30 April 2012
In this photo taken in 2000, a young man stands in a field of Meskel flowers in South Ethiopia. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
We all know that “April showers bring May flowers.” So as April ends, we offer a springtime glimpse at what tomorrow may bring.
Ironically, these particular flowers are most popular later in the year, near the fall.
Meskel flowers symbolize the feast day, Meskel, in Ethiopia. They are used to line the streets during the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which falls near the Ethiopian calendar’s new year in September. Last October, Gerald Jones, our regional director for Ethiopia wrote about this celebration.
30 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Christianity
This image of Jerusalem was captured by CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar during his pastoral visit to the Holy Land last year. You can read about it here.
CNEWA Canada just announced it is partnering with the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada for a new initiative that will allow Catholic women across the country to support a program for at-risk youth in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Here is an excerpt from an article that can be found on the Canadian Catholic Register website:
Velma Harasen, the national president of the C.W.L., said this is more than just a catchy name with a personal touch — it really is her dream.
“My dream was always to have an international project that our league sisters across the country could embrace,” said Harasen. “It’s been a dream of mine since [the C.W.L.] established the theme centred on faith and justice, and [focused on] women against poverty.”
“Velma’s Dream” will raise money to support the education program of the Infant Welfare Centre in the Old City, which works at getting youth — both Christian and non-Christian — who have dropped out of school back into the classroom. It does so by teaming up teachers with psychologists and psychiatrists who help youth find new ways to approach their studies and accompany the students through their reintegration to school until their graduation date.
Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA, said expanding the resources and the reach of the program will have a very real impact on the society at large.
“This project deals ... with schools, teachers and parents to take care of school dropouts, who are on the streets and have no means,” said Hétu. “[It’s] to bring them back in school, to help them finish school and ... become full citizens of the Old City.
“[It] will allow them to have better jobs ... and be more involved in their community later on.”
You can see the rest of the article here.
To learn more about CNEWA’s partnership with the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, click here.
27 April 2012
Tags: Children Education Jerusalem CNEWA Canada
Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky in Rome in 1921.
(photo: Institute of Church History of the Ukrainian Catholic University)
Last week brought many meaningful moments to the Ukrainian communities in Canada and the United States, and also to the general public of the two countries as they welcomed leaders of all the major religious denominations of Ukraine: Greek and Latin Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim, as well as leaders of mainstream Protestant organizations.
Members of the delegation represented The Ukrainian Union of Churches and Religious Organizations, which represents some 95 percent of Ukraine’s believers. The main purpose of this North American visit was to promote awareness of the heroic work of Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky, who spoke and acted courageously to protect ethnic and religious minorities targeted by the Nazi regime in Europe during World War II, risking for example his own life to save more than 160 Jews from the Nazis. The metropolitan archbishop was also a champion of Christian unity and interreligious cooperation.
The delegation’s visit to North America includes stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Washington and New York. The representatives are scheduled to participate in a series of conferences and meetings with state officials and leaders of the local religious communities.
This visit proved to be exceptionally productive in Ottawa, where a special motion in Canada’s parliament was unanimously passed in the House of Commons to honor Metropolitan Sheptytsky for his courageous actions on behalf of the oppressed Jewish people in Ukraine during World War II. Also, an organization that has long worked closely with CNEWA Canada — the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies —hosted an excellent symposium at Saint Paul University called "Ethical Actions in Extreme Conditions". The symposium elaborated on the personality of Metropolitan Sheptytsky and the socio-historical context of his work. Among the distinguished speakers at the symposium were Rabbi Yaakov Don Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who succeeds Metropolitan Sheptytsky as the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
The visit opened a new era in Ukrainian-Jewish dialogue, and it has initiated development of a common approach in addressing sensitive issues of the past and fostering mutual cooperation in the future. The visit was organized and sponsored by the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter, a non-profit organization that promotes dialogue and cooperation between Jewish and Ukrainian peoples; it was established in 2008 by a a Ukrainian-Canadian businessman Mr. James Temerty.
27 April 2012
Tags: Ukraine CNEWA Canada Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Archbishop Fares meets with families after baptisms at Our Lady of Paradise Cathedral in São Paulo. (photo: Izan Petterle)
In the July 2011 issue of ONE, São Paulo based journalist Fidel Madeira reported on the Melkite Greek Catholics who have called São Paulo home for the past 100 years:
“In the Middle East, it is common for parishes to have on file the names and details of all the families in the area. Having those archives in hand helps our work. In São Paulo, on the other hand, people move around frequently,” says the priest. “And just the city alone is a world unto itself. Its vastness makes it hard for someone who does not live close to us to attend church regularly. But thankfully, they come to us on important occasions, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals.”
