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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
14 September 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Sister Georgette Foukey works with a student at the Franciscan Sisters orphanage school in Egypt. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Pope Benedict XVI — who is now traveling in Lebanon — is being received throughout the Middle East as a herald of peace and hope. The pontiff has a busy schedule, meeting with youth, celebrating the Eucharist, meeting with Christians of all varieties, as well as Muslims and Druze. He will also release an apostolic exhortation, which is “addressed to everyone” and “is intended as a roadmap for the years to come.”

Yet the chief audience for the exhortation, which concludes the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops held in the Vatican in 2010, are those Catholics of the many Eastern churches who live throughout the Middle East, from Egypt to the Persian Gulf. Often these Catholics, who have been emigrating in significant numbers in the last few decades, are the bridge-builders in Middle Eastern societies.

This role is unique to them for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most significant, however, is the role social service efforts of the local churches play throughout the region. Here are five examples of Christian works of mercy. Thanks to friends and benefactors, all these works are supported by CNEWA through our operating agency in the region, the Pontifical Mission. These works are making a difference in the Middle East, and with no distinction of race or religion:

  1. Bethlehem University is the only Catholic institution for higher learning in the occupied West Bank. Founded by Pope Paul VI and administered by the De La Salle Brothers of the Christian Schools, Bethlehem University is an oasis of hope in a land burned by fear and violence.
  2. Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, provides the best in pre- and post-natal care to impoverished Palestinian refugee families. Subsidized by CNEWA and administered by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, an Iraqi community based in Mosul, the clinic serves some 30,000 annually, almost all of whom are devout Muslims.
  3. Franciscan School in Abou Kir, near the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria, enables Christian and Muslim children to receive the finest education is one of the poorer districts of the area. Run by the Lebanese Franciscan Sisters of the Cross, the school also offers the best of care for blind children at its Santa Lucia Home.
  4. Oum el Nour, or “Mother of Light” in Arabic, is a substance abuse rehabilitation and prevention center in Beirut. It began as an act of faith in a tent some 20 years ago, and today Oum el Nour is one of Lebanon’s most successful rehabilitation centers for substance abusers.
  5. The care of Iraqi refugeesand now the displaced from Syria — is not the exclusive work of any one community or institution. But throughout the Middle East, Christians are rolling up their sleeves, helping refugee families find housing, temporary employment, schooling, clothes and food. Bishops, priests, sisters and the laity are working together to help stabilize families driven from their homes by ignorance, hate and violence.

The real work will take place after the pope leaves Lebanon. Join CNEWA and make a difference in the Middle East with a gift.

Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Iraqi Refugees Interreligious

14 September 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Pope Benedict XVI greets officials during a welcoming ceremony at Rafiq Hariri International Airport in Beirut, 14 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

“Lebanese Hope Pope’s Visit Will Reduce Tensions and Promote Peace” (Vatican Insider, La Stampa) The civil war in Syria is having a terrible effect on the Lebanon and people in Beirut say they fervently hope Pope Benedict XVI’s visit can help to reduce tensions in the land of the cedars, stop the war in Syria, and advance peace throughout the Middle East.

“Maronite Patriarch Calls for a Christian Spring” (Vatican Radio) “The language of hatred and violence, both regionally and internationally, will never bring about a new Spring, only the opposite” says Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros al-Rai.

“Pope Arrives in Lebanon” (Vatican Information Service) “The successful way the Lebanese all live together,” said the pope, “surely demonstrates to the whole Middle East and to the rest of the world that, within a nation, there can exist cooperation between the various Churches, all members of the one Catholic Church in a fraternal spirit of communion with other Christians, and at the same time coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions.”

“Pope Calls for a Halt to Weapons to Syria” (The New York Times) On the airplane to Lebanon, the pope called for a halt to weapons to Syria, calling the import of arms a “grave sin,” according to a Reuters report on the pope’s remarks to reporters. It was not immediately clear whether the pope was faulting the Syrian government or its opponents, or condemning in general terms, the rapid militarization of the conflict.

“Lebanese of all Faiths Hope Visit Heralds Peace” (The Daily Star Lebanon) “The pope can try to ease any religion’s collective tension,” said Sawsan Darwaza, a theater and film director who said she was very supportive of the visit even though she is not Christian.

Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Middle East Pope Benedict XVI Middle East Synod

13 September 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Workers hang a poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Beirut 12 September in preparation for his
14-16 September visit to Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Beirut tomorrow, among those greeting him will be CNEWA’s own president, Msgr. John E. Kozar.

