Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
26 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Someone with close ties to CNEWA, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, is making his first trip to the Holy Land as grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and he discussed his visit with Catholic News Service:

“The church in the Holy Land has been under unfriendly domination throughout the centuries, and the fact that we still exist there is almost a miracle,” Cardinal O’Brien told Catholic News Service on 24 November. “We have to do everything we can as a Catholic people to encourage them and to let them know that we are one with them in their struggle.”

The cardinal, a former archbishop of Baltimore whom Pope Benedict named to lead the chivalric order in August 2011, left Rome on 26 November for a weeklong pilgrimage whose itinerary was to include Jerusalem; Bethlehem, West Bank; and Amman, Jordan. He was scheduled to meet with Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, who serves as the order’s grand prior, and other Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim leaders.

The cardinal also planned to visit a few of the more than 100 institutions that the knights support in the region, including parishes, schools and Bethlehem University.

Cardinal O’Brien was not planning to visit the Gaza Strip and said he did not expect the recent fighting there to affect his visit, which was planned almost a year ago. But he noted that Patriarch Twal has been on the "front lines" in aiding victims of the violence there.

You can read more of the interview at the link. Also, check out the cardinal’s remarks about his trip in the video below.

Tags: Middle East Christians Holy Land Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien

26 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Last Monday, Monsignor John Kozar paid a visit to Sister Lily and the Holy Family Asha Niwas Social Welfare Center in New Delhi, India. He received a warm welcome from the
children and staff! (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: India

26 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Pope Benedict XVI greets new Cardinal Bechara Rai, Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch, during a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 24 November. The pope created six new cardinals from four different continents, representing the Latin rite of the Catholic Church as well as two Eastern Catholic churches. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Celebrating universality, pope creates new cardinals (CNS) Recalling that Christ’s mission transcends “all ethnic, national and religious particularities,” Pope Benedict XVI created six new cardinals from four different continents, representing the Latin rite of the Catholic Church as well as two Eastern Catholic Churches...

Pope appeals for peace in meeting with Lebanon’s new cardinal (Associated Press) Pope Benedict XVI has launched his latest appeal for peace in Syria and the Middle East during an audience with Lebanon’s new cardinal. Benedict also sought to encourage minority Christians in the region, urging them to not be tempted to flee their traditional homelands and calling for them to be allowed to “live their faith freely...”

Egyptian protests continue (Vatican Radio) Protests in Egypt over President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to grab sweeping powers have entered their third day. The president’s decrees put him above judicial oversight and protect his Islamist supporters in parliament...

Chaldean Bishop Audo: Syrian conflict has disfigured Aleppo (Fides) In recent days, the clash of arms that could be heard even from the center of Aleppo seems to have lessened. And in the apparent stalemate, the devastating effects of the conflict on one of the most thriving and cosmopolitan city in the Middle East is registered with more clarity. “Here now everything is enshrouded by a sense of ruin and decay,” says Msgr. Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of the metropolis...

Cardinal O’Brien visits Holy Land (CNS) On the eve of his first trip to the Holy Land as grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien said he hoped to encourage the region’s Christian minority with a message of solidarity from Pope Benedict XVI and other Catholics in the West...

Byzantine Catholic congregation gathers for last time (Akron Beacon Journal) Megan McGuire was overcome with emotion Sunday as she walked down the center aisle at St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church to receive communion. “It was tough knowing this was the last time I would walk down this aisle,” said McGuire, 30, of Akron. “I had hoped to walk down it to get married, but I guess that won’t happen.” McGuire was among more than 150 people who crowded the sanctuary of the Akron church for the parish’s final Mass, a highly emotional service in which parishioners shed tears and shared hugs...

Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

21 November 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on 20 November. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

Pope Condemns escalating Gaza conflict, calls for truce (CNS) Pope Benedict XVI condemned escalating hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, saying hatred and violence are never an appropriate solution to problems. He called for greater efforts to promote a truce and peace negotiations. “I am following with great concern the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” the pope said at the end of his general audience on 21 November. “Hatred and violence are not the solution to problems. ... I encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who are seeking to establish a cease-fire and to promote negotiations,” he said…

Christian leaders in the Holy Land: Support Palestine’s UN membership (PNN) A statement signed by 100 Holy Land Christian community and church leaders urges widespread support for UN membership for Palestine. “We believe the Palestine Liberation Organization’s initiative to enhance Palestine’s status in the United Nations to an Observer State is a positive, collective and moral step that will get us closer to freedom. This is a step in the right direction for the cause of a just peace in the region. We fully endorse this bid, just as we supported Palestine’s application for full membership of the United Nations a year ago.” Signatories include Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel…

