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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
30 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Young parishioners at Holy Cross Church in Purakkad, India, take part in perpetual adoration. Of Purakkad’s 6,500 families, some 340 belong to Holy Cross parish. Learn more about them in “Purakkad’s Natural Harmony” from the May 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

30 September 2015
Greg Kandra

A picture taken on 30 September, 2015 shows a general view of deserted streets and damaged buildings in the central Syrian town of Talbisseh in the Homs province. Russia confirmed that it carried out its first airstrike in Syria, near the city of Homs, marking the formal start of Moscow’s military intervention in the conflict. (photo: Mahmoud Taha/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia conducting airstrikes in Syria (The Washington Post) Russian warplanes launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, a U.S. official said, after Russia’s parliament granted President Vladimir Putin authorization to use military force in the multi-layered conflict. A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss Russian operations, told The Washington Post that Russia began conducting airstrikes in Syria. It was not immediately clear whether it was one airstrike or multiple sorties, the official said...

Russian Orthodox Church voices support for “holy battle” against ISIS (Israel National News) Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church on Wednesday voiced support for Moscow’s decision to carry out air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State group (ISIS), calling it a “holy battle.” “The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it,” said the head of the Church’s public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, quoted by Interfax news agency...

Cardinal Sandri leads delegation to Armenia (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches has just returned from a visit to Armenia during which he met with President Serzh Sargsyan to highlight the importance of good relations with the Holy See. He also thanked the Armenian people for the welcome they have offered to thousands of refugees fleeing from the conflict in Syria...

Syrian refugees eager to build lives in Detroit (Detroit Free Press) Gazing through his living room window in a quiet block in Garden City, a 48-year-old Syrian refugee ponders his new life in America. “In Syria, there’s no safety; it’s too dangerous,” Moustafa Assad said from a sparsely furnished home he rents, with his two sons sitting next to him on his couch. “At least here, it’s safe for them. There’s no war. ... I want to stay here for my kids’ future so they can go to school and learn.” Assad’s hopes are echoed by up to 100 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Michigan this year, one of almost 1,500 who came to the U.S. in 2015, fleeing Syria’s four-year civil war and refugee camps...

Vatican launches digital communications library (Vatican Radio) At a press conference in the Vatican on Wednesday, a new online digital library was launched, offering access to over a thousand papal documents on communications from the first to the twenty-first century. The initiative, known as the Baragli Project, features papal teachings on communication, translated into different languages, and is geared especially to those working in Catholic education and training centers...

Work to begin on “Church of the Martyrs,” honoring slain Egyptian Copts (Egypt Daily News) Work will begin in the coming days in Minya on a church that was planned to honor the deaths of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians who died in a brutal sectarian attack by militants in Libya earlier this year. Plans and licences for the ‘Church of the Martyrs’ have been finalised to begin the work, head of the Samalout municipality in Minya said, as reported by MENA state news. Major General Gamal Mubaral Qinawy confirmed that the church will be built in the village of Al-Awar, in the district of Samalout...

Tags: Syria Egypt Armenia Russia Copts

29 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Deacons celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Zion in the ancient capital of Axum.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

Ethiopia, from the Greek meaning “land of burned faces,” possesses one of the world’s oldest cultures. Though it has survived the tumultuous 20th century intact, this ancient Judeo-Christian culture has entered the new millennium weakened by the encroaching forces of modernity, especially globalization and secularization.

More than 43 percent of the nation’s 100 million people belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a dominant force that has shaped Ethiopia’s people and defined its culture for more than 17 centuries. Yet, this church is losing ground to the proselytization among its members by evangelical Christians from the West — whose numbers have tripled in less than 15 years — and to a burgeoning Sunni Muslim population in the country’s south and southwest, who now account for more than a third of Ethiopia’s people.

