10 July 2019
Children attend English class at the Fratelli School in Saida, Lebanon. To learn more about how this school helps to bring education to a “lost generation’ of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, read Fratelli, Where Education Is Alive in the July 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
28 June 2019
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Children Education Catholic education
Sister Nabila Saleh oversees the education of all students at the Rosary Sisters School in Gaza. (photo: Ali Hassan)
The new edition of ONE magazine features a letter from Gaza, written by Sister Nabila Saleh, principal of the Rosary Sisters School. She describes her life and mission:
Religious life carries great requirements and obligations: It demands vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; it requires the ability to break with worldly desires in order to pursue union with God. The road before us is quite thorny and fraught with hardships, but I knew then that the way to God is worthwhile if we allow him to work through us as he desires.
My life, heart and soul are enlightened by the existence of the extreme beauty of God. I tell him continually, “take what you have given me, and use me as you wish me to serve you.” I do believe in God’s providence because he has everything and he can do great things through me.
There are three sisters in the convent in Gaza: I am from Egypt; Sister Martina Bader and Sister Bertilla Murj are from Jordan. We dedicate much of our time to prayer, to the Liturgy of the Hours and worship of the Lord in the Eucharist. We have a harmonious relationship despite our respective differences — different backgrounds, cultures and accents. I cannot deny that I found it difficult at first, but our common love of Christ has brought us to work together in an almost perfect communion.
We believe that God has chosen us to work for him in Gaza to spread love by our care and to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to counter evil from wherever it arises. I am convinced our sacred mission is our daily struggle in teaching ethics, virtues and moral values and instilling the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect for all, regardless of race, gender or creed.
Read more of her letter in the July 2019 edition of ONE, now online.
27 June 2019
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Sisters ONE magazine
Michael Shami, a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College, is pictured during his ordination as a deacon at the college in Rome on 2 June 2019. Shami was ordained as a deacon using the Antiochene Syriac rite of the Maronite Catholic Church. (photo: CNS/Denis Nakkeeran)
Ancient tones of Syriac chant, columns of incense, ornate oriental vestments and bearded clerics filled the chapel of the Pontifical North American College in early June, creating a rare Middle Eastern atmosphere in the heart of the U.S. church’s flagship seminary in Rome.
The ordination of Michael Shami to the diaconate was the first at the NAC in more than 20 years to use the Antiochene Syriac rite of the Maronite Catholic Church. The new deacon said the ritual underlined the church’s universality for his fellow seminarians and highlighted treasures proper to one of the smallest and most ancient Christian churches.
In the Maronite tradition, “there are no great treatises like in the West with Aquinas,” Deacon Shami explained. “Its strength is in its liturgical contributions.”
For example, he said, in the ordination rite, “when the bishop is imposing his hands upon the candidate, he’s fluttering his hands, and the specific verb used there for the action of the Holy Spirit” is the same verb “used for the Holy Spirit hovering over the primordial waters in Genesis and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.”
“Because typology is the primary mode of Syriac theology, it makes a very rich connection between biblical events and historical events and sacramental events and the general life of the believer,” Deacon Shami said.
While most of the altar servers were Latin-rite seminarians of the NAC, who wore their Latin cassocks and albs, many of them had spent three months learning to chant the Syriac prayers and preparing for the demanding liturgy.
“I didn’t see the hodgepodge” of East and West mixing “as an eyesore or lack of uniformity,” Deacon Shami said. “At the same altar, there was a Maronite deacon standing with a Byzantine priest leading him as his sponsor and Latin servers -- it kind of encapsulated the true universalism of the church and it was appropriate that it should happen in Rome.”
Preparing for Maronite ministry at a Latin seminary might be unusual, but Deacon Shami was confident it would help him to be a successful witness to his religious heritage in the United States.
“It provided me with an opportunity to try to communicate to a predominately Latin- or even Protestant-minded United States the value of the Eastern tradition in general, specifically our heavy reliance on patristics and sacramental mystagogy,” he said. “It taught me which idioms were helpful for communicating Eastern theology and which were not.”
