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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
31 May 2013
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this 2009 photo, Iraqi Dominican Sister of St. Catherine Sara Majeed administers a checkup at the Mother of Mercy mother-and-child clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)

On this date 31 years ago, CNEWA’s Mother of Mercy Clinic opened in the Jordanian city of Zerqa. Mother of Mercy is the creation of not one person, community or organization, but of a partnership.

In 1981, Zerqa’s Latin Catholic community asked the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood and CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, to consider opening a mother and child clinic on the grounds of the Latin parish. A congregation of nursing sisters based in England, the Franciscan Missionaries, had collaborated with the Pontifical Mission in operating mobile health clinics in Jordan’s refugee camps since 1971. Their principle concern at that time was the reduction of the mortality rate — then 40 percent — among babies born to Palestinian refugee mothers. Poor nutrition and the lack of education and health awareness contributed to many of these deaths, as well as to deaths of the elderly.

After a period of review, CNEWA and the Franciscan Missionaries, with the support of the Latin Patriarchate, agreed to open the clinic, receiving monies to build, furnish and operate the center from Canadian members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. After just a few years, the number of patients receiving care at the clinic increased by 214 percent, requiring an extensive refurbishment. In 1985, the German bishops’ relief and development fund, Misereor, provided the necessary funds.

Today, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, an Iraqi community based in Mosul, administer the clinic, which treats more than 33,000 mothers and children a year.

Happy Birthday!

Tags: CNEWA Children Jordan Health Care Dominican Sisters

31 May 2013
Greg Kandra

An icon of the Virgin and Child hangs inside St. Michael the Archangel in Ladomirová. (photo: Andrej Bán)

With May drawing to a close, today marks the end of the month traditionally devoted to Mary. But devotion to the Mother of God isn’t confined to just one month. For many of the faithful, it goes on all year. In Slovakia, for example, we found the depiction of Mary shown above when we visited a village with a strong Greek Catholic presence and learned about historic churches:

On a cold and wet November day, a group of carpenters hammered away at the roof of St. Michael the Archangel Greek Catholic Church in the village of Ladomirová in northeastern Slovakia. Built in 1742, St. Michael’s stands out as perhaps Slovakia’s most beautiful and celebrated historic wooden church. Surveying the men’s work, the church’s pastor, Father Peter Jakub, explained that after 40 years, it was time to replace the worn hand-cut spruce shingles.

Only some 50 wooden churches, most dating back two centuries, survive in the modern central European republic of Slovakia; historians estimate more than 300 may have been built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Approximately 30 belong to the Slovak Greek Catholic Church. A handful have been closed and restored as museums, while the remaining churches are used by Evangelical Protestant or Latin (Roman) Catholic congregations. In recent decades, the Slovak government has designated 27 of these tserkvi (Slavonic for wooden churches) as national cultural monuments.

These wooden structures are inexorably fragile, vulnerable to decay and fire. But as architectural achievements constructed during a tumultuous and religiously volatile era, they now galvanize significant interest in and support for their restoration and preservation.

The lion’s share of Slovakia’s wooden churches clusters in the eastern region of Prešov, a mountainous and heavily forested area bordering Poland and Ukraine. Rusyn Greek Catholics — who inhabited tiny hamlets scattered throughout the Carpathian Mountains — constructed most of these churches.

For more on Slovakia’s Greek Catholic heritage, and the country’s remarkable churches, read Rooted in Wood from the May 2008 issue of ONE.

Tags: Cultural Identity Icons Greek Catholic Church Slovakia Slovak Catholic Church

31 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis accepts a gift from Vuk Jeremic, president of the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly, during a private audience in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on 31 May. The gift was an icon of St. Sava. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring, pool)

Pope and U.N. assembly president discuss Middle East, human trafficking (AsiaNews) The Middle East and human trafficking were the central theme during discussions this morning between Pope Francis and United Nations General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic. Jeremic also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in the Apostolic Palace. “In [the context of the Middle East] the importance of reconciliation between the various communities that make up society and respect for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities was recognized,” read a statement from the Vatican…

Iraq sees deadliest month in five years (Christian Science Monitor) More than 500 people were killed in Iraq in May, about 120 of them since 27 May alone, making it the deadliest month since June 2008, according to the United Nations. The uptick in violence has put increased pressure on the government to prove its ability to keep sectarian tensions under control and prevent the country from spiraling into a renewed civil war…

