Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
30 August 2019
Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Achille Silvestrini in 2016 photo. The cardinal, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, died on 29 August 2019, at the age of 95. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, has died at the age of 95.

In a message of condolence to the family of the cardinal, who died on 29 August in Rome, Pope Francis noted that his decades at the Vatican included service to seven popes.

He will be remembered for “a life spent in adhering to his vocation as a priest attentive to the needs of others, a skillful and adaptable diplomat and a pastor faithful to the Gospel and to the church,” Pope Francis said.

Born in the northern Italian city of Brisighella, the future cardinal was ordained a priest in 1946 and subsequently received doctorates from the University of Bologna and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome before entering the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which provides training to priests for eventual service in the Vatican diplomatic corps.

As a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, he focused on international issues concerning Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. He also accompanied Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then-Vatican secretary of state, to Moscow in 1971 to deliver the Holy See’s adhesion to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

In 1979, he was named by St. John Paul II as secretary of the former Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, now known as the Section for Relations with States. As secretary, a position equivalent to foreign minister, he represented the Vatican on diplomatic missions to various countries, including Spain, Malta, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Poland and Haiti.

He was created a cardinal in 1988 and named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court, where he served until 1991 when St. John Paul appointed him prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

During his time as prefect, the Vatican called upon Cardinal Silvestrini’s diplomatic experience in areas of tension, particularly in the Middle East. In May 1993, he led a Vatican delegation to meet with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

He urged Hussein to make signs of goodwill and fulfill U.N. resolutions in order to ease economic restrictions imposed upon Iraq following the Gulf War. Cardinal Silvestrini served as prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches until 2000.

His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 215 members, 118 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.

30 August 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

In this image from 2012, Cardinal George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India, is pictured at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

In a step designed to quell ongoing controversies, the Vatican announced the appointment of a vicar for the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and Pope Francis conferred on him the personal title of archbishop.

Archbishop Antony Kariyil had led the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Mandya, India, and served as secretary of the synod of bishops of the Eastern-rite church before his appointment as vicar was announced by the Vatican on 30 August.

The website Matters India reported that the synod, in agreement with the Vatican, created the post of vicar to the major archbishop to help deal with ongoing controversies involving Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, major archbishop of the church.

The vicar was to have broad administrative powers and complete control over the financial affairs of the archdiocese, but the cardinal would retain the title of major archbishop and must be consulted on important decisions, the website said.

Matters India also reported that the synod lifted the suspension of the archdiocese’s two auxiliary bishops and transferred them to other dioceses: Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath will succeed Archbishop Kariyil in Mandya and Bishop Jose Puthenveettil will become auxiliary bishop of Faridabad. Both appointments were announced by the Vatican on 30 August.

In June 2018, Pope Francis had named an apostolic administrator to run the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly in an effort to put an end to infighting and financial controversies aggravated by disputed land deals approved by the cardinal.

Tags: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

30 August 2019
Greg Kandra

In this photo from 2 April, displaced Syrian children walk with bread at a camp in Hassake, Syria. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)

Syrians in makeshift displacement camp face ‘impossible choice’ (CBS News)An estimated 11,000 to 24,000 displaced Syrians still trapped in the remote Rukban camp along the eastern Syrian-Jordanian border. They have spent years languishing in a desert no man’s land along the border since fleeing Islamic State attacks on their hometowns in eastern Homs province in 2015. The camp remains an informal settlement, scattered with makeshift mud homes. Since March, nearly 18,000 Rukban residents have left the camp aboard the Syrian government’s buses, headed for government-held territory in Homs, according to the latest U.N. count from August. Hundreds of others have smuggled themselves out of the camp toward Syria’s opposition-held north…

Vicar appointed Major Archbishop for Ernakulam-Angamaly (Vatican Press Office) The Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church elected Vicar of the Major Archbishop for the Archieparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly HE Mons. Antony Kariyil, CMI, transferring him from the Siro-Malabar headquarters in Mandya. The Holy Father raised him to the dignity of Archbishop, assigning him the titular see of Macriana Maggiore…

