28 April 2016
Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios oversaw a period of explosive growth in the Syro-Malankara church in India — and was dubbed “India’s Renaissance Man” for his wide-ranging interests
and tastes. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
A figure who had a profound effect on the people of India was Benedict Mar Gregorios, the Syro-Malankara Archbishop of Trivandrum. Profiling him in 1992, Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M. wrote of India’s “Renaissance man”:
Mar Gregorios is the major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, a community that achieved full communion with the Church of Rome in 1930. Ordained a bishop in 1955, his efforts to renew the Syriac liturgy within a truly Indian context has led to the Church’s tremendous growth. Today more than 300,000 people are baptized members. When the archbishop was ordained in 1955, the Syro-Malankara Church numbered just over 70,000 members.
Mar Gregorios has initiated programs with the Tamils in the south, and with the dispossessed — the so-called “untouchables” — in his own state of Kerala.
We met the archbishop on several of his visits to New York and were certainly familiar with his projects funded by the benefactors of Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Now we were seeing him for the first time on his own turf.
We came to see what we might do. We left feeling he had done much for us.
This simple priest/erudite scholar insists, “Our Lord didn’t come to save souls alone, but to save people! We must realize that the God who gave us a body and who himself assumed a body, cannot be thought of as indifferent to our material needs, for he made us to live in human dignity — dignity that presupposes a certain material well-being.”
After his death in 1994, our magazine noted:
An agricultural expert, the Archbishop started model farms and experimented with various plant forms to bolster the lives of his people, most of whom live on farms. Many of these small plots are supported by our Association.
As Archbishop, Mar Gregorios encouraged the renewal of the Syriac liturgy within a truly Indian context, enabling this small community, which numbered just 70,000 members in the 50s, to grow at a tremendous rate. Today the Syro-Malankara Catholic community numbers more than 300,000 people.
We mourn “the loss of this great and good man of God,” wrote Msgr. Robert L. Stern in a letter of condolence, “...the boldness of his vision and the strength of his trust in Almighty God will ever be an inspiration and a consolation to me.”
His extraordinary vision and outreach to the dispossessed helped transform India and spread the faith — and his legacy lives on to this day in schools and institutions. This is heroism in action. As Sister Christian wrote all those years ago:
It is this reservoir of respect and good will that enables Mar Gregorios, religious men and women, and the laity, to demonstrate their love and concern for the people — the power of Christian charity in action, not just words.
28 April 2016
Young students from the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays, New York raised money to help displaced children in the Middle East, and last weekend they presented a generous check to CNEWA’s Christopher Kennedy. (photo: Carol Carey/Church of St. Rosalie)
A major part of my role at CNEWA is saying “Thank you” to all who make our work possible. While our donors come from all walks of life, it’s rare that I get a chance to thank people who are much younger than me — those whom Pope Francis has called “the strength that moves us forward.” This past Sunday, I had the chance to do just that, visiting the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays, New York.
Greeted by delightful spring weather — and a vibrant parish to match — I was there on behalf of CNEWA to accept a donation from the parish’s faith formation students. For the second year in a row, they had collected change in mite boxes for our work in the Middle East with displaced Christian children and others in need. Their small sacrifices had added up to a generous donation of $1,000 to CNEWA, in addition to gifts for their community food pantry.
I was welcomed by the church’s dynamic pastor, the Rev. Edward Sheridan, along with Marion Boden of the parish’s Committee of the Common Good, who arranged the mite box project with religion formation coordinator Eileen McPhelin. In his homily, directed to the young Sunday school students who sat on mats in front of the pews, Father Ed preached about the day’s Gospel, from John. He explained that, through simple means like donating our change, we are indeed loving one another as Jesus has loved us.
In my brief remarks after Communion, I shared the story of a young girl Msgr. Kozar had met on one of his visits to Iraq, who told him, “They have taken our homes, but they will never take our faith.” Through our faith, and love for each other, we are able to give that most precious gift of hope to those who need it most.
As always, if you’re interested in having CNEWA visit your parish and spread our mission of hope, please do not hesitate to contact Norma Intriago, Director of Development, at email@example.com.