Catholic and Muslim cooperation promotes justice (VIS) “Catholic and Muslim cooperation in promoting justice in the contemporary world” was the theme of the eighth Colloquium of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Center for Interreligious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation (ICRO). The meeting was held in Rome from 19 to 21 November under the joint presidency of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and of Mohammad Bagher Korramshad, president of ICRO. A communique released today explains how the theme was divided into four subheadings, “from the point of view of Catholics and of Shi’i Muslims: (1) The concept of justice; (2) Justice for the human person; (3) Justice for the different constituents of society; and (4) Justice for the entire human family.” The English-language communique goes on: “Both sides expressed their awareness of and concern for current challenges, including the economic crisis, the environmental issue, the weakening of the family as a basic institution of society and threats to world peace”…

Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Church to install fifth bishop (Tribune-Democrat) The Right Reverend Gregory Tatsis, who is to be consecrated as the fifth bishop of the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., said he finds Johnstown to his liking. His ordination and installation will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Christ the Savior Cathedral. He replaces Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko, who died of cancer in March 2011. The celebrant and ordaining bishop is Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, representing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople…

Egyptian Christian churches withdraw from creation of new constitution (Egypt Independent) On Saturday, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Pachomius, at that time the acting Coptic Orthodox pope, announced that the Egyptian churches were officially withdrawing their three members from the Constituent Assembly. Speaking at a press conference, Bishop Pachomius said that “the Egyptian churches [have] sensed discomfort at the trends that prevailed [while] drafting the constitutional provisions. The constitution ... in its current form does not meet the desired national consensus and does not reflect the pluralistic identity of Egypt, [which has been] entrenched across generations.” He added that the constitution in its current drafted form contradicts Egypt’s heritage and violates the rights and freedoms that Muslims and Christians have both fought for through the ages…

Tags: Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Christian-Muslim relations

20 November 2012
John E. Kozar

CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar joins other dignitaries in the opening ceremony of the New Delhi event. (photo: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church)

Editor’s note: On Saturday, 17 November, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, addressed a missionary conference in New Delhi, India, organized by Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. His exhortation, “Into the Deep,” praises the Eastern Catholic churches of India for their missionary fervor and their generosity to the universal church.

New Delhi, India, 17 November 2012

Many thanks to you, Your Eminence, Cardinal George Alencherry, for your kind invitation to join you at this very festive celebration. It is an honor for me, as a Latin-rite priest, to address all of you and to share with you my thoughts about your missionary charism and the bright missionary future the Syro-Malabar Church shares with the church universal and the world.

It is also a special honor to be welcomed into this new diocese where my friend Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara is the newly installed shepherd. I fondly remember his presence in New York when he served at the United Nations as the secretary of the Holy See delegation there. Many hearty congratulations to you, Archbishop Kuriakose, and to the wonderful faithful of your diocese.

Let me tell you a little bit about me to better situate my sharing with you.

In various interviews with the media, I have been asked: “How would you describe your role as President of CNEWA?” My answer is always, “I am just a parish priest on loan to the world.” I then add that my priesthood is intimately linked to being a missionary.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I always wanted to pursue the priesthood. My heroes were visiting Maryknoll missionaries who gave presentations in our school. My ultimate hero was a Maryknoll bishop who had been imprisoned in China for many years. His suffering — including many instances of torture — and his abiding faith resonated with me in my formative years. I wanted to imitate his spirit.

While in the seminary, I had the great fortune of serving a summer in Juliaca, Peru, working in the Altiplano with an all-indigenous population. It was at high altitude, freezing cold — but the hearts of the poor were warm and welcoming and the missionary needs were great. I got the fever: the missionary fever. This was a life-changing experience. It confirmed for me some important values for my priesthood.

As a deacon in my last months of preparation for priesthood, I had the good fortune to meet Archbishop Fulton Sheen, former national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith — a role that was bestowed on me years later — a television and media star, and the personality who put the missions on the map in America. It was Fulton Sheen who boldly asserted in interventions during Vatican II that everyone is a missionary by baptism. This pronouncement would become the mantra for the Propagation of the Faith. I believe strongly this should be the mantra of the Syro-Malabar Church.

To finish up on my own missionary journey…

I was ordained a diocesan priest in 1971 and was very happy and satisfied in all of my priestly assignments, but the call to reach out as a missionary was strong and would not diminish.