Deacon Shami said that he had to put in extra effort to remain faithful to his Eastern spiritual heritage while at the Latin-rite NAC, but even those challenges bore fruit with his confreres.
“I would chant my own Office in my room,” Deacon Shami said, referring to the daily prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours. The other seminarians “hearing my voice, hearing me take such great love in my tradition in worshipping God, they themselves turned and looked more into the Western chant tradition.”
In other areas of life at the NAC, East and West did not mix so well. Fasting — not eating meat or dairy products — is at the heart of Eastern spiritual discipline and there are long periods of fasting throughout the liturgical year.
“It was very difficult to fast at the NAC. I tried my best, though,” he said, and there, too, it became an opportunity to share with the Latin-rite seminarians the idea of fasting as an ascetical practice.
The NAC also asked Deacon Shami not to wear his Eastern-style outer cassock, he said, because it would break up the uniformity of the seminarians’ attire. Other challenges were making time to visit Eastern-rite liturgies in Rome that would often conflict with the NAC’s schedule.
Deacon Shami is among the few young Maronite-rite seminarians in the United States. At 25, he is aware that his choice to remain faithful to the Christian heritage of his ancestors is counter-cultural. His own father, for instance, “Latinized” when he moved to the United States.
Like many U.S. immigrants from Lebanon, where the Maronite church is centered, “my father stopped attending (the Maronite liturgy) and simply started going to the local Latin parish” because it was more convenient.
As an adolescent, Deacon Shami said he took an interest in the Syriac language and developed his skills while an undergraduate at New York University.
“In my parish assignment last summer, I offered a free Syriac class and I had attendance of upward of 25-30 persons,” Deacon Shami said. “Even people of other backgrounds, with Italian last names, were coming” because Syriac is close to “the language Christ spoke.”
Deacon Shami completed his stint at the NAC in June and plans to visit Lebanon before returning to the United States for a parish assignment that will last until his priestly ordination in May 2020. As a new priest, he hopes to help revive Maronite traditions that have been lost.
A recent liturgical reform in the Maronite church “had a lot of simplification and elimination,” he said.
“One of them is when the priest elevates the host as he’s offering it, and he recounts all the great patriarchal sacrifices of old, from Abraham and Noah to David on the Threshing-Floor of Ornan,” Deacon Shami explained.
“The last sacrifice (the priest) mentions in this anamnesis is the sacrifice of the widow who puts the two pence in the treasury vault,” he said. “It really kind of encapsulates this idea that the greatest sacrifice, as St. Aphrahat says, is the sacrifice of the heart, and so the priest is asking that this sacrifice be akin to that sacrifice, the sacrifice of the widow.”
“Those kinds of prayers have been completely eliminated,” Deacon Shami said, because there was an assumption that many of them were “too complex” for people to understand.
“We need to have a reclamation of sorts,” Deacon Shami said.
26 June 2019
Tags: Maronite Catholic
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America stands with his crosier during his enthronement as the seventh archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City on 22 June. Also pictured are retired Metropolitan Avgoustinos of Germany and Archbishop Demetrios, who headed the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America from 1999 to 2019.
(photo: CNS/Dimitrois Panagos, courtesy GOA)
25 June 2019
Syriac Catholic bishops from around the world met for their annual synod in Lebanon last week, led by Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syriac Catholic patriarchate)
Faced with the migration of Christians from Syria and Iraq, Syriac Catholic bishops meeting in Lebanon for their annual synod called upon church members “scattered everywhere in the East and West” to cling to their faith with hope so they “can be witnesses to the joy of the Gospel wherever they are.”
In a statement at the conclusion of the 17-22 June gathering led by Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, the bishops acknowledged the suffering of the faithful in the face of “endless wars, persecutions, acts of violence, terrorism, displacement, murder and destruction, and the uprooting of a large number of nationals from the land of fathers and grandparents -- Syria and Iraq -- and their dispersion throughout the world.”
