21 November 2016
Children gather for religion class taught by the Rev. Androwas Bahus at St. Andrea the Apostle Melkite Catholic Church in Israel. To learn more, check out A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest from the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
18 November 2016
Mothers in a remote village in India bring their children forward for a blessing from Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara and Msgr. John E. Kozar. Read more about Msgr. Kozar’s visit and see some of his stunning photographs in Reaching the Unreached in India in the Winter 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
17 November 2016
A child plays with a balloon in Douma, Syria on 13 November. Pope Francis has called events unfolding in the war-torn country a veritable “workshop of cruelty.”
(photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)
Where there is no tenderness, there is cruelty and what is unfolding in Syria is a veritable “workshop of cruelty,” Pope Francis told governing members of Caritas Internationalis.
“I believe the greatest illness of today is cardiac sclerosis,” he said on 17 November, implying a kind of hardening of the heart that renders a person unable to feel compassion or be moved by another’s suffering.
An example of this, he said, is Syria and how so many parties are involved in the conflict, each bent on seeking its own interests and not the freedom and well-being of the people.
“Where there is no tenderness, there is always cruelty. And what is happening today in Syria is cruelty. There are intersecting interests, a workshop of cruelty,” he said.
At the meeting of the Caritas Internationalis’ representative council, Pope Francis also discussed the dangers of bureaucracies and his hope that Caritas would not be one.
“I would like Caritas not to be an institution that depends on the pope, the Holy See, Cor Unum, (the Pontifical Council for) Justice and Peace. No. It is a federation of diocesan Caritas (agencies) that are linked with the Holy See,” he said.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI issued new statutes for Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of 165 national Catholic charities, to place it under the supervision of Cor Unum. But Cor Unum will cease to exist 1 January 2017, when it is absorbed together with three other pontifical councils into the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The Caritas statutes will have to be rewritten to reflect the reorganization of the Roman Curia, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, told Catholic News Service after the papal audience.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, who will be prefect of the new dicastery, was scheduled to meet with Caritas representatives to discuss what kind of relationship the confederation would have with the new office.
The pope told the Caritas representatives, about 80 people gathered in the apostolic palace’s Sala Clementina, that he asked Cardinal Tagle whether he should read his written speech aloud or just sit and listen to what they had to say and have a “little dialogue.”
“We chose the second” proposal, the pope said to applause.
As is the usual practice, the audience was broadcast via closed-circuit audio feed so journalists could report on the proceedings as they unfolded. However, the last minute change in the nature of the meeting meant the Vatican cut off the audio feed after about 13 minutes. The Vatican later said the encounter was meant to be private.
An unidentified man from Aleppo, Syria, thanked the pope for his encouragement and underlined the importance of the church’s presence in the Arab-Islamic world.
An unidentified woman who covers Caritas efforts in the Middle East and North Africa said Pope Francis’ call to be a sign of tenderness to the people truly changed their hearts and minds and approach to their work, giving them greater courage in a sometimes “arid” world.
The pope told his audience that a “revolution of tenderness” was needed, especially in a world dominated by a “throwaway culture.”
Being tender and close to the people means holding them, embracing them and “to not be afraid of the flesh,” the pope said.
God chose to become flesh through his son so he could be even closer to humanity; the church, too, must be near the people and show this same love — this “tenderness of the Father,” he said.
The flesh of Christ today, he said, are people who are unwanted, exploited and victims of war.
“For this reason the proposals of spirituality (that are) too theoretical are new forms of gnosticism and gnosticism is a heresy,” he said. Gnosticism reflects an idea that a select elite can develop special powers and gifts through specialized knowledge that is hidden from most people.