In Jordan, informal militias form to guard against potential Syrian attacks (Washington Post) For weeks, ragtag forces have spent evenings patrolling the mountainous frontier region and monitoring what Jordanian officials and Syrian opposition activists say is a Syrian military escalation in the south. Residents here fear it may be a prelude to a potential invasion…

Indian sisters say Mary is a refuge for the poor of all castes and creeds (AsiaNews) Sister Gemma, prioress of the Carmelite monastery in Mumbai, underlines the importance of the feast of the Visitation for the poor and for people who suffer. Conceived by Pope Benedict XVI and issued by Pope Francis, the Worldwide Eucharistic Adoration on 2 June is a great example of God’s love. “This event,” Sister Gemma explained, “has no precedent in history, and fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy: ’I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; they shall come and see my glory’ (66:18). … Although we nuns remain within the walls of [the cloister], we are in the world through our prayers and charity work,” the nun added…

Cardinal Sandri attends inauguration of University of Madaba in Jordan (Vatican Radio) The prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, attended the official inauguration of the University of Madaba in Jordan, belonging to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Among those attending were King Abdullah II of Jordan and other dignitaries. In his address at the inauguration, Cardinal Sandri said this new university becomes a powerful agent of interreligious dialogue and urged students and teachers to respect the religious sensibilities of each other and help heal historical wounds. A full transcription of the cardinal’s address is included…

Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Jordan Sisters United Nations

30 May 2013
Greg Kandra

A shepherd tends his flock in Anjar, Lebanon. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

The charming photo above comes from a 2002 profile of “Little Armenia,” located in Lebanon:

Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.

Roughly 100,000 people — 80 percent of the population of Bourj Hammoud — are Armenian. One of the most densely populated areas in the country, Bourj Hammoud has become one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Lebanon, a center for jewelry, shoes and clothing, all crafted by Armenians. And while Armenians prefer to work with fellow Armenians, their clients are usually fashion-conscious Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze. …

“Our major problem today is the emigration of young people,” says Sebouh Saghian, the Mayor of Anjar. “We do not have local universities, so our youth go to Beirut for further education. Because of unemployment here, the majority do not return…”

Read more about this community in the July 2002 issue of our magazine.

Tags: Lebanon Refugees Cultural Identity Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church

30 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

A boy walks on the rubble of buildings damaged by missiles fired by Syrian air force fighter jets in Salqin, Syria, 28 May. The Vatican has reiterated its call for negotiations and putting an end to violence in Syria, saying that children are suffering the most. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)

Vatican: Children suffer most from Syrian violence (CNS) The Vatican has reiterated its call for negotiations to end the violence in Syria, saying that children are suffering the most. “Silencing the guns is the priority,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer to U.S. agencies in Geneva, told the Human Rights Council during a 29 May debate on Syria. Calling the violence in Syria “the terrain of the violation of all human rights,” Archbishop Tomasi said the tragedy risks intensifying regional and global conflicts…

W.C.C. issues statement on Middle East Christians ( A World Council of Churches conference has issued a joint statement calling the churches and ecumenical actors to commit themselves to support one another in prayers and actions to support Christian presence and witness in the Middle East. The statement was an outcome of discussions engaging more than a hundred church leaders and representatives of the ecumenical organizations in the Arab world…

Chaldeans embark on journey back to Turkey (Hurriyet Daily News) The European Chaldean community has begun to act on the call of Turkey’s Culture Minister Ömer Çelik to return to Turkey. After a series of negotiations conducted in France and Belgium, it was determined that 27 families would return to Herbole village in southeastern Turkey as part of the first stage of the return process. If the required social and economic conditions are met, the number returning will increase…

Patriarch Kirill to visit Mount Athos (Interfax-Religion) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will visit Greece and Mount Athos from 1-7 June. During his trip, the Patriarch will visit churches and monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Church and meet with its head, representatives of the Greek authorities and ethnic Russians living in Greece, as well as will travel to Thessaloniki and Veria, a spokesman for the Synodal Information Department said on Wednesday…

Young Egyptians rekindle revolution with recall petition (AsiaNews) A new movement of young Egyptians have allegedly collected over 7.5 million signatures to demand an end to the government of Mohamed Morsi and the domination of the Muslim Brotherhood over Egypt. The campaign began on 1 May with the aim of 15 million signatures by 30 June, which marks the first anniversary since Egypt’s first Islamist president took office…

Israel to build 1000 new settlement units in east Jerusalem (Al Jazeera) Israel is preparing to build more than 1,000 new settler homes in east Jerusalem as the United States strives to revive dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to an non-governmental organization. Danny Seidemann, director of Jerusalem settlement watchdog Terrestrial Jerusalem, said on Wednesday that contracts for 300 homes in the northeastern settlement of Ramot were signed and another 797 plots were to be offered for sale in the southern Jerusalem settlement of Gilo, near the city of Jerusalem. Both are in largely Arab areas of the holy city…

