5 June 2019
In this image from 2017, a Dominican sister visits the Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah in Qaraqosh, Iraq, heavily damaged by ISIS. The United Nations has established 22 August as the Day to Commemorate Victims of Violence Based on Religion. (photo: Raed Rafei)
On 28 May, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing 22 August as the Day to Commemorate Victims of Violence Based on Religion.
The resolution invites all member states, relevant organizations, civil society, individuals and the private sector to observe the international day and show appropriate support for victims of religiously motivated violence.
In the wake of recent religiously motivated terrorist attacks, the resolution notes a serious concern for “continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, including against persons belonging to religious communities and religious minorities around the world, and at the increasing number and intensity of such incidents.”
Poland initiated work toward the commemorative day, but united with Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, and the United States to co-draft the resolution.
Ultimately, 88 U.N. member states voted to co-sponsor the resolution.
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which is commonly referred to as the right to freedom of religion or belief, is a universal right of every human being and the cornerstone of many other rights,” Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz said in his keynote speech before the vote.
In response, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington issued a statement praising the resolution.
“We applaud the U.N. General Assembly for adopting this resolution, which acknowledges and honors victims of violence based on religion or belief around the world,” said Tenzin Dorjee, chair of the commission. “But we must not stop at condemnation. Like-minded governments must also increasingly work together to hold perpetrators accountable, whether they are state or nonstate actors responsible for the abuses.”
The Vatican, too, commented on the resolution after its adoption in a statement released by its Permanent Observer Mission to the U.N. The statement recalled the recent religiously motivated violence in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, California and Burkina Faso.
“This resolution and the international day it establishes is an opportunity for the international community to focus on the victims and to strengthen efforts to eradicate such violence and acts of terrorism targeting persons because of their religion or belief,” it said.
The Vatican also reminded the U.N. that religion and belief cannot be blamed for these acts. They are, rather, deviations from religious practices and must be condemned.
31 May 2019
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians United Nations
In this image from March, Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak is pictured in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Archeparchy of Philadelphia)
In what promises to be one of the most impressive liturgical ceremonies in recent Philadelphia memory, an estimated 50 bishops will be present 4 June in Philadelphia for the enthronement of Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
The Divine Liturgy and enthronement ceremony for the prelate will take place at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He will be the seventh metropolitan-archbishop of the archeparchy and as such, he will be the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States.
He succeeds Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka who resigned for health reasons in April 2018. Since then, the archeparchy has been led by Bishop Andriy Rabiy, an auxiliary of the archeparchy, as apostolic administrator.
The appointment of Archbishop Gudziak, the 58-year-old native of Syracuse, New York, by Pope Francis was announced 18 February following the recommendation by a synod of Ukrainian Catholic bishops held in September 2018.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church worldwide is the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches that have distinctly different liturgies than the Latin Catholic Church but are nevertheless in full communion with Rome.
The enthronement and the inauguration of Archbishop Gudziak’s ministry is really the centerpiece of a weeklong celebration, according to the Rev. John Fields, an archpriest of the archeparchy who is its communications director.
The celebration begins 2 June and centers on the theme “From Heart to Heart.” Participants will include clergy, religious and lay faithful and young people from the Philadelphia archeparchy and other U.S. and international eparchies.
Among the events is the opening that first day of an art exhibit titled “Icons on Ammo Boxes” at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. That evening, also at the cathedral, well-known book author, columnist and commentator George Weigel delivers a lecture “Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Mission: Eastern Catholics and the Universal Church.”
On 4 June. there will be a 10 a.m. liturgical procession, which will include bishops from the Ukrainian Catholic Church, other Eastern Catholic churches, the Latin Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as 125 priests, 11 deacons and 70 members of religious orders.
In the cathedral, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, patriarch of the Ukrainian Catholic Church worldwide will preside at the Divine Liturgy, along with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States.
Archbishop Pierre will also present greetings from the Holy Father and present the papal bull, the document confirming Archbishop Gudziak’s appointment.
Among the concelebrants of the liturgy will be Archbishop Gudziak, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop Soroka and other archbishops and bishops.
Archbishop Gudziak, who is the son of immigrants to the United States from Ukraine, received his bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in 1980 with further studies at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, at Harvard University and the Pontifical Oriental Institute. He returned to Ukraine, his ancestral homeland, in 1992 where he served in various position, mostly in the field of theological education and he is credited as the founder of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1998.
