29 March 2017
The view from atop the Shrine of Our Lady of Mantara presents a stunning vista of the cathedral, village and surrounding countryside. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
Something about being in a place so different from the one you call home can, at first, overwhelm your senses. It’s the smells of the manakeesh, a Lebanese pizza of sorts. It’s the church bells mingled with the call to prayer. It’s the green mountains against the calm sea — a much different sight than the stone-cold steel and concrete of New York City. And of course, it’s the laughter and joy of refugee children — smiles born out of hope they found as they were accompanied by the love and support of CNEWA.
All of it can be a lot to take in, so on our third day of reviewing CNEWA-sponsored programs, we sat over a simple but delicious meal of Lebanese mezze (various small snack dishes) in Beirut to jot out a few thoughts and process a little more of our trip together. We’ve visited four institutions thus far: Monday brought us to the St. Antoine Dispensary run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Angels of Peace School run by the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate. Tuesday’s visits included the Fratelli School for Syrian refugees run by the Marist and Lasallian Brothers, as well as a visit to the Joint Christian Committee School for Syrian refugees of Palestinian origin.
A student enjoys a snack at the Fratelli School. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
We both agreed, immediately, that the programs exude overwhelmingly beautiful warmth of spirit. Despite each person we met having endured unimaginable suffering in his or her own way, their joy was contagious.
At the St. Antoine Dispensary, judiciously overseen by Sister Antoinette Assaf, Iraqi refugees who have settled in the neighborhood, along with poor Lebanese, receive much more than medical care. There is a strong focus on education and awareness, especially because many of the refugees were unaware of the hygienic challenges of living in a dense urban setting. New waves of refugees, from different parts of the country, have brought new challenges, and Sister Antoinette, with help from CNEWA, has responded quickly. Currently, the clinic offers services in ophthalmology, dermatology, dental services and gynecology, which, thanks to our support, are available for just $12 for each patient — a cost the clinic sometimes covers when the poorest of the poor cannot.
The Angels of Peace School, which Chris wrote about yesterday, hosts almost 500 Iraqi Christian refugees. With the support of our Beirut office, the Rev. Youssef Yaacoub has rented out a private school that his students and teachers can use each afternoon. Every student had a smile for us.
And, of course, visiting the Fratelli School, near Saida, was a real treat. Run jointly by the Marist and Lasallian Brothers at the request of Pope Francis for congregations to join together to tackle the challenges facing refugees, this institution hosts 270 Syrian students, both Muslim and Christian. We met the dynamic Brother Andres Gutierrez, who oversees the school along with Brother Miquel Cubeles, a Marist from Barcelona. When we arrived, the students were at lunch and recess, and eagerly approached us on the colorful playground. Many even offered us their food, an act of charity that moved us deeply.
The spirit of generosity is evident in the Fratelli School. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
Brother Andre explained that he had rebuilt the school when he arrived, as the structure had sat abandoned for over 25 years prior to his arrival. The school has been open for just a year, and in that time they’ve completed several classrooms, a kitchen, a residence for the brothers and a computer lab. As it focuses on acclimating refugee students to the Lebanese curriculum, which is taught in French and English as opposed to the Arabic Syrian students are used to, the school will function as a remedial program of sorts, easing students into the Lebanese school system to improve their likelihood of success.
A Fratelli School student greets visitors. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
We also visited a nearby high school in Saida for 213 Syrian students of mostly Palestinian origin. It focuses on training students who aim to take the Syrian national examinations, which are recognized worldwide and required for students before they can go to college. We dropped by a few classes, where young men and women were busy studying and taking practice tests. Someday, we pray, they will return to Syria to help rebuild their country.
A view from the entrance of Our Lady of Mantara Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
On the way back to Beirut after a full day, we stopped at the impressive Shrine of Our Lady of Mantara in the Melkite village of Maghdouche. According to tradition, Mary waited in a cave here while Jesus was preaching in Tyre and Sidon, known today as Saida. The spot is marked by an ornate Melkite Greek Catholic church and a tower offering beautiful views of Saida and the Mediterranean. We were struck by how many refugees have been “waiting,” perhaps wondering where their lives might lead. So many are in limbo, but with CNEWA’s support, there is a path forward. As Msgr. Kozar told students we visited, “There is a bright future” awaiting these students who prepare now for the hard road ahead. It won’t be easy, but hope is always a light in the dark.
