14 February 2014
Pope Francis holds a rose and chocolates thrown by a person in the crowd as he arrives for an audience for engaged couples in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis offered some words of advice to engaged couples today to mark Valentine’s Day:
Greeting thousands of engaged couples on the feast of St. Valentine, Pope Francis told them not to be afraid of building a permanent and loving relationship in a culture where everything is disposable and fleeting.
The secrets to a loving and lasting union, he said, include treating each other with respect, kindness and gratitude, and never letting daily struggles and squabbles sabotage making peace and saying, “I’m sorry.”
“The perfect family doesn’t exist, nor is there a perfect husband or a perfect wife, and let’s not talk about the perfect mother-in-law!” he said to laughter and applause.
“It’s just us sinners,” he said. But “if we learn to say we’re sorry and ask forgiveness, the marriage will last.”
14 February 2014
Pope Francis greets Stanley Bergman, president of the American Jewish Committee, during a meeting at the Vatican on 13 February. The pope said the modern relationship between Jews and Catholics has a “theological foundation” and is “not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem.” (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Maronite patriarch: negotiations for release of nuns have “stumbled” (ByzCath.org) The patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church said that the release of a dozen kidnapped Syrian nuns appeared imminent until recently. In December, Syrian rebel forces abducted the nuns from the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Taqla in the historic Christian village of Ma’loula, whose residents still speak Aramaic...
UN urged to act on humanitarian aid to Syria (New York Times) The hard-won humanitarian cease-fire in the Syrian city of Homs — the sole success that occurred during the peace talks in Geneva — cannot be considered “progress,” the United Nations’ top official for emergency operations said Thursday evening as she urged the Security Council to ensure that aid reach those who need it and aid workers can do their work without getting shot...
Peace talks continue in Geneva over Syria (Reuters) Warning that “failure” was staring him in the face, the Syria peace talks mediator said on Thursday that the United States and Russia had promised renewed support to keep their rival Syrian allies talking. U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi met senior diplomats from Washington and Moscow in Geneva, hoping the co-sponsors of the three-week-old negotiating process could bury their own deep differences over Syria and prevail respectively on the opposition and government to move ahead and compromise...
Pope Francis meets with American Jewish leaders, asks for prayers ahead of trip to Holy Land (CNS) Pope Francis asked leaders of the American Jewish Committee to pray for his May trip to Jerusalem, “so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace.” The modern relationship between Jews and Catholics, he said on 13 February, has a “theological foundation” and is “not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem.” Pope Francis noted that in 2015, the Catholic Church will mark the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with other religions. The document, the pope said, is “the sure point of reference for relations with our ‘elder brothers.’”...
Alcoholism, crime on the rise in Kerala (ABC.net) The southern Indian state of Kerala, often referred to as God’s own country, has the best socio-economic indicators in the country. But its alarming alcohol addiction is earning the state a name for all the wrong reasons as the crime rate there also increases. The god of choice here is Bacchus, the Roman deity of wine. Alcoholism, among all age groups, is on the rise and it’s taking a toll on the state’s 33 million-strong population. In fact, Kerala has earned the tag of India’s “booziest state”, with the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country...
Ethiopia’s church forests threatened (California Academy of Sciences) Northern Ethiopia is hardly known for its forests. Less than 5 percent of what once stood here remains, and what’s left is under constant threat. As in so many developing countries, much of Ethiopia’s natural landscape has been cleared for agriculture, and for harvesting timber and firewood. Fortunately, there are still hundreds of notable exceptions: bright green patches of forest surrounding the country’s churches. Protected as sacred sanctuaries, some of these forests are over fifteen hundred years old. They range in size from just five acres to more than 1,000. A direct result of the Orthodox Church’s mission to retain a green necklace around the place of worship — a veritable “home for all God’s creatures” — these forests have become the centerpiece in the struggle to conserve what remains of northern Ethiopia’s biodiversity...
