23 June 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis expresses his solidarity with the people of Armenia and says he will be visiting them this weekend as a pilgrim and a brother. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope Francis sends video message to Armenia (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Armenia, ahead of his visit to the country this weekend. In the message — delivered in Italian — the Holy Father says, “[It is] as a servant of the Gospel and a messenger of peace [that] I desire to come among you, to support [your] every effort towards peace — and I would share our steps on the pathway of reconciliation, which generates hope...”
Palestinians praying in demolished Gaza mosques (Middle East Monitor) Two years after Israel’s demolition of mosques in Gaza in its latest offensive against the Strip in 2014, Palestinians today continue to pray in what remains of the damaged structures. Gaza’s religious property incurred $50 million in damages during Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge,” the committee in charge of assessing the damage incurred by the Ministry of Endowments said. It noted that 73 mosques were completely destroyed and 197 were partially damaged during the aggression, adding that 10 of its staff members were also killed...
Ethiopian government reports on food aid during drought (AllAfrica.com) The Government of Ethiopia has supplied 627,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid to affected areas since the outbreak of the current drought and 222,000 MT of food aid in the second phase of relief response. People in Oromia, Amhara, Southern Nations and Nationalities, Afar, Beshangul Gumuz and Gambella regions have benefited from the food aid, according to official sources...
Melkite synod cancelled (CNS) The Melkite Catholic Synod of Bishops was cancelled after 10 bishops boycotted, resulting in a lack of quorum. Only 12 of 22 bishops traveled to Ain Traz, summer seat of the patriarchate. Those who did not attend called for the resignation of Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, who has held his post since 2000. They are protesting the duration of his time as patriarch and some landholdings of the Melkite Church...
Holy and Great Council concludes third day (OrthodoxCouncil.org) On the third day of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej of Serbia at the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonia. Afterward, the hierarchs continued their work in the sixth, seventh, and eighth sessions of the Council...
22 June 2016
Monday marked the first day of Summer — and our Summer 2016 edition of ONE is here, too.
You can check out the online version at this link.
This latest edition of our award-winning quarterly focuses on being a “Witness to Hope” in the world CNEWA serves. Features include a look at new efforts to foster vocations in India; a sobering but hope-filled glimpse at the fatherless children of Armenia; and a stirring photo essay by Msgr. John E. Kozar, on his recent travels to Ethiopia.
Take a look! We think you’ll like what we have to offer.
Meantime, Msgr. Kozar has more about the Summer edition of the magazine in the video preview below.
22 June 2016
In Armenia, Tatyana Dilbaryan rears her three children alone. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
The Summer 2016 edition of ONE features a poignant glimpse at children in Armenia who are growing up without fathers:
Many men in the northern Armenian town of Tashir leave the country to work abroad; unemployment tops 50 percent in the region. Many who work in Russia provide the minimum means of subsistence for their families back home, but some never return. As a result, women are left behind to shoulder the burden of running households and rearing children on their own.
David’s 49-year-old mother, Tatyana Dilbaryan, wears a smile, but the lines on her brow mask the difficulties she endures. The question lingers: Why has it come to this?
“I don’t know the answer. Perhaps he saw that I managed to do everything myself,” she says of her husband. “I raised livestock, worked in the fields, did everything for my children,” says Tatyana, still smiling despite a welling of tears in her kind eyes.
“We are good. We’ll get through this, my children will grow up and everything will be alright.”
The church is working to help these families. Read on to learn how.
22 June 2016
Pope Francis walks with refugees during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 22 June. The pope invited more than a dozen refugees to sit near him on stage during his catechesis. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope on refugees: Christians don’t exclude, they welcome (CNS) Flanked by a group of refugees, Pope Francis appealed to Christians to care for and welcome those whom society often excludes. “Today I’m accompanied by these young men. Many people think they would have been better off if they had stayed in their homelands, but they were suffering so much there. They are our refugees, but many people consider them excluded. Please, they are our brothers,” the pope said 22 June during his weekly general audience. The group, holding a banner that stated “Refugees for a better future together,” caught the pope’s attention as he was making his way to the stage in St. Peter’s Square. He signaled them to come forward and instructed aides to allow them to sit in the shade on the stage...
