4 September 2019
The Rev. Khalil Jaar, Amy Peake, left, and Um Rita discuss the washable diapers the Iraqi Christian community is creating for refugees. (photo: CNS/Dale Galvak)
A petite, dark-haired woman busily measures and cuts large pieces of pastel pink and blue fleecy material as another sews.
“We left Iraq with our most precious possessions. ISIS stole everything from us, but thank God, they did take not our daughters,” the woman, known as Um Rita by her colleagues, told Catholic News Service, her eyes welling with tears.
Many Iraqi Christians, who fled Islamic State militants in August 2014, are still displaced, both inside Iraq and as refugees in neighboring lands, such as Jordan.
But the Rev. Khalil Jaar and British humanitarian Amy Peake have teamed up on an initiative that provides a livelihood to some of his Iraqi refugee parishioners, who have run short of funds, in a crowded section of Amman, the Jordanian capital.
“We have around 800 Iraqi refugee families living in my parish in Marka. They came after ISIS took Mosul and arrived here with almost nothing,” explained Father Jaar, who has devoted his ministry to aiding Iraqi and Syrian refugees flooding into Jordan from neighboring conflicts for more than a decade.
“Unlike the Syrian refugees, the Iraqis are not allowed to work. They don’t receive any help from nongovernmental organizations,” he told CNS. “So, you can imagine the situation of these families. I am looking to find a way for them to live in human dignity, to work and to have some money,” said Father Jaar, who grew up as a Palestinian refugee from Bethlehem, West Bank.
The Jordanian government grants work permits to some Syrian refugees, but others, such as Iraqis and Yemenis, are not officially allowed to work. But Father Jaar explained that Iraqis working in the church and on the compound may do so, because they are Christian and it’s a Catholic institution which has been helping them.
“When Amy visited our center, I felt her heart was burdened. She told me, ‘Father, I have a problem.’ ‘I have the solution,’ I told her.” And he chuckled, recounting their first meeting at his parish compound, Our Lady Mother of the Church.
Peake told CNS that at Zaatari, Jordan’s biggest refugee camp for Syrians, she had created a factory to produce high-quality washable diapers -- known in Britain as “nappies” -- and sanitary pads to aid Syrian refugee residents suffering from incontinence, including traumatized children, the elderly and the disabled.
The diapers are free; the idea was to help keep the refugees from spending most of their monthly stipend on disposable diapers.
“Not everybody is going to want to use a washable nappy for obvious reasons. But the 60 percent of people who carried on using them said they saved 25 percent of their monthly income -- which is a huge amount of money,” Peake explained.
Despite the positive results, the United Nations decided not to continue the project.
“Amy proposed to put the sewing machines here and immediately I gave her a big room, because we solve Amy’s problem as well as the problems of many Iraqi refugees in our parish. I see the Lord resolving so many issues,” said Father Jaar. At this time, more than 20 Iraqi Christians are working in the diaper factory.
“Behind each one working in the factory is a family to support with about five children. So, I do thank the Lord for this grace, this blessing he sent to us. I also thank Amy and everyone behind this fantastic relief service,” said the priest. “The families are given the opportunity to work in human dignity, not to beg for the needs of their family.”
Father Jaar said the Iraqi Christians who fled Islamic State are well-educated and skilled. They want the possibility to work, rather than receiving handouts.
“I remember during a food coupon distribution, I saw an Iraqi man crying,” he recalled. “I asked him, ‘Has someone hurt you? Why are you are crying? Why are you sad?’ He said, ‘No, Father, I am sad for myself. The work you are doing to help these people, this used to be my work in Mosul. I was a very rich man and I used to help people. Now, I am asking for someone to help me.’“
“You can imagine the frustration of these people,” Father Jaar said, adding that this man now has a responsible role in the factory. “My duty is to support them, to encourage them, to tell them that you are suffering, but you are suffering for a very high, noble reason: to preserve your faith. For you, for me, you are the living saints in my parish. I thank you for living with me.”
Diapers are distributed to churches working with Iraqi refugees in Amman and nearby Fuhais, as well as organizations such as “the House of Peace for the Elderly” (Dar es Salam for the Elderly), located in Amman, founded and run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The Collateral Repair Project, which assists 10,000 refugee families in Jordan, is also involved in locating refugees who need the washable diapers.
