Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
29 December 2017
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Israeli forces fire toward Palestinians near Ramallah, West Bank, during a 20 December protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
(photo: CNS/Mussa Qawasma, Reuters)

Pope Francis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on 29 December about the status of Jerusalem.

Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office, confirmed the telephone conversation took place and said the call was Erdogan’s initiative.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that Erdogan and Pope Francis both expressed satisfaction with the U.N. resolution on 21 December calling on the United States to rescind its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The resolution passed 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced Dec. 6 that he was formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordering the State Department to begin preparations for moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Hours before Trump made the announcement, Pope Francis publicly appealed for respect for the “status quo” of Jerusalem and prayed that “wisdom and prudence would prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts.”

The Vatican supports a “two-state solution” for the Holy Land with independence, recognition and secure borders for both Israel and Palestine. While insisting access must be guaranteed to the holy sites of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in Jerusalem, the Vatican, like most nations around the world, believes political control of the city should be settled in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Before giving his Christmas blessing on 25 December, Pope Francis again prayed “for peace for Jerusalem and for all the Holy Land.”

He asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square to join him in praying that “the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders.”

“May the Lord also sustain the efforts of all those in the international community inspired by goodwill to help that afflicted land find — despite grave obstacles — the harmony, justice and security that it has long awaited,” the pope continued.

29 December 2017
Greg Kandra

An elderly woman braves the winter weather in Nyírascád, Hungary, a village of 4,400 where Greek Catholics continue to hold onto their traditions as the world changes around them. Read more about Holding on in Hungary in the May 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Balazs Gardi)

29 December 2017
Greg Kandra

Embed from Getty Images
Egyptian security members and forensic police inspect the site of a gun attack outside a church south of Cairo on 29 December. (photo: Samer Abdallah/AFP/Getty Images)

Needs of migrants, refugees to be a focus for pope in 2018 (CNS) Foreign trips, a focus on the rights and needs of migrants and refugees and a Synod of Bishops dedicated to young people all are on the 2018 calendar for Pope Francis. His activities and the passions that drive them are familiar by now. In fact, 13 March will mark the fifth anniversary of his election as pope, succeeding retired Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis, newly 81, will begin 2018 with a focus on Mary and on migrants and refugees...

Gunmen launch deadly attack on Coptic church (BBC) Twelve people have died in twin attacks on Coptic Christians in the Helwan area south of Cairo, officials say. Ten people died when gunmen tried to storm a church south of Cairo, but were intercepted by police. About an hour later, a Coptic-owned shop in the same area was attacked, leaving two dead. More than 100 Christians have been killed in Egypt in the past year — most attacks claimed by the local branch of the so-called Islamic State group...

First Mass in Mosul after 30 months ( Candle lights, fragrant of incense and sounds of bells brought back to life in the Chaldean Church of St. Paul in Mosul (Almajmoua’ Althaqafyia suburb)...

Ukraine, pro-Russian forces trade prisoners to mark new year (Voice of America) Ukraine and pro-Russian separatist rebels had the largest exchange of prisoners on Wednesday since the start of the conflict in 2014. The exchange allowed hundreds of former prisoners to return home ahead of the New Year and Orthodox Christmas...

Syrian refugees in Lebanon drop below one million (The Jordan Times) The number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon has dropped to below one million for the first time since 2014, the United Nations told AFP. As of the end of November, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) counted 997,905 Syrian refugees — a vast majority of them women and children — registered in Lebanon...

28 December 2017
Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service

Christians in Baghdad, Iraq, celebrate Christmas after Mass on 25 December. Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East called for peace, security, prayer and solidarity at Christmastime.
(photo: CNS/Ali Abbas, EPA)

Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East — with hope, despite uncertainty in the region — called for peace, security, prayer and solidarity at Christmastime.

From Baghdad, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako expressed hope for a “new phase” for his country, that the recent triumph over the Islamic State and the termination of terrorist control of Mosul and other Iraqi cities is a step toward security and stability.

But the liberation of those areas, he said, requires the Iraqi government to work to facilitate “the return of Christians to their homes and properties, preserving their rights as indigenous citizens, recognizing their culture, civilization and heritage as an essential part of Iraq’s history and preventing demographic changes in their historical geographic areas.”

Patriarch Sako reiterated that before the American-led invasion of 2003, there were more than 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. More than half of that Christian population has migrated due to discrimination, threats, abductions and the expulsion from their homes in Ninevah Plain by the Islamic State in 2014, he said.

“This is our homeland and we insist (we) remain here,” he said.

He called for unity among Iraqi Christians as well as for them to work “hand in hand with their fellow Muslims.” The future, Patriarch Sako said, “cannot be built without tolerance and coexistence.”

“So, let us move to the path of hope together,” Patriarch Sako said.

“In regard to Muslims, an honest dialogue is a must, to understand the truth of each side and accept it,” he said.

