A few days ago, Carl Hétu, national director for CNEWA Canada, received an email from Bishop Ken Nowakowski, Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop of New Westminister, Canada. He is in Kiev and described the scene:
It is out of this world. … It is cold, but hearts are warm. It is somewhat scary, yet one feels among family.
The Ukrainian [Greek] Catholic Church has set up a little tent chapel with priests on hand and prayers being offered, very near the spot where the students were brutally clubbed by the Special Forces last weekend. There are tens of thousands out throughout [Independence] Square and the streets.
Keep us all in your prayers.
9 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Eastern Europe Kiev
A man throws a flare in the direction of Interior Ministry members during a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, 1 December. (photo: CNS/Gleb Garanich, Reuters)
Ukraine police dismantle Kiev protest camps (BBC) Ukrainian police have begun dismantling protest camps in front of government buildings in Kiev. An opposition party said the police had also raided their headquarters. The protesters had been given until Tuesday to leave. No clashes have been reported. Opposition leaders urged supporters to defend Independence Square, the main protest site. The standoff follows weeks of unrest after a U-turn on a free-trade deal with the European Union. The protesters have given Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych 48 hours to dismiss the government and are demanding new elections for the presidency and government…
Ukraine protests: Why Moscow played hardball with Kiev (Christian Science Monitor) Earlier this year, Russia had, at least publicly, stayed out of the discussion of Ukraine moving closer to the E.U. Then, over the summer, the Ukrainian government began to put forward legislation demanded by the E.U. as a condition for signing an “association agreement,” which would have deepened ties between Kiev and Brussels. Moscow responded accordingly. In July, imports of chocolates from Ukraine were banned, due to “quality concerns.” A few weeks later, lengthy traffic backups started appearing along the two countries’ border, as Moscow imposed tough new inspections on Ukrainian goods ranging from steel to beer to railway cars and locomotives. “All of sudden, it becomes clear to the Kremlin that there was a possibility that the Ukrainians might sign [the agreements] … and the Kremlin elevated it to a geopolitical competition,” says Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Europe Center…
Chaldean patriarch: The flame of hope lights up Christmas for Iraqi Christians (AsiaNews) In his Christmas message, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael urges Christians to be steadfast and keep the faith alive even amid “suffering, anxiety and … considerable challenges.” Despite a difficult time for Iraq’s Christian minority, which has seen its size cut by half in the past ten years, the Chaldean leader expressed hope, thanking his community for their “perseverance,” and for the courage with which they bear witness to the “flame of hope,” following the example of Abraham…
Pope celebrates Mass with Egyptian patriarch (Vatican Radio) At his daily Mass on Monday, Pope Francis appealed for an end to division and hatred in the Holy Land and the Middle East. The Holy Father concelebrated the Mass with Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac on the occasion of the public manifestation of “ecclesiastical communion” between the patriarch and the successor of Peter. The pope spoke about his closeness to Egyptian Christians who are experiencing insecurity and violence, then renewed his appeal for religious liberty throughout the whole of the Middle East…
Syria nuns appear in video, deny kidnapping by rebels (Yahoo! News) A group of nuns from the historic Christian town of Maaloula in Syria denied they were kidnapped by rebels, in a video broadcast by Al Jazeera news channel on Friday. It was unclear who was filming the women or where they were. “A group brought us here and protected us, and we’re very happy with them,” one of the nuns said. An unidentified man asked the nuns questions, with several taking turns to speak. It was unclear if they were being pressured to talk, and some of the women bowed their heads as the camera turned to them. In the video, several of the nuns said they were in good health and that they fled Maaloula after intense shelling there…
6 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Sisters Russia
In 2007, Sister Christian Molidor captured the image above: A family left homeless by the December 2004 tsunami settles in to a new house, thanks to CNEWA’s generous donors. To discover more ways to help families in need in India today, check out our giving page. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
6 December 2013
Tags: India CNEWA Homes/housing
South African President Nelson Mandela assists Pope John Paul II at the Johannesburg International Airport in 1995, at the start of the pope’s first official visit to South Africa. Mandela, who led the struggle to end the country’s apartheid regime, died on 5 December at age 95 at his home in Johannesburg. (photo: CNS/Patrick De Noirmont, Reuters)
Pope extends condolences to the family of Nelson Mandela (VIS) Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolence to Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, on the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela yesterday. In the text, the Pope extended his condolences to the Mandela family, members of government and all South Africans. Pope Francis recalled: “the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation, and truth…”
UNHCR chief: Pope Francis is symbol of hope (Vatican Radio) Today, Pope Francis received in audience the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres. As high commissioner, Mr. Guterres heads one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations, with more than 7,000 staff working in 126 countries providing protection and assistance to millions of refugees, returnees, internally displaced people and stateless persons. Tracey McClure spoke with the former Portuguese prime minister following his meeting with Pope Francis, and he had this to say: “Since ever, the Catholic Church has been absolutely impeccable in putting in the agenda the need to respect the rights of refugees, the rights of migrants, the need for societies to be tolerant, for societies to respect diversity — and this has been a constant line of advocacy for the Catholic Church. But I think Pope Francis gave a new dimension to this…”
