling agricultural hub nestles on the slopes of the fertile Bekaa Valley, about 60 miles northeast of Beirut, where Mr. Habshi has lived and worked since the height of civil war in the 1980’s. But for the past decade, thanks to several irrigation projects, Mr. Habshi has returned to his hometown every summer to farm his family’s ancestral lands. “It helped us come back and live off the land again.”

Lebanon’s civil war — which ravaged the country from 1975 to 1990 — destroyed much of the nation’s infrastructure, including its irrigation systems, and sounded the death knell for the Bekaa Valley’s agricultural economy.

Without reliable sources of water, and subsequent erosion, farmers could no longer cultivate the land that formerly nourished lush fields and bountiful yields. Desperate for work, inhabitants moved to Lebanon’s major coastal cities, such as Beirut, Saida and Tripoli. Some left the country altogether. The few who remained scraped by as sustenance farmers, growing crops that require little water such as wheat, hay and, in some cases, hashish.

Deir El Ahmar, like most settlements in the area, remains but a shadow of its former self. Its many empty homes and crumbling public buildings remind locals and visitors of a more prosperous past. Though municipal authorities register some 10,000 residents, in reality half as many actually live there — and only then in the summer months. In winter, the town’s population plunges to little more than 3,000.

However, in the last ten years, Deir El Ahmar has been slowly but surely bucking the trend. Locals attribute this reversal to one thing — water. Since 1999, when the town installed its first irrigation system drawing on natural spring water, residents such as Mr. Habshi have been trickling back to town and reviving their parched properties and the Christian identity of the town.

“Before it was all just trees and shrubs, but look what happens when water comes,” says Mr. Habshi, pointing to the surrounding hillsides and valley below.

Read more about Springs of Hope in Lebanon in the January 2012 edition of ONE.



Tags: Lebanon

27 September 2018
Greg Kandra




Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu, left, attends 5:30 morning prayer in the chapel of her convent in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Read more about the life of this religious sister in A Letter from Ethiopia in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)



Tags: Ethiopia

26 September 2018
Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service




Lebanon's Our Lady of Kaftoun (Deir Saydet Kaftoun) Monastery in Kaftoun is pictured in this 2013 photo. Now the land of the cedars is accessible virtually, via a free app in English -- called Holy Lebanon -- aimed at promoting religious tourism. (photo: CNS /courtesy Nour Farra Haddad)

From its high majestic mountains, picturesque villages and coastal towns to its bustling cities, Lebanon is rich in breathtaking scenery, cultural diversity and religious sites.

Now the land of the cedars mentioned in the Bible 96 times is accessible virtually, via a free app in English -- called Holy Lebanon -- aimed at promoting religious tourism.

“Even if you can’t come to Lebanon to visit, you can download the app and have an idea about different religious sites around the country,” Nour Farra Haddad, developer of the Holy Lebanon app, told Catholic News Service.

“Holy Lebanon,” introduced in June, was followed in July with an announcement from the Vatican that it will authorize official pilgrimage visits to Lebanon in 2019.

The multifaith app features 300 religious sites, representative of all of Lebanon’s 18 religious traditions, including Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim. The sites include churches, monasteries, convents, shrines and sanctuaries as well as mosques, many dating back centuries ago.

“It is just a beginning,” Farra Haddad said, noting that more sites will be added to the Holy Lebanon app in the future.

While the app took two years to develop, it is based on Farra Haddad’s 10 years of research as a religious anthropologist.

Lebanon, about two-thirds the size of Connecticut, is visibly steeped in religion.

“This is something that really surprises people: We have about 6,000 religious sites all around Lebanon,” Farra Haddad said, although she notes that no formal comprehensive survey of the exact number of sites has been compiled.

“Because Lebanon is considered an Arab country, sometimes people assume it’s a Muslim country only or that it’s related to the Islamic world, but Christianity was born in this area,” Farra Haddad said.

“I think people who have a curiosity about the Holy Land forget that South Lebanon is a part of the Holy Land where Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary walked,” Farra Haddad said, referring to Sidon and Tyre. “There is no doubt about that.”

In Lebanon, Christians account for approximately 40 percent of the population.

The country’s president is a Maronite Catholic, and half of the country’s 128 parliamentary seats are reserved for Christians.

Lebanon has approximately 900 religious sites dedicated to Mary, according to the app. That’s not counting informal shrines, thousands of which dot the country near buildings and roadsides.

Aside from the sites of Lebanon’s native saints -- Charbel, Rafka and Hardini -- which are visited by Christians and Muslims, St. George is the most popular saint, with 350 Christian sites and about 20 Muslim sites.

Western saints -- including Sts. Francis of Assisi, Rita, Bernadette of Lourdes and Therese of Lisieux -- also hold a special place in believers’ hearts, and churches and sanctuaries dedicated to them can be found throughout Lebanon.

