3 July 2018
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.
29 June 2018
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians
Catholic devotees in Banderdewa, India, pray on 28 June at the tomb of Prem Bhai, a lay missionary, on the 10th anniversary of his death. Read more about his life here. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
28 June 2018
Pope Francis leads a consistory to create 14 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on 28 June. (photo:CNS/Paul Haring)
Defending the weak or hopeless and becoming a servant to those most in need is the best promotion one can ever receive, Pope Francis told new and old cardinals.
“None of us must feel ‘superior’ to anyone. None of us should look down at others from above. The only time we can look at a person in this way is when we are helping them to stand up,” he said during a ceremony in which he elevated 14 bishops and archbishops from 11 different nations to the College of Cardinals on 28 June.
The formal ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica began with Pope Francis, wearing a miter and carrying a pastoral staff of retired Pope Benedict XVI, leading a procession of the soon-to-be cardinals -- in their new red robes -- while the choirs sang, “Tu es Petrus” (You are Peter).
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad approached a microphone to give thanks on behalf of all the new cardinals who have been “called to serve the church and all people with an even greater love.”
The 69-year-old patriarch, whose country has lost an estimated 1 million of what had been 1.5 million Christians over the years of war, violence by extremist militants and economic insecurity, thanked the pope for his special attention to the plight and struggle of “the tiny flock” of Christians throughout the Middle East.
“We pray and hope that your efforts to promote peace will change the hearts of men and women for the better” and help the world become a more “dignified” place for all people, the patriarch said.
Being made a cardinal, he noted, was not a prize or a personal honor, but an invitation to live out one’s mission more firmly dedicated to “the very end,” even to give one’s life, as symbolized by the cardinal’s color of red.
Their mission, the pope said in his homily, is to remember to stay focused on Christ, who always ministered and led the way, unperturbed by his disciples’ infighting, jealousies, failings and compromises.
On the road to Jerusalem, as the disciples were locked in “useless and petty discussions,” Jesus walks ahead yet tells them forcefully, when it comes to lording authority over others, “it shall not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant.”
What good is it, the pope asked, to “gain the whole world if we are corroded within” or “living in a stifling atmosphere of intrigues that dry up our hearts and impede our mission,” including those “palace intrigues” in curial offices.
“But it shall not be so among you,” the Lord says, because their eyes, heart and resources must be dedicated “to the only thing that counts: the mission,” the pope said.
Personal conversion and church reform are always missionary, he said, which demands that looking out for and protecting one’s own interests be stopped, so that looking out for and protecting what God cares about remains at the fore.
Letting go of sins and selfishness means “growing in fidelity and willingness to embrace the mission” so that “when we see the distress of our brothers and sisters, we will be completely prepared to accompany and embrace them” instead of being “roadblocks ... because of our short-sightedness or our useless wrangling about who is most important.”
“The church’s authority grows with this ability to defend the dignity of others, to anoint them and to heal their wounds and their frequently dashed hopes. It means remembering that we are here because we have been asked ‘to preach good news to the poor ... to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” he said.
“Dear brother cardinals and new cardinals,” the pope said, the “Lord walks ahead of us, to keep reminding us that the only credible form of authority is born of sitting at the feet of others in order to serve Christ.”
“This is the highest honor that we can receive, the greatest promotion that can be awarded us: to serve Christ in God’s faithful people. In those who are hungry, neglected, imprisoned, sick, suffering, addicted to drugs, cast aside,” he said.
Pope Francis then read the formula of creation and the names of all 14 cardinals; each new cardinal recited the creed and took an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors.
One by one, each cardinal went up to the pope and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal’s ring, a red skullcap and a three-cornered red hat. The assembly applauded for each new cardinal as the pope stood and embraced each one, in some cases, speaking to them briefly and privately.
With the new members, the College of Cardinals numbered 226, with 125 of them being cardinal electors -- those under 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave. With this consistory, Pope Francis has created almost half of the voting cardinals.
The new cardinals are from Iraq, Spain, Italy, Poland, Pakistan, Portugal, Peru, Madagascar, Japan, Mexico and Bolivia. The current College of Cardinals now represents six continents and 88 countries.
The 14 cardinals who received their red hats from the pope were Cardinals:
-- Louis Sako, 69.
