Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
18 June 2015
Greg Kandra

Fire damaged the historic Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish in northern Israel.
(photo: Israel Fire and Rescue Services/Haaretz)

A fire overnight did serious damage to a church built at the site where tradition holds that Jesus fed 5,000 in the miracle of the loaves and fish:

A fire broke out late Wednesday night at the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish at Tabgha, located on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. Sixteen yeshiva students were arrested Thursday morning over suspected involvement in the arson.

The detained youths reportedly are residents of the West Bank and are being represented by the right-wing Honenu legal rights organization.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Yoram Cohen, to conduct an accelerated investigation into the incident, his office announced.

“The shocking torching of a church is an attack on all of us,” Netanyahu said. “Freedom of worship in Israel is one of the foundation stones of our values and is protected by law. We will exercise the full weight of the law with those responsible for this criminal act. Hate and intolerance have no place in our society.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan denounced the attack as an “act of lowly cowardice which I fiercely condemn.” He ordered the northern district police to make investigation of this incident a top priority, adding: “We will not let anyone disrupt the coexistence between religions and ethnicities in Israel. Harming the principle of tolerance between religions is a blow to the most crucial values in Israel, and we will show zero tolerance for act like these.”

The Catholic Church in Israel told Haaretz that they saw this attack as a continuation of the aggression against holy Christian sites over the last few years, which it said the Israeli government and authorities have failed to deal with accordingly. A report on the matter has been given to the Vatican, the sources said.

Read the rest.

18 June 2015
Greg Kandra

The English edition of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is pictured during a news conference at the Vatican on 18 June. The encyclical is titled, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” At left is Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council
for Justice and Peace. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope’s encyclical connects care of world with justice for the poor (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ first encyclical is focused on the idea of ‘integral ecology,’ connecting care of the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Only by radically reshaping our relationships with God, with our neighbors and with the natural world, he says, can we hope to tackle the threats facing our planet today. Science, he insists, is the best tool by which we can listen to the cry of the earth, while dialogue and education are the two keys that can “help us to escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us”...

Overview of encyclical “Laudato si” (VIS) The following text offers an overview of the 191 pages of the Encyclical Laudato si’ and its key points, along with a summary of each of its six chapters (“What is happening to our common home”, “The Gospel of Creation”, “The human roots of the ecological crisis”, “Integral ecology”, “Lines of approach and action” and “Ecological education and spirituality”). The Encyclical concludes with an interreligious prayer for our earth and a Christian prayer for Creation... (Full text of encyclical)

Worldwide displacement hits all time high (UNHCR press release) Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released on Thursday (18 June), said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago...

Final UN shelter in Gaza closes (AFP) The U.N. has closed the last remaining shelter for Palestinians displaced in last summer’s war in Gaza, a spokesman said Thursday, with families seeking temporary accommodation elsewhere. The July-August conflict between Israel and Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, left 100,000 Gazans homeless and forced many to seek refuge in schools belonging to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA...

Suspected arson attack on historic church in Galilee (Fides) A suspected arson attack carried out between Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 June, by unidentified extremists devastated the church in Tabgha, the village located near Capernaum, on the northwestern shore of Lake Tiberias, considered one of the most important holy places of Galilee. It is built in the area where, according to tradition, Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. The criminal fire — according to official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — was extinguished by firefighters around 3:30 am, after having caused serious damage in the courtyard entrance. It also caused the poisoning of an elderly Benedictine monk and a young volunteer, who were taken to a hospital...

Canadian charity challenging groups to support Syrians (Toronto Star) The challenge is on: Canadians need to reach out and help Syrian refugees, say Mayor John Tory and Ratna Omidvar, founding executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University and chairwoman of Lifeline Syria. Canadians should reach out and help Syrian refugees just as they helped sponsor Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970’s, Omidvar says...

Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Vatican

17 June 2015
CNEWA staff

Seminarians pose for a picture at the Capuchin seminary in Eritrea. (photo: CNEWA)

This week, representatives from ROACO — aid agencies (including CNEWA) working with the Congregation of the Eastern Churches — are gathering in Rome. Today, those at ROACO welcomed Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, metropolitan archbishop of the newly created Eritrea Catholic church joining 23 Eastern churches in full communion with Rome.