28 April 2016
In this image from 2010, a dance group performs at the annual Greek Festival in Salt Lake City. To learn more about a thriving community of Greek Americans preserving their culture in Mormon country, read Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion in the July 2010 edition of ONE.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
28 April 2016
In the video interview above, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio accuses Europe of behaving “like Pontius Pilate” when it comes to refugees from the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)
Airstrikes hit Aleppo hospital (The New York Times) On Thursday, with civilian casualties rapidly mounting on both sides, government airstrikes destroyed a hospital affiliated with Doctors Without Borders, killing 27 people. The location of the destroyed hospital in rebel territory was well known, Doctors Without Borders said in a statement in which it called for an end to the targeting of health facilities. Among the dead were three children and six staff members, health workers and witnesses said, including one of the area’s last remaining pediatricians. The death toll was expected to rise...
Lebanon’s army kills ISIS leader near Syrian border (Reuters) Security officials in Lebanon say Lebanese military forces have killed a leader of Islamic State (ISIS) militants during an army operation in the country’s mountainous border region with Syria. The ISIS leader in the border region was named by security officials and Lebanon’s National News Agency as Nayif al-Shaalaan...
Regional war between Armenia and Azerbaijan? (The Hill) his is not only a battle over territory. Rather, it is simultaneously a struggle over culture, diversity, inclusiveness and, most importantly, independence and diverging vision for the future of the South Caucasus...
Coptic priests on mission to proclaim Easter (Fides) In Egypt, Coptic churches — who follow the Julian calendar — are celebrating Holy Week. In view of Easter, greetings and good wishes are expressed to the Copts by representatives of institutions. Even Ahmed al Tayyeb, great Imam of Al Azhar, went to the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo to personally express his Easter greetings to Orthodox Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II. And in the imminence of the Christian solemnity, also pastoral initiatives flourish in the large North African country: in recent days, some Coptic Orthodox priests of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Minya, Upper Egypt, decided to leave their parishes to go to celebrate moments of prayer in the streets, in cafes and in public places, in order to announce the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ to the many baptized who do not attend churches and sanctuaries even on the occasion of the liturgical solemnities...
Report: Indian officials halt Christian church wedding over claims bride was forced to convert (AFP) A group of hardline Hindu activists and police stormed a church in central India and stopped a wedding midway after accusing the pastor of forcefully converting the bride to Christianity, an official said on Thursday (28 April). As the wedding got underway at the Church of God in India in Madhya Pradesh state, men belonging to the fringe Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal barged in accompanied by the police, who arrested ten people, a church spokesman said...
27 April 2016
CNEWA’s Director of Development Norma Intriago speaks to the Rosary Altar Society at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
The closer you get to the Jersey Shore, the more idyllic everything seems. If it’s not the cedar shake siding on the quaint homes, it’s the little ice cream shops or perhaps even the way the pine trees could almost masquerade as palm trees as they sway with the wind.
A recent visit to Point Pleasant Beach, in fact, sent us from New York down the parkway and into the heart of this idyllic community. Norma Intriago, CNEWA’s Director of Development, and I were privileged to offer a presentation to the Rosary Altar Society at St. Peter’s Catholic Church — a bedrock of the Point Pleasant community and a beautiful church and school at that.
Our presentation highlighted the suffering and the hope of the people of Iraq who have fled ISIS — often not just once, but two or three times as the terrorist group gained territory, forcing migration farther east across the Nineveh Plain. Not all who have fled to places like Erbil made it there safely, such as the Yazidi father and son who are now without mother and wife, daughter and sister. Their stories have become important, but difficult for us to hear and share.
That said, while much can and should be told of the tragedy these Iraqis are facing, our work there for, with, and through people such as the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena means that we can focus on sharing stories of faith and hope. They are stories about the start of a makeshift school that sees 500 eager students daily. They are stories of clinics and pharmacies offering much-needed healthcare. They are stories that would never have been told had the people here not been connected with the people there.
Bringing our program to the parish level is, for me, all about supporting those connections and saying, “This is what’s happening; these are the brothers and sisters it’s happening to, and here’s the hope you’re bringing them.” The people of the Point Pleasant community so understood and appreciated that message and they were eager to be even more connected.
Indeed, at the end of our presentation, a kind gentleman in the audience shared that his young daughter had brought home a flier about our event. He knew he had to come, he said. After all, he’s a Christian from Baghdad who knew well the plight his people are facing. And this work is so very important to him. Norma and I couldn't have been more thankful for our time there and for the people we met.
If you’re interested in having CNEWA visit your parish and spread our mission of hope, please do not hesitate to contact Norma Intriago, Director of Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philip W. Eubanks is a Development Associate for CNEWA in New York City.
