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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
31 May 2016
Greg Kandra

Pope Pius XI, CNEWA’s founder, was born 159 years ago today. (photo: CNEWA)

The man we know as Pope Pius XI — Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti — was born on this date, 31 May, in 1857.

From 1919 to 1921, he served as papal nuncio to Poland, where he gained extensive firsthand knowledge of the Eastern churches —knowledge that would later help guide one of his most important moves: establishing the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in 1926.

Elected pope in 1922, he witnessed some pivotal moments of 20th century history, including the rise of Mussolini, the signing of the Lateran Treaty (which created an independent Vatican City state) and the growing threat of totalitarianism. Encyclopedia Britannica notes:

Pius XI, a student of Hebrew, was responsible for the three major encyclicals against the totalitarian systems that challenged Christian principles: “Non Abbiamo Bisogno” (1931; [We Do Not Need to Acquaint You]) against the abuses of Fascist Italy; “Mit Brennender Sorge” (1937; “With Deep Anxiety”) against Nazi Germany, and “Divini Redemptoris” (1937; “Divine Redeemer”) against the ends of atheistic communism. Under his leadership the Vatican challenged the extreme nationalism of Action Français in France and the anti-Semitism of the Reverend Coughlin in the United States.

But for us at CNEWA, a critical decision he made 90 years ago would leave an indelible mark and launch a new era:

On 13 March, Pope Pius XI merged The Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Catholic Union into a new pontifical association with Father Walsh as its President. Catholic Near East Welfare Association was retained as the name of this new pontifical organization. The Board of Trustees agreed to continue to use the original civil charter.

The new CNEWA incorporated the purposes of both groups, including emergency relief in Asia Minor, the Balkans, Greece and Russia; religious welfare; education and the needs of the Eastern Catholic churches.

On 15 September 1926, the American Catholic bishops formally endorsed the new organization at their meeting in Washington, D.C., and named CNEWA as the sole instrumentality authorized to solicit funds for Catholic interests in Russia and the Near East.

His commitment to missions was total:

Surpassing his predecessors in support of overseas missions, he required every religious order to engage actively in this work, with the result that missionaries doubled their number during his pontificate. Most significant was his consecration of the first Chinese bishops, in 1926. He equally encouraged historians and liturgiologists to study Eastern Christianity, inaugurating the work of codifying Eastern canon law. In 1930 he witnessed the reunion of the Syro-Melankarese Christians (of southern India) with Rome.

Pope Pius XI died in 1939, but one of his enduring legacies remains the ongoing work of CNEWA around the world. He helped clarify and define the Catholic Church’s teaching on social justice, and made concern for one another a cornerstone of that teaching. As he wrote in his encyclical “Divini Redemptoris”: “It is the essence of social justice to demand from each individual all that is necessary for the common good.”

May he rest in peace.

Tags: CNEWA Pope

31 May 2016
CNEWA staff

Students at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv walk through an academic building. To learn more about this remarkable school and the impact it is having, read Where Change Is on the Curriculum in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Petro Zadorozhnyy)

Tags: Ukraine Education Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Catholic education

31 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

A child celebrates safe landfall at the port of Cagliari, Sardinia, on 26 May, two days after being rescued near the Libyan coasts. (photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. children’s agency ‘alarmed’ at deaths in the Mediterranean (U.N. News Center) The United Nations Children’s Fund has expressed alarm at the number of migrant and refugee deaths in the past week in the Mediterranean, many of whom were believed to be unaccompanied minors. In anticipation of a major summer upswing of child migrants using the dangerous crossing between Libya and Italy UNICEF will shortly begin an operation with the Italian Government and partners to provide protection support, the agency said yesterday in a press release…

Pope Francis asks for prayers for Syrian children (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis urged the faithful to join in prayer on Wednesday, 1 June, International Children’s Day, with a special thought for the children in Syria. Speaking after the Angelus Prayer in St. Peter’s Square the pope greeted all the deacons present in Rome for their jubilee, thanking them for being present for the occasion but also for their presence in the church…

Iraqi bishop: ISIS drove us to unity (AINA) Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf Daoud, the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Mosul, visited France and Belgium from 19 to 24 May and gave a series of lectures on the situation of Assyro-Chaldeans in Iraq. He and his congregation were forced into exile to Iraq’s northern region since ISIS attacked and took over Mosul in 2014. The archbishop expressed disappointment in the international community’s response, and hope for solidarity among the region’s Christian communities. “This tragedy made us walk towards unity,” he said. “Arriving in Mosul, ISIS’s men chased the Christians indiscriminately. So why should we make differences? In Erbil, I am constantly in contact with Bishop Petros Moshe, Syriac Catholic archbishop of Mosul, and Bishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil. We work together on all subjects…”