Report: Air strikes in Syria kill 18 civilians (BBC) Activists say at least 18 civilians have been killed in air strikes in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the headquarters of so-called Islamic State (IS). Dozens more people were injured in the raids on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said it was not able to determine who carried out the strikes, though another group blamed Russian warplanes...
Jordan closes border to Syrian refugees after suicide car bomb (The New York Times) Jordan sealed its last entry points for Syrian refugees on Tuesday after a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in a no-man’s land on the border, killing four Jordanian soldiers, a police officer and a civil defense officer. The attack took place about 5:30 a.m. on the sand berm marking the frontier between the countries, near a refugee camp where an estimated 60,000 people have been living in harsh conditions...
Eritrea accuse Ethiopia of planning a full-scale war (Voice of America) The government of Eritrea told the U.N. Human Rights Council that its neighbor Ethiopia is planning to launch a full scale war against its territory...
Official texts of Orthodox council available online (OrthodoxCouncil.org) The official texts of the opening speeches and addresses for the Holy and Great Council are available at https://www.holycouncil.org/documents in their original languages. Translations will be posted as they become available. More than 320 journalists, representing 138 media outlets and 25 countries, have received credentials for the Council. Daily media briefings are broadcast live at approximately 15.30 GMT +3 (8:30 am EDT) at https://www.holycouncil.org/live, and available as video on demand. The Council continues meeting through 25 June, concluding with the Divine Liturgy on 26 June...
Kerala divorce rate highest in India (IndiaLiveToday.com) Family courts in the prosperous, southern state of Kerala ruled on just over five divorces every hour in 2014 — 130 every day — more than any of the 12 Indian states that compile such data, according to government data. Although India does not appear on the world divorce statistics records, a global divorce repository (compiled by the University of Illinois, USA), because it lacks nationwide data, the volume of divorces handled by courts in Kerala and the other 11 states indicates that couples are more willing than ever to separate than stay — as tradition still demands — in bad marriages...
Work begins to try to save Christianity’s holiest shrine (The Washington Post) Work has begun to save the holiest shrine in Christendom. It won’t be a simple patch-and-paint job. This is the alpha and omega of restoration projects. They are going to repair Jesus’ tomb — with titanium bolts. Over the next nine months, a team of Greek conservationists will restore the collapsing chapel built above and around the burial cave where the faithful believe that Jesus was buried and rose from the dead after the Crucifixion...
21 June 2016
In this photo from 1972, Pope Paul VI greets the crowd as he visits a parish in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
It was 53 years ago today — 21 June 1963 — that Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini was elected pope and took the name Paul VI. He was the first pontiff to take the name “Paul” since 1605, and quickly set about becoming, like his namesake, a man with an evangelizing mission. He re-convened the Second Vatican Council (closed on the death of John XXIII) and became at the time the most traveled pope in history, visiting six continents.
He had a deep commitment to the work of CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, which was reflected during a historic trip to the Holy Land:
In December 1963, during the council, Paul VI announced his intention to begin his pontificate with a “pilgrimage of prayer and penance” to the Holy Land:
“We will bring to the Holy Sepulchre and to the Grotto of the Nativity the desires of individuals, of families, of nations; above all, the aspirations, the anxieties, the sufferings of the sick, the poor, the disinherited, the afflicted, of refugees, of those who suffer, those who weep, those who hunger and thirst for justice.”
He made the trip in January 1964:
Fired with the Gospel message of hope, the Pope met with heads of state and religious leaders in the Holy Land. These visits culminated with his embrace in Jerusalem of Orthodoxys spiritual leader, Patriarch Athenagoras I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Before departing the Holy Land, Pope Paul VI assured [CNEWA’s Secretary and President of the Pontifical Mission] Msgr. Joseph Ryan, who accompanied the Pontiff, of the Holy See’s commitment to the refugees and encouraged Ryan to further the Pontifical Mission's efforts with Palestinians.
Paul VI’s pilgrimage resulted in social rehabilitation and development projects that, with support from the Pontifical Mission, changed the lives of many: Bethlehem University; Ephpheta Institute for hearing-impaired children; Tantur Ecumenical Institute; and Notre Dame of Jerusalem Pilgrimage Center. These diverse initiatives testified to the Popes belief in the church as an instrument of reconciliation and hope.
