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September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
3 May 2013
Michael J.L. La Civita

Important stories and vibrant photography mark the newest issue of ONE — coming soon to a mailbox near you!

OK folks, so it took a little while longer for the editorial staff to churn out this latest edition of the magazine.

We hope you agree that our new and improved look in print was worth the wait.

“In print?!”

Yep, the trim size of our print edition is larger, the type is larger, the graphics are enhanced and we have made it easier to connect the story to what CNEWA does and how you can help.

“But I only read it online!”

Great — there’s more online with additional interviews, slide shows, short films and other multimedia features. But for just $24 a year, you can receive our quarterly in glorious color.

As part of the evolution of ONE magazine, we are also in the planning stages of enhancing our digital edition, as well as the entire web site.

Stay tuned! And tell us how you feel about the new look!

Michael La Civita is CNEWA’s chief communications officer.

Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine CNEWA Canada CNEWA Pontifical Mission

25 April 2013
Michael J.L. La Civita

Children play basketball outside of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ezraa, Syria. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

While we await word on the fate of the two archbishops abducted earlier this week in northern Syria — and offer our prayers — we plumbed through our archives and unearthed an interesting story from a gentler time about the ancient Christian villages of the plain of Houran in southern Syria.

In 2004, writer Marlin Dick and photographer Armineh Johannes spent a week in the Houran capturing in word and film the lives of these Christians who tilled the same soil as their Roman ancestors, inhabited Roman houses and worshiped in ancient Byzantine churches.

Christians and Muslims in one village, Ezraa, together venerate St. George, “the patron saint of the town’s Greek Orthodox church, built in 512, and the oldest functioning church in Syria,” the author writes. He continues:

Like their Muslim neighbors, Christians often refer to the church as “Khudr Ezraa,” or St. George of Ezraa, using its Arabic name.

“Islam and Christianity both revere Khudr,” says the village’s Melkite Greek Catholic pastor, Father Elias Hanout. “Muslims and Christians here all study together and work together. Today we have a better understanding of each other. We visit each other, attend each other’s funerals and weddings.”

What seemed like a matter of routine in 2004 is today, just nine years later, exemplary. The Houran now hosts some of the fiercest fighting between government forces and rebels. And the fate of its peoples, churches and mosques remains unknown. What we have left are words and pictures, and in my own case, the memories of a memorable visit in autumn 1998.

After I had spent a long day visiting CNEWA-supported projects in the area, an elderly parish priest and his wife welcomed me into their home. I recall fondly their delightful company, and I can still taste the anise-flavored arak, the sweet stuffed eggplant and the succulent tomatoes from their tiny kitchen.

May the Houran’s fields bring forth fruit once again, and God preserve its people.

Tags: Syria Cultural Identity Unity Village life Houran

22 April 2013
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this image from last November, a statue stands outside a destroyed church in Homs, Syria, Activists said the church had been bombed by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
(photo: CNS /Yazan Homsy, Reuters)

Reports from Syria and its Christian minority indicate that the situation in Syria is continuing to deteriorate. Today, sources in Syria report that the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi, and the Syriac Orthodox archbishop of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim, were seized by “a terrorist group” as they were “carrying out humanitarian work.”

Reuters reports that “a Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the two men had been captured when Ibrahim went to collect Yazigi after he crossed into rebel-held northern Syria from Turkey.”

CNEWA works closely with the Greek and Syriac Orthodox churches in Syria, partnering with its priests and religious to deliver aid to the families impacted by Syria’s ongoing civil war. Please pray for the safety of these shepherds and of their flock. Click here to learn how you can help.

Tags: Syria Georgian Orthodox Church Syriac Orthodox Church

10 January 2013
Michael J.L. La Civita

The Eparchy of Saint-Maron de Montreal of the Maronites, which Bishop-Elect Marwan Tabet will head, is located in Montreal, Quebec, and serves Canada’s entire Maronite population. (photo: Sarah Hunter)

Today, a good friend of CNEWA, Maronite Father Marwan Tabet, was named bishop of the Eparchy of Saint-Maron de Montreal of the Maronites by Pope Benedict XVI. The bishop-elect was born in Bhamdoun, Lebanon, in 1961, entered the Congregation of the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries in 1980, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1986. Father Marwan, who is known throughout Lebanon as a man of action who knows how to get things done — and well. As the general secretary of Lebanon’s Catholic schools, Father Marwan raised the standards for Catholic education throughout the country, offering superb educations for Christian and Muslim students in the poorer sections of the country as well as students in the affluent neighborhoods of Beirut.

In the July 2008 edition of ONE, we focused on Father Marwan and his efforts with Catholic schools in Lebanon:

In many parts of Lebanon, [Catholic schools] represent the last forum where Christian and Muslim youth meet and grow up knowing one another. “Catholic schools are natural places where children can come together, sit next to each other and get to know the other person slowly but surely,” said Maronite Father Marwan Tabet, who heads Lebanon’s General Secretariat of Catholic Schools.