Ousted Greek Patriarch gets to go home (Haaretz) The ousted Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Irenaeus I, departed Israel on Thursday and was headed for Greece. His departure puts an end to a 15-year-old religious and political saga…

Kashmir curfew taking a heavy toll ( For the past three Sundays, Allen Francis has had only one prayer during Mass: Bring normalcy back to Kashmir, where an Indian government clampdown has been enforced for several weeks. The continuing chaos in the state bordering Pakistan has now rendered the 35-year-old mason jobless for almost a month…

Tags: Syria Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Bishops

29 August 2019
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

The recent flooding and landslides in Kerala, India, are yet another reminder of the challenges we face caring for our world. (photo: CNEWA)

If the Amazon rainforest forms the “lungs of the planet,” Mother Earth has pneumonia.

It has been a bad summer. As the G-7 met in France this week to discuss, among other things, climate change, several thousand fires were burning in the Amazon. Many of the fires were set by humans using “slash and burn” techniques to “clear” the land. Europe experienced its hottest weather ever with temperatures in France reaching 107°F. It is estimated that 10 billion tons of ice (in pounds, that’s 20 followed by twelve zeroes) melted in Greenland on Wednesday 31 July 2019—one single day! Indonesia has recently announced that it is moving its capital from Jakarta because the city is being drowned by rising sea levels.

CNEWA’s world is not being spared either. Southern India, which was devastated by monsoon flooding in 2018, is once again under water, bringing suffering and death to hundreds of thousands. (CNEWA has received urgent appeals for help from our brothers and sisters in Kerala. Click here to learn what you can do.)

All of the above is becoming the “new normal.”

This has implications not only for those CNEWA serves but, in fact, for every one of us. Pope Francis stated as much four years ago.

On 24 May 2015, Pope Francis published Laudato si’ (“be praised!” from the opening line of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun). Most encyclical letters are addressed to Catholics around the world; some will mention “people of good will.” But in this encyclical, which bears the subtitle “On Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis explicitly addresses “every person living on this planet.” Written in close cooperation with Bartholomew, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, the encyclical is ecumenical in a new and very practical way.

It is, however, more than ecumenical; it addresses and challenges every one in the world. And for good reason: each of us has a stake in caring for the planet, and will bear responsibility for what we leave behind for future generations.

Make no mistake: climate change is real. While there are disagreements about the details of climate change and about the extent of human involvement, there is no serious disagreement among scientists about the fact of climate change — and that human agency is one of the main drivers of the change.

Science, of course, is not religion. One can agree or disagree with scientific conclusions and try to prove one’s point of view. “Not believing” in a given scientific fact/theory, however, is simply an irrelevant position and, one is tempted to say, one that does not merit a response. Gravity, for example, is not as simple a scientific “fact” as the average person would think. Gravity too is a “theory,” and a very complicated one at that. However, to walk off a roof because gravity is “only a theory” and, hence, not worthy of “belief” would be foolish in the extreme.

To ignore climate change is no less foolhardy.

Pope Francis (and Patriarch Bartholomew) sees responsibility for the environment through a spiritual/moral lens. Both realize that self-interest plays a great role in caring for our “common home.” If that home can no longer sustain human life, we humans will go extinct like thousands of other species. When an organism—like the planet—has a pathogen, one of the responses is to raise the temperature—in bodies, a fever—to make the environment hostile to the pathogen and ultimately kill it. It is unlikely that life will go entirely extinct on earth. There are any number of organisms that can easily survive temperatures that would kill human life. We humans may bring about our own extinction but life will go on.

Francis realizes that it is in our self-interest to be aware of the danger. However, he also sees that danger as a spiritual one. There is the temptation to be utilitarian, to see creation no longer as a marvelous gift of the Creator but as little more than the raw material for making money. Francis realizes that such thinking brings with it not only a real risk of physical extinction for humanity, but also of the spiritual death of humanity.