CNEWA Canada’s National Director Carl Hétu notes:

Archbishop Tesfamariam gave us a general overview of his new church challanges. His church has four eparchies with a population of 164,480 parishoners in this small country of five million just north of Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.

The church works in difficult condition,s since most of its population lives poor rural areas. They have developed many pastoral programs to attend to their needs, in particular helping women who are left to raise the children alone.

The archbishop implored the aid agencies not to forget about them and to help the church grow and keep its seminary program alive. There are now 45 seminarians in formation for the priesthood, and the novitiate has consecrated over 350 women religious, who are playing an important pastoral role all over the country.

Also speaking to ROACO today were representatives from the Ethiopian Catholic Church: the newly named Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel and the Bishop Conference Secretary General, the Reverand Hagos Hayish.

Ethiopia’s Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel speaks to the ROACO. (photo: CNEWA)

As with its neighbor, Eritrea, Ethiopia is predominantly rural and poor. This small church, which represents less than 2 percent of the Ethiopian population, is certainly among the most dynamic. It is renowned for its pastoral and humanitarian programs that, through Catholic schools, form young Ethiopians into a workforce based on Christian values. There are also efforts underway to improve the agriculture system, so farmers can improve their way of life.

Also the Ethiopian Catholic Church has responded with an impressive program for refugees, welcoming more than 600,000 refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Ethiopia has the most refugees of any African country-posing social and economic challenges.

Much needs to be done. The church is appealing to aid agencies to continue their support, particularly in lay formation, university chaplaincy and education.

To learn more about the churches in the Horn of Africa, read our profiles of the The Eritrean Catholic Church and The Ethiopian Catholic Church. CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar wrote about his own journey to the region in 2012. You can read those reports here.

Finally, to support CNEWA’s efforts on that part of the world, please visit this giving page.

17 June 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis meets with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, director of foreign relations for the Moscow patriarchate, during a private meeting at the Vatican
on 15 June. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

17 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Cardinal Telesphore Toppo talks with sisters at the Vatican in this October 2003 file photo. New Delhi police arrested a man in connection with an early June death threat against the cardinal, who has criticized the Indian government’s inaction over anti-Christian violence. (photo: CNS/Danilo Schiavella, EPA)

Kerala: Hindu extremists arrested for attacking a Christian gathering (AsiaNews) Police in Kerala arrested five people in connection with an attack against a Christian prayer group in Attingal. According to law enforcement sources, the five could be members of a Hindu radical paramilitary group…

Appeal for aid to refugees (VIS) Following today’s catechesis the pope mentioned that tomorrow the encyclical on the care of creation, our “common home,” will be published. “Our home is being ruined and this damages everyone, especially the poorest. I therefore make an appeal for responsibility, on the basis of the task that God assigned to the human being in creation: ’to tend and to keep’ the ’garden’ in which he placed him. I invite everyone to welcome with an open heart this document which is in line with the social doctrine of the church.” He also drew attention to World Refugee Day, to be held next Saturday…

Syria conflict: Rebels launch Quneitra offensive (BBC) A rebel alliance in southern Syria has begun an offensive against government forces in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The area around the town of Quneitra came under heavy bombardment on Wednesday morning, Reuters reported…

Palestinian unity government to dissolve itself in coming days, Abbas says (Haaretz) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday that the Palestinian unity government led by Prime Minister Rami al Hamdallah was expected to tenders its resignation over the next few days, with the goal of assembling a new cabinet in its wake…

Palestinian refugee crisis a ‘time bomb’ for Middle East region (U.N. News Center) The stark conditions afflicting millions of displaced Palestinians across the Middle East risk destabilizing the region and plunging it into a deeper crisis, the head of the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees has warned…

