30 September 2011
Msgr. John Kozar, President of CNEWA, enjoys a laugh with Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley,O.F.M. Cap.
(Photo: Erin Edwards)
Boston’s Archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., paid a visit to our New York offices this morning. Cardinal Sean is also a member of the CNEWA board, and was curious to meet some of the staff and see what we do. CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar gave him a tour of our offices, introduced him to the staff, and clearly had a great time.
29 September 2011
An Ethiopian monk prays at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.
(Photo: Peter Lemieux)
Ben Cramer reported on the dwindling number of pilgrims or visitors to the Holy Land in the March/April 2004 issue of the magazine. The violence in the region at the time kept pilgrims away and depressed Christians living in the region:
The crisis jeopardizes the region’s Christian communities in ways that go beyond economics. According to Christian leaders in the area, the absence of Christian pilgrims in the birthplace of their faith is having a troubling impact on local parishioners and even the hope for peace in the Middle East.
“Pilgrimage has almost totally stopped since 2000,” says Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah. “There are a few pilgrims coming here out of true conviction, but these are only small groups, primarily from Italy, France and Spain.”
Since this story ran in 2004, the number of pilgrimages to the Holy Land has increased. According to a January 2011 article from Independent Catholic News, “...the highest number of pilgrims went to Bethlehem for the Christmas celebrations since 2000. Up to 500 Christians from Gaza were also able to come to Bethlehem which was a considerable improvement...”
For more, check out Holy Land: increase in number of Christians returning home.
29 September 2011
Tags: Ethiopia Jerusalem Holy Land Africa
M.L. Thomas, Regional Director for India; Thomas Varghese, Vice President for India and Northeast Africa; Bishop Joseph Kunnath, C.M.I.; and Msgr. John Kozar, President, CNEWA. (Photo: Deacon Greg Kandra)
Bishop Joseph Kunnath from Adilabad, India, dropped by the offices of CNEWA in New York Thursday afternoon. He was returning from a mission appeal to Lansing, Michigan, and stopped by to meet Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWAs new president, and M.L. Thomas, the regional director for India.
Bishop Joseph was eager to share news of some remarkable developments in his homeland: the 15,000 new Catholics who live in his diocese, he said, have all made a commitment to become evangelists. “They will come with us to each new village,” he said, explaining that they will be venturing into a region of southern India that is not Christian.
Msgr. Kozar added, “When he says ‘new village,’ he means NEW. These towns were built from nothing.”
When asked what was attracting people to the faith, the bishop replied simply, “It is the Spirit.”
He explained: “They see us praying and they want to join us.” Bishop Joseph added that the people dont ask for anything except faith.
28 September 2011
Tags: India CNEWA
Photographer Sean Sprague captured these dancers during the Istanbul Gypsy & Orientale Dance Festival in May of 2010. (Photo: Sean Sprague)
Turkey’s diversity has been well documented in the pages of ONE — including members of the Roma community, seen in the photo above partaking in an ancient celebration marking the arrival of spring. The celebration includes bonfires, traditional music and dancing. Though the Roma are a minority, their culture and traditions remain strong.
For more about Turkey’s diversity check out, Turkey’s Melting Pot from the May 2011 issue of ONE.
Turkey was in the news this week, being touted as an example of progress in the disarray within the Middle East.
“Turkey is the only country that has a sense of where things are going, and it has the wind blowing on its sails,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Istanbul Bilgi University.
The country’s foreign policy seized the attention of many in the Middle East and beyond after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tour this month of three Arab countries that have witnessed revolutions: Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Even Mr. Erdogan’s critics were impressed with the symbolism of the trip.
For more, read the New York Times article, In Riddle of Mideast Upheaval, Turkey Offers Itself as an Answer.
27 September 2011
Tags: Turkey Gypsy
A Melkite Greek Catholic priest from southern Syria sits with his family.
(Photo: Armineh Johannes)
The Middle East’s Arab Spring has brought joy to some and grief to others. In Syria, the government of Bashar al-Assad is combating an uprising that has claimed more than 2,600 lives. Led primarily by Sunni Muslims, the uprising has also received some support from the Alawite community — a Shiite Muslim sect that dominates the government — and Christians, who include up to ten percent of the Syrian population. Despite their numbers, Christians have flourished under the Assad regime.
In today’s New York Times, we hear how many Christians in Syria are ambivalent about the uprising. They fear that Syria, without the current totalitarian regime, will descend into chaos as in Iraq, and that Christians and other minorities will bear the brunt of religious sectarian violence.
