24 April 2019
In this image from 2016, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, leads benediction at the Al Bishara School in the Ain Kawa area of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. He remains inspired and deeply moved by the resilience and faith of those CNEWA is privileged to serve around the world. (photo: CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, offers a few thoughts on the power of the cross — and the spirit of Easter:
During a number of my pastoral visits, not only have I witnessed firsthand the extreme sufferings of war, famine, natural disasters and the like, I have witnessed and been uplifted by the resilience of the human spirit. The survivors of these disasters not only survive, they thrive — oftentimes as a result of their profound faith and, among Christians, their support of the church. CNEWA is honored and humbled to witness this in our role of accompaniment of the local church.
I think of the large numbers of refugees of every age who had to flee the ravages of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But I especially recall the courageous women who carried their babies and clutched the arms of their elderly mothers and grandparents as they fled persecution to an unknown land — and a very uncertain future. But, inspired by their faith and nurtured by the church, they carried with them an abundance of hope, which has led them to a new life. Even if “new life” has meant living in a refugee camp or a cramped apartment, they have maintained their hope and have joyfully expressed it in their prayers and liturgical celebrations. I have had the great joy of participating in some of these liturgical events and have come away uplifted and renewed in my own faith.
The prominence of the cross of Jesus has been visible everywhere: on the fronts of tents or humble shelters, worn around their necks, painted on the exteriors of gathering places or displayed in some other ways. It proudly proclaims their identity and their sense of hope.
You’ll want to read it all — and check out the inspiring and thoughtful video reflection he offers below:
24 April 2019
Women hold signs during a 23 April 2019, prayer vigil outside a Catholic church in New Delhi, India, in solidarity with the victims of Sri Lanka's Easter suicide bomb attacks.
(photo: CNS/Adnan Abidi, Reuters)
24 April 2019
Tags: India Persecution
Police stand guard at the gate of Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi following the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. (photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)
Police guard churches in New Delhi after Sri Lanka attacks (UCANews.com) Security has been beefed up at churches in Indian capital New Delhi after a series of suicide bombings killed more than 300 people in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Armed police are guarding Sacred Heart Cathedral in the capital and asking churchgoers to pass through metal detectors. They also frisk visitors who enter the 88-year-old building…
How Sri Lanka’s Christians became a target (The Atlantic) The deadly bombings in Sri Lanka over the weekend follow a pattern of religious terror that has become grimly familiar around the world. The attackers targeted churches on Easter Sunday, when Christians would be gathered in large numbers and vulnerable during worship. They also chose crowded and exposed public spaces, including hotels likely to be hosting foreign tourists…
Iraq cardinal says 25,000 Christians have returned to Qaraqosh (The National) Nearly 25,000 Iraqi Christians have returned to their homes in Qaraqosh over the past two years and were able to celebrate Easter last weekend, Iraq’s top Cardinal said on Wednesday. Also known as Bakhdida and Al Hamdaniyah, the town on the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq was once home to 50,000 Iraqi Christians, making it the religious minority’s largest community in the country…
Israel lets hundreds of Gazans celebrate Easter in Jerusalem (Haaretz) Israel has allowed 500 Christian Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority’s Interior Ministry announced Monday, days after reports of an Israeli decision to give special permits to only 200 of the 1,200-strong Gazan Christian community drew criticism of Israel’s “arbitrary” change in policy…
Easter party brings together different religions in India (UCANews.com) Some 3,000 people including Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs joined Christians this year in celebrating Easter at an event in central India’s Bhopal city aimed at promoting religious tolerance. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal was the main organizer of the inter-religious gathering in the capital of Madhya Pradesh state on Easter Sunday…
23 April 2019
Tags: India Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Iraqi Christians Persecution
A woman weeps during a memorial service for victims in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 23 April 2019, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island.
(photo: CNS/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)
The liturgies of Holy Week are filled with references to Jesus as the Suffering Servant of God. The reference is to four poems in the book of Isaiah that speak of a mysterious “servant of God.” In the fourth poem (Isa 52:13-53:12), when harshly dealt with, the servant “bore it humbly, never opening his mouth he was like a lamb led to the slaughter house.” The servant ultimately is abused and killed for the sins and transgressions of all. This image of Jesus as the non-violent suffering servant of God is rooted deep in Christian theologian and piety.
We see it again in the Gospels. When an armed crowd comes to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of his followers strikes out with a sword of his own, severing the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Jesus rebukes his follower and states “those who take up the sword, die by the sword” (Matt 26:53). Throughout the Passion narratives, in the face of incredibly cruel violence, Jesus remains the non-violent victim.
