11 September 2018
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, left, leads a procession on 9 September at the restored Our Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Aleppo. During the inauguration and rededication of the cathedral, Patriarch Younan said, "We will always be people of hope and life." (CNS photo/courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
In war-torn Aleppo, Syria, the Syriac Catholic patriarch proclaimed that “the will of life has overcome death; hope and security have overcome despair and chaos. Our people have overcome.”
Celebrating the liturgy on 9 September at the inauguration and rededication of the restored Our Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral, Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, “We will always be people of hope and life.”
The cathedral’s inaugural liturgy, filled with worshippers, was attended by Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Vatican nuncio to Syria; bishops of other Christian churches; and representatives of Aleppo civil authorities.
The patriarch led a procession through the nearby streets to the restored cathedral, then cut a white ribbon fastened to the main door and entered.
In his homily, Patriarch Younan recalled his visit to Aleppo in 2017, when he celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in the damaged cathedral with the faithful assembled under umbrellas “because the rain was falling on us from all sides of this cathedral.”
“We are gathered today to sing thanks and praise to the Lord who gave us this wonderful gift to be able to repair this cathedral in order to recuperate its beauty of the past. We are so delighted to come once again and pray with you, in this cathedral so dear to you,” the patriarch said.
“For many years, this house of God suffered a lot of devastation, being at the demarcation line with terrorists. It is now restored for worship, a sign of hope and victory of the good over the evil that destroyed so many churches and mosques in this beloved city, Aleppo,” Patriarch Younan said. He noted that Aleppo was recognized for centuries as the most important center for many Christian communities.
“During the horrendous siege at the hands of criminals that lasted four years, this second-largest and prosperous city of Syria was deprived of basic necessities,” the patriarch said. “You lacked water, food, fuel and electricity. All this happened under the eyes of the ‘civilized’ world.’“
“You and hundreds of thousands of civilians under the ruling of the legitimate Syrian government were forgotten, abandoned even manipulated by those opportunistic geo-politicians of our present time,” he said.
In December 2016, the Syrian army retook control of almost the entire city of Aleppo. The city had been split between government and rebel control since 2012.
“Aleppo has returned, and Syria will return to its previous glory, and even more beautiful, because there are many civil and spiritual officials who felt the duty of their responsibilities to serve ... with integrity and honesty,” Patriarch Younan said.
“We should first thank God almighty that helped you, beloved brothers and sisters, under the leadership of our brother-Archbishop Antoine Chahda (of Aleppo), to undertake the hard and costly works of repairing this wonderful cathedral built in the 1970s,” the patriarch said.
He thanked the “generous benefactors” from the archdiocese, Catholic organizations and the government of Hungary.
“We owe to our Catholic brothers and sisters from around the world a lot of appreciation and gratitude for the charitable and unconditional solidarity toward us and all Christians of the Middle East, most particularly the two beleaguered countries of Syria and Iraq,” Patriarch Younan said.
The liturgy commemorated the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
“Our thanks go to our heavenly Virgin Mary, who protected the faithful of this cathedral, and protected the people of Aleppo,” the patriarch said. He stressed that Aleppo still needs her intercession after so much suffering and prayed that she would grant the Middle East “a true peace and unshakable security based on justice for all.”
He also prayed that she would hasten the return of Syrians who migrated to other countries.
The patriarch’s four-day visit to Syria from the patriarchate in Beirut included meetings with government officials and Muslim clerics. During the liturgy at the restored cathedral, the patriarch ordained six new deacons.
10 September 2018
CNEWA's Philip Eubanks speaks at Holy Disciples Parish in Puyallup, Washington, last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
Last weekend, two members of CNEWA’s development team, Philip Eubanks and Thomas Moore, paid a visit to Holy Disciples Parish in Puyallup, Washington, where they spoke at the weekend Masses. They also spoke at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Eatonville, Washington. They’re continuing their travels this week through the greater Seattle area, visiting churches and meeting donors.
We love getting out to parishes around the United States to help tell CNEWA’s story, It’s an opportunity to bring the good news of the Eastern churches’ tireless efforts to alleviate poverty and despair across the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. It’s also a great way to thank all who continue to support the work of CNEWA.