“By the grace of God, we manage to find ways to preserve our traditions,” adds Archbishop Fares. “But there is still much more to be done. For instance, I am trying to translate, in a more comprehensive way, our liturgy into Portuguese and bring awareness to the richness and beauty of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
“I have become acquainted with a new reality when moving to Brazil and now recognize the plurality of the Catholic Church,” continues the archbishop. “All the natural beauty — the endless forests, waterfalls with crystalline water — that I was hoping to find, I did find after all: in the hearts of the Brazilian people.”
For more, read Paradise in Brazil.
26 April 2012
Tags: Middle East Cultural Identity Melkite Greek Catholic Church Arabs
An Iraqi woman prays the rosary with a child on her lap in front of a statue of Mary at her house in Irbil, Iraq, 11 Sept. (photo: CNS/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)
With more attention being devoted to the plight of Christians in the Holy Land — this “60 Minutes” piece is just the latest example — the Catholic Courier newspaper in Rochester recently spoke with some experts on the region, including our own Michael La Civita:
The Holy Land is the birthplace of Christianity, yet it also is the very place Christianity is most in danger of disappearing, experts say.
“To think that there may be no Christians in the place where it all began is a rather arresting thought,” said Mark Schnellbaecher, regional director in the Middle East and Eastern Europe for Catholic Relief Services, the overseas aid agency of the U.S. Catholic bishops.
Attacks on Christians in the Middle East have increased dramatically in the last few years, Schnellbaecher said, pointing to Iraq as an example. Although always a minority, Iraq’s Christian community had been stable and protected during the reign of Saddam Hussein. After the U.S.-led invasion toppled the dictator in 2003, militant Islamic political movements that had been repressed under Hussein “came up like mushrooms after a spring rain,” he said. Members of these movements kidnapped and killed many Christians, and the survivors fled Iraq in droves.
“To watch the dispersement of one of the most ancient Christian communities before your eyes is just sad,” said Schnellbaecher, who is based in Beirut. “These are the kinds of things that normally happen over centuries, and here it’s happened in the course of a decade. I think it is certainly possible in my lifetime there won’t be any Christians in Iraq.”
The dire situation facing Iraqi Christians is being replicated in other Middle Eastern countries, he added. This is true in Syria, which seems to be on the brink of civil war, and in Egypt, where extremist Muslim groups have forced Christians to live in fear since the 2011 revolution ousted former President Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak.
“Everyone looks to Iraq, and they see what happened to the Christian community — it’s been decimated — and they sort of wonder, is that our fate as well?” Schnellbaecher said.
And Christians are not the only ones facing violence, hostility and displacement in the Middle East, where other religious minorities also are under attack, said Michael La Civita, vice president of communications for Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a papal agency providing humanitarian support to the people of the Middle East, northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.
“It’s open season on these smaller groups,” La Civita said.
Many times, religious differences are not the only reasons for hostilities, he added. Christians in many Middle Eastern countries, for example, tend to be well-educated members of the upper middle class, so anti-Christian violence is sometimes fueled by economic factors, La Civita said. These factors by no means justify such violence, he said, but they do help explain its origins.
“There is sometimes a social or economic or political reason for the violence that ensues. You have to put everything into its proper context and really look at what’s the source of some of these problems,” he noted.
Read more at this link.
26 April 2012
Tags: Christianity Holy Land Emigration
A dance group performs at the 34th annual Greek Festival in Salt Lake City.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
In the July 2010 issue of ONE, Cody Christopulos, the photojournalist who serves as our assignment editor, reported on the Greek community in Utah’s “Mormon Zion” — Salt Lake City — and efforts to preserve its cultural identity:
Today, the Greek Orthodox Church is the binding force for Utah’s Hellenic community. Father Matthew Gilbert, pastor of Holy Trinity Cathedral, describes the parish as very active, with no shortage of activities, especially for the youth. Still, says the priest, himself “Greek” by marriage, passing down the faith to the next generation remains a challenge.
“The hardest thing is the spiritual aspect. It’s nice to dance and to play basketball. We have Greek schools, dance programs, Orthodox Christian camps in the summer, Greek camp, Sunday school. We offer everything imaginable, but it’s up to individuals to cultivate their spiritual life. It’s always easier to cultivate the fun things, but a spiritual life is difficult. It takes a lot of work. Being baptized is the easy part. The rest is commitment.”
For more, read Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion.