“What does freedom mean?” wrote one Syrian Christian to her confreres in the faith. “Every one of you does what she wants and is free to say what she wants. Do you think if the regime falls (God forbid) you will gain freedom? Then, each one of you will be locked in her house, lamenting those days.”
For more, check out the article “Fearing Change, Many Christians in Syria Back Assad” on The New York Times website.
27 September 2011
Santa Lucia (home for the blind in Abou Kir, Egypt) staff member Iman Bibawi Iskandar helps a resident practice writing Arabic Braille in preparation for an exam. (Photo: Holly Pickett)
In the May 2010 issue of ONE, journalist Liam Stack shared the stories of the sisters and children at the Santa Lucia Home for the Blind — which was built with funds from CNEWA donors.
Santa Lucia inspires dedication and devotion among its faculty and staff. Samira Ibrahim Matta was one of the first teachers hired by Father Tarcisio. Every afternoon, she teaches the intricacies of Arabic grammar, a language whose swooping letters they learn to write on small, clanging Braille typewriters. Between school and afternoon classes at the home, residents learn to read and write Braille in Arabic, English and French.
Proud of her role at Santa Lucia, Ms. Samira teaches her students not only reading and writing, but lessons about life. A few years ago, her own vision began to fade, and today she is blind. As hard as it has been for her to adjust to being blind, she uses her own, recent experiences as a way to teach the children to respect themselves and work hard.
“I don’t want to congratulate myself for what I do, it is just important to teach them to challenge themselves and the difficulties of their lives,” Ms. Samira explains.
Learn more about the Santa Lucia Home in Blind to Limitations by Liam Stack.
26 September 2011
Tags: Egypt Africa Franciscan Sisters of the Cross
This photo of two Georgian Orthodox monks was taken in July of 2001. Photographer Justyna Mielnikiewicz has documented the Caucasus region extensively for many years.
(Photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
In the November 2009 issue of ONE, we featured a beautiful photo essay by photographer Justyna Mielnikiewicz, profiling the diverse Caucasus region. Annie Grunow wrote the text accompanying Mielnikiewicz’s beautiful imagery:
While the Armenians, Georgians and Chechens may be most familiar, there are countless other peoples in the Caucasus who staunchly retain their own ethnic identities. Geographic names usually reflect a portion of an area’s ethnic population, but by no means can a geographic name be mistaken for ethnic homogeneity. Linguistic and religious differences also occur within a seemingly distinct ethnicity. Refugee and emigrant populations further confound the picture.
Abkhazians, Chechens and Ossetians are present in both Georgia and Russia; each group is struggling to gain some degree of autonomy. Abkhazians and Ossetians, which are distinct ethnic groups with their own languages, are largely Orthodox Christians.
For more about the Caucasus region read, Where Europe Meets Asia.
23 September 2011
Tags: Georgia Monastery Georgian Orthodox Church Caucasus
Pope Benedict XVI poses for a picture after a meeting with representatives of the Jewish congregation at the Reichstag, which houses the German parliament, in Berlin 22 Sept. Also pictured are Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, head of the German bishops’ conference, left, and Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, far right. (Photo: CNS/Wolfgang Radtke, pool via Reuters)
Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI met with Jewish leaders in Berlin. Below, from the Holy See website, is the text of his remarks, delivered in the Reichstag:
I am truly glad to be taking part in this meeting with you here in Berlin. I warmly thank President Dr. Dieter Graumann for his kind and thoughtful words. They make it very clear to me how much trust has grown between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church, who hold in common a not insignificant part of their essential traditions, as you emphasized. At the same time it is clear to us all that a loving relationship of mutual understanding between Israel and the Church, each respecting the essence of the other, still has further to grow and needs to be built into the heart of our proclamation of the faith.
On my visit to the Synagogue in Cologne six years ago, Rabbi Teitelbaum spoke of remembrance as one of the supporting pillars that are needed if a future of peace is to be built. And today I find myself in a central place of remembrance, the appalling remembrance that it was from here that the Shoah, the annihilation of our Jewish fellow citizens in Europe, was planned and organized. Before the Nazi terror, there were about half a million Jews living in Germany, and they formed a stable component of German society. After the Second World War, Germany was considered the “Land of the Shoah” where, for a Jew, it had become virtually impossible to live. Initially there were hardly any efforts to re-establish the old Jewish communities, even though Jewish individuals and families were constantly arriving from the East. Many of them wanted to emigrate and build a new life, especially in the United States or Israel.
