21 May 2015
Syrians stand and look out on the street of the ancient city of Palmyra on 18 May, a day after ISIS took control of the city, which is home to a 2,000-year-old World Heritage Site.
(photo: AFP/Getty Images)
ISIS takes full control of Palmyra (Reuters) Islamic State fighters tightened their grip on the historic city of Palmyra in Syria, days after capturing a provincial capital in neighboring Iraq, suggesting the growing momentum of the group which a monitor says now holds half of Syrian territory. The twin successes pile pressure not just on Damascus and Baghdad, but also throw doubt on U.S. strategy to rely almost exclusively on air strikes to defeat Islamic State. Extending its reach in the region, fighters loyal to the Sunni Muslim group have also consolidated their grip on the Libyan city of Sirte, hometown of former leader Muammar Gaddafi...
Cardinal: Christians, Muslims ‘still don’t know each other enough’ (CNS) “Despite 50 years of ‘Nostra Aetate,’” the Second Vatican Council’s document on interreligious relations, “we still don’t know each other well enough,” said French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Speaking 19 May about Catholic-Muslim relations, Cardinal Tauran added, “Most of the problems we face are problems of ignorance...”
Ukraine tears up military cooperation agreement with Russia (AP) Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted to suspend military cooperation with Russia in a long-anticipated move signaling a further break in relations between the once-close partners. Kiev also produced what it claimed was fresh confirmation of involvement by Russian intelligence in sowing unrest in breakaway eastern regions, saying it is evidence of continued Russian plans to destabilize Ukraine...
Pope urges prayers for China, persecuted Christians over Pentecost (CNS) Pope Francis asked Catholics worldwide to show solidarity through their prayers for Catholics in China and for persecuted Christians over the Pentecost weekend. The World Day of Prayer for the Church in China is observed each year on the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, 24 May, which this year falls on Pentecost. The pope also underlined a prayer initiative of the Italian bishops’ conference inviting all Italian dioceses to pray for persecuted Christians on the vigil of Pentecost. The vigil is intended to “remember the many brothers and sisters exiled or killed for the sole reason that they are Christian,” said the pope. “They are martyrs...”
Pope: Christians are called to be one (Vatican Radio) His wounds are the “price” that Jesus paid for the Church to be united forever to Him and to God. Christians today are called to ask for the grace of unity and to fight against all “spirit of division, of war, of jealousy.” That was Pope Francis’s reflection during his Homily at Mass Thursday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta guesthouse. For Pope Francis, “the great prayer of Jesus” is that the Church is united — that Christians “be one" as Jesus is with his Father. Drawing his reflections from the day’s readings, Pope Francis immerses us in the atmosphere of the Last Supper — not long before Christ gives Himself over to the Passion. Recalling Christ’s weighty words entrusted to the Apostles, the Pope warns us against “the great temptation” and entreats us not to yield to the other “father:” the one of “lies” and “division...”
20 May 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Muslim
The sun sets on the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. The city contains architecture of one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. Saturday, ISIS militants seized part of Palmyra. Read more about efforts to save some of the city’s statues here.
(photo: Tibor Bognar/Getty Images)
20 May 2015
In the video above, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, papal envoy to Iraq, says words and good intentions are not enough to protect people in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope calls for an end to “unacceptable crime” of persecution (Vatican Radio) The many Christians who are being persecuted in our times “are martyrs” Pope Francis said on Wednesday, at the end of his General Audience. The Holy Father praised an initiative of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) to make a special remembrance, on the Vigil of Pentecost, of the many “brothers and sisters” who have been exiled or killed for no other reason than being Christian. He expressed his hope that the moment of prayer for the new Christian martyrs would increase the recognition that “religious liberty is an inalienable human right...”
ISIS reportedly seizes part of Palmyra in Syria (BBC) Islamic State fighters have seized the northern part of the ancient World Heritage-listed city of Palmyra in Syria, a monitoring group has said. Militants seized part of the town of Tadmur located on a strategic east-west route next to Palmyra on Saturday but had been pushed back from the ruins. Palmyra contains architecture of one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world, according to Unesco...