‘Assad’s nun’ becomes unlikely power broker in Syrian civil war (National Post) Amid Syria’s ferocious civil war, a nun has emerged as an unlikely power broker and figure of controversy. Mother Superior Agnes-Mariam of the Cross has thrust herself into the role of go-between and publicist — arranging ceasefires, organizing pro-government media trips and conducting speaking tours as perhaps the country’s most prominent critic of the uprising against President Bashar al Assad. She is so despised by the opposition even acts of seeming good will are criticized, such as arranging a rare truce that allowed thousands to leave a blockaded town. The nun insists she is not an Assad propagandist, describing his family’s decades-long rule as a “tumor,” but she saves her harshest criticism for the rebels…
U.S. bishops speak against illegal demolitions in Jerusalem (Fides) United States bishops have written in protest of the demolition of a house owned by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in late October. In a 26 November letter to Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, Bishop Richard E. Pates, speaking on behalf of the U.S.C.C.B., asked the diplomat to convey to the Israeli government their “strong objections.” In early November, Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, had visited the site of the demolition and described the occurrence as “an act of vandalism that violates international law…”
Palestinian activism evolves in Prawer protests (Al Monitor) Nonpartisan Palestinian youths have taken the lead in nationwide protests against Israel’s Prawer Plan — which seeks to move a sizable population of Negev Bedouin from its land and resettle it elsewhere — breaking away from traditional Palestinian political forces. These protests raise a number of questions about the organizational framework and courses of action currently available to Palestinians. These include the identity of the factions that could actually take the lead on the Palestinian arena, whether the situation is expected to escalate to a third intifada and how coordination was achieved over such a multifaceted issue…
Government supporters stage counterprotest in Ukraine (New York Times) Pro-government demonstrators deployed a new tactic on Friday to counter protests in favor of European integration, marching through the capital, Kiev, to oppose homosexuality, which they said would accompany a greater European Union role in Ukrainian affairs. Carrying religious icons and singing hymns, the group of about a thousand Orthodox Christian supporters of President Viktor F. Yanukovich filed out of a monastery and marched to a city park. Marchers said they favored allegiance with Russia rather than Europe because Russia more closely matches the cultural and religious heritage of Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union. The protesters set off from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, a monastery controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate, which is subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church and is one of three denominations of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine. The Kievan Patriarchate of Ukraine, in contrast, has supported the pro-European demonstrators and has allowed many to sleep in churches…
5 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Africa Palestinians U.S.C.C.B.
In 2004 image, two women — a Muslim and a Catholic sister — take notes during class at Bethlehem University. The Catholic school serves both Christians and Muslims and promotes interreligious understanding. (photo: Steve Sabella)
Over the next couple weeks, the “little town of Bethlehem” will figure prominently in songs and liturgies. But several years ago, we visited a leading university there, which revealed a different aspect of the town:
Founded by the Holy See and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the university serves Christians and Muslims alike and offers degrees in such fields as arts and sciences, business administration, nursing, education, social work, hotel management and tourism.
It does so against the tense political backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose flare-ups often have forced the university to suspend operations. While the current intifada has not produced closings on the scale seen from 1987 to 1990, it has had a tremendous impact on the school.
“The past few years have been a struggle,” says Brother Vincent Malham, F.S.C., Bethlehem University’s President and Vice Chancellor since 1997.
“The closures and curfews and checkpoints make it difficult for our students and staff to get here.”
And the devastation of the Palestinian economy has slashed the availability of jobs. “In Bethlehem, once a relatively affluent Palestinian city, unemployment is at least 50 percent,” Brother Vincent says.
Even so, the university continues to grow in numbers and in academic offerings, Brother Vincent adds. As such, Bethlehem University must be seen as one of the great successes of recent Palestinian history.
Bethlehem University’s origins date to Pope Paul VI’s 1964 visit to the Holy Land. He believed Palestinians would be well-served by a university and that such an institution also would help stem Christian Palestinian emigration. The pope asked the De La Salle Christian Brothers to run the project.
It was a natural choice: In 1680, John Baptist de la Salle founded his congregation to educate the poor, who typically did not have access to education. (Today, about 7,000 brothers and their colleagues run schools in more than 80 countries.)
At first, the university occupied a few rooms in a Bethlehem elementary and secondary school for boys.
“We were pioneers, but we had great teachers who were creative,” says Dr. Jacqueline Sfeir, a student in the 1973 inaugural class and now a professor of education at Bethlehem University.
Read more about The Perseverance of Bethlehem University in the November 2004 issue of ONE.
And to support CNEWA’s work in Palestine, visit this giving page.
5 December 2013
Tags: Education Interreligious Catholic education Bethlehem University Catholic-Muslim relations
Protesters receive medical assistance in St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, on 1 December. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has condemned police violence against “peaceful demonstrations” after President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision not to seek closer ties with the European Union. (photo: CNS/Stoyan Nenov, Reuters)
Kiev protesters see potent ally under a spire (New York Times) After riot police officers stormed Independence Square here early Saturday, spraying tear gas, throwing stun grenades and swinging truncheons, dozens of young protesters ran, terrified, scattering up the streets. It was after 4:30 a.m., the air cold, the sky black. As they got their bearings, the half-lit bell tower of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery beckoned. Inside, the fleeing demonstrators found more than warmth and safety. They had arrived in a bastion of the Kievan Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, where they were welcomed not only on a humanitarian basis but because the church, driven by its own historical tensions with Moscow, is actively supporting their uprising. It strongly favors European integration to enable Ukraine to break free from Russia’s grip, and has joined the calls to oust the Ukrainian government…
Torched Syrian camp in Lebanon illustrates tension between refugees, residents (Washington Post) The wood-framed tents on this muddy field in the Bekaa Valley have burned to ground, leaving only remnants of the lives of the Syrian refugees and migrant workers who occupied them: shoes, scattered tomatoes, a pink plastic comb and metal latrines provided by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Local villagers torched the tents amid allegations that the some residents of the camp had sexually molested a mentally disabled young man. The ousted Syrians say that claim was fabricated at the behest of a new landowner who wanted to evict them from the site. Because of political and sectarian sensitivities, Lebanon did not establish its first official refugee transit camp until last month. That camp has 70 tents. The vast majority of those fleeing the violence have found themselves dependent on private landowners for shelter…
Conflicting statements on the issue of the Maalula sisters (Fides) After the occupation of Maaloula by rebel militias, government sources have written that rebels had kidnapped nuns and orphans present in the monastery. On Wednesday, the pro-government daily newspaper Al Watan claimed that the kidnappers were planning to use the abducted nuns as human shields. On the opposite side, rebel sources widely mentioned by Al Arabiya television channel released the version that snipers loyal to the regime had tried to block attempts to evacuate the nuns to ensure their safety…
Egypt’s Coptic pope: Participation in referendum ‘a duty’ (World Bulletin) Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has urged Egyptians to vote in an upcoming referendum on Egypt’s amended constitution, describing it as a duty. “Participation in the referendum is a must,” Pope Tawadros said during his weekly sermon at Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark on Wednesday. The referendum represents a central pillar of an army-imposed roadmap for political transition, unveiled by the military in the wake of Muhammad Morsi’s 3 July ouster…
Pope seeks meeting with man who murdered a nun (Times of India) Pope Francis has expressed his desire to meet Samundar Singh, a man who brutally murdered Sister Rani Maria, a Catholic nun, in broad daylight while travelling on a bus in Madhya Pradesh 18 years ago. She was stabbed 54 times before being dragged out of the bus and left to die on the roadside in front for several passengers. The pope was moved after viewing “The Heart of a Murderer,” a documentary film about the event and how forgiveness has changed Mr. Singh…
4 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Lebanon Refugees Ukrainian Orthodox Church
In this image from 2004, a man displays a three-bar cross — commonly used by Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the Slavic churches — before police during a protest in Kiev. (photo: Petro Didula)
The dramatic news out of Ukraine these days reminds us of events we chronicalled in the magazine nearly a decade ago, following the so-called “orange revolution.”
We reported in 2005 on the intersection of religion and politics in the public square during that historic standoff and the complicated history behind the protests in Ukraine, all growing out of the election that pitted reformer Viktor Yuschenko against Prime Minister Viktor Yankyovych:
Though both Mr. Yuschenko and Mr. Yanukovych are Orthodox, they drew their support from different confessional groups. Ukraine’s Catholic community, which accounts for about 13 percent of the country’s 48 million people (5 million Greek Catholics and 1 million Latin, or Roman, Catholics), supported Mr. Yuschenko and his pro-Western tilt. Meanwhile, the largest Orthodox community — the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which accounts for about 25 percent of the population — supported Mr. Yanukovych, an advocate for close ties to Russia. The two Orthodox communities independent of Moscow — the larger Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church — supported Mr. Yuschenko’s presidential bid.
“The ecclesiastical authorities are not supposed to take a stand in this crisis,” Father Oleksandre Hoursky told the International Herald Tribune. But then, like many clergy involved, he went on to ignore his own advice. “The church supports good against evil, the protection of human rights and the end of any injustices, and the state abuse of power,” the Roman Catholic priest continued.
