30 June 2017
Here at CNEWA, our New York office will be closed until Wednesday to mark the Independence Day holiday. But if you’re looking for news, photos, videos and insights from the world we serve, look no further. The June edition of our award-winning magazine, ONE, is now available online.
Recently honored with a record 31 awards from the Catholic Press Association, ONE continues to bring stories of inspiration, courage, faith and hope to our readers and donors. This edition features a cover story about excellent Catholic schools in Ethiopia; we also take readers to a city in Lebanon offering welcome and hope to refugees and see how Caritas (with support from CNEWA) is helping the poorest of the poor, both young and old, in Armenia.
For more insight, take a moment to watch this video preview from Msgr. John E. Kozar below. Meantime, have a safe and happy holiday weekend — and thank you for your continued readership and support!
30 June 2017
Social worker Rachelle Beaini, right, dances with Syrian women during a social event hosted at a soup kitchen that welcomes refugees in Zahleh, Lebanon. Read more about how the city is dealing with the influx of newcomers, straddling Hardship and Hospitality, in the June 2017
edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
30 June 2017
In the video above, a young survivor of the recent attack on a Coptic Christian church describes what he witnessed. (video: AfricaNews/YouTube)
Survivor of Coptic church attack tells his story (Reuters) Ten-year-old Egyptian schoolboy Mina Habib recounts the day Islamist gunmen killed his father in an attack on a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in Minya, southern Egypt last month. The boy rarely leaves his house these days. He is still recovering from seeing Islamist gunmen kill his father for being a Christian...
Lebanon refugee camps hit by suicide bombers (BBC) Five militants have blown themselves up during a raid by Lebanese troops on refugee camps near the Syrian border, Lebanon’s army said. A young girl was killed and three soldiers wounded by the blasts. Four others were hurt when an attacker threw a hand grenade, the army said. It happened during an operation to search for militants and weapons in an area near the town of Arsal...
Christians in the Golan Heights endure (AFP) Few Christians remain on the Israeli-held part of the strategic plateau northeast of the Sea of Galilee, where Christians believe Jesus walked on water. Only two isolated Christian families still live there, according to the families themselves and a researcher on the Golan Heights. Their churches open only on rare occasions, such as for a recent solidarity visit by Arabs from the Israeli cities of Haifa and Nazareth...
Report confirms chemical weapons used in Syria (The New York Times) Sarin nerve agent or a similar poison was used in the 4 April aerial attack in northern Syria that killed nearly 100 villagers, including children, the monitoring group that polices the chemical arms ban treaty concluded Thursday in a report shared with United Nations diplomats...
New liquor policy comes to Kerala (India Legal) It was champagne time for the tourism, liquor and hospitality industry in Kerala recently. What brought good cheer was the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s decision to scrap the phased prohibition policy initiated by the Congress-led UDF government that preceded it. Justifying the move, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan labelled the earlier policy as “impractical...”
29 June 2017
Pope Francis greets Orthodox Archbishop Job of Telmessos and his delegation at the conclusion of a Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican 29 June. As is customary an Orthodox delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople attended the feast day Mass. Read more about the Mass here. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
29 June 2017
In this image from 2016, a volunteer embraces refugee children at a makeshift camp in near Idomeni, Greece. The Holy See has called for financial donations to developing countries to go toward supporting migrants, refugees and the local poor.
(photo: CNS/Nikos Arvanitdis, pool via EPA)
Holy See calls for donations to help migrants and the poor (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has called for financial donations to developing countries hosting refugees and forced migrants to go equally towards supporting arriving migrants and the local poor. It also said migrants and refugees should be both welcomed in their countries of arrival and accompanied before, during, and after their migratory journey...
Rosaries and rifles: Christians battling ISIS in Raqa (AFP) As the fightback against IS intensified the Syriac Military Council (SMC) — formed in 2013 to defend the community during Syria’s civil war — joined with the SDF. After a months-long operation to encircle Raqa, the SDF burst into the city on 6 June and are chipping away at jihadist-held districts, with help from heavy US-led coalition air strikes. Now the SMC’s fighters are battling jihadists on the frontline in Raqa, some proudly wearing their religion on their sleeves — literally. Many fighters have tattoos of rosaries inked around their wrists and the word "JESUS" printed down their forearms...
The courage of a Christian town on the frontline of Jihad (Newsweek) Qaa has now become a symbol for the courage of Christians of Lebanon — and not for the first time. During Lebanon’s civil war (1975-90), Qaa’s Christians were the target of sectarian attacks and, later,on the receiving end of regime brutality during the Syrian occupation, which only ended in 2005 after the Cedar Revolution...
A new island in the Mediterranean? (The New York Times) Israel’s intelligence and transport minister has long pushed the idea of an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip, with plans for a port, cargo terminal and even an airport to boost the territory’s economy and connect it to the world. But now the minister, Israel Katz, has released a slick, high-production video setting out his proposal in more detail, complete with a dramatic, English-speaking narration, colorful graphics and stirring music...