Msgr. Kozar will be participating in the pontiff’s pastoral visit to Lebanon, where he will deliver his “apostolic exhortation,” a document that concludes the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was held in the Vatican in October 2010. Before he left for Lebanon, Msgr. Kozar sat down with the National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Gallagher to discuss the papal trip to Lebanon, the situation of Christians in the Middle East and CNEWA’s role in the volatile region.

“I want be there,” Msgr. Kozar said, “as this exhortation unfolds, as he [the pope] shares his insights. I would imagine that he really wants to show not only to Christians in the Middle East and others there, that the presence of the church is something to be cherished. To be cherished not only by its own membership, but by others of other faiths, such as Muslims, that the church historically has great gifts to share.”

Read the entire interview here.

And stay tuned for more on the pope’s trip to Lebanon. ONE-TO-ONE will feature news from the journalists traveling with the pope, as well as firsthand accounts from Msgr. Kozar, who will be blogging as the trip unfolds.

Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Msgr. John E. Kozar Beirut

1 August 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Fleeing violence, Syrian refugees make their way to the Jordanian city of Mafraq, 31 July.
(photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon and Syria, Issam Bishara, reports on efforts to supply emergency aid to families and children displaced by the civil war raging within Syria, especially in Homs and Al Qusayr.

With funds raised throughout North America and Europe, CNEWA is coordinating its efforts with partners on the ground, including the Melkite Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox patriarchates in Damascus, the Good Shepherd sisters in Damascus and a Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Qaa, a village on the Lebanese-Syrian border.

To read the full report, click here. To learn how you can support CNEWA’s relief efforts in Syria, click here.

Tags: Syria Refugees Relief CNEWA Pontifical Mission Issam Bishara

31 July 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

CNEWA’s Bob Pape shares with Cardinal George Alencherry a copy of The Long Island Catholic, featuring the prelate’s visit to a parish in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Today, CNEWA welcomed to its offices the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, who is visiting the United States on a pastoral trip. The four-million-strong Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 22 Eastern churches in full communion with Rome and, said the engaging prelate, is “a church that goes out” to preach the Good News.

“A church that does not preach, teach and baptize in the name of the Father will be dormant and will eventually die,” he said. We must not be afraid of temporary failures, he continued. “Not even St. Paul was always successful. But if the church lives the Gospel as Christ intended, we will attract even those who hate us.”

A native of Kerala, the cardinal met with CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, and CNEWA’s New York-based staff. He spoke eloquently about the growth of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in its heartland of southern India, but also throughout the subcontinent and beyond. Despite the presence of hundreds of castes in India, “the Malabar Church holds together” and is “making advances” among the dalits, the suppressed peoples throughout India once called the “untouchables.”

Even as Kerala changes from a rural state to an advanced economy, the cardinal commented on the commitment to the faith made by Syro-Malabar Catholics. “There are different aspects to the growth of the faith,” he said. “There’s a more serious commitment, especially with the concept of charity ... it isn’t just a family tradition anymore.

“At the same time,” he said, “the faithful are going along on their own accord ... internalizing the faith and expressing it” more as individuals and less as parish-centered communities than before. Cardinal Alencherry noted that this change has evolved particularly in the past 20 or 30 years and that it has challenged the “pastoral approaches of our priests.”

Priestly “formation has had to change,” he said, so that Syro-Malabar priests “can adapt and address particular pastoral needs.”

The cardinal spoke about the welcoming environment given to Syro-Malabar Catholics by the church of North America, which includes nearly 100,000 Syro-Malabars in the United States alone. He noted, too, the importance of governing structures to support the church outside its “proper territory.” Prayers, the Eucharist and relationships among Syro-Malabar families in practicing the faith, he said, keep the church alive and are “good for the Latin Church, too. Otherwise, we lose them.”

“Wherever there are conflicts in the church,” he said, “you will find a lack of dialogue, a lack of communication.

“I always tell my bishops and priests that we are called to serve, and to serve means to engage in dialogue with truth and love.”

Tags: CNEWA Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Urbanization Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly

23 July 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Msgr. John Kozar chats with Mrs. Joan Sheen Cunningham at CNEWA’s offices in New York today. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Mrs. Joan Sheen Cunningham, niece of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, joined CNEWA’s Msgr. John Kozar today to honor the legacy of this trailblazer of the North American church.

Known as one of the first “televangelists,” Venerable Sheen hosted radio and television programs for nearly 40 years, beginning in 1930 until his retirement in 1968. His programs — The Catholic Hour, Life is Worth Living and The Fulton Sheen Program — brought the stories from the missions and the lessons of the Gospel into the homes of millions.

The Peoria, Illinois, native served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of New York from 1951 until 1966. From 1958 until his appointment as bishop of Rochester, he served as the national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

The author of more than 70 books, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen is buried in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

For her part, Mrs. Cunningham has worked tirelessly to support the cause for her uncle’s canonization. For more on his life, visit this website:

11 July 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Babushki light candles at the Pskovo-Pechersky Dormition Monastery, located near Russia's border with Estonia. (photo: Sean Sprague)

It is a worldwide phenomenon: village life is dying as the youth leave for the schools, opportunities and glamour of the globe’s cities. Nowhere is this more acute than in Russia, which suffered greatly during the Soviet era.

Until recently, Buranovo — which is more than 500 miles northeast of Moscow — could serve as the archetype of a Russian village. The New York Times reports:

In places like this, collective farms routinely go bankrupt, log houses tilt and sink into the soil, roads become muddy ravines and village stores make much of their money selling vodka. Breaking the cycle of decline is considered difficult, if not impossible.

But thanks to Buranovo’s babushki, or grandmothers, the village is getting paved roads, a water pipeline and even the internet. Perhaps the greatest change is the rebuilding of its church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, which the Soviet’s leveled in 1949.

It all began with a miracle, said Olga N. Tuktareva, the leader of the singing group, who is 43 and in fact is not a grandmother yet.

Ms. Tuktareva recalled strolling about the village with a friend in 2008 and lamenting a sad episode in local history: the destruction of the Church of the Trinity, taken down like countless other churches in Stalin’s Russia. ...

During that walk, Ms. Tuktareva recalled, her cellphone rang. It was a music producer in Moscow who had heard of the singing babushki — they performed locally — and had a proposition: if the troupe sang the Queen song “We Are the Champions” in their native language, Udmurt, to an audience of oil executives in Moscow, the producer would make it worth her time.

“I thought, ‘This is strange,’ ” Ms. Tuktareva said. “I just said it is impossible to rebuild the church, and then my phone rang. This is not an accident.”

Read more about this extraordinary story here. To read about the typical troubles in Russian village life, see Sean Sprague’s timeless piece, Despair in the Russian Village.

Tags: Russia Art Economic hardships

27 June 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this image, captured 21 February 2011, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio presents a lecture at The University of Scranton titled “In Love with Islam, Believing in Jesus,” emphasizing the importance of mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims for peace in the region.
(photo: University of Scranton)

Word reached us last week that the Syrian government had expelled Father Paolo Dall’Oglio — an Italian Jesuit who restored an abandoned Syriac monastery in the desert — for his prayerful peacemaking efforts in the country, which is on the brink of civil war.

Last week, The New York Times reported on the “activist’s” whereabouts, highlighting the complex difficulties for Christian minorities living in a repressive Middle East state. “How can we stay silent?” Father Paolo said. “We are in solidarity with the repression, not only because we don’t denounce the repression, but also because we negate there is repression.”

After restoring the sixth-century monastery, Father Paolo refounded Mar Musa as an ecumenical religious house for men and women under the patronage of the Syriac Catholic patriarchate. He consequently transformed the monastery into an important center for Christian-Muslim understanding in the Middle East.

“We are particularly committed to prayer, hospitality and dialogue with the Islamic world,” Father Paolo shared with our magazine readers in an article in 1998. “We hope to be a part of the movement in the universal church working toward achieving harmony with the Islamic world.”

Today, with its shepherd in exile in Beirut, Mar Musa is silent. “There are no upcoming events.”

Tags: Syria Christian-Muslim relations Monastery Syriac Catholic Church

25 April 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

George E. Doty, 1918-2012
(photo: Patrick Verel)

George E. Doty, one of CNEWA’s most loyal friends, died 24 April 2012 in New York. He was 94.

Over the years, George and his wife Marie, who died in 2008, have given selflessly to many causes near and dear to their hearts. They have been especially good to Catholic concerns for alleviating poverty, strengthening higher education and supporting family life. In addition, George, Marie and their children have selflessly and generously supported CNEWA’s mission with time, energy and financial resources.

Born on 15 February 1918, George earned his bachelor’s degree from New York’s Fordham College in Rose Hill in 1938 and later served as a chair of Fordham’s Board of Trustees. A former managing partner of Goldman Sachs, he was active in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, serving as lieutenant for the Eastern Lieutenancy from 1991 to 1992.

George Doty played an active role in many agency works, including full support for the rehabilitation and decoration of the Great Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This historic project brought together the church’s three custodians — Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Franciscan, communities that had often been at odds with one another — ending a centuries-old standoff that could have resulted in the collapse of the ancient shrine.

“For decades, visitors to this holiest of Christian shrines ... have left disappointed, even repelled. Expecting a shrine that related to their spiritual or aesthetic understanding of the Paschal Mystery — the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — the pilgrims instead entered a dark, cavernous space containing a number of chapels, each used exclusively by one of the Christian communities,” wrote Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore (then CNEWA’s associate secretary general) about the restoration project and its dedication.

“For 68 years, the dome had been concealed from public view. With mouths open, heads tilted back, and audible signs of delight, all looked up to the heavens, to the brilliant light that represents the glory of the Lord.”

Frequent visitors to the Holy Land, George and Marie were concerned for the churches and communities there. On a visit more than 15 years ago, Marie quietly observed to her husband that “the children have no place to play.”

Determined to fix that, the couple provided CNEWA with the funds to build and equip playgrounds and related facilities in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza. In addition to swings and slides, handball and basketball courts, the parks feature fountains and green lawns, luxuries Palestinian children once associated with settlements.

George and his wife also subsidized the work of Bethlehem University, the only Catholic institution in the Holy Land, supported CNEWA’s housing renovation program in the Old City and invested in the agency’s labor intensive program in the West Bank, which put thousands of the unemployed back to work while bolstering Christian institutions.

Motivated by his Catholic faith, George leaves us with a legacy of what faith in action can do for the people of God. He also leaves behind a loving family; George and Marie’s son, Bill, has been particularly helpful to the CNEWA family, managing its financial instruments and giving so much of his time, talent and resources.

You can read more about his remarkable life at this link.

May God reward George Doty for his generosity and loving concern. May his memory be eternal.

In this 1997 photo, George Doty, left; Marie Doty, center; and Msgr. Robert Stern, right, gaze at the restored dome over the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Joel Fishman)

Tags: CNEWA Holy Land Donors Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre

23 April 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

CNEWA’s Vice President for Communications Michael La Civita, Father Martin Vavrak, Bishop Milan Šášik and CNEWA’s Vice President for Development Gabriel Delmonaco met at our New York offices on Friday. (photo: CNEWA).

Central Europe’s Carpatho-Rusyns have been engulfed in a violent whirl of ethnic antagonism for centuries. Subjugated as serfs, these Eastern Slavs worked the soil, kept the livestock or cut the timber of their Austrian, Hungarian or Polish masters. Such conditions, coupled with forced assimilation, hardly favored the development of a distinct Rusyn identity. Nevertheless, such an identity did grow, thanks to their distinctive Slavic dialect, their Byzantine Christian faith and their unique plainchant, or prostopinije.

A unified church, gathering them all under one mantle, does not exist. Carpatho-Rusyns — who have also been called Ruthenians — make up four distinct churches that share the same origins, traditions and rites and yet remain independent of each other.

On Friday, the man who shepherds the mother church of this distinct Catholic Eastern church visited CNEWA’s New York offices. Bishop Milan Šášik is a 59-year-old Vincentian who has guided the Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukacevo in southwestern Ukraine since 2002, first as its apostolic administrator and, since 2010, as its eparch.

Though the church was erected as an eparchy in 1771, and is directly dependent on the Holy See, Bishop Milan told us that he has had to rebuild it from scratch with little or no outside resources. In 1946, the Soviets declared his church illegal and drove it underground, shuttering churches, imprisoning clergy, religious and lay leaders and murdering many of its spiritual leaders, including one of Bishop Milan’s predecessors, Blessed Bishop Theodore Romzha.

In nine years, the bishop has renewed 420 parish communities, building 165 new churches. He has opened more than 40 centers for catechesis and ordained 142 priests, 90 percent of whom are married. Most parish priests are self-sufficient, somehow living and rearing their families on a salary of $150 a month or less.

While grateful for the support this eparchy receives from generous Catholics in Europe and North America, the bishop spoke glowingly of the generosity of his own people. Their sacrifices, he said, have enabled him to accomplish much of this work. To learn more about the Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic Church, click here. To read about its sister Orthodox church, which was founded in Pennsylvania in the late 1930’s, click here.

Tags: Catholic Communism/Communist Carpatho-Rusyn Ruthenians

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