Tags: Syria India Refugees Middle East Palestine

16 June 2015
Greg Kandra

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, center, celebrates Mass for the ROACO participants. Others joining him include, from the left, Archbishop Cyril Vasil, Congregation Secretary; Menghisteab Tesfamariam, Metropolitan Archbishop of Asmara, Eritrea; and on the far right, Cardinal Berhaneysus Souraphiel, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa. (photo: CNEWA)

The annual meeting of the ROACO opened this morning with a Mass celebrated at the St. Stefano Degli Abissini Church in the Vatican Gardens. CNEWA Canada’s national director Carl Hétu notes that the main celebrant was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect for the Congregation of Eastern Churches:

In his homily, he reminded the ROACO participants that “we are gathered here this week following the instructions of Pope Francis that we need to listen and to serve the Eastern Catholic churches which are too often victims of modern marthyrdom, and thus witness a sign of hope as they persevere in practicing their faith despite extreme violence done against and around them.”

16 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrians mourn outside Al Razzi hospital after a Syrian rebel rocket reportedly struck a government-held part of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 15 June. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had fired some 250 rockets at several districts in western Aleppo city in just four hours, causing massive damage including the collapse of an entire building. (photo: AFP/George Oufalian)

Intense rebel shelling of Aleppo kills more than 30 (Reuters) More than 30 people have been killed in the most lethal rebel bombardment of the city of Aleppo since Syria’s conflict started four years ago, a group monitoring the war said on Tuesday, an attack condemned by a U.N. envoy visiting Damascus…

Pope Francis to receive Syriac Orthodox Patriarch (Vatican Radio) From 17-20 June, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All the East will be in Rome to meet with Pope Francis. The Syriac Orthodox Church traces its history to the first Christian communities established in Antioch…

Families of ISIS captives block north Lebanon highway (Daily Star Lebanon) Families of the nine Lebanese servicemen held hostage by ISIS blocked both sides of a north Lebanon highway Tuesday demanding to know if their loved ones were still alive. “We are standing here today to ask whether the servicemen are still there or if they were executed like some rumors said,” the brother of Army Sgt. Maj. Ibrahim Mgheit told reporters…

Patriarch Gregory: Most Lebanese think of emigrating (Fides) “According to a recent survey, 60 percent of the Lebanese are considering the idea of emigrating, and 35 percent of them are actually waiting for a visa,” said Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch in his opening remarks at the yearly synod. The meeting of the Melkite Greek Catholic bishops, underway at the patriarchal summer residence in Ain Trez, will discuss the theme of family and emergency situations experienced by communities in Syria…

Mohammed Morsi death sentence upheld by Egypt court (BBC) An Egyptian court has upheld the death sentence imposed on ousted ex-President Mohammed Morsi over a mass jailbreak. The sentence was initially passed in May, but was confirmed after consultation with Egypt’s highest religious figure, the grand mufti. The death sentences of five other leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood and 101 others were also upheld. Morsi’s supporters have described the sentence as “farcical.” The verdict is subject to appeal…

Ecumenical patriarch hosts Halki Summit II (Huffington Post) Just days before Pope Francis is due to release his long-awaited and much-anticipated encyclical letter on climate change, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I organized the second Halki Summit in Istanbul, from 8 to 10 June. Entitled “Ecology, Theology, and the Arts,” this summer’s conference aimed to incorporate the artistic senses and spiritual dimension of environmental stewardship into the broader conversation on climate change…

Tags: Egypt Lebanon Christian Unity Aleppo Climate change

15 June 2015
Carl Hétu

Pope Francis speaks to the annual gathering of Catholic aid agencies in the Vatican on
Monday, 15 June. (photo: CNEWA)

This week CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar and Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, are participating in the annual gathering of the ROACO, a meeting called by the Holy See’s Congregation of the Eastern Churches. Over 24 Catholic agencies are in Rome for his meeting, which is being chaired this year by Msgr. Kozar. Our first day started with an audience with Pope Francis, who blessed our upcoming deliberations and made some important remarks on the many crises affecting the Middle East.

