25 September 2017
Kurds vote in a referendum to decide on independence from Iraq and the establishment of Kurdistan as a state on 25 September 2017 in Kirkuk, Iraq.(photo: Martyn Aim/Corbis via Getty Images)
Iraqi Kurds vote in independence referendum (Al Jazeera) Polls open in northern Iraq as Kurds cast ballots in referendum on whether to support independence from Baghdad…
Christians divided on the Kurdish independence referendum (Fides) The Chaldean Church, in a recent statement, made clear that “is not responsible” for the positions expressed by parties, organizations and armed factions led by members of local Christian communities, regarding the situation of Iraq and its current problems, according to a recent statement from the patriarchate. Some Christian spokespersons have thanked Masud Barzani, president of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, for having met their demands regarding the future administrative autonomy to be guaranteed to the areas of historic settlement of Christian communities. The Assyrian Democratic Movement, on the other hand, reiterates that the promises contained in the independence referendum’s primary document are not sufficient to ensure the real protection of the rights of the various religious and ethnic components…
Ethnically divided Iraqi town fears fresh conflict after Kurds’ independence vote (AINA) On the eve of the historic referendum on independence, Kurds across the region were celebrating. Young people honked their horns and shot celebratory gunfire into the air of major cities. But not in Tuz Khurmatu, an Iraqi town of more than 100,000 that is violently split among Kurds and Shi’ite Turkmen, who oppose Monday’s referendum. “I hope the referendum will be canceled,” said Luay, a Turkman shopkeeper in Tuz. “If they don’t, the Kurds will take over by force and there won’t be any Turkmen or Arabs left…”
Kurdish referendum is not for Yazidis, says supreme Yazidi leader (AINA) Yazidi Supreme Spiritual leader Baba Sheikh Khurto Hajji Ismail and the leader of the recently declared autonomous Yazidi enclave of Ezidkhan in northwestern Iraq, Prime Minister Waheed Mandoo Hammo, have issued a joint communiqué clarifying and affirming Ezidkhan’s position vis-à-vis the Kurdish Regional Government’s unilateral decision to conduct a referendum on Kurdish independence on 25 September 2017. Their terse communiqué reads: “Ezidkhan’s policy toward Kurdistan and Iraq is and remains one of strict neutrality. The Kurdish referendum is not for Yezidis, but for Kurds only to decide. Yezidis have their own autonomous nation…”
Government seals off Catholic mission in central India (UCAN India) Government officials in a remote area of central Indian Madhya Pradesh state have impounded the property of a Catholic mission and forced its priest out of the premises. Father Kidangan said government officials acted under pressure from members of hardline Hindu groups who are opposed to the mission’s work and accuse it of trying to secure religious conversions. The mission aims to help poor villagers by coordinating several welfare projects…
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church holds reunion meet (UCAN India) The 87th anniversary of reunion of Syro-Malankara Church with Catholic Church was celebrated from 19 to 21 September at Mar Ivanios Nagar in Adoor in Pathanamthitta district. The three-day meet commemorated the reunion of a faction of Malankara Christians with the Catholic Church following its split from the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in 1930…
In Orissa, the first university for 27,000 indigenous students (Fides) The Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences is the first-ever social science university geared toward India’s indigenous Adivasi population. Destined for families who cannot bear the cost of education, the school aims at eradicating poverty through quality education for the poorest students in the country…
Ethiopia police vows to ensure security of Meskel festival celebrations (News Ghana) The Ethiopia Federal Police Commission said on Monday it is ready to ensure the two-day Meskel religious festival is conducted peacefully. Meskel, which falls on Sept. 26-27 this year, is an annual religious festival commemorating the discovery of the True Cross celebrated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church at the end of September, with a public bonfire and religious procession…
Persecuted in Egypt, these Christians fight for a better life in York (York Daily Record) Coptic Orthodox Christian Ragaa Thabet and her husband, Hany Thomas, moved from Egypt to York, Pennsylvania, in 2009. They are not alone; rather, they count among the 60 or so families of Coptic Christians who moved to York County to escape religious persecution in Egypt. The migration is part of a broader movement of Copts that began at urban centers in places such as New Jersey and Southern California. Since then, Copts have established churches in most states…