Christians and other peoples of faith in different ways have looked upon humanity as stewards of creation. Stewards are those who “work and protect” (Gen 2:15) the creation entrusted to them. Francis speaks of an “integral” spirituality which, while realizing our dependence on the planet for food, resources, etc., also recognizes an ethic which uses the goods of the earth in a responsible way. This should not be overlooked. To be sure, climate change has scientific, social and economic ramifications. However, Francis is making a strong point that living responsibly on our planet, our common home, needs to be part of our spirituality as Catholic Christians. It is not something “added on” to our Christian lives. Francis sees it as an essential—integral—part of what it means to be a Catholic follower of Christ.

Religious leaders are more and more realizing the importance of living ethically on our planet. We are responsible for those who will follow. To let greed determine our decisions, to wantonly plunder the planet and its resources and to leave our descendants an increasingly uninhabitable planet is the ultimate crime against humanity.

Ironically it is not those who are the major consumers of the planet’s resources who are the first to experience the devastation of climate change. For the most part, those who are on the cutting—one might well say killing—edge of climate change are those living in farming or fishing communities, those living in small island nations, those whose survival is closely linked to the availability of clean water and the vagaries of weather — in short, those who inhabit the very regions CNEWA serves. While these may not be concerns of the developed world, Pope Francis reminds us forcefully that this is our common home. Those very things which threaten the existence of others today will sooner or later threaten the existence of even the wealthiest and most privileged.

When such a time comes, Francis knows it will be too late. All the money and power in the world will not be enough to stop it.

Tags: India Pope Francis

29 August 2019
Greg Kandra

Parishioners make flat bread and pastries for the annual bazaar at St. James Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. Armenians have turned this community into a home away from home. Read how they are offering A Taste of Little Armenia in the July 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

Tags: Armenia

29 August 2019
Greg Kandra

In this summer 2018 photo, Syrian refugee youth in Lebanon participate in a Caritas Lebanon education program. (photo: CNS/courtesy Caritas Lebanon)

Human rights group calls on Lebanon to stop expulsion of Syrian refugees (Al Jazeera) Almost 2,500 Syrian refugees have been ”forcibly deported” from Lebanon to their war-torn country over the past three months, a rights group has said, urging authorities to “immediately” halt the expulsions. In a statement on Tuesday, Amnesty International cited data from Lebanon’s General Security agency and the Lebanese government which that about 2,447 Syrians had been expelled between mid-May and 9 August...

Kerala court convicts men over murder of Dalit Christian (The Telegraph) A court in India’s southern Kerala state has sentenced 10 men to life imprisonment for killing a low caste Dalit Christian for marrying a higher caste woman. The court in Kerala’s Kottayam district also fined each of the convicted men £456 for killing Kevin Joseph, a 23-year old electrician, in May last year, three days after he married Neenu Chacko, 20, an upper-class Christian, much against her family’s wishes…

Human rights group calls on Lebanon to stop expulsion of Syrian refugees (Al Jazeera) Almost 2,500 Syrian refugees have been ”forcibly deported” from Lebanon to their war-torn country over the past three months, a rights group has said, urging authorities to “immediately” halt the expulsions. In a statement on Tuesday, Amnesty International cited data from Lebanon’s General Security agency and the Lebanese government which that about 2,447 Syrians had been expelled between mid-May and 9 August...