“It’s not like you have to shove it down the throats of people — and the kids grow to know each other, to love each other, to accept each other. That’s very important.”

Father Marwan believes the student body’s religious diversity ranks among the greatest strengths of the nation’s Catholic school system. These schools, he said, are a “place where there is no proselytism, where children are not converted to Christianity. On the contrary, they are open to the other culture. They are accepted and they are cared for with the best of means and possibilities.”

Congratulations Bishop-elect Marwan, and God’s blessings on your new assignment.

Tags: Education Christian-Muslim relations Canada Catholic education Maronite

6 December 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

This icon depicting St. Nicholas, dating back to the late 14th or early 15th century, hung in the Church of Dormition in the village of Kuritsko. It is held in the Icon Museum of Veliky Novgorod. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In May 1997, I traveled to Puglia, Italy, to visit my father’s family. While there, I visited Bari, home to the Wonder Worker, good ole St. Nick. Here’s how I concluded an article on that visit, which coincided with another Feast of St. Nicholas, which we celebrate today:

“One Russian family caught my eye. The father watched his youngest child as his wife and daughters, their heads covered in colorful scarves, lit candles, kissed icons, pressed their heads to the sacred images and prostrated themselves before the altar. Although they abstained from the Eucharist, this family and the other Orthodox pilgrims who were in attendance rushed to the iconostasis to receive the blessed bread and to be anointed with the holy myron, or oil, of St. Nicholas.

“The holy myron of St. Nicholas is a clear substance that, according to Byzantine accounts, has oozed from the remains of St. Nicholas since his burial in the early fourth century. Many Barese families still possess the elaborately painted bottles that were blown to hold the sacred oil.

“After the completion of the liturgy I went to the chapel where Nicholas lies buried under a simple stone altar. While the Italians were busy throwing their offerings of lire through an iron gate, my Russian family — who were now joined by other Russian pilgrims — stood near the tomb of their beloved saint and wept.

“This quiet scene was interrupted by a deafening sound. High above the basilica, Italian fighter planes soared, leaving trails of green, white and red smoke. Fireworks were set above the harbor to delight the pilgrims.

“I returned to the somber facade of the basilica and encountered Russian pilgrims bending low to pay homage to the Wonder Worker. After all, it was devotion, not spectacle, that had brought them to this shrine.”

Follow the link to read the rest of the story on Bari’s Borrowed Wonder Worker.

Tags: Saints Italy Italo-Byzantine Catholic Church

5 December 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

In April 2010, the CNEWA Board of Directors, led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, right, visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Ignatius IV Hazim at the Latin Patriarchate in Damascus. (photo: CNEWA)

The CNEWA family learned today of the death of one of its primary partners in the Middle East, Patriarch Ignatius IV of the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Antioch. On Monday, he suffered a stroke and was rushed to St. George Hospital in Beirut, where he died today. He was 91 years old.

Since the 1940’s, he had been in the forefront of pastoral activity. He founded a youth movement dedicated to catechesis and formation. He reached out to the New World and set up structures here to encourage growth among the Antiochene Orthodox community. Back home, he reached out to non-Christians, establishing strong relationships with the Alawi, Druze and Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities. But it is perhaps his commitment to healing the ancient church of Antioch, once led by the Apostle Peter, for which he is known and loved.

Elected in 1979, Patriarch Ignatius established a warm relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius I, who was elected in 1980 and also lived in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The two worked together to understand the Christological nuances of their particular tradition — nuances that have divided the Antiochene church since 451 — agreeing to provisions for intercommunion of the faithful and even the concelebration of the eucharistic liturgy.

He deepened, too, ties with the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which shares the same rites and traditions and remains in full communion with the church of Rome. The “Church of Antioch Initiative” pushed the ecumenical envelope for the healing of the church. Such advances include the sharing of churches, including the 2005 construction of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Damascus suburb of Doumar, which CNEWA assisted in developing.

Antioch’s Orthodox and Melkite Greek Catholic patriarchs, Ignatius IV and Gregory III, jointly consecrated Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Doumar, Damascus, in February 2005. (photo: CNEWA)

Another highlight during his patriarchate was the visit of Pope John Paul II to Syria in May 2001. The pope was cohosted by the Greek and Syriac Orthodox patriarchs, as well as the Melkite Greek Catholic patriarch, Gregory III. Msgr. Robert Stern, then CNEWA’s secretary general, participated in the trip and wrote that the pope was welcomed to the Antiochene Orthodox Patriarchal Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, where he was “warmly welcomed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Ignatius IV. Two other patriarchs of Antioch stood at his side: Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I and Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III.

“The packed cathedral included not only the Catholic and Orthodox bishops of Syria, but most of the other Catholic patriarchs, many of the Greek and Syriac Orthodox bishops of the two patriarchates from other countries around the world and an enthusiastic congregation.

“Beautiful symbols of unity were a joint profession of the Creed, warm and loving words from both the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and the pope, a mutual embrace or kiss of peace and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer by all.

