Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
13 March 2018
Joyce Duriga, Catholic News Service

Participants have a discussion on 7 March after a meeting of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. This year’s topic was
“One God, One Humanity: Confronting Religious Prejudice.”
(photo: CNS/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic)

Taking on the issue of religious prejudice, the National Muslim and Catholic Dialogue met for the third time at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary 6-8 March.

Announced in February 2016, the national dialogue, which is sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, aims to show public support for Islamic American communities.

It builds on three regional Catholic-Muslim dialogues — mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West Coast — that have taken place for more than 20 years.

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich co-chairs the dialogue with Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances.

During the 7 March public portion of the dialogue, Rita George-Tvrtkovic, associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in Lisle, and Irfan Omar, associate professor of theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, delivered remarks around the theme “One God, One Humanity: Confronting Religious Prejudice.”

Delivering remarks from a Catholic viewpoint, George-Tvrtkovic addressed rooting out prejudice inside Catholic and Muslim communities, in nonreligious or non-Catholic or Muslim communities and between the two religions.

“We have to begin with our own attitudes — not just Catholics who are prejudiced, but I also mean my attitude towards my fellow Catholics who I may perceive as Islamophobic. After all, it’s difficult to approach our coreligionists to tell them we think their views are incorrect and un-Catholic,” she said. “We know this is not easy, since there are several New Testament verses on how to correct your fellow Christians.”

Taking a gentle, one-on-one approach to help people understand the church’s teaching toward Islam, which is outlined in the Second Vatican Council’s document “Nostra Aetate” (Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions), is a good place to start, she said. Another approach is sharing the church’s teaching with children in catechetical materials before they may form a prejudice.

When trying to root out religious prejudice outside of Catholicism and Islam, we must be careful not to create an “us versus them” view, George-Tvrtkovic said.

“Sometimes I hear Christians and Muslims say they are allies because they are both fighting against a common enemy, the secular or the godless. But actually, we need to convert the secular and godless from religious prejudice, too,” she said. “Both Catholics and Muslims need to pay attention to the arguments of the non-religious. Many nonreligious — especially millennials — are formerly members of our communities. Others have never had any connection to any religion."

When trying to root out prejudice between Catholics and Muslims, we should turn to Mary, she said.

“Mary in particular has the potential as an interreligious bridge between Catholics and Muslims in a way that Jesus Christ could never be, since she’s a dividing line between the two religions,” she said.

“Mary also has potential to be an intrareligious bridge between Catholics and Protestants — and between different sorts of Muslims — but she has also been an intrareligious problem in both religions, in terms of the disparity between popular piety, heterodoxy, orthodoxy,” she continued. “Intrareligiously, we disagree about Mary, and that might be an interesting conversation for Catholics and Muslims to have. Both of us have problems with Mary.”

In his remarks from an Islamic viewpoint, Omar said that interfaith dialogue is about humanizing and learning about the “other,” those holding different beliefs. He cited Muslim scholars who interpret the Quran as promoting religious diversity.

“The question that the Quran is concerned about is not whether diversity is good or bad, vis-a-vis a blessing. The questions that the Quran starts with or seems to be addressing are ‘How do we coexist with those that are different?’ ” Omar said. “How do we conduct ourselves in light of our difference when we’d be hard-pressed to find a sane person who would deny that we all live in a relational reality? We are related to each other in some form or fashion.”

We do this by acknowledging our differences and seeking to learn about each other. Inherent in this is celebrating those differences, he said.

“Just as we have no choice but to exist in a time and space continuum, I believe we have no choice but to live inter-relationally. Expressed in the language of faith this has also been referred to as living religiously today means living inter-religiously,” Omar said.

While interreligious dialogue has come a long way over time, there is a new urgency today to address the danger of exclusivism — the view that one religion is superior to another.

“If one considers herself a person of faith today, remaining indifferent is not an option,” he said.

13 March 2018
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis bows his head in prayer during his election night appearance on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 13 March 2013. The crowd joined the pope in silent prayer after he asked them to pray that God would bless him. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Today marks the five-year anniversary of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio being elected pope — and taking the name Pope Francis.

One remarkable moment from that day occurred in the photograph above, when he first appeared on the balcony at St. Peter’s and asked the people for their prayers — and offered a humble bow.

Here are his remarks from that historic night:

Brothers and sisters, good evening!

You know that it was the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one... but here we are... I thank you for your welcome. The diocesan community of Rome now has its Bishop. Thank you! And first of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may keep him.

[Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...]

And now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity. It is my hope for you that this journey of the Church, which we start today, and in which my Cardinal Vicar, here present, will assist me, will be fruitful for the evangelization of this most beautiful city.

And now I would like to give the blessing, but first — first I ask a favor of you: before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.


Now I will give the Blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.


Brothers and sisters, I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and until we meet again. We will see each other soon. Tomorrow I wish to go and pray to Our Lady, that she may watch over all of Rome. Good night and sleep well!

Ad multos annos!

13 March 2018
Greg Kandra

In the video above, church leaders discuss the impact of Pope Francis’ papacy on the five-year anniversary of his election. (video: CNS/Robert Duncan/YouTube)

Marking the five-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election (CNS) Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope just a few days after telling the College of Cardinals that the Catholic Church faced a clear choice between being a church that “goes out” or a church focused on its internal affairs. After the cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected on 13 March 2013, and chose the name Francis, he made “go out,” “periphery” and “throwaway culture” standard phrases in the papal vocabulary...

Middle East bishops receive encouragement from Pope Francis (Vatican News) Bishops from across the Middle East have made pilgrimages to three papal basilicas to “pray for the strengthening of the faith” of Catholics in their countries “who live in difficult situations.” Members of the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (Celra) said they also received “great encouragement” from Pope Francis’ prayers and work for peace across the Middle East during a meeting with him as part of a five-day trip to Rome...

Palestinian Prime Minister survives assassination attempt in Gaza (CNN) Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt in northern Gaza on Tuesday morning, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency. Hamdallah, who was making a short trip to the coastal enclave to mark the opening of a new water treatment facility, had just passed through the Erez border crossing from Israel when a bomb detonated near his convoy, tearing the siding off at least one black SUV and blowing out the car’s windows...

Ujjain, India Christian hospital vandalized ( Pushpa Mission Hospital, run by the Ujjain diocese in Madhya Pradesh was vandalized and critical life support systems were disrupted by a mob of suspected BJP workers...

Report: Turkish forces ‘encircle’ Syrian Kurdish city (BBC) The Turkish military says it has surrounded the Kurdish-held city of Afrin in northern Syria, the focus of an offensive against a Kurdish militia. A statement said troops and allied Syrian rebels had also captured “critically important areas...”

India’s pro-Hindu party wins over Christian-led states ( The results of state elections in the Christian-dominated states of Nagaland and Meghalaya, as well as in the communist stronghold of Tripura on March 3, showed how the BJP [pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party] is making considerable gains in these areas...

12 March 2018
Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service

Residents flee after Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters captured the village of Khaldieh in Afrin, Syria. Christian activists warn that a million Syrian civilians will face certain slaughter in northwestern Afrin, where they allege Turkey and its militant allies have already carried out war crimes. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)

Christian activists warn that 1 million Syrian civilians will face certain slaughter in northwestern Afrin, where they allege Turkey and its militant allies have already carried out “war crimes” and “ethnic cleansing.”

They have appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump and top U.S. officials to stop the bloodshed, warning that failure to act jeopardizes the hard-fought U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State in Syria.

Civilians from other parts of Syria and outside the country have reportedly offered to stand as “human shields” between the Kurdish-backed fighters and Turkish forces set to storm Afrin.

Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, said, “I have never seen so much violence as in Syria.” In remarks on 9 March, he likened the situation to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The nuncio called the situation in the war-ravaged land “hell on earth,” especially for vulnerable children.

In March, Syria’s conflict entered its eighth year. More than 350,000 people have died, 5 million are refugees and 6.3 million civilians are displaced within the country.

Syria is currently “one of the most dangerous places for children,” Cardinal Zenari said. “It’s terrible. I always say, it’s a massacre of the innocents.”

Two Christian activists, Bassam Ishak and Lauren Homer, told Catholic News Service of the relentless assault by Turkey and militants from hardline jihadist movements, including the so-called Islamic State.

“Turkey has committed war crimes and ethnic cleansing already in Afrin and the Federation of Northern Syria,” or FNS, they told CNS.

Ishak heads the Syriac National Council and is a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Democratic Council. He is a graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Homer, an Anglican, is a Washington, D.C.-based international human rights lawyer.

“Turkey has already ‘cleared’ villages of Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and others, promising to replace them with Syrian refugees. In fact, Afrin already has enlarged its population by 50 percent to house [internally displaced] Syrians, who are among those being killed, injured or captured,” they said.