Ethiopia is celebrated for its many ancient monasteries, foundations established by men who, in the footsteps of the early desert fathers, fled the world to fast, pray and celebrate the Qeddase, the eucharistic liturgy of the Ethiopian church. These monasteries also played a significant role in shaping the development of the Ethiopian nation, culture and identity. Monks even participated in the nation’s volatile political life.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Orthodox raise an illuminated cross to mark the observance of Meskel, a feast day celebrating the discovery of the True Cross by St. Helena. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

In the 19th century, as Ethiopia’s emperors and nobles waged war to defend or extend the nation’s borders, large monastic estates provided entire communities with education, employment, security and social assistance. With their vast landholdings, significant social prominence and influence with the court, monasteries wielded considerable power and eventually earned the enmity of jealous rivals.

In 1974, a group of military officers overthrew the aged emperor and, in a 17-year period, instituted a number of harsh, Marxist-inspired economic and social reforms. Known as the Derg, the revolutionaries eliminated the monarchy and the nobility and stripped the monasteries of their land and their traditional privileges and rights, “thus depriving them of the resources and rights necessary to look after orphans, support the underprivileged, supply emergency aid and provide leadership in community affairs,” writes one scholar of the period, Joachim Persoons.

“In many cases,” he continues, the “monasteries’ role as protectors of the nation’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage was seriously affected as well.

“Within one generation, the general public has taken for granted that monasteries are impoverished and regard monks as alien to society, which is not historically correct.”

Because of this Marxist rupture, tensions are now developing between the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy and its faithful. In the past, the priest or monk functioned as the community’s leader and adviser. Today, Ethiopia’s young Orthodox Christians no longer perceive the priest as the only source of wisdom. Often better educated than the clergy, they turn to their own experiences to find answers to life’s complexities. Meanwhile, as in the rest of Africa, evangelical Christians are succeeding in winning new converts.

To read more about the church, the guardian of the Ark of the Covenant, click here.

29 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Father Mikael Khachkalian teaches the Armenian language to children at the Armenian Catholic center in Tbilisi. To learn more about his remarkable ministry to the people of Georgia, read the profile of him in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)

29 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Syrian children who lost one or both of their parents in Syria’s ongoing conflict line up to attend a party organised for them by the local NGO Douma Society in the rebel-held district of Douma, east of Damascus, on 28 September 2015. CNEWA and the Vatican have just announced a new global initiative to provide help for thousands of Syrian families this winter.
(photo: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)

CNEWA partners with Vatican to help Syrian refugees (CNEWA) In a new effort to support Christians in the Middle East, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has announced a major “global initiative” — partnering with Catholic Near East Welfare Association — to provide much-needed help for 6,000 families in Syria. The target is $2 million...

Obama and Putin play diplomatic poker over Syria (The New York Times) After circling each other for the past year, President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia squared off on Monday at the United Nations in dueling speeches that presented starkly different views on the Syrian crisis and how to bring stability to the Middle East. President Obama made a forceful defense of diplomacy and the system of rules represented by the international body, but in a veiled reference to Mr. Putin, he warned that “dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world...”

Syriac bishop warns of “destruction of Christians” in the Middle East (New Jersey Advance) Saying he represents a “forgotten people,” the leader of one of Catholicism’s oldest branches on Monday implored the United States and Europe to intercede in what he described as the systematic purging of Christians from the Middle East. Ignatius Youssef III Younan — bishop of the Syriac Catholic Church, one of nearly two dozen Eastern Rite churches in union with the Roman Catholic pope — issued his plea during a press conference at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark...

New patriarch: religious language must be used at the service of peace (Fides) Political and religious speeches should serve to instill the spirit of love and service in the hearts, and not the contrary, fomenting conflict and division. This is the key concept expressed by Mar Gewargis III, new Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, at the liturgy for his inauguration, which marked the beginning of his patriarchal ministry...

Refugees tell of escaping homeland for fear of safety (Vatican Radio) Some refugees attempting to make their way across Europe say they left their home countries because they have become targets for refusing to kill innocent people...

Power crisis in Gaza causes boom in ice business (Al Monitor) The worsening electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip has caused a boom in the ice manufacturing and selling industry. The industry is thriving due to the increasing public demand on it by citizens and meat and fish vendors who are keen to preserve their products. The Gaza Strip has been suffering from an acute electricity crisis since Israeli warplanes bombed the only power plant in Gaza in 2006, following the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June of the same year. As a result, electrical power is only provided for six hours daily, and eight at best...