3 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Jordan
Pope Francis greets Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, at the Vatican 2 September 2019. The 47 bishops from Ukrainian dioceses in Ukraine and 10 other nations met the pope during their synod in Rome. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Before a synod, bishops must learn what their people want and think and need, not so they can change church teaching, but so they can preach the Gospel more effectively, Pope Francis told the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Forty-seven bishops from Ukrainian dioceses in Ukraine and 10 other nations, including the United States, Canada and Australia, met the pope on 2 September during their synod in Rome.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, told Pope Francis that “every bishop and representative of our local communities has made his journey to Rome carrying with him the sufferings and hopes of the people of God entrusted to our pastoral care.”
The bishops, he said, want to be synodal -- walking together with their people -- “not only during our sessions but also when we return to our communities. Because, in fact, one cannot walk while seated!”
Speaking to the bishops, Pope Francis focused on Archbishop Shevchuk’s remarks and on how the Eastern Catholic churches, like the Orthodox churches, have a longer and uninterrupted history of decisions flowing from bishops’ synods.
“There is a danger,” the pope said, which is “thinking today that making a synodal journey or having an attitude of ‘synodality’ means investigating opinions -- what does this one and that one think -- and then having a meeting to make an agreement. No! The synod is not a parliament!”
While synod members must discuss matters and offer their opinions, he said, the purpose is not “to come to an agreement like in politics: ‘I’ll give you this, you give me that.’“
Bishops must know what their lay faithful, priests and religious think, the pope said, but it’s not a survey or a vote on what should change.
“If the Holy Spirit is not present, there is no synod,” he said. “If the Holy Spirit is not present, there is no synodality. In fact, there is no church.”
The vocation of the church is to evangelize, he said, and the Holy Spirit should help bishops gathered in a synod to do that better.
“Pray to the Holy Spirit,” the pope told the bishops. “Argue among yourselves” like early church leaders did at Ephesus but listen to the Holy Spirit.
“We don’t want to become a congregationalist church, but a synodal church,” he said. “Keep moving forward on this path.”
30 August 2019
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Catholic Church
Pope Francis greets Cardinal Achille Silvestrini in 2016 photo. The cardinal, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, died on 29 August 2019, at the age of 95. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, has died at the age of 95.
In a message of condolence to the family of the cardinal, who died on 29 August in Rome, Pope Francis noted that his decades at the Vatican included service to seven popes.
He will be remembered for “a life spent in adhering to his vocation as a priest attentive to the needs of others, a skillful and adaptable diplomat and a pastor faithful to the Gospel and to the church,” Pope Francis said.
Born in the northern Italian city of Brisighella, the future cardinal was ordained a priest in 1946 and subsequently received doctorates from the University of Bologna and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome before entering the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which provides training to priests for eventual service in the Vatican diplomatic corps.
As a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, he focused on international issues concerning Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. He also accompanied Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then-Vatican secretary of state, to Moscow in 1971 to deliver the Holy See’s adhesion to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
In 1979, he was named by St. John Paul II as secretary of the former Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, now known as the Section for Relations with States. As secretary, a position equivalent to foreign minister, he represented the Vatican on diplomatic missions to various countries, including Spain, Malta, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Poland and Haiti.
He was created a cardinal in 1988 and named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court, where he served until 1991 when St. John Paul appointed him prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
During his time as prefect, the Vatican called upon Cardinal Silvestrini’s diplomatic experience in areas of tension, particularly in the Middle East. In May 1993, he led a Vatican delegation to meet with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
He urged Hussein to make signs of goodwill and fulfill U.N. resolutions in order to ease economic restrictions imposed upon Iraq following the Gulf War. Cardinal Silvestrini served as prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches until 2000.
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 215 members, 118 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.