He was ordained to the episcopacy in December 2012, and the following month appointed bishop for a newly formed eparchy covering France, Switzerland and Benelux, which is a region that includes Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.
His work especially in his Ukraine years did not go unnoticed in the wider world. In early May, the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, announced that Archbishop Gudziak will receive its prestigious Notre Dame Award at a ceremony in Lviv on 29 June.
He joins such other distinguished past recipients as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter with his wife, Rosalyn, St. Teresa of Kolkata and John Hume of Northern Ireland.
“In the face of innumerable challenges, Archbishop Gudziak has made the Ukrainian Catholic University a center for cultural thought, Christian witness and the formation of a Ukrainian society based on human dignity,” said Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, at the time of the announcement.
4 April 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
Melkite Archbishop Issam Darwich of Zahle, Lebanon, distributes Communion to Syrian refugee families at the Melkite Catholic archeparchy in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in this 2017 photo.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
Aside from humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees and concrete efforts to help them return to their homeland, the international community should work toward eradicating the roots of wars and violence, an archbishop from Lebanon told members of a political party holding the largest number of seats in the European Parliament.
Melkite Catholic Archbishop Issam Darwich of Zahle, whose diocese is near Syria’s western border, addressed the plight of Christians in the Middle East and Syrian refugees on 3 April with the European People’s Party, a conservative and Christian democratic political party.
“Our situation is one of the deepest suffering and trauma,” said Archbishop Darwich, who was born in Syria.
“What is happening in the Middle East today is a chain of events against Christians, unfolding since 2011. All these actions send a message to Christians in the area that they don’t have a safe place anymore,” he said.
“The fact that they became minorities in these countries is not an excuse for anyone to neglect the critical situation they are passing through,” Archbishop Darwich said.
He stressed that Christians have always played a crucial role in the region and strive to foster peace, justice and democracy.
He also noted that Lebanon’s episcopal committee for Christian-Muslim dialogue, for which he serves as president, is “working hard so that religions would find new ways to present their respective creeds as partners allied and not as adversaries.”
“Religion must never be used to promote hatred or violence,” Archbishop Darwich stressed.
As for the refugee crisis, Archbishop Darwich underlined that eight years into the Syrian conflict, Lebanon remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita and has the fourth-largest refugee population in the world.
More than 1.5 million Syrian refugees are living scattered throughout the tiny country among its existing population of about 4 million people. In addition, some 500,000 Palestinian refugees and thousands of Iraqi families dwell in Lebanon.
“The pressure of this situation on the Lebanese hosting community is felt in all sectors, including education, security, health, housing, water and electricity supply,” he said.
Archbishop Darwich noted that his diocese, located about 18 miles from the Syrian border, “had the leading role” in helping displaced Syrians.
“We supported and helped them since the beginning of their displacement to Lebanon till today, especially the Christian refugees, who were and still are invisible” to the international community because they do not live in camps, he emphasized. As a result, he added, the Christians “are always neglected from any support or help.”
However, the archbishop pointed out that the “tragedy of refugees is not restricted to a specific sect because all Syrians have suffered for almost eight years now of a new holocaust.”
Various Catholic agencies such as Caritas members, including Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Services, Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need have helped the Syrian refugees.
Archbishop Darwich’s diocese is in the Bekaa Valley and provides refugees with help that includes rent assistance, clothing, education, health care, social support and daily hot meals at the diocese’s St. John the Merciful Table.
While acknowledging the humanitarian role many European countries and international nongovernmental organizations have played “in reducing the impact of this long and ferocious war,” the archbishop pointed to the challenge of helping refugees return to their homeland.
Archbishop Darwich stressed that refugees’ return to Syria “cannot be realized unless the international community itself provides the means ... political and economic help in practical measures. Not only to put an end to their suffering, but also to assist them to contribute in the process of reconstruction.”
“I sincerely believe that the international community is expected to plan for eradicating the roots of wars and violence rather than dealing with their consequences, because great countries are known by great achievements and great deeds,” Archbishop Darwich said.
He added that the international community also must work toward putting an end to poverty, instability, occupation, oppression, fanaticism, fundamentalism and major wars.