Yet the bishops stressed that they also are optimistic, “thanking God for the return of many displaced people to their villages” in Iraq and Syria.
The prelates noted that Christians “are an authentic component and founder in these two countries.” They called for solidarity among all citizens to build peace, hope and unity.
Synod participants came from dioceses and patriarchal and apostolic offices in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, the United States, Venezuela and Australia. They were joined by the patriarchal vicar in Rome.
In studying pastoral service in the countries where Syriac Catholics relocated -- primarily Europe, the Americas and Australia -- the bishops acknowledged the plight of migration “to the country of alienation and painful assimilation” and the importance of sending “priests of good quality.” They pointed to visits from the patriarch and bishops to Syriac Catholics worldwide in which the faithful were called “to preserve the deposit of faith and trust for their churches, the Syriac heritage and native lands.”
The bishops reiterated their demand to stop wars and “resolve disputes through dialogue and peaceful means, and to achieve a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.” They called for the return of all displaced persons, refugees and abductees to their homelands.
The synod also stressed “the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and establish their state on their land,” emphasizing that Jerusalem “is a holy city for the followers” Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
They called on Lebanon’s president, prime minister “and all concerned” to find an immediate solution to the country’s economic recession and crisis in the housing sector that pushes Lebanese youth, in particular, to emigrate.
In their statement, the prelates welcomed efforts made “to obtain the official recognition of our Syriac Church in Jordan.”
They also praised the establishment of a Syriac Youth Meeting in Syria in early July and plans for a World Youth Meeting in 2021, which both follow the first World Youth Meeting in Lebanon in the summer of 2018. The bishops recommended such meetings be held in eparchies and other countries.
21 June 2019
Tags: Syriac Catholic Church Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, visits the Home of Faith in Kerala, India, which cares for children with disabilities. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
Msgr. John Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and publisher of CNEWA’s ONE magazine, is the 2019 winner of the Catholic Press Association’s Bishop John England Award.
The award, the CPA’s highest honor for publishers, was announced at lunch on 20 June during the annual Catholic Media Conference in St. Petersburg.
Michael LaCivita, communications director for CNEWA, accepted the award on Msgr. Kozar’s behalf, informing the crowd the priest could not be with them because he had to have a medical procedure and he is suffering from kidney failure. LaCivita asked for prayers for Msgr. Kozar but added that he is otherwise in good health and good spirits and is in line to get a donor kidney.
The Bishop John England Award is given to a Catholic press publisher who “clearly has acted in his role as publisher; and clearly has acted in defense of the publication or used the publication, in accordance with its mission, to defend the First Amendment rights of the publisher, the institution owning the publication, and/or the church as a whole.”
The nomination entry for Msgr. Kozar described him as “a champion of journalism, promoting accountability and transparency in reporting, affirming a commitment to excellence and promoting the church’s evangelical witness throughout the world, especially in some of its most embattled corners.”
Whether spotlighting India’s “untouchables,” Iraqi and Syrian refugees or Armenia’s elderly “orphans,” it said, “John Kozar has been an advocate for commanding storytelling that informs as well as celebrates compassion and outreach service of the Gospel.”
It also said Msgr. Kozar — ordained for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1971 — was “a parish priest on loan to the missions” and someone who “has promoted formation of persons as the cornerstone of healing a broken world.”
The nomination called the priest more than a publisher, saying: “He is in his bones a journalist who relishes getting a good story and sharing it.” Through his photography, essays, videos, emails and reports, he has kept readers “informed and engaged, bolstering CNEWA’s credibility and winning readers’ loyalty.”
Using his “considerable skills” as a photojournalist, which he first developed in high school, Msgr. Kozar takes readers to far-flung corners of the globe to show the Gospel at work,” it said. His ethic and spirit of transparency and accountability “set the standard for every publisher.”
This year there were three nominees for the Bishop John England award. The other two were Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, publisher of The Tablet newspaper of the diocese; and Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, publisher of The Beacon newspaper of his diocese.
