26 January 2017
Pope Francis delivers a joint blessing with Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, the archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Vatican, during an ecumenical prayer service to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on 25 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope: Christian unity requires learning from each other (CNS) Divided Christians need to recognize the gifts God has given to other communities and learn from them “without waiting for the others to learn first,” Pope Francis said. Leading an ecumenical evening prayer service 25 January for the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis said Christians must overcome the “temptations of self-absorption that prevent us from perceiving how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings,” including in the lives of other Christian communities...
Trump expected to order Syria ‘safe zones’ for refugees (Reuters) President Donald Trump is expected to order the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan in coming days for setting up “safe zones” for refugees in Syria and neighboring countries, according to a document seen by Reuters, a move that could risk escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war. The draft executive order awaiting Trump’s signature signaled the new administration was preparing a step that Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama long resisted, fearing the potential for being pulled deeper into the conflict and the threat of clashes between U.S. and Russian warplanes over Syria...
Iraqi children returning to school in Mosul (AsiaOne.com) They have been waiting for two and half years and the children of Iraq’s east Mosul are flocking to enrol in their reopened schools, eager not to waste another day. “It’s a great day, today we are giving our children their right to receive an education,” said Ghassan Ahmed, queueing with his seven-year-old in the yard of Farahedi primary school...
New report highlights plight of displaced Palestinians (Vatican Radio) A new report released this week says the forced internal displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is making them poorer and keeping them in misery and despair...
Debate on Christians in the Middle East (Fides) In an extensive interview recently published by the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour, former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron, an “independent” candidate in the next presidential election of France, rejected the argument that the permanence in power of Syrian President Bashar Assad would represent a “guarantee” for the survival of Christian communities in Syria...
Pope blesses sculpture dedicated to migrants (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has again expressed his closeness and concern for migrants and refugees by blessing a sculpture to be placed in the port of the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa, the gateway to Europe for hundreds of thousands fleeing poverty and violence...
25 January 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Palestine Ecumenism
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, left, greets children at a school run by the Sisters of Destitute in the Ghaziabad Slums project at Deendayalpuri. (photo: CNEWA)
The current edition of ONE features some beautiful photographs of India, and this reflection by CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar:
Despite horrible conditions of poverty, neglect and abuse, the children there manage to smile. When I try to bring smiles on their faces, I am rewarded with the gentle and reassuring messages that they reflect back to me: Life is very difficult, but there is always reason to be joyful. That joy and those beaming faces seem to radiate in the programs that CNEWA is so privileged to support.
Being a priest who loves to engage — some would say “entertain” — the children, I find myself always more the beneficiary of loving joy, rather than the benefactor of good will. And the joy of these beautiful children is infectious, especially for their priests, sisters and other caregivers. Even the sisters who insist on discipline and good order cannot resist the power of those grinning little ones. And that only brings out the best in me — as I, too, am captivated by their joy-filled smiles and laughter.
Below, you can see more images from a recent trip to India, narrated by Msgr. Kozar.
25 January 2017
In the video above, a Lebanese Christian now studying in Rome describes the significance of Lebanon as a place of refuge for so many. Many Syrian refugees now in Lebanon are struggling simply to survive. (video: Rome Reports)
At Mosul’s front lines, perils abound (The New York Times) After three months of fighting, the battle to retake Mosul has entered a new chapter, but the Islamic State’s vast arsenal of car bombs and suicide vests is far from spent and most of the civilian population is still trapped...
Syrian refugee children reduced to selling on Beirut’s streets (The Guardian) As the crisis in Syria approaches its sixth anniversary, the UN says 93 percent of refugee households in Lebanon don’t have enough food. When families can’t afford the basics, sending children out to work is one potentially dangerous way they try to cope. They also exhaust savings, sell any land or property they might own in Syria, and fall into debt...
Dispute over St. Petersburg cathedral sparks charges of anti-Semitism (The Washington Post) Recently announced plans to transfer the ownership of St. Isaac’s Cathedral from the state to the Russian Orthodox Church have sparked protests in the city, and on Tuesday that dispute turned uglier, with comments from a prominent politician leading to allegations of anti-Semitism in Orthodox-majority Russia. Those comments were made by Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy chairman of Russia’s State Duma, during a news conference on Monday...
