Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
4 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Since the Syrian civil war began, the Sahel al Alma School in Jounieh, north of Beirut, has adapted to an influx of Syrian children, who now comprise the majority of students. To learn more about them, read Crossing the Border from our Spring 2013 issue of ONE. And to find out how you can help children like these, visit our Syria giving page. (photo: Tamara Hadi)

4 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2007 file photo, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Department of External Church Relations, sits in his study. (photo: Russian Orthodox Church/Wikimedia Commons)

The pan-Orthodox council, Ukraine crisis and Christian unity (National Catholic Register) Edward Pentin interviews Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The metropolitan discussed the crisis in Ukraine, the pan-Orthodox council planned for 2016 — the first of its kind in 12 centuries — and the current status of Catholic-Orthodox relations…

Pope Francis congratulates new Syriac Orthodox patriarch (VIS) The Holy Father has sent a message to Ignatius Aphrem II, the new Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, congratulating him on his election. Pope Francis expresses his joy at receiving this news and prays that His Holiness “may be a spiritual father for your people and an untiring builder of peace and justice, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East in today’s difficult circumstances…”

Israeli diplomat strike ends, clearing the way for papal visit (Vatican Insider) After a year of financial disputes and union battles and strikes that culminated in the complete suspension of all diplomatic activities in the past 11 days, Israel’s government and unions have reached an agreement, leading to the reopening, as of today, of all Israeli embassies and consulates across the world. This unprecedented Israeli union strike has caused serious harm to the country’s foreign policy, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a rare trip to Latin America. There had also been fears that the strike would affect Pope Francis’ late-May visit to the Holy Land, but the Vatican had assured it would be going ahead as scheduled…

Crimea’s schism splits Orthodox hierarchy (Al Jazeera) On the day of the Crimean referendum, a Russian-speaking Orthodox priest, flanked by two soldiers in unmarked uniforms, walked into a Ukrainian Orthodox church in the military town of Perevalnoye, Crimea. The Russian priest had made a 60-mile trip from Sevastopol to ask for proof that the Ukrainian church was properly registered. An hour-long theological debate ensued before soldiers and their accompanying priest left, according to the Ukrainian priest, Father Ivan Protoirey, 58. Father Ivan said the priest from Sevastopol’s message was clear: The Ukrainian church that aligns with the Kiev Patriarch, Filaret, rather than the Moscow Patriarch, Kiril, would have no place in the new, Russian-controlled Crimea…

Rebel assault in Kessab, Syria, revives dark memories for Armenians (Los Angeles Times) A rebel assault on the northern Syrian town of Kasab near the Turkish border has sparked a furor among Armenians worldwide and revived dark memories of the Ottoman-era genocide. It’s unclear how many civilian casualties occurred in the previously tranquil home to about 2,500 Armenian Christians. But the incident, which has also heightened tension between Turkey and Syria, provides a sharp new focus for the propaganda wars between the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and the disparate rebel forces that have been trying to topple him for three years…

Gaza theaters battle censorship, conservatism (Al Monitor) The joy of stage performance and creativity made actress Wala Mutir, 27, smile as she greeted the crowd in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. She played the leading role in “Scenes From Christine’s Heart,” a play adapted from the play “Mourning Becomes Electra” by Eugene O’Neill. But as an actress in the conservative Gaza region, Ms. Mutir faces challenges. A young man in the audience stood up and objected by saying: “We are in a society that doesn’t accept plays that incite women to reveal their feelings.” The theater is having difficulty finding talented female performers, according to actor-director Jamal Abu al Qumsan. “The situation here is difficult on the actresses because society judges them. Two of the best, Samah al Sheikh and Enas al Saqqa, had to leave Gaza and settle in Cairo,” he told Al Monitor…

Tags: Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Orthodox

3 April 2014
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2013, mlitary police stand outside the burned Rabaa Adawiya mosque on 15 August, the morning after the clearing of a protest which was held around the mosque in Cairo. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

The bishops in the Holy Land, addressing that question, have posted a statement today on the website for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. CNS has details:

Repeated references to persecution of Christians, “usually referring only to what Christians suffer at the hands of criminals claiming to be Muslims, plays into the hands of extremists,” said Catholic leaders in the Holy Land.

“In the name of truth, we must point out that Christians are not the only victims of this violence and savagery. Secular Muslims, all those defined as ‘heretic,’ ‘schismatic’ or simply ‘nonconformist,’ are being attacked and murdered in the prevailing chaos,” said a statement from the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land, posted on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem on 3 April.

“In areas where Sunni extremists dominate, Shiites are being slaughtered. In areas where Shiite extremists dominate, Sunnis are being killed,” the bishops said. “Yes, the Christians are at times targeted precisely because they are Christians, having a different set of beliefs and unprotected. However, they fall victim alongside many others who are suffering and dying in these times of death and destruction. They are driven from their homes alongside many others and together they become refugees, in total destitution.”