3.8 million-year-old skull found in Ethiopia an evolution game-changer (Al Jazeera) A “remarkably complete” 3.8-million-year-old skull of an early human has been excavated by Palaeontologists in Ethiopia, a discovery that has the potential to change the understanding of human evolution. The find, known as “MRD”, revealed the face of a presumed ancestor of the species famously represented by Lucy, the celebrated Ethiopian partial skeleton found in 1974…

Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Dalits

28 August 2019
Greg Kandra

In a grove near the West Bank city of Nablus, women sort olives then remove stems and leaves. Learn more about these Olive Offerings — and how important this crop is to Palestine — in the January 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Ahikam Seri)

Tags: Palestine

28 August 2019
Greg Kandra

In this image from April, displaced Syrian children walk with bread at a camp in Hassakeh, Syria. A children’s charity has raised alarm over the number of children impacted by ongoing military operations in Syria. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)

Children’s charity voices alarm over child deaths in Syria (Vatican News) Speaking about the alarming situation in the region, Save the Children’s Media Manager for the Middle East, Joelle Bassoul said, “the civilian population is paying the price for this military operation and children who number one million in Idlib are at the forefront and sadly the numbers are increasing by the day…”

Kerala flood and landslide rescue team ends search efforts (Gulf News) Nearly three weeks after rain waters and a landslide buried a mountainside at Kavalapara near Nilambur in Kerala’s Malabar region, the search and rescue team officially ended its operations on Sunday. At least 59 people are believed killed in the incident, and 48 bodies have been recovered so far…

Patriarch urges Christians to return to Turkey (The Tablet) The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch has urged Christians to return to Turkey, a century after a hundreds of thousands fled following a Greek-Turkish war and the redrawing of bilateral frontiers. ”My homeland continually waits to embrace its estranged children, to tell them it’s alive and breathing”, Bartholomew I told a congregation at Saint Theodore’s church in his home village of Imros…

Gaza on state of alert (Al Jazeera) The Gaza Strip is on a “state of alert” after explosions killed three policemen in the Palestinian enclave in apparent suicide attacks. The police officers died in “two explosions targeting police checkpoints” late on Tuesday, the interior ministry in the Hamas-controlled coastal territory said in a statement…

Jerusalem begins work on underground cemetery (UPI) Running out of places to bury the dead, the holy city of Jerusalem is building an underground cemetery for thousands of new graves. In Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood, construction on the underground section of the Har HaMenuchot Cemetery is underway, and the first 8,000 burial spaces will be available this fall. Officials said the underground cemetery will be able to hold 30,000 plots…

Tags: Syria Jerusalem Kerala Turkey

27 August 2019
Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service

In this image from June, Syriac Catholic Archbishop Nathanael Nizar Semaan celebrates his first liturgy as bishop on Pentecost Sunday, two days after his episcopal ordination, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh. He has been named the Diocese of Hadiab-Erbil and all Kurdistan. To the left is Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan.
(photo: Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)

To support the faithful and encourage them to stay in their homeland, the Syriac Catholic Church has reestablished a diocese for the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan celebrated the new diocese at a liturgy at Queen of Peace Syriac Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq, on 24 August. In his homily, he commended the faithful for being “the embodiment of the living faith, and a testimony to the challenge and steadfastness amid takfiri terrorism and in the face of evil forces that wanted to kill hope in your believing souls.”

“I say and repeat: You have carried the cross on the example of the Savior, our divine teacher, and you have persevered in your faith, your heritage and your hope, which has been admired around the world, East and West alike,” Patriarch Younan said.

Archbishop Nathaniel Nizar Semaan heads the new Diocese of Hadiab-Erbil and all Kurdistan. Previously, the area was under the Mosul Archdiocese’s jurisdiction.

Archbishop Semaan was ordained a bishop on 7 June as the coadjutor archbishop of Mosul; then he was named archbishop of the new diocese when it was erected 28 June. He had served as a priest in London for 14 years.

The Hadiab Diocese was founded in the 13th century, but had dissolved by the mid-17th century.

In the summer of 2014, some 120,000 Christians were uprooted from Mosul and the Ninevah Plain by the Islamic State, fleeing to Irbil in the Kurdistan region. While dozens of families have since migrated to the West, some families have returned to liberated areas in the Ninevah Plain, and others have settled in the Kurdistan region.

Patriarch Younan noted that, during their synod in June, the Syriac Catholic bishops decided to revive the diocese “in order to activate the episcopal care of the clergy and believers residing in the Kurdistan region.”

