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Spring, 2015
Volume 41, Number 1
  
20 April 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Iraqis flee the ISIS onslaught, summer 2014. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)

CNEWA’s recent disbursement of aid to the Middle East was spotlighted in a recent article by John L. Allen Jr. for The Boston Globe:

“Two-thirds of the world’s 2.3 billion Christians live in the developing world, where they’re often convenient targets for anti-Western rage — even though their churches have deeper roots in those places than most of their persecutors,” writes Allen, who has covered the Vatican beat for the National Catholic Reporter, CNN and now The Globe. “Christians are also disproportionately likely to belong to ethnic and linguistic minorities, putting them doubly or triply in jeopardy.

“All that has been true for some time, but the religious cleansing campaigns carried out by ISIS and its self-described ‘caliphate’ has made anti-Christian hatred an utterly inescapable fact of life.

“The question is no longer whether it’s real, but what to do about it.

“That’s where outfits such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) step in. ...

“CNEWA’s mandate is to support the Eastern churches in Catholicism, meaning the Catholic communities scattered across the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe that draw on Eastern Orthodox traditions. In recent years, that’s made CNEWA a prime mover in delivering aid to persecuted Christians in some of the world’s leading hot spots.

“Today, CNEWA is among the largest providers of aid to Middle Eastern Christians anywhere in the world.”

To read more, visit The Globe’s Catholic portal, Crux. And to join in CNEWA’s work to help the Christians of the Middle East, click here.



20 April 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Ethiopian Christianity dates to the earliest days of the church. On Sunday, Islamic militants released a video purportedly depicting the execution of Ethiopian Christians as part of their war on civilization. (photo: Sean Sprague)

ISIS Video Appears to Show Executions of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (New York Times) The Islamic State released a video on Sunday that appears to show fighters from its branches in southern and eastern Libya, executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting...

Coptic Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina on Ethiopian Christians massacred (Agenzia Fides) The Patriarchs and Catholic Bishops of Egypt, have gathered in Cairo for their regular assembly that sees them together twice a year, and will dedicate part of their common pastoral reflection to new massacres of Ethiopian Christians committed by jihadists of the Islamic State and documented in video clips carried out with macabre professionalism to be distributed online as tools of their irrational propaganda...

Beyond powerlessness over anti-Christian persecution (Crux) Today, CNEWA is among the largest providers of aid to Middle Eastern Christians anywhere in the world. Though it’s a Catholic organization, it helps Christians of all sorts. This week, CNEWA announced the release of grants totaling $686,000 to aid the Christian community in the Middle East, targeted at places that have absorbed the heaviest blows...

Ukraine pro-Russian rebels warn of all-out war (Vatican Radio) The leadership of pro-Russian separatists has warned of all-out war unless Kiev recognizes rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine. The warning came amid escalating fighting between government forces and rebels in some regions and while hundreds of American troops arrived to train Ukraine’s army...

EU meets on migrant crisis as shipwreck corpses brought ashore (Al Jazeera) The death toll from Sunday’s shipwreck off the coast of Libya was uncertain after officials said there had been at least 700 people on board, some reportedly locked in the hold.

This year more than 1,500 people fleeing war and poverty are estimated to have died in the Mediterranean, packed into rickety boats by human traffickers in a bid to reach a better life in Europe. The deaths are up 15-fold compared with the same period of 2014.

“The reputation of Europe is at stake,” said Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni. “I have been saying for weeks and months that Europe has to do more, now unfortunately the reality has hit us in the face...”



14 April 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




The president of CNEWA, Msgr. John E. Kozar, has authorized the immediate release of $686,000 to assist the Christian community in the Middle East as part of CNEWA’s ongoing commitment to the region’s churches and their humanitarian and pastoral initiatives.

The aid targets those most in need, he stated, and will be administered by CNEWA’s partners on the ground. The funds represent a portion of CNEWA’s allocation from the voluntary collection taken up last autumn in dioceses across the United States. Support includes:

  • $100,000 to renovate and furnish church structures damaged during anti-Christian riots in Egypt in August 2013.

  • $15,000 to help the Daughters of the Sacred Heart in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, run a home for the care of elderly and disabled women, many of them displaced by ISIS.

  • $3,000 to support the Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena for the formation of novices. The sisters have lost their mother house in Mosul and many convents in northern Iraq. From their exile in Erbil, they are CNEWA’s primary partners in caring for the displaced.

  • $150,000 to assist parishes in Jordan hosting Iraqi Christian refugee families. Living in parish community centers, families delineate space with temporary dividers, and receive bedding, clothing, food and a caring ear from the parish community.

  • $50,000 to support the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. Staffed by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, the sisters serve impoverished refugee expectant mothers, Muslim and Christian, an increasing number of whom are Iraqi and Syrian.

  • $50,000 to help the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman, Jordan, provide counseling, tutorial services, catechesis and English classes to marginalized populations, especially Syrian and Iraqi Christian families. The center is administered by the Teresians, an international Catholic lay association.

  • $50,000 to provide additional support to the Italian Hospital in Amman for its treatment of refugees and the poor. The hospital is administered by the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, an Iraqi religious community.