If you’d like us to visit your parish or community, let us know! Drop a line to our development associate, Christopher Kennedy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
7 September 2018
An icon of the Blessed Mother and the infant Jesus is seen as pilgrims walk in a procession to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church on 26 August. (photo: CNS/ Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness)
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, seems an unlikely place for a pilgrimage.
Located on a lonely tree-filled hilltop, above a famous but mostly abandoned town, this church built in 1911 could have been forgotten. Instead, with its three onion-shaped domes, it stands as a testament to faith in tough times and places.
Centralia’s claim to fame isn’t the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but the fire burning in a network of mines underneath the town since 1962. That fire eventually sent poisonous gases into homes and businesses.
As a result, most residents moved out using money from a federal relocation program. Hundreds of buildings were demolished. Today, less than a dozen people live in Centralia, often called a ghost town.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church is the only church left of the seven once here. Among them was St. Ignatius Catholic Church, where Masses were celebrated just a year after the Diocese of Harrisburg was established in 1868. Once home to 3,000 members, a parochial school, convent and cemetery, St. Ignatius was directly affected by the fire in the early 1980s. The last Mass celebrated there was on 25 June 1995. St. Ignatius Church was razed in November 1997. Today, its cemetery is the only standing reminder of the once flourishing parish.
Still, people of faith continue to be drawn to the church on the hill and hundreds traveled there 26 August for the third annual Marian pilgrimage.
“We’re located on the side of a mountain, a place conducive to meditation and prayer,” said the Rev. Michael Hutsko, an archpriest who is pastor of the church. The church was declared a Ukrainian Catholic pilgrimage site in 2015.
Pilgrims came from Pennsylvania and nearby states for the day of prayer led by four bishops with three Catholic traditions: Ukrainian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic.
“It’s a time to place your heart, soul and mind in the hands of our Savior and ask him to heal all of us, bring us peace and strengthen our faith,” Father Hutsko said.
The day of prayer included a Divine Liturgy with responses sung by the choir of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, a living rosary and a procession to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” which is a service asking for the mother of God’s intercession.
Pilgrims sang the traditional Akathist hymn to Mary, the mother of God.
In his homily, Bishop Andriy Rabiy, apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, thanked the pilgrims for journeying to this holy mountain, where “you can feel something special, the presence of God.” He was accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the archeparchy.
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Latin-rite Diocese of Harrisburg urged the pilgrims to “take time and meditate on each prayer at each bead” when praying the rosary.
At the prayer service, Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey, talked about forgiveness and “fresh beginnings.” When he had needed to forgive, he was given the strength to do so, he said. “I prayed in front of the icon of Mary and asked her to pray for someone. After a while, it worked. God softened the hardness of my heart.”
Assumption’s parishioners know all about challenges. Most lost their family homes due to the mine fires. They also worried about losing their church.
While they were relocating, there was talk about demolishing Assumption. That plan was dropped after a survey done under the church indicated that it was built on solid rock, not coal.
Although the vast majority of Assumption’s parishioners moved out of Centralia, 50 of them still faithfully attend Divine Liturgy every Sunday morning, Father Hutsko said.
“We have members whose families belonged to this church for generations,” he said. “We also have new members. We’re a prayerful church where faith is expressed in an open and real way.”
Joanne Panko, who relocated to nearby Numidia, is the third generation of her family to belong to Assumption. She is raising her children in that church too.
“My grandparents went to Assumption,” she said. “My parents were married there. I was baptized and married there. My parents were buried from there. My three children were baptized there. It’s a big part of my life.”
6 September 2018
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
Armenian Catholics in the southern Georgian village of Djulgha gather for the Divine Liturgy. To learn more about the Armenian Catholic Church, read our profile from the September 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
5 September 2018
Tags: Armenia Georgia Armenian Catholic Church
In this file photo, Pope Francis greets Enzio Bianchi, founder of the Bose monastic community. The pope sent greetings to him and other participants in the Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality taking place this week at Bose in Italy. (photo: Vatican Media)
Pope Francis has sent a warm message to those taking part in the International Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality, promoted jointly by the Community of Bose and the Orthodox Churches. The theme of this year’s conference is “Discernment and the Christian Life.”
