Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
31 October 2019
Catholic News Service

Sister Marie-Therese and Sister Muntaha Hadaya visit a family who returned to Qaraqosh, Iraq, two years ago, after fleeing ISIS. Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs this week pressed the importance of preserving the Christian presence in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA/Raed Rafei)

Syrian-born Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs pressed the need to preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The patriarchs -- Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X of Antioch -- met with Peter Szijarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, in addition to Putin and Orban during their official visit to the Hungarian capital 29-10 October.

In a speech to Szijarto, Patriarch Absi said the exodus of Christians from the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Iraq, and most recently Syria, has become “an alarming issue” for Christian leaders.

“The failure of different groups to live together in harmony in Middle Eastern countries is a threat to convivial relations between different groups all over the world,” he said.

“Failure to help the Middle-East to remain an oasis for different religions to live peacefully together will set a dangerous historical precedent,” Patriarch Absi warned. “Soon, similar conflicts will start to take shape in different places of the world.”

The patriarch stressed that the Christian presence in the Middle East “gives us a special role regarding our Muslim compatriots: that of witnessing the Gospel through a commitment to the service of all, whether in our schools, our hospitals, our centers for the elderly or our orphanages.”

He praised “the courage of the Hungarian position against immigration,” citing in particular the government’s Hungary Helps program, which has benefitted war-torn Syrian communities.

While the churches in the Middle East are trying to encourage Christians to stay in their homelands, Patriarch Absi said, “this is a mission that needs the work of governments because the needs are truly big and go beyond the capacity of the church.”

“What we need is countries with a similar vision to Hungary and Russia,” Patriarch Absi said. “That is, to help people the way they want to be helped rather than to change entire countries to befit political agendas.”

Patriarch Absi continued, “We hope that other countries will follow their example and encourage Christians to stay. This can be done by the lifting of economic sanctions, putting an end to the embargo, and by helping to achieve lasting peace. The Russian Federation and Hungary can have an impact on the international community; they can show other countries the way to achieve peace and how to safeguard nations in conflict.”

In a news conference on 30 October with Putin, Orban said that Hungary and Russia have a shared interest in stopping migration and achieving stability in the Middle East.

Tags: Syria Iraq Orthodox Persecution

31 October 2019
Greg Kandra

Demonstrators form a human chain during anti-government protests in Tripoli, Lebanon on 27 October 2019. The 29 October resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri followed 13 days of massive country-wide demonstrations. (photo: CNS/Omar Ibrahim, Reuters)

Lebanon’s Maronite bishops call for unity (CNS) Lebanon’s Maronite bishops, commending the unity of the Lebanese people amid a peaceful mass uprising demanding a new government, called for a “constructive spirit” following the resignation of the country’s prime minister. ”The Lord is leading the ship of the homeland and we hope that this step will be the beginning of the solution,” Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, said in response to the resignation of Saad Hariri…

Russia and Hungary to discuss persecuted Christians (Vatican News) Hungary’s state secretary, for the aid of persecuted Christians, Tristan Azbej, is worried. He told Vatican News that Christians are now the most persecuted people in the world. That’s why, he says, Hungary wants to set up an international alliance to help Christian believers and other faith minorities during an upcoming conference next month…

Ethiopia mourns dead after ethnic violence breaks out (VOA) Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says his country remains united after a week of violent clashes left at least 67 people dead and several religious sites destroyed. Now, he is trying to restore calm…

Cyclone brings heavy rains to Kerala (The Weather Channel) Heavy downpour in Kerala and Lakshadweep is set to continue in full swing on Thursday 31 October, as the depression over the Arabian Sea intensified into a cyclonic storm on Wednesday. The cyclone has been named ‘Maha’…

Tags: India Lebanon Ethiopia

30 October 2019
Greg Kandra

CNEWA visited Our Lady of Mt. Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey, last weekend, helping to spread the word about the work of CNEWA around the world. (photo: CNEWA)

Last weekend, CNEWA paid a visit to Our Lady of Mt. Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey. It was a great opportunity for us to share “the church’s best kept secret” and spread the word about some of the work we’re doing around the world.