The bishops said the extremists, “at home and abroad,” hope to “sow prejudice and hatred, setting peoples and religions against one another.”

They acknowledged that Christians had lived in relative security under some of the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, so Christian leaders defended these regimes that were overthrown as part of the Arab Spring.

“Instead, loyalty to their faith and concern for the good of their country should perhaps have led them to speak out much earlier, telling the truth and calling for necessary reforms, in view of more justice and respect of human rights, standing alongside both many courageous Christians and Muslims who did speak out,” the bishops said.

They said they understood people’s fear and suffering when family members are killed or are driven from their homes.

“In certain circumstances their only consolation and hope is to be found in Jesus’ words: ‘Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven,‘” they said.

However, they added, “All Christians and many Muslims are threatened by these forces that seek to create a society devoid of Christians and where only very few Muslims will be at home. All those who seek dignity, democracy, freedom and prosperity are under attack. We must stand together and speak out in truth and freedom.”

There’s more at the CNS link.

And you can read the full statement from the bishops at the Latian Patriarchate of Jerusalem website.

Tags: Holy Land Muslim Arab Spring Christian

3 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth talks with Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican on 3 April. The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, were making a one-day visit to meet with the pope and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. (photo: CNS/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope Francis met for the first time today with Queen Elizabeth:

The royal visit took place as the Vatican and the United Kingdom were marking the 100th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. Formal ties were broken in the 1570s after Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, who had reasserted the Church of England’s independence from papal authority.

The Vatican described the meeting as “official, but informal,” which explained why it was held in the studio of the Paul VI audience hall rather than in the library of the Apostolic Palace and why the queen was not wearing black. Instead, she arrived from a luncheon with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano wearing a light lavender skirt and jacket.

The queen and prince arrived about 20 minutes late. After Pope Francis said, “Welcome,” Queen Elizabeth said, “Sorry to keep you waiting; we were having a pleasant lunch with the president.”

After a 17-minute private meeting, the pope and the queen exchanged gifts. Pope Francis presented the couple with a facsimile of Pope Innocent XI’s order extending the cult of St. Edward the Confessor. St. Edward, king of England in the mid-11th century, is venerated by both Catholics and Anglicans. The pope also had a gift, which he explained in Spanish, was for 8-month-old Prince George of Cambridge, the queen’s great-grandson: a cross mounted on a lapis lazuli orb.

“He will be thrilled by that,” the queen said, adding, “when he’s a little older.”

Pope Francis gave Prince Philip a series of three medals of his pontificate; the prince thanked him, joking, “It’s the only gold medal I’ve ever won.”

Saying it was “a gift for you personally,” Queen Elizabeth gave the pope a large basket of food from the estates surrounding her homes; the items included an assortment of honey, a dozen eggs, a “haunch of venison,” shortbread, juice, preserves and “Balmoral whiskey.” The prince held up the whiskey, explaining what it was, then picked up another bottle and said, “It’s apple juice.”

And, fulfilling a long-standing tradition, Queen Elizabeth gave the pope two signed, silver framed photographs of her and the Duke of Edinburgh, telling him, “I’m afraid I have to give you a photograph; it is inevitable.”

The April 3 visit was the British royals’ fifth meeting with a pope at the Vatican. In 1951, the year before she was enthroned, she met Pope Pius XII. As queen, she met Pope John XXIII at the Vatican in 1961 and Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1980 and 2000.

Reigning since 1952, she was the first British sovereign to welcome a pope to England when she greeted Pope John Paul II in London in 1982. She also welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in 2010.

Tags: Holy Land Muslim Arab Spring Christian

3 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this September photo, Syrian children carry their belongings as they enter Turkey with their families at the Turkish Cilvegozu border gate. (photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)

Syria’s ‘lost generations’ of illiterate children a source of future conflict? (Vatican Radio) Caritas Lebanon’s former president, Msgr. Simon Faddoul, says he’s concerned that generations of young Syrians growing up without an education in a climate of conflict are learning to “excel at the language of war … and hatred.” He warns, “we may face another warring generation in the short and long term…”

Bishops: ‘Persecution’ narratives play into the hands of extremists (Fides) The Bishops of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land warn against some misleading Western narratives of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The bishops recognize that there is no doubt the recent upheavals in the Middle East, initially called the “Arab Spring,” have opened the way for extremist groups and forces that, “in the name of a political interpretation of Islam, are wreaking havoc in many countries, particularly in Iraq, Egypt and Syria. There is no doubt that many of these extremists consider Christians as infidels, as enemies, as agents of hostile foreign powers or simply as an easy target for extortion.” However, according to the document, one must point out that Christians are not the only victims. Secular Muslims and those of other denominations, all those defined as “heretics” are being attacked and murdered, too…