28 June 2017
The Rev. Gregory Gilbert celebrates the liturgy at Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella Greek Orthodox Church in Darlington, Maryland. (photo: Facebook)
From The Baltimore Sun:
Growing up a Southern Baptist in eastern Tennessee, Brent Gilbert says, he never realized there were other ways to worship.
He figured everyone knew the best church music was contemporary.
He was sure there was a 45-minute pastor’s sermon at the heart of every Sunday service.
And didn’t all Christians agree that religious art, symbols and rituals were relics of a less desirable past?
Then he encountered the ancient faith that would change his life.
In the formal liturgy, rituals and language of the Greek Orthodox Church, he found a worship tradition so enriched by its direct link to lives of Christ’s original followers that it turns faith into an “all-encompassing phenomenon.”
Gilbert is neither ethnically nor culturally Greek — his forebears came to America from the British Isles. But after discernment and years of study, he’s now the Rev. Gregory Gilbert, the presiding priest of Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella Greek Orthodox Church in Darlington — and a prominent example of the gradual but insistent wave of conversion that is turning a tradition long rooted in ethnic heritage into a more varied and, some say, more American movement.
Almost half the nearly 1 million Orthodox Christians in the United States today are converts, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America reported in 2015. The majority of these married into the church. But a growing number are joining simply out of an affinity for the faith.
“We can still say that it’s not the majority of the laity — at this stage, most have been raised in the church — but there’s a lot of them,” says the Very Rev. Archpriest Andrew Damick, pastor of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Pa., and the author of several books on Orthodox Christianity. “Conversion has already had a pretty big impact.”
Continue reading at the link. You’ll also find a gallery of photos and a video.
28 June 2017
Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai of Lebanon, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, walks near a statue of Our Lady of Fatima on 25 June. He led a pilgrimage to consecrate Lebanon and all the Middle East to Mary. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai consecrated Lebanon and all the Middle East to Mary in Fatima, praying for peace and stability.
Thousands of faithful from the Middle East as well as Lebanese diaspora from around the world also made the pilgrimage for the “Lebanon Day in Fatima,” which began 24 June with the recitation of the rosary and a candlelit procession.
“We have come from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Holy Land, Egypt, the (Persian) Gulf countries and various countries of proliferation — particularly from Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe — to continue, from generation to generation, to honor our Blessed Virgin Mary,” the patriarch said during his homily 25 June. He concelebrated Mass with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and a delegation of bishops and priests.
“We have come to renew the dedication of Lebanon and the countries of the Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, according to her wishes. This dedication is to repent, to stop wars and to consolidate peace,” Cardinal Rai said.
Beginning in June 2013, the patriarch has annually consecrated Lebanon and all the Middle East to Mary at Harissa, home of Our Lady of Lebanon. The consecrations were in response to a request of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East held in the Vatican in October 2012. This year, the consecration at Fatima commemorated the centennial of the apparitions, when Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the Portuguese village.
“We have come to ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima for peace in the Middle East region, and for stability in Lebanon, to preserve our country’s mission and model of coexistence among religions and cultures, especially among Christians and Muslims,” the cardinal said in his homily at Fatima. He stressed that “Lebanon’s significance lies in its open system of cultural and religious pluralism within a framework of cooperation, integration and mutual enrichment.”
About 40 percent of the approximate 4 million Lebanese citizens residing in Lebanon are Christian.
Lebanon has the only Christian head of state in the entire Middle East and North Africa. Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Catholic, while the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament is a Shiite Muslim.
28 June 2017
In the video above, the leader of an NGO providing support in the Middle East describes the remarkable and unshakable faith of the Iraqi people she has met. (video: Rome Reports)
Airstrike on ISIS prison reportedly kills dozens (The New York Times) An airstrike in eastern Syria destroyed a house that the Islamic State had turned into a prison, killing dozens of people, Syrian activists said Tuesday, and they blamed the military coalition led by the United States for the attack. A spokesman for the coalition confirmed that it had bombed buildings controlled by the Islamic State in the area on Monday and said that it was investigating the reports of civilian deaths...
Iraqi military says it has retaken two Mosul neighborhoods (Reuters) Iraq’s military said on Wednesday it had retaken two more neighborhoods from Islamic State in Mosul’s Old City, bringing it closer to total control of the city...
Some towns in Italy seek refugees for economic growth (Financial Review) During the past decade, a flood of migrants and refugees has begun to replace the Italians who left. From 2008 to 2013, the percentage of foreign migrant workers in the Italian farm industry nearly doubled to 37 per cent from 19 per cent, according to the National Institute of Agricultural Economics...