Ethiopians celebrate Meskel ( The Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, Meskel, is celebrated by Ethiopian Christians throughout the country every year on 26-27 September. The occasion has been observed for more than one and half millennium by the faithful, the clergy and the leaders of the Ethiopia Orthodox Tewahedo church, and UNESCO has declared it one of the “intangible heritages of humanity.” In Addis Ababa, the celebrations begins on 26 September with the building of the Damera, the bonfire, a conical pyre of poles surrounded by bundles of branches and torches, decorated with green grass and the yellow Meskel which symbolizing the New Year. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Meskel Square where priests in their colorful robes chant hymns and prayers and perform rhythmic dances in front of the pyre...

Indian judge urges Christians to be faithful to the Indian constitution (Pakistan Daily Times) A series of questions posed by Christians to India’s Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph showed that one of the main religious minority communities felt insecure across India, The Hindu newspaper reported. Atthe Juhanon Mar Thoma Lecture hosted by Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, Justice Kurian allayed their fears, gave them hope and pointed to the way to fight rightwing Hindutva forces. He spoke at length about the time and life of Jesus Christ, urging his fellow Christians to be faithful to the Indian Constitution...

Tags: Syria India Ethiopia CNEWA Russia

28 September 2015
CNEWA staff

Syrian refugee children covered with dust arrive on 10 September at the Jordanian border with Syria and Iraq. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

In a new effort to support Christians in the Middle East, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has announced a major “global initiative” — partnering with Catholic Near East Welfare Association — to provide much-needed help for 6,000 families in Syria. The target is $2 million.

The funds, which will be collected by CNEWA and distributed through the Catholic Church in Syria, will help keep families warm. With the freezing temperatures of winter fast approaching, many might not survive until spring. Our goal is to keep them warm, and keep them alive.

This comes as Pope Francis has called for continued support of the people of Syria — and has turned his attention, in particular, to displaced families fleeing war and persecution. “When the stranger in our midst appeals to us,” he told the U.S. Congress in his historic address Thursday, “we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible... Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions.”

CNEWA has long been active in its support of the churches and peoples of Syria, yet it has stepped up its activities since the civil war, rushing aid to thousands of displaced families within the country, as well as schooling and counseling in those few areas that remain secure.

An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA has been a lifeline for the poor throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe for nearly 90 years. Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern Catholic churches to build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.

The Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family is responsible for the promotion of the pastoral ministry and apostolate to the family and to help Christian families fulfill their educational and apostolic mission. It also encourages, sustains and coordinates initiatives to promote human life in all stages of development.

CNEWA is a registered charity in the United States and in Canada. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations may be made online at; by phone at 800.442.6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195. In Canada, visit; send your gift to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1-866-322-4441.

28 September 2015
Barbara B. Daly

Visitors from Jordan see the sites in Philadelphia. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

Editor’s Note: Last week, Barbara B. Daly, the Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Parish in Ambler, Pennsylvania, shared the story of her parish’s extraordinary relationship with a parish in Jordan, a relationship brought about by CNEWA, and told how they were connecting for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Now, she has an update.

St. Anthony Parish in Ambler, Pennsylvania, is currently hosting eight Catholic families from Jordan for the events surrounding the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the visit of Pope Francis. For the past seven years, St. Anthony Parish and Immaculate Conception Parish, Huson, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem have been sister parishes, a relationship brokered by CNEWA.

St. Anthony parishioners have visited Huson on three occasions and now it was time for the parishioners from Immaculate Conception to return the favor. Six families from St. Anthony’s have opened their homes to the Jordanian families, whose members range in age from 7 months to 70. The St. Anthony community has opened wide their arms; parishioners have cooked and served, accompanied the Jordanians on day trips and made more than a few forays to the mall.

In hopes of making their visit to America memorable, visits were made to Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore. While in Washington, the Jordanian community and their friends from St. Anthony’s were welcomed by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The Archbishop greeted the community and gave his blessing. The rest of the day in D.C. was spent visiting the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the White House, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. A trip to New York included a visit to St. Patricks’ Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square, where the Jordanians were exposed to a variety of characters in costume: roaming Elmos, super heroes and, yes,even the “naked” guitar-playing cow girls. (I don’t think they have that back in the old country!)

In Washington, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, center, meets Jordanian visitors from Immaculate Conception Parish. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

St. Anthony Parish hosted a number of evening meals wherein the parishes could break bread together. A “pot luck” supper was an opportunity for a wide range of ethnic delicacies — from the Italians, the Irish, the Germans, as well as Arabic specialties provided by the Jordanians. The evening will be added to the annals of parish history: a hookah made an appearance, giving us a real taste (puff?) of the Middle East! St. Anthony’s has a vibrant and growing Mexican community, so of course there had to be a “Mexican-Jordanian Night” — a rare nexus. The event was strictly BYOS/K: bring your own sombrero or keffiyeh.

We were also blessed to have a visit to St. Anthony Parish by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal. His Beatitude said Mass, took questions and joined the community for an evening meal. He touched everyone’s heart with his humility, his gift of presence and his impassioned plea that the Christians of the Holy Land not be forgotten. He asked that Catholics visit the Holy Land, as well as offer their support to their fellow Christians. St. Anthony’s is firmly committed to this mission and undertakes a biennial pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Israel and Jordan. Our next visit will take place in April 2016.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, second from right, visited St. Anthony Parish to celebrate Mass and join the community in an evening meal. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

St. Anthony’s and Immaculate Conception share a great honor as one of our Jordanian families addressed the Holy Father during the Festival of Families that closed the World Meeting of Families. Six families, one from each continent, were chosen to speak before Pope Francis about the joys and challenges of Catholic family life. The Sweidan family — Nidal, Nida, Faten and Dima — represented the Catholics of the Middle East. Immaculate Conception Parish is located in Huson, one of the ancient cities of the Decapolis. The Christian families there have been practicing their faith for 2,000 years and now witness it in an increasingly hostile culture. They understand that “Christian families currently living in the Middle East, our homeland, are called to be like candles, shining against the darkness of destruction, wars, killings, and persecution.” The Holy Father warmly greeted them after their talk and encouraged them to continue their good work. The family received an amazing outpouring of love and support from their fellow Christians back home in Jordan. The week’s events concluded with the Papal Mass celebrated by the Holy Father on Sunday 27 September.

The Sweidan family spoke before Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families and were privileged to meet the Holy Father. (photo: CNEWA)

These have been truly blessed days for both our parishes. The presence of the Holy Spirit has been felt blowing through every nook and cranny. So much has happened in the past week that it is hard to take it all in. We do feel that we have formed deep bonds over shared laughter, food and experiences, but particularly our shared faith. We are not sure where our relationship will take us but we trust in the Lord that it will be where He wants us to go.

28 September 2015
Chris Kennedy

Pope Francis censes the altar as he celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden in New York
on 25 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Is 9:1)

These words, from the book of the prophet Isaiah, gave hope to the Israelites during the Babylonian Captivity. Thousands of years later, they resonated powerfully with the 20,000 people gathered in Madison Square Garden for the Holy Father’s Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice on 25 September.

I was fortunate to attend with some of my colleagues from CNEWA. Despite long security lines, snaking almost 20 blocks through midtown Manhattan, the mood in the Garden was electric — even more so than at typical concerts or sporting events there.

After parading through Central Park, the pope arrived at about 6:00 p.m. and circled the floor of the arena twice, accompanied by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Mass began shortly thereafter — quite notably, ahead of schedule.

The Holy Father’s homily expanded on the first reading from Isaiah, and he linked it beautifully to life in the city. “Together with the prophet Isaiah, we can say: The people who walk, breathe and live in the midst of smog, have seen a great light, have experienced a breath of fresh air,” he said.

He explained that, while cities can be great centers of culture, tradition, and historical events, they are also a place where people can be easily forgotten. The foreigners, the homeless, children who go without schooling, people without medical insurance — they “stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity.” Thus, as Christians, we are called to “Go out, again and again, go out without fear, without hesitation,” and proclaim the presence of God, who walks with us on the streets. (You can read the complete text of his homily here.)