22 September 2017
Tags: India Iraq Ethiopia United States Coptic
Students join hands to perform the dabke, a folk dance native to the Levant, at the Father Roberts Institute for Deaf Children north of Beirut. Check out the September 2017 edition of ONE to learn how CNEWA is Reaching the Margins and helping those most in need in Lebanon. (photo: Don Duncan)
22 September 2017
Tags: Lebanon Education Disabilities Caring for the Elderly
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, shown in a 2014 file photo, addressed Catholic leaders in India and spoke of the persecution Christians are facing around the world. (photo: CNS/Tyler Osburn)
Patriarch: Christians facing attacks (The Hindu) The West and East Asian countries have been witnessing selective gory attacks and massacres of Christians, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III has said. The patriarch was addressing a gathering at the 87th anniversary of the reunion of the Syro-Malankara Church at Mar Ivanios Nagar (Green Valley Convention Centre) at Adoor on Wednesday…
Civilians evacuate eastern Syria (Reuters) Hundreds of civilians left a besieged ISIS enclave in central Syria after the Syrian government and ISIS reached an evacuation deal, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday…
Mosul’s children return to school (ABC News) Since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Mosul in July, a sense of normalcy has returned. In West Mosul, 110 schools have reopened to welcome nearly 81,000 children, about 36,000 of them girls, Laila Ali, a media officer with UNICEF in Iraq, told ABC News…
Ethiopia: 55,000 displaced over ethnic clashes (AP) More than 55,000 ethnic Oromos have been displaced from Ethiopia’s Somali region after a week of clashes with Somalis in which dozens were killed, the regional government of Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region said…
Trump’s call for refugee resettlement causes stir in Lebanon (The National) Lebanon’s politicians have been quick to respond to Donald Trump’s comments at the U.N. General Assembly that the United States would “seek to host refugees as close to their home country as possible.” The issue is a sensitive one for Lebanon, where as many as 1.5 million Syrian refugees have fled since civil war broke out in their country in 2011. Lebanon now hosts more refugees per capita than any other country, and ranks third in the world for overall number of refugees…
21 September 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Ethiopia
Jews around the world mark their holiest day of the year next week, Yom Kippur. The painting above, dating from 1878, is entitled ‘Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur’
by Maurycy Gottleib. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Our Jewish friends and neighbors are marking Rosh Hashanah today, but another great holy day comes just next week.
Starting on Friday evening, 29 September, Jews around the world will observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. In the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews take stock of their spiritual and moral lives and begin the process of asking God for forgiveness.
What does this entail?
The ritual for the duties of the High Priest (hakkohen haggadôl) for the Day of Atonement is laid out in detail in chapter 16 of the Book of Leviticus. On the Day of Atonement the high priest is to purify himself and the people through animal sacrifices and ablutions. On the Day of Atonement the high priests enters into the Holy of Holies in the Temple and intercedes for the people asking God for forgiveness. It the chapter there is instruction about the Scape Goat. A goat is chosen and “Aaron must lay his hands on its head and confess all the faults of the Sons of Israel, all their transgressions and sins, and lay them to its charge. Having thus laid them on the goat’s head, he shall send it into the desert…and the goat will bear all their faults away with it into a desert place.” (Leviticus 16:21-22).
For modern Jews, the Day of Atonement is a day of prayer and fasting. The number of services in the synagogue on the Day of Atonement is five instead of the normal three. Synagogue attendance is usually very high on this day. Jewish tradition suggests a festive meal before sundown on the day before Yom Kippur. Since the day for Jews begins and ends at sunset, from the beginning of the Day of Atonement Jews begin a period of abstinence: no eating and drinking, no bathing, no using perfume or make up and no sexual activity.
