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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
22 September 2011
Greg Kandra

Palestinians buy food from a vendor outside the Damascus Gate in the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, 1 Sept. In August, Israeli archaeologists completed restoration work on the Damascus Gate, the last stage in a project begun in 2007 to restore and conserve the city’s 2.5 miles of ancient walls. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Last week, we brought you some remarkable photographs by Sister Christian Molidor, including a striking image of an elderly woman in Jerusalem making her way to the Damascus Gate to do her shopping. This week, Catholic News Service had more about that historic entrance, what one observer called “the most important entryway into Jerusalem”:

From its monumental Roman base to the top of its newly restored Ottoman crown and its stones scarred by bullet holes, the city’s most elaborate gate has been witness to the comings and goings of centuries of conquering soldiers and rulers and remains the main gate into the Old City.

In August, Israeli archaeologists completed restoration work on the Damascus Gate, the last stage in a project begun in 2007 to restore and conserve the city’s 2.5 miles of ancient walls, said conservation architect Avi Mashiah of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who directed the work.

The Damascus Gate was the last of the gates to be restored not only because of its architectural complexity, but also because of its role as the social and commercial hub for the Old City in East Jerusalem, he said.

Read more about the Damascus Gate here.

Tags: Jerusalem Damascus Gate

22 September 2011
Greg Kandra

Last week, our own Rev. Elias Mallon offered some context and analysis on a communiqué by the leaders of Jerusalem’s Christian churches. Those leaders had expressed “the need to intensify our prayers and diplomatic efforts for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” That statement came ahead of this week’s meetings of the United Nations General Assembly, where the issue of a separate state for Palestine was front and center.

Last night, Fr. Mallon offered additional perspective on “Currents,” the daily news show on New Evangelization Television (NET), the TV station of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

You can watch the interview below:

Tags: Middle East Palestine Israel United Nations

22 September 2011
Erin Edwards

An elderly refugee from Azerbaijan languishes in an unsanitary government housing project. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Photographer Armineh Johannes’ enthralling photos from the story, Pensioners in Crisis exposed a harsh reality for a group of Armenians too often forgotten — the elderly:

“When we escaped Azerbaijan in 1988, the state gave us temporary asylum here with assurances we would receive an apartment later,” said the 80-year-old widow. “But they forgot about us,” she continued, repeatedly pressing her face into her open hands.

A “refugee,” Mrs. Sargsian is among the thousands of Armenians who fled their homes in neighboring Azerbaijan in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

“Who needs a life like this? I don’t want to live in these inhumane conditions,” she added, gesturing at her run-down studio apartment.

Sonya Sargsian resides in a dilapidated government-owned building housing impoverished pensioners and the homeless — one of three clustered in a forgotten suburb of Yerevan, the Armenian capital. Built as a student dormitory after World War II, the building has not been renovated since its construction. Residents share a common bathroom, which barely functions. Decrepit plumbing supplies water at irregular intervals.

For more about the state of Armenia’s senior citizens, read the story, Pensioners in Crisis, by Gayane Abrahamyan, in the January 2008 issue of ONE.

Tags: Refugees Armenia Caucasus

21 September 2011
Erin Edwards

In an undated photo from our archive: A seminarian prays in a church in Beit Jala, Palestine. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)

Today the Catholic News Service reported on the recent Palestinian bid for U.N. membership:

In a Sept. 20 interview in the suburban Washington offices of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Patriarch Fouad Twal told Catholic News Service that “the question of full membership for Palestine does not mean the end of negotiations. On the contrary, they must continue negotiating and speaking to find a solution for everybody, peace for everybody and security for everybody.”

Patriarch Twal, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, said that, in preaching about peace, he often says that it must be “peace for all the inhabitants, otherwise nobody can enjoy peace.” He and other Christian leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, often cite a two-state solution as the desired path to peace.

Read more on the Catholic News Service website.