“This is not wishful thinking,” the archbishop said. “This is a pure call for generalizing justice among the whole world, and for the implementation of U.N. resolutions. ... Otherwise, we will always have to encounter demand for financial and humanitarian aid, because cruelty produces cruelty, and suppression produces suppression in an endless circle of violence and injustice.”
27 March 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Melkite
Young adults are seen during a workshop in a Beirut church at the 2019 International Ecumenical Youth Meeting organized and sponsored by the Churches of Lebanon, the Middle East Council of Churches and the monastic Community of Taize. (photo: CNS/Middle East Council of Churches)
Amid all the violence of the world, religions must be factors of peace, Brother Alois Leser, prior of the Taize community, told Christian and Muslim young adults from 43 countries.
More than 1,600 Muslims and Christians gathered in Beirut to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March in a ceremony punctuated by songs, prayers, reflections and speeches. They were encouraged to respect others to foster genuine interreligious dialogue.
The Beirut gathering was part of the 22-26 March International Ecumenical Youth Meeting, organized and sponsored by the churches of Lebanon, the Middle East Council of Churches and the monastic Community of Taize. For the Annunciation encounter -- at which participants observed a minute of silence for victims of violence around the world -- the young people were joined by various Muslim religious officials and clerics; Lebanese government representatives; the papal nuncio; Christian and Orthodox prelates and religious; and brothers from the French-based Taize ecumenical community.
Lebanon has observed the Marian solemnity of the Annunciation as a joint Christian-Muslim feast and a national holiday since 2010.
Brother Alois noted that for Christians and Muslims, “Mary is an example of a believer. With confidence, Mary surrendered herself to the will of God.”
He also told them, “At this time when our world is often shaken by violent events, it is fundamental to do everything to express that religions do not want violence, but seek to be factors of peace, friendship and fraternity among all human beings.”
He said that, in the Gospel, “Jesus went beyond the cultural, social and religious barriers of his time to enter into relationships with people who were not his people, who did not share his faith.”
“Allowing fraternity and friendship to grow implies respecting others in their difference,” he stressed. “In any genuine interreligious dialogue, an attitude of respect should keep us from wanting to force the other person to think as we do.”
Brother Alois’ speech was followed by a Muslim girls’ chorus singing about the Annunciation.
Sabine Adrien, a 28-year-old Catholic who participated in the meeting with seven other young adults from Lyon, France, told Catholic News Service: “I loved the gathering, especially the prayer between Christians and Muslims. It was very simple and beautiful, all of us praying together around Mary.
“It was especially touching to be in Lebanon to experience this because it’s a country of contrasts and coexistence,” Adrien said, observing that it is “sometimes (a) difficult coexistence between religions and between sects within each religion.”
Workshops and sessions at the ecumenical meeting -- at the main seaside event venue as well as in various churches in Beirut -- focused on issues related to coexistence and interfaith dialogue, as well as rituals and traditions of the Eastern churches.
Speaking to participants during a 23 March evening prayer service, Soraya Bechealany, secretary-general of the Middle East Council of Churches, said: “This gathering proves to you that the Christian presence is an integral part of the Middle East. Young people of the Middle East, you are involved in the preservation of human freedom and its dignity.”
That evening, Brother Alois told participants that “Lebanon can be a gateway of understanding between East and West.”
The relations between the Taize community and Lebanon date back to the early 1980s, when the late Brother Roger Schutz -- who founded the monastic community in 1940 -- visited the country as its civil war was still raging.
“We believe and see that the power of peace in this country is stronger than anything else,” Brother Alois said.
18 March 2019
Tags: Lebanon Muslim Interfaith
Members of the Chaldean Catholic community in Papatoetoe, New Zealand, placed flowers and a tribute outside Ayesha Mosque after the 15 March 2019, attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. The message reads in part: "Please accept our prayer and condolences in this terrible, painful time. God have mercy on the people and we pray for the injured ones. Your brothers, St. Addai Catholic Church, New Zealand." (photo: CNS/courtesy NZ Catholic)
The St. Addai Chaldean Catholic community in suburban Auckland felt the impact of the Christchurch mosque killings with a special poignancy, because many members have experienced the sufferings inflicted by terrorism.
