Current Issue
March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
31 January 2018
CNEWA staff

The sisters, staff and a number of volunteers prepare a meal for the 29 residents and the 50 members of the day care center at the Antonian Charitable Society in Bethlehem. CNEWA provided a grant for improvements to the society’s building that helped save money and provide water to the residents. The kitchen equipment was also donated by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)

Editor’s note: We were delighted to receive this note from Joseph Hazboun, regional director for Palestine and Israel, describing how a grant from CNEWA is helping a group of religious sisters care for the elderly in Bethlehem.

At the Antonian Charitable Society, Sister Caterina, responsible for the kitchen and Sister Lizy, Mother Superior, were overwhelmed with joy when the society’s large old rainwater cistern was repaired and cleaned, and made ready for the winter rainy season.

The cistern stood neglected for years and the society relied solely on Bethlehem’s water network. That could be problematic. Piped water was often shut off (due to water shortages) or made prohibitively expensive, due to price increases because of a longstanding drought. Rainwater cisterns are common in Bethlehem and other urban areas and are in fact, an ancient method developed and perfected by the Nabataeans. They began to appear in Palestinian cities during the Assyrian period. Since then, the rainwater cistern was always a practical way for locals to have access to potable water, especially in the summer months. As technology advancement and urban growth became apparent in the past half century, many Bethlehem residents and institutions moved away from these ancient practices of channeling and collecting rainwater and utilized the water system as the main source of potable water.

In recent years however, a severe drought has decreased water reserves throughout Bethlehem. Last summer, Bethlehem had a water shortage that lasted more than a month, as reserves reached all-time lows and water tanker trucks became the only method of distributing potable water.

For the Sisters at the Antonian Charitable Society, that meant their water bills were soaring last summer — far higher than what they had budgeted for. As part of CNEWA’s efforts to care for the marginalized, a grant was provided to the Sisters of the Antonian Charitable Society in 2017 to provide photovoltaic solar panels. These could generate free solar electricity to operate medical equipment, lights and kitchen appliances at the society. That grant also eliminated the society’s reliance on piped water and water supplied by trucks through the rehabilitation of the society’s old rainwater cistern. The grant also enabled the installation of hydroponic units for the kitchen to grow organic vegetables. This is an alternative method that feeds 50 elderly members and 29 women residents daily, saving much money on groceries. There is also enough water left in the cistern for household cleaning and bathing.

The sisters have expressed their gratitude to CNEWA for helping to make these practical solutions a reality — and they are especially grateful that they can continue to provide services for the elderly in Bethlehem.

31 January 2018
Greg Kandra

Sister Simone Abdel Malek, who leads the Daughters of Charity in Alexandria, Egypt, takes a call while meeting with patients at her order’s dispensary. Learn more about the extraordinary work of these religious sisters in Charity’s Daughters in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)

31 January 2018
Greg Kandra

Syrian refugees arrive at Rome’s Fiumicino airport as part of a program sponsored by the Community of Sant’ Egidio. (photo: Vatican News/Facebook)

Syrian refugees arrive in Rome (Vatican News) A group of Syrian refugees were welcomed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Tuesday as part of a humanitarian corridors program. The initiative is being promoted by the Community of Sant’ Egidio and aided by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior...

Apostolic nuncio speaks on conditions in Ukraine (Vatican News) In the wake of Pope Francis’ visit to a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on Sunday, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti to Ukraine is speaking out about the situation in the eastern European nation...

Lebanon overwhelmed with lingering Syrian refugee crisis (National Catholic Register) As Lebanon enters its seventh year of hosting Syrian refugees, the country is slipping further into an economic and social crisis. About two-thirds the size of Connecticut, with a local population of about 4 million, Lebanon has the highest per capita refugee population in the world. Lebanon has absorbed more than 1 million refugees from neighboring Syria, a figure which refers only to those who are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)...