From Vatican News:
The message came in a telegram sent on the Pope’s behalf by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, and addressed to Enzo Bianchi, the founder of the Bose community.
Cardinal Parolin wrote that Pope Francis encourages those taking part in the conference to reflect on “the authentic discernment presented by St Paul as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” This discernment, he says, requires a person to “train oneself in the patience of God and of His times, which are not our own.”
The telegram also expressed Pope Francis’ hopes “that the days of fraternal engagement might be able to advance the search for the criteria of the necessary personal and communitarian discernment to reach the knowledge and the will of God, in which resides all the fullness of life.”
The International Ecumenical Conference is taking place at the Monastery of Bose in Italy, from 5-8 September.
4 September 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Orthodox
An overhead view taken with a drone in early June shows the clock tower of the rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria. Pope Francis appealed for peace and dialogue as the Syrian government and its allies prepare to launch strikes against the Idlib province.
(photo: CNS /Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)
Pope Francis appealed for peace and dialogue as the Syrian government and its allies prepare to launch strikes against the last major rebel stronghold in Idlib province in the country’s northwest.
Speaking to hundreds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address on 2 September, the pope warned that “the winds of war continue to blow” in the already war-weary country.
An attack against the Syrian province’s nearly 3 million people, he said, would cause “a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“I renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community and to all the actors involved to make use of the instruments of diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations, in compliance with international humanitarian law and to safeguard the lives of civilians,” the pope said.
Several world leaders had expressed concern over the looming attack and the possible use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces.
Syrian army warplanes allegedly flew over and bombed the eastern town of Douma, 15 miles north of Damascus, in a suspected chemical-weapon attack 7 April. Despite the accounts of witnesses, the Syrian government denied involvement in the attack.
The pope’s appeal echoed the sentiments of the United Nations and the United States, who have expressed similar concerns and fears that Syria, led by President Bashir al-Assad, would use chemical weapons against innocent civilians.
Antonio Guterres, U.N. secretary-general, urged Syria and its allies, which include Russia, Turkey and Iran, “to exercise restraint and to prioritize the protection of civilians.”
“The secretary-general is deeply concerned about the growing risks of a humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full-scale military operation in Idlib province in Syria. The secretary-general once again reaffirms that any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable,” a U.N. statement said on 29 August.
On the same day Pope Francis made his appeal, U.S. President Donald Trump warned President al-Assad to “not recklessly attack Idlib province” and said Syria and its allies would be “making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!” President Trump tweeted.
4 September 2018
Tags: Syria Pope Francis
As Kerala recovers from last month's historic flooding, residents are now battling another hazard: rat fever. (photo: CNEWA)
Kerala battles rat fever in wake of flooding (BBC) The flood-hit south Indian state of Kerala has declared a health alert after dozens of people died of leptospirosis or rat fever in the last two days. The government has asked everyone who came into contact with flood waters to take medication as a precautionary measure to avoid an epidemic. Health officials in the state said there was no immediate cause for alarm and the situation was under control…
Greek Orthodox priests will be allowed to remarry (Greek Reporter) The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to allow a second marriage for Greek Orthodox priests in the event that they are widowed or abandoned by their wife, religious news website Romfea.gr says…
Final offensive in Syria may come at a horrific cost (The New York Times) On land, Syria’s government is mustering thousands of conscripts to bolster its depleted forces. At sea, a Russian naval flotilla is just offshore, ready to intervene with formidable firepower. In Idlib Province, millions of civilians are dreading what comes next. The warring sides in Syria’s long and merciless civil war are preparing for another brutal offensive, and this one may be the last. Where Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies see a chance to crush the remaining opposition, Western leaders warn of a humanitarian calamity in Idlib, where an estimated three million civilians live…
Indian leader assures help for Christians (The Times of India) Union home minister Rajnath Singh assured all help and assistance to Christians during a meeting with secretary general of the Catholic Conference of India, the CBCI stated…
Jerusalem prepares for Rosh Hashanah (The Jerusalem Post) A photographic journey through the city as it gears up for 5779…
31 August 2018
Tags: India Kerala Orthodox Rosh Hashana
CNEWA's regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, left, exchanges gifts with Anba Antonius, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA)
When I first visited the small but beautiful chapel of the Coptic Sisters’ convent in the Old City of Jerusalem, I was shocked at the amount of mold and mildew that covered the ceiling and walls, leaving a pungent odor in the air. The sisters told me that they covered the ceiling with plastic sheeting to prevent old plaster from falling onto the floor when they received guests and held liturgies in the chapel.