“There is a lady in my community -- they beheaded her son in front of her,” the Rev. Douglas Al-Bazi, a Chaldean priest, told NZ Catholic. “Another man, they killed his parents in front of him.”
Father Al-Bazi, who was kidnapped for nine days by Islamic militants in 2006 in Iraq, suffering serious injuries -- including being shot in the leg by an assailant wielding an AK-47 -- said that when he heard of the events in Christchurch, he was “really angry.”
“There were thousands of questions in my head, and also for my people,” he said.
He said he told his parishioners that “we fully understand as Iraqi people, especially Christian, we really understand” the pain, “because we are survivors of genocide, systematic genocide.”
“I am still shocked, me and my people, how this could happen here in New Zealand,” he added.
Father Al-Bazi said people at his church have said they are scared in the wake of the events in Christchurch, fearful of revenge attacks.
“I told them, no, this is not the time to be scared. It is the time to be united. So, show your happiness, show we are brave, and we have to tell the people how to be calm. Because already, we have had that experience. So, we have to guide people to tell them.”
Parishioners placed a floral tribute with a message of support in Arabic outside a local mosque the day after the shootings.
Father Al-Bazi said most of his community came to New Zealand seeking a safe place, and the violence that happened in Christchurch is unacceptable.
“I don’t know what we can do for those survivors, for those relatives, the only thing we can do is pray for them and say, ‘This is not New Zealand.’“
At the end of Mass on 18 March, everyone at St. Addai Church sang the national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand” in Maori and in English.
Police were stationed outside the church and told Father Al-Bazi, “It is for your protection.” The priest said he asked the officers to park a little down the road, so as not to alarm Massgoers.
15 March 2019
Tags: Muslim Chaldean Church
Nathalie Piraino, right, embraces Atli Moges, a financial technical adviser at Catholic Relief Services headquarters in Baltimore, following a 14 March 2019, memorial Mass honoring their four colleagues who died in the 10 March crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. Moges spent three years working in Ethiopia, and knew the four. (photo: CNS/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)
Approximately 480 men and women work at the Baltimore headquarters of Catholic Relief Services, the overseas aid and development agency of U.S. Catholics.
None were more affected than Yishak “Isaac” Affin and Atli Moges by the 10 March Ethiopian Airlines crash that took the lives of all 157 on board -- including four who were not just colleagues, but their fellow countrymen and women.
Affin and Moges were part of the standing-room-only gathering at the CRS chapel 14 March, when Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori offered a memorial Mass. His concelebrants included a majority of the 14 bishops who serve on the CRS board of directors, in town for meetings.
Like the four who perished, Moges and Affin are natives of Ethiopia, which has approximately 100 million residents. Almost half lack access to clean water.
Trying to better themselves so that they could better their country, the four CRS administrators were en route to a training session in Nairobi, Kenya, when their flight crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, the capital of the east African nation that sits in a region wracked by famine.
“They do their work from their hearts,” Moges told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet. “They were the kind of people who stayed in the office until midnight or worked Saturday if that was necessary.”
She speaks from experience.
A senior adviser for CRS in financial technical support, Moges came to Baltimore in 1988, but from August 2015 to March 2018 served in Ethiopia as the deputy country representative for operations.
Managing administration, finance, human resources and IT for a staff of approximately 200 during her time in Ethiopia, Moges said she worked with the four deceased staffers “very closely.”
They were typical of the 7,000 people employed by CRS, which prioritizes hiring and training local people in the nations it serves.
Moges said that Mulusew Alemu, a senior finance officer, was devoted to his Ethiopian Orthodox faith and “a delightful person, very respectful and hard-working.”
Despite his low-key demeanor, she said, Sintayehu Aymeku had “wonderful leadership skills.” A procurement manager who had lived for a time in the United States, Aymeku left behind a wife and three daughters.
“I had high hopes for him,” Moges said.
Sara Chalachew, who once spent three weeks in Baltimore on temporary duty, was promoted last December to senior project officer for grants. Moges said she was always smiling, and “got along with everyone on staff.”
Getnet Alemayehu was a senior procurement officer, known for being patient and persistent while navigating shipments.
Before Affin, a senior accountant, came to Baltimore in 2003, he worked as an auditor in Addis Ababa, where he knew Alemayehu as a driver, albeit one “studying at university.”
