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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
9 January 2013
Greg Kandra

One wall of the newly discovered chapel in Turkey has a cross-shaped window. (photo: Myra-Andriake Excavations/the New York Times)

Earlier this week, the New York Times had this intriguing piece of news:

In the fourth century A.D., a bishop named Nicholas transformed the city of Myra, on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey, into a Christian capital.

Nicholas was later canonized, becoming the St. Nicholas of Christmas fame. Myra had a much unhappier fate.

After some 800 years as an important pilgrimage site in the Byzantine Empire it vanished — buried under 18 feet of mud from the rampaging Myros River. All that remained was the Church of St. Nicholas, parts of a Roman amphitheater and tombs cut into the rocky hills.

But now, 700 years later, Myra is reappearing.

Archaeologists first detected the ancient city in 2009 using ground-penetrating radar that revealed anomalies whose shape and size suggested walls and buildings. Over the next two years they excavated a small, stunning 13th-century chapel sealed in an uncanny state of preservation. Carved out of one wall is a cross that, when sunlit, beams its shape onto the altar. Inside is a vibrant fresco that is highly unusual for Turkey.

The chapel’s structural integrity suggests that Myra may be largely intact underground. “This means we can find the original city, like Pompeii,” said Nevzat Cevik, an archaeologist at Akdeniz University who is director of the excavations at Myra, beneath the modern town of Demre.

Mark Jackson, a Byzantine archaeologist at Newcastle University in England, who was not involved in the research, called the site “fantastic,” and added,“This level of preservation under such deep layers of mud suggests an extremely well-preserved archive of information.”

Check out the Times link for more. And you can read more about St. Nicholas himself here.

Tags: Turkey Saints Architecture

9 January 2013
Greg Kandra

Civilians and Free Syrian Army fighters gather at the site hit by a missile in Aleppo’s al Mashhad district on 7 January. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman)

Apostolic Nuncio to Israel discusses property issues in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) The apostolic nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lanzarotto, says the Holy See is hoping soon to reach a satisfactory conclusion to its ongoing talks with Israel on fiscal and property issues related to Catholic institutions in the Holy Land…

Jordanian refugee camp devastated by storm (Fides) The storms of snow, wind and freezing rain that struck the Hashemite Kingdom have had devastating effects on the refugee camp of Zaatari, in the Jordanian desert, where 50,000 refugees who fled from the Syrian civil war are crammed in an intolerable situation. “The storms,” reports to Fides Agency Wael Suleiman, director of Caritas Jordan, “have destroyed at least 500 tents in the camp”…

Report: violence in Syria may trigger mass exodus of Christians (Voice of Russia) Syria’s ongoing turmoil has turned the country into a dangerous place for Christians, says an international missionary organization called Open Doors. According to its World Watch List 2012, the situation in embattled Syria is getting worse for Christians. Syria has moved up to place 11 from 36 on Open Door’s list of least Christian-friendly states, since the conflict broke out more than a year ago. According to the report, many Syrian Christians are facing violence against them, many have been kidnapped or murdered, while churches have been severely damaged or demolished. The estimated Christian population in the country stands at around 10 percent…

Bishops’ pilgrimage to Holy Land nears end (Vatican Radio) The pilgrimage of solidarity by bishops from North America and Europe to Christian communities in the Holy Land is in its final stages…

Tags: Syria Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Jordan

8 January 2013
Carl Hétu

A Syrian refugee child cries at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Carl Hétu is CNEWA’s national director in Canada.

I am currently in the Holy Land with Archbishop Richard Smith, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. We are participating in an annual visit to the Holy Land, where bishops from Europe and North America meet with the local Christian community.

On our first day, we headed up to northern Jordan, about a one-hour drive from the capital of Amman, where we were scheduled to meet with Syrian refugees living in camps.

Six months ago, there was only a handful of refugees, but today there are over 100,000 registered people there who have fled the war, the shelling, and the violence that is unbearable for families. They are living in tents with barely the minimum to survive.

The camp we were supposed to visit has about 60,000 people. But on arriving in Amman, we learned that the army had to cancel our visit.The reason? Weather. The wind and rain, along with terrible living conditions, had made life so hard in the refugee camps that the army was expecting riots. The Jordanian government and nongovernmental groups and charities like Caritas and CNEWA are doing their best to help, but resources are few, conditions tough, and people are tired, stressed and fed up. Who wouldn’t be, in similar conditions? But there are no other choices for now. Without aid, life would be much worse.

Today was a typical cold winter day, with heavy rain and strong winds. In Jordan, where water is scarce, it is considered a blessing. But for refugees living in tents, water is a curse.