  • $75,000 to assist religious sisters in Lebanon with their outreach to poor Lebanese nationals. The influx of more than a million Syrian and Iraqi refugees has devastated the poor of Lebanon, who have grown poorer with the loss of income and housing. Funds provide food, medicines, counseling services and other forms of assistance.

  • $93,000 to help Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza renovate its community center, which provided families a refuge during the aerial bombing of Gaza last summer. The Latin parish is the only Catholic church in the Gaza Strip. It serves the entire community, sponsoring a school, hosting a home for children with special needs run by the Missionaries of Charity, and offering other social services, such as post-traumatic stress disorder counseling.

  • $100,000 to provide medical care for impoverished families in Syria through CNEWA’s partners on the ground — religious communities of men and women.

Samir and Nevine Deshto, Iraqi Christian refugees, stand with their newborn daughter in the Italian Hospital in Amman. (photo: Nader Daoud)

Msgr. Kozar noted that portions of this disbursement supplement the agency’s commitment of more than $6.8 million to the peoples and churches of the Middle East in 2015. CNEWA’s Middle East program includes an array of aid from emergency relief for displaced Iraqi Christian families and support for formation programs for seminarians in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon to health care and schooling initiatives in Syria and Palestine.

An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Middle East, with offices in Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches. CNEWA is a registered charity in Canada and in the United States by the State of New York. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800.442.6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195. In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1-866-322-4441.



Tags: Middle East Christians CNEWA Middle East Relief Eastern Churches

25 February 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Children stand near mortar shells in the center of the Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) after it was freed from ISIS. After its defeat in Kobani, ISIS has now turned its attention to the city of Hassake. (photo: Esber Ayaydin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

There is no word about the fate of the scores of Syrian Christians — including women and children — taken into custody by ISIS the last few days.

“The situation is not yet clear,” said CNEWA’s Michel Constantin in an interview with the Catholic newswire, Aleteia. “There were around 150 persons who were kidnapped. Among them, 14 or 15 are children and women. Others are elderly, and others are young persons. This is not very precise because the conflict is still going on.

“ISIS militants are still holding some of the villages; others are under attack.”

Mr. Constantin, who as regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt coordinates CNEWA’s emergency response in Syria and Iraq, added that those who fled their homes sought safety in Hassake, a city of 188,000 people now surrounded by ISIS:

“The attention now is on the city of Hassake itself. The city is surrounded by ISIS militants, and the rural area around the city is all occupied by those fanatics. The people inside Hassake are afraid of a concentration of militants inside the city, so people are very afraid.”

CNEWA, he added, is rushing aid to the displaced now hunkered down in the city. To learn how you can help, click here.

Follow this link to read the rest of Aleteia’s breaking interview with Michel Constantin.



24 February 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




(image: Tele Lumiere)

More than 90 Syrian Christians, including women and children, have been captured by ISIS militants near the northeastern Syrian city of Hassake.

A number of accounts from Syria report heavy fighting that began over the weekend as ISIS attacked Christian villages along the Khabur River. The river flows into Hassake, a city of 188,000 people, many of whom are Assyro-Chaldean and Armenian Christians.

Hassake is now cut off.

A “mass exodus of people took place [to] Hassake” writes Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana in an email to aid partners, including CNEWA. Church of the East “Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel told me the church and community hall are overloaded with people.”

Syria Daily reports that “the jihadists struck along the Khabur River, moving southeast from Tal Shamiran all the way to Tal Hurmiz. Claims are circulating that churches were burned and villagers were kidnapped, with women and children separated from the men as the Islamic State seeks a prisoner exchange with local Kurdish groups.”

An ethnically diverse region, northeastern Syria is home to large numbers of ethnic Kurds, most of whom are Sunni Muslims, and Assyro-Chaldean and Armenian Christians. Many of the Christians are descendants of those who survived previous massacres. These include the genocidal murder of the Christian community in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, and the Simele Massacre of 1933, in which the Iraqi army systematically targeted northern Iraq’s Assyro-Chaldean Christians, perhaps murdering as many as 3,000 people.

“Those villages,” writes Archimandrite Youkhana of the 35 Syrian communities now under siege by ISIS, “were started by Assyrians who fled the massacre of August 1933. So far, they never use the term ‘village’ or ‘town’ for their settlements … [but] insist to say ‘camps’ to reflect the fact that they were settled temporarily.”

The villagers, he notes, “hope to one day return to Iraq.”

At present, writes CNEWA’s Michel Constantin, “all roads leading to Hassake are blocked by so-called Islamic State militants, and the only way to respond to the needs of the refugees is through Turkey or northern Iraq.

“We are establishing communication now to explore any possibilities of providing emergency relief to these new refugees.”

(image: Tele Lumiere)



Tags: Syria Violence against Christians Chaldean Church Assyrian Church Church of the East

9 February 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Syro-Malankara Catholic catechumens process toward a community event in a remote area of central India. To learn more about the growth of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches in India, check out “Reaching the Unreached in India” in the recent edition
of ONE magazine. (photo: John E. Kozar)




6 February 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




In 1996, the tenth-century Haghpat Monastery in northern Armenia was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. (photo: Michael J.L. La Civita)

The world of the Eastern churches is a labyrinth. Rich in history and culture, the development of these distinct churches dates to the age of the apostles, and mirrors the evolution of humanity these last two millennia.