Iraq calls for volunteers to battle ISIS (BBC) Iraq’s government has called for volunteers to fight against Islamic State and help retake the city of Ramadi. A cabinet statement said a voluntary recruitment drive was necessary to fill shortages in squads in the west of Anbar province. Thousands have fled Ramadi since its capture by IS on Sunday. Meanwhile, the US National Security Council said it was considering “how best to support local ground forces”...
Report: Israel holding talks with Hamas about floating port for Gaza (Haaretz) Israel is conducting talks with Hamas about the possible construction of a floating port between Turkish Cyprus and the Gaza coast that would allow goods to be transferred the Palestinian coastal territory, the Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour reported Tuesday, quoting Western diplomatic sources. According to the report, the talks, described as direct, have been ongoing in various European capitals with guarantees provided by Turkey, which has also been trying to advance dialogue between the two sides...
Dozens of priests reported leaving Ukraine (Interfax) Dozens of priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) are leaving Ukraine in fear of persecutions, the head of the sector for interreligious liaisons at the Russian Orthodox Church’s Synodal Department for External Church Relations Priest Dimitry Safonov said on Monday. “There are dozens of priests who had to leave Ukraine. The exact statistic is currently impossible. They are pressured into leaving Ukraine. Their families are getting death threats, they themselves are facing the threat of physical violence,” he told an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on combating the intolerance and discrimination towards Christians...
Copts kidnapped on way to Marian shrine (Fides) Four young Coptic Christians in the province of Minya, Upper Egypt, were kidnapped along while walking along a country road to reach the ancient church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the village of Jabal al-Tair, in the city of Salamut. This was reported by Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides...
19 May 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East
Sister Rosily Karuthedath, Superior of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, serves at Grace Home
in Kerala. (photo: CNEWA)
Name: Sister Rosily Karuthedath
Order: Nirmala Dasi Sisters
Facility: Grace Home
Location: Peringadoor village, Kerala, India
In sprawling cities and tiny villages across India, millions of people endure lives of struggle and abuse. For the poorest of the poor who also live with HIV and AIDS, that struggle can be totally overwhelming.
Sister Rosily Karuthedath knows how much they suffer. In the village of Peringadoor, she and four other Nirmala Dasi Sisters have run an oasis of hope called Grace Home since 1999. On a slender budget bolstered with funds from Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the sisters provide shelter, food and medical support for sixty-five HIV infected patients, including thirty children.
Each resident’s life story is different, but all share a common thread. They’ve been rejected — often violently — by nearly everyone. They’ve been set adrift with nowhere else to turn. “A patient called Matthew came here with HIV,” Sister Rosily recalls. “He was in a state of depression and physically very weak.”
Although the sisters aren’t equipped to provide full medical services, they gently administered medication and IV fluids. In time, Matthew was strong enough to be taken to the regional Medical College for more intensive treatment. “Day by day, he became better,” the sister says. “Now he is able to help others.”
In a country where poverty and public ignorance about HIV run deep, Sister Rosily and the other sisters are painfully aware they can only do so much.
But for the poor and ill who arrive at Grace Home? The door is always open. And the caring sisters are always inside. “We believe in giving acceptance and dignity to the patients, even if they are socially isolated and discriminated against,” Sister Rosily says. “We attempt to fill the emptiness experienced by the patients with love, concern and care.”
As a CNEWA donor, you can help them continue their good work. As the sisters spend each day doing all they can, they can use a helping hand from you.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.
19 May 2015
Girls play in front of Holy Cross Church in Purakkad, India, built by the Portuguese in the 15th or 16th century. To learn more about this traditional fishing village, check out “Purakkad’s Natural Harmony” in the May 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
19 May 2015
In this image from last month, thousands of Iraqis fled the city of Ramadi as fighting intensified.
(photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISIS prepares to defend Ramadi, as humanitarian crisis looms (BBC) ISIS militants are preparing to defend the Iraqi city of Ramadi, witnesses say, as Iranian-backed militiamen gather east of the city. Residents said ISIS fighters had set up defensive positions and laid landmines after capturing the city on Sunday. Militants were also going door-to-door looking for government sympathisers and throwing bodies in the Euphrates river, residents were quoted as saying. Thousands have fled the city and the UN has warned of a humanitarian crisis. It says some 25,000 people have left the city, only 105km (65 miles) west of Baghdad, in recent days, adding to a flood of people already displaced from the area. Many were sleeping in the open...
