Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
28 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

The Jewish feast of Passover began on 25 March, and will continue until 2 April. Coinciding with this is the holiest day of the Christian calendar, Easter, which will be celebrated on Sunday, 31 March.

In the video below, CNEWA’s external affairs officer, Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., discusses the significance of these two holidays and their proximity to one another:

Tags: Christianity Easter Judaism

28 March 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from Holy Week in 2009, Christians in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem pray at the Stone of Unction, the place where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial. (photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)

Tags: Jerusalem Middle East Easter Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre

28 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Markian Surmach sells pysanky — traditionally decorated chicken or goose eggs, rich with symbolism — at his Ukrainian shop in New York City. Scholars agree that the art form originated at least 2,000 years ago. To learn more about pysanky, read The Colors of Easter, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Ancient Ukrainian tradition transforms eggs into masterpieces (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Steeped in ancient symbolism and decorated in hot wax, pysanky (pronounced pie-sun-key) is a colorful folk art tradition in Ukraine that harkens back to pagan times. These days, the ancient tradition is celebrated at Easter, when Ukrainian churches and community groups gather to decorate eggs in intricate, painstaking detail. Decorating eggs is more than just a pastime for those who lived in Ukraine when it was under the control of the Soviet Union, from 1922 to 1991. For them, it’s a symbol of expressive freedom…

Self-absorption is root of evils within church, said pope (CNS) Evils within the church are caused by a self-centeredness and “theological narcissism” that forget to share Christ with people outside of the church, Pope Francis said in the days before his election. “When the church is self-referential, inadvertently, she believes she has her own light,” he said in a summary of a speech he gave to the College of Cardinals before the start of the conclave that ended in his election. When the church ceases to be “the mysterium lunae,” that is, to depend on Christ for receiving and reflecting his — not its own — light, the church then “gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness, which according to [Jesuit Cardinal Henri-Marie] De Lubac, is the worst evil that can befall the church,” said then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio…

Syrian bishop: Outsiders are killing Syrians, destroying churches (Russia Today) “A person who has no homeland is nothing,” says Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop Luke, an Arab born in Syria. Metropolitan Luke is speaking Arabic, using the usual Muslim expressions, such as “insha’Allah,” which means “God willing,” or the standard greeting of “as-salam alaykum.” The metropolitan notes: “Our culture implies no intolerance towards Islam. It’s the basic principle of our relations. We call Muslims our cousins.” This solidarity finds an expression in the season; it is the Orthodox Lent — the time to offer the most sincere prayers of absolution. “Now that Lent has begun we say prayers every day. We are under attack, all of the Syrian people. These people say they act with Syrian people’s best interests at heart, but it’s not true. We are the Syrian people, and they have been sent to our country from the outside…”

Syrian official: 10 killed in university attack (Daily Star Lebanon) A Syrian government official says 10 people have been killed and 20 wounded in a mortar attack against Damascus University. The official says the mortar rounds struck the university’s architecture department in the central Baramkeh district on Thursday. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements…

Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Syrian Civil War Cultural Identity Easter

27 March 2013
Greg Kandra

A child prays during liturgy in Santhithadam, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Several years ago, we paid a visit to a valley in Kerala where some enterprising families had established a small community of Christians:

Santhithadam means “Valley of Peace” in Malayalam, the language of Kerala.

Located at the end of a nearly impassable dirt road, Santhithadam is indeed a peaceful valley hidden away in one of the most remote corners of Kerala, in southwest India. While much of Kerala is overcrowded, its many people competing for limited farmland, Santhithadam is an exception.

Not far from the border with Tamil Nadu and set on the high Attapaddy plateau, the area was thinly populated by scattered tribes for centuries. Then, about 30 years ago, 76 families settled in Santhithadam from the crowded south, including 40 Syro-Malabar Catholic families from Kottayam, Kerala’s Christian heartland.