Tags: Egypt Middle East Christians Jerusalem Syrian Civil War Patriarch Kirill

29 May 2013
Greg Kandra

The Azar family prepares dinner in an empty lot in Al Qaa, Lebanon, where they have found refuge from the war in Syria. (photo: Tamara Hadi)

In the Spring issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan gives a dramatic look at life in Al Quaa, a Lebanese village that has lately become home to Syrian refugees:

Although she has only moved a few miles down the road, Hayat Qarnous wakes up to a world vastly different from the one she knew just a few weeks ago. Back then, she was living in Rableh, a village on the Syrian side of the Syria-Lebanon border and once the center of a quiet farming community. But since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011, it has been anything but peaceful.

“War is like fire,” she says, sitting in her newfound refuge in Al Qaa, a Lebanese village just across the border from Rableh. “A fire eats everything before it. So does war. There is no peace anywhere.”

It is this lack of peace, and its consequences, that have pushed more than a million Syrians to flee their homeland since the beginning of the conflict.

About 320,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon and registered with United Nations aid agencies there. But many observers believe equal numbers of Syrians have not registered with the authorities in Lebanon; among these are an estimated 10,000 Christians.

Lebanon, with its relatively large number of Christians — more than 30 percent of the population — is a natural choice for Christian Syrians seeking refuge. Beyond religion, most of the Syrian Christian refugees have chosen Lebanon for more pragmatic reasons. Many have family living in Lebanon, either as citizens or as laborers who have migrated to work in construction or farming since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990. Others come to Lebanon, as in Mrs. Qarnous’s case, because it is the closest border to cross to safety.

“The journey between Rableh and Al Qaa used to take five to ten minutes before the war,” she says from a makeshift room she and her husband now inhabit in the hall of the Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Al Qaa. “Now it takes four hours.”

The trip is difficult and dangerous. Civilians have to navigate a complex landscape of warring factions, shelling and random attacks in order to arrive safely. Even after that, hunger, poverty and exposure to the elements await many of them in Lebanon.

Read more about Syrians Crossing the Border in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.

Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War War

29 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Bishop José Raúl Vera López of Saltillo, Mexico, poses outside the diocesan seminary, where he celebrated the 25th anniversary of becoming a bishop on 5 January. Bishop Vera López, a nominee for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, will be visiting Syria in June. (photo: CNS/David Agren)

Bishop Vera López prepares for humanitarian mission (Fides) Bishop José Raúl Vera López, O.P., of Saltillo, Mexico, will be part of a delegation of 12 observers who will try to enter Syria to collect data and information on the atrocities and human rights violations taking place in the war-torn country. The Dominican bishop was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2012 for his commitment to the defense of human rights…

Maronite Bishops condemn joining Syria violence (Daily Star Lebanon) On Monday, the Council of Maronite Bishops condemned direct participation in Syrian violence and voiced concern over clashes in the northern city of Tripoli and the southern city of Sidon. “The bishops condemn the direct participation in the Syrian clashes, from whatever side, and consider what is happening as a clear violation of the National Pact and Baabda Declaration,” said the bishops in a statement issued following their monthly meeting. The council, headed by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, also renewed their condemnation to the kidnapping of two bishops in Syria last month and called for their imminent release…

E.U. split over Syria, growing Islamist movements (AsiaNews) The recent session of the European Parliament on the renewal of the arms ban to Syrian rebels has revealed serious divisions within the European Union. According to E.U. sources, as of late April more than 500 European nationals had joined Islamist groups in Syria. In February, they were only a few dozen. France and Britain have said that they are ready to provide military support to the rebels, but are faced with the opposition of other European Union countries. In response to possible British and French support to the rebels, Russia yesterday announced it was sending new anti-aircraft missiles to the regime of Bashar al Assad…

King Abdullah II and Cardinal Sandri to attend university inauguration (Fides) The official opening of the American University of Madaba, affiliated with the University of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, 30 May. King Abdullah II of Jordan, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, will take part in the inauguration. “Years ago, the early phases of the first school of the Latin Patriarchate … started, in what appeared as a closed and marginal world. Today, that same mission has lead to the creation of a University with high standards … at the service of the people of Jordan, Christians and Muslims together”…

