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Volume 45, Number 3
11 January 2012
Carl Hétu

Archbishop Elias Chacour welcomes members of the Holy Land Coordination program.
(photo: Marcin Mazur/CCN)

Yesterday, the bishops participating in the Holy Land Coordination program visited the Israeli city of Haifa, where Israeli Christians, Jews and Muslims live side by side. We experienced a city that seems to revel in its complexity, where leaders, teachers, parents and children of all faiths and ethnic groups decided to go beyond the traditional speeches about achieving peace. They agreed to learn, teach, live and play together.

Yet even here, the temptation exists to associate a particular religion to a behavior or attitude. This temptation to label is very dangerous; it inflames doubts and suspicions in a region plagued with conflict and violence, and reinforces the idea that religion is part of the Middle East’s problem.

We came here to see for ourselves how religion heals the injustices of failed political policies. We met with our good friend, Archbishop Elias Chacour, the Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee, who, while visiting Ottawa last October, mentioned the success of his school in the Israeli village of Ibilin. There, Christian, Druze, Jewish and Muslim students attend the same school.

We had the occasion to meet teachers and religious leaders of a number of faiths present in Haifa, all of whom reminded us that much is needed to instill the necessity of coexistence and mutual respect with tomorrow’s leaders. All agreed that education was the key to peace and that a proper space is needed where all faiths can be together as one while respecting the other’s differences. Interestingly enough, this was the theme of Pope Benedict XVI’s message of peace this past 1 January. It left us with something to think about.

Indeed, two days before I left for Jerusalem, the only mosque in my home town of Gatineau in Quebec was vandalized for the second time in two weeks. Even though Muslims represent less than .5 percent of our population, a minority of people fears their presence.

Yes, we must help parts of the world like the Middle East, but are we not falling into the same trap of intolerance and labeling here in North America? If I am reaching out to Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Middle East, should I not do the same in my home town?

Catholic, Druze, Jewish and Muslim leaders met in Haifa, Israel, to discuss coexistence. Archbishops Patrick Kelly of Liverpool and Richard Smith of Edmonton are among the bishops participating in this Holy Land Coordination program. (photo: Marcin Mazur/CCN)

Tags: Holy Land Unity Interreligious Middle East Peace Process Discrimination

11 January 2012
Greg Kandra

CNEWA President John E. Kozar welcomed Cardinal-Designate Timothy M. Dolan to CNEWA’s offices this afternoon for an annual board meeting. The Archbishop of New York, who will become a cardinal at a consistory in Rome next month, is CNEWA’s chair and treasurer. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: CNEWA Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan

11 January 2012
Greg Kandra

The rooftop prayer service at the Good Samaritan Center in Jerusalem’s Old City.
(photo: J. Carrier)

In November 2009, writer Hannah Foighel described the work of the Elderly Community Support Center, also known as the Good Samaritan Center, in Jerusalem:

The Good Samaritan Center was founded in 2000 and received recognition as a nonprofit three years later. Since 2005, the center has been based in a former hostel owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the heart of the Christian Quarter, but Raja Salameh emphasizes that the center does not belong to any one church. Rather, it provides services for all those who live in the city’s ancient Christian Quarter.

“We serve the Lord in a good way,” he says, adding that seven Muslim families who live in the quarter also use the services of the center.

The center receives funding from the Finnish government, CNEWA-Pontifical Mission, international groups and charities....

...The Good Samaritan Center has three floors. The ground floor functions as a club, an entertainment center of sorts with a television, a number of card tables and board games. The second floor houses a clinic-like facility and the center’s administrative offices. A flat roof is the center’s third floor and it is Mr. Salameh’s pride and dream. The roof is at the same level as the lead-covered domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is just two buildings away. In the distance, one can see the Mount of Olives. Here prayers are conducted each Monday.

“When we started the center, all the churches were a bit skeptical. Now they all want to come here to conduct prayers and celebrate liturgies,” he adds. “A few weeks ago, the former Latin patriarch, Archbishop Michel Sabah, led a prayer service. The Greek Orthodox patriarch has been here and next week we will have a priest from Lebanon.”

To read more, check out Jerusalem’s Good Samaritans.

Tags: Jerusalem Health Care Caring for the Elderly Pensioners

10 January 2012
Carl Hétu

A Syriac Catholic family discusses the difficulties of securing adequate housing in Jerusalem.(photo: Carl Hétu/CNEWA)

Editor’s note: CNEWA Canada’s national director, Carl Hétu, is in the Holy Land participating in an annual fact-finding trip taken by Catholic bishops from Europe and North America to avail them of the current situation affecting the Christian community in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. He began his trip in Jerusalem, meeting with the Syriac Catholic community.