By far the most popular pilgrimage site is the Our Lady of Lebanon shrine and basilica -- Harissa -- perched high above the Mediterranean Sea. Each year more the shrine receives than 2 million pilgrims, Muslims and Christians alike, as Mary is venerated by Muslims, and a full chapter is devoted to her in the Quran.

“It’s very important to let people around the world know that there are Christians in Lebanon,” the Rev. Khalil Alwan, vice rector of Harissa, told CNS.

Maronite Father Alwan said it is fitting that Muslim sites are included in the app.

“In Lebanon, Christians and Muslims coexist. This is the mission of Lebanon. That’s what John Paul II said,” he emphasized, referring to the saint’s quote: “Lebanon is more than a country. It is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West.”

“Lebanon is a holy land for Muslims and Christians,” Father Alwan added.

The Holy Lebanon app also happens to coincide with Harissa’s yearlong commemoration of the Marian shrine’s jubilee, 110 years since the shrine was inaugurated in 1908. Until 4 August 2019, pilgrims to the Marian shrine can receive an indulgence offered by the Vatican.

Farra Haddad pointed out that the Holy Lebanon app was designed for friendly navigation. “It’s not complicated, and the menu is easy,” she said, adding that elderly people have told her the app is simple to use.

From anywhere in the world, the Holy Lebanon app can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play.

Navigating between the six sections of the app, users can access historical details about each of the 300 religious sites; background about the saint or holy figure; details about Christian and Muslim rituals; a calendar of feast days and celebrations; suggested itineraries for tours; and lodging possibilities at monasteries and convents.



Tags: Lebanon

25 September 2018
Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service




French Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Tarbes and Lourdes, in blue vestment, holds a candle during a vigil with Arab clergy, including retired Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem, second from left, and retired Auxiliary Bishop Salim Sayegh of Jerusalem, at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Naour, Jordan. (photo: CNS/Osama Toubasi, courtesy abouna.org)

Mary makes people grow in Christ and “shows us the way to permanent communion with the church,” the bishop of Lourdes, France, told Catholic clergy and faithful gathered in this town with a grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes.

“The Virgin Mary always leads us to Christ and makes our way to the kingdom of God. The Virgin Mary paves the way for us to the Lord, as if she also says that she is not always the focus of our attention, for she said in Cana ...: ‘Do whatever He tells you to do,’“ Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Tarbes and Lourdes told people gathered at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Naour on 21 September.

The bishop noted that when Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in France in 1858: “Bernadette was afraid of the apparition. She tried to make the sign of the cross, but she could not. Yet, after the Virgin Mary herself made the sign of the cross, Bernadette was able to do so, as if (Mary) were telling Bernadette: ‘Fear not, Christ is present in our midst. I was sent by the Holy Trinity.’

“The second thing that the Virgin Mary did during the apparition is that she did not speak and remained silent while smiling. Sometimes silence between two people is more expressive than talking. It indicates profound trust,” he said.

“The Virgin Mary respected this silent step toward Bernadette, and just made a smile,” he said. “Imagine this smile. It expressed a lot of confidence. The smile was the open door that paved the way for a new relationship. When we smile, everything becomes possible, and it becomes a sign of mental and emotional openness. When the Virgin Mary smiled, she revealed life in the kingdom of God and the life of grace toward God.”

Bishop Brouwet reminded people that St. Bernadette was “poor and sick ... illiterate and was not familiar with Christian education.”

Despite St. Bernadette’s weakness, he said, Mary “showed respect for her and viewed her as a very important person.” Mary does this to everyone, he added.

Among those present for the bishop’s homily were Bishop William Shomali, Latin patriarchal vicar for Jordan; retired Jerusalem Patriarch Fouad Twal; retired Auxiliary Bishop Salim Sayegh of Jerusalem; and Msgr. Mauro Lalli, first counselor for apostolic nunciature in Amman, Jordan.

Priests and deacons from the Latin, Melkite, Maronite and Chaldean Catholic churches as well as nuns from various congregations also attended the accompanying Mass.



Tags: Jordan Mary

24 September 2018
Catholic News Service




In this image from 2016, Abraham George, an Ethiopian Catholic, carries the cross during the Sunday Divine Liturgy in Bahir Dar. Priests, bishops, religious and lay people from Ethiopia, Eritrea and other East Africa countries are planning a Synod of Bishops, set to take place next month at the Vatican. (photo: James Jeffrey)

Due to its impact on young Catholics in Africa, fundamentalism will be a topic that bishops from East Africa prioritize in their talks with other delegates during the synod’s intervention sessions.

More than 300 delegates, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, sisters and laypeople are expected to attend the 3-28 October Synod of Bishops, which will meet at the Vatican to discuss “young people, faith and vocational discernment.”

Bishops from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa also will take to the synod topics such as young people as protagonists, the training of spiritual directors and holistic formation in Catholic schools and universities.