Syrian Armenians, once insulated from war, forced to flee (Washington Post) Some fled in their nightclothes, others in their farming boots straight from the fields. Many thought they’d be able to return in a few hours but now fear they may never again. Until the shells started raining down late last month, the tiny Syrian village of Kessab and surrounding villages had been largely sheltered from the three-year-old conflict that has devastated other parts of Syria. But now the area is the focus of a rebel offensive in the coastal province of Latakia, and an accompanying social-media storm of disinformation…

Million Syria refugees registered in Lebanon (BBC) The number of refugees who have fled Syria and registered in Lebanon has surpassed the “devastating milestone” of one million, the U.N. says. Lebanon now has “the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide”, said the head of the U.N. refugee agency. “For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” he added…

Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader: ‘Educate Christians for honest politics’ (Catholic World Report) On 28 March, a newspaper in Kiev published a lengthy interview with the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. “The [Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church] believes in the possibility of Christian democracy, but it will never become part of the political process. More than once we have said that we support no political party or individual politician. But we strive to educate Christians, who would be capable of honest politics…”

Kiev-loyal Orthodox church doubtful of its future in Crimea (Ecumenical News) Ukrainian Orthodox Christians who are loyal to Kiev feel increasingly unsafe in Crimea after Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula and some have already left, church leaders said on Monday. Since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the advent of an independent Ukraine, the country’s Orthodox faithful have been split principally between the Kiev and Moscow Patriarchates. The much larger Moscow-based Church does not recognize its Kiev-based rival, which is not part of the global Orthodox communion. The estimated 220,000 Crimeans loyal to the Kiev Patriarchate have long felt marginalized because of the region’s strong pro-Russian sympathies, but Moscow’s takeover of the peninsula has fuelled their feelings of vulnerability…

Tags: Ukraine Refugees Children Syrian Civil War Crimea

2 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Village boys in Ethiopia receive oral instruction from an Orthodox scribe, or debtera. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Eight years ago, we took a look at the Christian influence on schools in Ethiopia:

The impact of Christian monastic education in Ethiopia should not be underestimated, said David Bridges, chairman of the Von Hügel Institute, a Catholic research facility at St. Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. “There is a rich historic tradition of education associated with Christianity that goes back almost as long as the church itself,” he said. “At the village level, wandering priests bring teaching to scattered rural communities, usually in return for subsistence food and shelter. At the higher levels people study for 30 to 40 years to take the full curriculum of the church, with its different branches for music, literature, philosophy, theology and specialized forms of poetry.”

Mr. Bridges lamented the fact that this tradition tends to be overlooked by international consultants in education.

Read more about Making the Grade in Ethiopia in the March 2006 issue of ONE.

Tags: Ethiopia Education Orthodox

2 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

President Bashar al Assad Receives Patriarch-elect Mar Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All the East on 2 April. (photo: SANA)

Newly elected patriarch: Syrians are determined to remain steadfast (SANA) St. George’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Damascus held a reception on Tuesday on the occasion of the arrival of Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, patriarch-elect of Antioch and all the East. He stressed that followers of the Syriac Orthodox Church are determined to remain steadfast in homeland. Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch stressed he will work with Patriarch-elect Ignatius Aphrem and all other patriarchs of Christian churches in Syria to make the church of Damascus one apostolic community that expresses Syria’s richness and diversity…

Palestinians defy U.S. and Israel; Middle East talks falter (New York Times) Defying the United States and Israel, the Palestinian leadership formally submitted applications on Wednesday to join 15 international agencies, leaving the troubled Middle East talks brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry on the verge of breakdown. The applications were signed by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday evening as part of a move to gain the benefits of statehood outside the negotiation process…

Syria death toll over 150,000, says human rights body (The Guardian) At least 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s three-year-old civil war, a third of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said. The U.K.-based Observatory, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of activists and medical or security sources, said the real toll was likely to be significantly higher at about 220,000 deaths…

U.S. official says measles next menace to Syrian children (Al Monitor) A senior United States aid official has warned that the next health crisis facing Syrian children may be measles, as the Syrian government refuses to implement a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding urgent improvement in humanitarian access to war-battered populations…

Patriarch Aram I proposes that the Kessab region be declared a demilitarized zone (Catholicosate of Cilicia) After describing the situation in Kessab and the role of Turkey, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, head of the Armenian Apostolic Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, proposed that the Kessab region be declared a demilitarized zone. U.N. Undersecretary Jeffrey Feltman promised the catholicos to follow it up and discuss with Arab League Special Envoy Lakhtar Ibrahimi…

