21 September 2015
Arab-Israeli fourth graders pray in Aramaic in 2012 at a Catholic elementary school in Jish. Israel’s Christian schools have been on strike since 1 September. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
On 1 September 2015, 45 Christian schools in Israel went on strike. Consisting of 3,000 teachers and 33,000 students, the schools are considered “unofficial but recognized” by the Israeli government. Many of the schools date to the time of the Ottoman Empire and so are considerably older than the State of Israel.
The crisis and strike have been precipitated by two decisions of the Israeli government. The first decision was to cut the government funding that the Christian schools receive. Originally the state paid 70 percent of these schools’ budgets. This has now been progressively reduced — recently to 45 percent, and now to 29 percent. (The Israeli newspaper Haaretz also notes that the similarly semi-public ultra-Orthodox schools with 220,000 students are almost totally funded by the government.)
Full funding for the schools has been estimated at $52 million a year. These schools, which accept also Muslim and Druze students, are among the most effective in Israel and it is estimated that “Christian Arabs have the highest rate of success in Israel’s Bagrut (matriculation) exams, which largely determine who is admitted to a state university.” This, despite the fact that the Israeli government spends an average of 24 percent less on each high school student who is an Israeli citizen of Palestinian descent.
The second government decision was to limit the percentage of the operating costs that the schools could charge parents as tuition. Tuition was the means by which the schools attempted to fill the gaps caused by the progressive reduction of state support. Nevertheless, the Israeli government has now limited the amount parents can pay. One Christian school administrator states that the tuition cap set by the Israeli government is 2,500 Shekels ($645) per year, half of what would be needed to make up for government cuts. Thus, the Israeli government is seen as putting a double squeeze on the Christian schools by reducing their subsidies and their abilities to cover the deficits.
Negotiations have been going on between the Office of Christian Schools and the Israeli Government since May. The government has offered full funding if the schools agree to become “official and recognized.” However, this is perceived by Christian educators as an attack on their independence and a requirement not demanded of other private schools in Israel. Msgr. Giacinto-Boulos Marcusso, the patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem, sees these actions as attempts to progressively deprive young people of their identity through “ignorance, emigration or integration into national structures, the first of which is the army.”
During the third week of September the Israeli government offered the schools a subsidy of 67 million shekels (about $17.3 million). Since the costs that need to be covered amount to about to about $52 million dollars, the Board of Christian Schools refused the offer and the strike continues.
21 September 2015
Tags: Children Israel Education Catholic education Youth
CNEWA paid a visit to Geneseo, IL last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
We had a whirlwind visit to western Illinois over the weekend, but it was a great opportunity to connect with old friends, meet new ones and speak about the challenges facing Christians in the Middle East. It was also a chance to introduce CNEWA to a new audience and talk about how our papal agency is working to support those most in need today.
My colleague Chris Kennedy and I arrived in Moline, IL Saturday morning, and drove across the Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa, where we had lunch with a longtime donor, the Rev. Tom Stratman, 89 years young, and a lifelong Iowan. Father Tom purchased a CNEWA annuity some years back and has supported our work ever since. He lives in a residence for retired priests in Davenport. It was great to connect with him, hear stories about his family and his priesthood and get to know a kindred spirit.
CNEWA’s Chris Kennedy, longtime donor Father Tom Stratman, and Deacon Greg Kandra break bread in Davenport, IA. (photo: CNEWA)
After lunch, we headed back across the river to Geneseo, IL, driving past acres of cornfields and small Victorian homes, until we came upon our destination, St. Malachy’s Catholic Church.
St. Malachy’s Catholic Church in Geneso, IL, hosted CNEWA this past weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
There, we were met by the parish’s one priest, the Rev. Michael Pakula, who has served as pastor for 20 years and somehow handles three weekend Masses on his own (with the help, I should add, of five deacons.) Father Mike invited CNEWA to serve as his parish’s “mission outreach” this year.
CNEWA Development Associate Chris Kennedy, ready for action at St. Malachy’s. (photo: CNEWA)
Our information table provided brochures, donor information and reading material, including copies of our award-winning magazine, ONE. (photo: CNEWA)
I preached at all the Masses, while Chris manned our information table in the vestibule. The parish also took up a second collection at all the Masses for CNEWA.
Deacon Greg Kandra preached at all the Masses at St. Malachy’s last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
During my homily, I spoke about the sisters helping the displaced Christians of Iraq in Erbil — notably Sister Maria Hanna — and spotlighted the remarkable, selfless mission of love they have undertaken. (You can read more about it in our current issue of ONE.) The fervor and faith of the people of Iraq are both humbling and inspiring. And the generous response of the good people in Geneseo was a real blessing. We left uplifted and enriched.