At the end of the services for Yom Kippur comes a prayer for the High Priest. Jews recall the Temple of Jerusalem, the first of which was destroyed in 587 BC and the second of which was destroyed in 70 AD. Even in the absence of a temple, Jews throughout the world fast and pray for God’s forgiveness and for the same purification which was once achieved through the ministry of the High Priest in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.
More than just another holy day, the Day of Atonement is a day for profound prayer and reflection — a time for taking stock. It is the day when Jews reflect on their lives, their commitment to God and the Covenant and, in seeking forgiveness from God, renew that covenant for the year to come.
21 September 2017
Last weekend, students and clergy from the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays, New York presented CNEWA with a big check for a big amount. (photo: CNEWA)
I had the privilege this past weekend to return to the cheerful Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays, New York. For the third year in a row, CCD students collected funds for CNEWA and other charities, as part of their Lenten “Mite Box” activity, which was arranged by Religious Formation Director Eileen McPhelin and Marion Boden of the parish’s Committee of the Common Good (Marion gets a special thank you for greeting me with a hot cup of coffee after my long train ride from Penn Station!) During the 9:30 Mass, I gratefully received a check for $1,000 and was able to briefly thank the CCD students who made this all possible.
The funds will go to our work in the Middle East, especially for refugees in the region. The children for whom our partners are providing healthcare and education, I noted, are the same age as the students who raised this extraordinary amount.
Special thanks also to the pastor, the Rev. Edward Sheridan for his support each year, and the Rev. John Wachowicz, the newly-ordained assistant pastor, who I knew when we were both students at Fordham. (Go Rams!)
If your parish would like to make an impact for children and families in the Middle East and beyond, let me know. You can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
21 September 2017
Syrian Christians celebrate the Divine Liturgy at Jesus the King Chaldean Catholic Church in Hassake, in late May. (photo: Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas)
The new edition of ONE features a Letter From Syria by the Rev. Nidal Abdel Massih Thomas, a priest of the Chaldean Church. He describes the challenges his people are facing today — and the deep faith that sustains them:
I have vowed to stay with my parish and those displaced from other areas. I have struggled. However, with the support of the patriarch and my bishop, Antoine Audo, S.J., of Aleppo, who has helped provide material, medical and humanitarian support, we are helping to provide, as much as possible, the basic needs for the displaced Christian families remaining in our part of Syria.
Beyond those necessities of food, health care and shelter, our presence as priests and religious helps give hope to the people of God, where it is lacking. As shepherds — men and women who have left everything and followed Christ — our faith and trust in Christ binds us to the people. We have reopened education centers and provided recreational and pastoral activities for children in the summer.
We are still here.
Jesus Christ remains our inspiration. We are strengthened by his grace. Despite the circumstances, we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, honor the Virgin Mary and pray to Christ, asking for peace from the King of Peace. As a priest, I have given my life to serve the Lord and his people. Some have become martyrs in order to free their homeland. Yet, we continue to live in hope. As Jesus Christ said: “Take courage, I have overcome the world.”
Read more and see more images in the September 2017 edition of ONE.
21 September 2017
Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine (right) surveys the damage from yesterday’s attack by vandals on St. Stephen Church outside Jerusalem.
(photo: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
Vandals desecrate church near Jerusalem (Latin Patriarchate) On Wednesday, 20 September 2017, vandals have broken into and desecrated St. Stephen Church in Beit Gemal, near Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem. The perpetrators smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary and the stained-glass windows depicting important passages in the life of Jesus. Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine, who visited the Church this morning, said that “this is not only an act of vandalism but an action against the sacredness of the holy places and the faith of people...”
‘Anti-conversion’ laws in India giving rise to conflict (Fides) “Anti-conversion” laws, which are instruments to restrict religious freedom, continue to exacerbate and polarize Indian society, says Jesuit Father Michael Kerketta, Indian theologian and professor in Ranchi, capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand, northern India...