12 February 2014
In this image from 2012, a mother and child in India who are Dalits, members of the so-called “untouchables,” look forward to moving into a new home being built through a combined effort of CNEWA, the Indian government and parish outreach. Read more about the Dalits in India’s Christian Untouchables from the November 2012 issue of ONE. And visit this page to learn more about supporting CNEWA’s work in India. (photo: John E. Kozar)
12 February 2014
Tags: India Indian Christians ONE magazine Homes/housing Dalits
In this image from September 2013, children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
Witnessing Syria’s war through the eyes of its children (PBS) Nearly three years into the fighting, more than 10,000 children have been killed, 3 million have been displaced from their homes, and another 1.1 million now live as refugees, according to a recent United Nations report. Amid such turmoil, the notion of a normal childhood has all but disappeared for the young bystanders of war featured in last night’s FRONTLINE investigation, Children of Aleppo…
Patriach headed to Vatican for talks (iloubnan.info) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter left Beirut on Tuesday morning, bound for the Vatican, where he will be staying for two weeks for talks with the Supreme Pontiff and to take part in the papal committees’ meetings. “I have one wish which I insist to express: If a cabinet were to be formed, it should not pave the way for a new crisis,” he said in a statement he had delivered prior to his departure…
Islamic extremists slaughter 15 soldiers in Northern Iraq (New York Times) Fighters from a Sunni extremist group attacked an army unit in a northern Iraqi city on Tuesday, killing 15 soldiers in a rampage of beheadings, shootings and a hanging, security officials said. The strike on the army unit in Mosul by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, showed how the group has moved beyond Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where it controls Falluja and parts of Ramadi, and extended its reach into territory throughout the country…
Governor of Basra vows to help Iraqi Christians return home (AsiaNews) Shiite leader Majid al Nasrawi, governor of Basra met with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I and vowed: “We will help Christians to return to the province, giving them a piece of land to cultivate and creating job opportunities and development for those who have fled in the past because of violence and insecurity…”
Russian church to be consecrated in Antarctica (Interfax) An expedition is traveling from Moscow to Antarctica to conduct a consecration of the southernmost Russian Orthodox church on earth…
11 February 2014
Tags: Syrian Civil War Children Russian Orthodox Church Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I
A Christian farmer rides his donkey through Abu Qurqas, near Minya, Egypt. Click the photo to read the article in its full-color layout. (photo: David Degner)
Sarah Topol reports on the struggles of Coptic farmers in Upper Egypt for the Winter issue of ONE. Here, she adds some personal context.
When I visited Abu Qurqas, it was early summer and only the dawn provided respite from the sweltering heat. The small village in Upper Egypt, about 160 miles south of Cairo, is only a few miles from the banks of the Nile River, but inside the warren of dirt-packed alleys, there was no breeze. Frequent power cuts interrupted interviews and tours, but people were unfailingly hospitable.
In April 2011, 70 Christian homes in Abu Qurqas were vandalized in a week of sectarian riots. Dozens were injured and two Muslims were killed. Three days into the clashes, Upper Egypt’s military prosecutor arrested 12 Christians and 8 Muslims on charges of “murder, rioting, damaging public utilities and spreading panic among citizens,” according to local media. Three months later, a judge found all 12 Coptic Christians guilty and sentenced them to life in prison. The Muslims were acquitted.
While trying to find the family whose story I thought would be interesting to readers, I interviewed a cross section of Abu Qurqas’s residents and all of them expressed concern about what that verdict signified.
Atef Labib, the Christian farmer whom I eventually profiled for the story, was born and raised in Abu Qurqas. He lived in a predominantly Muslim part of town. During the riots, he found himself trapped on the roof of his house with his wife and 20-year-old daughter, fearful of the violence that raged below.
Mr. Labib described his concerns about their midnight flight to a safer part of the village: “The biggest ache wasn’t leaving the house; the worst pain would be if the women were attacked,” he said. “Even me, I couldn’t sustain that. I’m an old man with a weak body. I don’t know how to fight.”
As with residents of small towns everywhere, Atef Labib had known his neighbors for years. I found myself wondering what it would be like to live through a riot that eventually grew to include neighbors — people Labib saw every day and those on whom he thought he could depend. I couldn’t imagine the fear that they would attack you or the women in your family as you tried to flee. While Mr. Labib said many of his neighbors tried to help the family, the rest of his story was deeply unsettling. Eventually, he felt he had to move to a more Christian part of town.
Though I relied mostly on his experience in writing the story, he wasn’t alone. Christian residents in Abu Qurqas, as in many villages in Upper Egypt, were terrified of burgeoning sectarian attacks. Others also reported hiding on the roofs of their homes. Some said they had armed themselves with whatever they could find and waited, prepared to defend against a violent intrusion.
At the time, the Muslim Brotherhood was in control of the country. A military coup in July toppled Brotherhood president Muhammad Morsi. A subsequent crackdown on the group jailed the organization’s leadership and pushed members underground. Violence against the state has increased, allegedly perpetuated by Islamist extremists with no known affiliation to the Brotherhood. Today, I wonder if Atef Labib feels more or less secure under the country’s new regime.
I wonder whether he has placed his trust in the military-appointed government — or whether the dizzying increase of bombings and attacks on the military still has residents in Abu Qurqas wondering whether it is just a matter of time until it trickles down.
