7 May 2014
In this image from May 2013, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis shake hands after exchanging gifts during a private audience in the pontiff's library at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Andreas Solaro, pool via Reuters)
Coptic pope to Pope Francis: Let us unify our Easter celebrations (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II sent a letter to Pope Francis on the occasion of the first anniversary of their meeting at the Vatican. Among the topics discussed therein, Pope Tawadros invites the bishop of Rome to find a single date for the Easter celebration in all Christian churches. A papal representative in turn submitted to Pope Tawadros an invitation to send a representative of his church to the next assembly of the Synod of Catholic Bishops, to be held in October and dedicated to the theme of the family...
Separatists in Ukraine wage an information war (Washington Post) Since pro-Russian militants have taken control of several areas in eastern Ukraine, and as a referendum on independence from Ukraine looms, journalists say there has been a systematic campaign to shut down opposing voices and substitute pro-Russian propaganda...
Archbishop: Ukraine’s struggle is for dignity (Catholic Register) Amid the violence and turmoil plaguing Ukraine, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said one must remember to love thy neighbour. “As I bring you greetings from a country and a people who are caught, of no fault of their own, in a life-and-death struggle for their own future I want to highlight the importance of a faith perspective amid the leadership class,” said Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. “You should love your neighbour as you love yourself. There is no greater commandment than this.” Shevchuk spoke on 2 May at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College...
Lebanon’s migrant workers demand rights (AL Monitor) More than a quarter of a million migrant domestic workers are estimated to work in Lebanon. Most come from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, among other African and Asian countries. Though there are difficulties for all migrant workers in Lebanon, it is the migrant domestic workers who are most vulnerable. The exclusion of migrant domestic workers under Lebanon’s labor law prevents them from benefiting from general protections afforded to workers in other sectors, such as annual and sick leave, a minimum wage, set working hours, the right to change employers and the ability to create associations, among other things...
Kerala celebrates Pooram (ANI News) Artisans in Kerala are burning midnight oil to weave colourful ornaments and parasols to adorn the tuskers for the last day of the Hindu festival of Pooram in Thrissur district. World famous annual seven-day Hindu temple festival Pooram started with traditional flag hoisting ceremony on 3 May and will conclude on 9 May. “People from all religious groups—the Hindus, the Christians, irrespective of caste and creed, everybody is cooperating. It was started by the famous Keralite ruler Sakthan Thampuran around 200 years back,” said an artisan, Prasar Murlidharan...
6 May 2014
After a study session in the Santa Lucia Home, students Enjy Yussef, left, and Nermeen Said stroll the halls to unwind before dinner. (photo: Holly Pickett)
In the spring 2014 edition of ONE, reporter Sarah Topol writes about the inspiring work being done for blind children at the Santa Lucia Home in Egypt. Here, she adds her own impressions of the facility.
The first thing that struck me about the Santa Lucia Home was the facility’s immaculate cleanliness. The red brick church and home are just a few blocks from the crashing shores of the Mediterranean and the smell of the sea wafts through the white-tiled hallways. The sisters took me on a tour through the living, studying, dining and kitchen areas. The operation was pristine.
Egypt is a country known for its poverty. Here, garbage lines the streets and public hospitals are unsanitary affairs. At the home, the clean and tidy desks and neatly ordered cabinets made me think the children themselves take pride in their surroundings — no small feat for 4-18 year olds, from what I remember of my own school desks.
I was surprised to learn just how many activities the home offers for the children, from playing soccer with a special ball that makes a sound when it’s moving, to swimming in the pool, playing instruments and performing plays. The children at the center seem to have a host of activities aimed at boosting their self-confidence.
The children were on extended holiday when we visited, so we were unable to meet them in person — though we spoke to some over the phone. The way the sisters and the students independently described the sense of community between the children was incredibly special. It was as if they had created their own family away from home. And that family enabled and encouraged them to grow and mature.
Sister Souda and Sister Hoda are the epitome of matronly figures. Their soft voices and calm shuffles made the place feel very much like a home. Their no-nonsense manner over the course of our interviews made me think the time the children are meant to spend doing their homework must actually be homework time!
The Sisters’ positivity radiated in our conversations. They refused to admit that the children were anything but normal and fit for productive and fulfilling lives in Egypt, to the point where I felt we were skirting some of the discrimination blind children and adults face in Egypt. Perhaps it was a product of years of repeating their positive mantra. But the challenges for blind children are very real. Seeing a center try to change the future for these children was heartening, but it was just as upsetting to realize that, as lucky as these children are, they still face a great many challenges in Egypt that they might not elsewhere.
The children still work on Braillers, which the sisters import from America, and which they have to send back to the U.S. for repair. The center has one computer that children share. To think of how many visually impaired students in the U.S. benefit from new technology — while children in Egypt continue to use typewriters — was difficult. Based on the stories we heard about them, and the dreams they themselves conveyed over the phone, these are creative and curious young people.
It made me wonder how they would fare if given even more of the opportunities enjoyed in the West.
Read more about efforts to bring young Egyptians Out of Darkness in the spring 2014 edition of ONE.