27 April 2016
The Rev. Oleg Kindiy, who teaches philosophy and theology at Ukrainian Catholic University, gives a tour of the chapel at the school in Lviv, Ukraine. To learn more about this remarkable school and the impact it is having, read Where Change Is on the Curriculum in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Petro Zadorozhnyy)
27 April 2016
Syrians help a wounded youth following an air strike on the Fardous rebel-held neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 26 April 2016. (photo: Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images)
ISIS making advances against rebels in Syria (AP) Militants from the Islamic State group seized five villages from Syrian rebels close to the Turkish border Wednesday, further weakening the rebels’ foothold in the Aleppo area. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a network of activists monitoring the Syria conflict, said the extremist group took five villages in Azaz district, north of Aleppo, where rebels hold an enclave host to tens of thousands of internally displaced civilians...
Christians in Baghdad on pilgrimage to Ur (Fides) It was the biggest pilgrimage made by Iraqi Christians in recent years: about 200 Chaldeans from Baghdad went to Ur, the historical site of lower Mesopotamia, now in the Iraqi governorate in Dhi Quar, which is usually identified with the birthplace of patriarch Abraham, father of all believers...
Sharp increase in marriages in Gaza (Gulf News) Despite the sharp deterioration in economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, the number of marriages there increased in 2015 by 4,650 (28.8 per cent) making the largest annual increase since the Sharia courts were set up in the coastal enclave, said a senior Gaza official...
Army rescues children kidnapped in Ethiopia (Fides) Ethiopia’s military entered the territory of South Sudan to try to save hundreds of children abducted from Ethiopia by a group of south sudanese armed men. According to Ethiopian radio station Fana, children were taken when suspected ethnic Murle fighters attacked villages in Ethiopia’s southwestern Gambella region. More than 200 people were killed in those attacks. The Army surrounded the place where the children were kept prisoners and intervened to release them. According to the Ethiopian government, in the raid which took place on 15 April near the town of Gambella, western Ethiopia...
New Yorkers venerate relics of Lebanese saint (The Tablet) Fresh flowers, fragrant incense and hymns welcomed the first-class relics of Lebanese St. Sharbel Makhlouf as they entered the Holy Doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral, Brooklyn Heights. The relics are on their first U.S. tour to mark the 50th anniversary of the saint’s beatification. At the Brooklyn Heights’ cathedral, the 9-10 April visit was a major highlight of the Year of Mercy and observed with two days of devotions, including several Masses, a healing service, nocturnal adoration and opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation in Arabic and English...
26 April 2016
Anna Hafeli, 97, has been supporting CNEWA for decades through a variety of programs.
Every now and then, we have the good fortune to meet some of the generous donors who have supported CNEWA faithfully for many years — sometimes, for decades. They remind us of the spirit that has uplifted and guided CNEWA for 90 years. One of those people is Anna Hafeli, who is just seven years older than CNEWA. We met earlier this year on a visit to California:
Anna is a marvel: a 97-years-young powerhouse who exudes such joy, you can’t help but be uplifted in her presence. She has been contributing to CNEWA for decades — supporting our seminarian programs and work in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. She also has four annuities through CNEWA.
Touched that we took the time to drop by, she shared with us stories of her journey from her youth in Switzerland, to Canada, and then finally to California, where she worked a variety of odd jobs — mostly as a waitress — to make ends meet.
...To me, Anna represents the heart and soul of what CNEWA is about: faithful, committed people who quietly and selflessly give whatever they can to help those in need. Their generous spirit so often goes unnoticed. But today, I’d like you to notice Anna Hafeli. Thank you, Anna, for all you’ve done to make a difference in the lives of so many.
Want to join Anna and others like her in our mission? Visit this link.
26 April 2016
An icon hangs among the ruins of one of the few remaining structures at the site of the raized village of Navilovka near Chachersk, Belarus. Navilovka was among hundreds of villages in Belarus demolished by authorities and the residents evacuated following radiation contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. (photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine:
The meltdown at the Soviet plant was the worst nuclear disaster in history.
An uncontrolled reaction blew the roof off, spewing out a cloud of radioactive material which drifted into other parts of the USSR, including Russia and Belarus, and northern Europe.