-- Luis Ladaria, 74, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
-- Angelo De Donatis, 64, papal vicar for the Diocese of Rome.
-- Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 70, substitute secretary of state, prefect-designate of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
-- Konrad Krajewski, 54, papal almoner.
-- Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, 72.
-- Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, Portugal, 71.
-- Pedro Barreto of Huancayo, Peru, 74.
-- Desire Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar, 64.
-- Giuseppe Petrocchi of L’Aquila, Italy, 69.
-- Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda of Osaka, Japan, 69.
-- Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, 86.
-- Toribio Ticona Porco, retired bishop of Corocoro, Bolivia, 81.
-- Aquilino Bocos Merino, 80, former superior general of the Claretian religious order.
27 June 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican
In this image from 2017, Pope Francis greets Jordan's King Abdullah II during a private meeting at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)
King Abdullah II of Jordan has been chosen as the 2018 Templeton Prize Laureate.
He has “done more to seek religious harmony within Islam and between Islam and other religions than any other living political leader,” said a 27 June announcement on the award released by the John Templeton Foundation in West Conshohocken.
The Templeton Prize, established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton, aims to recognize someone “who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”
King Abdullah will be formally awarded the Templeton Prize at a ceremony in Washington on 13 November. The price has a monetary value of about $1.45 million.
Jordan’s leader was recognized for his work to promote a peaceful Islam and bring an end to religious violence in the Middle East.
After ascending to the throne of Jordan upon the 1999 death of his father, King Hussein, King Abdullah has aggressively prodded Islamic leaders toward a uniform message reflecting the moderate beliefs of the vast majority of Muslims, as an antidote to the Islamic extremism associated with terrorism.
In 2004, he launched the Amman Message, which brought together 200 Islamic scholars who issued a declaration the following year. The declaration, which recognized the legitimacy of all eight legal schools of Islam, forbid “takfir” (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims, and established when “fatwas” (a legal opinion) could be issued. The declaration has been widely accepted by Islamic scholars and institutions.
King Abdullah also has funded the “A Common Word Between Us and You” initiative, which aims to promote understanding between Christian and Muslim communities, and proposed a U.N. World Interfaith Harmony Week aimed at understanding the values of peace in all religions. The proposal was unanimously accepted by the U.N. General Assembly.
In addition to this work, King Abdullah also has protected some of the most important religious sites in Jerusalem. The dynasty of which he has been a part has been the custodian of the Temple Mount since 1924, and in 2016 the king used his own money to assist in restoring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He also has supported legislation to restore and develop the site of the baptism of Jesus and given various Christians blocks of land to build churches there.
In his videotaped acceptance of the Templeton Prize, King Abdullah said “Our world needs to confront challenges to our shared humanity and values. And this is why I feel it is so urgent to promote tolerance and mutual respect, support inclusion and hope, speak out against Islamophobia and other wrongs, and make our values a real force in the daily life of the modern world.”
Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation, noted in a statement that “Sir John created the Templeton Prize when he realized that many of his friends and colleagues thought of religion as uninteresting and old-fashioned, or perhaps even obsolete.”
“He decided that a prize to single out people who were responsible for, in his words, the ‘marvelous new things going on in religion,’ would help them become more well known, not so much for their own benefit, but for the benefit of people who might be inspired by them,” she added.
King Abdullah joins a group of 47 recipients of the Templeton Prize recipients including Mother Teresa, who received the inaugural award in 1973; the Dalai Lama, 2012; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 2013; and Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, 2015.
26 June 2018
As a boy leans against an ancient khatchkar, or tablet, a choir rehearses in a church in Armenia. Read more about this country’s deep spiritual roots in Where God Descended in the May 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
25 June 2018
Workers sharpen scissors inside a workshop in Kolkata, India, on 22 June. (photo: CNS/Rupak De Chowdhuri, Reuters)
22 June 2018
The life-size icon of St. Ephrem, the patron saint of the Syriac Catholic Church, is seen in this undated photo. The icon features stanzas from the liturgy and prayers in Syriac text and notes. (photo: CNS/courtesy of Mothana Butres)
When Islamic State fighters overran Qaraqosh, Iraq, in the summer of 2014, Mothana Butres was able to grab only a single volume from his father’s collection of thousands of Syriac books and manuscripts.
