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22 March 2017
In this image from 2014, a refugees mother stands with her children in an informal tented settlement near Deir el Ahmar in the northern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. The U.S. bishops today released a pastoral reflection calling on Catholics to “accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.” (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, CRS)
Bishops call on U.S. Catholics to ‘accompany’ migrants, refugees (CNS) The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released 22 March called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.” Titled “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times,” the reflection was issued “in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands,” said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops...
Eritrean Catholic bishop visits diaspora in the U.S. (CNS) Two weeks before arriving in Ohio on a nationwide pastoral visit, Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim of the Eparchy of Segheneity, Eritrea, got word that eight young people from his eparchy died trying to make their way to Europe in search of a better life. It’s an all-too-common story, Bishop Tsalim told Horizons, newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, 7 March. Bishop Tsalim, 46, was at St. John Chrysostom Parish in Columbus, Ohio, in early March visiting the Eritrean Catholic diaspora who have been worshiping with the Byzantine Catholic community since 2014. He is the first bishop of the Segheneity Eparchy, which was established in 2012...
U.S. airstrike in Syria said to have killed dozens of civilians (The New York Times) At least 30 civilians have been killed in an airstrike by the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in a rural area of Raqqa Province in northern Syria, according to residents, activists and Syrian state television...
ISIS shells recaptured areas of Mosul (Reuters) Islamic State militants shelled areas recaptured by Iraqi forces in western Mosul, hitting civilians fleeing the fighting early on Wednesday as troops edged their way through the narrow, dangerous streets of the Old City...
Anti-Christian politician wins leadership of India’s biggest state (Premier.org) An Indian politician who’s previously accused Mother Teresa of “a conspiracy to Christianise India” has become leader of the country’s most populous state. Yogi Adityanath, who represents the Hindu nationalist BJP, won comprehensively in recent elections in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP won 325 of the 403 seats available and Adityanath was crowned chief minister of the state...
Good Friday collection will benefit Holy Land Christians (CNS) As Christians in the Middle East continue to suffer innumerable hardships this Lenten season, the Vatican has announced that this year’s Good Friday Collection will benefit Christian communities in the Holy Land. “Once again, from every part of the Church, expressions of solidarity come together effectively in the Good Friday Collection,” stated Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, in a recent press release...
21 March 2017
For two decades, Caritas Georgia has provided a wide range of services — including classes and health care — to the most vulnerable populations of the Caucasus. Read a letter from the director of Caritas Georgia in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Antonio di Vico)
21 March 2017
Tags: Education Georgia Caritas Caucasus
A Palestinian woman, pictured from the West Bank village of Deir Ballut, farms a field in front of the Israeli Jewish settlement of Peduel. (photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)
Small farmers struggle worldwide, but Palestinian farmers really have it rough (Washington Post) Palestinian farmer Fawzi Ibrahim is proud of his heirloom corn, whose kernels ripen in iridescent shades of red, blue and gold like jewels. But what makes it priceless are the obstacles he faces to grow his crops. Small farmers struggle worldwide. But international experts say Palestinian farmers face disabling odds in the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control and is home to some 400,000 Jewish settlers. As settler agricultural start-ups get prioritized access to water, export markets and development rights, the Israeli occupation is roiling the centuries-old pastoral life of Palestinian farmers, experts say, adding fuel to a conflict in which land is a trigger…
CNEWA cofounder takes a step toward sainthood (Catholic News Agency) The Catholic convert who founded the Society of the Atonement and cofounded CNEWA, Father Paul Wattson, S.A., could be one step closer to recognition as a saint. “Father Paul started a small week of prayer on the top of a mountain in Garrison, and now it’s a worldwide movement,” Father Brian Terry, S.A., the minister general for the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, told the Catholic New York newspaper…