Syria cease-fire strengthens Al Qaeda branch (AINA) Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria has recruited thousands of fighters, including teenagers, and taken territory from government forces in a successful offensive in the north, illustrating how the cease-fire put in place by Russia and the United States to weaken the militants has in many ways backfired. The branch, known as Al Nusra Front, has churned out a flood of videos — slickly produced in the style of its rival, ISIS — that show off its recruitment drive…

How the war on Syria left its mark on Lebanon’s economy (Al Monitor) The economic and social impact of the Syrian crisis — now entering its sixth year — is one of the most critical issues facing Lebanon. The total number of displaced Syrians who took refuge in Lebanon since the outbreak of the conflict in March 2011 stands at 1.5 million — meaning one in four people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. This has strained the public financial capacities and the provision of environmental services in Lebanon. The crisis is also expected to increase rampant poverty among the Lebanese and widen the income inequality gap…

Christians, Muslims, Yazidis and Mandaeans praying for peace (Chaldean Patriarchade of Babylon) At the invitation of Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, a get-together event was held on Monday evening, 30 May, to pray for peace in Iraq, Syria and the region, at the Virgin Mary Church in Baghdad. Christian clergy of various churches participated in this event, in addition to Muslims — both Shiites and Sunnis — and representatives of Mandaean and Yazidi communities. Several ambassadors, and members of the Iraqi parliament also joined the large crowd of faithful in prayers…

Bishop to donate kidney to poor, lower-caste Hindu in India (Crux) Catholic news from India often pivots these days on anti-Christian bias, even outright persecution from the majority Hindu population. The way one Catholic bishop has chosen to put mercy into practice, however, is a reminder that interreligious tension and conflict is hardly the only narrative. Syro-Malabar Catholic Bishop Mar Jacob Muricken, 52, an auxiliary in the Palai diocese in Kerala, received the necessary clearances from a governmental medical college in Kottayam to take one of his healthy kidneys and have it transplanted into a 30-year-old poor and lower-caste Hindu man from Kottakal…

Tags: Syria India Iraq Interreligious United Nations

27 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

An Afar family sits at home in northern Ethiopia. In the Afar region, the drought has been deadly to livestock, a critical source of income and sustenance for residents. To learn more about the impact of Ethiopia’s drought and how church agencies have been responding, read about When Rain Fails in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Tags: Ethiopia Hunger Drought

27 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrians gather their belongings as they leave a refugee camp due to ISIS attacks in the Azaz district of Aleppo, on 27 May. (photo: Ali Demir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

U.N. relief chief calls for more assistance for Syrians (U.N. News Center) Following a visit to Hatay in southern Turkey, the top United Nations humanitarian official has called for greater assistance for Syrians in need, both inside the country and across the region, warning that the humanitarian situation for millions of people remains “unrelentingly distressing and dire…”

Syria’s ruined cities will need decades, not years, to recover (AINA) While diplomats wrangle in Geneva over a nascent, faltering peace process kick-started by the United Nations, other organizations are scratching their heads over the huge challenge of reconstructing and rebuilding a country that has been torn apart. In 2014, a U.N. study suggested that it would take Syria at least three decades to recover. The World Bank is trying to come to grips with the nuts and bolts of the destruction. Using satellite imagery of six Syrian cities, the organization came up with assessments for the damage wrought on these urban centers. A conservative estimate on the losses in public infrastructure sits at $6 billion…

Civilians trapped in Iraqi city of Falluja are starving (Vatican Radio) Around 50,000 civilians trapped in the Iraqi city of Fallujah face starvation as government forces continue their assault to retake it from ISIS militants. The grim assessment came from the Norwegian Refugee Council, an NGO that has been delivering aid to those civilians who managed to escape from the outlying areas of Fallujah before the assault commenced…

Returning home to Iraq’s city of Ramadi means facing hidden dangers (Los Angeles Times) After more than a year away from the war-ravaged Iraqi city of Ramadi, Osama Ismail felt it was safe enough to return to check on the condition of his abandoned home. The government, after all, had declared the city “liberated” from Islamic State extremists. Ismail, a father of four, walked through the house last month surveying the damage, eventually reaching the bedroom he shared with his wife. They had left clothes and other items behind in their rush to leave the city and he was curious to see what remained. Then, an explosion. Family members said the blast threw the 42-year-old teacher against a wall and killed him instantly. The house, local officials said, had been booby-trapped with an improvised explosive device by Islamic State fighters…