As Moges got emotional remembering the four after the Mass, Affin placed his right hand on her left shoulder.
The Mass included a choir comprised of CRS staff based in Baltimore.
Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, who is chairman of the CRS board of directors, welcomed Archbishop Lori, who had made a short walk from the Catholic Center, headquarters of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to CRS.
“Sorrow shared,” Bishop Mansour said, “is sorrow lessened.”
“Why were such good colleagues taken from us?” Archbishop Lori said in his homily. “A tragic moment such as this, and the season of Lent itself, tests and probes the depth of our faith,” he said.
“It highlights the kind of faith, hope and love -- coupled with courage -- that undergirds the many risks you and your colleagues take each day to advance the kingdom of justice, peace and love in this world.”
Archbishop Lori said the four employees “died in pursuit of their mission to bring a measure of food security to regions of the world that are habitually plagued by famine. They met the Lord as they were dedicating themselves and their lives to the golden rule.”
12 March 2019
Worshippers pray at the Shrine of Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan in Kuzhikkattussery, India, on 18 February 2019. Blessed Thresia has been approved for canonization.
(photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
For the nearly 2,000 sisters and 200 women in formation who make up the Congregation of the Holy Family, the long wait is over.
Since 2012, members of the order based in Kerala state in southern India have observed strict fasts and engaged in earnest prayer awaiting recognition from the Vatican of a second miracle attributed to the order’s founder, Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan.
Pope Francis recognized the miracle on 12 February, clearing the way for the canonization of the religious leader popularly known as the “patroness of families.”
“We are thrilled now. Our joy has no bounds as the pope has approved the canonization of our foundress,” Sister Udaya Punneliparambil, the congregation’s superior general, told Catholic News Service.
“Mother’s life has been a life of prayer and fasting. So, we have been following her model,” Sister Punneliparambil said.
“We are happy our prayers have been heard. Now we are awaiting the announcement of the date of the canonization,” she added.
Blessed Thresia was born 26 April 1876, the third of five children to Thanda and Thoma Chiramel Mankidiyan in Puthenchira, 21 miles south of Thrissur. She founded the Congregation of the Holy Family in 1914 and died 8 June 1926.
Devout and prayerful, young Thresia resisted her parents’ plan to have her married at age 10, as per tradition. Instead, she chose to lead a life of simplicity and austerity, despite belonging to a wealthy farming family. For instance, she slept on the gravel floor of her family’s home rather than in her bed.
“I cannot sleep comfortably on a bed when Jesus is hanging on the cross on three nails,” Thresia is seen telling her mother in an hourlong documentary, “Blessed Mariam Thresia -- the Patroness of Families,” produced by the congregation.
The film depicts her interest in family ministry and desire to share Jesus’ love by caring for poor, sick and dying people. It re-enacts some of her practices as recorded by her spiritual director and congregation co-founder, Father Joseph Vithayathil, whose cause for sainthood is underway, and her contemporaries.
In 1909, while under the spiritual care of Father Vithayathil, Blessed Thresia experienced stigmata. The bishop ordered that an exorcism be performed as her situation became public.
Undaunted by the setbacks, Blessed Thresia continued with her austere prayer life and dedicated herself to serving families in the community.
Father Vithayathil, under direction of the bishop in 1913, erected a “house of solitude” where Blessed Thresia could go to pray. Three friends joined her in the house.
In May 1914, she received canonical permission to launch the Congregation of the Holy Family in Puthenchira, which today is in the Diocese of Irinjalakuda.
In 1922, she moved to Kuzhikkattussery, a short distance from her native village, where she had been given eight acres by a Catholic family to launch a convent.
Struggling for funds and material to build the convent, Blessed Thresia took a 31-mile journey with another sister on foot and by boat to a Hindu king’s palace near Cochin. She planned to ask the king for funds to complete construction. Told the king was bedridden with a serious illness, Blessed Thresia made a potion from plants and instructed his assistants to apply it. The king was healed and sent word to bring the two women religious to him. He offered them high-quality teak from forests more than 90 miles away to complete the convent.
“All this wood is given by the king,” Sister Pushpa, vicar general of the congregation, told CNS while pointing to the roof of the sprawling 24-room convent, completed in 1922.
