5 February 2016
A Syriac Christian venerates the Gospel at the Church of the Forty Martyrs in Mardin, Turkey. Reports today highlight the return of refugees to the Middle East after finding a cold welcome in Europe. In the Winter 2015 edition of ONE magazine, contributor Don Duncan takes us to southeastern Turkey, where a small but steady number of Syriac Christians have returned from years in exile to rebuild their homeland. (photo: Don Duncan)
4 February 2016
Sister Micheline, center, talks with a refugee about the needs of his camp in Bechouat, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
In the Winter edition of ONE, readers meet Sister Micheline Lattouff, a Good Shepherd Sister working among the growing population of Syrian refugees settled in the Bekaa Valley. In the interview, she speaks of her vocation and her desire to serve her people.
ONE: What motivates you?
ML: I try to find what message God is sending me. I try to learn what God is trying to have me do. In 2005, I started looking at people in the villages and their suffering. The children used to play in a graveyard. Once, they burned the tail off a cat for fun. They had no normal games or activities. Their parents are illiterate and have no resources to rear their children.
I felt the Bekaa region needed support, like sheep without shepherd. I was frustrated; I thought, “What can I do for children in this area?”
ONE: So what did you do?
ML: I started asking teachers in public school, “If I make a center for children to visit after school, will you help?” And the principal offered benches and desks for free, and teachers volunteered. On Christmas 2005, I began a new experiment: From 3 to 5 p.m. an after-school program for Lebanese children from 9 to 15 years of age.
ONE: What have been some of your more rewarding moments?
ML: The best moment for me is when I see the children happy, successful in their studies and their life, when I see them able to pass through the difficulties and continue to achieve.
ONE: What have been some of your more difficult moments?
ML: The more difficult moments are when I have nothing to give the refugees. It is so difficult for me.
ONE: What thoughts sustain you during difficult times?
ML: I believe in human beings and God. I believe that God is capable of changing a person, when I see people improving from work, when I see success of people and developing.
Read more in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
3 February 2016
This structure marks the location of an ancient church, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. (photo: Greg Kandra)
Yesterday, UNESCO recognized the place of Christ’s baptism in Jordan as a “World Heritage Site.” In 2011, ONE magazine reported on efforts to preserve the site:
In a rustic wooden structure perched on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, Father Gianluigi Corti leads a group of Italian pilgrims in renewing their baptismal vows. The river is now little more than a muddy stream, drained over the years to meet the demands of the growing populations of the Holy Land. The air is still, apart from the singing of Italian hymns and a chorus of chirping insects. The latter is a constant sound in this dry, hot region of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan known as the Valley of Trickling Water, or Wadi el Kharrar in Arabic.
As Father Corti concludes the simple renewal service, he dips a plastic bottle into a heavy stone basin filled with water from the river and slowly pours its contents on the heads of the pilgrims. As a parish priest, he has led many such tours to the Holy Land.
“The Bible was not lived in Europe,” he says. “If you don’t know the land of the Bible directly, you cannot know what the Bible is.”
A short walk from the pilgrims lie the remains of an early Christian church.
Uncovered in the late 1990’s by a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Muhammad Waheeb, the ruins belong to a complex built at the end of the fifth century. They mark the site where early Christians believed Jesus was baptized — the same complex described in pilgrims’ accounts from the fifth to seventh centuries.
Above the brush, not far from the river’s edge, rises the golden dome of a new church built on land donated by the Jordanian royal family. Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the Orthodox shrine is the most prominent monument in an area long believed to be the biblical Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where John lived, preached and baptized his cousin, Jesus. It also stands as a reminder of the Hashemites — Jordan’s royals who descend from the prophet Muhammad — and their personal commitment to develop the kingdom’s holy places, Christian, Jewish and Muslim.
Jordan is home to a mosaic of biblical places. For example, near the Zerqa River, Jacob wrestled the angel and received the name Israel. At Mount Nebo, Moses looked upon the Promised Land. The Prophet Elijah ascended to heaven on a chariot of fire from the Jordan River’s eastern bank, which also later served as the center of John the Baptist’s ministry.
These holy places, coupled with the country’s arid landscape, drew thousands of early Christians, such as St. Mary of Egypt, who led lives of penitence and prayer. Their monastic cells, caves, chapels and tombs in turn became important venues of pilgrimage for generations of Christians, who traveled along a well–beaten circuit from one site to the next for much of the first millennia of the Christian era.
Today, these sacred areas draw considerable numbers of pilgrims and tourists each year, but less traffic than one might expect. Most of the locations receive scant publicity and are overshadowed by better–known holy sites in Israel and Palestine. And, until recently, some of the most important sites in Jordan have been long lost or neglected.