“The lands of the Middle East,” he said, “marred by years of conflict, are also marked by the footprints of those who seek refuge and soaked with the blood of many men and women, including numerous Christians persecuted for their faith.”

Recalling the recent trip to Iraq by a delegation of the ROACO (including Msgr. Kozar) last May — during which they met with displaced persons from the Nineveh Plain and with small groups from Syria — the pope affirmed, “in those eyes that asked for help and pleaded for peace and to return home there was Jesus himself who looked at you, asking for that charity that makes us Christians. Every form of assistance, so as not to fall into the trap of uncompromising efficiency or mere aid that does not promote persons or peoples, must always be reborn from this blessing of the Lord who reaches us when we have the courage to look at the situations and the brothers before us.”

Nevertheless, “the world seems to have become aware of the tragedy of recent months, and has opened its eyes, taking account of the millennial presence of Christians in the Middle East. Initiatives for raising awareness and offering aid to them to to others unjustly affected by violence have flourished. However, further efforts must be made to eliminate what would appear to be tacit agreements by which the lives of thousands and thousands of families — women, men, children, elderly — in the balance of interests appear to weigh less than petroleum and weapons, and while peace and justice is proclaimed, it is accepted that the traffickers of death act in those lands. I therefore encourage you, as you carry out your service of Christian charity, to condemn all that tramples human dignity.”

He concluded by thanking all the agencies for their good work in the region.

You can read more about the pope’s remarks here. And to learn how you can contribute to our work supporting Middle East Christians, visit this page.

15 June 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2007, an 11-year-old girl named Mira pauses during a game at the Pokrov day care center in Sofia, Bulgaria. To learn more about how the center has worked to reinvigorate Bulgarian Orthodoxy, read “Under Mary’s Mantle” in the January 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

15 June 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Turkish soldiers stand guarded as Syrian refugees wait on the Syrian side of the border to cross Akcakale, in southeastern Turkey, on 15 June. Thousands of Syrians cut through a border fence and crossed over into Turkey on Sunday, fleeing intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and ISIS militants. (photo: Getty Images/Gokhan Sahin)

Rights group: World’s response to refugee crisis a ‘shameful failure’ (Al Jazeera) There were more than 50 million people displaced from their homes in 2013 — the highest number since World War II, Amnesty International said in a report published Monday.The report suggested that world leaders have abandoned millions of refugees to “an unbearable existence” and left thousands more to die by failing to provide basic human protections…

Syrian Kurds seize control of main road, encircle ISIS town (Daily Star Lebanon) The Syrian Kurdish militia said Monday it had encircled the ISIS-controlled town of Tal Abyad, the nearest border town to the militant group’s de facto capital of Raqqa…

Lebanese turn to faith to break political stalemate (Al Monitor) Christians in Lebanon seem to have lost hope in politics and politicians and decided to resort to religion for solace, as the Catholic churches in Lebanon have taken steps to consecrate their country to the “immaculate heart of Our Lady of Fatima.” The statue will be brought all the way from Portugal to roam the regions of Lebanon and visit four Catholic patriarchates amid various political and religious expectations…

Egypt’s Copts dig heels in over right to remarry (Al Monitor) Dozens of Christian Copts organized a protest inside the Cathedral of St. Mark during the 3 June homily of Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria. The protesters shouted, “We want to remarry,” while the priests tried to contain the situation to no avail, prompting Tawadros to cancel his sermon…

Egyptian president extends invitation to Pope Francis (Fides) Egypt’s ambassador to the Holy See reports that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi has officially invited Pope Francis to make a visit to Egypt. Regarding timing, the ambassador says no date has been set and will surely not take place in 2015…

Francis speaks at ROACO (VIS) The lands of the Middle East, marred by years of conflict, are also “marked by the footprints of those who seek refuge and soaked with the blood of many men and women, including numerous Christians persecuted for their faith,” said Pope Francis her as he received in audience the members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), a year after their pilgrimage and Francis’ plea for peace in the region, when all hoped that “the seed of reconciliation would have borne greater fruits…”

Tags: Syria Egypt Pope Francis Lebanon Refugees

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