Relatives of those who died attended candle-lit vigils at several churches, including at Slavutych, a town built to re-house workers who lived near the nuclear plant. A series of events are being held throughout the day.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko laid a wreath and observed a minute’s silence in the Ukrainian capital Kiev before heading north for a ceremony at the plant itself, not far from the Belarussian border.
Speaking in Chernobyl, he said the nuclear disaster had been Ukraine’s biggest challenge between the Nazi occupation in World War Two and the recent conflict in eastern Ukraine, which he described as “Russian aggression”.
Vasyl Markin, who had been working in Chernobyl at the time of the disaster, attended the midnight vigil in Slavutych.
“This tragedy will stay with us till the end of our lives,” he said. “I won’t be able to forget it anyway.”
The disaster forced over 250,000 to be relocated and resulted in the deaths of thousands from radiation poisoning, including 31 clean up workers.
Last week, Pope Francis remembered the victims:
Pope Francis on Wednesday prayed for the victims of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster 30 years from the tragedy.
Addressing the various groups of pilgrims of different nationalities present in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope had special greetings for those from Ukraine and Belarus.
Mentioning the International Conference that has been organized to mark the anniversary, Pope Francis said he is “praying for the victims of that disaster while expressing appreciation and gratitude to those who have assisted them and for the initiatives aimed at alleviating their suffering and the damage.”
26 April 2016
Christian church leaders gathered for a summit at the Carter Center in Atlanta last week vowed to work for peace in the region. Pictured above (l-r), Archbishop Suhail Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem; Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem; Rev. Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches;
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. (photo: courtesy, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb)
ISIS destroys “Clock Church” of Mosul (The Telegraph) Islamic State jihadists have blown up one of Mosul’s best known remaining churches, known as the Clock Church after its tower, according to Iraqi news reports. The clock tower was paid for by Empress Eugenie of France, wife of the last Emperor Napoleon III, as a gift to the Dominican Fathers who were building the church in the 1870s...
U.S., Mideast Christian leaders vow to work for peace, increase advocacy (CNS) Christian churches have a responsibility to work to bring the chronic conflict in the Middle East to a just peace, and more effective advocacy is needed in the United States, said church leaders meeting in Atlanta. Nearly 40 heads of Christian churches and church-related organizations in the U.S. and the Holy Land adopted a four-page document, “Pursuing Peace and Strengthening Presence: The Atlanta Summit of Churches in the USA and the Holy Land,” after meeting at the Carter Center in Atlanta on 19-20 April. “We believe that working toward a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would ... also promote peace in the Middle East region in general,” the document said...
Remembering Chernobyl 30 Years Later (NBC News) The forests and fields near the abandoned site of the world’s worst nuclear power plant disaster teem with animal life, proving that in some cases humans pose a bigger threat to animals than radiation. The Chernobyl nuclear reactor blew up 30 years ago on Tuesday, sending a radioactive cloud over much of Europe and prompting the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people from the area around the plant...
Copts return to Jerusalem for Palm Sunday (Fides) Palm Sunday, celebrated the day before yesterday by the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, saw an exponential increase of Egyptian Coptic pilgrims who have come to celebrate the rites of Holy Week in Jerusalem. According to the Egyptian media, in the current year already at least 5,700 Coptic Orthodox Christians have reached the Holy City, an increase of more than a thousand units compared to the Coptic pilgrims who had carried out a pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Jerusalem in 2015...
Russia signs agreements to help rebuild Syria (RT) Damascus and Moscow have signed nearly a billion dollars worth of agreements to rebuild war-torn Syria, according to the Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi. The two countries intend to develop energy, trade, finance and other sectors of the economy...
Indian bishops meet the Prime Minister (Fides) A delegation of Indian Bishops met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The group was led by the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, accompanied by the General Secretary, His Exc. Mgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, and Deputy Secretary General, Mgr. Joseph Chinnayyan. As reported in a statement sent to Fides, the delegation asked Prime Minister Modi to invite the Pope to visit India at a convenient date for both the Indian government and the Holy See...
A village left behind by Jews in Ethiopia is now a top tourist draw (The Times of Israel) he brightly painted Star of David comes as a surprise on the road from Gondar toward the Simien Mountains, just around a bend as you leave the city in northern Ethiopia. “Wolleka Falasha Jewish Village,” the hand-painted sign proclaims. Welcome to an abandoned Jewish village, one of Gondar’s top ten recommended tourist attractions...