28 July 2015
The world of the Eastern churches is a complex web of history and culture. CNEWA is privileged to work for, through and with these churches, a mandate given to us when Pope Pius XI founded CNEWA in 1926. But navigating this labyrinth of patriarchs and popes, councils and creeds, can be daunting and confusing.
To help clear up this confusion, we’re launching a new series that we hope will provide our readers with a better understanding of the church and its rich history. Each Tuesday and Thursday, our ONE-TO-ONE blog will feature a short overview for each of the Eastern churches.
Each post will conclude with a link to a fuller account of that particular church as featured in CNEWA’s award-winning magazine, ONE.
We hope you’ll find this journey enlightening and enriching, and come away with a deeper appreciation for the diversity of our shared faith. We also think you’ll come to see, in the midst of all this complexity, a clarity and continuity that truly make us one.
28 July 2015
Father Andrawous Bahouth celebrates the Divine Liturgy at the 18th-century Church of St. Andrew in Akko, Israel. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Scattered throughout the Middle East — and increasingly, the Americas, Europe and Oceania — a Christian community continues to bear a nickname first coined by its adversaries more than 1,500 years ago.
A Melkite (from the Syriac, malkaya, meaning “of the king”) once referred to a Christian who supported an emperor ruling from the city of Constantinople, now modern Istanbul; spoke Greek; lived in an urban center in the eastern Mediterranean region; and accepted the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, promulgated in the year 451.
Today, most Melkites are Arabic-speaking Christians, or descendants of Arab-speakers, who belong to a church steeped in the traditions of the Christian East yet accept full communion with the pope in Rome. They are increasingly on the move, displaced from their livelihoods in a volatile Middle East, settling in the West, especially South America, where now more than half of all Melkites live. Though Melkite Greek Catholics constitute a small church within the Catholic communion, they boldly assert their rights, privileges, prerogatives and traditions while actively seeking unity with their Orthodox kin, from whom they have been separated since the early 18th century.
In 2004, Father Elias Hanout greeted children in front of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the southern Syrian town of Ezraa. The church, which dates to the sixth century and is among the oldest churches in the world, is in jeopardy as rebel forces close in on the largely Christian town. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church shares in the heritage of the ancient Syrian city of Antioch, now in southern Turkey. Founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul, the church of Antioch — where the followers of Jesus first earned the name “Christian” (Acts 11:26) — became the Christian hub of the eastern Mediterranean.
When the leaders of the churches of Constantinople and Rome excommunicated each other in the year 1054 — the definitive rupture separating what we now call the Orthodox and Catholic churches — the Melkite patriarch of Antioch, choosing no side in the dispute, tried to reconcile the two.
Eventually, the church of Antioch sided with Constantinople. When the Crusaders seized Antioch in 1098, they appointed a Latin patriarch and expelled the Melkite incumbent, who fled to Constantinople. It was during this period of exile that the original liturgical rites utilized by the Melkites and identified as “Antiochene” were replaced by the Byzantine rites of the church of Constantinople.
Based in the war-weary Syrian capital of Damascus, the worldwide Melkite Greek Catholic Church is led by the vigorous Patriarch Gregory III and a synod of bishops not fearful of tackling challenging issues. “Christianity survived in the Middle East because of the married priests,” said one, Archbishop George Bakhouny of Akka in Israel. The Eastern tradition, he said, is “to choose someone who has his own work in the particular village, a good man, a faithful man, a Christian man. He will study a little bit, some theology and philosophy, and he will be ordained.” It doesn’t matter, he continued, if it is impractical to send a married man to the seminary for six years.
“We don’t want all of them to be doctors or theologians,” he said, but witnesses. Priests don’t all have to be well-spoken orators; they could even be fishermen.
Read a full account of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from ONE magazine here.
23 July 2015
Now available online is the summer edition of CNEWA’s award-winning magazine, ONE.
This edition takes you to the plains of northern Iraq, where one year ago ISIS stormed ancient villages, wiping out 2,000 years of a Christian presence in Mesopotamia. You will meet the heroic women who, a year after their exodus, have cast aside their own needs and fears to care for those men, women and children in need of the graces of hope and healing.
You will hear from a young priest from Lebanon who works in a factory in Chicago to support his parish, his wife and his children. And you will meet his wife, who reveals the origins of her own vocation.
Armenia is rich in culture, long in history, and fueled by faith. Read the story of one woman caring for the country’s new orphans, the elderly.
There is much more — including stories only available online, and features focusing on the activities of religious sisters, women working in harm’s way in India and the Middle East. And walk through the pages of our “virtual print edition,” an interactive feature that looks like our print edition, but includes links to videos and much more.
We are very proud of ONE, which year after year receives acclaim from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada for its first rate reporting, writing and moving photographs.
20 April 2015
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
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
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.
25 February 2015
Tags: Middle East Christians CNEWA Middle East Relief Eastern Churches
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
(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)
9 February 2015
Tags: Syria Violence against Christians Chaldean Church Assyrian Church Church of the East
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
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!