The families who settled in Santhithadam were like pioneers arriving at a new frontier. These economic migrants had given up their former lives, knowing there would be no turning back. What tiny plots of land they had owned in Kottayam were sold and replaced in Santhithadam with larger plots, ripe for development and cultivation. But at the time, many of these hard-working people did not know what they were facing.

Read more about Kerala’s Brave New Frontier in the July 2003 issue of the magazine.

Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Farming/Agriculture

27 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 16 September 2012 photo, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Damascus, Syria, attends Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on the waterfront in Beirut. At left is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Melkite leader urges pope to help end Syria bloodshed (Daily Star Lebanon) Melkite Patriarch Gregory III called on newly elected Pope Francis to help end the two-year-old violence in neighboring Syria. “We warmly urge him [Pope Francis] — as we know the love he has for the Levant — and urge world countries and all the officials to work to stop the bloodshed in Syria,” Laham said in his Easter Resurrection message. “Enough pain. Enough tragedies. Enough violence, terrorism, weapons and fundamentalism. Enough trading in human lives, their dignity, livelihood, security, integrity and stability,” Laham said…

Ecumenical meeting in Iraq discusses pressing issues for community (Fides) On Tuesday, 26 March, leaders and representatives of the churches and Christian communities in Iraq gathered at the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad to discuss the present condition of Middle East Christians and to deal jointly with the emergencies and difficulties that threaten Iraqi Christians. The meeting, convened by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, included senior representatives of the Armenian Apostolic, Assyrean of the East, Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Syriac Orthodox churches. Ecumenism and fraternal dialogue of communion with all Christians is a priority for the Chaldean patriarch, who had said after his election: “Unfortunately one hears some who say: I am more Armenian than Christian, more Assyrian than Christian, more Chaldean than Christian. A tribal mentality persists here and there…”

Pope: Holy week challenges us to step outside ourselves (Vatican Radio) Linked is an English summary of Pope Francis’ first general audience. (An English translation of the Holy Father’s complete catechesis will be available soon.) “Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered,” the pope said…

Indian Christians protest against working on Easter (Fides) Some government departments have told their employees to stay open on 29-31 March, which for Christians are Good Friday through Easter. Christians in India have called for Christian workers to be granted a work break because these are “the most important days of the year for the Christian faith.” Some Catholic nongovernmental organizations, such as the Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum, sent a memorandum to the prime minister and the minister of finance expressing “deep shock” and recalling the existence of a circular that provides for “the closure of business tax offices on Saturday and Sunday”…

Syria’s Shiites offer different picture of war (L.A. Times) Each evening, Ali Jamal and other men in this border town grab their Kalashnikov assault rifles, jump on their motorbikes and ride across the irrigation canal into Syria to protect their homes. The enemies are Sunni rebel “terrorists,” he says, who target Jamal and his neighbors because they are Shiite Muslims. “Imagine, these people used to be our neighbors,” said the 40-year-old farmer, perplexed by the transformation. “Now they want to kidnap and kill us.” The predominant narrative of the Syrian war is that of a tyrannical government largely run by members of a Shiite sect, the Alawites, brutalizing a people yearning for freedom. However, in the largely Shiite towns and villages of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, people who have fled Syria tell a different story. They speak of an “ethnic cleansing” campaign carried out by rebels intent on creating an Islamic state run by Syria’s Sunni majority…

Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Chaldean Church Indian Christians Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch

26 March 2013
John E. Kozar

As we mark the holiest week of the Christian calendar, we can’t help but think about our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East — those living in the land where Jesus walked, in the region that became home to the very first Christians.

The faithful are desperate for a sign of hope. I pray you will be that sign.

Please watch the video below to learn more. Then, visit this page to learn how you can help.