Alluding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Chaldean patriarch urged Christians “to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have been suffering from injustice and displacement for 70 years.” He also called on them “to pray for Jerusalem to remain a holy city for Christians, Muslims and Jews.”

In his Christmas message, Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, also touched upon Trump's declaration regarding Jerusalem.

“We categorically reject it because it is an unjust and hostile decision toward Christianity and Islam, and of the Palestinian people in particular,” Cardinal Rai said. He said the decision demolished peace negotiations and could “ignite a new uprising and even war, God forbid.”

Citing World Bank studies, Cardinal Rai noted that one-third of the Lebanese people remain below the poverty level. Furthermore, the presence of 1 million displaced Syrians and hundreds of Iraqis as well as half a million Palestinian refugees is “compounding the needs of the Lebanese.”

Cardinal Rai called upon the Prince of Peace to protect Lebanon and “this growing (Middle East) region where Christianity originated, and to spread the culture of love, brotherhood and peace.”

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan noted that Lebanon, “the only country where all citizens enjoy the best possible liberty and equality,” had faced numerous trials in 2017. In his Christmas message from the patriarchate in Beirut, he thanked God that the Lebanese army dispelled terrorist groups that were threatening Lebanon’s “very existence.”

“During this joyful season, our thoughts and prayers will particularly go to our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, who have been suffering for long, because of their steadfast faithfulness to the Gospel,” Patriarch Younan said. “Their presence as Christian minority that endured every kind of hardship is essential to the rebirth of their respective countries.”

He added that “there is still a lot to do that would inspire confidence to our eradicated and exhausted community in order to return to their ancestral land” in Syria and Iraq.

“Economic sanctions on Syria must be lifted,” the Syriac Catholic patriarch said. The sanctions, he said, “are like crimes against humanity, because they target the most vulnerable segments of a nation.”

Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi, in a message from the patriarchate in Damascus, Syria, noted that “as the various currents of the world invade the spirit of the people” and “as the land of the East is trampled by war and displacement,” the faithful sometimes wonder about the presence of God “and his role in our lives.”

But Patriarch Absi offered hope and reassurance in his message that “Christmas comes, the Divine Incarnation, to reveal to us that God’s hand appears and accompanies us, especially in the difficult stages of our lives.”

28 December 2017
Greg Kandra

In Lviv, Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate care for a bedridden sister who once served the underground church. Read more about how this church is growing, thanks to the enduring faith of its people, in the December 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)

28 December 2017
Greg Kandra

Chaldean Christians in Mosul, Iraq, attend Christmas Mass at St. Paul Cathedral on 24 December.
(photo: CNS/Amar Salih, EPA)

Pope appeals for peace in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis reaffirmed his commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on Monday, Christmas Day, 2017, and called for an end to war and injustice everywhere, in the name of Our Lord, “Prince of Peace” and reconciler of humanity to God the Father. The Pope made his remarks ahead of the urbi et orbi benediction — the traditional blessing given “the city and to the world” on Christmas Day and on other special days throughout the year...

Cardinal: victims of 2008 riot in India are ‘martyrs’ (Vatican Radio) The violence that lasted for nearly four months in 2008 against Christians in Kandhamal District of Odisha state resulted in the loss of 100 lives and left more than 56,000 people homeless. The survivors are facing continual denial of justice to them in the numerous cases pending before the law courts. But the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, to which the victims belonged to, is preparing to initiate the sainthood cause of those killed...

Critically ill children evacuated from Syria (Al Jazeera) Aid agencies are evacuating critically ill Syrians from Eastern Ghouta, an area home to around 400,000 people that has been under government siege since 2013. Children comprise around half of the population in one of the last rebel strongholds in the country, where medical supplies and food have been in short supply...

U.S.: ISIS down to fewer than 1,000 fighters in Iraq, Syria (Reuters) Fewer than 1,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, the United States-led international coalition fighting the hardline Sunni militant group said on Wednesday, a third of the estimated figure only three weeks ago...

Christians from Iraq celebrate Christmas in America (Chicago Tribune) A year ago, Milad Homo feared his family never would be able to celebrate Christmas in America. The Assyrian Christians had waited more than three years for a chance to emigrate from Turkey, where they had fled after Homo was threatened by a carload of men in black hoods as the family left a Baghdad church. Homo, his wife and two daughters had left all but a few possessions behind in Iraq, struggling to get by in a Turkish city packed with fellow refugees while praying they could someday join his mother, sisters and brothers in Chicago’s tight-knit Assyrian community...

Russian Orthodox biker priests pose for 2018 calendar (The Moscow Times) Russia’s Motorcycle Community of Orthodox Clergy has released a calendar marrying piety with a love for motorcycles in time for the holiday season. The 2018 calendar is titled “Thy Ways” and features priests posing next to their bikes...

22 December 2017
CNEWA staff

Here’s an early Christmas gift we’re delighted to unwrap for you: the latest edition of CNEWA’s award-winning magazine, ONE.

You can watch Msgr. Kozar’s video preview above. And you can read our digital version right here.