We were warmly welcomed by the OLMV administrator, the Rev. David Skobolow, my old friend Deacon Tom Sommero, and hundreds of members of the parish family.

Deacon Greg Kandra preached at four Masses at Our Lady of Mt. Virgin over the weekend. (photo: CNEWA)

I preached and served at four Masses over the weekend, linking CNEWA’s mission to the Gospel reading from St. Luke, about praying to God with humility. So many we serve have taught us about humility — but also about hope, perseverance and unwavering faith. As the reading from Sirach reminded us, “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.” It’s a blessing and a privilege to pray with the poor, and walk with them on their journey.

We’re eager to continue spreading the word about CNEWA, so if you’d like us to visit your parish, please let us know!

For more information, write to us at

CNEWA development officer Christopher Kennedy; multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra; OLMV administrator the Rev. David Skobolow; and OLMV Deacon Tom Sommero. (photo: CNEWA)


30 October 2019
Greg Kandra

Protests have continued in Lebanon, following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The video above explores what happens next. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)

Lebanon: Army begins clearing roads after prime minister’s resignation (Al Jazeera) Security forces in Lebanon began clearing roads hours after the Lebanese army issued a directive urging protesters to vacate major thoroughfares to allow life to return to normal. The army’s statement came on Wednesday, a day after Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation and hours before a scheduled speech by President Michel Aoun…

Pope calls for dialogue, reconciliation over problems in Iraq (CNS) In the wake of deadly protests in Iraq, Pope Francis called on the people and their leaders to take the path of dialogue to find answers to their nation’s problems. At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square on 30 October, the pope said his thoughts were with “beloved Iraq, where protest demonstrations going on this month have caused numerous deaths and injuries…”

How the new Syria took shape (The New York Times) In just a few weeks, the American withdrawal from northern Syria dramatically reordered power in the country after eight years of civil war…

U.S. House passes resolution recognizing Armenia genocide (The New York Times) The House voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to formally recognize the Armenian genocide and denounce it as a matter of American foreign policy, a symbolic vindication for the Armenian diaspora made possible by a new torrent of bipartisan furor at Turkey…

How they discovered the ancient site of a miracle (The Express) The Pool of Siloam was a rock-cut pool on the southern slope located just outside the walls of the Old City to the southwest. Located less than 2,000 feet from Temple Mount, the pool was fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring and was used by pilgrims more than 2,000 years ago.The pool remained in use during the time of Jesus Christ and, according to the Gospel of John, the Messiah led “a man blind from birth” to the pool in order to complete his healing...

Tags: Iraq Lebanon Jerusalem Armenia

29 October 2019
Greg Kandra

Filipino members of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate harvest olives in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem on 19 October 2019. Catholic nuns, locals and international volunteers gathered to pick olives that will be made into liturgy oil used during the Chrism mass on Maundy Thursday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Tags: Jerusalem

29 October 2019
Greg Kandra

Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia speaks at Georgetown University in Washington on 25 October 2019. The archbishop spoke about the church's role of support during Ukraine's Soviet occupation and its ministry now of helping people find healing and keeping the faith alive while numbers are dwindling.
(photo: CNS/Georgetown University)

Gudziak: Ukrainian Church faces new struggles (CNS) Addressing an audience at Georgetown University on 25 October, the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States said the world news in Washington is as “Ukrainian as it ever has been.” But although he made reference to the current political interest in Ukraine, he also said “no one in Washington would give (the country) the time of day had there not been a July phone conversation,” referring to President Donald Trump’s conversation, now under congressional investigation, with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president…

Vatican pushes to eliminate nuclear weapons (CNS) Expressing concern that arms control treaties are “abrogated and flouted,” the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations called on global leaders to work to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In a series of addresses to two U.N. committees, Archbishop Bernardito Auza said nations must step up to prevent a new nuclear arms race from emerging and work to reduce growing threats to peace…

U.S. military envisions broad defense of Syria’s oilfields (Al Jazeera) The United States will repel any attempt to take Syria’s oilfields away with “overwhelming force” whether the challenger is Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) or forces backed by Russia or Syria, the Pentagon has warned…