I remained in my home diocese and did not join any mission society, but soon learned the lesson of St. Theresa the Little Flower that I could still be a missionary in prayer and in good works done in solidarity with missions all over the world — and remain at home.

Eventually, I became the diocesan director of Missions and then was given the honor of being national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies — a role that brought me many times to India, mostly in service to the Latin Church.

And now, I am the President of CNEWA — the Catholic Near East Welfare Association — and am learning to breathe with the other lung of the church, its Oriental or Eastern lung.

But I am still a parish priest on loan to the world.

But what has happened to the missionary spirit in my country and in much of Europe? What has happened to the spirit of Pentecost? In large part it has been overwhelmed by anxiety over legal and financial problems, an uncertainty about vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, and an unwillingness to share and reach out to the missions in our own want. Without making a sweeping generalization, the flames of the Holy Spirit and the call to be missionary in a time of Pentecost have diminished greatly.

Enter the Syro-Malabar Church. You are a missionary church to the core. You are a church alive in the Holy Spirit. You live the mandate of Pentecost.

Fifty years ago, after centuries of suffering — losing much of your identity as an Eastern church, after breaking the shackles of Latinization — the spirit of St. Thomas broke through and you undertook a bold, risky venture to go where others would not. You set out for Chanda.

Bishop Januarius Paul Palathuruthy, a Carmelite of Mary Immaculate, like the first apostles, like St. Thomas, offered himself and the Syro-Malabar Church as a loving representation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His simple, but very measured “seven step” catechetical approach resonated with the poor. He began by teaching a simple signing of the Cross. Then came the image of Christ, who died for all, then the Bible and so on.

His abiding presence, his missionary heart, his patient endurance and especially the grace of God have brought about this miracle of evangelization in India. With a small group of migrated Catholics, the seeds of faith were planted and produced the fruits of 25,000 souls.

This has been a true Pentecost event in your history. Why did Bishop Januarius and the Syro-Malabar Church have such a miraculous harvest? You shared in your want, you served, you fed the poor and you healed the sick. All of this was accomplished through a very healthy partnership between the bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church and its religious congregations — in the case of Chanda, especially with the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. It is not an atmosphere of competition, but one of fraternal collaboration.

Congratulations on this 50th Anniversary of this important chapter in your missionary history.

As you have set this missionary course these past 50 years, there continue to be many challenges, some sufferings, hardship and sacrifices that won’t go away — but there are blessings in abundance.

Vocations to the priesthood and religious life continue to flourish. The call to be missionary is exciting to many and is readily accepted by young people. Priesthood is not perceived primarily as a ceremonial vocation, but one of service, surrounded by a willingness to reach out “into the deep.”

I think of the marvelous example and call to serve as given by Archbishop Mar Joseph Kundukulam of the Archdiocese of Trichur. His legacy of countless social service and helping programs gave hope to the poor and disenfranchised. Having visited Trichur, I am inspired by his spirit, still alive and carried forward by Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, a dear friend who has honored me with a recent visit; Cardinal Alencherry, your major archbishop; and our dear brother, Cardinal-elect Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church.

I am also inspired greatly by Mar Joseph’s legacy in founding the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, who do heroic work with God’s special “little ones.” Their missionary hearts, their selfless giving is a towering beacon of service in the name of Jesus.

Their light is a beacon for vocations in your church.

There are countless religious sisters who are the “foot soldiers” of the Syro-Malabar Church. Their loving maternal affection, especially for children, gives the reassurance, the security and hope of Christ. They are catechists, formation directors, “adoptive mothers,” nurses and care givers; they are Christ.

Let me tell you about a little girl I met a few years ago here in India…

This 8-year-old girl came from an aboriginal area and was living at a hostel with some religious sisters — the only opportunity for her to receive an education. While there, she learned many hymns and songs of praise to Jesus and enjoyed learning about Jesus and his mother from the sisters.

While at home during school recess she was set upon by a group of fundamentalists, who accused her of proselytizing as she was heard to be singing songs to this Jesus. Her life was threatened and she was rescued, narrowly escaping bodily harm or even death for herself and her family.

I asked her: “Were you afraid when they threatened you?” She answered straightforwardly as she looked me in the eye and said, “No, because Jesus would watch over me.”

What a testimonial in faith from a little one not yet baptized, but led to Christ by the gentle and loving hearts of the sisters. And others want to follow in their footsteps; the Syro-Malabar Church continues to be blessed with many women choosing to be religious.

