10 April 2018
A wounded Syrian receives aid at a hospital 7 April in Damascus after a suspected chemical weapon attack in Douma. (photo: CNS/SANA via EPA)
On Sunday, Pope Francis condemned the use of chemical weapons following reports of a deadly attack in Syria:
“There is no good and bad war, and nothing, nothing can justify the use of such instruments of extermination against defenseless people and populations,” the pope said 8 April before concluding Divine Mercy Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
A suspected chemical weapon attack occurred late 7 April when Syrian army warplanes allegedly flew over and bombed the eastern town of Douma, located 15 miles north of the Syrian capital, Damascus, according to the Reuters news agency.
The Syrian American Medical Society Foundation reported 42 victims were killed in the attack while hundreds of people, “the majority of whom are women and children, were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.”
Pope Francis prayed “for all the dead, for the wounded, for the families who suffer” and called for world leaders to abandon the use of war as a means of gaining peace and stability.
“We pray that political and military leaders choose the other way: that of negotiation, the only one that can lead to a peace that is not that of death and destruction,” the pope said.
We join our prayers with the Holy Father’s — holding close in our hearts the suffering people of Syria, who have endured so much for so long. We recall the words of the Rev. Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas, patriarchal vicar for northeastern Syria, who wrote in our magazine last year:
Our faith always calls for peace, but politics and bad politicians are always setting fires and disturbing the situation. I try to stay away from political discussions. My mission is to take care of my parish, to help my parishioners and to try and enrich the parish with fruitful spiritual activities.
While Syria’s many Christian communities face many and varied challenges right now, there is only one thing we all truly need: peace.
During this Easter season, a time of renewal and hope, we pray to the Prince of Peace to uplift and console the Syrian people, and bring them the peace they so urgently desire.
To learn more, and offer your prayerful support, please visit this page. Thank you and God bless you.
9 April 2018
Tags: Syria Syrian Conflict
The Rev. Jaison Koonamplakkal leads the Mary Matha Major Seminary in India. Read about The New Priests in that country — and the challenges facing the seminaries — in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
6 April 2018
Tags: India Priests Indian Catholics
Two students take a break during class at St. Anne’s Secondary School in Boditi, Ethiopia. Discover more about their education — and the young religious sisters who are teaching them — in The Habit of Learning in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
5 April 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education
Children line up to serve a First Communion Mass at the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of St. Gregory, Ader, Jordan. Check out the March 2018 edition of ONE to read how catechists and religious sisters are Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
4 April 2018
Eritrean Catholic refugees Abel Kflom, 27, and Musia Daniel, 30, look at olive branches 23 March at Our Lady Woman of Valor Tel Aviv Pastoral Center in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
A refugee’s life is one of constant uncertainty and confusion.
Yet in their faith the refugees have found strength and refuge, said Father Rafic Nahra, priest of the St. James Vicariate, which ministers to the asylum seekers and migrant worker community in Israel.
Late 2 April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended a U.N. deal that would have sent thousands of asylum seekers in Israel to Western countries rather than to Africa. The deal had been announced hours earlier, but its reversal did not surprise the refugees.
“The refugees are fearful but, unfortunately, they are used it,” Father Nahra said. “They have already left their country, crossed the Sinai, crossed a lot of dangers and faced a lot of problems. Uncertainty has become part of their life.”
Sitting in the courtyard of the Our Lady Woman of Valor Tel Aviv Pastoral Center in late March, two Catholic Eritrean refugees, Abel Kflom, 27, and Musia Daniel, 30, said they do not feel certain of their future.
“If our country was good, nobody would want to leave. But because it is a dictatorship, everybody wants to leave,” said Kflom, who has been in Israel for six years. “Of course, I am worried they might send me (to Rwanda).”
Both men fled during compulsory military service in Eritrea, which kept them away from their families for years. In the army, they said, people become like slaves to the commanders. Some men are forced to serve in the army until their 60s. There is no time limit to the service; people cannot decide when to leave.
Neither had intended to come to Israel. Kflom was kidnapped by members of the Rashaida Bedouin tribe, who took him and his friends from Sudan into the Sinai Desert, where he was brutally tortured for four months until his family was able to pay $19,000 in extortion money. He was released at the border with Israel.
During his captivity, his childhood prayers sustained him, he said.
Now, early every Saturday morning, Kflom walks with his wife and young son to the pastoral center for a traditional three-hour Eritrean Mass.
“I pray to God to help me,” he said. “Life is very difficult. You can’t look forward to your future. You don’t have permission to live here. You can't organize your life here. I am always under a lot of stress.”
Netanyahu has said he wants to deport 20,000 refugees — whom he maintains are mainly economic migrants — by the year 2020. If his original deportation plan is implemented, the deportation process will require single adult males to choose between a financial incentive for “voluntary deportation” to a third African country or indefinite incarceration.
Israel is not alone in struggling with a deportation policy. Countries such as Australia, Germany and Greece have implemented similar deportation policies, including financial incentives for refugees to leave or face incarceration. Following the October 2016 European Union declaration of “safe zones” in Afghanistan, other countries began to deport Afghan refugees. France will be debating a controversial migrant deportation bill in April.