True to the charism of the order’s foundress, the convent includes a Family Retreat Center, where couples can attend a four-day retreat, offered twice a month.
“Even couples living separately for years and on the verge of divorces have gone back happily from here,” Sister Pushpa said.
Since 1987, the congregation has operated the Family Apostolate Training and Research Institute, where nearly 200 women religious, laypeople and priests are trained annually.
Blessed Thresia was declared venerable in 1999 and was beatified in 2000.
Father Vithayathil, who is buried in the same chapel with Blessed Thresia, was named venerable by Pope Francis in December 2015.
7 March 2019
Tags: Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Catholics
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan meets injured people in Douma, Syria, on 6 March 2019. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
Catholic prelates in Syria, accompanied by Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, visited the eastern Ghouta region outside of Damascus and saw “unspeakable suffering.”
“In every face, mostly the children,” was a “very confused” expression, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service. The 6 March visit was part of the annual session of the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Syria.
Patriarch Younan said the overall reaction of the prelates while visiting Douma, the major city of eastern Ghouta, “was deep sadness and repulsion” in seeing “the horrible destruction of that region, held hostage for such a long time by radical Muslims.”
Patriarch Younan noted that “evidently, this visit had an impact on Cardinal Tagle, who expressed his deep grief in front of so much suffering,” adding that the cardinal compared the scenes to an earthquake or typhoon.
“Besides the humanitarian assistance so much needed and the urgent help to rebuild their city, it is mostly and, first of all, hope and dignity that this courageous community was looking for,” the patriarch added.
In addition to Patriarch Younan and Cardinal Tagle, participants in the meeting and the Ghouta outreach included Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi, who hosted the March 4-6 council session at the patriarchate in Damascus; and Catholic bishops of Syria.
Ghouta, the last rebel bastion east of the capital city of Damascus, was secured by the Syrian government in April 2018. At one point, some 400,000 people were under siege in Ghouta, according to the United Nations. It was the site of alleged chemical attacks.
Patriarch Younan characterized the suffering in the city as “unspeakable.”
“It is shameful that the so-called free world was accomplice to that disaster for no reason than satisfying the greed and opportunism of its politicians. All fake news of the agglomerate media, like the show play of chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian soldiers, were based on lies, in order to keep the fighting going on,” Patriarch Younan said.
“Less than a quarter of the population could return without any harassment and managed to find lodging, despite the destruction and the harsh winter,” he said of the situation. The patriarch pointed out that in Douma, there had been 50 schools. To date, the government has rehabilitated 20 of them.
The elementary school the prelates visited “was packed” with 1,800 children, he recounted. “It will take a long time for the children to heal from the trauma they lived.”
“The youth we encountered, though hesitant and confused, were looking to start their life again,” Patriarch Younan said. “We saw a number of them responding to the draft in the military service, judging it as a best try to restart.”
Patriarch Younan said he, Cardinal Tagle and Patriarch Absi “assured the people of our prayer and solidarity and planted three olive trees on the school grounds, as a symbol of revitalized life.”
In their 6 March statement at the conclusion of their meeting, the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Syria said they addressed the “difficult humanitarian and social situation facing the Syrian people as a result of the conflict taking place in their homeland and the sanctions imposed on them from abroad.”
The prelates urged the international community and international organizations to lift sanctions, noting that the poorest are affected.
The council pointed to their Ghouta visit “to express their care and closeness to their suffering and destitute Syrian brothers,” noting that they spoke and listened to the people as an expression “of their love and solidarity.”
The council expressed “satisfaction at the security and stability achieved by the Syrian state and the Syrian army in most areas of Syria thanks to their great sacrifices and wise policies.”
It also thanked “all those with goodwill who are working to show the true picture of the Syrian crisis and lend a helping hand to the Syrian people.”
4 March 2019
Tags: Syria Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy staff welcome Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak to the pastoral center on 1 March 2019.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ukranian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia)
While a graceful cascade of white snowflakes gently fell to the ground outside the chancery on 1 March, the staff of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia welcomed the new Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak to the archeparchy’s pastoral center.
Standing in front of a banner reading, “Welcome, Metropolitan Borys,” in both English and Ukrainian, featuring the Ukrainian colors of blue and gold, Bishop Andriy Rabiy offered a warm welcome to Archbishop
Gudziak, as he was presented with the traditional greeting of bread and salt and a bouquet of sunflowers.