This edition has a rich trove of compelling stories, profiles and photographs. You can visit Ukraine and meet the devoted priests and lay people nurturing the church and helping it grow, often under surprising and very modest circumstances. You can discover the inspiring ways young Ethiopians are putting down roots and learning there’s no place like home. And you can meet a man some call the “Archbishop of Jesus” and hear his account of the challenges and joys of leading the flock in Galilee.

All this, plus insights from a priest in India — a man of the poor, serving the poor — and Msgr. Kozar reflecting on the enduring faith of Ukraine — while sharing his own poignant photographs.

We hope you enjoy this edition of ONE — and send it along to you with our prayers, gratitude and good wishes for the Christmas season and the new year to come.

Merry Christmas!

22 December 2017
Greg Kandra

The Christmas tree is seen after a lighting ceremony in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican
on 7 December. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Earlier this month, Pope Francis made special mention of the Christmas tree standing in St. Peter’s Square and underscored its symbolic significance:

The centerpiece of the Vatican’s Christmas holiday decorations is the towering 92-foot spruce tree.

Measuring nearly 33 feet in diameter, the tree was donated by the Archdiocese of Elk, Poland, and transported to the Vatican on a flatbed truck traveling over 1,240 miles across central Europe.

Thanking the members of the Polish delegation, the pope said the tree’s soaring height “motivates us to reach out ‘toward the highest gifts’” and to rise above the clouds to experience “how beautiful and joyful it is to be immersed in the light of Christ.”

“The tree, which comes from Poland this year, is a sign of the faith of that people who, also with this gesture, wanted to express their fidelity to the see of Peter,” the pope said.

Read more.

22 December 2017
Greg Kandra

Embed from Getty Images
Iraqis shop for Christmas decorations in Baghdad on 16 December. Many Christians in northern Iraq are celebrating their first Christmas since the region’s liberation from ISIS.
(photo: Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images)

Protester killed during demonstration in Gaza (Times of Israel) A Palestinian protester was killed during a violent demonstration along the Gaza Strip’s security fence on Friday, as thousands more took part in riots in the coastal enclave and across the West Bank for the third straight week following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital...

Christmas returns to Qaraqosh (The New York Times) For more than two years, 300 militia fighters waited to retake from the Islamic State the Iraqi city of Qaraqosh, the country’s largest Christian enclave. Then, in October of last year, the photographer Quentin Bruno accompanied these civilians turned soldiers as they approached the city that was once home to 50,000 people. He remembered their excitement, as well as the mortars that rained down upon them, a few days after the Iraqi Army had launched the Battle of Mosul...

Christians ready for Christmas in Iraq (National Catholic Register) In their villages on the Nineveh Plain, Iraq’s Christians are celebrating their first Christmas since the region’s liberation from the Islamic State (ISIS). In the little town of Qaraqosh (also known as Baghdida), there will be no flocks of sheep grazing, or cows lowing, as in years past, on the holy night of Christ’s birth — just the sound of Christians singing the Divine Liturgy at midnight in their burned churches...

In Syria this Christmas, churches demined but deserted (Times of Israel) Deminers are now giving the houses of worship one last sweep to make them safe, but they remain in a terrible state and church officials say they will not hold traditional Christmas services this year. The Armenian Catholic Church of the Martyrs in Raqqa’s city center is barely recognizable, the cross atop its clock tower destroyed by jihadists years ago...

Why Christians are feeling nervous this Christmas in India (The Indian Times) As the countdown to Christmas is underway, the last few days have seen some stray attacks against the festival from fringe right wing outfits in three north Indian states. The incidents have unnerved the minority community, prompting Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision making body of the Catholic Church in the country, to comment that the community was “losing confidence in the government”...

Moscow approves huge statue of patriarch (The Moscow Times) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church will be memorialized in a 4-meter (13-foot) statue in the center of Moscow along with 15 other church figures. Patriarch Kirill, a staunch supporter of President Vladimir Putin, has raised eyebrows during his eight-year tenure for sporting pricey watches, sanctioning Russia’s campaign in the Syrian war and allegedly dealing in alcohol and tobacco imports in the 1990s...

New book traces history of Bethlehem (The New York Times) Telling the story of a city is a bold undertaking — an act, depending on the city, that entails parsing myth and historical accounts, archaeological digs and theological teachings, to distill the very essence of a place. Nicholas Blincoe takes on this mission with verve in his new book, “Bethlehem,” unveiling the history of “the most famous little town in the world,” a place whose associations have long existed in the sociocultural zeitgeist. It is the supposed birthplace of Jesus; a town known for dissent in the face of invading forces; the site of much holiness and bloodshed...

21 December 2017
CNEWA staff

Our friends at Caritas Georgia sent us the above video, with this warm message of the season:

“Charity is not about ‘giving to’ — Charity is about ‘being with.” Thank you for being with us! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!”

Thank you, Caritas — and thanks to all our friends and donors from around the world who make it possible for us to “be with” Caritas and the people of Georgia when they need us!

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