Your dynamic missionary spirit resonates at home and abroad, as it must. There is a real Pentecost spirit at work all over India.

I have been privileged to participate in a popular mission, presented by the Vincentian Fathers in Chenganassery. My hearing was a little impaired after four hours of high decibel shouting, giving praise, singing, testimonies, etc., but the fervor of the thousands of people present was dramatic and the whole thrust was missionary. It reiterated the mandate of Pentecost: “Go tell others what you know, he is risen! Alleluia!”

You present the missionary challenge very clearly to your people:

  • You do not apologize for our faith, as Pope Benedict reminded us in his recent exhortation to the church in the Middle East. You celebrate your faith through our life in Jesus.
  • You are not anonymous, you are followers of Christ, but you do not boast.
  • You welcome and offer unconditional service to everyone, just as Christ reached out to all. In the West, we have largely separated our faith from our good works.
  • You especially reach out to the poor, the lonely, the Dalit.
The John Paul II Peace Center, which is dedicated to the care of people of every age with severe physical and mental challenges, is part of the Paul VI Mercy Home, a complex of social service modules owned and operated by the Archeparchy of Trichur. (photo: John Kozar)

Ad Gentes — To the peoples of the world

First of all, in the vast mission territories of India, your missionary witness and presence is alive and well.

I am amazed and inspired that 24 Syro-Malabar bishops are serving in Latin dioceses in India, often with no recognition and little appreciation. This is an untold story, one that I personally share with audiences, especially in my own country. Almost 40 percent of diocesan priests serving in Latin dioceses in India are Syro-Malabar priests. And more than 60 percent of religious priests serving in Latin dioceses are Syro-Malabar.

The missionary outreach of the Syro-Malabar Church extends to every continent, to 36 countries. Three thousand religious sisters of the Syro Malabar Church serve outside of India, as do more than 1,200 priests, including 205 in my own country.

In some areas of the world, despite large numbers of Syro-Malabar faithful, you do not yet enjoy juridical status, but you do not retrench or retreat. You maintain your Christ-like service and missionary presence. You continue the legacy of St. Thomas. God continues to reward you with growth and vitality in your church and the refreshment of vocations.

In New York, I must comment on the missionary spirit of Father Jos Kandathikudy, Pastor of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church in the Bronx. At a recent celebration honoring the tenth anniversary of the parish, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and I, both privileged to join in this celebration, were overwhelmed by the dynamism of this young mission-minded parish and the Christ-like service of dear Father Jos. His missionary heart, as representative of the Syro-Malabar tradition, serves as a beacon to all of us in New York: Celebrate Pentecost, be happy, be faithful and respond to Christ. Go out into the deep.

We have just initiated a Year of Faith. Our Holy Father invites us to enter the “door of faith,” a life of communion with God, the journey of a lifetime.

He invites us, as Christ has called us, to leave everything behind to follow him, to be missionary.

In this call to be missionary, our Holy Father reminds us that faith without charity bears no fruit and charity without faith brings doubt. Charity and faith require each other. These are our walking orders to be effective missionaries.

We just concluded the Synod on New Evangelization, in which some of you participated. As Cardinal Alencherry has personally shared with me, perhaps there is nothing new about evangelization: just some humility needed to admit we have not done well the first time around or in evangelizing since Vatican II.

This reminds me of a commercial 15 to 20 years ago for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. As you have probably tasted them, Corn Flakes is the father of breakfast cereals, the simplest, most basic, probably the healthiest — no sugar coating, no chocolate covering, no nuts or yogurt flavoring — just simple corn flakes.

The commercial promoted the cereal with the motto: “Corn Flakes, try them again, for the first time.”

Maybe some have forgotten how good and tasty they are, how simple they are, how unadulterated. Maybe some have never even tried them. So: Try them again, for the first time.

Your church encourages all to experience the power of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world. To those maybe in my country, in Europe or in foreign lands, your invitation as missionaries in this new evangelization to try the faith again for the first time is warm and inviting. Go and tell others: He is risen, Alleluia!

And to those who have never known this Jesus of Nazareth, the Syro-Malabar Church offers this bread of life to the hungry, the poor, the alienated and the forgotten.

There are many celebrations of interest today:

  • 50th Anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II.
  • 50th Anniversary of setting the missionary course in Chanda.
  • The anniversary marking the beginning of reclaiming and re-discovering your roots and your identity as an Eastern church.
  • The beginning of a Year of Faith.
  • The closing of the Synod on New Evangelization.
  • The closing of a Syro-Malabar Year of Mission, which gathers us here these days.

