25 July 2012
Turkey seals border with Syria; refugees still fleeing (New York Times)
Christians fear what will happen if Assad falls (Christian Post)
Kosovo Orthodox church robbed, desecrated (Interfax)
Thanks to Vatican grant, Pakistani Muslim studies Christianity in Rome (Fides)
Egypt’s president chooses a prime minister (Washington Post)
24 July 2012
Tags: Syria Egypt Vatican Muslim Turkey
Students play at St. Charles School in Achrafieh located in east Beirut. (photo: Sarah Hunter)
In the July 2008 issue of ONE, we featured a story about the resiliency and openness of Catholic schools in Lebanon following the civil war in 2006:
Catholic schools can be found throughout Lebanon, in areas where there is little religious diversity or towns where Christians and Muslims live in segregated areas. In such places, the boundaries separating public school districts frequently coincide with community boundaries — thus reinforcing sectarianism.
Catholic schools, meanwhile, enroll students from all communities, whether adjacent, distant, Christian or Muslim. In many parts of Lebanon, they represent the last forum where Christian and Muslim youth meet and grow up knowing one another.
“Catholic schools are natural places where children can come together, sit next to each other and get to know the other person slowly but surely,” said Maronite Father Marwan Tabet, who heads Lebanon’s General Secretariat of Catholic Schools.
“It’s not like you have to shove it down the throats of people — and the kids grow to know each other, to love each other, to accept each other. That’s very important.”
For more, read Pillars of Lebanon.
24 July 2012
Tags: Lebanon Children Middle East Education Catholic Schools
This morning, we’re introducing a new feature on the blog that we’re calling “Page One.” Every morning, we’ll post some headlines with links to interesting stories from both the secular and religious media spotlighting news in CNEWA’s world. We hope you’ll make this a regular destination every morning, and revisit often.
Israel warns it may intervene in Syria if chemical weapons are used (The Independent)
Catholic bishops to meet Thursday in Aleppo, Syria; “crisis” facing Christians to be discussed (Fides)
In Damascus, hours of high tension and prayer among Christians (Fides)
New York-born priest to be bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in France (Catholic News Service)
What Catholics can learn during Ramadan (Catholic News Service)
“Excitement” builds in Middle East ahead of Pope’s trip to Lebanon (Vatican Radio)
24 July 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Israel Damascus
If you’re new to us and find yourself wondering, “Just what is CNEWA?,” this four minute journey into our world offers some inspiring answers. This video features a look at some of the people and places we serve, along with a conversation with Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president. Curious for more? You’ll find an extensive history of the agency and information about how you can be a part of the work we do over at the CNEWA website.
Who is CNEWA? from CNEWA on Vimeo.
23 July 2012
Tags: India CNEWA Middle East Eastern Europe Northeast Africa
Msgr. John Kozar chats with Mrs. Joan Sheen Cunningham at CNEWA’s offices in New York today. (photo: Erin Edwards)
Mrs. Joan Sheen Cunningham, niece of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, joined CNEWA’s Msgr. John Kozar today to honor the legacy of this trailblazer of the North American church.
Known as one of the first “televangelists,” Venerable Sheen hosted radio and television programs for nearly 40 years, beginning in 1930 until his retirement in 1968. His programs — The Catholic Hour, Life is Worth Living and The Fulton Sheen Program — brought the stories from the missions and the lessons of the Gospel into the homes of millions.
The Peoria, Illinois, native served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of New York from 1951 until 1966. From 1958 until his appointment as bishop of Rochester, he served as the national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
The author of more than 70 books, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen is buried in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
For her part, Mrs. Cunningham has worked tirelessly to support the cause for her uncle’s canonization. For more on his life, visit this website: ArchbishopSheenCause.org.
