17 June 2015
Seminarians pose for a picture at the Capuchin seminary in Eritrea. (photo: CNEWA)
This week, representatives from ROACO — aid agencies (including CNEWA) working with the Congregation of the Eastern Churches — are gathering in Rome. Today, those at ROACO welcomed Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, metropolitan archbishop of the newly created Eritrea Catholic church joining 23 Eastern churches in full communion with Rome.
CNEWA Canada’s National Director Carl Hétu notes:
Archbishop Tesfamariam gave us a general overview of his new church challanges. His church has four eparchies with a population of 164,480 parishoners in this small country of five million just north of Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.
The church works in difficult condition,s since most of its population lives poor rural areas. They have developed many pastoral programs to attend to their needs, in particular helping women who are left to raise the children alone.
The archbishop implored the aid agencies not to forget about them and to help the church grow and keep its seminary program alive. There are now 45 seminarians in formation for the priesthood, and the novitiate has consecrated over 350 women religious, who are playing an important pastoral role all over the country.
Also speaking to ROACO today were representatives from the Ethiopian Catholic Church: the newly named Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel and the Bishop Conference Secretary General, the Reverand Hagos Hayish.
Ethiopia’s Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel speaks to the ROACO. (photo: CNEWA)
As with its neighbor, Eritrea, Ethiopia is predominantly rural and poor. This small church, which represents less than 2 percent of the Ethiopian population, is certainly among the most dynamic. It is renowned for its pastoral and humanitarian programs that, through Catholic schools, form young Ethiopians into a workforce based on Christian values. There are also efforts underway to improve the agriculture system, so farmers can improve their way of life.
Also the Ethiopian Catholic Church has responded with an impressive program for refugees, welcoming more than 600,000 refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Ethiopia has the most refugees of any African country-posing social and economic challenges.
Much needs to be done. The church is appealing to aid agencies to continue their support, particularly in lay formation, university chaplaincy and education.
To learn more about the churches in the Horn of Africa, read our profiles of the The Eritrean Catholic Church and The Ethiopian Catholic Church. CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar wrote about his own journey to the region in 2012. You can read those reports here.
Finally, to support CNEWA’s efforts on that part of the world, please visit this giving page.
17 June 2015
Pope Francis meets with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, director of foreign relations for the Moscow patriarchate, during a private meeting at the Vatican
on 15 June. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
16 June 2015
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, center, celebrates Mass for the ROACO participants. Others joining him include, from the left, Archbishop Cyril Vasil, Congregation Secretary; Menghisteab Tesfamariam, Metropolitan Archbishop of Asmara, Eritrea; and on the far right, Cardinal Berhaneysus Souraphiel, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa. (photo: CNEWA)
The annual meeting of the ROACO opened this morning with a Mass celebrated at the St. Stefano Degli Abissini Church in the Vatican Gardens. CNEWA Canada’s national director Carl Hétu notes that the main celebrant was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect for the Congregation of Eastern Churches:
In his homily, he reminded the ROACO participants that “we are gathered here this week following the instructions of Pope Francis that we need to listen and to serve the Eastern Catholic churches which are too often victims of modern marthyrdom, and thus witness a sign of hope as they persevere in practicing their faith despite extreme violence done against and around them.”
15 June 2015
In this image from 2007, an 11-year-old girl named Mira pauses during a game at the Pokrov day care center in Sofia, Bulgaria. To learn more about how the center has worked to reinvigorate Bulgarian Orthodoxy, read “Under Mary’s Mantle” in the January 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
12 June 2015
In Cairo, a young zabbaleen, or garbage picker, transports by a donkey cart his day’s scavenging to be sorted and sifted for anything useful. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York, Catholic New York, features this week an interview with CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, reflecting on his recent trip to Iraq and Egypt:
Msgr. Kozar said he found the same strong faith among the Christians in Egypt. They face a different, but no less worrisome range of problems, including the perception by their Muslim neighbors that they were supportive of, if not complicit in, the military overthrow of the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi nearly two years ago.
In the aftermath of that coup, mobs attacked Christians and burned their churches.