‘Disaster in the making’: The many failures of the E.U.-Turkey refugee deal (Der Spiegel) The internment of Syrian refugees raises new doubts over the controversial refugee agreement between Europe and Turkey. Indeed, it appears that the deal is on the verge of falling apart, only two months after the program began…

Coptic Orthodox Church confirms mob attack on Christians in Minya village (Ahram Online) The Coptic Orthodox Coptic Church said in a statement on Wednesday that a mob attacked Christian homes in a village in Minya last Friday, and stripped an older Christian woman of her clothes during the assault…

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Turkey United Nations

26 May 2016
Greg Kandra

Brother Donald Mansir and Bishop Denis Madden stand outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, circa 1997. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)

One of the many unsung heroes in CNEWA’s story is a man who helped give new life to one of Christianity’s holiest sites. Four years ago, learning of his passing, Michael La Civita paid tribute to Brother Donald Mansir, F.S.C.:

A brother of the De La Salle Brothers of the Christian Schools and a knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Brother Donald joined CNEWA in 1989 as the field projects coordinator for the Pontifical Mission’s Jerusalem office. In 1990, he became its associate director, and later that year, he was named office director. As such, Brother Donald supervised the expansion of the agency’s programs and services in Palestine and Israel, earning respect for his balanced but strong advocacy for justice and peace issues throughout the Holy Land. In 1993, he succeeded Sister Maureen Grady, C.S.C., as chief operating officer and vice president of the Pontifical Mission.

Brother Donald was instrumental in the restoration of the dome of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Working with CNEWA’s Msgr. Robert Stern and (then) Father Denis Madden, he brought together the shrine’s Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox and Latin Catholic custodians with concerned donors in the United States anxious about the dome’s structural integrity. To learn more about this “Turning Point for Christendom,” read Brother Donald’s own account published in CNEWA’s magazine in 1996. A year later, Father Denis Madden (now an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Baltimore) reflected on this historic moment engineered by this agency of the Holy See.

In 1996, reflecting on the restoration of the dome, Brother Donald offered his simple hope:

As the scaffolding is disassembled and the luminous cloud appears on the great dome … may God’s grace penetrate to the core of [pilgrims’] hearts.

Tags: CNEWA Art Architecture Historical site/city

26 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Dr. Karam Nahal examines a 13-month-old while visiting Nafkandala, one of 22 villages in Iraqi Kurdistan served by a church-administered mobile clinic. To learn more about this CNEWA-supported clinic and its work, read Health on Wheels in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)

Tags: Iraq Health Care Iraqi Refugees

26 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Muslims and Christians alike visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in the village of Harissa, near Beirut. (photo: CNS/Dalia Khamissy)

In Lebanon, Muslims and Christians visit Marian shrine at Harissa (CNS) High on a summit overlooking the Mediterranean, Our Lady of Lebanon stands majestically with her arms outstretched, welcoming her children. Muslims and Christians alike come to the shrine, 16 miles north of Beirut. To Muslims, Mary is known in Arabic as “Seidatna Maryam,” Our Lady Mary. Even though Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, in the Quran, a chapter is devoted to Maryam…

Egypt: Muslim crowd burns seven homes of Copts (ANSAmed) A crowd of some 300 Muslims attacked and set on fire seven homes of Coptic Christians in a village of central Egypt and forced a Christian woman to strip naked in public. The incident was reported in a statement by the Coptic church of the governorate of Minya, quoted by Egyptian media like Al Masry al Youm and occurred near Abu Qurqas on Friday night. The homes were “attacked, burned, ransacked and destroyed” at around 8 p.m., the statement said, reporting that police reached the location two hours later, arresting six people. The crowd of attackers was “chanting slogans” and the “deplorable incidents” followed “reports of a sentimental relationship between a Coptic Christian man and a Muslim woman…”

Lebanese leaders hope pope-imam meeting leads to new relationships (Catholic Philly) Lebanese leaders in Muslim-Christian dialogue said they hoped Pope Francis’ meeting with Ahmad el Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar University, would lead to new relationships. Maronite Father Fadi Daou, chairman of Adyan, a foundation for interfaith studies and spiritual solidarity based in Lebanon, told Catholic News Service that he hopes the meeting will be the forerunner to a “new dimension of interreligious relations.” Mohammad Sammak, secretary-general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, said the meeting likely would “open a new page of cooperation on the basis of building real citizenship — equal citizenship — between Christians and Muslims all over the Middle East…”