The Kurdistan regional government has provided two plots of land in Ainkawa and Dahuk, each dedicated to the construction of a Syriac Catholic church.

Patriarch Younan also celebrated Mass in the refurbished Syriac Catholic church of St. Behnam and St. Sarah in Qaraqosh, which had been destroyed by ISIS. In his homily during the 25 August liturgy, the patriarch recalled that he had participated in the church’s consecration 18 years earlier.

He referred to the faithful from Qaraqosh, located in the heart of the Ninevah Plain, as “the pearls of our church” as they constitute the largest Syriac Catholic congregation in the world. Noting that immigrating to the West does not necessarily result in happiness, the patriarch reminded Catholics that “the blessed land that was watered in the sweat of our fathers and grandfathers and with their bright blood must continue to bear witness to the Lord Jesus, even if our number is reduced.”

In 2003, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Their presence dates back to apostolic times. Now that number has dwindled to about 250,000.

Prior to visiting Iraq, Patriarch Younan participated in the International Pilgrimage for Politicians and Family Summit in Fatima, Portugal. On the sidelines of the summit, along with Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch Younan met with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

The patriarchs called attention to the violence, terrorism, kidnapping, killing and uprooting, particularly in Syria and Iraq, and warned that, if it continues, it would lead to Christians leaving the land.

Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Syriac Catholic Church

27 August 2019
Greg Kandra

Villages throughout India are struggling to recover from massive flooding from this month’s monsoons. (photo: CNEWA)

Flooded villages cry out for government help (India Today) Phool Kalan village of Punjab’s Roopnagar district has been partially torn through by a torrent of floodwater and mud which hit the village during the recent floods. The floodwater rose as high as 5 to 6 feet and entered every household in Phool Kalan. The water after receding left behind a picture of destruction. Despite the widespread damage caused to the houses, the residents are busy struggling to put their life back on track...

Ahead of meeting, Turkey expects Russia to help rein in Syria (Reuters) President Tayyip Erdogan will seek steps from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to safeguard Turkish troops in the face of an offensive by the Syrian army in the country’s northwest when the two leaders meet on Tuesday, a senior Turkish official said…

Indian faithful urged to support constitution ( Political and social leaders in India addressing centenary celebrations of the nation’s oldest lay Catholic organization have urged church members to stand up for constitutional democratic and secular values. The chief minister of New Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, stressed the importance of the All India Catholic Union (AICU) safeguarding the multireligious ethos of society…

Russian Orthodox leader: pacifists misinterpret the Bible (The Moscow Times) The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church has said the modern pacifist movement misunderstands Jesus Christ’s sermon about turning the other cheek. ”If we confine ourselves to these words [“if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”], we could draw the wrong conclusions from a literal interpretation,” Patriarch Kirill said Sunday...

UN calls for eliminating violence against religion (Vatican News) The United Nations on Thursday marked the first-ever International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion and Belief, urging for an end to the persecution of religious groups. ”On this Day, we reaffirm our unwavering support for the victims of violence based on religion and belief. And we demonstrate that support by doing all in our power to prevent such attacks and demanding that those responsible are held accountable,” said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in a message for the occasion…

Amid 2018 floods, new smiles were born (The New Indian Express) Little Subhaan, Aaradhya and Hanna Mariya will be celebrating their first birthday, as the state observes the first anniversary of the worst flood in a century, amid the prospect of another devastation now. Their mothers — Sajitha Jabeel, Krishnendu and Jismi — were in the advanced stage of pregnancy when floodwater inundated their houses last year. In deep anguish, they perched on top of their houses amid gushing waters and crumbling buildings. But, in the nick of time, rescue workers managed to shift them to relief camps. From there, Navy helicopter crew airlifted them to the INHS Sanjeevani Hospital at Kochi Naval Base…

Tags: Syria India Russian Orthodox Church Persecution

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