I just can’t imagine how these poor people left violence to end up in a camp zone they can’t leave — where mud, wind and cold will define everyday living for weeks to come. My only comfort is knowing that, thanks to generous North American Catholics, CNEWA is providing winter kits with heaters, blankets and food.

Any help you can provide is a blessing for these refugees and gives them hope for better things to come. If you want to know more or make a donation please visit our Syrian page.

Tags: Syria Refugees CNEWA Jordan

8 January 2013
Annie Grunow

Two generations come together for a Chrism ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, Brazil. (photo: Izan Petterle)

Did you know that the largest Melkite Greek Catholic community in the world is in Brazil? We took readers to the cathedral in São Paolo two years ago:

Located in the Paraíso (Portuguese for paradise) neighborhood in the heart of South America’s largest city and steps from its busiest thoroughfare, Paulista Avenue, the imposing Byzantine–style cathedral seems an unlikely landmark.

Yet, the cathedral and the Arab parishioners who built it have defined Paraíso since the 1940’s when construction began. By then, many of São Paulo’s Arab Christian immigrant families were living in the working–class neighborhood. In subsequent decades, the Arab community steadily grew, at times in sudden bursts, when emigrants fled conflict in Lebanon, Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East in search of a better life in the New World. Hearing about the opportunities in Brazil — often from relatives or friends already in Paraíso — São Paulo quickly became a preferred destination.

Today, the cathedral serves as the seat of the bishop of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, spiritual home to an estimated 400,000 people &mash; the largest Melkite Greek community not only in the Americas but in the world.

Though Paraíso remains the center of Brazil’s Melkite cultural and spiritual life, its demographics have changed dramatically in recent years. Social success and economic prosperity among first– and second–generation Melkite Arab–Brazilians have prompted most to choose more affluent residential communities in São Paulo and its sprawling suburbs.

Read more about Paradise in Brazil in the July 2011 issue of ONE.

Tags: Melkite Brazil

8 January 2013
Greg Kandra

Egyptian Muslims and Christians celebrate Coptic Christmas Eve in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 6 January. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

Egypt’s Christians worried about rise of Islam (Washington Post) Christians were worried about their safety on Monday as they marked the first Christmas under Islamist rule, with Coptic Pope Tawadros II urging worshipers “not to be afraid” and some complaining that their lives had gone from bad to worse in the nearly two years since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak...

Bishop of Amman: peace a shared value for Christians and Muslims (Vatican Radio) “When you love you have to share. It’s not in terms of a Christian value but it’s in terms of Arab values. Sharing and being generous and opening the door to others is an Arab value and we are proud of it. The main thing that we share with our brother Muslims here is peace and security for Jordan. When we see what is happening in Syria and Iraq we pray to Almighty God to keep us safe and secure here.” This is the message of Bishop Maroun Elias Lahham, Bishop of Amman and Apostolic administrator of the diocese of Tunis, speaking with Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick who is accompanying bishops from Europe and North America on their annual pilgrimage of solidarity with the Christians of the Holy Land...

Indian Christians encouraged to oppose death penalty and chemical castration for rapists (Fides) In a note sent to Fides Agency, the “Catholic Secular Forum” (CSF), a Catholic lay movement based in Mumbai, said that “death penalty and chemical castration are not the position of the Church.” In a memorandum sent to the Indian government, Christian movements urge the government to make sex education compulsory in public schools, in order to avoid the emergence of deviant sexual behavior in young people...

Syrian archbishop: “Palestinian refugees on exodus, just like the Holy Family” (Fides) During the Christmas period “it is not uncommon these days to see Palestinian families wandering the streets of Damascus. Parents carrying their children, followed by older children carrying parcels and bags. Tears to the eyes of women, anger in the eyes of men, the sadness of children’s eyes.” In a message sent to Fides Agency, the Archbishop of Damascus of the Maronites, Samir Nassar, outlined the double tragedy of the Palestinian refugees overwhelmed by the Syrian civil war, comparing their painful exodus to that lived by Jesus, Mary and Joseph...

PHOTO GALLERY: Theophany 2013 (OCA) On the first weekend of January 2013, parishes across the Orthodox Church in America celebrated the Great Feast of the Theophany of Our Lord by blessing water — outdoors as well as indoors — in commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ...

Tags: Syria Egypt Jordan Muslim Copts

7 January 2013
Greg Kandra

Still a precious gift, frankincense and myrrh are packaged in gilded tins in the Middle East.
(photo: Ilene Perlman)

Christians yesterday marked the Solemnity of the Epiphany — or Christmas, in the Orthodox tradition—which among other things commemorates the visit of the magi to the Christ child, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In 2003, the magazine looked at the history behind those gifts, and where they originate today:

In the ancient world, particularly in the Middle East, beauty was as important as air. It was in the gardens the people designed, the houses they built, the words they wrote, the very bowls they used, the candlesticks they carried, the fabrics they wove and the gifts they gave.