Explosion injures pilgrims at Rosh Hashanah celebration in Ukraine (Radio Free Europe) A celebration of Rosh Hashanah in the central Ukrainian city of Uman has been marred by an explosion that authorities say lightly injured two Israeli pilgrims. Ukraine’s National Police said that an unidentified explosive device went off early in the morning on 21 September in a garage near the site where pilgrims are celebrating the Jewish New Year...
Egypt hands down death sentences to ISIS militants who beheaded Copts in Libya (AFP) An Egyptian court Saturday condemned to death seven people for membership of the Islamic State group and over the beheading in Libya of 21 Christians, all but one of them from Egypt, judicial officials said. ISIS in Libya posted a video on the internet in February 2015 of the gruesome beheadings on a Libyan beach, sparking international condemnation and Egyptian air strikes against jihadist targets in the neighboring Arab state...
20 September 2017
We’re pleased to announce that the September edition of our award-winning magazine ONE is now available online.
This edition focuses on the Middle East — with stories of perseverance and faith that reveal the impact CNEWA’s donors are having on that troubled corner of our world.
Among the many stories in this issue:
- Raed Rafei takes readers to Iraq, where Christians are facing Hard Choices as they return home in the wake of ISIS.
- Dale Gavlak introduces us to Jordan’s Christian Shepherds, and their efforts to preserve a vanishing way of life.
- And Diane Handal meets members of a family in Palestine who are overcoming tragedy with Love as a Healing Balm.
Plus: news, profiles, videos and photographs that help bring our world to you with passion and power. It all begins right here.
Meantime, take a moment to watch the video below, as CNEWA’s president Msgr. John Kozar gives us a preview of the magazine.
20 September 2017
A Russian-style icon of Our Lady of Fatima on display at the Catholic Parish of St. John the Baptist in the town of Pushkin near St. Petersburg, Russia. (CNS photos/Robert Duncan)
Catholics across Russia are celebrating the centenary of the 1917 apparitions of Mary to shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.
According to one of the children, Sister Lucia Dos Santos, Mary asked for a special consecration of Russia to prevent the country from disseminating its “errors throughout the world,” a phrase now-retired Pope Benedict XVI interpreted as referring to communism.
Mary promised that Russia would “be converted” if her request was heeded, and Catholic Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow said he had witnessed this conversion in his lifetime.
“I thank our God that I became one of the witnesses of the return of Russia to Christ,” he said. But “we should not interpret Our Lady of Fatima as foretelling Russia’s conversion to Catholicism.”
Mary “still calls Russia to convert to Christ, but she did not say what form this conversion should take,” the archbishop said.
Though Russia has no official state religion, the majority of Russians identify with Eastern Orthodoxy, a branch of Christianity that has not been in communion with Rome for nearly a thousand years.
According to a recent study from the U.S.-based Pew Research Center, less than 1 percent of the Russian population identifies itself as Catholic.
Archbishop Pezzi said the Catholic Church’s minority status in Russia is actually one of its greatest assets for evangelization.
A Catholic in Russia “cannot base his faith on the tradition of the majority or on governmental support,” Archbishop Pezzi said. “This situation is a joyful opportunity for us: We can be defenseless witnesses of our faith.”
After an evening Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow in early summer, the Italian archbishop spoke to Catholic News Service about the challenges of living the Catholic faith in modern Russia.
“Russian Catholics sometimes feel themselves not so welcome. Ordinary people have the idea that if you are Russian, you ought to be Orthodox,” Archbishop Pezzi said.
“But I think that Russian Catholics should not feel hurt” by such sentiments, he said. On the contrary, “it means that they should show in their own life that Christianity can penetrate into all cultures and all nations.”
Of the estimated 250,000 Catholics registered in the Archdiocese of Moscow, the archbishop said, probably only 10-20 percent are actively practicing the faith.
Part of the challenge of encouraging a Catholic renaissance in Russia is administrative: Because the government favors Orthodoxy, the work of opening a new parish can be met with bureaucratic roadblocks.