Known by its acronym AMECEA, the group includes the bishops’ conferences of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, Djibouti and Somalia.

Maryknoll Rev. Joseph Healey, a facilitator at AMECEA’s preparatory meeting on the synod, said young Catholics in Africa want their peers to run their small Christian communities.

“A survey we have carried out in the AMECEA region and beyond in Africa has shown that our young people ... are no longer comfortable” in small Christian communities run by adult Catholics, he told Catholic News Service on 17 September. “They are today calling for the formation of their own [communities].”

Father Emmanuel Chimombo of Malawi, AMECEA pastoral coordinator, told CNS on 18 September that the 12 bishops at the Nairobi meeting also discussed integral education and formation in Catholic institutions, the digital world and its impact on young people, and situations of war, violence and young migrants.

The meeting also addressed uncertainty, hope, fear and unemployment, enjoyment of the liturgy and the vocational status of single persons with no particular consecration, he said.

The bishops considered these and other topics after they had deliberated extensively on the synod’s “instrumentum laboris” (“working document”), Father Chimombo said.

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, Ethiopian Catholic Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, Archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye of Lilongwe, Malawi, and Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri, Kenya, are among the delegates from the East African region who will attend the synod.

The AMECEA meeting took place with financial support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.



Tags: Ethiopia Eritrea

21 September 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets participants in a Vatican conference on battling xenophobia and racism.
(photo: Vatican Media)


Thursday, Pope Francis imparted a message of inclusion and tolerance for human rights, and warned against the rise of racism around the world:

Pope Francis warned that attitudes that many thought were a thing of the past — such as racism — are on the rise again and can lead to intolerant and discriminating behavior and policies and he urged politicians to avoid exploiting fear against those seeking refuge and better lives in our countries.

He was addressing participants at a just-ended Rome-based conference “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration” at the Vatican on Thursday.

“We are living in times in which feelings that many thought had passed are taking new life and spreading,” Pope Francis said to the over 200 participants of an international conference on “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of World Migrations.”

In his message that marked the conclusion of the event promoted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development, by the World Council of Churches and by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, the Pope reflected on how, in our globalized world, there appears to be an upsurge of ”feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity and, as such, considered not sufficiently worthy of being fully part of society’s life.”

Such sentiments, he warned, “all too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion.”

Read more.



Tags: Ecumenism Migrants Dialogue

20 September 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from August, a religious sister helps a man who has been displaced by interethnic violence in Ethiopia. Thousands have been impacted by the ongoing crisis in the country, and the church is responding. To lend your support, visit this page. (photo: CNEWA)



Tags: Ethiopia

19 September 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets a St. Bernard and dog owners during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)



Tags: Pope Francis

18 September 2018
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, second from left, conveyed the pope's good wishes to a congregation of Armenian monks on Sunday. (photo: Vatican Media)

Pope Francis on Sunday praised the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation for their tradition of ecumenical openness and urged them to continue to provide witness.

From Vatican News:

The Congregation of Benedictine monks is widely recognized for its contribution to the renaissance of Armenian philology, literature, and culture early in the 19th century and for the publication of old Armenian Christian manuscripts, a tradition that Pope Francis described as a “beneficial gift for the ecumenical journey, which increasingly reveals itself as a sign of the times” in our effort to meet the Lord’s request to his disciples “to be one”.

In a letter addressed to Archbishop Boghos Levon Zekiyan, apostolic administrator of the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation, the Pope said the congregation “is called to preserve and deepen its charism for the good of all Armenian people.”

Francis’ message was read in the presence of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches during celebrations of the Divine Liturgy on the Island of San Lazzaro in Venice.

The ceremony took place on Sunday evening to the mark the third centenary of the foundation of the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation.

Read the full story.



Tags: Armenia

17 September 2018
Philip W. Eubanks




Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample, center, recently met with CNEWA development team members Thomas Moore (l) and Philip Eubanks (r). Archbishop Sample is a member of CNEWA’s board and was eager to hear about some of our work around the world. (photo: CNEWA)

From time to time, CNEWA takes to the road to visit with our family of donors and local parishes who are helping to support those in need in the places where CNEWA works. It’s just one special way CNEWA can connect with those who share our mission — and invite others to be a part of it. For many, it is their first introduction to CNEWA, so it’s a welcome opportunity to help tell our story.

Recently, we were privileged to visit with some friends in Oregon, in the greater Portland area. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, a member of CNEWA’s board, generously took time from his busy schedule to meet with us. We got to hear about the work of the church in Portland — and we had a chance to share with the archbishop more about the work CNEWA is doing around the world, thanks to the generosity of the Archdiocese of Portland and the many members of our faithful donor family who have partnered with us.

If you would be interested in bringing CNEWA to your parish for a visit, just drop a line to our development associate, Christopher Kennedy: ckennedy@cnewa.org.



Tags: CNEWA





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