Hamas leader dies in Gaza (Andalou Agency) Senior Hamas leader Imad al-Alami, who was injured by gunfire earlier this month, passed away in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, a Hamas leader said. In a Twitter post, Bassim Naim confirmed that al-Alami had died, giving no further details. Al-Alami was seriously injured three weeks ago when a bullet reportedly hit his head as he was checking his personal weapon at his home...

Tags: Syria Lebanon Ukraine Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank

30 January 2018
CNEWA staff

Thanks to a project supported by CNEWA, Wagdi Attalah is healthier and working to get his high school diploma. (photo: CNEWA)

Editor’s note: CNEWA is privileged to support numerous initiatives and institutions that serve marginalized, poor and vulnerable populations in Egypt. One such establishment, called Good Samaritan, comprises two facilities that provide care for children in need. CNEWA helps Good Samaritan centers to shelter, feed and clothe children whose parents have died or are too poor to afford these necessities. We also help share the gift of education with underserved children in areas where schools are scarce or unaffordable. Michel Constantin — our regional director in Beirut, who oversees our work in Egypt — recently shared this story of one family benefiting from these on-the-ground services.

Wagdi Attallah is 17-years-old and suffers from asthma and lung problems. His family consists of his mother and himself. Before Magdi was born, while she was pregnant, she had health complications which affected Wagdi’s present condition and requires chronic medications. His mother now suffers from many problems with her eyesight.

Their main source of income was from selling buffalo milk, but after the buffalo died, they lost that revenue and became poorer and poorer. Their house was in extremely poor condition, with just two small rooms. There was no toilet or kitchen.

Related: Egypt’s Good Samaritans

Through a project supported by CNEWA, and in collaboration with the Good Samaritan Center, we were able to improve conditions for Wagdi and his sick mother. The house was rehabilitated. A bathroom and kitchen were built, along with concrete and tiling to repair the house. We installed doors and windows and painted the walls, and also did some electrical work on the building.

Wagdi’s condition has improved dramatically. He is now studying for his diploma. We are still there to help him as needed — supporting him with assistance in his health care and education.

Thanks to the generosity of CNEWA’s donors, his future now looks much brighter.

30 January 2018
Greg Kandra

The Rev. Ihor Hrishchenko celebrates the Divine Liturgy inside an abandoned facility once used to develop grain seeds. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)

In the current edition of ONE, writer Mark Raczkiewycz takes us to Ukraine for a look at how the church there is seeking to grow — often under daunting circumstances:

Despite decades of official atheism, Christian symbolism is compellingly strong in central and eastern Ukraine, which is why many are cautious to enter dwellings where Greek Catholics worship: The buildings often lack the proper symbols and icons.

In the 700-strong village of Mala Vilshanka, the Rev. Ihor blessed with two enormous rooms inside an abandoned, run-down Soviet-era facility once used to develop new grain seeds.

He celebrates the sacraments regularly with about a dozen parishioners — although as large a group as half the village comes out on Epiphany to bless water in January — yet the small community “wants something of its own,” he says.

“The parish and I want an appropriate religious atmosphere here,” Father Hrishchenko says. “You don’t want to go to a random café; you want something of your own. But we have no money to build one.”

Still, the parish has the luxury of a separate room for social events and gatherings crucial to building a parish community. Father Hrishchenko uses the space for screening films, putting on plays and inviting guest lecturers to speak on such topics as marriage, ethics and holidays.

“Even though there is the internet and people can instantly access information, it’s more useful to have a ‘human library,’ an expert to talk about the Holy Scripture and other topics,” he says.

The 35-year-old priest also leads another parish in neighboring Bila Tserkva, comprised of some 40 faithful who gather inside a dilapidated Soviet-era household goods store — a brick building with a crumbling façade.

For two years, when he had no car, Father Hrishchenko would take the bus to the village parish and then hitchhike back to the district center in every kind of weather.

Such concessions are necessary when resources are tight. The average Ukrainian monthly salary barely reaches $200, and diminishes as one moves farther away from urban centers.

“It would take 20 or 30 years’ worth of donations to build a church on what we get in our donation boxes, which hardly covers expenses for liturgy — bread, charcoal, candles and wine.”