Tags: Palestine Seminarians Church of the East

20 September 2011
Greg Kandra

Near Tibilisi, Georgia, Mother Ephemia plays with a dog belonging to the St. Tornike of Athos Monastery. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)

In 2007, journalist Paul Rimple visited the nuns carving out Alternative Lifestyles in Georgia:

Joining a monastery or convent is an arduous process, which discourages the casually interested or the naïve and gullible. “First a woman must agree to live by the monastery’s rules,” said Mother Ephemia, abbess of St. Tornike of Athos Monastery in Mtskheta. “She pledges obedience. Then she goes through a period of character evaluation.”

Each night, Mother Ephemia meets with members of the community in an examination of conscience that is “more of a dialogue and soul-sharing” experience, she said. The informal meeting “helps me know at what stage of development each sister is in.”

The process can take as little as five months or as long as 15 years — there is no set period. But three years is typical, Father Giorgi said.

“Generally, the better educated the woman and her family are, the easier the process is,” Mother Ephemia said. “But modesty in every aspect is absolutely necessary. There is no room for pride.”

But, as the picture shows, there is room for pets. Read more at this link.

Tags: Monastery Vocations (religious)

20 September 2011
Greg Kandra

Sister Maria Hanna and Father Guido Gockel, CNEWA’s vice president for the Middle East. (photo: Greg Kandra)

The plight of Christians in Iraq remains an ongoing concern. Last week, two leading Iraqi bishops met with the President of the Council of Europe in Brussels to discuss a wide range of issues — including religious freedom, education and the treatment of women.

We got some insight of our own several weeks ago, when we had a chance to talk with some nuns from Iraq, Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. They were in the United States to meet with political and religious leaders around the country in an effort to raise awareness and raise funds for the remarkable work that they do.

Here’s part of our conversation:

Please tell us about your ministry in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003.

Sister Maria Hanna: When the bombs started falling in Baghdad and people started to flee, we opened our convents to families. We gave people a place to stay. Or we connected them with families who could shelter them for a night. We did not wait for people to come to us. We went to locations where people congregated and asked them if they needed anything that we could provide.

We gathered an organization of young adults who went door to door to beg for food and other things to help families in need. Our sisters baked bread every day so people at least had bread to survive.

When families lost someone to violence or kidnapping, the sisters stayed with them, accompanied them, let them know we were there for them.

Years ago, the government nationalized our Catholic schools. After the regime fell, the government gave the buildings back to us. We let displaced families stay in the schools, too. We made sure people had the necessities to live. Our pantries were always empty, because we always gave everything away.

Early in the crisis, especially in 2003 and 2004, most of Iraq’s hospitals closed down. We run Al-Hayat Hospital in Baghdad, and we stayed opened. We stayed open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We stayed open for the people.

From accompanying displaced families and seeing their needs, we saw that children had no place to go, so we opened kindergartens. We rented houses to give children a safe place to play.

We also have our orphanages. One used to be in Baghdad, in a very dangerous zone, so we moved it to a village nearby. It is called the Beatitude House. This year, we are planning to open a new orphanage for boys with the help of the American Embassy. One of our biggest hopes is to build another hospital, too.

You’re also working night and day to bolster the Christian presence in Iraq.

Sister Maria: Most of our work is pastoral — not schools and hospitals. Every year, we prepare about 1,600 boys and girls to receive Communion. Our sisters do this in remote areas where there is no priest. This week and last, 667 children received First Communion in one village, because of our pastoral ministry.

We also do Gospel sharing with families. We gather a few families together and we share the Gospel with one another. Our sisters teach Catechism, too. We also run activities with the Dominican Third Order, lay people. In one town, we have about 180 lay people of different ages who help the local parish with whatever is needed. So, you can tell we’re everywhere.

Your community lost its mother house to the violence.

Sister Diana Moneka: Yes, it was bombed several times. But God was with us. When they bombed our mother house the first time, the missile fell on a bedroom where four sisters were sleeping. It was 1:30 a.m. They couldn’t escape. Pressure from the fire prevented them from opening the door. A sister sleeping down the hall eventually got them out. The sisters were so shocked, but after a while they felt the presence of God. They realized, “We’re still alive because of God.”

To read more, visit this link.

And check out this page to learn how you can support the life-saving work in Iraq.