The award is named after the first bishop of Charleston, South Carolina, who in 1822 founded The Catholic Miscellany, the first Catholic newspaper in the U.S. Bishop England edited the paper, wrote most of its material and even helped print it. He published a missal and a catechism and wrote the first pastoral letter published in the United States.
17 June 2019
Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine Catholic Press
Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world met in Lebanon last week for their annual synod at Bkerke, the patriarchal seat north of Beirut.
(photo: CNS/Mychel Akl for Maronite Catholic Patriarchate)
Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world, meeting in Lebanon, called for unity among politicians and the international community to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees.
Returning the refugees to their homeland, the bishops said in their synod final statement, would lift Lebanon from the “heavy burden” it faces in hosting them, which they noted is recognized by international authorities as “exceeding Lebanon’s potential.”
It also would encourage the preservation of Syria’s history, heritage and culture, the bishops said.
With an existing population of around 4 million, Lebanon has absorbed more than 1.5 million refugees from neighboring Syria. This has inflicted humanitarian and socio-economic strains on the tiny country, about two thirds the size of Connecticut. Lebanon has the world’s highest number of refugees per capita.
The Maronite prelates also pointed to Lebanon’s housing crisis, calling on government officials to revive housing loans, which were suspended due to a weakening of the central bank’s capacities. The stagnation, the bishops said, is forcing young couples to abandon marriage and plans for a family and a future. The bishops stressed that the housing sector is vital to the country’s economic growth, trade and production.
The bishops also looked at Maronite dioceses in other countries and addressed the “growing needs they face, due to an accumulation of crises.”
Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay of Australia told Catholic News Service his parishes have not been directly affected by the approximate 18,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq that have settled in Australia.
However, he said, Lebanon’s refugee crisis is of great concern to the Lebanese diaspora in Australia who have family in their ancestral homeland. The Maronite diocese of Australia has 15 parishes and six missions, or Mass centers, serving more than 200,000 Maronites.
“Whenever we’re talking to the faithful that have relatives in Lebanon, they are conveying to us the suffering of their relatives” due to the country’s economic slump exacerbated by the refugee crisis. Increasingly, their relatives in Lebanon are facing unemployment, unable to meet basic livelihood needs and slipping further into poverty, he said. Many have lost their jobs to Syrian refugees.
Bishop Tarabay relayed his flock’s distress: “They’re asking, ‘What can be done to help the Lebanese people?’“
The Maronite bishops concluded their synod statement with the confidence that Mary “will help us to guide the world’s leaders to work to stop the wars in the Middle East and the world and to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace and the return of all displaced and abducted people to their lands and homelands.”
The 10-15 June synod took place at the patriarchal seat of Bkerke, north of Beirut. It was preceded by a spiritual retreat.
14 June 2019
Tags: Lebanon Maronite Maronite Catholic
Claudio Di Segni, a tenor and director of the choir at Rome's main synagogue, performs with the choir on 13 June 2019, during a concert at the synagogue marking the 25th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between Israel and the Holy See. (photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)
Plaintive pleas and rousing, rhythmic recognitions of God’s goodness filled the air at Rome’s main synagogue as Israeli and Vatican officials celebrated 25 years of formal diplomatic relations.
“A concert of sacred Jewish music in a highly symbolic place like the major synagogue of Rome highlights our special bond that is founded in our common root: the Bible,” Oren David, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, told Catholic News Service.
“Songs from the Psalms show that we have a common heritage, which is reflected in the biblical values that we share, and we want to bring attention to the special and unique bond between us,” said David, who hosted the concert on 13 June.
Nathan Lam, the cantor of Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, was one of four cantors to perform at the concert. He said the singers, who are ordained for service and can preside at weddings and funerals, purposefully chose songs with texts common to Jews and Christians for the celebration.
Jews and Christians will interpret those texts differently, he said, “but the fact that we share them is a very important commonality.”