Msgr. Kozar addresses a classroom in the Joint Christian Committee School. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
As we cross the halfway point in our journey, we’re constantly reminded of the light CNEWA brings to many. Hope is in the face of everyone we’ve met. The mission is alive — we’ve seen it!
28 March 2017
Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA Catholic Reflections/Inspirational
A young resident participates in Evening Prayer at Grace Home in Trichur, India. To learn about the saintly man who founded the home — and who left behind an enduring legacy of compassionate care — read Remembering India’s ‘Father of the Poor’ in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
27 March 2017
CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar poses with some new friends he made Sunday at St. Elie Church in Antelias, Lebanon. Many of those attending Mass were from the Filipino migrant worker community. After the liturgy, they greeted Msgr. Kozar and eagerly posed for pictures. Msgr. Kozar will be visiting Lebanon all week; check back here regularly for updates.
(photo: Chris Kennedy)
24 March 2017
Syrian refugee children find hope at the community center founded by Sister Micheline Lattouff — and administered by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd — in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
Greetings from Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport. I’m about to depart for Lebanon, where I’ll be accompanying CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar on a pastoral visit, along with my colleague Philip Eubanks. We’ll be visiting a number of programs and projects that CNEWA supports, including a school in Beirut for Iraqi refugees, a Melkite seminary where a new generation of priests is being trained to minister to the poor and needy, and a school in the Bekaa Valley for Syrian students.
Philip and I will be posting updates daily here on the blog, as well as on CNEWA’s Facebook and Instagram pages. We invite you to join us digitally as we see firsthand how CNEWA and our donors, through the local church are bringing the gift of hope to children and families who might otherwise have none. It’s an opportunity we’re blessed to have, and blessed to share.
23 March 2017
In this image from 2005, Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler, left, places a zucchetto, the purple skull cap worn by bishops, on the head of a new auxiliary bishop named for the archdiocese, Bishop-designate Denis J. Madden, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. Bishop-designate Madden was assistant general secretary of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association prior to his episcopal appointment. (photo: CNS Owen Sweeney III, Catholic Review, Copyright Catholic Review Media, www.catholicreview.org. Used with permission.)
We received the news today that an old friend of CNEWA, retired Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, has entered eternal life. Among his many contributions to the Church, he served as a member of the board of CNEWA and was a prominent voice in Catholic-Jewish relations.
From Catholic Review:
Cardinal William H. Keeler, 14th archbishop of Baltimore, an international leader in Catholic-Jewish relations and the driving force behind the restoration of America’s first cathedral, died 23 March at his residence at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville. He was 86.
Cardinal Keeler served as the spiritual shepherd of the Baltimore archdiocese from 1989 until his retirement in 2007.
Archbishop William E. Lori, one of Cardinal Keeler’s two successors, said one of the great blessings of his life was coming to know Cardinal Keeler, whom he met when the cardinal was bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., and Archbishop Lori was priest-secretary to Washington Cardinal James Hickey.
When Cardinal Keeler became archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori said he learned of “his prowess as a church historian coupled with his deep love and respect for the history and heritage of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”
Among Cardinal Keeler&ersquo;s many accomplishments in the Baltimore archdiocese, Archbishop Lori highlighted “the wonderful visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Baltimore in 1995, the restoration of the Basilica of the Assumption and the creation of Partners in Excellence which has helped thousands of young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods to receive a sound Catholic education.”
“When I would visit the cardinal at the Little Sisters of the Poor (in Cardinal Keeler’s retirement), I gave him a report on my stewardship and told him many times that we were striving to build upon his legacy — a legacy that greatly strengthened the Church and the wider community,” Archbishop Lori said in a written statement...
...Cardinal Keeler was himself a champion of interfaith and ecumenical understanding, regarded as one of the world’s leading figures in the field.
When Jewish conductor Maestro Gilbert Levine, the “pope’s conductor,” visited Baltimore in 2000 to conduct a special performance of Haydn’s “Creation” for an international interfaith musical pilgrimage, he asserted that Cardinal Keeler’s “very body is in the rhythm of interfaith.”
Cardinal Keeler was named a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1994. He also served as episcopal moderator of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 1984 to 1987. While leading that group, Cardinal Keeler arranged for St. John Paul II to meet with Jewish leaders and Protestant representatives in South Carolina, and attend an interfaith ceremony in Los Angeles during the pope’s 1987 visit to the United States.
