Current Issue
March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
2 February 2018
Catholic News Service

Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia, metropolitan of U.S. Ukrainian Catholics, and Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of Stamford, Connecticut, have placed a culinary wager on the outcome of this weekend’s Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
(photos: CNS/Jacqueline Dorme, Republican-Herald and Gregory A. Shemitz)

Two Ukrainian Catholic prelates have placed a culinary wager on the outcome of the 4 February Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia, metropolitan of U.S. Ukrainian Catholics, is rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles, in their first Super Bowl appearance since 2005. Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of Stamford, Connecticut, is rooting for the New England Patriots — the returning Super Bowl champions and perennial powerhouse.

To show their confidence in their respective home teams, the bishops announced on 1 February they have placed a friendly wager on the ultimate outcome of the game. The beneficiaries will be either the chancery staff in Philadelphia or the chancery staff in Stamford.

“If the Eagles do not fly high on Sunday,” Archbishop Soroka said, “we will provide a luncheon for the Stamford chancery staff highlighted with Philadelphia cheesesteaks. However, I do not suspect I will have to do so.”

While Bishop Chomnycky and his chancery staff are looking forward to the Philly cheesesteak luncheon, the bishop stated that “if the Eagles fly high and the Patriots experience a rare defeat,” he will provide the Philadelphia chancery staff with a luncheon “with Boston cream pie as the dessert.”

The Ukrainian leaders’ wager came a day after one announced by another Eagles fan, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, and another New England Patriots supporter, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston. The two prelates, who are longtime friends and classmates from their seminary days as young Capuchin Franciscans, are wagering $100 donations to aid the poor in their archdioceses.

The Philly cheesesteak was developed in the early 20th century “by combining frizzled beef, onions and cheese in a small loaf of bread,” according to a 1987 exhibition catalog published by the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on an Italian roll in the early 1930’s.

According to the owners of the Parker House Hotel in Boston, the Boston cream pie was first created at the hotel by an Armenian-French chef, M. Sanzian, in 1856 and originally called a chocolate cream pie. While other custard cakes may have existed at the time, baking chocolate as a coating was a new process, making it unique and a popular choice on the menu.

The name “Boston cream pie” first appeared in the 1872 Methodist Almanac was declared the official dessert of Massachusetts on 12 December 1996.

While both bishops are rooting for their respective home teams, they said they see the big game as an American tradition that brings the nation together on Super Bowl Sunday.

“It is amazing how on this one Sunday, people throughout the nation, indeed throughout the world, come together to watch a game played by grown men. Families, neighbors and organizations have parties and socials to enjoy this American classic. It is a unifying event,” Archbishop Soroka said.

Bishop Chomnycky commented, “While we all hope for an exciting and competitive football game on Sunday, we also look forward to good sportsmanship and camaraderie among the players and fans both on and off the field. For a few hours, we are able to forget about the many problems throughout the world.”

2 February 2018
Greg Kandra

Children practice their penmanship at the Our Lady of Armenia center in Tashir, Armenia. Read about the efforts to help Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)

2 February 2018
Greg Kandra

A man prays amid destroyed buildings after several airstrikes on 9 January in Hamoria, Syria. The U.S. has accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people.
(photo: CNS/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

U.S. accuses Syria of chemical weapons use (Al Jazeera) The United States has accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people. U.S. State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that reports of chlorine gas being used against civilians in Eastern Ghouta were “very concerning”...

Letter in India calls for the government to stop hate crimes against minorities (Fides) In an open letter, public officials, personalities from Indian culture and intellectuals have expressed “Deep concern for the continuous episodes of senseless violence in the country, especially those that target minorities,” and also “for the weak response of law enforcement agencies and institutions”...

Ethiopia lifts ban on domestic workers moving overseas (AFP) Ethiopia has lifted a ban on domestic workers moving overseas after passing a new law to guard against ill-treatment, a government official said Thursday. Africa’s second-most populous country instituted the ban five years ago following reports of abuse, and complaints that employment agencies lured Ethiopians into working abroad in illegal and appalling conditions...