Unpacking recent violence against Egypt’s Copts (Eurasia Review) On 26 May, the Islamic State (ISIS) murdered 29 Coptic Christians on a bus in Minya, the latest targeting of Egypt’s largest minority community. Three church bombings since December, also claimed by ISIS, have killed over 70 Copts. The government of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi casts itself as the protector of Egyptian Copts, and violence against them appears to result straightforwardly from the ideological-strategic imperatives of ISIS. Yet such a shallow narrative is inadequate to understand recent outbreaks of violence affecting the Coptic community...
Gaza on the brink (Foreign Affairs) An ongoing electricity crisis is placing an inordinate amount of pressure on Gaza. If not addressed, it could end with a political implosion, a full-blown humanitarian disaster, and yet another round of violence between Hamas and Israel...
Cyberattack hits Ukraine, then spreads (The New York Times) Computer systems from Ukraine to the United States were struck on Tuesday in an international cyberattack that was similar to a recent assault that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide...
27 June 2017
Christian Scout volunteers turned out on 18 June to paint parts of Aleppo, Syria.
This story appeared today on the website for the Franciscans in the Holy Land:
Never have Aleppines found the markings on their sidewalks more beautiful. The Franciscan parish in the large city in Northern Syria decided to restore the city’s colors.
Aleppines could not believe it when on Sunday, 18 June, they saw scout brigades repainting their sidewalks for the first time. A little black and white paint was enough to give color to the neighborhood around the parish of St. Francis of Aleppo. A municipal sign indicated to drivers whether they were allowed to park their cars or not. It is the most trivial of things and yet “It is beautiful,” said one passer-by.
“Aleppo more beautiful” is an initiative carried out by the local friars of the Custody with the support of the governor, the mayor and the whole municipality. The program was inaugurated on Sunday, 18 June. In front of the parish church, Father Ibrahim, the pastor, was surrounded by government officials, brushes in hand, to paint the edges of the sidewalks.
Volunteers were happy to be covered with paint — and to be covering the streets, too.
After years of war that literally made the city’s colors fade, making “Aleppo more beautiful” is a concern and a challenge. For the people in charge of the initiative: “It allows us to unite as a single nation, a single family, whatever our religion or convictions... We also thought of this initiative right away as an opportunity to make reparations, to restore this beautiful mosaic — our society, which has been torn apart... So, we dove in with a lot of interest, love and commitment; [with] love for our martyred city and [with] the desire to promote reconciliation in our wounded, torn society. We are convinced that good is contagious. We do good and spread it, radiate it. War, hatred, egoism, the reign of death will be replaced by peace, charity, solidarity, the common good and the extension of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The promoters of the initiative invited all of the churches to join them and many groups such as the Christian Scouts, various religious groups and any of the inhabitants of the city who wanted to help. The Latin parish took charge of the financial aspect by buying all of the necessary materials.
A friar supervises the young Allepine artists. (photo: Custodia.org)
In the end, more than 200 people, armed with paintbrushes, buckets and paint, showed great enthusiasm and zeal and set out to conquer the city by embellishing it.
Read more and see more pictures at the link.
27 June 2017
Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Vatican.
(photo: Vatican Radio)
Pope meets Orthodox delegation from Ecumenical Patriarchate (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with members of an Orthodox delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate who are here in Rome to celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In his greeting, the Pope noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first exchange of visits between a Roman pontiff and an Ecumenical Patriarch. It was those historic encounters that inaugurated the tradition of sending Catholic and Orthodox delegations to Rome and Istanbul to celebrate the patron saints of the East and Western Churches...
ISIS counterattacks stall parts of Mosul push (AP) Counterattacks by Islamic State militants on the western edge of Mosul have stalled Iraqi forces’ push in the Old City, the last IS stronghold in the battle, an Iraqi officer said Tuesday. The attacks forced Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition to pull some assets away from the Old City to again clear the Yarmouk and Tanak neighborhoods, which were declared liberated of IS in May...
ISIS loses ground in Sinai, searches for foothold in Egypt (Al Monitor) The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced June 22 the killing of seven people it believed were involved in recent attacks against Copts, including church bombings and shootings in which about 100 people were killed. The ministry said in a statement it was “certain that a group of individuals had been stationed in some areas in the Western Desert, where they received military training on how to use weapons and assemble explosive devices in order to carry out more terrorist attacks...”
Pope Francis marks 25 years as a bishop (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Tuesday morning in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, together with the members of the College of Cardinals present in the city, in roder to mark the 25th jubilee of his ordination to the episcopacy. The Dean of the College of Cardinals offered greetings and best wishes to Pope Francis on the occasion, recalling the words of St. Paul the Apostle in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, “Make room for us in your hearts,” Cardinal Sodano said. “Holy Father, you need not tell us to make room for you in our hearts,” he continued, pledging him all the love and reverence due the Successor to Peter...