We’re grateful to Father Mike for inviting us to visit — and especially thankful to his parish community for its warmth, hospitality and generous spirit. (A special shout-out has to go to Pat and Kellee Drewlow, active parishioners who made sure we were well fed and well supported during our stay.) St. Malachy’s is a vibrant parish, with a lot of young families, and their commitment to helping others and reaching out to the wider world is an inspiration.
Chris Kennedy, St. Malachy pastor Father Mike Pakula, and Deacon Greg Kandra. (photo: CNEWA)
If you’d like CNEWA to come to your parish, just drop us a line. Our development director, Norma Intriago, will be happy to coordinate a visit.
21 September 2015
Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Havana on 19 September.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope speaks of “emotional” meeting with refugee family (Vatican Radio) During his flight from Rome to Cuba, Pope Francis spoke about his meeting with a refugee family being housed by the Vatican’s Sant’Anna parish. The Holy Father met with the family of Melkite Greek-Catholics from Damascus on Saturday before heading to the airport for his flight to Cuba. He described the encounter as an “emotional” meeting...
Pope sends message to new patriarch (VIS) The Holy Father has sent a message to His Holiness Mar Gewargis, on the occasion of his election as Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, in which he extends his “good wishes and prayerful solidarity” to the Patriarch and his faithful. He adds that it is his prayer that His Holiness may be an inspirational pastor for the flock entrusted to his care and “an untiring builder of peace and harmony, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East...”
Egypt reportedly flooding Gaza tunnels (BBC) The Egyptian military has begun flooding tunnels used by Palestinian militants and smugglers under the border with Gaza, reports say. It is the latest move by Egypt to destroy the tunnels, part of an offensive against insurgents...
Horn of Africa facing worst drought in 60 years (Catholic Register) At the end of June the Famine Early Warning Systems Network of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization issued a warning about dry conditions in Ethiopia, Somalia and the rest of the Horn of Africa. On 5 July the UN called it “the worst drought in 60 years” in the Horn of Africa, with Ethiopia and Somalia worst hit. Travelling through the affected Somali province of Ethiopia in August, everywhere I went people spoke of the failure of this year’s rains. “This year we have a big fear because of a shortage of rain,” said Father Teklebirhan Yemataye in Jijiga. “We don’t know what will happen...”
Tomb of Middle East bishop found in Kerala (GulfNews) What could be a significant historic link to Kerala’s connection with the Persian church for centuries has been unearthed at Angamaly, near Kochi. Angamaly was the location of the first archdiocese of the Syrian Christians in Kerala, and authorities have found a tomb that is believed to be of a Persian bishop, Mar Abraham, at a church here.He was the last Middle East bishop of Angamaly, and the tomb is believed to be 418 years old...
18 September 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Kerala
Migrant children look through a fence as they wait permission to cross the border between Greece and Macedonia on 15 September. (photo: CNS/Georgi Licovski, EPA)
The statement below was issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in response to the initiative announced yesterday to aid Syrian refugees:
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has endorsed a joint fundraising campaign aimed at involving all the Church in Canada in order to assist Syrian refugees seeking shelter and protection in the Middle East and parts of Europe. The joint campaign, already being supported by Bishops across the country, involves the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada, and CNEWA Canada.
The three Canadian Catholic aid and development agencies will collaborate in their fundraising for Syrian refugees, so as to respond as effectively as possible to the complex and overwhelming Syrian emergency. Donations can be made to any or all three of the organizations. Each will continue working with its respective partners in the Middle East, using its own unique approaches and networks. The Holy See, as well as Bishops in Canada and the Middle East, have expressed appreciation on how the activities of the three agencies are mutually complementary in responding to different but equally important priorities.
Development and Peace will work to expand its ongoing efforts to support Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries in the Middle East, and also expand its reach through the Caritas international family to come to the aid of the thousands of migrants who have fled across the Mediterranean Sea and are now seeking shelter. ACN and CNEWA will continue to support all refugees affected by this war and will also give special attention to Christian refugees and displaced persons, hoping to ensure a continued Christian presence in the Middle East.
The three agencies will later send reports to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada on the total funds received for Syrian refugees as a result of the new campaign. The Government of Canada announced on September 12 it has established the Syria Emergency Relief Fund. Every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the impact of the conflict in Syria will be matched by the government, for up to $100 million, effective immediately and until December 31, 2015.
At a special meeting held during the 2015 Plenary Assembly, the Conference’s Permanent Council stated it rejoices at the news some Canadian dioceses and eparchies have already launched or will soon launch their own projects in aid of Syrian refugees. The Permanent Council, which is the CCCB administrative board, encourages those dioceses and eparchies to support the joint campaign. All other dioceses and eparchies in Canada are invited to organize their own parish collections for the joint campaign from now until Sunday, November 15, 2015, inclusive. Each diocese is free to decide how it will distribute the funds among the three national agencies.While the Government of Canada will match funds raised for Syrian refugees by all registered Canadian charities, only a few of these, including Development and Peace, are designated by the government as eligible to apply for its assistance in their work on behalf of Syrian refugees.