So when Christians ponder the gifts of the Magi as commemorated in the West during the feast of the Epiphany, the precious gold and fragrant frankincense and myrrh do not seem unusual for that time and place.

What was unusual is that these gifts were presented to a child whose significance was yet to be understood.

St. Irenaeus in his “Adversus Haereses” claimed the gifts were symbolic. Jesus was presented with gold for a King’s wealth, frankincense as the fragrance offered to divinity and myrrh as the balm used to anoint the dead.

Although the identity of the Magi remains a mystery (they have been variously described as wise men, kings, priests or magicians), we know for certain that firmly established trade routes enabled the travelers to bring their offerings from remote areas to Palestine. The three gifts, including gold that in today’s market would cost about $325 per ounce, would have been a kingly offering.

Scents were believed to bring good will and good wishes. Frankincense and myrrh were used to perfume ceremonial oils. When burned, the smoke was thought to bring prayers to the heavens.

Even today, during liturgies of the Eastern and Western churches, incense is often burned.

Read more about Scents of Time and Place.

Tags: Middle East Oman Epiphany

7 January 2013
Greg Kandra

A Syrian refugee woman carries her child in late December at a refugee camp near the Turkish town of Kilis. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)

Pope appeals for cease fire in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI has made an urgent appeal to civil and political authorities to work for peace. The Pope’s heartfelt cry came on Monday during his annual address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. Speaking to representatives of the 179 States that currently have full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, as well as members of numerous international organizations such as the EU, the Order of Malta and the PLO, Pope Benedict emphasized that world leaders have a grave responsibility to work for peace. They are the first — he said — called to resolve the numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family. The Pope went on to list urgent areas of concern starting with Syria which he described as being “torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian population”...

Patriarch: idea to divide Egypt is “irrational” (Fides) The members of the Coptic diaspora who launched the idea to divide Egypt to create a Coptic state are “irrational.” This is what Pope Tawadros II in person said, after two months at the helm of the largest Christian community in an Arab country. In an interview with Turkish Anadolu Agency on the occasion of Coptic Christmas, Pope Tawadros strongly affirmed that “the Church is an integral part of that Egypt that will not be divided, that has been united since the Pharaoh Menes and will remain so forever”...

Indian laity oppose youth festivals on Sundays (Times of India) The commission for laity of Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala has come out strongly against the education department for conducting the school youth festivals on Sunday, the day for religious rituals and teachings for the Catholic community...

Patriarch Kiril congratulates Orthodox on Christmas (Voice of Russia) Addressing Orthodox Christians before the start of a solemn service at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill congratulated them on Christmas and wished them peace, prosperity and well-being. In line with tradition, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church conducts a festive Christmas service at Christ the Savior Cathedral. “I congratulate you on the great feast of Christmas. I wish peace, prosperity and well-being to all of historical Rus, to the Russian state, to each and every one of you. May the grace of the Savior touch us not only on this wonderful Christmas night, but on all the days of our lives,” said the Patriarch...

Tags: Syria Egypt Pope Benedict XVI Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Orthodox

4 January 2013
Melodie Gabriel

Melodie Gabriel works as a development assistant for CNEWA Canada.

My colleague Antin and I travelled to the city of Toronto last month to attend the 2nd National Catholic Conference on Resettlement, organized by the Office of Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto, led by Dr. Martin Mark and his team. Various groups, parishes and dioceses from across Canada and the world gathered under the theme “With One Voice — We Are the Hope.”

People in resettlement work really do bring hope, from what I learned. In anutshell, those working in refugee resettlement help families forced to flee their home countries to settle in another country. By one estimate, over 43.7 million people worldwide are refugees.

In January 2010, CNEWA Canada was actively involved in the first conference, which focused on Iraqi refugees. CNEWA’s work is connected to those who resettle refugees, collaborating with the churches to support refugees and displacedpersons, mostly within the Middle East.

Those who attended the 2012 conference, though, work on the other side of the spectrum — sponsoring, welcoming and integrating refugees in Canada. CNEWA provides its expertise through analysis, contacts and reports to Canadian diocesan offices that require more information to promote their work.

The conference was helped under the leadership of Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and vice president of CNEWA Canada’s Board of Directors. Cardinal Collins had many nuggets of wisdom to share. Something I found intriguing was that he was given a small piece of rock from a Syriac Catholic church that was destroyed in Iraq; he keeps it on his desk as a reminder of his commitment to refugees. (You can watch part of the cardinal’s talk in the video below.)