29 August 2019
Parishioners make flat bread and pastries for the annual bazaar at St. James Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. Armenians have turned this community into a home away from home. Read how they are offering A Taste of Little Armenia in the July 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
28 August 2019
In a grove near the West Bank city of Nablus, women sort olives then remove stems and leaves. Learn more about these Olive Offerings — and how important this crop is to Palestine — in the January 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Ahikam Seri)
27 August 2019
In this image from June, Syriac Catholic Archbishop Nathanael Nizar Semaan celebrates his first liturgy as bishop on Pentecost Sunday, two days after his episcopal ordination, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh. He has been named the Diocese of Hadiab-Erbil and all Kurdistan. To the left is Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan.
(photo: Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
To support the faithful and encourage them to stay in their homeland, the Syriac Catholic Church has reestablished a diocese for the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan celebrated the new diocese at a liturgy at Queen of Peace Syriac Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq, on 24 August. In his homily, he commended the faithful for being “the embodiment of the living faith, and a testimony to the challenge and steadfastness amid takfiri terrorism and in the face of evil forces that wanted to kill hope in your believing souls.”
“I say and repeat: You have carried the cross on the example of the Savior, our divine teacher, and you have persevered in your faith, your heritage and your hope, which has been admired around the world, East and West alike,” Patriarch Younan said.
Archbishop Nathaniel Nizar Semaan heads the new Diocese of Hadiab-Erbil and all Kurdistan. Previously, the area was under the Mosul Archdiocese’s jurisdiction.
Archbishop Semaan was ordained a bishop on 7 June as the coadjutor archbishop of Mosul; then he was named archbishop of the new diocese when it was erected 28 June. He had served as a priest in London for 14 years.
The Hadiab Diocese was founded in the 13th century, but had dissolved by the mid-17th century.
In the summer of 2014, some 120,000 Christians were uprooted from Mosul and the Ninevah Plain by the Islamic State, fleeing to Irbil in the Kurdistan region. While dozens of families have since migrated to the West, some families have returned to liberated areas in the Ninevah Plain, and others have settled in the Kurdistan region.
Patriarch Younan noted that, during their synod in June, the Syriac Catholic bishops decided to revive the diocese “in order to activate the episcopal care of the clergy and believers residing in the Kurdistan region.”
The Kurdistan regional government has provided two plots of land in Ainkawa and Dahuk, each dedicated to the construction of a Syriac Catholic church.
Patriarch Younan also celebrated Mass in the refurbished Syriac Catholic church of St. Behnam and St. Sarah in Qaraqosh, which had been destroyed by ISIS. In his homily during the 25 August liturgy, the patriarch recalled that he had participated in the church’s consecration 18 years earlier.
He referred to the faithful from Qaraqosh, located in the heart of the Ninevah Plain, as “the pearls of our church” as they constitute the largest Syriac Catholic congregation in the world. Noting that immigrating to the West does not necessarily result in happiness, the patriarch reminded Catholics that “the blessed land that was watered in the sweat of our fathers and grandfathers and with their bright blood must continue to bear witness to the Lord Jesus, even if our number is reduced.”
In 2003, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Their presence dates back to apostolic times. Now that number has dwindled to about 250,000.
Prior to visiting Iraq, Patriarch Younan participated in the International Pilgrimage for Politicians and Family Summit in Fatima, Portugal. On the sidelines of the summit, along with Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch Younan met with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
The patriarchs called attention to the violence, terrorism, kidnapping, killing and uprooting, particularly in Syria and Iraq, and warned that, if it continues, it would lead to Christians leaving the land.
26 August 2019
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Syriac Catholic Church
In this image from February, Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s Al Azhar mosque and university, are seen in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Pope Francis welcomed Abu Dhabi’s formation of an international committee to implement the "Document for Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together," which he and Sheik el-Tayeb signed in the country in February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
At a time when conflict and division dominate the world’s headlines, people need to know there are a growing number of important initiatives to promote interreligious dialogue and understanding, Pope Francis said.
The pope welcomed the Abu Dhabi government’s formation of an international committee to implement the document on “human fraternity,” which he and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university, signed in Abu Dhabi in February.
“Although sadly evil, hatred and division often make news,” the pope said, “there is a hidden sea of goodness that is growing and leads us to hope in dialogue, reciprocal knowledge and the possibility of building, together with the followers of other religions and all men and women of goodwill, a world of fraternity and peace.”