Jordan denies Syria charge it is “training terrorists” (The Daily Star) Jordan Tuesday rejected Syrian accusations that “terrorists” were being given military training on its soil, insisting Amman favored a political solution to its neighbor’s conflict.
The Syrian foreign ministry, in a protest letter sent to the United Nations Monday, alleged Jordan “provides logistical support to armed terrorist groups, including [Al-Qaeda affiliate] Al-Nusra Front.” It accused Jordan of having “set up terrorist training camps on its soil as well as operation centers to help these groups and facilitate the infiltration of thousands of terrorists a day.” Jordan’s government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani, quoted by state news agency Petra, said the charges had “no basis in reality...”
Syrian refugees struggle to survive in neighboring countries (U.S. News & World Report) With the Syria conflict in its fifth year, the struggle for survival is getting tougher for many of the close to 4 million Syrians who fled to neighboring countries, particularly those in Jordan and Lebanon, where the highest number of refugees have settled. There appears to be no quick and practical way to halt the downward slide...
Thousands of patients from Gaza receive treatment in Israel (The Times of Israel) Along with Egypt, Israel has maintained a blockade over the seaside territory to prevent Hamas importing weapons — and has fought three wars with the Strip’s Islamist gunmen — since the terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007. At the same time, the Jewish state also allows thousands of Gazans to travel each year to hospitals in Israel. This awkward arrangement, which sometimes includes security interrogations, highlights how after years of hostility, the fates of Israel and Gaza are deeply intertwined...
18 May 2015
Many Lebanese, such as Joseph, struggle to make ends meet and find jobs in an economy that has become more strained because of the influx of Syrian refugees. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
Journalist Raed Rafei shares some impressions of Lebanon after covering a story about refugees there for the Spring 2015 edition of ONE magazine:
It has become a very familiar chorus of complaint in Lebanon. “There are no more jobs anymore. The Syrians took them all.” So before I started reporting on the story, I was aware of the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on the job market and people’s morale in Lebanon.
I knew that the poor classes in the country have been particularly suffering because of the crisis. But I did not know the extent of the problem until I spoke to families struggling on a daily basis to send their children to school and put food on their plates.
I heard many heart-breaking stories of families receiving warnings from schools because they were not paying tuition fees and subsequently had to keep their children at home for days until they could pay. There were also many stories of families who could not afford their rent anymore and who were scared of losing homes they lived in for decades, in some cases.
What touched me most was to see people keeping a very tidy and even elegant appearance knowing that in reality they were worried about sleeping hungry. These were people who were able to sustain themselves and even live rather comfortably few years ago but who are, today, increasingly uncertain of the future.
I was particularly moved by the sad look of Tony, an impoverished contractor, who is anxious about the possibility of having to move his daughter from a private school to a public one. Children’s education is still the single most highly valued thing for Lebanese parents. Public schools in the country can be notoriously bad. So most parents pay a large part of their income to ensure that their children receive the best education possible at private institutions.
I was also unsettled by Marlene’s story. She is a struggling nurse who went into debt to ensure that her daughter gets a good college education. Marlene keeps an elegant wardrobe despite her meager income. She told me that she hasn’t bought any new clothing items for a very long time. She said that her sister gives her some of her clothes after wearing them for a little while.
I think the most challenging moment was asking people how they saw the future. Most of the time, they responded with blank looks as if they had been avoiding thinking about that. Most said they just lived one day at a time.
Despite this bleak picture, many of those I interviewed seemed resilient. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that several said that they did not wish to leave the country despite their hardships. They said the thought that Christian minorities were being driven out of Syria and Iraq made them even more determined to stay in the land of their ancestors.
To learn more, read “Lebanon on the Brink” in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE.
18 May 2015
Traditional honey cakes, as well as souvenirs, are sold at an annual fair in Máriapócs, a little Greek Catholic village that is Hungary’s most beloved pilgrimage site, with a special devotion to Mary. To learn more, read “Hungarians Gather to Honor Mary” in the May 2005 edition of ONE.