U.N.: New drought puts recovery of Ethiopia at risk (AfricaNews.com) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that new drought across parts of southern Ethiopia may put recovery efforts at risk, unless urgent efforts are made to shore up vulnerable households in rural areas. In a statement released on Tuesday, the U.N. Said pastoral communities in these regions could suffer consequences of last year’s El Niño climate phenomenon, already witnessing forage shortfalls and water scarcity...
Coptic bishop makes donation for restoration of mosque (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Bishop Takla, at the head of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Dishna, in the governorate of Qena, has offered a donation to finance the restoration of the historic mosque dedicated to Abd al-Rahīm al-Qenāwī. The symbolic gesture of the donation took place recently during a public meeting in the presence of some local sheikhs, some Coptic priests and many residents of the area surrounding the mosque, in a festive atmosphere and marked by the desire to show the harmony between the Muslim and the Christian component of the Egyptian people...
24 January 2017
Born without arms, Jilumol Thomas grew up cared for by the Sisters of the Destitute in a home supported by CNEWA. She now works as a graphic designer. (photo: CNEWA)
Jilumol Thomas has done more — and with far less — than most of us can imagine. This 23-year-old young woman has defied the odds again and again, and is continuing to show others a quiet heroism that comes from trust in God.
CNEWA’s regional director for India, M.L. Thomas, wrote to tell us about her recently:
Jilumol Mariott Thomas — “Jilu” to her friends — was born the second of three children of Thomas Nellanikkattu and Annakkutty of Karimannoor near Thodupuzha in Kerala, the southern state of India. Tragically, she was born without arms. When Jilu was just four years-old, her mother died. Jilu was taken to the Mercy Home run by Sisters of the Destitute at Changanassery, a small town in Kerala, India supported by CNEWA in its childcare program.
At the Mercy Home, Jilu got support in abundance from the sisters. They set up a canvas for Jilu and gave her color pencils. In time, she learned how to battle her physical shortcomings. She started practicing graphics on a computer. Earning high marks in school, she eventually graduated and secured a degree in Animation and Graphic Design from Media Village in Changanassery.
After earning her degree, she started working on some computer-related jobs for private organizations. She later served as an office assistant at a church-run hospital at Paimkulam.
But her dream was to make a career in graphic design. Bishop Mar Sebastian Adayanthrath, Bishop Auxiliary of the Syro Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamali, invited Jilu to join Viani Printing Press, run by the Archdiocese in Kochi city. A work space was specially created for Jilu at Viani by rearranging the computer table, mouse and keyboard; it was set up in such a way that she could work with her feet.
The little girl born without arms or hands is now reaching and touching many with her talent — and her spirit.
Someone once asked her, “When you cry, how do you wipe your tears?,” and she replied: “I have no hands to erase my tears. Let me meet everyone with laughter and a smile so that I never need to cry.”
Jilu credits her faith, her family, and the sisters who raised her for teaching her what is possible.
“There are people who discourage me,” she says, “but I learned many lessons from them regarding life. A bird sits on the branch of a tree with a firm belief that the branch will not break away from the stem. Similarly, the journey of my life is with full trust in my merciful God.”
24 January 2017
Boys carry sandwiches on 20 January in Aleppo, Syria. Conveying Pope Francis’ closeness to the Syrian people, a Vatican delegation visited Aleppo 18-23 January, following the end of the hostilities that left thousands dead and the city in ruins. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Conveying Pope Francis’ closeness to the Syrian people, a Vatican delegation visited Aleppo following the end of the hostilities that left thousands dead and the city in ruins.
Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary-delegate of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, visited the city 18-23 January, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, and Msgr. Thomas Habib, an official at the nunciature, the Vatican said 24 January.
The delegation met with “Christian communities and their pastors, who expressed gratitude to the pope for his constant concern for beloved Syria,” the statement said.
They also visited several refugee camps and Catholic institutions assisting in relief efforts, including a humanitarian assistance center run by Caritas Aleppo.
According to the Vatican, during a meeting with the church’s charitable institutions, Msgr. Dal Toso and the delegation emphasized the importance of providing relief assistance to the Syrian people.
“With the support of the universal church and thanks to the generous contribution of the international community, such help may be intensified in the future to meet the growing needs of the people,” the Vatican said.