“Sometimes,” he concluded, “we talk so much about the need for Christian unity we almost forget how much real unity already exists.”

May this loving apostle of unity rest in the peace of Christ.

Tags: Middle East Unity Ecumenism Orthodox Church Patriarchs

26 October 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, right, smiles after a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican, October 26, 2012. Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong is second from left. (photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

This week’s announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will create six new cardinals next month — including two with ties to CNEWA — reminded us of a few other cardinals connected to our work.

Here are five:

  • Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, is a trustee for CNEWA India. Our efforts in southwestern India, the Syro-Malabar Catholic heartland, would be for naught were it not for the close partnership forged with this dynamic prelate.
  • Cardinal Thomas C. Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, is a member of the board of directors for CNEWA Canada and an invaluable partner for our efforts there. He has rallied his parishes to support Iraqi refugees, from providing material assistance to sponsoring families seeking refuge in Canada.
  • Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, serves as chair and treasurer of CNEWA. For decades — as priest, bishop and archbishop — he has championed our work. As chair, he leads us with enthusiasm and emboldens us to do more for the Eastern churches.
  • Cardinal William H. Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore, has been much more than a trustee of CNEWA. His tireless advocacy for unity and mutual understanding, especially between Catholics and Jews, Muslims and Orthodox Christians, has inspired us in our own witness.
  • Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, is our primary collaborator in the Holy See, and we maintain a special relationship with the congregation he leads. He is also a staunch advocate of CNEWA’s activities for, through and with the Eastern churches.

Tags: India CNEWA Pope Benedict XVI Canada

26 October 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this May 2009 image, the Al Tawhid mosque is seen from the roof of St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in the Soulimanya neighborhood of Aleppo. (photo: Spencer Osberg)

Bomb explodes during funeral. (Fides) A bomb exploded this morning during the funeral for Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, the Orthodox priest who was kidnapped and found dead yesterday in Damascus. According to local sources of Fides, the explosion killed two civilians and some soldiers.

Update from Aleppo. (Fides) “For a long time the Christians of Aleppo have been living in neighborhoods close to each other. ... These areas are currently under the control of the regular Syrian army, while neighboring areas are occupied by the opposition army. That is why our neighborhoods are daily objects of bombings and shootings by snipers among the rebels.”

CNEWA plans event in Rome. (Vatican Radio) Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is organizing an event in Rome in January 2013 to raise awareness among Italian Catholics about the church’s many different Eastern traditions.

Pass the cheese, please. (The New York Times) Artush Mkrtchyan, 55, an engineer, art critic and activist from the Armenian town of Gyumri has made cheese the medium of contact and cooperation with the neighboring Turkish town of Kars.

In Greece, the poor are not alone. (The New York Times) Life in Greece has been turned on its head since the debt crisis took hold. But in few areas has the change been more striking than in health care.

Tags: Syria Armenia Greece Aleppo

24 October 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

On 7 August 2012, CNEWA President John Kozar, left, met with Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on his visit to our New York office. Today, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the major archbishop will become a cardinal in November. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Surprising a crowd of some 20,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI today announced the creation of six new cardinals, including two with whom CNEWA works closely.

Cardinal-designate Patriarch Bechara Peter guides more than 3.2 million Maronite Catholics, more than half of whom live outside the church’s traditional center in Lebanon. For decades, the patriarch has been a close advisor, friend and partner of CNEWA, forging partnerships and promoting projects and plans to benefit all Lebanese, Christians and non-Christians alike.

Cardinal-designate Baselios Mar Cleemis leads some 430,000 Syro-Malankara Catholics from his see in southwestern India. A tireless advocate for the poor, Mar Cleemis witnesses the love of Christ through acts of compassion, charity and simple piety.

“We do that,” he said during a visit to our offices in August, “through education, through health care, through caring for those with H.I.V. and leprosy. It has to do with human dignity. I am proud and happy of how our people give witness with how they live.”

Both cardinals lead an Eastern Catholic church of the Syriac tradition — neither Greek nor Latin — both of which are rooted in the earliest Jewish-Christian traditions of the church.

Many years!

Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Kerala Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

9 October 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this 2009 image, students pause from physical education at the Latin School in Zerqa, Jordan, which receives support from the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. (photo: Nader Daoud)

This past Sunday, the Western Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem invited CNEWA’s Father Guido Gockel, M.H.M., and me to address their annual meeting in Palm Springs, California. In my remarks, I looked at some key questions concerning the region:

”Is there a future for Christians — indeed for any minority — in this new Middle East? What role will religion play,especially Islam, in governing these peoples? And, is Islam compatible with the so-called democratic aspirations expressed by the reformers leading the “Arab Spring?”

CNEWA works closely with this chivalric order dedicated to supporting the church in the Holy Land, and Msgr. Kozar and I are blessed to be members.

To read the speech, click here. And please, let me know what you think.

Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Christianity Islam Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

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