Our very own Antin Sloboda gave a talk, sharing CNEWA’s expertise at facing the challenges of Christian minorities in the Middle East. There were also special guests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Catholic Migration Commission, and representatives from the bishops conferences of the United States and Canada — just to name a few.

Overall, this conference was a unique moment to learn, share, build a network and pray. I left with the profound conviction that amid all the hardship in our world, we are a beacon of hope bringing the light of Christ to the refugees who are seeking only to live normal lives in peace with their neighbors.

Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees CNEWA Middle East

4 January 2013
Greg Kandra

Students line up for morning prayer at St. Jean Baptiste De La Salle School in Addis Ababa.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)

The latest issue of the magazine features as its cover story a look at the success of Catholic schools in a country that is overwhelmingly non-Catholic, Ethiopia:

Catholics — Latin and Ge’ez combined — make up less than 1 percent of Ethiopia’s roughly 85 million people. Forty-three percent of the population is Ethiopian Orthodox; 32 percent, Muslim; and 19 percent, Protestant. The Catholic Church plays a disproportionately influential role in the lives of many Ethiopians, however, especially through its schools, clinics and other social service institutions.

More than 350 Catholic schools operate around the country, enrolling some 120,000 Ethiopian students each year.

“We’re educating the biggest number of children after the government. No denomination can claim that,” says Demisse W. Aregay, principal of the all-boys St. Joseph Catholic School in Addis Ababa, one of five schools in Ethiopia — including Bisrate Gabriel — run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. The brothers’ five schools alone enroll 7,000 students.

“Go anywhere in the country and you’ll find Catholic schools that are flourishing,” he continues. “So that helps create a mentality that they are some of if not the best schools in the country.”

Read more about how Ethiopian children are Making the Grade in the November 2012 issue of ONE.

Tags: Ethiopia Education

4 January 2013
Greg Kandra

Two Iraqi boys hold candles as they pray for peace in Iraq and Syria during Mass at a Chaldean Catholic church in Amman, Jordan on 23 December (photo: CNS/Ali Jarekji, Reuters)

Bishops in solidarity with “suffering and vulnerable” in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Bishops from across Europe and North America this week will be visiting Syrian refugees in Jordan along with other suffering and vulnerable people and communities in the Holy Land. In a press release, the Holy Land Co-ordination reports: The 13th meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land and the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land takes place from 5-10 January. The delegation will meet in Bethlehem, visit Jordan and then concluding the annual pastoral visit in Jerusalem...

Syrian archbishop appeals for aid (Vatican Radio) Food, medicine, electricity and fuel are increasingly scarce in Jazira, the river plain area of Mesopotamia which encompasses northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria. With the influx of Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, Jazira’s population of 1 and a half million has swelled to some 2 million and Church and humanitarian officials are raising the alarm, saying not enough is being done to help them...

In Gaza, children bear psychological scars of conflict (Washington Post) Gazans often talk about the inescapability of war, and the symptoms of their suffering. They cast Gaza as a prison — one physical and psychological, where Israeli bombardment comes every so often,and there is little to do but bear it. Indeed, there are few places in the Arab world where psychology and trauma are as openly discussed as they are in Gaza. But health professionals here argue that there are few places in the region that contain a population so traumatized, a youth so obsessed with conflict.

Campaign begins to regain relics of St. Nicholas of Myra (Fides) The Turkish archaeologist Nevzat Çelik, responsible for the excavations at the archaeological site of Mira-Andraike, re-launched during the Christmas holidays the request to return the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra to Turkey, at the moment venerated at the Basilica of San Nicola in Bari...

How media in Lebanon marked the Christian feast of Christmas (Fides) In Lebanon the Christmas period is marked by the unique media coverage dedicated to the Christian celebrations. On Christmas Day, 25 December, the Al-Nour radio paid tribute to the birth of Christ with a selection of hymns. The main TV channel linked to the Shiite political formation articulated its programming with a Christmas card addressed to Christians, while the information services devoted considerable space to the Christmas celebrations, highlighting the participation of Hezbollah’s representatives in official ceremonies and underlining the title of “prophet” recognized by Islam to “Jesus the son of Mary”...

Russians flock to Baltics for Orthodox Christmas (New Age) With the Eastern Orthodox Christmas just around the corner, three ex-Soviet Baltic states are facing a new invasion from the east as Russian tourists flood in for the holidays. In stark contrast to the Soviet takeover which saw Moscow subjugate Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from World War II until 1990-91, despite frosty official relations the EU Baltic trio are now rolling out the red carpet for Russian tourists. In the three capitals, hotels with special packages for Russian visitors in the run-up to Orthodox Christmas Day on 7 January are nearly fully booked...

Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Turkey Russian Orthodox

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