Chaldean Patriarchate: Diaspora must take charge of the shortage of priests (Fides) Many of the Chaldean communities of the diaspora are asking their patriarchate to send priests for pastoral care. Because the pastoral care of communities present in the cradle of the Chaldean Church remains a high priority, the Chaldean Patriarchate cannot send priests working at the service of the dioceses in Iraq overseas. For this reason, the communities of the diaspora, with their bishops, are urged to take steps to address the problem of the shortage of priestly vocations at a local level…
Assyrians may never be able to return to Mosul (AINA) More than 100,000 Christians were forced to flee Mosul in Iraq when ISIS invaded in 2014. And as the Battle for Mosul reaches its final stages some Christians have attempted to return to the city. But a vicar, whose church 50 miles away in Erbil cares for hundreds of Christian families who left their homes, has warned a huge danger remains. Father Daniel says the terror cult’s destructive ideology has already spread to the next generation, sparking fears ISIS will continue their chilling campaign to boot Christians out of the Middle East…
Ancient palace emerges from under Mosul shrine destroyed by ISIS (Al Monitor) The capture of the shrine of the prophet Yunus in Mosul on 19 January from ISIS, whose fighters rigged the shrine and blew it up 24 July 2014, revealed the extent of the destruction inflicted by the militants. On 28 February, archaeologists uncovered a palace beneath it, intact since 600 B.C. The palace highlights the significant historical value of the site, dating back to the Assyrian Empire, which emerged centuries before the Christian era…
Legendary tomb of Jesus resurrected (Christian Science Monitor) After centuries of disrepair, one of Christianity’s holiest sites returns to life. Believed by the devout to house the final resting place of Jesus Christ, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre will open to the public on Wednesday after nearly a year of restoration. An ongoing dispute between the religious groups controlling the site had brought the burial place, known as the Edicule, to the brink of collapse. “We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” director of the restoration Antonia Moropoulou told National Geographic. “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ…”
20 March 2017
Tags: Iraq CNEWA Palestine Historical site/city Saints
In the video above, a Syrian couple visits the Vatican and describes the toll the war has taken on their country. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope to visit Egypt (Vatican Radio) In response to the invitation from the President of the Republic, the Bishops of the Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic trip to the Arab Republic of Egypt from 28 to 29 April 2017, visiting the city of Cairo...
Israel reportedly launches strike on Syria (The Los Angeles Times) An Israeli aircraft reportedly launched a strike into Syria on Sunday that left one person dead, in what appeared to be the second cross-border attack in three days as tensions between the neighbors escalated over the weekend...
Muslim family donates $15 million to Notre Dame for religious studies institute (The New York Times) The Ansaris announced a $15 million gift to the University of Notre Dame, one of the top Catholic universities, to create the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement With Religion. The institute will aim to deepen knowledge of religion and look to explain how the traditions and practice of various religions influence world events...
European Union gives $178 million to battle Ethiopian drought (Bloomberg) The European Union said it’s giving an extra 165 million euros ($178 million) to battle humanitarian crises in East Africa, including a famine in South Sudan and drought in Somalia. From the total, 100 million euros will be allocated to help responses to the crisis in South Sudan and an influx of its refugees to neighboring countries, the EU said Monday in an emailed statement. Humanitarian assistance for droughts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya will be targeted with 65 million euros...
Hindu, Muslim and Christian actors portraying the Passion of Jesus in Kerala (Herald Malaysia) Artists from various Indian states are staging the Passion of Christ until 22 March in 14 parishes in Kerala. Most of the performers are Hindu and belong to the Pretna Kala Manch (Art Forum for Inspiration) Theatre Company. Speaking to AsiaNews, the Rev. Anand Mathew IMS, author, director and coordinator of the Vishwa Jyoti Communications (Indian Missionary Society Information Centre), said that the most dramatic scenes, like the one in which Christ is nailed to the cross, “provoked such strong emotions that many spectators burst into tears...”
16 March 2017
A man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an ISIS-controlled part of Mosul toward Iraqi special forces soldiers during a 4 March battle in Mosul.
(photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)
100,000 flee as Iraqi forces advance in Mosul (Al Jazeera) Iraqi government forces battling ISIL for Mosul took control of a main bridge over the River Tigris on Wednesday and advanced towards the mosque where the group’s leader declared a caliphate in 2014...
Calls for world leaders to act on conflict in Syria (Vatican Radio) It is now been six years since the start of a brutal civil war that has engulfed Syria. The ongoing conflict has forced thousands of people to flee and has left countless others who have remained trapped in besieged areas throughout the country...
Holy See calls on U.N. to end conflict, human trafficking (Vatican Radio) “The Holy See urges the Security Council to take a greater role in the fight against the scourge of trafficking in persons.” That is the message of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who was invited this week to address the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Trafficking in persons in conflict situations: forced labour, slavery and other similar practices, at UN Headquarters in New York...
A message from Turkey, a nation under pressure (The New York Times) The country is battling two separate terrorism campaigns (one led by secular Kurds, the other by Islamic State extremists) and two land wars (in southeast Turkey and northern Syria). It is hosting more displaced Syrians — around 2.75 million of them — than any other country except Syria itself. It is caught between growing tensions over Syria between its NATO allies on one side and its neighbor, Russia, on the other. And it is torn by its own internal debates over the role of Islam in society...
Christian growth in India brings new concerns (The Irish Catholic) Can good news for a community be, simultaneously, bad news for that same community? It seems that this is possible if one is living within the Christian population of India...
Heroic nun is saving children (UCANIndia.in) Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, based in the capital of Madhya Pradesh, considers Sister Animuttil a “rare person who put her own life at risk for others. [She is] a great example of both the struggles of women and what women can do with conviction and faith,” he said...
15 March 2017
A religious sister comforts a sick woman in 2016 at Snehadam Old Age Home in Gurgaon, India.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
An “invisible” Catholic organization celebrated 90 years of quiet service to the poor in the Middle East, northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.
Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said the agency maintains a low profile because it works through and with the local church.
“They know best how to represent the face of Christ. We trust their experience, holiness and knowledge about how to govern and care for their people,” he said in a 28 February interview with Catholic News Service.
The mission of the organization is to serve and accompany Eastern Catholic churches in pastoral and humanitarian activities, generally at the level of the diocese or eparchy, Msgr. Kozar said. A secondary mission is to share the needs of the Eastern churches with people in North America who may be confused about where Eastern churches fit in the larger Catholic picture.
Eastern Catholic churches have their origins in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India or northeast Africa; have distinctive liturgical and legal systems; and are often identified by the national or ethnic character of their region of origin. Members of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches enjoy the same dignity, rights and obligations as members of the Latin Church.
Msgr. Kozar said people in North America have little exposure to Eastern churches and he takes it in stride when asked if Eastern Catholics are “really Catholic” and if they are under the authority of Pope Francis. “I say, ‘Yes! We are one church with two very enriching traditions, Latin and Eastern.’”
He said Eastern Catholic churches are typically smaller than Latin churches. Many have deep historic roots and are in areas of suffering and religious persecution.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association was founded in 1926 in response to a request by Pope Pius XI to unite all American Catholic organizations providing aid to Russia and the Near East. Near East is an imprecise geographic term that encompasses southwest Asia and the Arabian Peninsula.
As a papal organization, it has a mandate from the Vatican to support the Eastern Catholic Church. Another mandate of the agency is to work for union among Catholic and non-Catholic Eastern churches, including the Orthodox churches.
In recent years, the association spent approximately $22 million annually on assistance in 14 countries.
The abiding challenge is with refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East, especially Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Msgr. Kozar said. Access in Syria has been sharply limited because of the ongoing conflict, but the organization is still helping the local churches provide milk, bedding, diapers and antibiotics to their people.
“There are heroic priests, sisters and bishops who never left. Some Catholics and other Christians have been hunkered down for more than five years,” he said.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association also is active in areas where the church has experienced persecution and retribution, such as Egypt. In one town, the agency funded the repair of a section of a burned-out orphanage so the sisters living there could continue to care for 15 children. The orphanage was one of 55 church properties damaged in anti-Christian violence during 2013.
Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, talks with an Ethiopian woman in a village in 2015.
The agency also supports school feeding programs for children in drought-affected parts of the horn of Africa. It serves some of the 1 million families displaced in Ukraine as a result of fighting along the border with Russia.