These words were meaningful for me, not only as a resident of New York City but also as someone who works on behalf of the downtrodden in some of the most troubled parts of the world. People in cities like Addis Ababa, Kiev, Jerusalem and Erbil continue to walk in the darkness of poverty, war, and persecution. Pope Francis has called CNEWA to be a “great light” for them, whether it be by caring for refugees young and old, feeding the hungry, or sustaining the men and women religious who do God’s work.

It was a joy and a blessing to be in the presence of the Holy Father, and his words stand as a call to action for me, my colleagues, and all who are in the service of the poor. May we always be proclaimers of the word, bringers of hope, and, as Pope Francis said, “witnesses of the light.”

Two members of CNEWA’s development team — Christopher Kossowski and Christopher Kennedy — attended the Holy Father’s Mass at Madison Square Garden
in New York City on Friday. (photo: CNEWA)

28 September 2015
Greg Kandra

Today, Ethiopians celebrate the holiday of Meskel, commemorating the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena. This image from 2007 shows some of the celebration surrounding the feast in Addis Ababa. You can read more about this holiday and its meaning here.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)

28 September 2015
Greg Kandra

In the video above, Pope Francis is shown visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York City and taking part in a prayer service featuring representatives from several religions. (video: Rome Reports)

U.N. General assembly opens with focus on Syria, ISIS, refugees (The New York Times) The United Nations General Assembly opened on Monday with all eyes on the war in Syria and the twin crises it has helped spawn: the unyielding spread of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and the surge of refugees from the region into Europe. “Inequality is growing, trust is fading, and impatience with leadership can be seen and felt far and wide,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in formally convening the General Assembly’s 70th annual session. The remarks by Mr. Ban, who is approaching his last year as the secretary general, were unusually pointed...

Pope calls on U.N. to work for peace, justice (The Wall Street Journal) During a sweeping address before the United Nations, Pope Francis called on the international community to combat environmental degradation and social injustice, and praised the Iran nuclear deal as “proof of the potential of political good will.” Pope Francis, the fourth leader of the Catholic Church to address the U.N., used the occasion of Friday’s speech before the General Assembly to highlight signature themes of his pontificate...

Pope at 9/11 memorial: violence brings tears (CNS) Honoring both the pain and the strength of the families of those who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and drawing on the pools of water that are part of the site’s memorial, Pope Francis spoke about tears and quenching the world’s longing for peace. “The water we see flowing toward that empty pit remind us of all those lives” lost in 2001, he said. “The flowing water is also a symbol of our tears. Tears at so much devastation and ruin, past and present.” Afterward, Pope Francis joined a varied group of religious leaders and about 400 people in Foundation Hall to offer prayers for the deceased and for peace in the world...

Patriarch: Holy Land Christians “pray, weep, suffer and wait” with Jesus (CNS) Christian families in the Holy Land bear their daily suffering with hope, knowing that the cross is the cost of following Christ, said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. “We are a church of Calvary, and it is something that we have to accept,” he said during a session of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on 25 September. “Jesus says all who follow him will have to pick up their cross,” he continued. “We must take these words seriously. If we want to follow him, we have our daily cross.” The Latin-rite archbishop of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories contributed to a panel at the international four-day congress on the theme, “The Way of the Cross, the Way of the Heart: Suffering and the Family...”

Obama and Putin to confront tensions in Ukraine (AP) Face-to-face for the first time in nearly a year, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday will confront rising tensions over Moscow’s military engagement in Syria, as well as the stubborn crisis in Ukraine...

Pope Tawadros II begins visit to Ethiopia (StarAfrica) Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (Egypt) and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark has begun a six day visit to Ethiopia from Saturday to celebrate participate in the celebrations of finding of the true cross which is to be observed by Ethiopian Christians on Monday. The Pope, during his visit, is expected to meet the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Mathias I, the President and members of Ethiopia’s Public Diplomacy Delegation which visited Egypt last year...

AUDIO: Saving Russian religious music traditions (VOA) Many religions use music to help communicate their message. What you are listening to now is a choral work performed in the Russian Orthodox Church. This kind of singing is different from other religious traditions. And it is this kind of singing that a U.S.-based choir hopes to keep alive. The choir is part of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute. The group recently went to Russia for training in what is known as the Slavonic tradition of music...

Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Ukraine Muslim

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