19 July 2018
An Orthodox woman holds a portrait of Czar Nicholas II during a 2012 gathering in Moscow. The secretary-general of the Russian bishops' conference urged Catholics to remember the 1918 murder of Nicholas II and his family with "penance and reflection," while suggesting Catholics could participate in future commemorations. (photo: CNS/Maxim Shemetov, Reuters)
The secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference urged Catholics to remember the 1918 murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family with “penance and reflection,” while suggesting Catholics could participate in future commemorations.
“The killing of this family was one of the first steps on a path of mass murder, forced labor, religious persecution and genocide which led on through the Stalinist period,” said Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general.
“Although not officially engaged in these centenary events, the Catholic Church must do something -- so the best is to reflect deeply, in a spirit of penance, on all those tragic times.”
The priest spoke after 100,000 people — led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill — attended a pilgrimage and religious observances in Yekaterinburg.
In a 19 July Catholic News Service interview, Msgr. Kovalevsky said the country’s million-strong Catholic Church had not been involved in past commemorations of the czar and his family, nor in their canonization by the Orthodox Church.
However, he added that Nicholas II’s murdered entourage had included at least one Catholic, the Latvian-born footman Alexei Yegorovich Trupp, and said he believed members of Yekaterinburg’s Catholic parish had taken part in the 12-17 July events.
“We should remember Nicholas II had voluntarily given up his throne the previous year, so it’s more historically accurate to mourn the killing of a family than the death of a czar,” Msgr. Kovalevsky said.
“We also follow quite different procedures when it comes to proclaiming saints, so the Orthodox Church’s approach to these matters is its own internal affair.”
Nicholas II, who abdicated in February 1917, was shot by Bolshevik captors in a basement while under house arrest at Yekaterinburg in the early hours of 17 July 1918. The empress and five children also were killed.
The victims, finished off with bayonets, were burned and doused with acid before being dumped in a pit at Ganina Yama, 14 miles from the city, where their presumed remains were exhumed in 1991.
All seven were later reinterred in St. Petersburg’s Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Cathedral and canonized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church in August 2000.
An Orthodox church was dedicated in 2004 on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the killings took place.
18 July 2018
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church
Angella Bourudjian and her children, Christian and Carl, sit in their current home in Bourj Hammoud, Beirut, Lebanon. Read about their efforts to start a new life after fleeing Syria in A Letter from Lebanon in the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
17 July 2018
Tags: Syria Lebanon
A man walks next to a destroyed building in Aleppo, Syria. Carmelite nuns are bringing a message of hope to Syrians. (photo: CNS/Ghith Sy, EPA)
Amid the destruction in war-torn Syria, a community of Discalced Carmelites in Aleppo perseveres in its mission of continuous prayer and help to families in need.
The Carmelite nuns, four of whom are Syrian and two French, are in their quiet demeanor “a message of peace and a spiritual message of hope,” said the provincial of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers in Lebanon, the Rev. Raymond Abdo, who visited the convent 5-7 July.
The nuns’ convent on the outskirts of Aleppo, in an area that has often been a focal point of the fighting, once had a missile land in the yard. In seven years of civil war, the convent has suffered many food, water and electricity shortages, seen its windows shattered and a surrounding wall destroyed.
The sisters in the northern Syrian city are living a “very heroic situation, even if it’s difficult,” Father Abdo told Catholic News Service.
At one point, the nuns were hosting four uprooted Muslim families, who lived in a building adjoining the convent.
The nuns shared their food and the bounty from their vegetable gardens. Three families have since been resettled, and the convent is still supporting a family with 10 children.
Yet, the sisters have not lost their way of contemplative life, a structured routine that begins with silent prayer and includes Mass, working together in silence and more periods of prayer throughout the day and evening, Father Abdo said.
“They give a good example of real Christianity, because they don’t distinguish between Muslims and Christians,” he said.
A sister told Father Abdo how the head of one of the families who was sheltering at the convent approached her and asked, “Why do you help us?” The Muslim man then followed up with his observation, telling the religious, “You help us without asking anything in return. You Christians are very humble.”
“Giving this possibility to the Muslim people and other people to know the heart of Christianity” offers “real hope,” the priest said.
On the road from Homs to Aleppo, Father Abdo passed leveled villages, desolate and barren with “no sign of life anywhere.”
As well as destroying homes, war “destroys people, families, culture, social life, relationships, the economy -- everything,” he said.