16 November 2016
Children greet a visitor during lunchtime at the Bethlehem Day Care Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For more on Catholic education in Ethiopia, check out Breaking Barriers from the March 2007 edition of ONE and ‘It’s Not Just Talk and Chalk’ from the Summer 2013 edition.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
15 November 2016
Sister Jannetta Aldegheri from the Sisters of Saint Dorothy greets a young friend at the Pope Paul VI Ephpheta School for the Hearing Impaired in Bethlehem. To learn more about the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, check out this profile. And read The Miracle of Ephpheta in our magazine to learn more about this remarkable school. (photo: Steve Sabella)
14 November 2016
Sister Mater Domini embraces Lolla, the youngest child at the St. Aloysius Gonzaga School in the village of King Mariut near Alexandria, Egypt. To learn more about this oasis of hope in Egypt, read City of Charity from the May 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
10 November 2016
Young men play basketball at the Mai-Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia, home to more than 17,000 Eritrean refugees. To learn more about the camp, and the dreams of those who have settled there, read Starting Over from the Summer 2014 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures)
9 November 2016
Father Sunny Mathew delivers a homily in Most Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, New York.
(photo: George Kurian)
For the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE, I sat down for an interview with the Rev. Sunny Mathew, a Syro-Malankara priest who pastors a small parish in suburban New York:
“The Malankara Catholic liturgy is basically the Antiochene liturgy,” he says, explaining that the Antiochene liturgy is among the oldest liturgies of the church, dating to the time of the apostle, St. James the Less, for whom the liturgy is named. “And we still keep the purity and originality of that liturgy.”
This heritage has buoyed his small parish for decades, as the faithful met in various schools around the metropolitan area while trying to find a permanent home.
In the spring of 2016, the search ended when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York turned over to the Syro-Malankara Church a parish in Yonkers that had been closed. Father Mathew’s flock now has a real church to call home, reinforcing what the priest calls the Syro-Malankara sense of family.
“It is a small church,” the 43-year-old priest says of the worldwide Syro-Malankara community. “We still live like one family. We are almost 500,000 members now. And we all feel like we belong to one family, one church. Our major archbishop knows each priest by name. He knows almost everyone in every parish, where each priest works. This is the kind of family atmosphere we have in our church,” he says.
He pauses to measure his words. “‘Small’ has its own beauty,” he explains. “That is the blessedness we enjoy.”
Read on to learn more about his parish and this particular branch of the Catholic family tree. And check out the video below, in which we pay a visit to his parish and experience the liturgy.
8 November 2016
A little girl picks out a pumpkin in the village of Horpyn in Ukraine. Read about the ethnic and religious patchwork of the region in this article from the March 2009 issue of ONE.
(photo: Petro Didula)
7 November 2016
Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, the new custos of the Holy Land Franciscans, was interviewed in Washington last week. He says “We help everybody. We don’t ask what is your religion when we help someone because we recognize in every person a living image of God and of Jesus who’s asking to be welcomed.” (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
The responsibilities entrusted to him are great: caring for about 50 shrines, more than two dozen parishes, various schools and other services provided by more than 250 Franciscan friars stationed at some of the most embattled places in the Middle East.
But Franciscan Rev. Francesco Patton seems almost serene about the mission and his new post as the custos of the Franciscans of the Holy Land. In almost any other religious order, he’d be called a provincial or a superior, but because the founder of the Franciscans didn’t like terms that would denote superiority of one brother over another, he is called the custos, Latin for custodian, of the Holy Land Franciscans.
“This is Franciscan vocabulary,” he explained. “(St.) Francis said we are all equal in the Gospel. We are all brothers ... the custos is the (custodian) of the sheep and it is an important vocabulary because the sheep, they are not the property of the custos. We all are sheep of Jesus, but we have to take care of one another. It's pastoral vocabulary.”
Pastoral vocabulary is familiar and dear to Father Patton, whose father tended the fields of northern Italy. He said he feels comfortable and grounded in his farming community roots.
As custos, he said, his duty is to take care of the friars, and particularly to assume primary trust of places important to Christians in the Holy Land, including shrines in Galilee, Bethlehem, Emmaus and Jericho, as well holy places in Jordan and Syria.
It is a challenging post to be in, to be sure, especially because some of those places find themselves in political conflict, violence or outright war.
“In this moment, the land of conflict is Syria,” said Father Patton. “So, our shrines (in Syria) now are not visited by pilgrims. It’s impossible to organize a pilgrimage in Syria.”
Before the recent conflict broke out in 2001, Christian pilgrims would visit locales such as the Memorial of St. Paul, the place where he converted to Christianity, and the house were Ananias baptized him. Both places are in or near Damascus, Syria, and are under the care of the Holy Land Franciscans there.