People in and around Afrin are facing the warplanes, tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons of NATO’s second-largest standing army, Turkey.

A local health authority reported more than 220 dead and 600 civilians injured in this mainly Kurdish area of northwestern Syria, some 30 miles from Aleppo.

Videos and photos from Afrin taken by both Kurds and members of the Turkish forces depict bombed-out houses, mangled bodies of children killed by the blasts and civilians being herded away.

Largely untouched by Syria’s deadly conflict until recently, this part of the Federation of Northern Syria succeeded in creating a nonsectarian, pluralist, inclusive government system not seen elsewhere in the Middle East in which there is religious freedom and equal rights are granted to all.

Activists are calling for an immediate no-fly zone over Afrin, enforced by U.S. drones or warplanes; implementation of the 24 February U.N. Security Council resolution requiring a cease-fire by Turkey in Afrin; humanitarian aid and safe passage out for civilians; and mediation of a long-term cease-fire and withdrawal of Turkish troops to its own borders — potentially with promises of U.S. or U.N. border monitors.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish council that governs Afrin demanded the U.N. Security Council establish a no-fly zone over Afrin and forcibly respond to the Turkish offensive.

“This U.N. and U.S. and NATO inaction will go down in infamy as an inconceivable abandonment of our ‘allies’ the SDF and the FNS. Genocide seems to be only something we are interested in in retrospect, to mourn and wring our hands over,” Homer warned.

Anti-aircraft weapons are needed to stop the attacks, observers say, but the Syrian Democratic Forces, composed of Kurdish and Christian fighters, were never given the necessary arms. At this point, U.S. aerial patrols would be needed. The Kurds and Christian fighters largely won the U.S.-led battle against Islamic State in Syria.

“Military solutions are no real solutions. Taking Afrin will not solve any problems, neither the internal problems for Turkey in the long run, nor will it help solve any issue that is part of the Syrian question,” Ishak told CNS. Turkey says it is battling Kurdish “terrorists” as its pretext for invading Afrin.

“Instead, it will just further complicate the situation and increase the level of competition between actors jockeying for influence in Syria,” Ishak said.

Meanwhile, the Syrian military, backed with Russian airpower, carried out intensive ground and aerial assaults on the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Syrian government forces have reportedly captured more than half of the area.

The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the area since late February, while almost 400,000 residents are living under heavy bombardment, after having been subjected to nearly five years of siege, lacking food and medicines.

Pope Francis has repeatedly called on the international community to intervene in Syria to help end the violence. Calling the war in Syria “inhumane,” Pope Francis urged for an end to the fighting, immediate access to humanitarian aid and the evacuation of the injured and infirm.

Tags: Syria Middle East Christians War Syrian Conflict

12 March 2018
Greg Kandra

In this 2017 photo, a Catholic family working to repair their family home damaged by ISIS militants poses in the Christian town of Karamdes, Iraq. Portions of this year’s annual Good Friday collection will help support Christians in the Middle East who are trying to rebuild their lives. (photo: CNS/Martyn Aim, courtesy Knights of Columbus)

Good Friday collection appeals for funds to support Christians who have fled Syria, Iraq (Vatican News) Money raised by the Good Friday collection traditionally goes to support projects and communities throughout Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. In his letter, Cardinal Sandri appealed especially for financial support for Christian families and young people who have fled from the fighting in Syria and Iraq…

Rome children’s hospital reaches out to Syrian children (Vatican News) Bambino Gesu Hospital is treating two wounded Syrian children in Rome. The hospital owned by the Holy See has also joined hands with WHO and UNHCR for projects in Syria and Jordan to reach out to children hit by the ongoing war and bombardment in Syria…

Indian Catholic Church criticizes court decision on euthanasia (Vatican News) A ruling by India’s supreme court that allows euthanasia for the terminally ill has been criticized by India’s Catholic Church that says that the mark of good society is its ability and willingness to care for the most vulnerable of society…

Hotter, drier, hungrier: how global warming punishes the world’s poorest (The New York Times) A people long hounded by poverty and strife has found itself on the frontline of a new crisis: climate change. More than 650,000 children under age 5 across vast stretches of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are severely malnourished. The risk of famine stalks people in all three countries; at least 12 million people rely on food aid, according to the United Nations…

In Jerusalem’s Old City, hi-tech illuminates the city’s biblical past (Times of Israel) King David made a big, bold and bright return to Jerusalem Sunday evening at an advance showing of the Tower of David Museum‘s new Night Experience. The biblical leader who reigned over the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah three millennia ago comes to life again on the inner walls of the ancient citadel next to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate…

Tags: India Middle East Christians Jerusalem Horn of Africa

9 March 2018
Greg Kandra

This week, we feature an interview we did in 2015 with one of our photographers, Ilene Perlman.

Ilene has visited some of the most colorful and exotic corners of CNEWA’s world, and here she describes some of those places she’s seen and photographed. The diversity and drama she’s encountered have made for some of ONE’s most memorable images.

Among other things, the interview is a feast for the eye. Enjoy.

9 March 2018
Greg Kandra

The faithful gather for worship at St. Thomas Church in Palayur, a leading pilgrimage site for Christians in India. Read about how Christianity is enduring in India —
for 2,000 years and Counting — in the Winter 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Jose Jacob)

8 March 2018
Greg Kandra

Embed from Getty Images
Syrian children walk past Syrian Red Crescent trucks carrying humanitarian aid in the town of Douma in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on 9 March 2018.
(photo: Hamza Al-Ajweigh/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. aid convoy re-enters Eastern Ghouta amid ‘calm’ (BBC) A U.N. aid convoy has managed to enter the rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta in Syria which has been under intense bombardment, officials say. For the first time since Monday, food supplies got into the town of Douma, the Red Cross said...

White House to convene summit on Gaza (The Times of Israel) The White House will convene a meeting next week of “stakeholders” to improve life in the Gaza Strip, a top Trump administration Middle East peace negotiator said Thursday...

Report: international flight ban in Erbil to be lifted (Daily Sabah) A ban on international flights into and out of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) will be lifted before the upcoming Nevruz spring festival on 21 March, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has reportedly said...

Georgia debates teaching religion in school (Civil Georgia) This is not the first time religious education is considered for schools. Even as Georgia regained its independence in 1991, classes of “the History and Culture of Religion” were introduced into the classrooms and taught to pupils aged 8 to 12 until 2005. Despite its title suggesting social science tilt, the classes were often (although not always) taught by the Orthodox Christian priests and almost in all cases focused overwhelmingly on Orthodox Christianity as means of patriotic education — and religious indoctrination...

Friar trains Iraqis to preserve manuscripts seized by ISIS (AFP) As ISIS militants swept across Iraq three years ago, he rescued a treasure trove of ancient religious manuscripts from near-certain destruction. Father Najeeb Michaeel is now training fellow Iraqis to preserve their heritage. “My duty is to save our heritage, a significant treasure,” the Dominican friar told AFP in a telephone interview from his office in the city of Arbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan...

8 March 2018
Greg Kandra

Iraqi Christian children attend a session to help young refugees at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Amman, Jordan. To find out how Iraqis are Finding Sanctuary in Jordan, check out the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)

8 March 2018
Greg Kandra

Embed from Getty Images
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels gesture as they drive down a road in the area of Hallubi, north of Afrin, on 8 March 2018. (photo: Nazeer Al-Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Eastern Ghouta cut in two as Syrian army seizes ground (The Guardian) Syrian government forces have seized vast swathes of territory from rebels in the opposition-held suburbs of Damascus, effectively dividing the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta in two and further squeezing rebels and the tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside...

Pope Francis meets with members of International Migration Commission (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Thursday met members of the International Catholic Migration Commission on the occasion of their Plenary Council. In prepared remarks to members of the Commission in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Pope Francis expressed his thanks to them for their work carried out in the Church’s name to assist migrants and refugees in great need. The multiple projects initiated on five continents, he said represented “exemplary instances of the four verbs — welcome, defend, promote and integrate”...

New U.S. embassy may be in Jerusalem, but not in Israel (The New York Times) In two months, the United States plans to open a new embassy to fulfill President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There’s just one problem: The embassy may be in Jerusalem, but it may not be fully in Israel...

Meet Kuwait’s homegrown priest (The Jordan Times) Dressed in a traditional white Gulf headdress and with two red crosses embroidered on his black clerical robe, Kuwait’s first homegrown priest cuts a unique figure in the predominantly Muslim emirate. The Rev. Emmanuel Benjamin Jacob Gharib, 68, celebrates both the Bible and Gulf Arab culture with his Christian congregation in Kuwait City. In an interview with AFP ahead of the 20th anniversary of his ordination, he stressed the level of acceptance he has felt from fellow Kuwaitis. “Everyone welcomes me wherever I go,” said Father Emmanuel...

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