From 2005 to 2012, CNEWA’s magazine, ONE, offered its readers a profile of each Eastern church, Catholic and non-Catholic. These 47 features offered the reader an objective account on the course of each church’s development and utilized lavish images to illustrate their vitality.

Now, a new portal gathers together these profiles and groups each church under its appropriate tradition. This organizational strategy adheres largely to the ancient concept of the pentarchy, the five principal episcopal sees of the church in the Roman world as defined by the Council of Chalcedon in 451: Rome, representing the church of the West, and the four Eastern patriarchal sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

The church in Armenia — the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301 — is listed separately. While the Armenian church developed independently, it did not evolve in isolation, rather it absorbed and imparted traditions, rites and elements from the entire Christian tradition, East and West.

We hope you enjoy this compilation!



20 January 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




In this 2008 file photo, Bishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of Asmara, Eritrea, speaks during an interview at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. This weekend, Pope Francis appointed him metropolitan of the new Eritrean Catholic Church. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

On Sunday, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis, bishop of Rome, had created a new Eastern Catholic metropolitan church in the northeast African nation of Eritrea. The new Eritrean Catholic Church, carved from the four Eritrean eparchies (or dioceses) of the Ge’ez Catholic Church based in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa, will be sui iuris (meaning “of its own right”) and will be subject directly to the Holy See.

According to the Vatican Information Service announcement, “the seat of the new metropolitan church is Asmara, [the capital of Eritrea,] which is elevated to the status of metropolitan archeparchy.” This new metropolitan church, which will continue to utilize the Ge’ez rites and traditions it shares with its sister church in neighboring Ethiopia, includes the eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Seghenity, in addition to the Archeparchy of Asmara. The pope appointed Bishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.J., formerly eparchial bishop of Asmara, as the first metropolitan archbishop of Eritrea.

The Holy See also announced that the re-formed Ethiopian Catholic Church, led by Cardinal-designate Metropolitan Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel, C.M., will include a new jurisdiction, erecting the Eparchy of Bahir Dar-Dessie, and asking Bishop Lisane-Christos Matheos Semahun, the former auxiliary of Addis Ababa, to shepherd its 18,000 Catholics.

Click here to learn more about the Eritrean and Ethiopian Catholic churches, and their ancient Ge’ez rites and traditions. To learn more about the Eastern churches, visit this new feature we have created that gathers together the profiles written on all the Eastern churches featured in ONE magazine between 2005 and 2012.



Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia Eritrea Ethiopia’s Catholic Church Eritrean Catholic Church

6 January 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Jordanian clerics walk in a procession to the site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.
(photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)


My friend and colleague at The Priest magazine, Msgr. Owen Campion, recently invited me to write about the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

“Besieged! Why save the Middle East’s Christians?” is now available online.

An excerpt:

The traumatic events of last summer finally have earned Middle Eastern Christians some attention, if not quite the respect, of the strategic classes inside the Beltway: politicians, candidates, policy wonks and journalists. The headlines are dramatic, betraying a sense of hopelessness: “Beleaguered Christians Make Final Stand,” “The Middle East’s Friendless Christians,” “Christianity in Iraq is Finished.”

“Western countries ought to come together and offer refuge to the tens of thousands [of Christians] who want to leave Iraq,” one observer wrote in The Washington Post in September 2014.

“Yes, this would mean the end of Christianity in this part of the world, where its presence has often served as a bulwark against fanaticism. But it’s over anyway, whatever happens to the Islamic State. It’s time to face that fact and save the Christians themselves.”

But defending — indeed, saving — Christians in the Middle East is not just about saving Christians. It is about saving pluralism, or what remains of it, in the Middle East. It is about building prosperous civil societies. It is about saving the Middle East and civilization, where it first took root.

Read the rest over at “The Priest.”



2 December 2014
Michael J.L. La Civita




CNEWA provides displaced Syrian children with food, clothing and school supplies.
(photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)


Yesterday, we learned the United Nations World Food Program has suspended its voucher program, which feeds more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, because of funding shortfalls.

“For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter,” cites a World Food Program statement, “the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating.”

Syrian refugees living in camps and informal settlements depend on the assistance, as the host countries are overwhelmed by the enormity of need and lack the necessary resources. With winter settling in, the living conditions of the refugees are extremely precarious. Refugees lack proper housing, clothing and health care.

Yesterday, funding partners in Europe — including Kindermissionswerk — awarded CNEWA grants in the amount of $222,972 to assist CNEWA provide Syrian infants and school-age children with milk, diapers, winter clothing and school supplies.

Additional grants from Kindermissionswerk and Misereor, totaling $125,000, were also received for the needs of Iraqi children and medical supplies for CNEWA’s clinic in the Martha Schmouny camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

On this Giving Tuesday, give to CNEWA. Your gift will make a difference for innocent families devastated by war, power and greed.







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