Even Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who heads the country’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, weighed in on the crisis. “At the root of the crisis remains an immoral regime,” he said, “that has deprived Ukrainian people of their legitimate rights and dignity.”
Read more about Forging Ukraine, and the history that led up to the orange revolution, in the May 2005 issue of ONE.
4 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church
In this September photo, Syrian refugee Fatima Said poses for a photo in her room in Kilis, Turkey. Said shares the room in the Turkish border town with her daughter and grandsons. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)
Syrian refugees in Istanbul sent from pillar to post (Al Monitor) In mid-September, a Turkish human rights organization issued a report estimating the number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul at 100,000, though it is claimed to be “well over 200,000” today. Now, as winter sets in, these displaced families struggle to find work and shelter…
Chaldean Church urges political participation among Iraqi Christians (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans has issued an invitation to its faithful to register to vote in the upcoming legislative elections, scheduled for 30 April. “Participation in the parliamentary elections,” reads the statement, “is a national and moral responsibility.” The patriarchate also encouraged Christians to consider candidacy…
Pope calls for prayer for nuns kidnapped in Syria (Vatican Radio) At the end of his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis called on everyone to pray for a group of nuns taken by force from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Tekla in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula in Syria. “Let us pray for these sisters, and for all those who have been kidnapped on account of the ongoing conflict. Let us continue to pray and to work for peace…”
Greek Orthodox patriarch urges release of Maaloula sisters (International Business Times) Syria’s Greek Orthodox patriarch has urged Syrian rebels to release a group of nuns who taken hostage from a convent in the predominantly Christian town of Maaloula. “We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely,” Patriarch Youhanna X said. The church leader reported that orphans who were in the foster care of the sisters had also been taken hostage…
Ukraine protests persist as bid to oust government fails (New York Times) Refusing to grant a central demand of protesters who have laid siege to public buildings and occupied a landmark plaza in this rattled capital, the Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday defeated a measure calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government. The failure of the no-confidence vote pushed the battle for the future of Ukraine back onto the streets, where demonstrators and allied political opposition leaders say they would not relent until they succeeded in removing the government, including President Viktor F. Yanukovich…
Senior Hezbollah leader killed in Beirut (Al Jazeera) A senior commander of Shiite Lebanese armed group Hezbollah was killed outside his house in Beirut late Tuesday night. An Israeli official denied Hezbollah’s accusations of being behind the assasination. Lebanese security officials told the Associated Press that assailants opened fire on Hassan al Laqis with an assault rifle while he was in his car, parked at the residential building where he lived, some two miles southwest of the capital…
3 December 2013
Tags: Syria Refugees Violence against Christians Turkey Chaldean Church
Sister Bincy Joseph assists the girls with their homework. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2008, we profiled an orphanage in India offering refuge and hope:
Mother Mary Home for Girls lies in the remote and beautiful valley of Wayanad, nestled between hills covered in dense tropical vegetation. To Arya, Athira and the other girls, all of whom were born to poor, broken families, the orphanage must have first appeared as an oasis. Coconut and fruit trees abound. Milk cows and chickens wander the home’s four acres, donated by a local parish of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
Mother Mary Home opened its doors on 30 May 2004, initially welcoming just seven girls, including Arya and Athira. It has since grown rapidly. Three Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate, a religious community of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, run the home. Founded in 1962 by Father C.J. Varkey to share “the redeeming love of Jesus irrespective of caste, race and religion,” the community includes more than 700 professed sisters in more than a 100 communities throughout India, Italy, Germany and the United States.
The sisters administer not only orphanages and schools, but run and staff health care facilities, homes for the elderly, a rehabilitation center for people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and function in a number of pastoral and social apostolates, including family counseling and prison ministry. …
In most cases, said assistant director Sister Jean Mary Koottuemkal, the girls are from the most dysfunctional of families, families with a history of domestic abuse, murders and suicides. She recalled one situation where two sisters saved their mother from being murdered by the father. Both parents are unstable and unable to rear their children. Some girls, she continued, cannot return to their village. In one such case, a girl was born out of wedlock. Another girl’s mother committed suicide. In India — especially its traditional south — many ostracize families with circumstances such as these.
Sister Jean Mary emphasized that Kerala, while largely rural, is densely populated, as much as three times the rest of India. And up to a third of the state’s population live below the poverty level.
Most of the parents of the girls at Mother Mary Home work as day laborers at local quarries, brick factories or large rubber estates. Wages are abysmally low, the work, seasonal and hunger, common. Parents often find it necessary, Sister Jean Mary said, to send their children out to work to supplement their meager incomes. The parents of these girls are so socially and economically marginalized that they never bothered to obtain birth certificates for their children.
Read more on A Place to Call Home in the March 2008 issue of ONE.
And visit this page to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of India’s young people.
Tags: India Children Sisters Education Orphans/Orphanages