Tags: Refugees CNEWA Middle East Violence against Christians War

26 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Jesus falls the first time, the third Station of the Cross, is depicted in the prayer book for the Way of the Cross service on Good Friday at Rome’s Colosseum. The Via Crucis prayer book is illustrated with works discovered in Bethlehem and attributed to an unknown 19th-century Palestinian Franciscan artist. (image: CNS)

The Vatican has released the text of the Way of the Cross that Pope Francis will pray on Good Friday — and it has some strong connections to the people of the Middle East and to the world of CNEWA.

From CNS:

Meditating on Christ’s passion and the ways people contribute to his suffering, Lebanese youths lamented the ongoing emigration from and violence in the Middle East, divisions among Christians, the abuse of women and children, and the promotion of abortion.

But despite the hardships, horrors and despair, Christians are called to walk with Christ because “suffering, embraced in faith, is transformed into the path to salvation,” the youths said in meditations for the 29 March Way of the Cross service at Rome’s Colosseum.

Christians can find hope in bearing their burdens because Christ is with them. However, acceptance does not mean putting an end to one’s dreams, to speaking out and fighting for freedom and the truth, the reflections said.

“God does not want suffering and does not accept evil,” the text said. In fact, people can carry the cross with joy and hope because Christians know Christ “triumphed over death for us.”

A group of Lebanese young people wrote the meditations at the request of retired Pope Benedict XVI; the Vatican released the published text with commentary and prayers on the 14 Stations of the Cross on 25 March.

Each year, the pope chooses a different person or group of people to write the series of prayers and reflections that are read aloud during the solemn, torch-lit ceremony.

The retired pope asked Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai to choose the youths and guide their preparation of the texts. The retired pope’s request was meant to recall his 2012 visit to Lebanon and invite the whole church to pray for the Middle East — its tensions and its beleaguered Christian community.

The task of composing the 14 meditations was divided equally among committees from the six rites of the Catholic Church represented in Lebanon: Latin, Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean. In addition, six Catholic youth groups, a special-needs group and a nongovernmental organization were randomly chosen and assigned a station to focus on.

Participants said they tried to show the biggest challenges facing young people in the Middle East and elsewhere while also showing the Christian vision of hope and resurrection.

Read more here. And you can find the full text at the Vatican website.

Tags: Lebanon Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Emigration Prayers/Hymns/Saints Easter

26 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In the Christian village of Yacoubiyah, many say their families have fled to safer places, both inside and outside the country. Those who have chosen to stay are confronting new fears close to home, with some abandoned villas now used as bases for opposition brigades. Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Yacoubiyah, in Idlib province. (video: Al Jazeera)

Pope Francis’ sends Passover message online (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Rome’s Jewish community to mark the feast of Passover, which this year begins at sundown, Monday, 25 March. Linked is Vatican Radio’s translation of the full text of the message, addressed to the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, with whom the Holy Father met on 20 March during the course of his audience with delegations from other Christian confessions and non-Christian religions…

Pope to live in Vatican guest house (CNS) Pope Francis has decided not to move into the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, but to live in a suite in the Vatican guesthouse where he has been since the beginning of the conclave that elected him, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. “He is experimenting with this type of living arrangement, which is simple,” but allows him “to live in community with others” — both the permanent residents and guests…

Pope’s Holy Thursday mass to be simple and intimate (VIS) The Mass of the Lord’s Supper that Pope Francis will celebrate on Holy Thursday in the chapel of the Casal del Marmo Penitential Institute for Minors will be, by his express desire, very simple. Around 10 girls and 40 boys will take part in the Mass. The pope will wash the feet of 12 of them, who will be chosen from different nationalities and diverse religious confessions. The youth will also say the readings and the prayers of the faithful. Given the intimate nature of the pastoral visit, journalists will be restricted to the area outside the building and no live coverage will be transmitted…

Ecumenical patriarch expresses possibility of church unity (ANSA) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who attended last week the mass inaugurating the pontificate of Pope Francis, believes the reunification of the Orthodox and Latin churches, separated by schism for about 1000 years, is possible. Speaking at a meeting at the university of Kadir Has in Istanbul, Hurriyet reports, Patriarch Bartholomew I said he believed “there is a possibility for the next generations to see the churches of the East and West reunited,” adding that “this will probably not happen during my life”…