Some reconstruction is happening in Aleppo, with new roads being built, Father Abdo said, noting that the city’s residents “are trying to make a normal life.”
While walking outside the convent on the evening before his return to neighboring Lebanon, the priest heard a missile, “whooshing like a big plane overhead, heading in the direction of the Turkish area north of Aleppo.” Bombs could also be heard in the distance.
The sisters and other residents of Aleppo told Father Abdo that such activity is normal.
“Getting used to living like that means the people have suffered so much,” he said. “Still, they have the courage to go on.”
11 July 2018
Tags: Syria Carmelite Sisters
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in back, and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerk embrace 9 July at the peace declaration signing in Asmara, Eritrea. Ethiopian Catholic Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel has commended the two governments for the peace pact. (photo: CNS/Ghideon Musa Aron VISAFRIC handout via Reuters)
Ethiopia’s Catholic Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel commended the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments for signing a peace accord.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed the peace pact in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on 9 July.
Cardinal Souraphiel told Catholic News Service on 10 July: “This is a historic step taken by the prime minister of Ethiopia within the first 100 days since he took office. The joyous reception of Eritreans to the Ethiopian prime minister and his delegation shows that this has been the prayers of the people. It is very pleasing to the Catholic Church that the prayers of the people of both countries have been answered.”
For decades, the two countries have been at loggerheads on issues that include the border. An estimated 80,000 people are believed to have been killed between 1998-2000 over a fierce border conflict. However, after the two countries signed a U.N.-brokered border agreement in 2000, they failed to implement it.
Cardinal Souraphiel said the “steps taken so far by both governments prove that Africans have the wisdom to solve their problems themselves. The Catholic Church will continue to pray both for Ethiopia and Eritrea.”
On 26 June, speaking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as Eritrean government officials arrived in the country, Cardinal Souraphiel noted that Catholics had been praying for peace since the conflict started.
“Even though it was not easy, the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia and Eritrea continued to meet and exchange notes on the pastoral concerns of the two conflicting countries,” he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also praised the leaders on the signing of the peace pact.
The reconciliation was “illustrative of a new wind of hope blowing across Africa,” he told reporters in the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, stressing that sanctions imposed on Eritrea might become obsolete after the deal.
10 July 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Eritrea
In Zahleh, Lebanon, refugees pass the time, awaiting the chance to either return home or settle abroad. (photo: John E. Kozar)Caption
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar writes about some of the inspiring ways that CNEWA evangelizes:
The good works of the church, which form a major plank in the platform of evangelization, give witness of how Jesus would have us live and how he would have us respond to the needs of others. The recipients of these works often recognize there is something unique about what we do, and especially why we do it. Unlike governmental or secular programs of aid, the church — and CNEWA accompanying her — reaches out to those in need because we are compelled in faith to do so.
We exercise our baptismal mandate to live the Gospel of Jesus and to share his Good News with everyone. To be more concrete: CNEWA supports, through your generous contributions, many clinics and dispensaries, which serve everyone in need. Oftentimes these people are welcomed, embraced and tended to by the loving care of religious sisters and devoted lay associates.
For some patients, of whatever religious background or faith, this might be the only expression of love and human dignity they experience. And whether spoken or unspoken, it is done in the name of Jesus.
Read more in the magazine. And watch the video below for additional insight.
9 July 2018
Tags: Middle East Msgr. John E. Kozar Evangelization
Sister Darsana chats with residents while completing her rounds at The Trippadam Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center for Women in northern Kerala. The Bethany Sisters are doing remarkable and inspiring work with forgotten and abandoned women. Learn how they have created A Refuge to Mend and Grow in the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
6 July 2018
In Armenia, the Emili Aregak Center provides personalized support and resources for young people, such as this child, with disabilities in and near Gyumri. How does the center do it? Read about A Source of Light in Armenia in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
5 July 2018
Sister Martyna of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate teaches in Zbarazh, outside Lviv. Learn more about how these religious sisters are Giving 200 Percent in the new edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
3 July 2018
Tags: Ukraine Sisters Vocations (religious)
Children play outdoors in the Adi-Harush camp in Ethiopia. Learn about how the church is working to help these and others seeking a better life in This, Our Exile in the June 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
2 July 2018
The Musa family fled Bashiqa, Iraq, in 2014 in the face of ISIS attacks and lived in Dohuk, Iraq, for three years. With a grant from USAID, they are rebuilding their home and trying to start over in Bashiqa.(photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Relief Services)
A Chaldean Catholic archbishop in Iraq said he and other bishops were “delighted” that the United States Agency for International Development is making good on its pledge to help Iraq’s historic Christian, Yazidi and other religious minorities rebuild their lives after attacks by Islamic State militants.
