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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
2 November 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

A large crowd gathered in Eshtia for the dedication of a youth center near the village’s church — a restoration made possible, in part, by CNEWA’s generous benefactors. (

Tuesday, 31 October, was a blustery day here in Georgia — but nonetheless, a large crowd of villagers from Eshtia, along with press and friends from throughout Georgia, gathered for the opening of a youth center located near the village’s landmark church.

Local clergy offered blessings and prayers at the youth center dedication.

The center, once a shell of an abandoned house, was completely rehabilitated in three months, thanks to the great team at Caritas Georgia and the men of the village.

That was then: The abandoned house is shown here last spring, before the restoration work began.
(photo: CNEWA)

This is now: The finished youth center is shown on the day of its dedication on 31 October.
(photo: CNEWA)

The center will offer students classes in Georgian and English, computer programming skills, faith formation and continuing education in Armenian traditions, dance, folklore and customs.

Eshtia is one of a number of Armenian villages that salt and pepper the Georgian province of Javakheti.

I was pleased to represent CNEWA at the opening and to express the best wishes and prayers of our benefactors, who helped make this happen.

CNEWA’s Michael J.L. La Civita shared his warm wishes and prayers.

View more images from the dedication here.

5 June 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

Clergy lead the funeral procession of Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar for his 5 June funeral liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kiev. (photo: CNS/Valentyn Ogirenko, Reuters)

“Today, we join the millions of men, women and children worldwide mourning the death of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, friend, teacher, pastor, father of his people,” said CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar of the major archbishop emeritus of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who died 31 May near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

“As the universal church today commits his body to the ground and his soul to Almighty God, we remember a man who served the people of God with joy and humor, with passion and love, with kindness and gentleness. We remember a wise man who, despite having lost his eye sight, could discern with humility and grace the ways of the Lord.”

CNEWA’s national director in Canada, Carl Hétu, remembered a man who, “with firm conviction, peace and faith” advocated for the construction in Kiev of a cathedral dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ to mark the resurrection of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. Despite the initial skepticism that greeted the cardinal, “he knew that the building of the cathedral would rally Ukrainians and all people of good will” to put to rest the Soviet oppression of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

“The cardinal’s impassioned plea, added, Mr. Hétu, rallied financial and moral support worldwide.”

In a letter to the cardinal’s successor as archbishop of Kiev-Halych, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Msgr. Kozar extended his condolences and prayers “for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, and for those he had lovingly shepherded.

“Never did the cardinal cease in his faith of the Lord’s abiding love, despite great personal and public pain, nor in his firm commitment to witness the Gospel on behalf of the one church. This constancy of faith and love is what perhaps has resounded most clearly, as millions today mourn his death and passing into eternal life.

“This constancy is His Beatitude’s legacy, and it is a legacy he has entrusted to you as his successor as major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, in your service to Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Ukraine and beyond, and to the church universal.”

May his memory be eternal.

Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

1 March 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

Four times a year St. Mary Protector, a Byzantine Catholic parish church in Kingston, PA, holds a peroghi sale. About 30 volunteers spend two days making 4,000 potato peroghi.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)

Monday marked the beginning of Lent for the Eastern churches. Today marks the beginning of Lent for the Roman Catholic Church.

Growing up in western Pennsylvania, the Lenten gruel was lightened by Friday parish fish fries and peroghi — stuffed with onions or potatoes, cheese or cabbage, and smothered in sour cream. For the Slavic parish churches that peppered the landscape, peroghi making was a community and family affair. Generations of parish volunteers combined the ingredients, rolled out and cut the dough, stuffed and pinched the pockets of dough, and dropped them in the large vats of boiling water. And generations of eager peroghi eaters traveled to their favorite spots, for each community varied the recipe.

Today, many of those parishes — Carpatho-Rusyn, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian — have dwindled in size, but they continue to survive thanks to a culinary tradition that bore fruit in Lent.

To read about a parish in eastern Pennsylvania that continues the tradition, check out Ruthenian Lenten Fare from the January 2005 edition of ONE.

Lenten blessings!