26 April 2012
Tags: Cultural Identity Greece
In this photo, taken in 2003, Sister Margaret Abraha comforts an AIDS orphan. The Daughters of Charity bring health awareness to poor families. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
We departed early yesterday morning for the Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology, located just at the edge of the growing metropolis of Addis Ababa. We left early to beat the traffic, but we did not do too well in this regard. There is always traffic in this capital of nearly four million people, as the city is growing at an amazing rate. There is construction everywhere as old buildings are leveled and quickly replaced with modern structures of glass and steel and concrete. The road system is not equipped to handle the congestion, let alone the many disruptions due to closed roadways and construction equipment. But we made our way, despite some closed roads and with the kindness of some construction workers and roadway workers along the way.
Greeting us at the institute was Abba Daniel Assefa, O.F.M. Cap., the rector. Abba Daniel is known throughout the country for his leadership and his scholarship. His credentials, especially in Scripture, are most impressive, as is his humility.
This seminary serves most of Ethiopia and also enrolls students from five religious congregations; in recent times, this includes religious sisters. The institute does not house its students; seminarians and religious return to their respective residences after class, where they study and meet regularly with their spiritual directors. There are five seminary residences in all, and most of them are in the city proper and have seminarians from multiple jurisdictions in each one.
Abba Daniel strives very hard to elevate the quality of education and scholarship at this seminary. Not only is he a respected Scripture scholar, but he is also an authority on early Christian history and tradition in Ethiopia. He works closely with Ethiopian Orthodox scholars and other Catholic scholars, in Ethiopia and outside the country, to discover and preserve this great heritage.
We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the facility, which is owned by the Capuchin Fathers. The buildings are beautifully laid out and the grounds are spacious, quiet and peaceful. You can feel the presence of St. Francis.
One of Abba Daniel’s many outreach initiatives is a program for the laity to study Scripture and theology. During night classes and through correspondence-style courses, the friar inspires, engages and encourages lay leaders to become more familiar with their Christian heritage and faith.
The seminary educates about 130 seminarians and some ten religious sisters. One of the sister graduates has recently completed her doctoral degree in patristics and is now on the faculty at the seminary. It was at the urging of Abba Daniel that her religious superiors allowed her to pursue further studies and a place on the faculty.
A pleasant part of our visit introduced us to a New York archdiocesan priest who is on loan teaching moral theology here. Father Donald Haggerty has been on the faculty since last October. He formally taught at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, the heart of the Archdiocese of New York. It was a delight for both of us to engage in a friendly visit, bringing together two New Yorkers.
After leaving the seminary, and again through the kindness of some highway construction workers, we proceeded to drop in at the Asco School. This very new and brightly designed school facility educates about 900 children. Currently it runs from grades one to nine and plans to add another year of curriculum next year. The school is operated by the De La Salle Brothers of the Christian Schools, who have an excellent reputation throughout the country. In fact, these Christian Brothers operate many of the finest schools in the country.
Unfortunately, because of serious delays in getting there, we did not have the opportunity to meet with the director or the community’s provincial. We left word for them about our difficulties in arriving and apologized for any disappointment that resulted. We did have an opportunity to look around the facility and were most impressed at the size and the design of this school.
The Asco School educates about 200 children who are H.I.V. positive and live with the Missionaries Sisters of Charity right next door on an adjoining piece of property. In fact, Blessed Mother Teresa’s sisters own the land on which the school is built. This partnership of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, who care for these children, and the Christian Brothers, who educate them, makes good sense and addresses both needs.
This visit marked the end of my pastoral visit to Ethiopia. Thomas Varghese and I hope to arrive in New York today in the early afternoon.
As always, it has been an honor for me to have your company on this journey of faith. The Ethiopian Catholic people, a very small minority, have been exceptionally warm and welcoming. And so have the many Orthodox believers and Muslims who have welcomed us as part of their family. And you have always been included in the good wishes, welcomes, expressions of gratitude and most importantly the promise of prayers from the poor.
The real jewel of Ethiopia is its people: they may lead simple and poor lives, but they are rich in honesty and faith. In many ways, this has been a retreat of sorts. I thank each and every one of you for your prayerful support and your generosity as members of this one CNEWA family. By sharing what God has given to us with the poor in Ethiopia, we ourselves have been richly blessed.
Next stop: New York. God bless Ethiopia and God bless you.
25 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Msgr. John E. Kozar Seminarians Ethiopian Catholic Church
George E. Doty, 1918-2012
(photo: Patrick Verel)
George E. Doty, one of CNEWA’s most loyal friends, died 24 April 2012 in New York. He was 94.