Read more in On Jordan’s Bank in the January 2011 edition of ONE.
2 February 2016
Sister Liza Mundamattom, of the Deen Bandhu Samaj Sisters, greets a member of the Chamba Mahara caste in Bastar, India. The Vatican’s Year of Consecrated Life officially came to a close today. To read about some of the sisters we have profiled since the year began, visit this link. And to support the formation of more sisters around the world, visit this giving page.
(photo: Jose Jacob)
During Mass he celebrated today, Pope Francis marked the end of the Year of Consecrated Life:
Pope Francis has called on consecrated men and women to make courageous and prophetic choices, to not be afraid of getting their hands dirty and of walking the geographical and existential peripheries of mankind today.
The Pope was speaking to consecrated men and women during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life.
The Year, which was celebrated throughout the world, began on the First Sunday of Advent in November 2014 and came to a close on the World Day of Consecrated Life on 2 February, 2016.
The initiative, called for by Pope Francis, aimed to be an occasion of renewal for men and women in consecrated life, of thanksgiving among the faithful for the service of sisters, brothers, priests, and nuns, and an invitation to young Catholics to consider a religious vocation.
During his homily the Pope described the just ended Year of Consecrated Life as “a river” saying “it now flows into the sea of mercy, into the immense mystery of love that we are experiencing through the Extraordinary Jubilee.”
He concluded: “May the Lord Jesus, through the maternal intercession of Mary, grow within us, and each increase in each of us the desire of encounter, the custody of wonder and the joy of gratitude. Then others will be attracted by His light, and will be able to meet the Father’s mercy.”
You can read the pope’s homily here.
1 February 2016
Villagers climb on top of a crowded Jeep after their weekly shopping in an Indian village in the so-called “Red Valley.” To learn how a group of devoted sisters is helping the poor in this conflict-stricken corner of the country, read Serving in the Red in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Jose Jacob)
29 January 2016
Students at the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia sing and pray together after breakfast. The school is giving blind and partially sighted students lessons in faith, hope and independence. Learn more in The Future at Their Fingertips, in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
28 January 2016
A seminarian reads the Bible with a young scholar visiting the Uzhorod Greek Catholic Theological Academy of the Blessed Theodore Romzha in Ukraine. To learn more about how seminarians are helping revive the faith in Ukraine, read Out From Underground in the Autumn 2015
edition of ONE. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)
27 January 2016
Sister Jincy Paul helps students during an art class at Ashabhavan, the “House of Hope” in Kerala. To learn just how this house is bringing hope to children with developmental disabilities, read this inspiring account in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Jose Jacob)
26 January 2016
Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy, Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, the archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Vatican, give a blessing at the end of a prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on 25 January. The service concluded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Read more about the service here.
(photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
25 January 2016
Syrian refugees wait at the border near Royashed, Jordan on 14 January. Bishop Antoine Nassif, Canada’s first bishop for Syriac Catholics, says he’ll make refugees a priority.
(photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)
The newly ordained bishop for the Syriac Catholic Church in Canada has pledged to make his first priority the suffering of refugees. The story, from CNS:
Bishop Antoine Nassif was ordained on 23 January by Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan at Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral in Beirut. He will lead the first apostolic exarchate for Syriac Catholics living in Canada, with the jurisdiction based in Montreal and Laval, Quebec.
The Canadian exarchate, similar to a diocese, covers territory there that was once part of the Newark, New Jersey-based Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance, established in 1995.
After his ordination, Bishop Nassif noted the new exarchate was erected in the Year of Mercy and at a time when God “is offering so much" to the Syriac church, most notably the beatification in August of Syriac Catholic Bishop Flavien Michel Melki, a century after he was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam.
The new bishop added that the blood of the martyrs “didn’t quench the thirst of their persecutors,” alluding to the persecution facing Christians in Syria and Iraq as a result of Syria’s civil war and the uprooting of Christians by the Islamic State group.
Days before his ordination, Bishop Nassif, who was born in Biakout, Lebanon, told Catholic News Service that he never imagined becoming bishop or going to Canada as shepherd to Syriac Catholics there.
“But I’m obeying. I’m ready to be where God sends me. This is the real call, to understand and to feel that in every step I can see God's hand guiding me,” he said.
“With what is happening in our Middle East, and most importantly with the refugees — Syrian, Iraqi and others — I will put their suffering on the top of my priorities, especially their spiritual needs,” he pledged.
Read the full story.