“About 55 church compounds were burned, destroyed, and I visited four or five of these,” Msgr. Kozar said. “And although there is a great improvement in having this government, we feel more protected but by no means are we free of violence or free of danger.”
Unlike other parts of the Middle East where better-educated Christians are at least better financially positioned, Christians in Egypt are often at the bottom of the social strata.
Part of the reason Msgr. Kozar visited Egypt was to show CNEWA’s solidarity for this marginalized, impoverished community. On the outskirts of Cairo is a municipal dump and on the fringes of that dump live 900,000 people in a squalid shantytown. They make their living picking through the garbage. These “garbage pickers” are overwhelmingly Christian. There are no public utilities and no water, no sewers and no electricity. You won’t find the shantytown on any government map.
“They collect garbage in donkey carts or on their backs and they hand-sort it,” Msgr. Kozar explained. “Food they can’t eat, they give to the pigs. And they sort out plastic. They have crude, hand-cranked machines to mulch plastic for recycling, same thing with aluminum.”
Read more and check out additional photos at Catholic New York.
And to learn more about the plight of the garbage pickers of Egypt, read “Salvaging Dignity” in the September 2012 edition of ONE.
11 June 2015
In this image from 2012, students at St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle Catholic School in Addis Ababa line up for Morning Prayer with their teacher. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
With the school year drawing to a close in many parts of the world, we were reminded of the classrooms we’ve visited in CNEWA’s world — including some remarkable ones in Ethiopia, where Catholic schools are thriving in a country that actually has very few Catholics:
Catholics — Latin and Ge’ez combined — make up less than 1 percent of Ethiopia’s roughly 85 million people. Forty-three percent of the population is Ethiopian Orthodox; 32 percent, Muslim; and 19 percent, Protestant. The Catholic Church plays a disproportionately influential role in the lives of many Ethiopians, however, especially through its schools, clinics and other social service institutions.
More than 350 Catholic schools operate around the country, enrolling some 120,000 Ethiopian students each year.
...Ethiopia’s Catholic schools generally provide the ideal learning environment. The grounds are well maintained. Books, computers and other equipment are plentiful. Class sizes are small. And the value of discipline is palpable. “Don’t underestimate the importance that in Catholic schools you have religious people around,” says Father Asfaw Feleke, director of the Lazarist School in Addis Ababa.
“They’re consecrated people — men and women — who are bound by vows for a lifetime. They do the work from the bottom of the heart, not because there are rules and directives. They set a tone.
They’re full-time workers. When you’re full time, focusing on the job and facilitating everything, that also makes a difference.”
Read more about how Catholic schools are “Making the Grade” in Ethiopia. And to learn how you can help support these institutions, check out this giving page.
10 June 2015
Both locals and foreign-born students, including refugees from Iraq, gather for classes in English at CNEWA’s community center in Amman. (photo: CNEWA)
Ra’ed Bahou is regional director at CNEWA’s office in Amman.
The past few months have been very busy for the CNEWA community center in Amman. It continues to be an important venue for a wide array of people — locals, some foreigners and Iraqi refugees who are taking English language courses.
After the spring evaluation of the English lessons, the staff decided to hold the classes on Mondays and Wednesdays to have more time for library operational work and to help the locals. Classes serve all ages — from four-years-old to over 70. The staff organized families so they could learn together — grandparents, mothers, fathers, and grandchildren, all in one class; this is to accommodate the older people who have no experience of the English language at all.
The work with the Iraqis is very challenging; they come to the community center with all their problems, difficulties, physical and emotional struggles and anxieties. Despite this, though, they have a deep and solid faith that God is with them in their journey and they still maintain their joy and goodwill. The staff affirms and helps the refugees, giving counseling and support as they face their daily challenges.
The other activities are for the foreign-born children who took catechism lessons from the Teresian staff for their First Communion. Also the children’s catechism and junior choir continue to practice for the Mass; three young members of the choir are taking guitar lessons in order to be prepared to play in the Friday and Sunday Masses of the English language parish. And seven members of the junior choir are taking classes to prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
To learn how you can help support CNEWA’s work in Jordan, please visit this page.
9 June 2015
This Romanian icon of St. Ephrem the Syrian was written in 2005. (photo: Wikipedia)
Today, 9 June, marks the feast of St. Ephrem in the Latin church (it’s celebrated on 28 January in the East). Often called the “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” Ephrem was born in Nisibis — then in the Roman province of Syria — now Nusaybin, Turkey in 306. He spent much of his life preaching and writing hymns and poems:
Ephrem had a complex and artistic personality marked by a strong tendency to be hot-tempered. But with tremendous self-control, he dominated his fiery nature and devoted his life to asceticism.
Ephrem taught in Nisibis until the city was ceded to the Persians and he was forced, with other Christians, to emigrate to Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey). There, Ephrem continued his teaching at the famous School of Edessa whose reknown, and even founding, has been attributed to him.
An aspect of Ephrem’s unusual personality is evident in the fact that, although ordained a deacon, he never became a priest — avoiding consecration by feigning madness. Although no certain explanation can be found for this behavior, some biographers believe it was due to a feeling of unworthiness.
St. Ephrem died in 373, at the age of 67.
A familiar prayer among the Eastern churches remains this brief invocation for Lent:
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.
At a time when the land so closely associated with St. Ephrem is facing increased turmoil and strife, let us pray that the saint will watch over Syria and Turkey, and help guide all who dwell there on the path to peace.
8 June 2015
Friends and family gather to celebrate an engagement between a young Coptic couple in Australia at Saint George’s Coptic Church in Melbourne. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2007, we paid a visit to Australia to report on a land rich in diversity of faith and culture:
I left the world of peroghi and stuffed cabbage in the back of a black Hyundai Sonata — bearing the customized license plate, “COPT 1” — for the Melbourne suburb of Preston. There, I joined Amba (or Bishop) Suriel, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Melbourne, Canberra, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand, at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church to commemorate the miracle of the Wedding at Cana. After the Divine Liturgy, celebrated in Arabic and Coptic, we traveled further to celebrate the engagement of an Australian Coptic couple.
“We mix with the Anglo-Australian population, and I have Australian friends, though in many ways our lives are quite different from theirs,” said Nariman Eskander, 28, who at age 13 left her native Egypt, home to more than 8 million Coptic Orthodox Christians. Australia’s Copts tend to hang on to their traditional customs and culture, eschewing the drinking and frolicking found in mainstream Australian culture, she said.
The bishop, who is in his late 40’s, noted that parenting has had much to do with the maintenance of such customs among even young Copts.
“My parents had a great influence on me, teaching me to fear God and warning of the traps faced by youth living in Western society,” he said. “My parents realized we must live within God’s commandments in an upright way.”
But even Copts question whether or not their families will remain intact. “Three-quarters of us will probably marry another Copt,” said Ms. Eskander, “though in the future I imagine there will be more intermarriage, and perhaps we will slowly lose our culture.”
Read more about “Diversity Down Under” in the May 2007 edition of ONE.
5 June 2015
In this image from 2008, Bat-El Shmueli plays with her daughter at their home in Haifa.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)
In 2008, we profiled a remarkable group of immigrants in Israel: Ethiopian Jews, some of whom were having difficulty adjusting to their new homeland:
The transition into modern Israeli society has been especially wrenching for older immigrants, said Bat-El Shmueli, E.N.P.’s feisty program coordinator in Haifa and Tirat Hacarmel.
In one of its many programs for Ethiopian adults, Ms. Shmueli helps Ethiopian adults ages 35 to 80 to “learn about life in Israel.”
She said that, for the most part, “they don’t know Hebrew, they don’t have good jobs and they feel distanced from their children who have grown up here and feel and act Israeli.”
Men “often feel powerless, useless, displaced. In Ethiopia they were kings of their homes, villages and communities. Here, everyone tells them what to do.”
According to a recent study by I.A.E.J., 32 percent of Ethiopian-Israeli fathers and 10 percent of mothers are employed; 70 percent of families earn no income, relying
entirely on public assistance. Many of those who work do not clear the poverty line.
The fact that more and more Ethiopian-Israeli children have an education and are finding good jobs “is a source of immense pride to their parents, but also a source of alienation,” Ms. Shmueli added.
Read more about “Challenges for a Land of Immigrants” in the November 2008 edition of ONE.