Middle East Council of Churches appoints acting Secretary General (Fides) The Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches has appointed Professor Souraya Bechealany as Acting Secretary General of the ecumenical body. Souraya Bechealany takes the place of Father Michel Jalkh, who was appointed Rector of Antonine University. The choice, approved unanimously, was announced at the end of the meeting of the Executive Committee hosted in Lebanon by Antonine University, in the district of Baabda in the southern part of Beirut...

Church celebrates World Day of Consecrated Life (Vatican News) Pope Francis celebrates the liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica on Friday with thousands of religious and members of Societies of Apostolic life. The announcement for this event contained the following reflection from the Holy Father: “A vocation is a gift we have received from the Lord, who fixed his gaze on us and called us, calling us to follow him in the consecrated life”...

1 February 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Pope Francis lights a candle during an interfaith peace gathering outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, on 20 September 2016. The pope and other religious leaders were attending a peace gathering marking the 30th anniversary of the first peace encounter. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

The United Nations observes World Interfaith Harmony Week every year beginning on 1 February. Although the UN is not a religious organization, its primary concern is for peace in the world — and religion can help bring this about. While the claim that religion is the basis of all conflict in the world is unfair and untrue, neither is it true that religion plays no role in conflicts around the world. The Pew Research Center reports on the state of religions around the world clearly show that almost every part of the globe experiences some kind of conflict that has at very least a religious component. Religions consciously and unconsciously provide powerful symbols that intensify conflicts, demonize the Other and make compromises more difficult for all parties involved. While interfaith harmony would not solve all conflicts in the world, it would greatly alleviate many of them.

Interfaith harmony — and the lack thereof — is something CNEWA experiences every day in the countries where we work. The Middle East, for example, has been an arena for incredible sectarian violence with thousands of people — Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and others — being killed and literally millions being displaced. However, it is also the place where Muslim youths in Mosul helped clean up a Christian church damaged in the battle against ISIS. Both religious harmony and sectarian hatred exist in our world. During this week the UN wishes to remind the world of the importance of interfaith harmony for every person — religious or not — on the planet.

Although there have always been great and open spirits in the Catholic Church who respected and loved people who were not Christians — we need think only of St. Francis meeting with Sultan Malik al-Kamil during the 4th Crusade — the Church committed itself officially to working for interfaith harmony at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). On 28 October 1965 the decree Nostra Ætate (“In Our Times”) was promulgated. Officially known as the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, this short document made extraordinary advances. Noting that all religions attempt to address and provide answers to the great questions of human existence, it went on to declare: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” Further, it stated, the Church “urges her sons {sic} to enter ...into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions.”

The document speaks with great respect about Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. Recognizing centuries of conflict, vituperation and downright hatred that often existed between Christians, Muslims and Jews, the church called on all to forget the past, to strive for mutual understanding and to work together to “preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.” With the declaration that not “all Jews indiscriminately at that time {the death of Jesus} nor Jews today, can be charged with crimes committed during his {[Christ’s} passion,” the Catholic Church thereby officially rejected the long-held claim that Jews were deicides, i.e. god killers, worthy of persecution and even hatred.

Great strides have been made in promoting interfaith understanding and harmony since that October day in 1965. Dialogues have been set up on international, national and local levels to help believers understand the Other, to promote cooperation and prevent conflict. Almost every Christian Church and every world religion is engaged in some type of dialogue and exchange.

Clearly there is still a great deal more to be done. However, the UN International Interfaith Harmony Week adds a special urgency to the interfaith endeavor. As mentioned earlier, the UN is not a religious organization. But this single week underlines the fact that interfaith harmony is not something which impacts only religious people; it is crucial for the very survival of a planet already wracked with too many conflicts with religious components.

1 February 2018
Anto Akkara, Catholic News Service

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, speaks during a 1 February news conference in Bangalore, India. Cardinal Thottunkal, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, called for upholding constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion in response to a government official’s push to separate people because of their faith. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India called for upholding constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion in response to a government official’s push to separate people because of their faith.

“The country is facing different challenges, like making sure the constitution is really kept (observed) in the life of the citizens. Constitutional guarantees should not be blocked from any corner,” said Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

Speaking during a news conference on 1 February ahead of the biennial assembly of the bishops’ conference, Cardinal Thottunkal said Dalit Christians were being denied the same rights as Hindus and other Dalits.

“Religion should not be used to deny equal rights,” he added.

Dalit means “trampled upon” or “broken open” in Sanskrit and denotes people formerly known as untouchables in India’s multitiered caste system. The government introduced free education and a quota in government jobs for Hindu Dalits in 1956 to improve their social status. While the same statutory rights were later extended to Buddhist and Sikh Dalits, the demand for equal rights for Christian Dalits has been rejected by successive governments.

“People in responsible positions should not sideline the sacredness of the constitution,” Cardinal Thottunkal said when asked about a federal official who urged that the constitution be amended to have people identify by religion.

Cardinal Thottunkal also cited a pre-Christmas attack on Catholic carol singers in the Diocese of Satna and threats against a Catholic college in Vidisha in the Diocese of Sagar as examples of violations of the constitution's freedom of religion principles.

Similarly, he criticized earlier controversial decisions of the Modi government to observe Good Governance Day on Christmas and Digital India Day on Good Friday 2017.

“Any other date could have been fixed to launch such programs,” the cardinal said. “Why should you hurt the feelings of a community?”

1 February 2018
Greg Kandra

The Didos family of Lviv — displaced after shelling destroyed their neighborhood in the Donetsk region of Ukraine — share a moment of happiness on a cold Sunday on their way home from church. Read about the plight of The Displaced from Ukraine in the March 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Ivan Chernichkin)

1 February 2018
Greg Kandra

Embed from Getty Images
A Syrian child uses a stainless-steel pot to bale out water from her tent at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Zahle in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on 26 January 2018.
(photo: Joseph Eid, AFP/Getty Images)

Winter’s tragic toll on Lebanon’s Syrian refugees (Voice of America) Following a few months of relatively mild weather, the recent storm came as a bitter reminder of how harsh winters can be in Lebanon’s highlands. And with some Syrians spending their seventh year in camps, it is proving ever-harder to cope with such conditions...

6900 Syrians win permission to stay in U.S. For now (The New York Times) Nearly 7,000 Syrians who were granted temporary permission to live and work in the United States as a civil war devoured their country will be allowed to stay for at least another 18 months, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday, in an acknowledgment that Syria continues to be rattled by conflict...

Gaza faces ‘unprecedented’ humanitarian crisis (Al Jazeera) Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have entered their 11th year under a crippling siege imposed by Israel and Egypt, and are in dire need of international aid. Gaza Palestinian economic experts are warning that even if help is given immediately, a humanitarian disaster might be unavoidable...

Human Rights Watch slams India’s treatment of minorities ( Civil society groups in India have backed a Human Rights Watch report that condemns the unabated violence that religious minorities suffer at the hands of right-wing Hindu groups. India’s federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to contain rights violations on several fronts, according to the New York-based group’s 2018 World Report. “The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence,” said the Human Rights Watch report...

Reject intolerance, teach respect for other religions, speakers say (CNS) A rigorous defense of religious freedom around the globe must be accompanied by the efforts of religious communities and governments to teach people to respect other faiths and to see diversity within a society as a value, not a threat, said a Vatican cardinal and a top British government official. “The struggle for the affirmation of religious liberty is far from being won,” Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, told an audience at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University on 30 January...

Trip to Syria shows wars can be most dangerous when they’re coming to an end (The Independent) It’s easy to think the war is over. Until mortars from el-Ghouta swish over Damascus and explode in the old Christian area of Bab el-Roma with its grocery shops and restaurants. Six dead. Or when an army officer comes and says quite casually to you: “Remember Captain Walid? He was martyred four days ago.” I’ve always felt uneasy about the word “martyred” — about any soldier, or civilian, anywhere...

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