“There is freedom, but there are also hardships,” said the Rev. Aleksandr Burgos, a priest based in St. Petersburg but originally from Spain. “In some cases, there is some pressure. I serve in St. Petersburg, a city with a tradition of tolerance, so for us it is easier than it is in other parts of Russia.”
Father Burgos had recently filed an application to register his fledgling parish with the government, a process that he expected to take up to three months. If denied, his Catholic community will not be able to enjoy “full freedom.”
Father Burgos said he consoles himself with the knowledge that “in the 19th and 20th centuries, the situation was worse.”
But Father Burgos’ parish may be placed under particular scrutiny by the government for the sole reason that it is Eastern-rite Catholic and almost indistinguishable from an Orthodox parish, except for being in union with Rome and praying for the pope at the liturgy.
Father Burgos belongs to the small Russian Byzantine Catholic Church, whose members celebrate the Byzantine liturgy and live the faith according to Eastern Christian traditions.
“We serve according to this rite because we think that nearly everything in the Orthodox tradition is very good,” Father Burgos said. “And of course it is important for Russian Catholics who wish to celebrate liturgy according to their national tradition,” since the majority of Russian Christians have always followed the Byzantine liturgical tradition.
According to Father Burgos, the Vatican supported the development of the Latin rite in Russia but decided that the restoration of the Byzantine Catholic rite in modern-day Russia could be “misinterpreted by the Orthodox.”
For decades, but especially since the breakup of the Soviet Union and the resurgence of the Eastern Catholic church in Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox have said the existence of the Eastern Catholic churches, which reunited with Rome over the past 500 years, are an obstacle to Christian unity. The Orthodox claim the Eastern Catholics encroach on Orthodox "canonical territory" and that their very existence is an attempt to achieve unity by breaking off pieces of the Orthodox community.
The Vatican has agreed that partial reunions are not a model for ecumenism, but insists the Eastern Catholic churches have a right to exist and to provide for the pastoral care of their faithful.
“This year we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of our exarchate,” Father Burgos said, “so I think that possibly the time has come” for the Vatican to re-establish it officially.
“I don’t think that our little church will disturb anyone,” Father Burgos said. “We do not need a huge cathedral, just a small chapel and an official registration to give our people the opportunity to pray and to feel themselves to be Russian citizens.”
Out of Byzantium
20 September 2017
In this image from March, a member of the Jordanian armed forces carries a toddler from the Rukban refugee camp to a nearby medical clinic operated by the UN. Reports indicate many displaced Syrians in the camp are stranded there, unable to return home.
(photo: Khalil Mazraawi/Getty Images)
Christian community in India threatened (Vatican Radio) A tiny Christian community in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state is being threatened by a right-wing Hindu nationalist group to flee the village or face dire consequences, the local bishop told Vatican Radio. Bishop Anthony Chirayath of the Syro-Malabar diocese of Sagar, who was visiting his Catholics in Mohanpur village in Guna district on Wednesday told Vatican Radio that the situation there was “very serious...”
The desperation of Syria’s displaced civilians (The Nation) Displaced Syrians are trapped as never before. Those in the desolate encampment in Rukban, on Jordan’s remote northeastern border (known as “the berm”), are a microcosm of Syria’s stranded civilians. They face an immediate threat, as the Syrian government forces they fled advance along the border with Jordan...
Israel announces general closure of West Bank, Gaza (Palestinian News Network) Israeli army spokesmen announced imposing a general closure on the West Bank, all crossings of the Gaza Strip, as the Jewish holidays approach. The closure is to start from midnight last night until Sunday night...
Richmond ordination reflects burgeoning membership in Russian Orthodox church (Richmond Press Herald) Toddlers, babes-in-arms, and other young children populating the church yard and inside St. Alexander Nevsky Church showed just how rapidly the parish family of the Russian Orthodox congregation has grown. Inside the sanctuary Sunday was another sign: the ordination of the Rev. Nathan Williams to the priesthood, the ordination of Joseph Kimball to the diaconate and the investiture of two tonsured Readers, Patrick Kimball and Matthew O’Donnell. Tonsured Reader is a first step toward priesthood...