23 July 2012
A woman in Aksum, Ethiopia, rests after a pilgrimage that celebrates one of Ethiopia’s holiest days, Mariam Zion, or Mary of Zion. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague’s photographs of Ethiopians celebrating one of the holiest days on the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar — the feast of Mary of Zion — were used in a beautiful photo essay. The images helped to depict the importance and holiness of the day to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians:
Pilgrims to Aksum are not unlike the Christian pilgrims of the Middle Ages, who traveled to the Holy Land, or the Muslim pilgrims of today, who journey to Mecca. A pilgrim’s trek to Aksum is an outward expression of his or her faith, a quest for the sacred, an expedition that includes prayer, reflection, penance and almsgiving. And while this quest is not obligatory, it is a practice that has remained widespread among the region’s Orthodox Christians — clergy, religious and lay — despite coups, civil strife and famine.
Several days before the feast, thousands of pilgrims leave their homes and head north on foot (many take buses, few fly), carrying their bedding and food. Pilgrims must abstain from meat and dairy products as well as sexual intercourse for three days before the feast. Some practice acts of mortification — a rite of purification — as they process to Aksum. Others give alms to the beggars who line the paths leading to the object of the pilgrims’ devotion.
For more, read Ethiopia Celebrates Mary.
20 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Saints
In this image from 2006, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip attend prayers during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr at the conclusion of Ramadan. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)
Today begins the official observance of Ramadan, the most important event of the year for Muslims — but what does that mean? Last year, Elias Mallon, CNEWA’s education and interreligious affairs officer, wrote an award-winning essay in ONE about Ramadan. Below, we have highlighted five interesting facts from his essay:
The date when Ramadan begins is not set in stone.
“The exact beginning of Ramadan depends on this sighting of the new moon, which occurs anytime within a two–day period. As a result it is never absolutely certain in any given year when Ramadan officially begins.
“Similarly, because the Muslim year is lunar, i.e., calculated by the moon, it is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar, which is familiar to most people. As a result, every year Ramadan is about 11 days “earlier” than the year before.”
The United States Postal Service has issued several stamps related to Ramadan since 2001.
“Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr, the feast ending it, have become increasingly visible in Europe and North America in the past two decades. Immigration has increased the number of Muslims in the West and more and more people are becoming aware of the monthlong fast and celebration.
“In places where Muslims represent a religious minority, recognition of Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr increasingly symbolizes a degree of social acceptance by the majority. In the United States, for instance, the postal service [has] issued [several] postage stamp[s] [across several years] for Eid ul Fitr. And more and more often, shops sell greeting cards for the holiday, and many non–Muslims now send or give them to their Muslim friends and neighbors.”
While Ramadan has similarities to the Christian fasting season of Lent, it also has distinct differences.
“More important, unlike Lent, Ramadan is not generally understood as an act of penance. Muslims rather consider Ramadan as an exercise in self–discipline, as purification and as a reminder of the believer’s dependence on the bounty of God…
“One of the more striking aspects of Ramadan, particularly to Christians and Jews, is the joy with which Muslims anticipate and observe the month. Whereas Lent is a time of quiet, penitential reflection for Christians and Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement) is a solemn day for Jews, Ramadan is a time of spiritual and physical refreshment for Muslims. It is a time to put aside the burdens and cares of everyday life and to focus on what really matters. Whereas Christians created Fat Tuesday as the last celebration before Lent, Muslims see no need to “get it all in” before Ramadan. Ramadan is a celebration.”
Can you imagine fasting — no food, no water — for over 15 hours?
“Since the month of Ramadan moves “backward” through the solar year, it occurs at some point in every season of the year in any given location. In the summer in both northern and southern latitudes, days can be quite long and the fast can go on for more than 15 hours. If 15 hours without food is difficult, 15 hours in the summer without water is even more so.”
In some communities, Ramadan helps to encourage interfaith dialogue.
“A new and popular Ramadan tradition is for Muslims to invite their non–Muslims neighbors to take part in the iftar or Eid ul Fitr. In some communities in Europe and North America, where Muslims are a religious minority, the iftar has become an important interfaith celebration. What better way to promote interreligious understanding around the world than by sharing the joy of the iftar and Eid ul Fitr?”