The Vatican press office published the pope’s remarks on 26 August, a week after Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, announced the initiative to promote meetings of religious leaders, academic study of the document and support legislation to broaden religious liberty and tolerance.
Spanish Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, was named a member of the committee.
In an interview with Vatican News, Bishop Ayuso said the document is an appeal to build a “civilization of love,” and should not lead to a fear that Catholics will stop believing that the fullness of salvation lies in Christ.
“I think fear is the number one enemy of interreligious dialogue,” he said. “The Catholic Church remembers the value of its own identity, the courage of otherness and the sincerity of intentions” of those who engage in dialogue.
“It is not about creating a ‘melting pot’ in which all religions are considered equal,” he said, “but that all believers -- those who seek God and all people of good will without religious affiliation -- are equal in dignity.”
23 August 2019
Tags: Muslim Interreligious Abu Dhabi
Alexander and Margarita Mamin show one of their icons with a religious theme, which stands in stark contrast to the secular work the Soviets had insisted upon. Read more about the religious icons being created after the fall of the Soviet empire in New Reality, Same Artistry from the March-April 2004 edition of our magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
22 August 2019
Tags: Russia Icons
In this image from 2018, the Rev. John Szada, chaplain of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, distributes Communion during an annual Marian pilgrimage at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church. This year’s pilgrimage will be held on Sunday. (photo: CNS/Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness)
With the mass shootings that have taken place in this country in recent weeks and “the state of our society in our big cities and small towns,” this is a time “when we all need to turn to God,” said the pastor of a historic Ukrainian Catholic church in Pennsylvania.
The Rev. Michael Hutsko, pastor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, made the comments in an interview with SSPTV of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, ahead of the annual Call to Prayer Marian Pilgrimage set to take place at the church on 25 August.
The white church, with its distinctive three onion-shaped blue domes, sits on a hill to the north of the town, which has been almost entirely condemned as a result of underground mine fires that have undermined the stability of the ground.
“People are coming from all over the East Coast (to) make their way here to pray,” Father Hutsko said. “It truly is a day of prayer and we try to keep the property as peaceful and calm as possible, not to turn it into a reunion or a picnic. It’s a place to experience to God and this mountain is conducive to that.”
The fact the church sits high above the town, escaping the underground mine fires is “something providential, “ the priest added. “Only God knew it would be a place to call people and remind people of his presence.”
Today, while the town is a memory, the church still serves a thriving parish family, with congregants driving to the hilltop on Sundays and holy days from communities throughout the area.
This year’s annual Marian pilgrimage will feature five bishops who will concelebrate the Divine Liturgy: Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Latin-rite Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of the Latin-rite Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Metropolitan-Archbishop Gudziak will be the homilist. Father Deacon Paul Spotts will serve as deacon. Responses to the Divine Liturgy will be congregational singing led by Dennis Hardock, cantors from local parishes, members of St. Nicholas Choir in Minersville, Pennsylvania, and Holy Family Ukrainian National Shrine Choir in Washington.
After the Divine Liturgy, a procession from the church will take the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv to the outside chapel where the icon will be placed for veneration.
Priests will be available for much of the day offering the sacrament of reconciliation for pilgrims at various locations on the church grounds.
A living rosary will be prayed in the afternoon before the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv. Afterward the Akafist Prayer to the Dormition (Assumption) of Mary will be sung.
The schedule also will include a 5 p.m. a candlelight procession with the icon from the Pochaiv Chapel to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” or prayer of (prayer of supplication) to the Mother of God. At the conclusion of the moleben, prayers for healing and the anointing with holy oils for the healing of soul and body will take place.
“During this Marian pilgrimage, as we are called to prayer,” Father Hutsko said, to ask that Mary “extend her mantle of protection over us and lead our nation toward a spiritual conversion of mind, heart and soul.”
The first pilgrimage to the Centralia church was held in 2016 and the story of this unique pilgrimage site has been told throughout the world. It was the cover story for the Christmas 2018 edition of Reader’s Digest and BBC News did a feature story in February 2018.
During a 2015 visit, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, Ukraine, the head of the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church, marveled at the continuing presence of the church in Centralia. He also noted how this coal region parish fostered vocations of four men to the priesthood and three sisters to religious life.