Egypt’s youths feel disenfranchised after revolution (Los Angeles Times) Egypt’s 2011 uprising was often referred to as a youth revolution, but two years after longtime President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office, many in the younger generation say they feel more politically isolated than ever. Young activists across the political spectrum say they have been sidelined, prevented from participating in the leadership and management of post-Mubarak Egypt by a patriarchal culture that favors the older and supposedly more experienced…

Eritrean refugees protest against the regime in Asmara (Fides) Nearly 3000 Eritrean refugees have started a protest in the camp of Berahle in the Afar region of Ethiopia, a few miles from the border with Eritrea. The protesters aim to draw the attention of the international community on what they call “the genocide committed by the government in Asmara against the minority Afar”…

Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Syrian Civil War Maronite Cardinal Leonardo Sandri

28 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

A Coptic woman prepares a meal in her kitchen in the southern village of Qenna, Egypt. As with many villages in the rural parts of the country, the majority of Qenna is Christian. Sarah Topol discusses the precarious state of Christians in Egypt in The Men Who Stayed, featured in the
latest issue of ONE. (photo: David Degner)

Tags: Egypt ONE magazine Coptic Christians Copts Egypt's Christians

28 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this video, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports on the growing concerns that Lebanon will be drawn further into the Syrian conflict. Fighting is intensifying around the Syrian border town of Al Qusayr, about 20 miles southwest of Homs, and Syrian rebels say fighters from the Lebanese Shiite group, Hezbollah, are involved. (video: Al Jazeera)

End of embargo raises fears of arms race in Syria (Vatican Radio) Russia confirmed today it was looking into giving the Syrian government more high-powered missiles. The move comes one day after the European Union agreed to lift its arms embargo for Syrian rebels, raising the prospect of a new foreign-fed arms race in the Middle East…

Patriarch: ‘The future of Syria cannot be built on destruction’ (AsiaNews) “The future of Syria cannot be built on destruction. There are no winners with war. The church is for reconciliation and dialogue. We encourage prayer for the success of the conference on 10 June in Geneva so that all parties, government and opposition, can travel the road to peace.” Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch all the East said to AsiaNews. The patriarch’s appeal comes after the failed agreement between the European Union countries on the renewal of the ban on the supply of arms to the rebels, which expired last night. This has prompted Britain and France to renew pressure for military support to the rebels…

The role of media for the church’s mission in Serbia (Vatican Radio) The role of the media in the mission of the church is under the spotlight this week during a visit to Serbia by the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Celli. The two-day visit to Belgrade includes a meeting with the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej and with leaders of the Serbian Ministry for Culture and Communications, as well as encounters with journalists and Catholic communications experts…

Orthodoxy in Russia and the courage of women (L’Osservatore Romano) It was thanks to women that, in the Soviet era, the faith was kept in Russia: “They saved its continuity until the time when professing faith in Christ no longer brought with it great risk. It was the myrrhbearing women of our country who maintained the faith.” Patriarch Kirill said this during the Divine Liturgy celebrated on 19 May (the Third Sunday of Easter, according to the Julian Calendar, and the feast of the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women) in the Cathedral of St. Aleksandr Nevskij from the monastery of Novo-Tikhvin, at Ekaterinburg…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Women Patriarch Kirill Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch Serbian Orthodox Church

24 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

An Iraqi Dominican sister of St. Catherine of Siena administers a checkup to a pregnant, 18-year-old Palestinian refugee at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)

In the midst of war, economic crisis and social upheaval, those who call the Middle East home face danger and uncertainty on a daily basis. Against the tumult that touches every aspect of life, knowing that those most vulnerable are receiving the care they need can be a blessing. Enter the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan:

Established in 1982, Mother of Mercy Clinic offers a wide range of general heath care services to thousands of patients — over 26,000 in 2008 — regardless of creed or origin. The clinic, however, specializes in prenatal and postnatal care, giving priority to needy mothers and their infants. …

Generous friends of CNEWA and a few European social service agencies fund the clinic, the annual budget of which runs around $175,000. While the clinic has managed to operate successfully within its budget, it faces its fair share of challenges.

Home to the oldest Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, Zerqa has long served as host to displaced persons — at the time of the article’s publication in the May 2009 issue of ONE, author Daoud Kuttab noted “most of Zerqa’s residents are refugees.” Since then, the combination of the Syrian civil war and continued strife in Iraq and Palestine has led to an even greater refugee presence, including the recent founding of another refugee camp near Zerqa.

To read more about the history and work of the Mother of Mercy Clinic, read Mothering Mercies. To support their mission in this time of great need, click here.

Tags: Refugees Children Jordan Health Care Refugee Camps

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