After Catholics and Lutherans agreed to a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, Cardinal Keeler and Bishop George Paul Mocko, then bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, nailed a copy of the document to the doors of the Baltimore Basilica and also Christ Lutheran Church in Fells Point.
“He knew how to listen,” said Rabbi Joel Zaiman, rabbi emeritus of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore. “He heard. He understood, and he responded genuinely and generously. He was always available when I called — wherever he was — oftentimes, Rome.”
It was important to the Jewish community that the cardinal had the ear of the pope, Rabbi Zaiman said.
Rabbi Abie Ingber of Xavier University, Cincinnati, and Dr. William Madges, of Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, curators of a national exhibition highlighting St. John Paul II’s relationship with Jews, honored Cardinal Keeler in 2010 for his work promoting Catholic-Jewish understanding by presenting him with a bronze medallion. The cardinal had worked to promote the exhibit, which was featured at Baltimore’s Jewish Museum of Maryland.
Rabbi Ingber noted that one of the titles for the pope is “pontifex maximus,” which means “master bridge builder.” Recognizing Cardinal Keeler’s contributions as a bridge builder, the rabbi joked that if there was such a title as “pontifex almost maximus,” the cardinal should have it.
Our prayers today are with Cardinal Keeler and all those who love him. May his memory be eternal.
22 March 2017
The restored Edicule is seen during a ceremony marking the end of restoration work on the site of Jesus’s tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 22 March.
(photo: CNS/Sebastian Scheiner, Reuters)
Less than a year after restoration work began, the Edicule — the traditional site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection — was inaugurated in an ecumenical ceremony led by representatives of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian churches, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
The 200-year-old structure was rehabilitated for the first time after Israeli authorities deemed it unsafe and leaders from the three churches that share custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre came to an agreement for the work to proceed.
Some did not believe the churches could overcome their centuries-old disagreements, but the project was a sign that “with God, nothing is impossible,” said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
“This apparent mission impossible became possible because we allowed God to enlighten our thoughts and our eyes and our relations. Things do not change by themselves. If we are here for this celebration, it is because the different churches and leaders were able to hear the voice of God and understand and realize and accept that it was time to build new relations between us of trust and respect,” he said.
Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, said it was “providential coincidence” that this year, as the Edicule is restored, all the Christian denominations celebrate Easter on the same date. It was also fitting, he said, that it was around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that the churches regained a closer relationship.
Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian took the opportunity to mention the three other denominations with a presence in the church — the Assyrian Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Coptic Orthodox. He asked that the Anglican and Russian Orthodox churches be allowed to offering their holy liturgy at the Edicule once a year, after Easter.
“We must pray earnestly to Jesus Christ to give us the wisdom to be able to absorb literally between ourselves his greatest commandment of love,” said the patriarch. “We have no difference in regard to this commandment and, unless we accept his commandment and express it in our lives and deeds, how can we consider ourselves Jesus’ disciples?”
Several hundred local faithful, pilgrims and international dignitaries filled the main area of the basilica where the Edicule is located, taking pictures and videos of the pink-stoned structure. The metal girders that British Mandate authorities added in 1947 to keep it standing have been removed.
“It is a very exciting day which hasn’t happened in hundreds of years. It is a very big step, we are all united in celebration,” said Marlen Mauge, 53, a Catholic from Jerusalem. “We would like to have more than one united celebration. It is a good message to the world.”
Antonia Moropoulou, a professor at the National Technical University of Athens, directed the work at the site.
21 March 2017
For two decades, Caritas Georgia has provided a wide range of services — including classes and health care — to the most vulnerable populations of the Caucasus. Read a letter from the director of Caritas Georgia in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Antonio di Vico)
15 March 2017
Tags: Education Georgia Caritas Caucasus
The Rev Androwas Bahus leads an early morning service at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the city of Shefa-Amr, Israel. Learn more about A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
13 March 2017
In this image from February, Pope Francis greets an elderly nun during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. Monday 13 March marks the four-year anniversary of his election to the papacy. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)
10 March 2017
Sister Arousiag Sajonian heads the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Gyumri. Read about her work and An Unshakable Faith in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: Dima Chikvaidze)