“If you are married or not married, it won’t make a difference,” said Daniel, whose wife will give birth to their first child in mid-April. “They say they won’t deport someone who is married, but they are making a lot of pressure so you will go to another place.”
Without hesitating, Daniel and Kflom said they would choose incarceration over deportation to Africa.
“To sit in jail is nothing for me. I have been through worse,” said Daniel. “You do not know what an African country is. There is no democracy there, no one to look after us. Someone can take you and kill you and no one will know. It would be easier to return us to our country. So why are they sending us to Rwanda? It shows you that they know there is a problem with our country, and our lives are in danger if they send us back there.”
African refugees began reaching Israel via the Sinai Desert in 2005, and by 2013, there were 60,000 African refugees in Israel. As the numbers of refugees grew, the
government began taking measures to prevent or discourage them from reaching Israel. In 2013, Israel completed work on a border fence with Egypt and, since last year, the flow of refugees stopped.
Today an estimated 38,000 adult refugees remain in Israel, the large majority from Eritrea and about 20 percent from Sudan; smaller percentages come from other African countries.
According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, of the more than 13,700 applications for asylum submitted by Africans, only 10 people have been given refugee status in Israel. Some 200 Sudanese refugees from Darfur also have been granted humanitarian status.
Father Michael Gropse, director of the Tel Aviv pastoral center, said when the refugees come to weekly Mass, their prayers are in earnest.
“I can really feel their prayer of hope,” he said. “They are always asking for God’s guidance. But in their daily life, they are afraid, sometimes, to go out and be caught by the immigration police. But still their faith and hope is strong, and every Saturday I see it when they attend Mass.”
“In Eritrea, I grew up in the Catholic Church,” said Daniel, kicking around a soccer ball with a friend’s young son as he waited for an afternoon prayer study to begin at the pastoral center. “The moment I come here, I forget about everything until I leave, then reality hits me again.”
3 April 2018
Seminarians stand outside a church in Lviv, Ukraine. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the new edition of ONE, we focus on the formation of priests, religious sisters and lay people in the world CNEWA serves. Our president Msgr. John E. Kozar writes about it in the magazine:
For decades, CNEWA’s donors have made a powerful impact on seminarians — helping to educate and train future priests. Most of the Eastern Catholic seminaries where CNEWA serves are supported in varying degrees thanks to the generosity of our donors. For some, our support makes a tremendous difference. It may mean feeding hungry seminarians, or just keeping the doors open. For others, this support means improving the faculty, hiring more teachers or making modest renovations to the facilities. But for all, it represents an investment in the good health and future of the church.
Religious women, meanwhile, receive financial assistance from CNEWA from their first days in the novitiate. Although the subsidy may be modest, it represents a commitment of faith and hope — a sign of solidarity with these women as they formally embark on their journey to serve Christ as vowed religious.
And then there is the great and growing resource of the laity. The faith formation of the laity is often overlooked, with more attention given to those who are preparing for the priesthood or religious life. But it is vitally important to support the lay faithful, especially in places where it is not always possible to commission a priest or religious. CNEWA continues to place great importance on lay catechetical programs and adult faith enrichment and mission-sending initiatives that challenge the faithful to share their faith with those who have never been exposed to it.
Read more in the March 2018 edition of ONE. And hear more from Msgr. Kozar in the video below.
29 March 2018
The Rev. Baby Karintholil of St. Thomas the Apostle Seminary in India prays with a family during a home visit. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
The new edition of ONE magazine includes a great glimpse at the formation of priests in India:
According to tradition, Christianity’s presence in India dates to the arrival of the Apostle Thomas in the first century in what is now Kerala. Today, in the hearts and minds of aspiring priests and many others throughout the state, visitors catch a glimpse of a church to come — one no less driven and hopeful than it was in those first days.
On a warm and humid February morning, a few men gather at St. Francis Theological College in Thellakom, a tiny village in Kerala. Seated in the library, the men — Brothers Abhilash Elamthuruthil, Nelson Verghese, Arun Elavumkal, Nishad Sebastian, Manoj Sebastian and Michael Thomas — discuss their call to serve the church as members of religious communities.
Brother Abhilash says he was inspired by reading a biography of St. Francis of Assisi while in secondary school.
“I then came in contact with Capuchin priests,” he says. “In our community, Capuchins have a good name because they lead a simple life. My parents were supportive about me joining them.”
Brother Nelson says his experience as an altar server in his parish in a village in northern Kerala helped him realize his calling.
“I believe I can work with people. That’s my charism. Capuchins aren’t limited to a parish. We work in the community, ready when required,” he says.
Read more. And check out the video below.
28 March 2018
Tags: India Priests Indian Catholics Seminarians
Sister Hanne Saad passes out sweets at an Iraqi youth group meeting in Jordan. Learn how the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary are Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan in the new edition of ONE.
(photo: Nader Daoud)
27 March 2018
Shipla Joy helps with homework at the children’s home where she once lived, administered by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in India. Check out the June 2017 edition of our magazine to learn more about adults who were nurtured in these homes and schools as children, and who now credit them for The Secret of Their Success. (photo: Don Duncan)
26 March 2018
Students play during a break at the Abba Pascal Catholic Girls’ School in Soddo, Ethiopia. Learn why Catholic schools in the country are considered the Head of the Class in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)