1 March 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

CNEWA’s Msgr. John Kozar visits Father Mario da Silva and the religious who live and work in Gaza during a pastoral visit in 2016. (photo: CNEWA)

Attacks on Copts ‘a message from ISIS’ (Al Jazeera) The latest string of attacks in northern Sinai’s El Arish against Coptic Christians were indirect attempts by armed groups to undermine the government, according to Egyptian experts and analysts…

Judaism and Christianity have a history marked by violence (Agenzia Fides) Even “Judaism and Christianity have a history of violence,” and all religions have been complicite in acts of violence and murder. This is how Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyib, grand imam of Al Azhar, wanted to highlight that the connection between religion and violence not only marks the history of Islam, but also characterized the historical paths of the two other “Religions of the Book”…

Bitter Lent for the Syrian churches, many priests have fled (Agenzia Fides) The Christians of Syria are preparing to live a “bitter Lent,” and among the many factors of suffering and sorrow afflicting the churches of Syria there is the fact that many priests who during the years of civil war left the country, depriving the remaining faithful of their pastoral comfort…

For Gaza priest, a forgotten people sees hope (AsiaNews) People in Gaza “live day by day” in a situation that “is becoming more desperate.” Many residents, including Christians, have been forced “to borrow” to buy some food and electricity,” this according to the Rev. Mario da Silva, a Brazilian priest who heads the Latin Catholic Holy Family Church, the only one in the Strip…

28 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this image from 2006, Msgr. Robert L. Stern meets in his office with Bishop Abune Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.I., of Asmara in Eritrea. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Where do I begin? “Think small,” Deacon Greg, our multimedia editor, suggested. “Don’t overthink this.”

I laughed. The subject of this 90/90 is not a wall flower, nor is he just an average Joe. He’s a man who hired me, formed me professionally, transformed a sleepy organization into a thoughtful instrument of the church, and buried my father. He’s a man who can’t think small, and no doubt thinks through everything. Most importantly, he’s a good and kind priest who understands that to understand the other, one must place him or herself in that person’s shoes — and listen.

Reared in the Bronx, son of an Irish Catholic mother and a Jewish father, Bob Stern wanted to be a physicist, and he enrolled in Amherst College to do just that. But, he could not ignore a gnawing call to serve the Lord and his church as a priest. Eventually, he entered St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y., studied canon law in Rome and assisted as a young priest during Vatican II. It was there, as the fathers of the council sought to take on the challenges of the world by engaging in dialogue with it, that the young priest internalized this renewal of the church known as aggiornamento, and made it his own.

It is a process he has instituted in all of his services to the church, from his 25-plus years in parish and community renewal in the African-American and Hispanic apostolates to his 26 years in leadership of CNEWA. For Msgr. Stern, this call for aggiornamento is a process not just for the sake of process, but one to help the church open the way to the Lord.

“We take for granted freedom of religion and respect for conscience,” he wrote in CNEWA’s magazine in September 1990, soon after visiting the U.S.S.R. “Pluralism is our way of life.” He continued: “We speak...of the servant church that is a sacrament or sign of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human family.

“When we ask the Catholic churches of the Soviet Union what help they need, we may be thinking of the buildings, equipment and tools we’re used to; they may be more concerned for vestments, prayer books and rosaries. Our pastoral goal may be how best to support all believers, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant; theirs may be the repossession of their confiscated churches and the defense of their rights.

“The challenge of their future is aggiornamento, to be caught up in the great renewal of the church launched by the Vatican Council,” he concluded.

“Their challenge is to transform their heroic faith of resistance into the faith that plunges into the open, unknown future with the same confidence in the Lord who promises, ‘I am with you always, until the end of the age.’ ”

Thank you Msgr. Stern for your service to the church and the world, especially in waking us up to see all that unites rather than what divides us.

27 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

(photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

A Coptic Orthodox priest comforts a Christian woman who has taken refuge at the Evangelical church in the Suez city of Ismailiya on 25 February. Hundreds of Coptic Christians have fled Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed Christians in the restive province, church officials said.

To learn more about Egypt’s Christians and Muslims finding common ground, visit the current edition of CNEWA’s ONE magazine.