The total funds raised by Development and Peace, or other designated Canadian agencies, will not be a factor in the amount of government funding that can be requested for Syrian refugee projects.
Development and Peace, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, and CNEWA Canada have been actively fundraising for refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries for some years. This spring, Development and Peace, in its earlier 2013 campaign with the Bishops of Canada, had raised more than $13 million for Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees. This also included matching funds from the Government of Canada. Recently, Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation which fundraises in a number of countries, including Canada, reported its previous efforts had raised $10.3 million in emergency aid for Syrian refugees. CNEWA is a papal agency that fundraises in Canada and the United States and works closely with Eastern Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. In 2014, CNEWA (Canada and USA) sent US $4,441,665 to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon and displaced persons in Syria.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Syrian conflict has resulted in the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. After five years of conflict, some four million Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries in the Middle East as well as in parts of Europe. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of Syrians displaced and homeless within their own country. Calling again on the world and the Church to help these “millions of people ... in a distressing state of urgent need,” Pope Francis has described the conflicts in Iraq and Syria “one of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades.”
To contribute to this effort, please visit this giving page.
18 September 2015
Assyro-Chaldean Christians attend a liturgy at the cathedral of St. John in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, to commemorate the election of a new catholicos-patriarch.
(photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
Today, in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil, the synod of the Church of the East elected Mar Gewargis Sliwa as the new catholicos-patriarch. The patriarch-elect has served as metropolitan of Iraq since 1981 and succeeds Mar Dinkha IV, who died in March. One of the oldest churches in Christendom, the Church of the East has been centered between the Tigres and Euphrates rivers since receiving the faith from the Apostle Thomas.
After his consecration in Erbil on 27 September, Mar Gewargis III will return the see of the patriarchate to Iraq after a period of exile in the United States.
18 September 2015
Representatives from CNEWA will be visiting a parish in western Illinois this weekend.
(photo: Creative Commons)
This weekend, CNEWA will be visiting Geneseo, Illinois, in the Diocese of Peoria. I’ll be speaking at all the Masses at St. Malachy Parish. Along with my colleague Christopher Kennedy, we’ll be spreading the word about the work CNEWA is doing throughout the Middle East in support of displaced Christians, particularly those who are trying to rebuild their lives in Iraq after being driven into exile by ISIS. CNEWA is making a powerful difference in so many lives today, and we’re eager to share this good news and let others know how they can be a part of it.
If you are in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello!
And if you’d like us to visit your parish — to speak at Masses or to prayer groups — just drop us a line at the address below. Our development director, Norma Intriago, will be happy to coordinate a visit.
We love sharing our message and mission.
18 September 2015
Students attend a computer class at the Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Learn more about their lives in “A Letter from Ethiopia” in the
Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
18 September 2015
A volunteer from the German Red Cross plays with a migrant girl from Syria in an emergency shelter in Rottenburg on 16 September. The Apostolic Almoner today announced that a Syrian refugee family has been received by a parish in the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Wolfram Kastli, EPA)
Pope’s almoner assists refugees (VIS) According to a press release issued today by the Apostolic Almoner, the parish community of St. Anna in the Vatican has received a family of refugees, consisting of a father, mother and two children. They are Syrian, Christians of Catholic Greek-Melkite rite, and fled from their war-torn home city of Damascus, arriving in the Vatican on Sunday 6 September, when the Pope launched an appeal to each parish, religious community, monastery and shrine to offer shelter to a family...
European bishops call for “appropriate solution” in Cremisan case (Fides) The European Bishops hope that “the sensitive situation in the Cremisan might find an appropriate solution respectful of the rights of families, their properties and the two religious communities, as well as their educational mission.” The hope around the issue of Palestinian lands expropriated in the area of Beit Jala for the construction of the separation wall, is contained in the final message of the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, which this year was held in the Holy Land from 11 to 16 September...
Stressed Ukraine fighters face alcohol threat (AFP) Some Ukrainian troops play hours of football while others take dips in the sea as they try to adjust to a sudden drop in fighting following a fresh ceasefire deal. Kiev’s war commanders are ready to allow almost anything to save soldiers from the gravest danger facing them during the current tentative truce — booze...
Church in India promotes remembrance of martyrs (National Catholic Register) The Church in the state of Odisha in eastern India has committed to make “Kandhamal Martyrs Day” a regular memorial for the dozens of Christians martyred for their faith, in the anti-Christian violence that engulfed the Kandhamal district seven years ago. The annual meeting of the five bishops of Odisha (known as Orissa until 2011) decided 30 August to observe the day beginning next year...