Msgr. Sullivan describes his experiences in Iraq (Catholic Charities) Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan joined a small delegation in early April led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), to Iraqi Kurdistan. During this mission they visited families displaced after ISIS swept through Iraq in the summer of 2014. They spent time in displacement camps filled with Christians, Muslims and Yazidis who fled to these camps and looked at health clinics, schools and churches that sprung up to serve them. As part of the delegation, Msgr. Sullivan spoke one-on-one with those forced to flee their homes as well as with sisters, priests and bishops…

Dozens feared dead as migrant boat capsizes in Mediterranean (TheGuardian) Dozens of people are feared to have drowned in the second shipwreck in as many days in the southern Mediterranean, amid tentative signs that some Syrians may be trying once again to make for Europe from Libya…

Uproar over police brutality against Israeli Arab (Al Monitor) Israeli passersby documented border police officers beating an Israeli-Arab youth working in a Tel Aviv grocery store…

Tags: Iraq Egypt Lebanon Israel Migrants

25 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Campers from a Caritas Georgia center play at a resort in Nunisi, in central Georgia. Over the years, CNEWA has sponsored many summer recreation programs in the regions we serve — such as camps in the Caucasus that provide summer fun, and a whole lot more. Read about it in the November 2007 issue of ONE. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)

Tags: Children Georgia Caritas

25 May 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro

Internally displaced Iraqis leave a Catholic church after celebrating the liturgy in a camp in Ain Kawa, Iraq, in April. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Tom Gallagher: The desperate plight of Iraqi Christians (Greenwich Time) In mid-April 2016, as an act of solidarity with the suffering Christians and other religious minorities, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, as chairman of the Board of Directors of the 90-year old New York City-based papal agency, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), made a pastoral visit to Erbil and Dohuk, a town near the Turkish border. I went as a journalist for the National Catholic Reporter. Our small delegation visited multiple health clinics and displacement camps for Iraqi Christians and Yazidis. At each stop the displaced repeated the plea to be able to “just go home…”

Christian schools at risk as Israeli government reneges on promise (Fides) A few days before the end of a difficult school year, which started with a 27-day strike, 47 Christian schools operating in Israel are facing a financial emergency because the Ministry of education has not honored their commitment to transfer 50 million shekels to the Christian schools, a condition of the agreement that ended the strike in September. As of today, the government is more than 50 days past its deadline…

Iraqi priest: Violence, divisions have created a sense of brotherhood with Muslims (Herald Malaysia Online) The Rev. Samir Youssef, pastor in the Chaldean Eparchy of Amadiya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been taking care of 3,500 Christian, Muslim and Yazidi refugee families since 2014. Over this time, ISIS, violence, political divisions and partisan interests have created a new sense of brotherhood among them. In the past, people lived side by side, but today, refugees have a new desire of community, which is “expressed in what they do but also what they say,” not only among children and youths, but also among adults “who have overcome their initial distrust,” Father Youssef says. “When Muslim and Yazidi children call me ‘Abouna’ [“father” in Arabic], and come to visit me in church, this is God’s victory…”

Syrian bishop’s plea as blasts cause carnage (AINA) A bishop in Syria has described desperate efforts to tend to the injured and the dying following multiple ISIS attacks in Tartous and Jableh, which left more than 200 dead and nearly 650 injured. Bishop Antioine Chbeir stressed that Monday’s attacks in his diocese were the first of their kind in an area where displaced Syrians had gathered in their hundreds of thousands, believing it to be one of the last remaining safe areas of the country…

Christianity in India and the challenges of Hindu extremism (The Tablet) Christians and Muslims have been persecuted at the hands of Hindu nationalists associated with the ruling B.J.P. party, which espouses Hindutva, the ethno-religious political ideology that claims India as a “motherland” for Hindus and regards Islam and Christianity as alien elements in Indian society. The Syro-Malabar Church, with 4 million members, is the largest of southwest India’s churches, claiming descent from the mission efforts of the Apostle Thomas. It is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic churches in communion with Rome. Whether Thomas actually arrived in India in the year 52 is disputable, but it is clear that Christianity was established on the Malabar coast at least as early as the sixth century, and thereafter lived in cultural symbiosis with both Hinduism and Buddhism. So far, the level of interreligious violence has been low in Kerala compared with other states, but, warns Cardinal George Alencherry, “there is an undercurrent of communal tension here too…”

Tags: Syria India Iraq Iraqi Christians Israel

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