Read more about the Muslim period of prayer and fasting in Ramadan Observed.
20 July 2012
Tags: Palestine Gaza Strip/West Bank Muslim Islam Ramadan
A nun prays outside of St. Mary Monastery in Georgia. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
In the September 2007 issue of ONE, Paul Rimple wrote about women in Georgia who have chosen a life of service to God and humanity by entering religious life and joining one of various monasteries in Georgia, such as St. Mary Monastery:
The seven sisters of St. Mary Monastery in Bediani, a remote village in the southern mountains of Georgia, begin their day with communal prayer at 4 a.m. Three hours later, they are tending the gardens and the bees, milking cows, making cheese, embroidering vestments and cleaning the chapel.
Georgia’s religious houses are expected to be self-sufficient, which requires ingenuity on behalf of the sisters. But the sisters of Bediani also care for six single mothers and their children, who live near the convent and have little means of earning a living.
For more, read Alternative Lifestyles.
20 July 2012
Tags: Sisters Monastery Georgia Vocations (religious)
Last weekend (14 and 15 July) was quite special for a great many young Ukrainians; over 100,000 participated in a youth pilgrimage to the shrine of Mary, the Mother of God, in the western Ukrainian village of Zarvanytsia. The shrine is particularly known for its miraculous icon of the Mother of God. Even in the days of the Soviet Union, when Ukrainian Greek Catholicism was outlawed, the site drew thousands of pilgrims who risked everything to profess publicly their Christian faith. Since the independence of Ukraine, the shrine has become “the Lourdes of Ukraine” and one of the most popular pilgrimage locations of Eastern Europe.
Among the pilgrims to Zarvanytsia this year was Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour, bishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee. The archbishop came to Ukraine to witness the flourishing faith of the Ukrainian people and to ask them to pray for Christians of the Holy Land who currently face challenges due to violent conflicts and extremism.
The program in Zarvanytsia was led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, and other bishops of both Ukrainian Greek and Latin Catholic Churches also participated. Many of the faithful walked hundreds of kilometers in order to enjoy the spiritual benefits of the pilgrimage to the fullest.
One highlight of the event was the candle procession from the parish church to the recently built monument dedicated to the Theotokos. For video footage, see below:
19 July 2012
Tags: Ukraine Pilgrimage/pilgrims Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Catholic Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour
In this photo, captured in early 2006, a young boy watches the sunset in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In late 2004, a tsunami triggered by a 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean devastated thousands living in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, India. CNEWA was quick to respond and immediately began an emergency relief fund, which in a year’s time raised $965,555 for the victims affected by the disaster. In the March 2005 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux wrote about the tsunami relief efforts of the local church and international community:
The Diocese of Kottar became the command center for all nongovernmental, tsunami-related social service activities in the district of Kanyakumari. Father Jeremias, Information Director of the Kottar Social Service Society, assigned NGOs to villages along the coast. Caritas Switzerland took responsibility for the heavily damaged village of Mela Manakudy and four others; the Holy Cross Sisters were sent to Puthoor; social workers from the Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy of Marthandom took charge of three towns; and Social Change and Development (an Indian NGO) went to Kottilpadu.
Many more were involved. The Sisters of St. Ann of Luzern joined mobile medical camps sent to the coastal villages. The Syro- Malankara Catholic Bethany Sisters started rebuilding a neighborhood in Kanyakumari. Syro-Malabar Catholic Bishop George Alencherry from neighboring Thuckalay tended to the smaller settlements around Colachel.
In all, more than 60 local NGOs and 16 international relief agencies stepped forward to work with Bishop Tharmaraj.
“The response has been enormous. We have almost 100 percent coverage of the damaged areas,” Father Jeremias said. “This powerful wave of destruction from nature has been met by an even more powerful wave of generosity from mankind.”
The story remains a powerful reminder of how CNEWA, through local churches, has been able to respond to those in need. For more, read Waves of Destruction.
Tags: India Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Water