Blasts at Cairo University kill two (Daily Star Lebanon) A series of explosions outside Cairo University killed two people on Wednesday, including a police brigadier-general, security officials said, in what appeared to be the latest militant attack in a fast-growing insurgency. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamist militants have carried out many similar operations against security forces since the army ousted President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July after mass protests against him…

Zerqa parish first to acquire solar energy system (Fides) The Twelve Apostles Church of Zerqa is the first church in the Middle East to acquire a solar energy system. “The idea came to me during the summer period, when the heat in June, July and August makes us suffer,” says the Rev. Kurzum Elias. “I thought: Why not exploit it in order to pay less money?” The city of Zerqa is located in a semi-arid area, and the number of sunshine days is estimated at 300 days a year. “We cover, thanks to the sun, half of the total energy consumption. We aim to add more panels…”

Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Syrian Civil War Armenian Apostolic Church

1 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Jennifer Jozel, 17, a Catholic, holds a candle inside the Dormition of the Virgin Church in the Israeli Christian village of Mi’ilya in Galilee. She will join the air force in September. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Catholic News Service this week profiles a small but growing demographic, Israeli Christians who are volunteering to join the Israeli army:

At the end of a recent unofficial pre-induction briefing for about 30 young men preparing to join the Israeli army, the participants stood and, led by Greek Orthodox Father Gabriel Nadaf, recited the Our Father in Arabic with hands outstretched. They finished by making the sign of the cross.

“You are not going to shoot,” said Father Nadaf, the spiritual leader of the year-and-a-half-old Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, whose 18-year-old son, Jubran, was among the new recruits. Father Nadaf reminded them of the fate of Syrian Christians, some of whom have been kidnapped and killed.

“You are going to protect. You do not go to attack but to defend. The Messiah said not to kill, he did not say don’t defend. We have to defend our Holy Land,” the priest said.

The young men represent an increasing number of young Israeli Christians who are deciding to voluntarily join the Israeli military, explained Capt. Shadi Haloul, 38, the forum’s spokesman, a Maronite Catholic and reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Forum officials said about 84 Christians joined the army in the last half of 2013, the same number that joined in the prior 18 months. Although they are a small part of the 120,000 Christians who live in northern Israel, IDF officials called the forum’s impact “astounding.”

While Jewish men and women and Druze men from the age of 18 are required to serve in the military, Christians and Muslims have been exempt. Historically, Christian Arabs have viewed themselves as part of the Palestinian people and considered service in the army as unthinkable, although individual Christians have volunteered to serve on their own.

The forum was established to help Christians better integrate into Israeli society and to seek equal treatment and opportunities in a country where army service is key to accessing certain jobs and promotions, better mortgage terms and educational opportunities.

But also, as neighboring Arab countries remain in a quagmire of war and violence, some Israeli Christians say they want to help defend the only country in the region where they believe Christians have equal protection and freedom despite the occasional inequality.

Read more at the CNS website.

Tags: Israel Palestinians Maronite Christian

1 April 2014
Greg Kandra

In the video posted above, witnesses describe last week’s attack on Kessab. (video:

Syrian Army trying to retake Kessab ( The Syrian Army is trying to retake the Christian majority town of Kessab reportedly seized by Al Qaeda-linked forces. The attack forced hundreds of ethnic Armenians to flee and caused international outcry, with Armenia blaming Turkey for supporting extremists. Warring sides in Syria are facing off over Kessab, an ethnic Armenian hub on the Turkey-Syria border…

Is Crimea gone? (CNN) In diplomacy, as in sales, success often depends on making your adversaries believe they proposed the result you wanted. By that measure, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have closed the sale on annexing Crimea from Ukraine. On Monday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited the region that Moscow now claims over international protests, while Russia also said it was withdrawing a battalion of infantry troops from the tens of thousands deployed near the border with eastern Ukraine…

Pope Francis to become first pontiff to be broadcast in 3D (Variety) Pope Francis will become the first pontiff seen globally in 3D during the upcoming 27 April ceremony in St. Peter’s Square when two of his predecessors, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, will be canonized as saints…

Some Muslim countries won’t screen ‘Noah’ (Catholic Register) Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates banned the film in early March, citing Islamic prohibitions on showing images of prophets. The Film Censorship Board in Indonesia, home to roughly 215 million Muslims — more than any other country — banned the film last week. Cairo’s Al Azhar University, a historic center of Islamic learning, issued a fatwa against the film urging Muslims not to see it, citing a prohibition on depicting prophets. Yet most Muslim-majority countries have not banned “Noah,” and many observant Muslims in America saw the film when it debuted…

Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Turkey Crimea Media

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