Jerusalem Christian leaders extend Easter invitation (VIS) In their Easter message, the leaders of the Christian churches of Jerusalem invite the faithful around the world to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, extending an ecumenical appeal to visit those churches and to “walk with the living stones of this land, following in the footsteps of the Risen Christ.” The text continues: “The Christian presence here, in the mother city of our faith, remains a beacon of the light of the Risen Christ that the first disciples were witness to in front of the empty tomb”…

More than half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan (Fides) The Syrian refugees who have found refuge in Jordan have already crossed the threshold of 500 thousand, according to Wael Suleiman, director of Caritas Jordan. “Every day,” explains Suleiman “between one thousand and two thousand refugees enter Jordan. 1700 arrived yesterday. The latest report released on this humanitarian crisis estimates that the refugees will be a million and a half by December. At that point the situation will become unbearable for Jordan”…

Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

25 March 2013
Greg Kandra

CNEWA works for, through and with the churches of the East to serve those in need — such as this young Iraqi refugee, pictured last year in Amman, Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Last week, Catholic News Agency profiled some of the urgent work CNEWA is doing right now, particularly in the Middle East:

Catholic Near East Welfare Association is working with local Churches in and around Syria to help refugees and those who have been displaced by the country’s civil war, now beginning its third year.

“Our concern is not just for the Christian community, but for all people who are caught in the middle; the vast majority of people in Syria, as in any part of the world, just want peace,” Michael La Civita, the association’s communications director, told CNA on 18 March.

“They want to get back to normal, to rear their families and cope as best they can, and of course this makes it quite difficult for them, because the violence is just getting worse and worse.”

The Syrian conflict marked its second anniversary last week. On 15 March 2011, demonstrations sprang up nationwide, protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president and leader the country’s Ba’ath Party.

In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war.

United Nation’s estimates show that 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict. More than 1 million refugees have flooded into Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and inside Syria another estimated 2.5 million are internally displaced.

Catholic Near East Welfare Association works through local Churches to help the poor and partners with the Jesuits, Armenian Catholics, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and Melkite Greek Catholics.

“They come to us with needs, let us know what they need, and we provide them with the resources, whether its food, gear for children or schools,” La Civita said.

The group helps internally displaced people in Syria, those who have been forced out of their homes. These families are mostly from Homs and Aleppo, in the north and west of the country.

“They lived in the older quarters, and now they’re either in the suburbs or they’ve fled to a place called the valley of Christians, which is still in the hands of the government and is reasonably secure,” he explained.

Read the rest. Want to know what you can do? Take a moment to visit our page devoted to helping Middle East Christians, and make your voice heard!

Tags: Refugees CNEWA Middle East Eastern Churches

25 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Matzo and drops of wine are seen on a plate at a Seder table. The Jewish ritual feast is celebrated during Passover, the commemoration of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. (photo: CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

To mark the beginning of the feast of Passover tonight, Pope Francis has sent a message to Rome’s Jewish community:

”May the Almighty, who freed his people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land, continue to free you from every evil and accompany you with his blessing,” the pope said in the message delivered on 25 March.

Passover, the eight-day commemoration of God freeing the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, was set to begin that evening.

Thanking Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, for attending his inaugural Mass on 19 March and his meeting with religious leaders the next day, Pope Francis said, “I am particularly pleased to extend to you and the entire Rome community my most fervent wishes for the great Passover feast.

“I ask you to pray for me, while I assure you of my prayers for you, trusting that we can deepen the bonds of esteem and mutual respect,” the pope said.

On the website of Rome’s Jewish community, Rabbi di Segni said he appreciated the message and planned to respond with a message wishing the pope and Rome’s Christians a happy Easter.

Tags: Pope Francis Catholic-Jewish relations Christian-Jewish relations Jewish Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

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