All this makes the tragic events of this past Sunday all the more poignant and powerful.
This year on Easter Sunday, almost 400 people were killed in Sri Lanka. Most of them were celebrating the Resurrection — the victory of the non-violent Christ. Terrorists targeted Christians as they worshipped — that is, as they were united with their Lord who had been mishandled, beaten and crucified, who did not respond to violence with violence and was victorious. Like the Jesus they were worshipping, the victims of the attack were non-violent innocent people.
Anger is a normal, human reaction. Anger directed towards violence, oppression and injustice can be a good thing. But it is very easy for anger, especially in the face of such brutal and senseless violence, to become rage and a drive for revenge. That is entirely understandable. The rage of those who lost loved ones must be understood and, to some extent, felt.
But at times like these, we Christians face our greatest challenge: will we opt to be violent like Pilate or non-violent like Christ?
It must never be forgotten that, after having endured hatred, violence and death, the risen Christ brings to the world a message not of revenge but peace.
The true mystery of Easter is that violence, brutality, death and power are not victorious. Rather, weakness, humility and non-violence overwhelm violence, conquering it with life and goodness.
There is something deadening and horrifying about what happened in Sri Lanka. However, it is by no means something with which Christians are unfamiliar. Violence has been directed against us since the time of our Lord; it has been with us since the beginning. Since that time there has always been an understandable temptation towards revenge. However, the risen Suffering Servant constantly and inconveniently reminds us of the divine power of non-violence.
It may be tempting at times like this to call for retribution and vengeance. But the words of Paul ring clear: “Never repay evil with evil but let everyone see you are concerned on with that which is good. … Never try to get revenge (leave that to God). … Resist evil and conquer it with good” (Rom 12:17-21).
It is the belief in the overwhelming power of non-violence over violence, rooted in the Resurrection of the non-violent Christ, that makes us who we are — or definitely who we should be.
23 April 2019
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan celebrates Mass for displaced Iraqis on 20 April 2019 at the Church of St. Elias in Dekwaneh, Lebanon.
(CNS photo/ courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
23 April 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Iraqi Christians
Nuns pray during Mass near St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on 23 April 2019, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island.
(photo: CNS/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters)
Pope, bishops renew solidarity with Sri Lanka after terror attacks (Vatican News) Churches, groups and individuals joined Pope Francis as he reiterated his spiritual and fatherly closeness to the people of Sri Lanka following terrorist attacks on 3 churches and 3 hotels on Easter Sunday. Speaking to a large crowd in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square at midday on Easter Monday, the Pope said he was very close to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and Archdiocese of Colombo, the capital, and prayed for the numerous victims and wounded. While urging the international community to offer the needed help to Sri Lanka, he called on them not to hesitate in condemning these terrorist and inhuman acts that are never justifiable…
Holy Land Easter message calls for lasting peace in Jerusalem and the world (Vatican News) The 13 patriarchs and heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem have expressed their Easter greeting to the people of the Holy Land, the larger Middle East and the world, wishing that the words of Christ, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” be realized everywhere…
Pope: Only risen Christ can bring peace to a world at war (CNS) As the machine of warfare continues to churn out more dangerous weaponry, only the power and joy of Christ’s resurrection can fill hearts with comfort and peace, Pope Francis said before giving his Easter blessing…
Religious minorities across Asia suffer amid surge in sectarian politics (The New York Times) The deadly attacks in Sri Lanka on Sunday highlighted how easily religious coexistence can be ripped apart in a region where secularism is weakening amid the growing appeal of a politics based on ethnic and sectarian identity. In India, the country’s governing right-wing Hindu party is exploiting faith for votes, pushing an us-versus-them philosophy that has left Muslims fearing they will be lynched if they walk alone…
During Easter season, some Russians look to strengthen bonds with Syrian Christians (The Washington Post) When Russians celebrate Orthodox Easter on 28 April, leaders in Moscow will send their annual messages of kinship to fellow Orthodox Christians around the world. In Syria, however, the bonds are part of a wider strategy endorsed by the Kremlin. A group of clerics, humanitarian groups and members of government has been quietly cementing ties with Syria’s tiny and embattled Christian communities, whose roots in the faith go back to its earliest centuries…