(photo: Jacqueline Ruyak)
18 May 2015
François Moniz and Carl Hétu took part in a pro-Iraqi Christian rally in September 2014 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (photo: CNEWA)
With sadness, I want to inform you of the passing of François Moniz, my colleague and dear friend, who died on 10 May at the age of 56 after a courageous battle with cancer. François was a founding staff member of CNEWA Canada, and acted as Office Manager. He was instrumental in the creation of our office in Ottawa, and truly helped to make a difference in the world.
François showed unconditional support for the mission of CNEWA. We will remember him for his kindness, generosity and friendly smile.
We give thanks to God for the blessing that François was in our lives. He will be truly missed by our staff in the Ottawa office, by his friends and most especially by his family — his wife Edith and two children.
I invite you to pray for the repose of the soul and for his family. May François rest in peace.
18 May 2015
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of the canonization Mass for four new saints in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 17 May. Also pictured is Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household. The pope canonized four 19th-century nuns. The new saints are: Marie-Alphonsine and Mary of Jesus Crucified, both from historic Palestine; Jeanne Emilie De Villeneuve from France; and Maria Cristina Brando from Italy.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope canonizes nuns, including two from Palestine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis canonized four women religious on Sunday, all 19th century nuns who worked in education. St, Marie-Alphonsine and St. Mary of Jesus Crucified were from the territory that made up historical Palestine; St. Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve was a French nun and foundress; and St. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception came from Italy. “To abide in God and in His love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all — this is what the four women Saints canonized today did,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians”...
Pope, Palestinian President express hopes for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meeting in the Vatican Saturday, expressed their hopes for a resumption of peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel and for “courageous decisions” for peace, with international support. A Vatican statement described the talks as “cordial,” and said the two sides “expressed great satisfaction with the agreement reached on the text of a comprehensive agreement between the Parties concerning essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine, which will be signed in the near future...”
Shia militias plan counter-offensive after Iraqi city of Ramadi falls (BBC) Shia militias are assembling east of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to prepare for a counter-attack against Islamic State militants who captured it on Sunday. Iraqi state TV described tanks and other military vehicles entering al-Habbaniyah military camp. IS fighters are reportedly moving towards the base. The Iraqi government called for help from the Iran-backed militias after the military was routed and fled. About 500 people died in the city — only 70 miles (112km) west of Baghdad...
U.S. captures “treasure trove” in Syrian raid (The Wall Street Journal) The U.S. special-operations force that carried out a first-of-its-kind mission in Syria to capture the Islamic State finance chief and his wife over the weekend came away with a treasure trove of materials that could help in the attempt to pressure the extremist group...
Egyptian court sentences Mohammed Morsi to death (Vatican Radio) An Egyptian court sentenced ex-President Mohammed Morsi to death on Saturday for his part in a mass prison break that took place during the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign. More than 100 others also received the death penalty in connection with the uprising...
Pax Christi leaders see inequities in West Bank water distribution (CNS) It took only a slight turn of an eye to see the glaring difference in levels of water availability and consumption between the Israeli agricultural settlement of Petza’el and the three neighboring dusty Palestinian villages just outside Jericho. Up on the hill next to the settlement stood a gleaming white water tower for the use of the Israeli settlement, while in the village cluster, an old well built by Jordan prior to the 1967 war sat, neglected and locked, and an old agricultural aqueduct was dry. Some participants in Pax Christi International’s “Pilgrims on the Path to Peace” 70th anniversary conference, taking place in Bethlehem, gathered in the village on 13 May on one of the conference’s six simultaneous pilgrimages to see different realities of Palestinian life. Some 150 delegates from 30 countries participated in the five-day conference...
Ethiopia detains 200 suspected human smugglers (AP) Two hundred suspected human smugglers have been detained as part of the Ethiopian government’s efforts to stem the number of citizens trying to illegally migrate to Europe, a senior official said. The government is looking for 80 other alleged smugglers who are conducting overseas operations, Ethiopian Federal Affairs Minister Shiferaw Teklemariam told the Ethiopian News Agency late Sunday...