Why global warming has left Kerala vulnerable (India Today) The state had never bothered about global warming induced climatic changes, but the consecutive floods in August 2018 and 2019 have prompted a rethink. The 2018 August floods, the worst in about a century, destroyed infrastructure and livelihoods and killed 453 persons. This year too, floods caused by the southwest monsoon have played havoc in the state…

Tags: Syria India Vatican Ukrainian Catholic Church

25 October 2019

Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel stopped by our New York office Friday afternoon for a visit. He’s pictured in the center with (from l-r) the Rev. Abayneh Gebremichael, who leads the Ethiopian Catholic community in Washington; and CNEWA staff members Greg Kandra, Thomas Vargehese, Noel Selegzi, Haimdat Sawh and Christopher Kennedy. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA

25 October 2019
Greg Kandra

Our CNEWA team will be visiting Our Lady of Mt. Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey, on 26-27 October. (photo: OLMV website)

CNEWA will be on the road Saturday and Sunday. We’re heading to Our Lady of Mount Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey. I’ll be the guest homilist this weekend, preaching at the Masses — not only proclaiming the Good News, but also sharing the good news about CNEWA’s work in the world.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello! We are eager to answer questions, share copies of our award-winning magazine and introduce more people to “the best kept secret of the Catholic Church.”

We’re hoping to make more visits like this one in the months to come, so if you’d like CNEWA to visit your parish, let us know.

Just drop us a line at

See you soon!


25 October 2019
Greg Kandra

In this image from March 2018, a Catholic church destroyed by Islamic State militants in Karamdes, Iraq, is examined by a priest. (photo: CNS/courtesy Archdiocese of Erbil)

Panel examines ways to protect holy sites worldwide (CNS) In light of continued attacks on houses of worship and holy sites around the world, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom held hearing on 23 October at the Capitol to learn ways to deter such attacks. Easy and immediate solutions, though, were elusive…

Turkish and Syria forces reportedly clash in Syria (The New York Times) Turkish forces and Turkish-backed militias appeared to have clashed with the Kurdish-led militia and its new allies, the Syrian government, in northeastern Syria on Thursday, raising the temperature in an already volatile area where multiple players are maneuvering for position after the abrupt pullout of American troops…

Report: Parts of Asia now hotbed of persecution (CNA) While Christians in Iraq and Syria suffer in the aftermath of Islamic State genocide, a new “hot spot” of persecution has emerged in South and East Asia, a recent report finds…

Ethiopian activist calls for calm after 16 killed in clashes (Reuters) Prominent Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohammed called for calm on Thursday amid protests that have killed 16 people and are challenging Nobel Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his political heartland…

Pompeo vows support for new Ukraine church (France24) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed US support for Ukraine’s new independent Orthodox church following its split with Russia in a meeting with its leader, officials said Thursday. Pompeo on Wednesday held a closed-door meeting with Metropolitan Yepifaniy, who was enthroned in February after the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke its three-century relationship with Moscow…

Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Persecution

24 October 2019
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Days after the UN observed the International Day of Nonviolence, these Kurdish women and children fled violence this week, seeking safety in a Syrian classroom after Turkey launched the invasion of their homeland. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

On 2 October the UN observed the International Day of Nonviolence. CNEWA works in some of the most violent places of the world. We have served and continue to serve the victims of ISIS, of wars, of religious persecution, ethnic hatred, etc., on a scale that often numbs the spirit. In serving these people, we also serve the cause of nonviolence and peace — and it is worth taking this occasion to look at Christianity’s call to pacifism and how it has impacted our history and our culture.

Christianity and non-violence have had a complicated relationship over 2,000 years. For 300 years, Christians were fairly regularly at the receiving end of the violence of the Roman Empire. The Roman occupation of Palestine, which Jesus experienced firsthand and under whose law and Procurator he was executed, would ultimately destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. With Constantine and the Edict of Milan (313), however, Christianity became a legally tolerated religion in the Empire. Rather quickly it became the official religion of the Empire.

While the New Testament tells of Jesus interacting with soldiers, of John the Baptist telling soldiers to avoid bullying, extortion and to be happy with their pay (Luke 3:14) and of Paul sending greetings “especially to those of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 4:22), the acceptance of Christianity into the Roman Empire brought a major change. Christians went from being a persecuted minority to being civil servants and even emperors. They went from beings victims of power to agents of power.

There is clearly a strong voice for non-violence in the teaching of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus blesses the meek and the peacemakers. Famously Jesus challenges his followers to “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39; Luke 6:29). In recounting the arrest of Jesus, all four Gospels speak of someone striking out with a sword. In Mark 14:47 it is “one of the bystanders;” in Matthew 26:51 “one of those with Jesus;” in Luke 22:49 “those around him;” and in John 18:10 it is Simon Peter. I mention these details because, in an odd reversal of the point of the text, some have used this to indicate that Jesus’ followers were armed; they use it as a justification for Christian violence. In every case, Jesus rejects the use of violence and in Matthew 26:52 he states, “those who take up the sword will be destroyed by the sword.”

In the centuries after Constantine, Christianity worked out an accommodation with the coercive power of the state. That accommodation alternated between strong support and criticism. After having enjoying the (sometimes deleterious) benefits of the support and protection of the Roman Empire, Christians faced a major crisis with the fall of the empire. How were they to react? Augustine of Hippo wrote The City of God in an attempt to deal with the question of whether God was abandoning Christians with the fall of the empire. It is also important to note that historians also trace the beginning of an articulated Christian theory of the just war to Augustine. The stress was now on the defense of Christianity.

By the Middle Ages, the just war theory was central to sometimes rather questionable Christian military endeavors, such as the Crusades (against not only Muslims but Jews and Christians such as the Orthodox and Albigensians who were considered heretics), various papal wars against Italian city states, etc.

Non-violence, however, while never really front and center in Catholic teaching in the Middle Ages, was also never totally absent.

Medieval laws — such as the Peace of God and the Truce of God — tried to limit violence. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) started his career as a knight enthusiastically engaged in glorious military endeavors against neighboring Italian cities. After his conversion, he was opposed to all wars, even to the point of visiting Sultan Malik al-Kamil on the battle field of Damietta during the Fifth Crusade. Some Franciscan scholars believe that Francis tried (successfully) to obtain an indulgence for visiting the Church of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi as a protest against war. Indulgences were very popular in the early Middle Ages and were attached to the different Crusades as a motivation for Christians to join the fight. Some scholars believe that Francis was offering his contemporaries a non-violent way to obtain an indulgence.

During the time of the Reformation, some of the Reformers, especially but not exclusively in the Anabaptist Tradition, once again brought the non-violent teachings of Jesus to the forefront. The Society of Friends (Quakers), Mennonites, Bruderhof and others stressed and stil stress non-violence and pacifism as an essential part of the Christian witness.

In recent decades, the popes have put increasing stress on the importance of peace and non-violence. Pacem in Terris, the 1963 encyclical of Pope John XXIII was the first of a still-ongoing series of encyclicals, papal statements, addresses to the UN General Assembly, etc., on the importance of peace and of achieving a just peace through non-violent means.

Catholic attempts to promote peace and non-violence have not been limited to papal announcements. It has been reflected in the piety of the church. In 2007 Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943), an Austrian layman, was beatified as a martyr by Pope Benedict XVI. A conscientious objector, he was executed by the Nazis in 1943 and vilified by his contemporaries and countrymen for years before his beatification. The cause for the beatification and canonization of Dorothy Day (1897-1980), a famous New York pacifist, has now begun. On a practical level, Catholic organizations such as Pax Christi, the Community of Sant’ Egidio and others work and advocate for peace and non-violence. Pax Christi, founded in France in 1945, works in 50 countries and at the UN to achieve justice and an end to violence. In recent years, it has developed a section specifically to promote Catholic non-violence.

The people we at CNEWA serve know — tragically first-hand — that violence not only solves nothing, but like the mythical Hydra, it only generates more violence in an unending cycle. The words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, ”blessed are the peacemakers,” challenge us today as they challenged the first Christians 20 centuries ago.

With great Catholic Christian heroes throughout the centuries, we too hope, pray and work for a world truly blessed with peace, a world without violence.

Tags: Middle East Christianity

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