U.S. withdrawal from Syria threatens Kurdish language, too (Haaretz) Rojava University, opened only three years ago in the autonomous region established by Syria’s Kurds in northeastern Syria, is part of the revival of the long-suppressed Kurdish language. However, this revival is now under threat as the future of the region hangs in the balance following an announcement on the drawdown of the U.S. forces whose presence has protected the Kurds from a regime takeover or Turkish invasion…
18 April 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Russian Orthodox
Ruthenian Greek Catholics of the village of Tichy Potok, Slovakia, celebrate the paschal mystery on Easter in 2001. (photo: Jacqueline Ruyuak)
18 April 2019
Tags: Cultural Identity Village life Slovakia Eastern Catholics Ruthenians
Bulgarian Orthodox men take part in a Good Friday liturgy at St. Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral in Sofia on 10 April 2015. Pope Francis will be visiting Bulgaria in early May. (photo: CNS/Stoyan Nenov, Reuters)
India general election: world’s biggest exercise in democracy begins (Vatican News) India’s general election kicked off on Thursday with tens of millions heading to the polls, in what is described as the world’s biggest exercise in democracy. There are some 900 million eligible voters in the world’s biggest democracy — more than the combined population of the United States, the European Union and Australia. Of these, 15 million are young first-time voters. The seven-phase election that began on 11 April, will conclude on 19 May…
Islamic-Christian dialogue in Abu-Dhabi after the Pope’s visit (AsiaNews) Roberto, an Italian engineer who has been in the Emirates for years, says that since the Pope came, his Muslim colleagues — especially Egyptians and Pakistanis — have been bombarding him with questions to understand more about the Christian faith, the rites of Holy Week, the Bible. In short, the pope aroused curiosity and interest in the faith of Christians…
Israeli water pipeline threatens Palestinian agricultural lands (Al Monitor) Some Palestinians in the West Bank governorate of Qalqilya hope to stop construction of a water pipeline Israel plans to build that threatens to destroy agricultural areas there. The residents see the project as an attempt to uproot villagers and seize land…
Bulgarian Orthodox Church expresses ‘deepest support’ for the French people (Sofia Globe) Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Neofit on 18 April expressed sorrow over the fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral — an event representing “a huge impact on the world’s cultural heritage.” In the two-paragraph statement, issued three days after the fire, Neofit said that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod expressed its “deepest support” for the French people, wishing that the emblem of the country would be restored soon, and that the upcoming Easter holidays would not be dimmed…
17 April 2019
Tags: India Pope Francis Palestine Bulgarian Orthodox Church Abu Dhabi
Pope Francis arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 17 April 2019. The Easter Triduum — marking Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday — begins tomorrow. (photo: CNS/Yara Nardi, Reuters)
17 April 2019
Tags: Pope Francis
People attend a vigil near Notre Dame Cathedral on 16 April 2019, a day after a fire destroyed much of the church’s wooden structure. Pope Francis during his Wednesday General Audience thanked the many who risked their lives to salvage the beloved cathedral. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope thanks rescuers who risked lives at Notre Dame (Vatican News) Speaking to French pilgrims present at the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis thanked the many people who risked their lives to salvage Notre Dame as fire tore through Paris’ Cathedral. ”The gratitude of the whole Church goes to those who did everything they could, even risking their lives, to save the Basilica,” he said…
Fuel lines grow in Syria (Reuters) Syria has suffered oil shortages since an Iranian credit line was halted six months ago and not one oil tanker has reached the country since then, a pro-government newspaper said on Wednesday, as a fuel crisis worsened. Syrians say shortages grew more acute a week ago: hundreds of cars waited in line at one Damascus petrol station on Wednesday, a witness said. State news agency SANA showed a photo of snarled traffic and said Syrians faced an “economic war”…
Christians, Muslims protest vigilante attacks (UCANews.com) Five days after a mob of Hindus beat to death a Catholic man for suspected cow slaughter in India’s Jharkhand state, Christian and Muslim activists joined in New Delhi to protest about violence against minorities. A mob attacked Prakash Lakra and three others on 10 April after suspecting them of slaughtering a cow in Jhurmu village in the eastern state’s Gumla district. Lakra died from his injuries hours after the attack, church sources said.
Sister presents her meditations on the Way of the Cross for Good Friday (Vatican News) Sister Eugenia Bonetti is a Consolata Missionary and President of the Association “Slaves No More.” Pope Francis invited her to prepare the meditations for this year’s Way of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday. Drawing from her experience in fighting the scourge of human trafficking, Sister Bonetti has highlighted the plight of those who are suffering new forms of crucifixion in society today…
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis