Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
8 May 2017
CNEWA staff

CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, recently received another letter from Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Syria, along with the holy card shown above — a poignant image of Mary for the month of May. The image shows part of the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, which we wrote about in our magazine in 1990. (Read more about the image and its history here.)

The card bears a scriptural reference on the back: John 19, 25-27, which includes the words spoken by Jesus from the cross, “Behold your mother.”

The archbishop wrote to ask for prayers for the intercession of Our Lady of Peace in his troubled country. But he also wanted to offer some good news, praising the sisters who are serving and offering “the good works of Christ in Damascus.”

He wrote:

Seventy nine sisters of different congregations are devoted to the church of Damascus. In total discretion, they bring no attention to themselves. Some orders have been here for more than 180 years. They are the profound force that brings life to the Gospel through charisma inspired by the Holy Spirit, in service of the believers and the less fortunate.

  1. Testimony of fraternity: Some sisters live in small communities in schools which were nationalized in 1968. Others live in hospitals, modest apartments or housing in the middle of God's people, leading a life of poverty, prayer and praise.
  2. Always willing to listen: These consecrated religious sisters are available to shelter and listen to the less fortunate. This is a primary need in these years of war and solitude. They accumulate in their hearts all the sufferings and problems of the less fortunate who've been forgotten in their misery and uncertainty. Due to their own powerlessness, these consecrated women lovingly and affectionately represent a Wall of Waiting, which assures a charitable presence for needy families.
  3. Compassionate faces: Our sisters’ commitment to the service of families is evidenced by their presence in daycare centers, schools free clinics, food service establishments and in catechetical and religious formation centers. I give special mention to their heroic mission in the health care sector. Their activities for the care of the sick and the numerous people wounded by war has developed into an avant-garde pastoral of the sick.
  4. Benefits of the future: The basic mission of our dear sisters remains centered on schools in the formation of children and young people. This educational service transmits moral valueless such as peace, tolerance and dialogue to rebuild a torn country...I have to point out in this area the most important psychological support that the sisters provide to those wounded in war and especially for uprooted children scarred by violence, negligence and exclusion.
  5. A huge thank you: This beautiful testimony of light, hidden and unknown, deserves our gratitude and acknowledgement. Dear consecrated beloved sisters in Damascus, the RISEN CHRIST will be the one to thank you and bless you!

Samir Nassar
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus

Our Lady of Peace, pray for us!

8 May 2017
Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

Seminarians last weekend ran a relay across Italy to raise funds for displaced Iraqis in Erbil, such as those shown above. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)

Loaded with peanut butter sandwiches, power bars, Gatorade, grit and prayer, nine U.S. seminarians studying in Rome ran relay-style across the Italian peninsula to raise funds for displaced families in Iraq.

Warm-up included a pre-dawn Mass 6 May at the Pontifical North American College where the students live, followed by packing two vans with nine runners, two drivers and protein- and carb-rich provisions, Christian Huebner of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told Catholic News Service on 4 May.

One van headed to the Mediterranean Sea near Fiumicino and the other van went east to the Adriatic Sea.

“When we arrive, we dip a finger in the water and run to the middle” of the peninsula, which is about 240 miles across, he said. The students meet up in the middle by evening “in some random parking lot” as long as it had a gas station and pizzeria to replenish tanks and tummies.

He said the men take turns running one leg of five to nine miles to a planned checkpoint and then the finishing runner would “slap hands” to hand-off the virtual baton to the next runner in the relay.

The men stretched and rested in the moving van, encouraging the one on the road along the way, he said.

The one-day run raised more than $15,000 dollars, in part thanks to an anonymous donor who matched every dollar pledged. The money goes to the pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need, which will use the funding to continue a program that feeds some of the 12,000 displaced families from Mosul living in Erbil.

The Chaldean Catholic Archeparchy of Erbil, in conjunction with other aid agencies, is the largest provider of aid to the displaced families in that area, the seminarians said on their “Roman Run for Erbil” donor page.

The Chaldean Church organizes pastoral programs, runs seven schools that are open to displaced children and provides food aid, said the donor page on the site.

This was the third year a group of U.S. seminarians — led by Deacon Michael Zimmerman of the Archdiocese of Boston — got together to do a fundraising run for a common cause. Past efforts raised money for a seminary in Haiti, a pro-life center in the United Kingdom and the Syriac Catholic Church, Huebner said.

Unfortunately, he said, Deacon Zimmerman, the run’s founder, had to miss this year’s run because of a soccer injury.

The biggest and most important aim of the relay run, Huebner said, was supplying prayer for and solidarity with those who are suffering.

“One thing the Holy Father says,” is the importance of “taking prayer with you along the way” every day, and the “Roman Run” does that, he said, with prayer being a part of the training, fundraising and race.

“We use the opportunity to encourage people to a life in prayer, no matter where we find ourselves in life,” Huebner said. “Prayer can soak into any part of life like a sponge.”