On Sunday, we visited one of the smallest of the Eastern churches in the Holy Land, the Syriac Catholic Church. The Syriac Catholic patriarchal vicar, Bishop Boutros Melki, serves some 30 families. The bishop spent more than 25 years serving a parish community in Montreal, Canada, and was named patriarchal vicar in 2004. Despite the lack of resources, he has renovated the patriarchate and made it into a residence for pilgrims. During the celebration of the Eucharist, Bishop Melki mentioned that Christians in the Holy Land only seek to be treated as equal — nothing less, nothing more.

Afterward, I had the occasion to meet with some families. A retired father passed on to his three sons a print shop in the city. Business is good, but for the families their primary concern is adequate housing. One of the sons told me he now has four children, but their tiny apartment is too small to rear the family. Finding housing in Jerusalem, he said, is next to impossible.

The next day, our group met with four leaders in the Christian community to discuss the issue in depth. One of the four was CNEWA’s own Sami El-Yousef, our regional director for Palestine and Israel. The four panelists confirmed that finding adequate housing plagues the community. The fact that it is expensive is one reason, but the issue is also political. The Jerusalem municipality isn’t that eager to have too many new apartments or houses being built for Palestinians, be they Christian or Muslim. It can take up to three years — usually more — to receive the appropriate construction permits on land that already belong to Christians. For Israeli citizens, it is a matter of months, they stated.

Without proper housing, these experts said that many Christians simply leave the region for areas where they can earn a living and bring up their families more comfortably. There is, however, some hope. Many churches in the city, including the Latin Patriarchate, the Lutheran diocese and the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, are all working hard to change the situation. They are purchasing land, applying for construction permits and building units that are offered to Christian families at affordable rates. Of the 11,400 Christians living in Jerusalem, said the Latin Patriarchal vicar, Bishop William Shomali, 400 families — about 1,600 people — are in an emergency situation regarding housing.

Paradoxically, the largest landowner in the region is the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. But most of the funds enabling the local churches to combat this housing shortage are from Europeans or North Americans through organizations such as CNEWA.

Syriac Catholic patriarchal vicar, Bishop Melki, celebrates the Divine Liturgy.
(photo: Carl Hétu/CNEWA)

10 January 2012
Greg Kandra

Visitors find refreshment at a drinking fountain at Saint Sergius Monastery, located in the town of Sergiyev Posad, northeast of Moscow. To learn more about some of that country’s most meaningful churches — “Russia's Kremlins” — read Russia’s Fortified Tabernacles from the September 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Tags: Russia Orthodox

9 January 2012
Erin Edwards

Mr. and Mrs. Mathew prepare dinner while Jiya plays with her grandmother.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)

Emigration occurs in many of the countries CNEWA serves. Families generally choose to migrate from their country of origin in order to make a better life for themselves. In Kerala, it is common for a family member to migrate to another country and send home money or ”remittances.“ But those not benefitting from emigration face the harsh realities of poverty and lack of opportunity in Kerala:

About a mile or so from the Peters family’s new home — in a neighborhood where residents claim ”Gulf money“ has built 90 percent of all the houses — huddles the rundown shack that Jeji and Priya Mathew and their 1-year-old daughter, Jiya, call home. A ratty, blue plastic tarp tacked crudely over the entrance collects leaves. Water stains splotch the interior walls of this cramped, makeshift dwelling. Toothbrushes and other toiletries fill the shallow crevices of an exterior brick wall around back. With no running water, the dirt landing adjoining the shack’s rear is where Mr. Mathew shaves, his wife brushes her hair and Jiya plays — mud puddles at their feet.

Unlike the Peters family, the Mathews do not receive any remittances from overseas. The family struggles just to secure the basics.

For more, read Kerala’s Bittersweet Phenomenon from the September 2008 issue. Also, take a look at the accompanying multimedia feature, Meaning and Measure of Kerala Emigration.

Tags: India Kerala Poor/Poverty Emigration Employment

6 January 2012
Greg Kandra

Four young carolers pose in their home-made costumes in front of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kosmach. (photo: Petro Didula)

For many Christians around the world, 6 January is celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings, when the Magi visited the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem. In some places, it is also the “12th Day of Christmas,” marking the close of the Christmas season.