At the same time, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil advised a visiting USAID delegation led by Administrator Mark Green on 1 July that “time is running.”
“The time should be now and the help should be immediate and effective. Foremost, is the need to rebuild houses so there is a community to go back to and be there,” Archbishop Warda told Catholic News Service by phone after the visit.
Plans called for later rebuilding much-needed infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and government facilities.
After months of delay, the USAID is providing $10 million to organizations led by Catholic Relief Services and Heartland Alliance to help Christians and Yazidis restore their communities after attacks by the Islamic State in 2014.
There have been growing concerns, also expressed by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, that unless the ancient religious minorities are supported to rebuild, many will seek a new life elsewhere.
“Our hopes are high now that this delegation will bring some changes. We especially appreciate the efforts of Vice President Pence and USAID to have them deeply involved in this situation,” Archbishop Warda said, adding that the delegation also visited Qaraqosh and other devastated towns.
“The message they sent was important: ‘We do care.’ The American government and the Americans do care about the fate of the Christians, Yazidis and the minorities and want to help,” Archbishop Warda said.
For the Musa family of seven, one of the many Christian recipients of CRS assistance, the U.S. aid provision could not have arrived soon enough. The assistance is helping transform their badly damaged home in Bashiqa on the Ninevah Plain. Forced to flee from extremist militants, the family was shocked to see the devastation when they returned home last fall.
“It was miserable,” the father, Mowfakk Musa, told a CRS worker. “All the furniture was broken, three rooms were burned, clothing in the house that wasn’t ours was burned. A bomb had hit our kitchen and burned the kitchen.”
“Christian” was written on the wall and the family’s crosses and pictures of Jesus were broken and strewn on the floor. The damage was so severe that the family thought of leaving and returning to Dohuk, a town farther north where they had sheltered. In the end, they decided to stay and restore their home.
Because of the extent of the damage, it was difficult for the Musas to complete the repairs. A grant from CRS, funded by USAID, allowed them to repair the charred walls, install new sinks and faucets and fix the electricity.
Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, said about one-third of the Christian families who fled the militants have returned to their hometowns because infrastructure and security remain inadequate.
Archbishop Warda acknowledged that security is a concern. “But the fact that there are 7,000 Christian families that are back home, there is a possibility of security, if there is a willingness from all sides to really work hard on this,” he said.
He said that meant that “concerned governments and parties need to bring a dialogue of life that existed before back again” to Iraq’s rich cultural mosaic. “As Christians, there is a commitment also to play positive role in reconciliation and peacebuilding,” he added.
However, only 400,000 to 500,000 Christians now live in Iraq, compared to 1.5 million before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, Cardinal Sako said. Other observers put their number even lower at 200,000. Meanwhile, the Yazidi population, victims of Islamic State genocide, also are greatly diminished, with an estimated 500,000 living in and around Sinjar.
Pence said in 2017 that the U.S. would directly support organizations that are helping Christians and Yazidis rather than work through the United Nations in the belief that religious minorities were overlooked as aid went to larger groups of displaced Iraqis. Months passed until it was realized that many groups were still waiting for the promised help.
Funds primarily raised by the church and some Western governments have so far supported rebuilding the devastated ancestral lands of Christians and Yazidis.
“We are grateful for the new additional funding to expand our on-going assistance to Christians and other religious minorities returning to their homes in northern Iraq,” said Kevin Hartigan, CRS regional director for Europe and the Middle East.
Hartigan told CNS that the new funds will “support the peaceful and successful return of minorities in Ninevah, by providing livelihood opportunities to youth from diverse returnee communities and mobilizing faith leaders to promote tolerance and reconciliation.”
The additional USAID funding “will complement our ongoing U.S. government-funded programs to provide housing repair and education to returning minorities,” he added.
“Along with the vital support we get from the Catholic community in the United States, the generous, constant and flexible funding we receive from the U.S. government has enabled CRS and Caritas Iraq to provide education and trauma healing for children, shelter and financial assistance to Iraqis of all faiths, on a large scale,” Hartigan explained.
Another $25 million in U.S. aid is expected to be disbursed in the future.
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians