7 April 2016
Internally displaced Iraqi school children pose for a picture at Al Bishara School (Annunciation School), run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Ainkawa, a suburb of Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. (photo: Tom Gallagher/NCR)
This week, CNEWA’s Chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is embarking on a pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, to visit with displaced Iraqis. The trip is already beginning to generate some press coverage, including this report from Catholic News Agency and an interview with the Cardinal in Crux.
You can read about the trip and what it entails right here.
And if you look to the sidebar on the left, you’ll see a widget we have just installed, “Journey to Iraq.” Consider this your one-stop spot for following the trip and picking up the latest news and developments over the next several days.
We hope to post news, photographs and possibly even video. So check back often.
Meantime, the latest post on the trip comes from National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Gallagher, who writes:
The first full day on the ground in the northern region of Iraq known as Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region recognized by the Iraqi government in Baghdad, is completed. Our small delegation visited a grade school, Al Bishara School — the Annunciation School — located in Ankawa, a largely Christian community on the outskirts of Erbil, that is run by the Dominican Sisters. After lunch, we visited a newly-established public university serving some 1,400 students seeking a bachelor’s degree, and attended a religious ceremony at a nearby Christian church celebrating the Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.
The children at Al Bishara School were enjoying recess when we arrived. Like most kids the world over, they loved getting their pictures taken. They horsed around and pushed and shoved to get their picture taken. Pairs of kids would wait patiently for their turn. When they saw themselves on the digital camera screen afterwards, they smiled and laughed and elbowed each other. It could have been recess at any grade school in the U.S.
One of the highlights of the first day was an exclusive NCR interview with Dominican Sister Maria Hanna, superior general of the Dominican Sisters, who shared the harrowing story of exodus from the City of Mosul, just over 50 miles from Erbil, from the village of Bashiqa, some twenty minutes from Mosul, and from Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city of Iraq. It is a compelling story, which I will file soon.
Erbil is a city of contradictions.
Read on for more.
7 April 2016
Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam founded a home that cares for single mothers and their
children in India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
To many of the faithful in India, he is a saint: Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam, known as the “father of the poor.”
We profiled him in ONE magazine two years ago:
Mar Joseph died in Kenya in 1998 visiting a newly established house of Nirmala Dasi Sisters, a community he helped found in 1971. Translated from the Malayalam, the local vernacular, as the “Servants of God,” the Nirmala Dasi Sisters often serve as the primary agents of Mar Joseph’s works to serve the poor, the marginalized or those too feeble to care for themselves.
The community felt orphaned after his death, Nirmala Dasi Superior General Rosily Pidiyath recalls from the community’s tiny parlor in their motherhouse in Mulayam, near Trichur. The sisters are not alone. People cared for by the archbishop echo these sentiments, and hundreds will tell you they are alive today because he came forward to help when others had abandoned them.
Sixteen years after he died, Mar Joseph Kundukulam has left behind a remarkable legacy — a testament to a man who, even in death, continues to touch hearts and change lives.
As a young priest, Joseph Kundukulam was no stranger to charitable work. But his outreach to the poorest of the poor began in earnest when he was appointed pastor of St. Anne’s Church in Padinjarekotta, a suburb of Trichur. One day, a young woman carrying an infant asked the young priest for a place to stay. She was single, abandoned after the father of her child learned she had become pregnant. Her family had disowned her for her indiscretion. Father Joseph had to break the news that he had no shelter to offer.
Hours later, he found the young woman and her child still waiting for him. When he asked her what else she needed, she requested a small sum of money — little more than pocket change — to buy poison so she could kill herself and her child. Her request shocked the priest, who immediately worked with the parish to find some way to accommodate her.
He began to search for a more permanent way to help the young mother and others in her situation. Before long, he found a priest in Germany who offered him funds to start a new facility, on the condition the center be named after the patron saint of his parish in the heart of Europe. Since its founding in 1967, St. Christina’s Home has sheltered some 4,000 single mothers and their children, says the vice superior of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, Chinnamma Kunnakatt, who has been working in the center for more than a decade.