But more than anything else, this celebration is about Pentecost. Despite sufferings, sacrifices, disappointments, you maintain the countenance of Christ.

Thank you, brothers and sisters of the Syro-Malabar Church. You challenge the church universal to be as Christ, the supreme missionary, and as Mary, his mother, the missionary to the Apostles. You enkindle the spirit of St. Thomas, your father in faith.

Pentecost is alive. The Holy Spirit is burning in your hearts.

Cardinal Alencherry, dear bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters and loving lay people — we who breathe from the other lung of the church, we love you and we need you.

Go tell the others: He is risen, Alleluia!

Tags: India Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Msgr. John E. Kozar Indian Catholics

20 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Israeli reserve soldiers pray at a staging area near the border with northern Gaza on 20 November. (photo: CNS/Nir Elias, Reuters)

For fresh perspectives on this still-unfolding story, check out this report from CNS and read Sami El-Yousef’s blog post, “When Will This Madness Stop?”

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Israeli-Palestinian conflict

20 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Palestinians inspect rubble on 20 November at a house destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa,  Reuters)

Gaza violence continues (Vatican Radio) The Israeli offensive in Gaza is into its seventh day, with rocket fire from militants inside the territory continuing as well. A full diplomatic press is underway to stop the violence, though there is no breakthrough as yet. This morning, Israeli aircraft struck the headquarters of Gaza Strip bank the territory’s Hamas rulers set up to sidestep international sanctions…

Pope Benedict’s message to Pope Tawadros II (Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI has sent a message of congratulations to the pope of Alexandria, His Holiness Tawadros II, who was enthroned on Sunday in the Cathedral Basilica of St Mark in Cairo, Egypt…

Mortars strike Syria, violence erupts in capital (Reuters) Two mortar rounds struck Syria’s Information Ministry building in the capital Damascus on Tuesday, state television said, causing some damage but no casualties. Syrian TV blamed “terrorists” for the attack, referring to insurgents who have been battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad since last year…

Orthodox-Catholic dialogue issues joint statement on the importance of Sunday in Christian life (USCCB) The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation issued a statement of agreement on the importance of Sunday in the lives of Christians at its 25-27 October meeting at St. Paul’s College in Washington. Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans and Metropolitan Methodios of Boston jointly chaired the meeting. The pastoral statement on the importance of Sunday calls for Orthodox and Catholic Christians to recover the theological significance of a day that for many “has become less a day of worship and family and more like an ordinary work day.” It ends with a call to clergy and laity “to work cooperatively within their communities to stress the importance of Sunday for worship and family” …

Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Pope Benedict XVI Ecumenism Israeli-Palestinian conflict

19 November 2012
Sami El-Yousef

Palestinians on 19 November gather around the remains of a house destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (CNS photo/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)

Just three weeks ago, when I last visited Gaza, I reported on some positive developments there. It is amazing how, in the absence of a true and just peace in our region, a situation can turn upside down practically overnight.

This morning, and for the third time since the beginning of the current military violence in Gaza since 14 November, I have made phone calls to all of our partners there to check on them and show our solidarity. The messages I received were unanimous. There has not been a building or an open field that has been spared from missiles launched by F-16 fighters or warships in the Mediterranean or shells from tanks across the border. Anything that moves is a target, and people have locked themselves in their homes. Most, if not all of our Christian institutions, have sustained some damage, in most cases broken glass, blown out windows and doors. Everyone with whom I have spoken has also said the attacks this time around make the 2008 war in Gaza look like child’s play. It is clear that given the unexpected surprise of the various rockets launched from Gaza that reached deep into Israel — including Tel Aviv and Herzliya — Israel was determined to unleash its war machine at unprecedented levels with no concern for human casualties.

And who is paying the heaviest price? Civilians, especially children and the elderly.

The photographs of children, women and senior citizens being shared on various satellite channels as well as through the social media networks are simply outrageous. The killing of 11 members of the Dalou family on Sunday when their three-story residential building was struck by an F-16 missile was heartbreaking. Many other attacks on open fields, cemeteries, soccer fields and parks seem so senseless and unwarranted.