27 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

An Egyptian woman comforts an elderly Coptic Christian lady who weeps upon arriving to take refuge at the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya on 25 February 2017. Dozens of Coptic Christians have left Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed three Christians in the restive province, church officials said. (photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt’s Coptic Christians flee Sinai after killings (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority have fled the Sinai Peninsula to Ismailia, about 70 miles northeast of the capital Cairo, following a series of killings by a local armed group...

Salafists condemn the 7 targeted killings of Copts in North Sinai (Agenzia Fides) The spokesman of Al Nur, the ultra-conservative Salafi Party, have publicly expressed its condemnation of targeted killings against Coptic Christians that took place in northern Sinai, stressing that they “go against the teachings of Islam”...

‘It is not without a tear ... that I leave Jerusalem’ ( Bishop William Shomali addresses the Jordanian faithful and calls to mind the main challenges that lie ahead...

Armenian Catholicos convenes a summit to solve dilemma in Constantinople (Agenzia Fides) Patriarch Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, convened at the Patriarchal See of Echmiadzin, in Yerevan, some of the protagonists of the dispute in place with regards to the next election of the Armenian Apostolic patriarch of Constantinople, in an attempt to resolve the situation...

24 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

Christian pilgrims visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan, which marks the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus. (photo: CNEWA)

Tourism of the Hashemite Kingdom focuses on ‘Christian places’ (Fides) - Biblical religious tourism and especially national “Christian heritage” are increasingly at the center of the Jordanian government strategies to encourage the flow of foreign visitors to the Hashemite Kingdom...

Another Coptic Christian found dead in northern Sinai (Fides) A 40-year-old Coptic Christian was found dead with a gunshot to the neck, in the Egyptian town of Al Arish, capital of Northern Sinai, on Thursday, 23 February...

Pope Francis to rabbis: Torah manifests God’s paternal love (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received his long-time friend from his native Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on Thursday, along with a delegation of Jewish leaders involved in the preparation of a new edition of the Torah. The annotated, illustrated edition is already being hailed as an achievement in both the literary and visual arts...

Vatican, Al Azhar ask world to help stop religious extremism, terrorism (CNS) The Vatican and Al Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s leading institution of higher learning, called for the world’s governments, organizations and leaders to cooperate with each other in countering extremist and violent groups, noting that such groups “have negatively impacted stability and peaceful coexistence among peoples...”

Iraqi Christians erect large cross in area liberated from ISIS (CNA/EWTN News) After years of darkness, hope has returned to Telekuf-Tesqopa. Located just 17 miles from Mosul, the village is rebuilding after being liberated from ISIS. As a visible sign of the rebuilding, a giant cross was erected on a hill, marking the victory of the Christian faith against the darkness of the jihadists...

Christians and Muslims on a peace march in Iraq (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has launched a ‘Peace March’ on Palm Sunday “open to Christians and Muslims,” which “will set off from Erbil and end in Alqosh” in the Nineveh Plain. People will be “on foot for one day” calling for an end to violence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East...

3 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this image from 1991, Cardinal John O’Connor speaks with the Lebanese press corps following a conference with Beirut’s ranking Orthodox leader, Metropolitan Elias Audi.
(photo: Maria Bastone)

He was a lion, a man who “said it like it was.” He never feared to make his point and rarely if ever apologized in public — except for one glaring exception: asking the Jewish community’s forgiveness for the acts and offenses committed against them by the Catholic Church. So read the obituaries of a man indeed larger than life, a passionate defender of life, a powerful enemy of racism and anti-Semitism, a man who preferred to be a priest’s priest and pastor, a boy from Philly, Cardinal John J. O’Connor.

Archbishop of New York and chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association from January 1984 until his death in May 2000, Cardinal O’Connor does not bring to mind cool feelings. After attending a prayer vigil at St. Patrick’s Cathedral the day of his death, I piled into a cab. The cabbie was listening to talk radio, and the talk that night was of the life and death of the cardinal. As the cabbie snarled through the congested traffic that defines the Big Apple, I heard caller after caller, New Yorkers from all walks of life, talk about a man who touched their lives in deeply personal ways — his midnight stops to hospitals, his visits to people dying of AIDS, his ability to listen and empathize, his love of mothers, his concern for the priests and sisters serving the people of the archdiocese, his passion for the rights of laborers and the poor.