Read more about how Catholics are Planting Seeds, Nurturing Faith in Ukraine in the December 2017 edition of ONE.

30 January 2018
Greg Kandra

Embed from Getty Images
In this image from 17 January, residents walk through the Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp. Many have expressed fears over their future after the U.S. cut aid to the U.N. agency that supports them.
(photo: Joseph Eid, AFP/Getty Images)

Fears in Syrian camp for Palestinian refugees (Reuters) In Burj al-Barajneh camp, Amira Nassar fears for the future after the United States cut aid to the U.N. agency that helps her and many others among the estimated 170,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Sitting in an old people’s center, talk turns to the impact on their healthcare...

Big changes are reshaping Jerusalem (Bloomberg) The number of employed east Jerusalem Arabs is rising, salary gaps with the city’s Jewish population are narrowing, more are learning Hebrew — 6,000 currently study the language in classes — and registration at higher education institutions in the western sector is up. City Hall has established an employment center in east Jerusalem and plans a second one. There are even growing applications for citizenship, said Ben Avrahami, the mayor’s adviser for east Jerusalem affairs. This from a population of permanent residents that can file for social security benefits but doesn’t have the right to vote in national elections...

A journey into Iraqi Kurdistan (The New York Times) The Mar Mattai monastery clings to the side of a steep mountain, and on a clear day a visitor can stand against its fortresslike walls and discern far below the winsome farmlands of Upper Mesopotamia. Here, in the cradle of civilization, the building is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. From this peaceful perch, it is difficult to imagine the horror...

Syrian carpenter rebuilds life in Homs (Xinhua) It wasn’t easy for the 43-year-old Rabea Sahloul to start his life from scratch alone in his shattered neighborhood in Homs city, as his neighbors and friends he grew up with are no longer there. People say that feeling lonely or as a stranger is not only when you lose a home, but when the loved ones are no longer there such as friends and neighbors, those who give life a taste and a meaning...

Man arrested for looting Byzantine-era coins from archaeological sites (The Jerusalem Post) A resident of the Negev’s Beduin village of Bir Hadaj was arrested Sunday for looting more than 150 Byzantine-era coins from numerous nearby archaeological sites, the Antiquities Authority said Monday. According to the Authority’s Robbery Prevention Unit, a call was received Sunday afternoon reporting that an unidentified suspect in his 50’s was walking around the ruins of the city Halutza with a metal detector...

29 January 2018
Judith Sudilovsky, Catholic News Service

Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida, holding cross, and Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas of Chicago, right, watch a Palestinian worker make crosses made of olive wood on 27 January at the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society in Beit Sahour, West Bank.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Retired Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas, remembers the smell of woodworking and the feel of wood in his hands from when he was a child in his family furniture factory in Celaya, Mexico.

“Here they are working with olive wood; in Mexico we worked with cedar. We see the connection with our brothers here,” Bishop Rodriguez said as he walked through the small family-run Odeh Factory, which produces traditional olive wood statues and souvenirs to sell to pilgrims and tourists. “I see the effort that is needed, and the talent, (to do this work) as a way to support and feed their families. I can see this is the work of Christians. I don’t have to be told that, you can see it in their work.”

Bishop Rodriguez was among 10 bishops who participated in the 18-27 January USCCB Hispanic Bishops’ Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land. They met with local Christians as well as with other Palestinians and Israelis to get a firsthand understanding of the situation and to advocate for “bridges not walls.” Many bishops said the pilgrimage gave them a better understanding of the Palestinian Christian reality in the Holy Land and gave them the opportunity to express their solidarity with the community, which makes up less than 2 percent of the Palestinian population.

On 27 January, Catholic Relief Services hosted the bishops in the traditionally Christian village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, for a tour of the CRS Fair Trade Partner Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society, and a visit to one of the artisan workshops CRS recently helped renovate to improve working conditions.