It has a number of cherished customs in parts of Eastern Europe. As one website describes it:

Beginning with New Years and through January 6, children dressed as the kings, and holding up a large star, go from door to door, caroling and singing a Three Kings’ song. For this they receive money or sweets. Formerly the collected donations went to unemployed craftsmen and veterans, today they go to charities of the church or the Third World.

So, for one last time before the season ends: Merry Christmas!

Tags: Ukraine Greek Catholic Church

6 January 2012
Greg Kandra

CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, congratulates Cardinal-Designate Timothy Dolan after a prayer service in New York on 6 January. (photo: Mary Borg/CNEWA)

This morning, on the Feast of the Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI named 22 new cardinals — including four with close ties to CNEWA.

The new cardinals include CNEWA’s Chair and Treasurer, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Archbishop Thomas C. Collins of Toronto, who serves on the board for CNEWA Canada; Archbishop George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, who serves as a trustee for CNEWA India; and Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

The consistory for the creation of the cardinals will occur on 18 February.

Congratulations to all the cardinal-designates!

For a complete list, visit this link to Vatican Radio.

Click here to read Cardinal-Designate Dolan’s statement.

And you can read more at Catholic News Service.

From left, Cardinal-Designate Edwin F. O’Brien, pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is pictured during Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass marking the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican today. (photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring) Cardinal-Designate Thomas C. Collins of Toronto. (photo: CNS photo/Bill Wittman)

Tags: CNEWA Vatican Canada Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien

5 January 2012
Erin Edwards

In this photo from 2003, Sister Nahla tends to a patient at the Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital in Mosul, Iraq, where she has been working since May. (photo: Philip Toscano-Heighton)

Today, the Washington Post reported that a suicide bomber targeting Shiites killed at least 72 people in Baghdad — the highest one-day death toll since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December. This bombing is one in a series of recent attacks resulting in many causalities. In the midst of so much turmoil and suffering, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have been a safety net for Iraqis affected by war for many years. In the January 2004 issue of the magazine, Jill Carroll wrote about their work with the wounded and sick:

Others, like Sister Nahla Francis, work outside the convent. Sister Nahla started working as a nurse six months ago at the nearby Al Jamh-Al Zahrawi Hospital in Mosul. She monitors life-support machines, feeds patients and changes bed linens. Many patients are recovering from gunshot wounds and other life-threatening injuries.

She is the only sister in the hospital and often has to explain to Muslim patients what a sister is.

“I saw a lot of different cases here. One patient came who had lost her legs and her family,” said Sister Nahla, who has been a member of the community for six years. “She told me, ‘I want to die because I have nothing to live for.’”

In such cases, “I can only pray for the patient,” said Sister Nahla.

Equally trying was the death of many children brought to the hospital during the war, she said. “The community gave me spiritual support and encouragement to continue my work here.”

Since that report, Sister Nahla has left Iraq; she now works at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, which is also supported by CNEWA.

Meantime, the author of the story, Jill Carroll, came to know all-too-well the nightmare of Iraq. In 2006, she was kidnapped by Sunni Muslim insurgents and spent nearly three months in captivity before finally being released. You can read more about her story in The Christian Science Monitor.

For more, read In the Shadow of War. To learn how you can help support the sisters and hospitals in Iraq, visit our website.

Tags: Iraq War Health Care Dominican Sisters

4 January 2012
Erin Edwards

Sister Lucy Maule of the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem, holds four-year-old Abdil-Karim Yosef Allush. This photo was featured on the cover of the Jan/Feb 1996 issue of the magazine.
(photo: Miriam Sushman)

In this photo from our archives, Miriam Sushman documented the work of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy at Ephpheta Institute, a school for hearing-impaired children in Bethlehem that CNEWA has supported for many years. George Martin wrote about his experience at the school for our magazine back in 1996:

Ephpheta was founded at the Pope’s request after his visit to the Holy Land in 1964. Supported almost entirely by CNEWA-PMP, Ephpheta admits children on the basis of need, not their parents’ ability to pay.

Ephpheta is run by the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, a largely Italian community dedicated to spreading the love of Christ through fostering human and Christian development. Although engaged in many types of educational and social work, the sisters have specialized in educating the deaf.

How does one go about teaching a child born deaf to speak? It is a slow and exceedingly painstaking process. The more I witnessed it, the more I marveled.

For more, read The Miracle of Ephpheta. To learn how you can help support the children of Ephpheta Institute today, visit our website.

Tags: Children Palestine Bethlehem Disabilities

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