“Now these are places in which local Christians are praying and asking for the end of this war,” Father Patton said.
Since the pilgrims are gone, they are places the friars use to provide shelter for those running from the daily conflict in other parts of the country. The guest house close to the memorial of St. Paul, where pilgrims used to stay, is now hosting refugees, he said. And the friars, even under danger, are providing food and any necessities to anyone who might need help.
Recently, the friars launched a campaign at myfranciscan.org/syria, which includes a video and social media component, using the hashtag #Syriafriars, asking for prayers as well as material help for the Franciscans trying to assist the local populations.
“We help everybody,” said Father Patton in an interview with Catholic News Service 3 November in Washington, where he was visiting in early November trying to call attention to the dire situation in Syria.
“We don’t ask what is your religion when we help someone because we recognize in every person a living image of God and of Jesus who’s asking to be welcomed,” he said.
Friars and nuns find themselves in desperate situations trying to help burgeoning populations such as Lattakiah, near the Mediterranean, where parish populations have doubled, as people run from conflict zones to areas of relative safety. The conflict has drained once Christian strongholds such as Aleppo.
Aleppo was once a very important city and known as the “second cradle” of Christianity, said Father Patton, who recalls it had a Christian population anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000. These days, estimates say it could be down to 40,000 or 30,000 Christians, he said. Most have fled in the past five years, but many also have died there.
“Now there are unfortunately many funerals, also of children,” he said.
For the Christians who remain there, he said, it’s important that other Christians know of their suffering.
“They feel often abandoned by the other Christians,” he said. “They feel that many Christians are not interested in their suffering or what they are doing to remain Christian there. Many of them have lost everything. The only thing they haven't lost is the faith.”
It’s important to know what’s happening to them, to pray for them but also to act, Father Patton said.
“Our Christian faith is that the word of God became flesh,” he said. “We are not part of an intellectualistic religion in which we think it is enough to think and to pray. We have to support concretely.”
The friars are helping the local communities with food, electricity, water, gas, diesel, restoring houses after bombardments.
“We need support,” he said.
Yet for all the abundance of misery, there also is abundance of hope, not just in Syria but also in the Holy Land, said Father Patton.
“I find hope in our schools, when I see children from different religions living together, becoming friends,” he said. “I find hope when I go to the shrine of Emmaus, in a small village in which there is only one Christian family and the others all are Muslims and when there is the feast of St. Cleophas, and a Muslim family pays the dinner for all the people present.”
There are countless stories in the region of collaborations among Jewish, Christians and Muslim teachers and students and their families, he said.
“I find hope when I have meetings with the religious leaders of Greek Orthodox and Armenians and we are able to find agreements, to do work together,” he said. “There are many, many signs of hope, but we need eyes to see the signs of hope. If we are blind, we cannot see signs of hope.”
And the Franciscans are involved in trying to build the bridges necessary to one day have lasting peace in the region, he said, and it starts with children.
“The first field is the first field of education,” he said, adding that Franciscan schools have a mix of Christians, Muslims and other religions. “It’s an important experience of living together and we notice that in these schools the prejudice is reduced.”
When children learn to live together and become friends with people who hold
different beliefs, their families, too, learn to hold different views, he said.
“If we do something to connect with the other people, if we do something to reduce the prejudice against Christians, we are working for peace,” Father Patton said. “When they have an experience of Christian charity, they can change their mind on Christians.”
Father Patton sees this type of peacebuilding as some of the most important type of work in the world. He talks about the recent visit of Pope Francis to Sweden and the example in peacebuilding that he is setting. The Franciscans, following his lead, also have been involved in interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
“In this moment, in every part of the world, it is important to have dialogue with people of other faiths,” he said. “It may be the most important field for the future.”
And it started with the Second Vatican Council, which said that “it is important that everyone can express his religious identity and it is important that everyone respects the religious identity of the others,” said Father Patton, adding that “in the Holy Land, this is a good season for ecumenical dialogue.”
Franciscan friars are involved in interreligious dialogue with Jews and Muslims and other similar initiatives involving youth in the area, he said.
“And so these are good news,” he said. “We know there are also fanatics, but the only possibility to reduce the number of fanatics, I think, is to work to increase the number of open-minded people.”