The following year, Pope Paul VI issued the groundbreaking document, Nostra Aetate, a declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, which noted not only Christianity’s historic connection to Jews, but also its respect for Muslims:
“The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
The document also took pains to deplore any and all discrimination:
We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8).
Pope Paul VI was in many ways a visionary and a prophet, whose heroic ecumenical and interfaith outreach continues to this day in the work of his successors — and in the work of CNEWA.
21 June 2016
Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage of Haifa and the Holy Land, center, prays with other prelates during the 13th Extraordinary Prayer of all Churches for Reconciliation, Unity and Peace at the Maronite patriarchal exarchate church 19 June in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Miriam Alster)
Jesus is asking spiritual and civilian Christian leaders to be messengers of the word of God, especially in these difficult times in the Middle East, said Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage of Haifa and the Holy Land.
“Do we witness to Christ in our lives, we who received the teaching of Christ?” the archbishop asked participants in the 13th Extraordinary Prayer of all Churches for Reconciliation, Unity and Peace. “Is Jesus with us and in us? Do we always remember the presence of Jesus in us? And how we live this presence?”
Speaking 19 June, Pentecost on the Julian calendar followed by most Eastern traditions, Archbishop El-Hage said, “We came today to hear the word of God and celebrate the Eucharist, from all the Christian churches, and to open our hearts and minds to the work of the Holy Spirit and to listen to his inspiration.”
Archbishop El-Hage said that, at a time when Middle Eastern Christians are facing grave trials, it is imperative that they not be forgotten and remain in everyone’s prayers. He also prayed for participants in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete.
Since 2010 Jerusalem churches have called on Christians around the world to join in a special intercessory prayer calling for reconciliation and unity among the churches and peace in the world. Emanating from Jerusalem and in recent years also broadcast abroad by Christian channels, the special prayer is hosted by a different faith community each time it is held. This year the service was at the Maronite patriarchal exarchate church.
During the a service, filled with traditional music led by a small choir and a musician playing a stringed instrument called the qanun, celebrants walked up to the roof terrace to complete the prayers. All the religious leaders turned to face the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, whose gray domes could be seen in the near horizon, and knelt together.
At one point the Syriac Orthodox bishop recited part of the liturgy, which was in the same language used in Syrian Orthodox prayer.
“It was a glimpse given to the church members, to show them that they are not so different from one another. It was so beautiful. There was a feeling of happiness,” said Veronique Nebel, a Swiss volunteer who initiated the idea of the joint prayer.
“The prayer is always a challenge for each one of us to believe what God has said to each of us: to live every day of our lives as human beings, each one wanting peace and unity. To believe in unity, not waging wars, using (weapons) or violence,” said Sister Lucia Corradin, a member of the Franciscan Elizabethan Sisters of Padua. “We have to go back to what the message of Jerusalem is, the city of peace. Peace is a value present in each human being; it is here even in this simple prayer to show that even in situations of contradictions, where there is violence and suffering, we don’t want that to be the last word. We want to remember that we believe in our values and our beliefs ... to love each other.”
Juliet Alama said Christians in the Holy Land want to be united as one and forget about ancient disputes that make them look "silly around the world." Using her family as an example, she noted that though she is Maronite Catholic, her husband is Latin Catholic, and they send their youngest son to the Armenian Orthodox School, even taking him to celebrate liturgies there with his classmates.
“We all believe in the same God, in Jesus,” she said. “This is a beginning. We don’t want any more fighting.”
21 June 2016
Pope Francis is preparing for a difficult trip to Armenia later this week to promote reconciliation with Turkey and Azerbaijan. (video: Rome Reports)
Holy and Great Council convenes (OrthodoxCouncil.org) After more than 60 years of planning, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened its opening session on the island of Crete on Monday, 20 June, on the Feast of the Holy Spirit. After the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the nearby Monastery of Gonia, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew formally opened the proceedings of the Council. With one voice and one heart, the Hierarchs of the Council chanted the hymn of Pentecost, invoking the descent of the Holy Spirit to transform their work for the benefit of the Church and the entire world...