Over the years, George and his wife Marie, who died in 2008, have given selflessly to many causes near and dear to their hearts. They have been especially good to Catholic concerns for alleviating poverty, strengthening higher education and supporting family life. In addition, George, Marie and their children have selflessly and generously supported CNEWA’s mission with time, energy and financial resources.
Born on 15 February 1918, George earned his bachelor’s degree from New York’s Fordham College in Rose Hill in 1938 and later served as a chair of Fordham’s Board of Trustees. A former managing partner of Goldman Sachs, he was active in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, serving as lieutenant for the Eastern Lieutenancy from 1991 to 1992.
George Doty played an active role in many agency works, including full support for the rehabilitation and decoration of the Great Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This historic project brought together the church’s three custodians — Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Franciscan, communities that had often been at odds with one another — ending a centuries-old standoff that could have resulted in the collapse of the ancient shrine.
“For decades, visitors to this holiest of Christian shrines ... have left disappointed, even repelled. Expecting a shrine that related to their spiritual or aesthetic understanding of the Paschal Mystery — the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — the pilgrims instead entered a dark, cavernous space containing a number of chapels, each used exclusively by one of the Christian communities,” wrote Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore (then CNEWA’s associate secretary general) about the restoration project and its dedication.
“For 68 years, the dome had been concealed from public view. With mouths open, heads tilted back, and audible signs of delight, all looked up to the heavens, to the brilliant light that represents the glory of the Lord.”
Frequent visitors to the Holy Land, George and Marie were concerned for the churches and communities there. On a visit more than 15 years ago, Marie quietly observed to her husband that “the children have no place to play.”
Determined to fix that, the couple provided CNEWA with the funds to build and equip playgrounds and related facilities in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza. In addition to swings and slides, handball and basketball courts, the parks feature fountains and green lawns, luxuries Palestinian children once associated with settlements.
George and his wife also subsidized the work of Bethlehem University, the only Catholic institution in the Holy Land, supported CNEWA’s housing renovation program in the Old City and invested in the agency’s labor intensive program in the West Bank, which put thousands of the unemployed back to work while bolstering Christian institutions.
Motivated by his Catholic faith, George leaves us with a legacy of what faith in action can do for the people of God. He also leaves behind a loving family; George and Marie’s son, Bill, has been particularly helpful to the CNEWA family, managing its financial instruments and giving so much of his time, talent and resources.
You can read more about his remarkable life at this link.
May God reward George Doty for his generosity and loving concern. May his memory be eternal.
In this 1997 photo, George Doty, left; Marie Doty, center; and Msgr. Robert Stern, right, gaze at the restored dome over the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Joel Fishman)
25 April 2012
Tags: CNEWA Holy Land Donors Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre
In this 2006 image, Patriarch Paulos and bishops assemble under a giant fiscus tree to hear speeches during a celebration of the feast of Mary of Zion in Aksum. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Today was a most uplifting day for me, one filled with many wonderful experiences. Let me share some of them with you.
We began with an early morning visit to Holy Trinity Theological College, where we were warmly met by the rector, Abune Timotheos. He is a very affable, kind and soft-spoken holy man.
A little background about this college: Holy Trinity is the theological seminary of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. It serves the entire country, which includes more than 35 million Orthodox Christians, the largest faith community in Ethiopia. Over many years, CNEWA has reached out to this seminary with some assistance as an expression of ecumenical solidarity with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and as an outreach of our Holy Father. We have helped this seminary to improve the quality of its teaching and formation by supporting the graduate education of three faculty members who received their graduate degrees from the Catholic Pontifical Seminary in Bangalore, India. In doing so, the average seminarian, priest or deacon who attends this seminary is now better educated and prepared for his ministry.
The rector expressed profound thanks to all our CNEWA family for this loving sign of solidarity. The words of thanks were especially powerful as expressed by the three faculty members who received CNEWA scholarships. I am also impressed that the seminary in India, which is itself a huge mission territory, can now reach out and continue Pentecost by offering theological training and advanced degrees to our brothers in the Orthodox tradition.
We were given an extensive tour of this very humble seminary property. It had been taken over by the Communist government in the mid-1970’s and closed for about 20 years. The facilities were left in shambles and most of the classrooms, library, study rooms, etc., are still very old and run down. They were most happy to show us the “new” classrooms built by gifts from our CNEWA family. Excuse my pride, but I felt very honored and happy to find that our gifts had borne such wonderful fruits.