Members of the delegation also took part in an ecumenical prayer service that coincided with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, as well as several meetings with Islamic representatives.
The “responsibilities of religions in educating for peace and reconciliation” was among the issues discussed during the meetings, the Vatican noted.
24 January 2017
Iraqi soldiers inspect the debris on 22 January at St. George’s Monastery (Mar Gurguis), an historic Chaldean Catholic church on the northern outskirts of Mosul, which was destroyed by ISIS in 2015. The U.N. is racing to prepare emergency aid ahead of the battle for western Mosul.
(photo: AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images)
At Syria talks, a pledge to safeguard truce (AP) Syria talks in Kazakhstan between the Damascus government and rebel factions have concluded with Russia, Turkey and Iran striking a deal on a three-way mechanism to consolidate the country’s nearly month-old cease-fire...
U.N. ‘racing’ to prepare emergency aid ahead of battle for western Mosul (Reuters) The United Nations said on Tuesday it is “racing against the clock” to prepare emergency aid for hundreds of thousands of endangered civilians in Mosul with an Iraqi army offensive looming to oust Islamic State from the western half of the city. Iraqi officials said on Monday government forces had taken complete control of eastern Mosul, 100 days after the start of their U.S.-backed campaign to retake Iraq’s second largest city from IS insurgents who seized it in 2014...
‘Gaza infrastructure nearing collapse’ (The Jerusalem Post) Gaza’s infrastructure is on the verge of collapse, the Israeli NGO Gisha said in a detailed report it issued on Tuesday, which painted a bleak picture of the lack of basic utilities in the Hamas-controlled Strip. It described how Gaza’s 1.8 million residents lack regular supplies of electricity, drinking water and adequate telecommunication services...
Turkey’s beleaguered Christians aim to stay resilient (National Catholic Reporter) “People are naturally afraid, so many are staying away from the churches,” Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, apostolic vicar of Istanbul, told NCR. “But Christians and Muslims are united against this violence, and the police who’ve been guarding our churches are kind and considerate. Though no one knows what will happen, we’re talking together and sharing our concerns...”
Communist Kerala leader warns church on commercialization of schools (UCANews) The southern Indian Kerala state chief minister and communist leader has lambasted some private schools for corrupt practices and warned that the church, which has worked extensively in education, not to fall prey to the commercial education lobby. Pinarayi Vijayan spoke at the diamond jubilee of church-run Devagiri St. Joseph’s College in Kozhikode district on 17 January. He lauded the Christian service in education but warned that it is fast becoming a for-profit enterprise...
Pope tells media to reject prejudice, leave space for hope (CNS) At a time when the media seem to feed a “vicious cycle of anxiety” and a “spiral of fear,” Christians should respond with honest stories that identify problems and evil, but also inspire real solutions, Pope Francis said...
23 January 2017
Students studying to become catechists offering a blessing to their instructors at the end of the course. (photo: James Jeffrey)
Journalist James Jeffrey reports on efforts to grow the faith in Ethiopia for the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. Here, he shares some meals with catechists —and shares some further thoughts with us.
At the end of a day full of evangelical fervor, I found myself reflecting on how a simple dinner, that act of breaking bread with others, could be nourishing physically but also mentally and spiritually — plus particularly useful for a journalist with his notebook at hand.
My first night in the balmy lakeside town of Bahir Dar, just before the start of the weekend university chaplaincy program on the role of evangelicalism in modern Catholicism, coincided with the conclusion of a preceding course, similarly instructing missionaries, religious sisters and laypersons.
Joining them for dinner, as I sat eating from my plate of injera — Ethiopia’s indigenous spongy pancake-shaped grey bread — topped with rice, beetroot, potato and other fresh vegetables, it was hard to imagine the somewhat diminutive-looking religious sisters who sat around me were, in fact, evangelizers.
But I was soon reminded of what inner strength can lie beneath the surface.
“It took me about two years to learn Amharic,” said Sister Veronica, a soft-spoken Kenyan missionary sister with a ready smile, working in the Benishangul-Gunzu region near the Sudanese border, a remote and hard to reach place all but invisible from contemporary Ethiopia.
“We get to go home once every three years.”