Could Orthodoxy be having its Vatican II moment? (ReligionDispatches.org) Hierarchs from most of the world’s individual Orthodox Christian Churches will convene for a Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Council on the island of Crete, an event that many have been calling Orthodoxy’s Vatican II. This council has been making headlines in the Western press and has been covered by First Things and the Catholic press. Nevertheless, many American readers — due to a lack of familiarity with Orthodox Christianity — may not grasp the full significance of the event, which has implications for both geopolitics and Christian ecumenism. For that reason, I reached out to Father John Chryssavgis, Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and theological adviser to the Ecumenical Patriarch, and asked him to shed some light on the issues surrounding the council...
More than 600 journalists apply to cover pope’s trip to Armenia (Asbarez.com) More than 600 media representatives have applied to be accredited to cover the visit of the Pope to Armenia, Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its Twitter page. Pope Francis’ visit to Armenia will commence on 24 June with an official welcoming ceremony at the Zvartnots International Airport in Yerevan before the Pope’s travel to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, where a welcoming service will be offered in the Mother Cathedral...
Maronite bishops call for maintaining Christian presence in Middle East (CNS) Maronite Catholic bishops from around the world warned against plans to partition the Middle East and urged Christians to stand firm and to preserve co-existence with Muslims. In a statement at the conclusion of their 13-17 June synod, the bishops stressed the importance of continuing the presence of Maronite Catholics in Lebanon and the region...
Jordanian troops killed in car bomb at Syria border (BBC) Six Jordanian security personnel have been killed and 14 hurt in a car bomb attack near a makeshift refugee camp on the Syria-Jordan border, officials say...
What Egypt under Sissi is really like for Coptic Christians (Brookings.edu) The status of Coptic Christians in Egypt has for the most part remained unchanged since Anwar Sadat came to power in 1970. Today, there is little Christian representation in government, and sectarian violence is all but commonplace. But many have suggested that President Sissi is more respectful of minority rights than his predecessors, and many Christians supported Sissi’s rise to power...
20 June 2016
The symbols of the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, on the front of an Arab Jewish center in the northern port city of Haifa in Israel.
(photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)
This past Saturday, the Archdiocese of New York and the American Bible Society invited CNEWA to take part in the New York Catholic Bible Summit — a remarkable gathering of biblical experts, academics, writers and theologians. It was attended by over 600 people, including the Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., (coincidentally, a member of CNEWA’s board) and Archbishop Octavio Ruis Arenas, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
I was privileged to give two seminars on “The Holy Lands Today,” a subject CNEWA knows intimately.
The brochure summed up the subject this way:
“The sacred scriptures of Jews, Christians and Islam... are held in deep reverence by more than a quarter of the world's population. At times, it is easy to believe that the lands of the Middle East are little more than Biblical places with modern conveniences. This can cause confusion and conflict... ‘Biblical geography’ can easily become sacred geopolitics with a potential for great conflict. The land called ‘holy’ by a quarter of the earth’s people is also a land of conflict, oppression and bloodshed.”
Few organizations are as familiar with the ongoing crisis in the Middle East than CNEWA. Across nine decades, this agency has worked to bring healing and hope to a land that too often suffers from turmoil and terror. Taking part in this summit was one way to share some of what we’ve discovered, and reflect on why this land is sacred to so many.
It was also an opportunity to affirm why the ongoing mission of Catholic Near East Welfare Association is so critically important — now, perhaps, more than ever.
20 June 2016
Angela Yaacoub, a 60-year-old widow from Mosul, visits St. Anthony’s Dispensary in Beirut, Lebanon. The dispensary helps care for refugees who have fled Iraq. To mark World Refugee Day, Pope Francis has called on Christians to “stand with refugees... to become with them artisans of peace.” (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
Assist and accompany refugees while working to build peace in the world, Pope Francis urged on the eve of World Refugee Day.
“Refugees are people like everyone, but war took away their home, work, relatives and friends,” he said in the run-up to the United Nations-sponsored day 20 June.
Seeing the faces and hearing the stories of refugees should lead Christians “to renew our obligation to build peace through justice,” he said after praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square 19 June.
“This is why we want to stand with them — to encounter them, welcome them, listen to them — in order to become together with them artisans of peace, according to God’s will,” the pope said, referring to the day’s theme, “We Stand #WithRefugees.”