In this place, remembrance must also be made of the Kristallnacht that took place from 9 to 10 November 1938. Only a few could see the full extent of this act of contempt for humanity, like the Berlin Cathedral Provost, Bernhard Lichtenberg, who cried out from the pulpit of Saint Hedwig’s Cathedral: “Outside, the Temple is burning — that too is the house of God”. The Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ and of all who believe in him. The supposedly “almighty” Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men. Refusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human dignity as well. What man is capable of when he rejects God, and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God, the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war showed.
In the light of this remembrance, it is to be acknowledged with thankfulness that a new development has been seen in recent decades, which makes it possible to speak of a real blossoming of Jewish life in Germany. It should be stressed that the Jewish community during this time has made particularly laudable efforts to integrate the Eastern European immigrants.
I would also like to express my gratitude for the deepening dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism. The Church feels a great closeness to the Jewish people. With the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council, an “irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship” was made (cf. Address in the Synagogue in Rome, 17 January 2010). This is true of the Catholic Church as a whole, in which Blessed John Paul II committed himself to this new path with particular zeal. Naturally it is also true of the Catholic Church in Germany, which is conscious of its particular responsibility in this regard. In the public domain, special mention should be made of the “Week of Fraternity”, organized each year during the first week of March by local Societies for Christian-Jewish Partnership.
On the Catholic side there are also annual meetings between bishops and rabbis as well as structured conversations with the Central Council of Jews. Back in the 1970s, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) took the initiative of establishing a “Jews and Christians” forum, which over the years has issued many well-written and helpful documents. Nor should I omit to mention the historic meeting for Jewish-Christian dialogue that took place in March 2006 with the participation of Cardinal Walter Kasper. That cooperation is proving fruitful.
Alongside these important initiatives, it seems to me that we Christians must also become increasingly aware of our own inner affinity with Judaism, to which you made reference. For Christians, there can be no rupture in salvation history. Salvation comes from the Jews (cf. Jn 4:22). When Jesus’ conflict with the Judaism of his time is superficially interpreted as a breach with the Old Covenant, it tends to be reduced to the idea of a liberation that mistakenly views the Torah merely as a slavish enactment of rituals and outward observances. Yet in actual fact, the Sermon on the Mount does not abolish the Mosaic Law, but reveals its hidden possibilities and allows more radical demands to emerge. It points us towards the deepest source of human action, the heart, where choices are made between what is pure and what is impure, where faith, hope and love blossom forth.
The message of hope contained in the books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament has been appropriated and continued in different ways by Jews and Christians. “After centuries of antagonism, we now see it as our task to bring these two ways of rereading the biblical texts — the Christian way and the Jewish way — into dialogue with one another, if we are to understand God’s will and his word aright” (Jesus of Nazareth. Part Two: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, pp. 33f.). This dialogue should serve to strengthen our common hope in God in the midst of an increasingly secularized society. Without this hope, society loses its humanity.
All in all, we may conclude that the exchanges between the Catholic Church and Judaism in Germany have already borne promising fruits. Enduring relations of trust have been forged. Jews and Christians certainly have a shared responsibility for the development of society, which always includes a religious dimension. May all those taking part in this journey move forward together. To this end, may the One and Almighty, Ha Kadosch Baruch Hu, grant his blessing. I thank you.
Visit this link for more on the pope’s remarks to Jewish leaders in Germany.
23 September 2011
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Interreligious Jews Germany Jewish-Catholic relations
As part of his visit to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI today met with members of Germany’s Muslim community at the Apostolic Nunziature in Berlin. Below is the text of his remarks, as provided by the Vatican News website:
Dear Muslim Friends,
I am glad to be able to welcome you here, as the representatives of different Muslim communities in Germany. From my heart I thank Professor Mouhanad Khorchide for his kind greeting. His words show me what a climate of respect and trust has grown up between the Catholic Church and the Muslim communities in Germany.
Berlin is a good place for a meeting like this, not only because the oldest mosque on German territory is located here, but also because Berlin has the largest Muslim population of all the cities in Germany.