“It has given me a special understanding of the reason why the number of Christians in the Holy Land is decreasing and the difficulty of living here because of the occupation,” said Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida. “While I have felt a great sadness at their situation, I have also marveled at the resilience of the Holy Family Parish in Gaza.”

Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland described Gaza with its 2.3 million people as a “virtual human prison,” where residents cannot leave and others cannot enter. While there is a political aspect to the situation, the humanitarian side of it cannot be ignored, he said.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, touches a statue of Mary made out of olive wood at the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society in Beit Sahour, West Bank.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

“People have the right to freedom of movement, right to life. I would hope that somehow, someday this will get resolved,” he said. “Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have their narrative, but (the situation must be dealt with) in a way which respects the dignity of the human person.”

He said although the students of Bethlehem University with whom they spoke gave him hope as they expressed desire for peace, their prospects for gainful employment were minimal, and many young Christian Palestinians emigrate because of lack of work.

“We can’t judge one side over the other but ... justice and peace must reign between these two communities living here,” said Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas of Chicago. “This is possible only if each one recognizes the dignity of the other.”

“We have been exposed more to the reality of life here and have heard ... of the fear of Israelis near the Gaza border,” said Bishop Perez. “I could relate to the fear of being shot at. People have died. That was as disturbing as seeing the limitation of movement of people from Gaza.”

“There have been situations in the world where, in their moments, people felt there was no hope and there was nothing to be done,” he added. “But history has shown through God’s grace and intervention and goodness of people situations have changed.”

29 January 2018
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Pope Francis and Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, release doves at the end of the pope’s meeting with the Ukrainian Catholic community at the Basilica of Santa Sophia in Rome on 28 January. (photo: CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

Pope Francis’ visit to the Ukrainian Catholic Basilica of Santa Sophia in Rome combined elements of his parish visits with elements of his visits to centers for migrants and refugees.

While the basilica is a fully functioning parish, most of its members are migrant women working in Rome and sending money home to their families in Ukraine.

In his speech to the community gathered at Santa Sophia 28 January, Pope Francis offered his own reflection on “The Vibrant Parish: a Place to Encounter the Living Christ,” which is the theme of a multiyear renewal effort in Ukrainian Catholic parishes around the world.

“A vibrant parish is a place to encounter the living Christ,” he said. “I hope that you always will come here for the bread for your daily journey, the consolation of your hearts, the healing of your wounds.”

A vibrant parish, he said, also is the place to pass on the faith to the younger generations.

“Young people need to perceive this: that the church is not a museum, that the church is not a tomb,” the pope added. They need to see that “the church is alive, that the church gives life and that God is Jesus Christ, the living Christ, in the midst of the church.”

But Pope Francis also spoke about the loneliness of being a migrant, the hard work and low pay many Ukrainian women receive in caring for children or the elderly in Italy and, particularly, the worry and concern over the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine.

The pope also used the visit as a way to underline the importance of remembering the past and honoring those who dedicated their lives to preserving and sharing the faith, including under the harshest conditions, when the Ukrainian Catholic Church was outlawed by the Soviet Union and its bishops and many of its priests were imprisoned.

The first person he honored was the late Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, who was exiled to Rome after 18 years in Soviet jails and gulags. The cardinal built the basilica as a cathedral for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was banned in its homeland.

Pope Francis said the cardinal wanted it “to shine like a prophetic sign of freedom in the years when access to many houses of worship was forbidden. But with the sufferings he endured and offered to the Lord, he contributed to building another temple, even grander and more beautiful, the edifice of living stones which is you,” the pope told the faithful.

Pope Francis attends a meeting with the Ukrainian Catholic community at the Basilica of Santa Sophia in Rome. (photo: CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych and head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, welcomed Pope Francis to the basilica. He said that while officially there are about 200,000 Ukrainians living in Italy, the number is probably double that. About 17,000 people attend the Divine Liturgy each week in one of 145 Ukrainian Catholic communities in Italy; they are served by 65 priests, the archbishop said.

The archbishop also said he hoped Pope Francis’ visit to the basilica would be just the first step toward a papal visit to Ukraine.