After the welcome, Archbishop Gudziak met with the staff in the chancery conference room for an informal get-together. He briefly shared his goals for the archeparchy and also asked staff members for their prayers and to express what their expectations were of him: “What do you need of your new archbishop? What type of archbishop do you want?” he asked them.
Among the thoughts he shared with them, he said he wants to lead the archeparchy as a spiritual brother, father and shepherd, who would inspire the presbyterate, the religious and the laity, the entire archeparchy, to grow in their relationship to Christ.
For the church, for the world, in this age, he said, Catholics need to become a holy and spiritual presence to inspire all to live a life of virtue as they follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and do his will in the world.
He emphasized: “I want to be a good listener and I ask you to be my teachers.”
Archbishop Gudziak reflected on two qualities his mother sought to impress upon him and instill in him: kindness and gentleness. He hopes these character traits can be shared in his relationships with the clergy, religious and laity.
The new spiritual shepherd of the Philadelphia archeparchy, a native of Syracuse, New York was named to this hierarchical position by Pope Francis on 18 February. At the time of his appointment he was the Eparch of St. Volodymyr the Great Eparchy of Paris serving France, Benelux and Switzerland.
He will be formally enthroned 4 June in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.
Bishop Rabiy, an auxiliary of the archeparchy, has been serving as apostolic administrator since his appointment by Pope Francis after the pontiff accepted the resignation for health reasons of Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka on 16 April 2018.
Auxiliary Bishop John Bura also serves the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, which includes the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and parts of eastern Pennsylvania. It has a total Catholic population of about 15,000.
1 March 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
People ride motorbikes on the outskirts of Amritsar, India, 1 March 2019, before the arrival of an Indian air force pilot, who was captured by Pakistan two days earlier and later released. Catholic groups have joined the protest of military escalation in the region.
(photo: CNS/Danish Siddiqui, Reuters)
Catholic groups joined a protest against a military escalation in Pakistan and India following the recent suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir, reported ucanews.com.
“If we don’t end war, war will end us,” read placards held by staff of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Church’s human rights body in Pakistan, at the protest in front of Lahore Press Club 28 February.
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore also expressed solidarity with Pakistan’s armed forces in an interfaith news conference at the press club, ucanews.com reported.
“All issues must be resolved through peace talks and dialogue. War is not an option,” he said. Carrying Pakistani flags, the archbishop and clerics also prayed for peace.
Peace activists, including Christians nongovernmental organizations, also protested about “war mongering” and “bomb blasts.” Simultaneous demonstrations were held at press clubs in Islamabad and Karachi.
India and Pakistan conducted airstrikes on each other’s territory in late February as tensions ran high after 40 Indian paramilitary troops were killed in a 14 February suicide attack. A Pakistan-based terrorist outfit, Army of Muhammad, claimed responsibility.
Kashif Aslam, program coordinator of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, praised Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for announcing the release of an Indian air force pilot captured 27 February after his jet was shot down. A video of Pakistani soldiers trying to protect him from villagers has gone viral on social media.
“This is a diplomatic scoop. We are on high moral ground at this moment. Hope sanity prevails with this peace gesture. We appreciate such steps by the Pakistani government but condemn the ongoing aggression on electronic and social media. Only people-to-people contact can improve our strained relations,” Aslam told ucanews.com.
“The ever-escalating defense budget should instead be diverted toward developing the people,” Aslam added. “Only demilitarization can promise progress.”
Pakistani priests are using pulpits and social media platforms to pray for peace.
“In the name of God almighty, give peace a chance. Come and negotiate and find a solution to the issues that displease us,” the Rev. Abid Habib, former regional coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic religious major superiors, posted on Facebook.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting “a freedom struggle” in Kashmir against Indian administration. Some groups have also taken up arms in an effort to separate Kashmir from India.
An estimated 100,000 people have died, including civilians, militants and army personnel, since 1990, when Muslim militants began an armed struggle to free the region from Indian rule.
The conflict dates back to 1947 when India and Pakistan become separate states after British rule ended.
Both countries claim Kashmir in full and have fought at least three major wars and regularly exchange artillery and small-weapons fire across a disputed border.