8 May 2017
Greg Kandra

Natalia Menshykova fled her home in the Crimean capital of Simferopol and, like countless others, started life over in Lviv. She now runs a small theater company. Read more about her and Ukrainians who are The Displaced in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)

8 May 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2016, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III meets with children as they take part in a day of activities and prayers at a church in Damascus.
(photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)

Pope accepts resignation of Greek Melkite Patriarch (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday accepted the resignation of the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III Laham, from his pastoral office. A letter from the Holy Father to the Patriarch-emeritus and all the Melkite bishops explains that His Beatitude presented his resignation during the course of a special audience with the Holy Father in February, and that the Holy Father has decided to accept the resignation...

Syria will abide by ‘de-escalation’ plan (Reuters) Syria’s foreign minister said on Monday that his government would abide by the terms of a Russian plan for “de-escalation” zones so long as rebels also observed it. Walid al-Moualem told a televised news conference that rebels involved in the process must help clear areas they control of jihadist factions, including the former Nusra Front, and that the deal’s guarantors must help them do this...

ISIS reportedly infiltrates refugee camp at Jordan-Syria border (NBC News) Officially, [the camp] is located in a demilitarized zone. However, the pilot of the Jordanian military helicopter used during a recent NBC News visit wouldn’t fly over it for fear of being shot down by ISIS cells in the camp. Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, commander of Jordan’s army in the area, told NBC News that militants there “have whole weapons systems ... small arms, RPG’s, anti-aircraft.” He added: “They consider the camp a safe haven. We consider it an imminent threat...”

Survivors talk of life under ISIS (The Sun) Survivors of the brutal Mosul siege have told of the terror of living under the shadow of an ISIS regime which mercilessly punished anyone caught flouting their archaic laws. Those caught smoking or drinking faced death while even those caught wearing the ‘wrong kind’ of trousers would be thrown into jail for months on end...

Russian priest maintains war cemetery outside St. Petersburg (RT) Properly burying enemy soldiers is paramount, as victory is meaningless without the victor’s benevolence, Orthodox Priest Father Vyacheslav, who helped organize one of Europe’s largest German military cemeteries outside of St Petersburg, told RT...

5 May 2017
Greg Kandra

Saeed Elyas Seno stands with his wife, Ekhlas Jomaa, and their four children by their temporary home in Kurdistan. Displaced Iraqis such as Senos — driven from their homes by ISIS — are struggling to remain hopeful. Read some of their stories and why they believe ‘God Wants Me Here’ in the March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)

5 May 2017
Greg Kandra

Russian President Putin’s special envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari attend a signing of a memorandum to establish de-escalation zones in Syria during peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on 4 May 2017.
(photo: Aliia Raimbekova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russia reaches deal for Syria safe zones (The New York Times) Russia, Iran and Turkey signed a memorandum on Thursday to create four “de-escalation zones” in Syria, to reduce bloodshed in a war now in its seventh year, but many questions remained about the plan...

Pope Francis to meet Donald Trump at Vatican later this month (CNS) President Donald Trump will visit the Vatican and meet with Pope Francis 24 May as part of his first foreign trip as president. White House officials said the visit will be part of a trip that will include stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia before Trump attends a NATO meeting in Brussels 25 May and the G7 summit in Taormina on the island of Sicily 26-27 May...

Mass evictions burying refugees in Lebanon in debt (Voice of America) Driven from their homes in Syria, thousands of refugees in Lebanon are once again in search of shelter. An estimated 8,000 to 12,000 refugees are on the move amid what is likely to be the biggest mass eviction of its kind in Lebanon since the war began...

Iraq, U.S. In talks to keep troops in Iraq after ISIS (AP) Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government...

Ukraine increasingly feels the east is lost to Russia (AP) Long unthinkable after years of fighting and about 10,000 deaths, Ukrainians increasingly are coming around to the idea of at least temporarily abandoning the region known as the Donbass, considering it to be de facto occupied by Russia...

Ethiopian mosque site offers example of religious tolerance (The Daily Sabah) The Ethiopian religious site of Teru Sina, which features unique architectural characteristics, provides a successful model of religious tolerance with its opportunities for religious learning and socializing. Religious pilgrimages to the shrine of Shaykh Awel reportedly take place twice a year, and it is not only Muslims who honor the Sufi saint, but Ethiopian Orthodox Christians as well...

4 May 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Indian Christians line up for a procession to celebrate the feast of St. Sebastian in Marayoor, in the state of Kerala. To learn about some of the efforts of the church to provide social support in Marayoor and other villages in the region, read Breaking the Cycle in the March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)

Tags: India Indian Christians

4 May 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Iraqi Yazidis gather to celebrate the Yazidi New Year — known as Chwarshaba Sor, or Red Wednesday — in Dohuk, Iraq, on 18 April 2017. (photo: Muhammet Bamerni/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Yazidi genocide evidence mounting against ISIS: legal experts (Daily Star Lebanon) Legal experts said on Thursday there was growing evidence to prove atrocities by ISIS against Iraq’s Yazidi minority, including sexual slavery and mass killings, legally constitute genocide, which could help bring militants to justice if they ever go on trial…