11 February 2014
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians ONE magazine Farming/Agriculture Copts
It was one year ago today — 11 February 2013 — that Pope Benedict made history by announcing his resignation, which led to the election of a new bishop of Rome, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name Francis. In this image from January, the new medallion of Pope Francis is seen next to one of Pope Benedict XVI on the upper wall of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. The basilica contains medallions depicting every pope. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
11 February 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Catholic Pope
Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti says he is inspired by the acts of Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Nick Schifrin reports. (video: Al Jazeera)
In West Bank settlements, Israeli jobs are double-edged sword (New York Times) The personal conflict that thousands of Palestinians face working for Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank is particularly stark for Hassan Jalaita, who for 18 years has repaired Israeli Army jeeps at the Zarfati garage here. Those are the very same jeeps that confront Mr. Jalaita at the checkpoint he crosses each morning — the same ones that sweep through villages where his friends and relatives live. But those jeeps also help pay his $1,471 monthly salary at Zarfati, more than triple the minimum wage in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, where a 19 percent unemployment rate and lack of labor laws make finding a decent job difficult. “I feel like I’m not a human being — we are serving the occupation,” said Mr. Jalaita…
Russian wives in Gaza long for home (Al Monitor) “I miss the scent of the forest. Sometimes, I feel that I can smell it.” This is what Svetlana Birova misses most from “Mother Russia” after 20 years in the Gaza Strip. “Although I miss my country, I consider my homeland to be where my husband, my son and my daughter Miriam are. I remember the difficulties I faced in the first years here because of the difference in cultures, but, with the help of my husband, I resisted homesickness,” Birova said. Birova isn’t the only Russian here in Gaza: There are more than 80 Russian women married to Gazan men living in the Strip. This is in addition to hundreds of other women from former Soviet states, according to the Compassionate Hearts Association, which is concerned with the affairs of these women…
Syria and rebels agree to extend rescue effort in city of Homs (Los Angeles Times) A plan to provide humanitarian aid to besieged residents in the Syrian city of Homs was extended Monday for three days, the United Nations announced, as a new round of Syrian peace talks began. The U.N. said the fresh cease-fire was reached to allow for the delivery of aid and the rescue of more civilians from Homs’ Old City, which is under rebel control and has been cut off from the rest of the city for almost two years. It came on the heels of a three-day effort that began Friday…
To protect Shiites, Hezbollah imposes its own checkpoints in Lebanon (Christian Science Monitor) The unusual sight of armed and uniformed Hezbollah men checking passing traffic underlines the fear and anger that has gripped Shiite areas of Lebanon amid an unprecedented spate of suicide bomb attacks that have left at least 40 people dead and nearly 300 wounded. It also raises the possibility of reciprocal checkpoints in Sunni areas, undermining the Lebanese army’s role as guarantor of internal stability. “The army said that if they allowed us to have checkpoints in Hermel they would have to allow the Sunnis to have checkpoints in Arsal,” a source close to Hezbollah says, referring to a Sunni town in the northeast Bekaa Valley that is a bedrock of support for the Syrian opposition…
Hundreds of Eritreans enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt (The Guardian) Hundreds of Eritrean refugees have been enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt in the past ten years, enduring weeks or months of violence and rape and extorted by traffickers often in collusion with state security forces. Some of the refugees have died, and many have been scarred for life — both physically and psychologically — as a result of mutilation, burning, beatings and sexual assault, according to dozens of testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch in a report published on Tuesday…
Ukrainian Catholic leader warns Ukraine could kick off new Cold War (RISU) If the United States and Europe abandon Ukraine or if they do not adopt a proactive policy, humanity may well be on the verge of a new Cold War, said Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on Chas Time, a U.S. news program broadcast by satellite to Ukraine…
10 February 2014
Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict Eritrea
Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus care for orphans at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
The Winter issue of ONE features an interview with Sister Lutgarda Camilleri, who is doing remarkable work caring for the children of Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Here, she describes how it all started:
ONE: What was Kidane Mehret like when your community took it over in 1996?
SL: It had absolutely nothing. We couldn’t find anything we could use. Nothing. Not even a drop of oil. Oil is a very precious thing for Ethiopians; most food is cooked with oil. But God’s providence never, ever failed us.
So, we cooked pasta. The children stood in line and the queue never stopped. Why? Because the children thought it would be the first and last meal we would serve. They would take the meal, hide it in a plastic bag and come back!
ONE: How did you develop the original children’s home into the complex that exists today?
SL: Back in the beginning, the original building was made of mud. It was in ruins. There were holes in the roof. The children had no proper beds, no mattresses, no sheets and no blankets. We started saying: “How can we continue to stay here?”
The police would come with babies. I would say: “No, we can’t take babies. How can you take a baby into a place in this condition?” Then, a visiting brother from the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany, encouraged me to write a funding proposal. Once I did, I sent it to him and to CNEWA, and that is when we got funds to build the new orphanage building.
First, the funds came from CNEWA, then from Germany. After that, the lion’s share came from Caritas. CNEWA gave us $25,000 initially and then another $25,000 to help finish the building. The new orphanage building finally opened in 2002.
ONE: How many staff members work at the orphanage currently?
SL: We have 38 paid workers in the children’s home: people caring for babies, matrons for the older children, laundry and kitchen staff, a secretary, an assistant manager and a driver. And then there are the volunteers.
ONE: Tell us about your volunteers.
SL: We work mostly with Project Abroad. It is an English organization, but it works all over the world, and they help connect us with volunteers. Many of them are very good with babies. At the moment, one of them is giving instruction in computers, another is teaching an English class and another, a math class. Then, we have other volunteers that apply directly to us through our web site.
There’s much more. Read it all.
And to play a part in Sister Lutgarda’s work, drop by our Ethiopia giving page to learn how you can help.
10 February 2014
Syrian refugees living in Jordan wait to receive humanitarian supplies in Amman on 5 February. Syrians fleeing to neighboring Jordan from the besieged central city of Homs said some people there are starving to death for lack of food. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Break in siege is little relief to Syrian city (New York Times) A three-day humanitarian cease-fire in the Syrian city of Homs was supposed to be a small breakthrough, a moment of relief for civilians trapped in a grim civil war. But mortar rounds and gunfire struck near aid convoys, damaging vehicles and leaving victims lying in the streets. Snipers fired on civilians as they fled their besieged neighborhood. Others refused to leave, fearing a massacre of those left behind. Limited food made it in, and some of the nearly 700 people who reached safety said they had been surviving on one meal a day and that some of their neighbors had resorted to eating grass…
Syrian town of Sednaya battles armed groups (Al Monitor) The damage caused by the battles on the way leading to the Sednaya monastery is not major: some crumbled rocks or burnt grass. However, inside the monastery, the magnitude of damage is striking — whether it is the broken glass or the multiple blows inflicted to the roof. The destruction was caused by missiles used by gunmen to try to bring down the bronze sculpture of Christ. It is not the first time that the monastery has been attacked. A year ago, mortar shells fell on it and there were attempts to infiltrate it. The latest attack was the fourth…
Gunman kills two at Orthodox cathedral in Russian far east (Los Angeles Times) A gunman opened fire on worshipers at a Russian Orthodox cathedral on Sakhalin Island off Russia’s Pacific coast, killing a nun and a parishioner in an attack that rattled nerves across the nation. The gunman’s motives were unknown, and investigators at the scene said the suspect, who was in custody, would be subjected to a mental health evaluation. Sakhalin Island is more than 4,000 miles from the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Russia is hosting the Winter Olympic Games amid intense security fears…
Pro-government protesters clash with opponents in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) A tense calm has returned to the streets of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, following clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators. It comes at a time when protesters are remembering those who died in more than two months of unrest. Amid tensions, some 90 wooden crosses can now be seen on the barricades in central Kiev, were anti-government protesters have demanded the resignation of the president…
Bosnia: ‘It’s just like Ukraine’ (Deutsche Welle) Anti-government protests in Bosnia died down (BBC) over the weekend. However, former German envoy to Bosnia Christian Schwarz-Schilling tells D.W. that the problems there won’t go away for some time. “Once the poverty level reaches a certain barrier, once pensioners no longer receive their pensions, when teachers no longer receive their salaries and policemen aren’t paid — which is on the horizon — then a violent movement is more than likely to emerge. … It’s just like with Ukraine. There, the international community woke up only after a critical situation arose. The same thing will happen in Bosnia…”
Ecumenical patriarch delivers speech on dialogue and peace (Hurriyet Daily News) “Human conflict may well be inevitable in our world; but war and violence are certainly not,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. “The pursuit, however, of dialogue and peace calls for a radical reversal of what has become the normative way of survival in our world. It demands a transformation of values that are deeply seeded in our hearts and societies, hitherto determining our relationship with those who challenge our worldview or threaten our lifestyle. Transformation in the spiritual sense is our only hope of breaking the cycle of violence and injustice…”
7 February 2014
Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russia Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pope Francis looks at a life-size replica of himself made entirely out of chocolate in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on 5 February. Made of 1.5 tons of cocoa, the chocolate image was given to the pontiff during his general audience, according to Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Art Cuisine