Pope Francis urged the community members to remember all those who suffered in Ukraine to preserve the faith and to hand it on, including mothers and grandmothers who baptized their children or grandchildren at great risk when Ukraine was under Soviet domination.

That same commitment to faith and desire to share it, he said, is seen today in the Ukrainian women who work for Italian families and become witnesses of faith to them.

“Behind each of you there is a mother, a grandmother who transmitted the faith,” the pope said. “Ukrainian women are heroic, thank the Lord.”

The war in Eastern Ukraine, which has been continuing for four years, also was on the minds and hearts of the pope and the Ukrainian faithful. Archbishop Shevchuk said that while “Russian aggression” continues, the international community has forgotten about the fighting.

Pope Francis told the Ukrainian community, “I know that while you are here, your hearts beat for your country and they beat not only with affection, but also with anguish, especially because of the scourge of war and the economic difficulties.

“I am here to tell you that I am close to you, close with my heart, close with my prayers, close when I celebrate the Eucharist,” the pope told them. “I beg the Prince of Peace to silence the weapons.”

Before leaving the basilica, Archbishop Shevchuk took Pope Francis down to the crypt to pray at the tomb of Bishop Stefan Chmil.

Earlier, Pope Francis told the people in the basilica that when he was 12 years old and then-Father Chmil, a Salesian, was ministering in Buenos Aires, he would serve Divine Liturgy for the priest.

Being an altar server three times a week, he said, he learned from Father Chmil “the beauty of your liturgy,” but also about what was happening in Ukraine under communism and “how the faith was tried and forged in the midst of the terrible atheistic persecutions of the last century.”

You can watch a video about his visit below.

29 January 2018
Greg Kandra

Religious sisters pray inside St. Thomas Church in Palakkad, India. Read about the priest who serves the parish in A Day in the Life of a Priest in Kerala in the December 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Don Duncan)

29 January 2018
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis embraces Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, during a meeting with the Ukrainian Catholic community at the Basilica of Santa Sophia in Rome on 28 January. (photo: CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

Pope visits Ukrainian Basilica in Rome (Vatican Radio) On Sunday afternoon Pope Francis paid a visit to the Basilica of Santa Sofia, home to Rome’s Greek Catholic Community of Ukrainians. The Pope exchanged greetings with the Major Archbishop of Kiev, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and in his address the Pontiff recalled the great models of Cardinal Josyp Slipyi, Salesian Ukrainian Bishop Stepan Czmil, and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, former Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine...

Jordan’s King: ‘Jordan will remain a protector of Jerusalem’s shrines’ (The Jordan Times) His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday met with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Minister Derek Browning, a Royal Court statement said. During the meeting, attended by HRH Prince Ghazi, the King’s special adviser for religious and cultural affairs, the King and the minister stressed the importance of enhancing dialogue, tolerance and co-existence among followers of various religions...

New bishop for Ahmedabad, India (Vatican Radio) The Holy Father, Pope Francis has appointed The Rev. Athanasius Rethna Swamy Swamiadian, the new Bishop for the Diocese of Ahmedabad, India. Currently Father Athanasius was serving as the Rector of Vianney Vihar, the Interdiocesan Major Seminary in Baroda...

Gaza hospital forced to close over power crisis (Andalou Agency) A hospital in the northern Gaza Strip has shut down over an acute power shortage plaguing the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian enclave, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Monday. In a statement, the Ministry said the Beit Hanoun hospital had suspended health services over the shortage. “Patients will be transferred to other governmental hospitals,” it said...

Russian Orthodox leader criticizes bitcoin craze (RT) Bitcoin mania makes people lose their minds and lose everything they have, according to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. “People are losing their minds. Everyone says: What am I waiting for? I have to act, I have to buy these bitcoins. And then they are buying, pawning property, selling their homes. Then, bitcoin collapses within two weeks, and people understand that they did not win anything, but lost, they lost everything they had,” the patriarch said, speaking before Russia’s Federation Council...

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