CNEWA has also sponsored a clerical training program for rural Orthodox priests. You must understand that many — if not most — rural Orthodox priests have not had any formal theological training. They are basically subsistence farmers. Their primary training before ordination (often at 19 years of age) is the memorization of chants in the Ethiopian liturgical language of Ge’ez in order to celebrate the Qedasse, the Eucharistic liturgy of the Ethiopian church. But as traditional agrarian Ethiopia develops and modernizes, and as its increasingly better-educated people leave their villages for the cities, many within the Ethiopian Orthodox community worry that its priests will no longer be relevant; ancient Ethiopian Orthodoxy is at a crossroads.
In the last 20 years or so, evangelical Protestants have grown quickly — and usually at the expense of the ancient Orthodox Church. Through your charity, and with the strong endorsement of the Catholic bishops in Ethiopia and the open arms of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, CNEWA has undertaken a program of building some very basic study centers in very rural areas of the country. These clergy training centers have bolstered, however humbly, the theological and scriptural education of thousands of Ethiopian clergy.
The results have been most encouraging. Throughout our visit at the seminary and later in the presence of the Ethiopian Orthodox patriarch, the topic of these clergy training centers was highlighted time and time again. You should all be very proud as our Orthodox brothers find fulfillment in their formal studies at the seminary and at these centers. In fact, in meeting many of the men at the seminary, they were most anxious to tell us that they are now pursuing a degree and perhaps even a graduate degree in theological or scriptural studies. Just a few years ago, this was not possible.
Our next visit took us to one of the major seminary residences housing seminarians from both the Latin and the Ge’ez Catholic rites in Ethiopia. Most of the Catholic seminarians live in one of three residences located within a stone’s throw of each other. This particular seminary residence, named for St. Ephrem, houses about 26 students. We arrived just in time for lunch. After lunch and few words from the rector and me, a group of ten seminarians performed a liturgical song and dance. A special feature of their dance was the chanting and dancing to the pulsating beat of a huge drum. They were delighted to share the rich heritage of their ethnic and tribal heritage. And better yet, they were a mix of both Ge’ez Catholic and Latin Catholics.
The rector, Father Ghirmay, was effusive in his thanks to all of us for CNEWA’s support of these residences. The Catholic bishops of all Ethiopia also thanked me yesterday for the great gift of sponsorship of these seminary facilities, which serve to address spirituality and formation of the seminarians. Each young man has a director (or rector), a spiritual director (or formator) and visiting professors who give in-house classes to complement the formal seminary curriculum at the Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology (which we will visit later).
Afterward, the rector and some of the seminarians took us on a tour of the facility. They were eager to show us everything, especially the chapel and the library. Here again, CNEWA has been instrumental in donating resource materials for their studies.
Our last stop of the day, in the late afternoon, was most notable. We were received by His Holiness, Abune Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. This role places him as the supreme shepherd of more than 35 million souls in this country, plus a significant number of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians living elsewhere.
The patriarch is quite a character. Entering the receiving room, resplendent with elegant furnishings, and seeing him seated on a throne, one expects that his manner would be quite formal and the visit very pro forma — quite the contrary. This man is full of wisdom and insight, but also very disarming with his humor. Out of the blue comes a quip or a jovial word. But make no mistake; this man is a first-class public relations expert and a high-power salesman. He is so good at promoting the church, I kidded him and told him some of the bishops in North America might want to hire him as a development consultant!
We had a delightful conversation and he obviously regards the solidarity with the Catholic Church as a precious gift. He especially holds Gerry Jones, our regional director in Ethiopia, in highest regard and made references to that relationship many times, sometimes in jest, but always with deep respect.
As I was bidding him goodbye and receiving his blessing, I offered him a heartfelt invitation to honor us with a visit to our office in New York. He received this invitation warmly.
It was a very good day, one filled with good stories and personal accounts of CNEWA being at its best: in reaching out to our Orthodox brothers and sisters, helping our Catholic seminarians be sustained in their spiritual lives and formation and in our expressions of solidarity with some very dedicated church leaders and those entrusted to their care.
Perhaps the most important expression of gratitude from our hosts — seminarians and their formators and teachers, patriarch and rectors — was the promise of remembering all of you, our CNEWA family, in their prayers. And I add my own prayers to theirs: Thank you and God bless you.
25 April 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Msgr. John E. Kozar Ethiopian Orthodox Church Seminarians
In this photo taken in 2009, an Elephant is adorned and presented during a temple festival in Irinjalakuda, Kerala. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
The Asian Elephant is a major part of Kerala’s culture. Elephants often appear in folk songs, folklore and place names. Today, they are used in Hindu temple festivals and as a tourist attraction.
To read more about Kerala and India, check out Msgr. John Kozar’s blog posts ”In the Footsteps of St. Thomas.”
Tags: India Cultural Identity Kerala