“I hope this leads to more and more dialogue, to more and more celebrations of relationships that are productive and good,” Lam said.
Celebrating 25 years of formal Vatican-Israeli diplomatic relations is not only about the relationship of two states. The ties were built on decades of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, which first focused on healing a relationship wounded by anti-Jewish church teaching and then moved on to common religious and moral teachings.
Celebrating what has been accomplished does not mean ignoring the sticky issues that remain on a diplomatic, political and religious level: for example, diplomats on both sides continue to try to negotiate an agreement governing church property ownership and taxation issues; the Vatican continues to call for international guarantees of Jerusalem’s status as a city sacred to Jews, Christian and Muslims; and Jewish religious leaders continue to press Catholic theologians involved in dialogue to discuss the religious significance of the land of Israel.
The Israeli ambassador and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, mentioned the three issues in their remarks before the concert. But they both also insisted there was much more to celebrate than to worry about.
“In our relations, political and religious issues are intertwined, this is why they are so special,” the ambassador told CNS.
For Catholics, the “special” relationship includes recognizing that Jesus was a Jew, the apostles were Jews and that Christianity not only recognized the Hebrew Scriptures -- the Old Testament -- as part of God’s revelation, but Catholics adopted and adapted Jewish liturgy, including the chanting and singing of the Psalms.
“Our liturgy stems from the liturgy of the Jewish people,” said the Rev. Norbert Hofmann, secretary of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. “For example, reading texts, interpreting texts, giving sermons on texts -- that already can be found in Judaism, in Jewish liturgy and practice.”
“Jews and Christians are praying with the same texts,” he said, “but with a different interpretation” because Christians would read those texts in the light of their faith in Jesus.
Lam, the “chazzan” or cantor, prayed that those differing understandings would not overshadow the basic shared faith in one God, the creator of all, and -- to a lesser degree -- in the power of music to carry prayer and to touch hearts.
Like Christian sacred music, Jewish sacred music includes many styles influenced by the cultures the Jews were living in when the music was written. The cantor and choir of the Rome synagogue, who also performed 13 June, had a unique sound and style reflecting what the program described as the Jewish “Roman rite.”
The songs are sacred not because of their style, Lam said, but because the texts are the word of God, and the music upholds, reflects and emphasizes its content.
For Jews and for Christians, the Psalms have a special connection to liturgical music and not just because
they are written in a poetic form that makes it natural to chant or sing them.
Lam, who has been the cantor at Stephen Wise Temple for 43 years, said the Psalms seem to be growing in importance for both Jews and Christians “because the Psalms are a great source of comfort, knowledge, joy and wisdom.”
The central piece of the anniversary concert fittingly was Psalm 122 with its prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, peace in the world and, finally a personal, “I pray for your good.”
You can watch a related video from CNS below:
13 June 2019
Tags: Vatican Jewish-Catholic relations
Filipino children demonstrate on 12 June 2019, near Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's house in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
A group of Philippine mothers and children facing imminent deportation from Israel are finding some solace in their faith, with weekly prayer meetings and counseling from their parish priest and nuns.
Most of the mothers arrived legally in Israel to work as caretakers for the elderly, but remained in the country even after their work visas had expired and have lived in Israel for up to 20 or more years. They have created a life for themselves in Israel, which they believe is better than they could have in the Philippines.
Sister Regina Cobrador of Our Lady of Valor Parish for migrant workers and asylum-seekers in Tel Aviv said several of the mothers who have deportation orders belong to the parish, and they have been coming every Wednesday to the church, where a special group prayer is held for them.
“My heart goes out to them, but sometimes I don’t know what to counsel them. They speak of their fears and concerns for their children who know only the Israeli culture, and the fear about their difficult economic situation,” Sister Cobrador said. “But I also tell them that, from the legal laws of Israel, their children can’t get citizenship, even if they were born here. Israel is very small, so if they would take all the migrant workers who are living here, it would be very difficult.”
Most of the Filipinas are Catholic, and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has created a Vicariate for Migrants and Asylum Seekers to see to their pastoral needs.