At the end of the trip — a long one — even the cabbie had tears in his eyes.

Cardinal O’Connor’s commitment to and love of the CNEWA family extended years before he assumed the mantle of leadership. He served as a generous benefactor, friend and counselor. Of his impact on CNEWA as its head, my dear friend and former colleague, the late Peg Maron, said it best in the pages of our magazine, published soon after his death:

He challenged the leadership of CNEWA to renew itself.

Under his direction, programs in the Middle East expanded to include such innovative projects as a housing renovation program in the Old City of Jerusalem and a comprehensive village rehabilitation initiative in Lebanon. And, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, he committed CNEWA’s support of the church in post-Communist Eastern Europe.

Cardinal O’Connor tirelessly encouraged support of avenues of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox; Christians, Jews and Muslims; Israelis and Palestinians. On trips to the Middle East he met with religious and political leaders throughout the region to keep open the lines of communication.

And he had a special love for the people of Lebanon.

At great personal risk he traveled to Lebanon twice during its civil war, in 1986 and 1989, to demonstrate the solidarity of American Catholics with the people of Lebanon. ...

Following the war, in January 1992, the Cardinal visited Lebanon a third time. During this visit he promised to do whatever he could to help rebuild that shattered nation. He fulfilled this pledge immediately after his return when he invited Lebanese American leaders to his residence on 26 February and challenged them to forget their differences and coordinate their efforts toward rebuilding their homeland. Also, at their request, he led a representative delegation to a White House meeting with President George Bush to seek a change in the United States’ Lebanon policy.

In gratitude for the Cardinal’s efforts on behalf of Lebanon, the Ambassador of Lebanon to the U.S., on behalf of the Lebanese President, presented Cardinal O’Connor with the Order of the Cedar, Lebanon’s highest honor, in January 2000.

Cardinal O’Connor was and remains a CNEWA hero. He retooled the agency, challenging its administrators to clarify its Catholic identity, update its systems, improve its transparency, expand its good works, and to remember always the needs of the poor. His leadership set CNEWA on a course to enter the turmoil of the 21st century, when the works of this special agency of the Holy See have been so sorely needed.

His life was one of a true leader. No doubt, he was received into the bosom of the Lord with the words, “well done, John Joseph.”

Tags: CNEWA Catholic Cardinal John O’Connor

6 December 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita

Bishop Denis J. Madden served the CNEWA family from 1994 until 2005.
(photo: CNS/Tyler Osburn)

Joy is a true gift of God, and what a gift it is to those who share in it.

For more than a decade, the CNEWA family delighted in the joy of Denis J. Madden, who as Father Denis joined CNEWA as its regional director for Palestine and Israel in 1994. Two years after engineering a remarkable feat — the restoration of the great dome of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, involving the historically contentious custodians of Christendom’s holiest shrine — Msgr. Madden joined the New York office as CNEWA’s associate secretary general, where he coordinated the expansion of CNEWA’s work in northeast Africa, particularly in Eritrea and Ethiopia. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI asked Denis to serve as an auxiliary bishop of a particular church, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where he coordinated the many ministries of Baltimore’s inner city parishes.

It was a move that put to great use his skills as a clinical psychologist specializing in conflict resolution.

But the many editorial meeting battles waged between this author and the editorial board were perhaps the greatest challenges for this man endowed not only with joy, but a steely sense of justice and truth and unyielding compassion and love for the poor and the marginalized.

Bishop Madden is “a good friend, ideal collaborator and a perfect associate,” Msgr. Robert Stern said of the newly appointed bishop. He’s “a very pastoral priest, a man with great concern for the poor and needy. We will miss him.”

And we did.

Yesterday, Pope Francis accepted Denis’ resignation nearly a year after his submitted it according to the norms of canon law. No doubt the Holy Father saw in this man the same qualities that served the CNEWA family and the poor we are honored to serve: joy, selflessness and effectiveness.

Well done, Denis! “Onwards and upwards!”

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