In India, the agency supports evangelization in the remote tribal areas in the northern part of the country. “It’s very uplifting how people have a yearning to have a different experience of God or to experience him for the first time,” said Msgr. Kozar, who has visited the area several times.
“It’s the most basic form of evangelization,” he said. “Priests and sisters live in villages with indigenous peoples and share their prayer life in a very basic way.”
The two Eastern Catholic churches in India are the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara, which trace their origins to St. Thomas the Apostle.
Pope Francis is expected to travel to India this year, possibly in November. Msgr. Kozar said the visit will give hope to the people and encourage them to continue their many good works of charity and service. He said Catholics comprise only 1 percent to 1.5 percent of the population. “The Catholic Church contributes tremendously to the education environment, medical care and social services, disproportionate to our numbers,” he said.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association works to empower Eastern Catholic churches through education and formation of religious, clergy and communities, according to Michael J.L. La Civita, the agency’s communications director.
“We’re not teaching them how to be a church. We’re providing resources and sometimes know-how to build more responsive and holy churches,” he told CNS. “They start with a foundation and it has to be sustainable, so we have to be invisible.”
“These are churches rooted in the time of Jesus and the apostles, and filled with men and women doing great things,” he said. Instead of falling into despair because of extraordinary challenges in the current day, “they are motivated by the Gospel to do something to change the situation,” he said.
Although the organization’s efforts are “for, through and with” the Eastern Catholic churches, La Civita said humanitarian aid is provided to all as a witness to the Gospel. “This requires us to be in dialogue of other communities of faith,” he said.
La Civita said the agency’s accompaniment extends to Orthodox and other Christian and non-Christian traditions. It also participates in national and local Catholic dialogues with Muslims, Jews and Orthodox.
As archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan serves as the agency’s chairman.
“In this role I have visited a number of Eastern churches in some very challenging areas of the world,” he said in response to a question from CNS.
“This papal agency is focused on, as Pope Francis would say, accompaniment — reaching out in a pastoral way to demonstrate solidarity of the Holy Father and the church universal with these local churches that suffer greatly, and are even persecuted,” the cardinal said. “Our message is clear and simple: You are not alone. We are here, and we love you.”
15 March 2017
The Rev Androwas Bahus leads an early morning service at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the city of Shefa-Amr, Israel. Learn more about A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
15 March 2017
The damaged entrance of St. Mary’s Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Wednesday 15 March marks the sixth anniversary of the conflict in Syria. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Badra, EPA)
After six years, the war in Syria drags on (Fides) Wednesday, 15 March marks the sixth anniversary of the conflict in Syria. And contrary to what is reported by international media, Syria “continues to suffer.” This is the key message that the Jesuit Refugee Service wanted to publish through a dossier that contains a lot of data related to the situation...
Pastor of Aleppo: ‘Pope’s donation will help young Syrian families’ (Vatican Radio) The pastor of Aleppo in Syria says a recent donation from Pope Francis and the Roman Curia of €100,000 will go to couples and young families in need...
Iraqi forces advance on mosque in battle for Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi government forces battling Islamic State for Mosul took control of a main bridge over the Tigris river on Wednesday and advanced towards the mosque where the group’s leader declared a caliphate in 2014, federal police said. The seizure of the Iron Bridge, linking eastern Mosul with the militant-held Old City on the west side, means the government holds three of the five bridges over the Tigris and bolsters Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s assertion that the battle is reaching its final stages...
French cabinet to vote on taking in 500 refugees from Lebanon (The Daily Star) The French Cabinet is set to vote at ElysÉe Palace for a new protocol to take in 500 Syrian refugees from Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency reported Tuesday...
Displaced Coptic families to receive apartments (Egypt Daily News) Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly is expected to start on Saturday evening the delivery of the first batch of residential apartments to the Coptic families that have arrived to Ismailia after escaping the North Sinai city of Al-Arish. This exodus came after Coptic citizens faced unprecedented threats from militants. According to the Copts United news website, there will be an official ceremony to deliver the apartments, which will see the presence of Ismailia’s governor and other high-ranking officials from the Ismailia diocese...