Report: Ethiopia to become world’s fastest-growing economy (Sudan Tribune) A report released by a research project, said that Ethiopia is on course to become world’s fastest growing economy. The new report “One foot on the ground, one foot in the air” released by the UK-based think tank group Overseas Development Institute (ODI) forecasts for Ethiopia said Ethiopia’s economy would significantly accelerate in the coming three years...
17 September 2015
A migrant from Syria cries as she stands with her children on a field after crossing into Hungary from the border with Serbia near the village of Roszke on 5 September.
(photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters)
The Catholic Church in Canada is mobilizing to respond to the growing refugee crisis that is currently affecting Europe and the Middle East.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Aid to the Church in Need are launching for the first time a joint appeal to the generosity of Canadian Catholics and all Canadians, showing the magnitude of this tragic crisis.
The majority of refugees currently attempting to enter Europe are from Syria, where an ongoing civil war that began over four years ago has displaced 7 million Syrians within their own country and has created 4 million refugees.
Funds collected through this appeal will go towards humanitarian aid for Syrians living through the suffering of war and those who have fled to other countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey who are hosting the vast majority of Syrian refugees.
The Canadian government has announced the Syrian Emergency Relief Fund and will match donations made by Canadians to organizations responding to this crisis, including Development and Peace, CNEWA and Aid to the Church in Need. Donations made before December 31st, 2015 are eligible for matching.
This fund was announced in the wake of a mass influx of refugees from Syria, as well as from Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and other countries plagued by poverty, war and lack of human rights, that are making treacherous journeys to enter Europe. Pope Francis called on parishes around the world to open their doors to Syrian refugees, and dioceses across Canada have launched sponsorship initiatives.
In his open letter to Canadians earlier this month, the Most Reverend Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “The refugee crisis is an important moment to deepen our faith, extend our charity, and summon up hope. Together we can make a better world for all those in need, and so witness to Christ’s Kingdom.”
Canadians can show their solidarity by contributing to this appeal for humanitarian aid and/or to sponsorship programs in their dioceses. Collections will be taking place in parishes across Canada over the coming weeks, and Canadians can also donate directly to the organizations participating in this joint appeal by visiting their respective websites or contacting the organizations by phone.
To support this effort, visit this giving page. And please remember all our suffering brothers and sisters in your prayers.
17 September 2015
An overflow crowd of Ukrainian Orthodox believers gathers for the Christmas liturgy in
Kosmach, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)
Confusion characterizes Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine. Not one but three groups claim legitimacy as the national church of a land that traditionally identifies with Eastern Christianity.
Led by Metropolitan Onophry Berezovsky, the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate” is an autonomous jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Russia. Canonically, it is the only Orthodox jurisdiction recognized by the rest of the Orthodox world, maintaining the largest number of parishes in Ukraine (perhaps some 11,300). It prevails, however, in the country’s Russian-speaking areas in the central, southern and eastern portions of Ukraine, where religious identity is weakest. Church Slavonic is the predominant language used in the celebration of the sacraments.
The “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate” is led by Patriarch Filaret. Once a rising star of the Moscow patriarchate, he was excommunicated for advocating a national and independent Orthodox church in Ukraine. According to the 2006 findings of the Razumkov Centre — a Ukrainian think tank — about half of the Ukrainians who claim a religious affiliation belong to this community, which uses both Church Slavonic and modern Ukrainian in the celebration of the sacraments. Since the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, the Kiev Patriarchate has grown at the expense of the church associated with the Moscow Patriarchate, which is considered pro-Russian.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, his wife Maryna and son Mykhailo, light candles on 23 August as they attend a service in the mother church of Ukraine, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Kiev, commemorating Ukrainian Independence Day. (photo: CNS/Mikhail Palinchak, pool via EPA)
The “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” is the smallest of the three Orthodox bodies. It is led by Metropolitan Makariy Maletych, who formerly led an eparchy in the western city of Lviv, which is the epicenter of Ukrainian nationalism and where the church of three million is strongest. This community, which also uses Church Slavonic and modern Ukrainian in the liturgy, is in active dialogue with the Kiev Patriarchate seeking unification.
In its well-regarded survey on religious affiliation in Ukraine, the Razumkov Centre found more than 62 percent of the country’s 44 million people did not declare any membership in any of the churches listed above. The authors report that, while many who did not self-identify with any group were Orthodox Christian, most were unaware either of the issues or of the divisions embroiling Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
Why then this schism among Ukraine’s Orthodox Christians? In short, the polarization of the Ukrainian church reflects questions of Ukrainian identity and of Ukraine’s relationship to its domineering neighbor to the east, Russia, with which it now finds itself at war.
Click here to read more.