The handwritten, 600-year-old book of Syriac hymns now inspires much of Butres’ work as an iconographer.
From a modest walk-up apartment in Zahle, Lebanon, a city not far from the Syrian border, the Syriac Catholic iconographer and refugee creates his sacred art in a sparsely furnished living room. As he works, he sings the hymns he has committed to memory from the sole book he managed to save.
Butres is the creator of the Our Lady of Aradin icon, a centerpiece of the first Catholic shrine dedicated to persecuted Christians. The shrine is housed in St. Michael’s Church in New York City and was dedicated on 12 June.
“The inspiration when I was working on Our Lady of Aradin was that it was the Virgin Mary who was protecting the Christians,” Butres told Catholic News Service.
He chose to present Mary in the traditional wedding dress of the Aradin area of Iraq “to represent that the Virgin Mary will always be a part of the Christians in Iraq and that she is the protector of Christians in Iraq and all the Middle East,” Butres said.
He said that when faced with an ultimatum by Islamic State fighters, Iraq’s Christians gave up their land but refused to give up their faith.
“The people who were persecuted, their blood is a stronger message than anything I could ever convey,” he said. But the recent persecution and the oppression suffered by his ancestors led him “to the way I think and the way I do my work.”
Butres said he believes his icons can be an instrument for intercessory prayer. The prayers of the people who visit the shrine in New York and pray before the icon of Our Lady of Aradin are joined with those of the persecuted Christians.
“Based on what Jesus told us, that ‘if two people are gathered in my name, I will be among them,’“ he said.
The Syriac book Butres treasures from his father’s library collection also awakened him to the lost practice of writing books by hand, especially in the Syriac language, which is spoken by Christians in certain areas of Syria and Iraq, including Qaraqosh. Syriac also is used in the liturgy of some Eastern churches, including the Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox and Maronite Catholic churches. The language is related to Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
“I’m trying to revive the value of the handwritten texts. Books used to be handwritten,” Butres said.
As part of an ongoing personal project, Butres intends to write out the entire Bible in Syriac on a long scroll of leather just over a foot wide. In three months of work, the tiny, intricate text he has etched extends 16 feet in length and comprises the first five chapters of the Old Testament.
“I believe that in writing out the Bible, we can discover it in a new, deeper perspective, more than just reading it,” he said.
In his icons, Butres often incorporates streams of handwritten text related to the image, which contributes to preserving the Syriac language, heritage and spirituality. The icon of Our Lady of Aradin, for example, includes the Hail Mary in Syriac.
Butres’ introduction to iconography began at age 12; a deacon at his church in Qaraqosh taught him the ancient art as well as formulas for producing colors and varnishes from natural products, for example, using eggs and wine for shades of red, using beeswax for varnish and using deer musk to give the icon a scent.
Prayer and religious formation were part of Butres’ daily life growing up in a Syriac Catholic family as one of 16 children.
“We were very close to the church,” said. “Every day at dusk, we went to the church to pray,” he recalled, adding that for “anyone who didn’t participate, there was no dinner.” The same went for missing Sunday Mass: no lunch and dinner.
That pious upbringing fostered vocations, he said. One of Butres’ sisters became a Dominican nun. His brother, Nimatullah, is a priest serving the Syriac Catholic Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance, which is based in Bayonne, New Jersey. Father Butres attended the dedication ceremony for the Our Lady of Aradin shrine in New York.
The artistic Butres became a deacon at age 20 and studied theology at Holy Spirit University in Lebanon, earning a bachelor’s degree.
Butres intended to complete his master’s degree in theology, carrying out his research in Qaraqosh, but had to abandon all he had accomplished there when Islamic State attacked his childhood home.
That home, overtaken, gutted and ruined by Islamic State, is under repair now. From Lebanon, Butres created the Our Lady of Qaraqosh icon as a gift for his family, intending it as “a protector of the house where she was always present.”
8 June 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Icons
Msgr. John Kozar visits St. Anne’s Orphanage in Trichur, India. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
7 June 2018
Tags: India Sisters
Deacon Kevin Mundackal recites prayers during his 5 May ordination to the priesthood at St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church in Somerset, N.J. He is the first U.S.-born priest to be ordained for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. (photo: CNS/Ed Koskey Jr., The Catholic Spirit)
Tags: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church