The pope’s appeal followed a joint effort by the Vatican police, the Greek government and Rome’s Sant’Egidio Community to bring a group of Syrian refugees to Italy.
The Vatican police accompanied nine refugees — six adults and three children — from Athens to Rome 16 June. The community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay organization, was arranging their housing.
The Syrian citizens, including two Christians, had been living in a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos — the same island Pope Francis visited in April to highlight the dramatic situation of the people there. He brought three refugee families on his flight back to Rome.
Pope Francis’ appeals and concrete actions tell the world that it is feasible to offer real help to refugees, said Jesuit Father Thomas Smolich, international director of Jesuit Refugee Service.
Leaders and everyday people “get a pretty good model” from Pope Francis about the Catholic and humanitarian duty of welcoming, advocating for and assisting refugees, Father Smolich told Catholic News Service 20 June.
“I would encourage people, especially on World Refugee Day, to contact the part of the church that works with refugees,” for example, Catholic Charities in the United States or Jesuit Refugee Service in Europe, he said, or ask and find out who else is helping in their community.
“There are so many things to do,” he said, such as visiting refugees, helping with free meals, doing advocacy work, becoming part of a long-term coordinated effort or just helping out when time allows. “The possibilities are endless.”
“People are doing this” in spite of what some political leaders say, he said, “so it is a question of bringing it to light” and inspiring more people to help rather than be paralyzed by fear.
While many fears can be legitimate, “fear often translates into anxiety,” which “warps our understanding” of what is really happening and what can be done, he said.
Becoming familiar with or getting to know “real people who share our fears,” but have experienced the difficulties of having to flee their homes, the Jesuit said, helps change the discussion from being centered on “‘What am I afraid of’ to ‘How can we build solidarity?’”
While global estimates say more than 60 million people are fleeing violence, conflict or persecution, the best way to digest such a statistic is “to meet people one-on-one or hear them speak” so they don’t remain an abstract number, the priest said.
JRS was urging people to meet with refugees or watch interviews on the JRS YouTube channel in order “to enable refugees to speak out about their hopes, their future” and help others learn about their lives, Father Smolich said.
Similarly, the International Catholic Migration Commission was commemorating World Refugee Day by sharing stories from resettled refugees around the world “as a witness to their strength and determination despite the hardship they have endured,” the commission said.
It said it hoped the stories would encourage those still on the move and call attention to the benefits refugees bring to host countries.
People were also invited during the Year of Mercy to continue sending messages of hope on social media using the #HandsOfMercy hashtag and share personal stories with #StoryOfMercy or #WithRefugees.
20 June 2016
The Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches and their delegations participate in the opening session of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church at the Orthodox Academy of Crete.
(photo: Polish Orthodox Church/Jaroslaw Charkiewicz/HolyCouncil.org)
Pope Francis prays for work of pan-Orthodox council (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday urged Catholics to pray for the Orthodox leaders from around the world who are holding their ‘Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church’ on the Greek island of Crete...
Synod opens (oca.org) According to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Press Office for the Holy and Great Council, several Council events will be available to the public via live streaming...
Pope appeals for solidarity ahead of World Refugee Day (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for solidarity with refugees as he noted that Monday marks the annual United Nations World Refugee Day. The Pope recalled that the theme for this year’s event is ‘We stand together #With Refugees’ and with all those forced to flee their lands. Refugees, he insisted, are people like everyone else, who have been deprived by war of their homes, their jobs, their parents and their friends...
Cardinal begins trip to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, is on a six day official visit to Ukraine where he will meet with both Church and state officials...
Kerala leader condemns attack on Patriarch in Syria (Economic Times) Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today condemned the attack on Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, head of the Syrian Orthodox church, who had a narrow escape when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a function attended by the religious leader in Syria...
New York’s Cardinal Dolan in Iraq: Embracing the displaced Iraqi Christians (National Catholic Reporter) Shortly after his arrival to Erbil, Iraq, on 8 April 2016, Cardinal Timothy Dolan met at the hotel with the three American journalists, including this writer, for a brief conversation. He was clear what the goals of his visit were: To show solidarity with the displaced Iraqi Christian and Yazidi families; to express gratitude to the workers, volunteers and caregivers serving the displaced; and to support the local church and to demonstrate solidarity with it...