With the visit of Major Archbishop Shevchuk and the encouragement of now-retired Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, the place was designated a holy site of pilgrimage.
21 August 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
A statue of Our Lady of Consolation is surrounded by pilgrims during a candlelight procession and vigil Mass outside the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio on 14 August 2019. (photo: CNS/Katie Rutter)
With its one stoplight and surrounding cornfields, the small Ohio village of Carey seems an unlikely travel destination. Yet, once a year, an estimated 5,000 visitors swell the town population to more than double.
For nine days, climaxing on the evening of 14 August, scores of charter buses drop off pilgrims, most of whom are Iraqi Christians. Hundreds of families fill a five-acre plot with tents, recreational vehicles, Middle Eastern food and music.
“We feel that we’re like in our old village back home. Like when I walk around I know a lot of people,” said Khalid Markos, who is now a resident of Sterling Heights, Michigan, but was born in Alanish, Iraq.
His family, like most of the pilgrims, fled from war and persecution in their home country. Now exiled refugees, they have found consolation by celebrating their faith and traditions at the aptly named Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey.
“We love our faith a lot and as you may know, we left our country because we didn’t want to deny our faith,” Conventual Franciscan Friar Raad Eshoo told Catholic News Service, “and it’s sad that we see a lot of people here and in Iraq there are few Christians, Chaldean Christians.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church, based in Iraq, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome. Chaldean Catholics trace their faith back to the second century and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
In recent decades, however, war and terrorism has caused hundreds of thousands of these Christians to flee their homeland.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce estimates that 160,000 Chaldeans now reside in the Detroit metropolitan area.
“My mother says, ‘Even if someone paid me a million dollars, I wouldn’t go back,’” said Martha Yousif, niece of Markos, whose parents fled Iraq in 1997.
“You can’t guarantee (you will) come back safe,” she related.
“Many things I faced -- bombing. In front of my clinic, even,” said Syrian Orthodox Christian Nawar Awbawyvalsheikh, a physician and native of Mosul, Iraq.
“Terrorists. They came to our building to kill us and American soldiers saved us,” she recalled.
These exiled Christians began traveling two hours from Detroit to the Carey shrine about two decades ago. Many were drawn by stories of miraculous healings, others by a devotion to Mary. All are reliving an Iraqi tradition of visiting shrines and holy sites for pious practices and celebration.
“We have a lot of feasts we call them ‘shera,’ (with) a lot of people camping, music, dancing, food, and we end it with Mass and procession,” said Friar Raad, who was born in Mosul.
“When I’m here, I feel like home,” he said.
The nine days of celebration in Carey are marked by a constant line for confessions, regular blessings by clergy and several Masses daily, often in Aramaic.
At dusk on 14 August, the pilgrims carried candles and processed with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation from the basilica to an open field, called Shrine Park. There Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo presided over an outdoor Mass for the vigil of the feast of the Assumption.
“It breathes a lot of new life into me and I think the friars that come here love to do this,” said the Rev. Father Thomas Merrill, a Conventual Franciscan, the shrine’s rector. He was joined by dozens of fellow Conventual Franciscans to help care for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims.
“The people are so hungry for anything that is faith-based and so hungry to practice their Catholic faith and receive the sacraments,” Father Thomas said.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation was established in 1875 by a priest from Luxembourg and has welcomed regular waves of pilgrims, often immigrants.
The lower church contains three display cases full of crutches and mementos left by those healed or those who want to thank Our Lady of Consolation for a favor received.
“(The Chaldean people have) suffered a lot. They go through a lot of problems. God and the Virgin Mary saved them to come over here and live peacefully,” Markos told CNS.
“Anytime you’re in need of something, you ask for it, she always (provides), especially here,” said Rafa Kattoula, whose family has made a pilgrimage to the shrine for over 40 years.
Expressing gratitude for Mary’s intercession, Kattoula concluded: “We’ve asked and we come and we receive from her.”
Watch a video of the procession below.
Thousands of Iraqi Chaldean Catholics and other pilgrims converge on the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, for a vigil and procession to honor Mary.
(video: Katie Rutter/CNS/YouTube)
Tags: Iraqi Christians Chaldeans