CNEWA provided a small grant to improve the conditions inside the convent. Rehabilitation work involved removing the old plaster of the ceiling and walls, which not only solved the humidity problem but revealed the original stone walls of the chapel that had been covered over for decades. The grant also renovated three small rooms of the convent to ensure the health and safety of the sisters.
This photo was taken during a recent joint visit of the CNEWA team with His Excellency, Anba Antonius, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem.
His Excellency offered the Jerusalem Office a beautiful icon of the Holy Family on their trip to Egypt, which was hand-painted by his brother, and an icon of Mark the Evangelist, who brought Christianity into Egypt. Similar paintings can also be found in the sisters’ chapel, which was renovated under the grant.
30 August 2018
Tags: Jerusalem Coptic Orthodox Church
Syrian refugee youth in Lebanon participate in a Caritas Lebanon education program. Christian and Muslim religious leaders appealed this week to the international community to work toward peace in the region to ensure the dignified return of refugees to their homes. (photo: CNS/courtesy Caritas Lebanon)
Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim religious leaders, meeting with the president of Switzerland, appealed to the international community to work toward peace in the region and to ensure the “dignified” return of refugees to their homelands.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, hosted Swiss President Alain Berset at Diman, the patriarchal summer residence in northern Lebanon on 28 August.
“This presence of high Muslim and Christian dignitaries clearly reflects the uniqueness of Lebanon as a country of convergence and interfaith dialogue,” Cardinal Rai said in welcoming Berset.
“In these difficult times, the countries of the Middle East are well aware of the fact that such cooperation and coexistence between Christians and Muslims is a beacon of hope for the peoples of this tormented region,” the cardinal said.
Those attending included Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi; Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X -- all of whom were born in Syria -- Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia for the Armenian Orthodox Church; Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, papal nuncio to Lebanon; Mohammad Sammak, secretary general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue; Muslim and Druze representatives, as well as Swiss diplomats.
“We appeal to the international community to shoulder its responsibility and strive to put an end to the ongoing conflicts and wars and to ensure the dignified return of the Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians, Iraqis and others to their country,” Cardinal Rai told the Swiss president.
Lebanon, a country of about 4 million, is host to more than 1 million refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria. In addition, thousands of Iraqi Christians who were uprooted from their homes in Iraq’s Ninevah Plain by the Islamic State organization, and 500,000 Palestinian refugees who fled the 1948 Arab-Israeli war also are in Lebanon.
“This right of return must be a priority,” Cardinal Rai continued, regarding the refugee presence in Lebanon.
“It is their right as citizens to preserve their culture and civilization and to continue to write their history. Therefore, the question of their return should not be linked to political solutions that may take years and years,” particularly as they relate to the interests of various regional and international powers, the Lebanese cardinal continued.
For his part, Berset said, “My visit to Lebanon is a sign of support for this country at a time when the Middle East is witnessing a hostile, weakened” situation.
“Spiritual leaders have a great responsibility toward each other to denote the path of dialogue, exchange and peace. We know very well how rugged this road is and the difficulties it faces,” Berset continued.
“Lebanon is a world center for civilizations and for dialogue between religions and people,” Berset affirmed to the religious leaders.
“This visit also aims to remind Lebanon that it is not alone concerned with the refugees and the displaced,” Berset told the gathering. He noted that the previous day he had met with Lebanon’s president, the house speaker and other officials “only to confirm our concern about helping Lebanon.”
28 August 2018
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees
Sister María Niña plays soccer with the girls in the backyard of her community’s house in Dekhela, Egypt, where many of the girls live. Read more about how a congregation of religious sisters is Building a Brighter Future for these girls in the November 2004 edition of ONE. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)