The Rev. Rafic Nahara said the vicariate is trying to be available to those with deportation orders to counsel them about their concerns. However, they are in the country illegally, so there is little more the vicariate can do but help them prepare to return if they are deported, he said.
“(Israel) does have the right to do this. The mothers stayed illegally because they needed work. It is a very complex situation. Of course, people are asking for help, but it will hardly change the Israeli decision,” he said.
He noted that, previously, the Israeli government had reached an agreement allowing children under the age of 5 who were born in Israel to remain, with the understanding that no other such agreement would be forthcoming.
On 11 June, some 50 mothers and children demonstrated in front of the Israeli prime minister’s house, calling on him to halt the order and allow their children to stay, at least until they finish high school.
The children at the demonstration held up signs declaring their love for Israel, calling the country their home and asking not to be deported. They also sang Hebrew songs, including the Israeli national anthem.
“We wanted a better future for our children,” said Margie, a Catholic and one of 20 mothers facing deportation in July, with her 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. She asked that her last name not be used.
“The Philippines is a good country, but it is safer here,” she said. “The good schools are very expensive there, and there are drugs and crime and the children end up in the streets. In the Philippines, it is hard.”
Migrant workers from less-developed economies such as the Philippines and Thailand come to Israel to work and earn money to send home. Most are in Israel on five-year work visas, but a good number have risked deportation by staying even after their visas have expired, because the salaries they earn allow them to send their children in the Philippines to study at universities and to build a home there, but also because of the higher quality of life in Israel.
Margie, who is separated from her husband, said even though she is trained as a teacher, she would have to work a whole month in the Philippines to earn the same amount of money as she does in one day cleaning houses in Israel.
According to media reports, there are 1,500 Filipino children in the Israeli educational system, and the deportation orders were coordinated so they would be able to complete the school year.
The Israel Immigration Authority says it is enforcing Israeli immigration law against residents who are living in the country illegally.
Margie, who worships at Our Lady of Valor Parish, said she came to Israel 14 years ago to work as a caregiver for the elderly. She said she was like a family member to the Israeli families for whom she worked.
Her visa was cut short when she became pregnant with her daughter; she was told she would need to take her children to the Philippines if she wanted to remain in Israel to work.
She has been getting strength from prayer and speaking with the parish priest, she said, and going to confession.
“When I pray to God, I ask him to give us more strength,” she said. “We love Israel. My kids’ lives are here.”
Neither of her children speak Tagalog; they have never been to the Philippines and do not know the culture there, she said.
“I like my friends and my school here,” her son, Anton, said in Hebrew. He said he wants to go into the Israeli army when he turns 18 and be a soldier like his friends.
“I am an Israeli in every way. I don’t know what it will be like in the Philippines. I don’t want to leave,” he said.
Margie said she has tried to prepare her children for the possibility of leaving the only home they have ever known by talking about the places where she grew up and showing them pictures of the country.
Ellen, who came to Israel as a caretaker 14 years ago, is preparing to leave in July with her 10-year-old son, Umit. His father, who was from Turkey, died when Umit was 5.
Ellen overstayed her visa by nine years and has been working as a nanny and housecleaner to send back money for her four other children in the Philippines.
“It is very hard to find work there, and you make very little money, and I am not young,” said Ellen, who is Catholic. She has already started to pack, she said.
“I pray to God for his help because no one else can help me. I have to be strong for my son. I don’t know what I will do there, but we have no choice.”
Umit, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of several incidents when the immigration police entered their apartment, said he has slowly come to terms with the fact that he and his mother will be leaving once school ends.
“It is good for me here. I have lots of friends. I feel Israeli, but what can I do? Life will be harder there,” he said.
12 June 2019
Tags: Israel Migrants
Pilgrims from northern Kerala visit the St. Thomas Pontifical Shrine in Azhikode. Read more about this historically important corner of India in Kerala’s Spice Coast in the May 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Tags: India Thomas Christians