“More important than what I miss is what I find,” said the Rev. Goaquim Silva, a Portuguese missionary priest based in Ethiopia for six years.
I began to understand why many people find missionaries unsettling figures — they have a disconcertingly humbling effect on oneself.
Dinner for each of the following two nights occurred at the table of Abune Lesanu-Christos Matheos, Bishop of the Bahir Dar-Dessie eparchy, along with those running the university chaplaincy program, and other various guests invited by the bishop.
Conversation flowed, covering topics from the dilemmas of evangelical worship to the remarkable history of Christianity in Ethiopia to global collisions between the major faiths of the modern world.
My main problem during all this was trying to eat my delicious meal of injera — eaten with one’s hand — and scribble in my notebook while following the thought-provoking conversation.
“People often just want to sing, there’s no reflection or critical thinking,” said Nancy Greenhaw, an American Catholic instructing on the program.
There was a chorus of agreements and nods from around the table.
“Easy, fast, immediate — that’s what they want,” said Serah Alumansi, a Kenyan Catholic also helping on the program. “They don’t want to be challenged.”
The bishop paused in lifting his injera clasped between fingers to his mouth.
“The negative side of the evangelical movement is that it can become a ghetto and closed in,” he said. “But you can’t do that with the Holy Spirit, it moves how it wants.”
During one meal, sitting on my right was Magdela Wolnik, a Polish journalist producing a documentary about Ethiopia for the international organization Aid to the Church in Need. Like me, she barely said a word, content to listen to the words of those who know more, and benefit from them.
Those around me had recourse to speak of another — who, in all likelihood, knows more than they do.
“Pope Francis has said that it’s a sick church that does not evangelize, it sickens from the stale air,” someone noted. “Following such a new course, it may run into accidents — but he’d prefer a church of accidents than a sick church.”
I’m not sure who said that; by this stage I was really struggling with my injera, pencil and notepad. But the point hit home.
Read more in Ethiopia’s Sleeping Giant in the Winter edition of ONE.
23 January 2017
Villagers in Izbet Chokor, Egypt, greet one another along the road that runs through the hamlet, which both Christians and Muslims have made their home. Learn how they are Finding Common Ground in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
23 January 2017
Government officials take part in the first session of Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on 23 January 2017. (photo: Aliia Raimbekova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syria’s warring sides kick off talks in Astana (Al Jazeera) A delegation of Syrian rebels attending a new round of talks in Kazakhstan’s capital will not hold direct talks with representatives of the government, according to opposition sources. The meetings in Astana, organised by Russia and Turkey, are aimed at strengthening a shaky ceasefire that has largely held despite incidents of violence across Syria...
U.S.-backed forces brace for ISIS’ last stand in Iraq (CBS News) CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that in some neighborhoods of eastern Mosul, there is a sense that things are returning to normal. Iraqi forces have managed to liberate the eastern half of the city right up to the Tigris River, which divides it roughly in half...
U.N.: Syrian child refugees struggle to get an education (Reuters) Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are struggling to get an education and many are being pushed into work or early marriage instead, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Monday. Around 187,000 youngsters — roughly half the school-age Syrian children in the country — are not going to classes, the agency said, as it launched a documentary on their situation...
Pope Francis calls for continued prayer for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Following the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis noted that we are currently in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which has for its theme this year “Reconciliation — The Love of Christ Compels Us...”
Russian Orthodox phone goes on sale for $25,000 (RT) Why would you pay $25k for a phone that isn’t even a smartphone? Well, why wouldn’t you, if it was covered in gold leaf, had 18-carat gold buttons, and most importantly, had an Orthodox cross engraved on it? Moscow-based mobile phone company Gresso created 988 (the year Christianity was adopted in Russia) of the phones, ranging from $6,300 to $25,000, depending on how blinged-out the model is. There is a version with diamond encrusted buttons, for example...
20 January 2017
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Russian Orthodox ISIS
Members of the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy attend the liturgy at Fasilides Bath during the annual Timkat Epiphany celebration on 19 January 2017 in Gondar, Ethiopia. Timkat is the Ethiopian Orthodox festival which celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. During the festival, Tabots — or models of the Ark of the Covenant — are taken from churches around Gondar and paraded through the streets to Fasilides Bath. (photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)