Five years, billions of dollars needed to rebuild Mosul (AINA) Mosul’s wrecked roads, bridges and broader economy will take at least five years to repair and need billions of dollars of development that Iraq’s government will struggle to afford, officials returning to the battle-scarred city said…

Chaldean patriarch: In Egypt the pope has opened many doors (Fides) “With the speeches and gestures of his trip to Egypt, Pope Francis has opened many doors: with Islam, with political authorities, among Christians. We hope that now Muslims also take the opportunity, and take advantage of this support offered to them by the church,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, who was also present in at the pope’s visit to Cairo. “I stayed in Egypt even the following days” he said, “and I was able to register the great impression left by the visit of the pope…”

Indian bishops focus on migrants as trafficked victims on May Day (Vatican Radio) India’s Catholic bishops have issued a message for 1 May, drawing attention especially to migrants who end up as victims of human trafficking. Migration and human trafficking “are interlinked since unorganized workers and uninformed people leave their home for work or are brought to work,” said Bishop Oswald Lewis of Jaipur, chairman of the Labor Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. “May Day,” he noted, “reminds us of the events and endeavors that have contributed to worker solidarity, the dignity of work and prosperity, unity and harmony among workers achieved through sweat and toil…”

Pope’s prayer intention for May: Christians in Africa (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for May is dedicated to Christians in Africa: That Christians in Africa, in imitation of the Merciful Jesus, may give prophetic witness to reconciliation, justice, and peace…

Europe: 24,600 refugee children ‘in limbo’ at risk of mental distress, UNICEF warns (U.N. News Center) Nearly 75,000 refugees and migrants, including an estimated 24,600 children, currently stranded in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Western Balkans are at risk of psychosocial distress caused by living in a protracted state of limbo, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today…

Tags: India Iraq Refugees Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Yazidi

3 May 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

(photo: John E. Kozar)

An Ethiopian Orthodox priest visits the Cathedral of the Holy Savior in Adigrat, to join CNEWA’s Msgr. John Kozar and members of the local Catholic clergy for breakfast. Earlier today, we linked an article discussing Pope Francis’ efforts to promote ecumenism with the Oriental Orthodox churches, a body that includes the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Acts of Christian unity, whether as grand and elaborate as a summit of church heads or as simple as a breakfast, all serve to help fulfill Christ’s prayer “that all may be one.”

Tags: Ethiopia Ecumenism Ethiopian Orthodox Church Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church

3 May 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

Displaced Iraqis fleeing the fighting arrive in Mosul’s Bab al Abyad neighborhood on 3 May 2017. (photo: Ahmad al Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Without school, children of Mosul feared lost to poverty and conflict (AINA) Tens of thousands of children have been orphaned or left homeless by the war with ISIS, and forced to work to support their families in Mosul, the militant’s last major city stronghold in Iraq. Returning these children to school is a priority for Iraq to end the cycle of sectarian violence fueled in part by poverty and ignorance, the United Nations says…

Christian forum urges government to protect places of worship (Fides) A network of organizations, congregations and NGOs have submitted to the United Nations a report arguing that India’s government must work with greater urgency to protect life, personal security and places of religious worship of Christians. This report is a joint submission by Franciscans International, VIVAT International, Congregations of St. Joseph, Pax Romana, Sisters of Charity Federation, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries and other partners. These groups are seeking to raise the awareness of the U.N. Human Rights Council in view of the periodic review for India scheduled to take place in May 2017…

Egypt is a beacon of hope and refuge, pope says at audience (CNS) Just as it had been for centuries, Egypt can be a sign of hope for those who long for peace, Pope Francis said. During his weekly general audience on 3 May, the pope reflected on his recent visit to Egypt and said that because of its religious and cultural heritage as well as its role in the Middle East, Egypt has the task of promoting a lasting peace that “rests not on the law of force but on the force of law…”

Pope Francis hopes to strengthen ties with Oriental Orthodox churches (Crux) One major aspect of Pope Francis’s trip to Egypt is the ecumenical encounter with the Coptic Orthodox Church, a member of the Oriental Orthodox communion, which broke with what are now the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches as early as the fifth century, when they rejected the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Together, the six churches in the communion represent some 84 million faithful and are among the oldest Christian bodies in the world…

Holy See to U.N.: no to nuclear proliferation (Vatican Radio) The head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, taking place in Vienna from 2 to 12 May, Msgr. Janusz S. Urbanczyk, has released his prepared address to the body. Below, please find the full text of his prepared remarks in English...

Jaish Al Islam releases hundreds of Alawite prisoners in rural Damascus (Al Masdar) Following a rare deal between the Syrian Arab Army and Jaish Al Islam, hundreds of captive civilians and soldiers, mostly Alawites, were released in return for 51 aid convoys entering Douma in eastern Damascus…

Armenian separatists condemn Turkish-Azerbaijani army drills (Vatican Radio) Armenia backed separatists have condemned joined military exercises by Turkey and Azerbaijan. The drills, which last until Friday, come amid tensions between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh…

Tags: Syria India Iraq Ecumenism Azerbaijan

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