Russian Orthodox Church will mark St. Patrick’s Day (Radio Free Europe) The Russian Orthodox Church has said it will mark St. Patrick’s Day and more than a dozen other days commemorating saints who lived in the west before the Great Schism that divided Christianity into east and west in 1054. The move to recognize the saint days will also likely give renewed spirit to celebrations of the most recognizable of the 16 chosen by the church — St. Patrick. But there is a twist. The Russian Orthodox Church will mark the day for Ireland’s patron saint in line with the Julian calendar on 30 March, rather than the Gregorian calendar’s date of 17 March...
13 March 2017
Late last week, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar received a note from Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, along with a letter he’d written describing the situation his church in Syria is facing this Lent.
His note — written on the back of a postcard (shown above) depicting St. Paul and quoting from his letter to the Corinthians — said:
“Dear Msgr. John...Damascus church is going into Lent, time to find the peace way. Please pray for us. Thank you for all that CNEWA is doing to help.”
Please remember the men, women and children of Syria in your prayers as they continue living their own long Lent.
The text of the accompanying letter, translated from the original French, paints a grim and painful picture:
An Apocalyptic Scene
In six years of war, the face of Syria has changed quite a lot.
It is a huge disaster zone of debris, carbonized buildings, burned down houses, ghost neighborhoods and towns destroyed to the ground. More than 12 million Syrians, 50 percent of the population, are lacking a roof.
They form the largest mass of refugees since the Second World War. Several million have left the country in search of more merciful skies. Many are waiting for mercy in camps of misery, some of have attempting to leave and others are in line at embassies — nomads in search of a welcoming land. How can they leave this Syria of torments?
A Shattered Family
The family — which fortifies church and nation and has saved the country in the past — is heavily shaken. Seldom is a complete family found. Violence has scattered this basic cell of society. Some family members are in graves, others in exile, in prison or on the battle field. This painful situation is the cause of depression and anxiety and forces those few left without support to beg.
Young fiancées, separated by this exodus, the immigration of their partner or military mobilization, cannot marry. Crisis surrounds them. A hope for their future has crumbled. How is it possible to follow a course without a family or with a broken family?
A Sacrificed Childhood
The children are the most fragile. They have paid a great price for this merciless violence. According to UNESCO, more than three million Syrian children haven’t attended school because they have to prioritize their physical wellbeing. Those that have been to school witness the demise of the quality of teaching due to fewer faculty and students in remaining schools. Academic failure is imposed by these overwhelming circumstances.
The centers of psychological support cannot overcome the number and depth of wounds and psychic blocks. How do we restore the spirit of these children destroyed by violence and barbaric scenes?
Parishes have seen the number of parishioners diminish and pastoral activities reduced considerably. The priests are deprived of the means to provide human and spiritual support. The Church of Damascus has witnessed the departure of one third of their clergy (27 priests). This is a hard blow weakening the place and role of the Christian minority already in decline.
The priests struggling to remain without any reassurances consider negotiating their eventual departure. They only wait for humanitarian agencies to arrive to assist broken families.
How do we fix this alarming hemorrhage?
Can we imagine a Church without priests?
Between Pain and Freedom
The Syrian people are no longer looking for liberty. Their daily combat is finding bread, water, gas and fuel which are harder and harder to find. Electrical shortages have become more frequent and lengthy. These darken nights and reduce any social life.
The search for lost brothers, parents and friends is a very discrete, anxious and hopeful undertaking.
Finding a little room for shelter in a country in ruins has become an impossible dream for families and even more for young couples.
Fighting for liberty or searching for bread, what course should one take?
This little Syrian population lives this reality with pain visible in silent looks and streams of tears.
This bitter Lent of 2017 offers us time in the desert to take a good look at our commitment to the Church in the midst of faithful who are in distress, to lead the way towards Christ resurrected. Christ, light of the world, who knows the hearts of men and women says: “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
13 March 2017
In this image from February, Pope Francis greets an elderly nun during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. Monday 13 March marks the four-year anniversary of his election to the papacy. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)