And because St. Christina’s Home focused on the care of mothers and their toddlers only, the young pastor founded Savio Home, which cares for children 5 years of age and older.
These were only the beginning.
Read on to learn more about his extraordinary legacy. We’ve written often about his work in India, and the lives that have been changed because of this man who, as one priest put it, was “a shepherd who smelled like his sheep.” To read about the order he founded, check out ‘Slumdog’ Sisters from the July 2011 edition of the magazine; House of Blessings from March 2007; and God’s Servants of Action from July 1994.
7 April 2016
Sandar Salem, administrator of a mobile clinic serving displaced Iraqis in Kurdistan, registers patients. To learn more about this CNEWA-supported clinic and its work, read Health on Wheels in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
7 April 2016
An ethnic Armenian soldier rests beneath a crucifix on 7 April at an artillery position near the Nagorno-Karabakh’s town of Martuni. In both the Armenian and Azerbaijani capitals, crowds have been gathering to voice support for their respective militaries after four days of intense fighting in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Emotions run high in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict (The Guardian) In both the Armenian and Azerbaijani capitals, crowds have been gathering to voice support for their respective militaries after four days of intense fighting in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. Amid an upsurge of patriotic feeling in Yerevan and Baku, Azerbaijan claimed on Wednesday that the terms of the ceasefire agreed to just 24 hours earlier had already been broken 115 times...
Catholicos to visit Nagorno Karabakh (Fides) The Catholicos of the Armenians, Karekin II, and Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Aram I, will together in the coming days visit Nagorno Karabakh, the region with an Armenian majority, under Azerbaijan where in recent days the conflict between Azeris and Armenians violently exploded again...
Iraqi Kurdistan government will continue to pay salaries of some Christians displaced (Fides) The regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan has renewed, until the end of 2016, the commitment to pay the salaries of Christian civil servants and public employees who worked in Mosul, in the Nineveh Plain and other areas conquered by the Jihadists Islamic State, and now live as refugees in Erbil and other areas of the north-Iraqi autonomous region...
Cardinal Dolan visiting Iraq to show support for displaced Christians (CNA) This week Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, will travel to Iraqi Kurdistan in order to offer support to families displaced by extremist violence...
Early seasonal rains bring deadly flooding to Ethiopia (AllAfrica) Seasonal rains have come early to parts of Ethiopia, causing deadly floods in places. The state broadcaster, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation told the Associated Press news agency that 28 people have been killed in two remote regions of the country. The intense downpours caused flooding in the drought-stricken region of Afar. Five people were killed as waters rose across what is the lowest point in Ethiopia and one of the lowest in Africa...
Palestinian Christians bitter over destruction of church ruins in Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Palestinian Christians Wednesday expressed anger over the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have handled the ancient ruins of a Byzantine church that were uncovered in Gaza City last week. They said that bulldozers removed the antiquities and continued with their work without supervision. They accused the two big Palestinian parties of seeking to obliterate Christian history and identity in the Holy Land...
6 April 2016
Students eat, study and socialize in a campus dining hall at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.
(photo: Petro Zadorozhnyy)
The Spring 2016 edition of ONE takes readers to Ukrainian Catholic University — the only one of its kind in the country. Writer Mark Rachkevych here reflects on what might be called the “UCU difference”:
After spending two full days with a Ukrainian photographer on the three campuses that constitute the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, my colleague said he regretted not attending the educational institution.
I immediately understood why.
He had attended a state-run university in town — UCU’s student body of 1,600 is a drop in the ocean of the city’s student population of 150,000 — where professors lectured and students were told what to write without dialogue or dialectic.
In the two days on campus, we were exposed to what hundreds of thousands of students experience in the more than 500 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. It brought back memories to me and enlightened my colleague.
Unjustifiably criticized by some critics in the U.S. who say that such institutions create a false sense of utopia, the atmosphere at UCU is one of intellectual exploration. Faculty and staff know the students by name. Pupils are in turn encouraged to grow and pursue goals that prize the process through the journey rather than the arrival at the finish line.
Education is enhanced by a rich student life that includes guest speakers, civic and spiritual activities, and extracurricular endeavors. In short, it’s what a university experience should be about so that upon graduation, students are ready to “go forth and set the world on fire,” to quote St. Ignatius.
On a more fundamental level, UCU provides students with a reference point of what is right and wrong, on what is good and evil. This is important in a society that is still healing from the inhumane policies of the Soviet Union that successive post-independence leaders haven’t quite extinguished. If someone grows up thinking that giving a teacher, doctor, or traffic police officer a petty bribe is the norm, they’ll never know that to build an open society, one needs to stop the pervasive practice of graft.
It’s important to instill meritocracy into students; UCU is run on an honor system with a zero tolerance policy regarding plagiarism and bribery.
This is what draws students of all backgrounds and faith to UCU. Here they get treated with dignity and respect. Once they graduate, they enter business, politics or civil society as responsible citizens; they become part of what UCU says is serving the community at large.
Graduates become leaders and role models for others. And people are drawn to them for the responsible way they behave and the examples they set by taking “ownership” of situations.
Take, for example, Anton Kukhliev who attended the university’s leadership summer school.
He came back to his town located 70 kilometers from occupied Donetsk in the war zone and successfully ran for city council on the ticket of a pro-democracy party where Soviet-era paternalism was the norm. He attracted three more candidates to his cause who also won spots in the 26-seat local legislature in October 2015.
These kinds of success stories are inspiring — and a testament that UCU is doing something right for its country and its society.
Read more in Where Change is on the Curriculum in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE.
6 April 2016
The shrine holding the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
(photo: Gali Tibbon/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
The New York Times today posted this look at a developing story in Jerusalem: growing concerns about a possible collapse of the structure surrounding the tomb of Jesus:
It was a typical day at the shrine around what many believe is the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem’s Old City. A Greek Orthodox choir sang inside a room facing the baroque structure. But the voices were drowned out when chanting Armenian priests and monks circling the shrine raised theirs.
“Sometimes they punch each other,” Farah Atallah, a church guard wearing a fez, observed with a shrug.
Mr. Atallah is a seasoned witness to the rivalries among the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic communities that jealously share — and sometimes spar over — what they consider Christianity’s holiest site, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Amid the rivalry, the unsteady 206-year-old structure, held together by a 69-year-old iron cage that honors the keystone of Christianity, the tomb from which Christians believe Jesus was resurrected, is an uncomfortable, often embarrassing symbol of Christian divisions, which have periodically erupted into tensions. In 2008, monks and priests brawled near the shrine, throwing punches and pulling one another’s hair.
But in recent weeks, scaffolding has gone up a few feet from the shrine in the gloomy shadows of the Arches of the Virgin, the first step in a rare agreement by the various Christian communities to save the dilapidated shrine, also called the Aedicule, from falling down.
The 22 March agreement calls for a $3.4 million renovation to begin next month, after Orthodox Easter celebrations. Each religious group will contribute one-third of the costs, and a Greek bank contributed 50,000 euros, or $57,000, for the scaffolding, in return for having its name emblazoned across the machinery.
The idea is to peel away hundreds of years of the shrine’s history, clean it and put it back together. Simple enough, but delayed for decades because of the complicated, centuries-old rules and minute traditions — called the status quo — that define the way Jerusalem’s holy sites are governed, in which the very act of repairing something can imply ownership.
“One of the serious issues in the church is that the status quo takes place over every other consideration, and it's not a good thing,” said Athanasius Macora, a Franciscan friar. “Unity is more important than a turf war.”
Read on for more.
For additional information on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its history, check out Christianity’s Holiest Shrine from the Fall 1987 edition of our magazine. And read A Church Transformed to learn about CNEWA’s involvement in the restoration of the building’s dome.
6 April 2016
Father Theodore Krepp displays Mary Yasenchak’s mold for making communion bread. Byzantine Catholics in northeastern Pennsylvania are maintaining their traditions, even as their numbers dwindle and demographics change. Read more in After the Boom in the March-April 2004 edition of the magazine. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
6 April 2016
In the video above, the Vatican confirms that Pope Francis will visit refugees from Syria and Iraq on the Greek island of Lesbos next week. (video: Rome Reports)
Greece confirms: Pope will visit refugees later this month (Reuters) Pope Francis is to visit Greece on 14-15 April, a Greek government official said on Tuesday, getting a first-hand look at the front line of Europe’s migrant crisis and thousands of refugees fleeing conflict. The Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church, said in a statement it wanted the pontiff to visit Lesbos, the Aegean island where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have arrived in the past year. Confirming the visit, a Greek government official said Francis would be accompanied to Lesbos by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians...
Relics of saint recovered in Syria (CNS) The relics of Syrian St. Elian, which originally were thought to have been destroyed by members of the so-called Islamic State militia, have been found amid the rubble of the desecrated Mar Elian Church in Qaryatain, Syria. The sanctuary was bulldozed in August 2015, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Father Jacques Mourad, the prior of the Syriac Catholic monastic community, was kidnapped three months earlier when the terrorists initially raided the church...
Archeologists discover ancient Christian church in Gaza (AP) Palestinian tourism officials say construction workers in the Gaza Strip have discovered what they believe to be a Christian religious site from the Byzantine era. Heyam al-Bitar, research director for the Hamas-run Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, said on Tuesday that the discovery included remnants of marble Corinthian pillars, foundations and crowns, some of them with a Greek cross. She says the ruins likely belong to a church-like structure that existed in what is now Gaza City. She says they date back to the sixth century, and are characteristic of the era of Emperor Justinian...
Cardinal Dolan traveling to Iraq with CNEWA (NCR) New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, is traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan this week, according to a press release from the organization...
First Syrian refugee family headed to U.S. (AP) The first Syrian family to move to the U.S. under its speeded-up “surge” resettlement operation has left Jordan for the United States. Ahmad al-Abboud, his wife and five children, left on Wednesday for Kansas City in Missouri...
Syriac Orthodox Church calls arrest “insulting” (Fides) The Syriac Orthodox Church considers the way the Palestinian police arrested Metropolitan Swerios Malki Murad, Patriarchal Vicar of the Holy Land “insulting.” Such police custody — which took place on Saturday evening, 2 April and lasted a few hours — is “a humiliation for all the faithful of the Syriac Orthodox Church throughout the world.” This is what the statement issued by the General Secretariat of the Syriac Orthodox Holy Synod reads...
Canadian diocese will reimburse money for Syrian refugees lost in gambling (Catholic Register) The Diocese of Hamilton is picking up the pieces after a Chaldean Catholic priest admitted to gambling away $500,000 of donations meant for refugees. The diocese has vowed to make sure no refugees are turned away due to the loss of funds...
5 April 2016
A pharmacist distributes medicine to displaced Iraqis in Kurdistan from the back of a
CNEWA-supported mobile clinic. (photo: Raed Rafei)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, will be traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan this week on a pastoral visit to that region’s displaced Christian families. The purpose of the pastoral visit is fourfold:
- Demonstrate solidarity with the families — many of whom are Christian — displaced when ISIS swept through northern Iraq in summer 2014. The delegation will visit displaced families taking refuge in camps and villages; stop at schools, nurseries and clinics serving their needs; and pray together in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
- Show gratitude and solidarity with the caregivers — the priests, sisters and laity who, although displaced as well, have responded in meeting the needs of those expelled by ISIS. The pastoral visit will highlight the efforts of the religious sisters and parish priests who have partnered with CNEWA in setting up schools, nurseries and clinics.
- Demonstrate solidarity with and support for the leadership of the local church. The delegation will spend time with the patriarchs and bishops of the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
- Assert the Christian commitment to support all those wounded by ISIS: Christian, Muslim and Yazidi.
Cardinal Dolan’s pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan initiates year-long observances in commemoration of CNEWA’s 90th anniversary. Traveling with the cardinal will be CNEWA board member Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre; CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar; and the Executive Director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan.
The cardinal also spoke about his trip this week in an interview with Crux in Rome:
CNEWA has a renowned track record of helping the suffering Church, particularly in the Middle East. I’m proud of CNEWA. Every other year, I try to go on a trip with them, so I’ve been to Jordan, Lebanon, the Holy Land, and I now I want to go to Kurdistan.
What can Catholics do to help persecuted Christians in Iraq and other countries? Is donating to CNEWA a way of getting involved?
CNEWA does stand out because of its geographical precision and because of its nine-decade track record of bringing relief to troubled areas. So yeah, CNEWA would be one excellent way of showing solidarity.
To learn more about what CNEWA is doing in Iraqi Kurdistan, check out the Spring 2016 edition of ONE and our story about a busy mobile clinic serving displaced Iraqis.
And as the cardinal suggested, to “show solidarity” and support the work of CNEWA on behalf of Christians in Iraq, visit this link.
5 April 2016
Al Lagan speaks with a Capuchin priest during his visit to Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Some of CNEWA’s biggest heroes are our donors, and one of the most devoted was Alfred A. Lagan — known to everyone as just “Al” — who supported our work for decades and even went overseas, to see for himself the work his generosity made possible. He died in 2013, at the age of 77.
Al came from humble roots, as his obituary noted:
The son of an Irish immigrant who owned a tavern in the Bronx, NY, Al’s career began by cleaning the tavern and saving pennies left on the floor. At the age of 16, his own father’s untimely death meant an early end to childhood years. Al graduated from Iona College in 1956 at the age of 20, and joined the Navy, where he was part of the Explosive Underwater Ordinance Disposal team, or also known as a “frogman.”
He went on to become a philanthropist and business leader in Boston. But throughout his life, education remained a top priority.
Norma Intriago, now CNEWA’s development director, remembered:
Catholic education, to him, was the best way to tackle the issue of poverty — to give someone the opportunity of education, to arm them with knowledge and good values so that they can build a better life. I think Al felt very blessed as someone who had gone to college, got a master’s degree and started his own investment firm. He felt like his success wasn’t his to keep. It didn’t belong to him — it was God’s blessing. So it was his turn to share that opportunity with others. He was a true altruist. He really, truly, selflessly rendered of himself to others in need.
Following a trip to Ethiopia, Al wrote about his impressions of that country:
Poverty is visible everywhere in Ethiopia. Children often approached us and asked for money. One night, I saw a woman and her baby sleeping against a wall near our hotel. She wasn’t resting for a moment. She and her child were living on the street — they had nowhere else to go.
But what Norma Intriago recalled most was Al Lagan’s spirit:
The trip was a rough one. At one point, we were staying in pretty poor accommodations. The electricity went out. We went a couple of days without showering. You can imagine how that affects your mood. But Al’s mood never changed! Whether he was starved, unwashed, whatever, he just shrugged his shoulders. Because he knew the trip wasn’t about his comfort. It was about something bigger than him. It was about the children and their eager faces. It was about the sisters who ran the institutions and their resourcefulness. That was what the trip was about. These kids had nothing, and it was about making sure they have a chance. I think Al taught me quite a lot about living the Gospel.
CNEWA is able to do its work because of countless heroes like Al Lagan, whose spirit continues to inspire us.