Tags: Iraqi Christians War Health Care Orphans/Orphanages Dominican Sisters

19 September 2011
Gabriel Delmonaco

One of my favorite parts of the day is when I get to open and read the letters from our kind and caring donors. It’s a privilege I have as the National Director of CNEWA United States. These letters are genuinely a gift and an inspiration.

I’ll share with you a couple of recent letters:

Dear Gabriel,

Why am I a benefactor of CNEWA? I feel it is my obligation to share with my less fortunate brothers and sisters some of the blessings I receive from the Lord every day. Since I cannot attend to their needs personally as I would like to do (I have a family of two daughters, two sons and my wife), I hope you may do it for me.

May the Lord be with you always.


That’s exactly what all of us at CNEWA do every day: help people like you to help people in need. We’re an instrument of your compassion and generosity.

The second letter I’d like to share is from a father and his daughter, who sponsor a child through CNEWA:

Dear Gabriel,

I first heard about CNEWA when the Blessed John Paul II spoke about needy children. I told my daughter about it, and we both decided to help these children. I believe the child we support now is the fourth one we have sponsored, and God willing we can continue to help her. We love children! Now we are supporting Athira, a beautiful girl. Thank you for all the good work you do.

C. & L.

Why do you support the work of CNEWA with your love and charity? Click on the “Leave a comment” link below and let me know. I can’t wait to hear from you!


19 September 2011
Erin Edwards

A nurse gives Noor Fahmy her daughter, Mary, shortly after delivery at St. Thérèse Hospital in Cairo, Egypt. (photo: Shawn Baldwin)

In the July 2008 edition of the magazine, journalist Liam Stack told us about a Catholic hospital in Cairo that provided care to Egypt’s needy without regard to religion:

Overall, the hospital employs 4 dentists, 3 nurses, 45 doctors and 33 nonmedical employees, most of whom live in Imbaba.

While the facility’s employees are all Christian, Father Morgan is quick to point out that the overwhelmingly majority of its patients are Muslim.

“This hospital is interested only in the health of the community, not in people’s religion,” he says. “I would say that more than 85 percent of the people who come here are Muslims, and it’s no problem.”

What patients care about most when it comes to health care, in his view, is not the doctor’s religion, but his ability. That is why people, Christian and Muslim, come from all over the country to receive treatment at St. Thérèse Hospital.

To learn more about St. Thérèse Hospital, check out the story Healing Egypt’s Needy.

Tags: Egypt Health Care Africa

16 September 2011
CNEWA staff

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, the new pro-grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepculchre, meets well-wishers at the order’s headquarters during a welcoming reception in Rome 16 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Officials at the Vatican headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepculchre of Jerusalem welcomed U.S. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien as their new pro-grand master. Catholic News Service has details:

Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea, the assessor of the chivalric organization, placed a gold chain and pendant around Archbishop O’Brien’s neck and told him his new role “is like a chain that ties him to the Holy Land” and to the knightly order of the Holy Sepulcher.

The informal ceremony Sept. 16 took place in the order’s headquarters — a 15th-century palace housing ornate ceilings and rooms decorated with three-dimensional illusions of finely detailed trompe l’oeil.

Archbishop O’Brien thanked everyone present, including the order’s honorary assessor, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, for their warm welcome.

The archbishop said that just a month ago he had no idea that he would go from leading the Archdiocese of Baltimore to heading an order made up of nearly 25,000 members around the world. His appointment was announced Aug. 29.

“I am grateful to the Holy Father for his trust in me and hope in the years ahead I will be a help to the Holy See and to the wonderful land where Christ walked,” he said to all those gathered.

Archbishop O’Brien succeeds U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, who resigned in February due to ill health.

Read more at the CNS link.

Tags: Jerusalem Middle East

16 September 2011
Greg Kandra

The moving video below has caused a sensation on YouTube, with more than two million hits in the last two weeks. It comes from the Australian version of the TV talent show "The X Factor." Just watch as 17-year-old Emmanuel Kelly recounts how he was rescued by nuns in Iraq, and adopted by a family from Australia. You can read more about him here.

Tags: Iraq

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