From the 1970s onwards, the presence of numerous Muslim families has increasingly become a distinguishing mark of this country. Constant effort is needed in order to foster better mutual acquaintance and understanding. Not only is this important for peaceful coexistence, but also for the contribution that each can make towards building up the common good in this society. Many Muslims attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life. At times this is thought provocative in a society that tends to marginalize religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual’s personal choices.
The Catholic Church firmly advocates that due recognition be given to the public dimension of religious adherence. In an overwhelmingly pluralist society, this demand is not unimportant. Care must be taken to guarantee that others are always treated with respect. Mutual respect grows only on the basis of agreement on certain inalienable values that are proper to human nature, in particular the inviolable dignity of every single person. Such agreement does not limit the expression of individual religions; on the contrary, it allows each person to bear witness explicitly to what he believes, not avoiding comparison with others.
In Germany — as in many other countries, not only Western ones — this common frame of reference is articulated by the Constitution, whose juridical content is binding on every citizen, whether he belong to a faith community or not.
Naturally, discussion over the best formulation of principles like freedom of public worship is vast and open-ended, yet it is significant that the Basic Law expresses them in a way that is still valid today at a distance of over sixty years (cf. Art. 4:2). In this law we find above all the common ethos that lies at the heart of human coexistence and that also in a certain way pervades the apparently formal rules of operation of the institutions of democratic life.
We could ask ourselves how such a text — drawn up in a radically different historical epoch, that is to say in an almost uniformly Christian cultural situation — is also suited to present-day Germany, situated as it is within a globalized world and marked as it is by a remarkable degree of pluralism in the area of religious belief.
The reason for this seems to me to lie in the fact that the fathers of the Basic Law at that important moment were fully conscious of the need to find particularly solid ground with which all citizens would be able to identify. In seeking this, they did not prescind from their own religious beliefs; indeed for many of them, the real source of inspiration was the Christian vision of man. But they knew they had to engage with the followers of other religions and none: common ground was found in the recognition of some inalienable rights that are proper to human nature and precede every positive formulation.
In this way, an essentially homogeneous society laid the foundations that we today consider valid for a markedly pluralistic world, foundations that actually point out the evident limits of pluralism: it is inconceivable, in fact, that a society could survive in the long term without consensus on fundamental ethical values.
Dear friends, on the basis of what I have outlined here, it seems to me that there can be fruitful collaboration between Christians and Muslims. In the process, we help to build a society that differs in many respects from what we brought with us from the past. As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society. I am thinking, for example, of the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice.
This is another reason why I think it important to hold a day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world, as we plan to do on 27 October next, twenty-five years after the historic meeting in Assisi led by my predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II. Through this gathering, we wish to express, with simplicity, that we believers have a special contribution to make towards building a better world, while acknowledging that if our actions are to be effective, we need to grow in dialogue and mutual esteem.
With these sentiments I renew my sincere greetings and I thank you for this meeting, which has greatly enriched my visit to my homeland. Thank you for your attention!
You can read more about his visit at the Vatican News website.
23 September 2011
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Muslim Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations Germany
Roman’s Girls, a Catholic initiative in Addis Ababa, assists about 20 girls with school.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
Today marks the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere — the first day of fall.
For a lot of children, the return of fall means returning to school. In the countries CNEWA serves, Catholic schools are often the only institutions providing an education in regions where quality education is a luxury. Meki Catholic School in central Ethiopia is one example. In An Uphill Battle, Peter Lemieux explored some of the challenges young women in Meki, Ethiopia face in their quest to achieve a higher education:
If growing up in Ethiopia these days were a race, these children would appear to be off to a good start. But a closer look reveals an unfair contest, one that favors the boys.
While Meki Catholic School makes every effort to maintain gender balance — an equal number of boys and girls make up its primary grades — the number of girls enrolled in the school’s secondary classes drops sharply. For the girls fortunate enough to remain in school, the harsh reality of Ethiopia’s tradition of gender disparity hits harder than a stiff headwind in a 50-yard dash.
Against a metal fence enclosing the school grounds, Messeret Yohannes, an 18-year-old senior, discusses the future with her girlfriends. All expect to go to college. And all hope to become professionals either in accounting, banking, education or medicine. Given the school’s outstanding achievements, high aspirations such as theirs are certainly realistic. From among the graduating class, 94 percent are expected to attend college, compared to 30 to 35 percent nationally.
For more, check out the May 2009 issue of ONE. Also, if you are interested in learning how you can help children in Ethiopia attend school, visit our website for more information.
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Women (rights/issues) Catholic education Catholic Schools