Many of my contacts there have not been able to sleep at night as a result of the constant explosions throughout the night. One told me that after the field next to her home was bombed and all windows of her home were broken and doors and shutters blown out, she took refuge at her cousin’s home for the night. There, she was surprised that the building next to her cousin’s home was also shelled, causing the windows to break and glass to hit her in the face, hospitalizing her. I guess there is no place to hide anymore in Gaza, especially since there are no air raid sirens to warn people and buildings are not equipped with bomb shelters. Another friend who lives on the seventh floor of an apartment building in the center of Gaza City surveyed all the buildings that were demolished surrounding her home. She said she felt that she was living on an earthquake fault line that had all of a sudden become active; her building sways with each shelling.

On the political front, there seems to be a lot of pressure on both parties to reach some sort of a ceasefire soon, hopefully within the next 24 hours. Some of my friends in Gaza were optimistic and were actually praying that things will move in this direction. Others were very pessimistic about reaching some sort of an agreement and said that each party has an agenda that will not allow them to reach an agreement anytime soon.

The agenda for Israel seems to be very much tied to the upcoming Israeli elections in January. Anything that will be perceived less than a total victory for Israel will cost precious votes. Hamas, whose rockets have struck targets deeper into Israel than at any time in the past, wants to affirm that they are the party that will change the rules of the game with Israel. They also have their terms for reaching a ceasefire.

The alternative appears to be an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. This will involve Israel calling some 75,000 reservists to get the job done. Should this happen, Israel will enter the “quicksand” of Gaza and will probably be there for a very long time. It will be quite easy to enter Gaza, but certainly not as easy to leave it. The damage, destruction and loss of life will be something one can only imagine in nightmares and not in real life.

Please pray for sanity to return to the politicians on both sides in order to avoid this, and, more importantly, pray that a just and lasting peace is reached so that Israel and Palestine can live in security and peace as good neighbors in the future. Only then will these never ending cycles of violence stop.

With each phone call to our partners, I end my conversation with a promise to visit Gaza as soon as the security situation allows in order to be in solidarity with the people and to assess the damage and the needs first hand. Unfortunately, yet again, CNEWA is forced to shift into emergency humanitarian relief. When will this madness stop?

Tags: CNEWA Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine

19 November 2012
Annie Grunow

Kirti Lawrence, a resident of the Ashraya Home, prays the rosary. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Kirti Lawrence, a 72-ear old retired schoolteacher, lives in the Ashraya Home, a home for the elderly in Mumbai run by the Nirmala Dasi Sisters. But she is not only a recipient of their good works. She tutors children living with H.I.V./AIDS at the nearby Anugraha Home, an orphanage also run by the sisters.

To read more about Ms. Lawrence and the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, check out Peter Lemieux’s July 2011 article in ONE.

You can learn more about Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai where the sisters live and work, from these past One-to-One posts in December 2011 and January 2012.

Tags: Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Thomas Christians Mumbai Nirmala Dasi Sisters

19 November 2012
Christopher Boland

Smoke and an explosion are seen after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City 19 November. An Israeli missile ripped through a two-story home in a residential area of Gaza City the previous day, killing at least 11 civilians, including four young children, in the single deadliest attack of Israel’s offensive against Islamic militants. (Photo: CNS/Mohamad Salem, Reuters)

Violence in Gaza (Catholic News Service) The Israeli government and leaders of Hamas must make courageous decisions to end the violence that has once again forced residents of Southern Israel into their bomb shelters and residents of the Gaza Strip into their homes, said Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem.

New Coptic Pope (Reuters) The Coptic Orthodox church staged a ceremony rich in ritual on Sunday to install its pope, Tawadros II, who Christians hope will guide them through the new, Islamist-led Egypt. The 60-year-old pope was picked on November 4 and the ceremony on Sunday filled with incense, elaborate robes and chanting marked his formal ascendance as the 118th leader of the church.

Israel Shells Syrian Fighters (The Washington Post) Israel shelled Syrian fighters after gunfire from their civil war spilled over to the Israel-controlled Golan Heights, the military said Sunday, as the conflict appeared to inch closer to the Jewish state. The civil war in Syria has renewed tensions in the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war.

Syrian Islamists Reject Western-backed Opposition (Associated Press) Syria’s increasingly powerful Islamist rebel factions rejected the country’s new Western-backed opposition coalition and unilaterally declared an Islamic state in the key battleground of Aleppo, a sign of the seemingly intractable splits among those fighting to topple President Bashar Assad. The move highlights the struggle over the direction of the rebellion at a time when the opposition is trying to gain the West’s trust and secure a flow of weapons to fight the regime.

Tags: CNEWA Middle East Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East Palestine

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