6 May 2014
Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Education Disabilities
As he began his visit to Jordan yesterday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan paused at a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The month of May is traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Mother. The cardinal, along with Bishop William Murphy and Msgr. John Kozar, is making a pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Follow their Journey to Jordan this week on our blog. (photo: John E. Kozar)
6 May 2014
Tags: Jordan Msgr. John E. Kozar Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Krak des Chevaliers, pictured here in 2010, has stood for nearly a millennium near the Syrian city of Homs. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Krak des Chevaliers: Priceless castle battered by Syria’s civil war (Christian Science Monitor) The Krak des Chevaliers once held off a siege by the Muslim warrior Saladin some 900 years ago, but today bears the wounds of modern warfare — heavy artillery damaged its walls, an airstrike punctured its roof, and shrapnel tore through its religious artifacts. From its towering hilltop perch in western Syria, the world’s best preserved medieval Crusader castle has fallen victim to the chaos of Syria’s civil war as rebels fight to topple President Bashar al Assad. The damage done to the majestic stone structure, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, shows that the warring sides will stop at nothing, including the destruction of the country’s rich heritage, to hold on to power or territory.
Syrian government says Maaloula’s sites sacked by rebels (Al Monitor) An official report issued by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums for the Rif Damascus governorate revealed the destruction inflicted upon the city of Maaloula and its historical Christian sites, weeks after the army regained control of the city. This report was issued after a visit made by a specialized mission of the Directorate to probe the level of losses incurred by the city. The “armed opposition” has damaged historical Christian sites in the city, destroyed sites and altars, painted over traditional icons and paintings, removed and burned crosses, searched for treasures under altars and in tombs, and searched among the remains of monks and nuns…
In Syria, activists in Raqqa try to confront militant Islamist group (Los Angeles Times) In the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the main commercial street was busy. Shops were open, with customers strolling the aisles, and cars filled the streets. Only a few dozen stores were closed. It wasn’t what activists had hoped for when they called for a citywide strike among business owners on Saturday to protest a tax imposed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has demanded payment in exchange for electricity, water, street cleaning and protection. Though shop owners chafed at the imposition of a “protection tax,” they feared retribution from the Al Qaeda offshoot group for any act of defiance…
Whose water is it anyways? Resentment pools on Israel-Lebanon border (Christian Science Monitor) The Israeli-Lebanese border has enjoyed a rare, eight-year spell of calm, but worsening water shortages threaten to spark tensions once again. A sealed well used for more than a century by residents of Blida, a small village in southern Lebanon, has found itself on the wrong side of the border as water shortages entice local farmers to tap it. A few miles east along the border, another territorial dispute looms at a Lebanese tourist site beside the Hasbani river, which flows into Israel…
Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II to visit Rome (VIS) His Holiness Karekin II, head of the of the Catholicate of Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church will visit Rome from 7 to 9 May to meet with Pope Francis. The Armenian Church consists of two catholicates and two patriarchates, and around six million faithful. The two catholicates — the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia and the Great House Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon — are in full communion, but they are independent from an administrative point of view…
Mayor of Baghdad: No discrimination against Christians in housing initiative (Fides) The mayor of Baghdad, Abub Naim al Kaabi, has made known his intention to make available public land and housing for low-income Christians in the city. The initiative, according to sources close to the Chaldean Patriarchate, is politically sponsored by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who said: “We will give the keys of prefabricated houses to the citizens without any discrimination…”
5 May 2014
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Syrian Civil War Israel Armenian Apostolic Church
Some high-profile visitors this week are getting a first-hand look at the work CNEWA is helping support in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The chairman of CNEWA’s board, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and board member Bishop William Murphy are making a pastoral visit to Jordan with CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar.
The team stopped by Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa this morning, where they were welcomed by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.
After seeing some of the remarkable work being done by the sisters, they headed on to the Italian Hospital in Amman, where they received a tour of the facility operated by the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation and stopped by the ward caring for Jordan’s tiniest patients, newborn infants.
Both these facilities are dealing with some extraordinary challenges right now, as the tidal wave of refugees from the Syrian civil war threatens to overwhelm the country.
Last summer, writer Nicholas Seeley described the serious situation in Jordan in the pages of ONE magazine, in an article entitled Overwhelming Mercy:
Jordan is on the brink of a health care crisis. The tiny kingdom’s aging health infrastructure has long been in need of an overhaul, but recent events in the region have exacerbated an already-difficult situation. The economic boom that Jordan experienced after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 has come to a grinding halt. Capital and investment have fled, and jobs are scarce. Economic stress tends to cause people to fall back on public health care services, but the government has been facing a budget crisis of massive proportions. Rounds of austerity measures have increased the price of fuel and basic goods, pounding hard an already weary population. Exacerbating matters, in the past decade Jordan has absorbed massive waves of new refugees — first from Iraq and now Syria.
Since early 2011, more than half a million Syrians have found refuge in a country with a population of barely more than six million. Hundreds of people arrive every day, many of whom come with severe injuries, long-term health issues or both. Many women arrive pregnant — some of whom, married at a young age, are barely more than children themselves.
And many find their way to institutions like the Mother of Mercy Clinic and Italian Hospital, supported by the generous benefactors and donors of CNEWA.
We’ll be hearing more from this Journey to Jordan over the next few days. Meantime, please keep these travelers — and the many good people they will be visiting — in your prayers!
5 May 2014
Fiorentina’s coach Vincenzo Montella, third from left, presents a gift to Pope Francis during a special audience with soccer teams Fiorentina and Napoli at the Vatican on 2 May.
(photo: CNS /L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
5 May 2014
Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France is the coordinator of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the meetings with Pope Francis on 25 May.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Hopes rise that Pope, patriarch meeting renews efforts at unity (CNS) The Orthodox bishop who is co-ordinating the upcoming pilgrimage to Jerusalem by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said he hopes the patriarch’s 25 May meeting with Pope Francis will give new impetus to efforts for Christian unity. But he also said the two leaders are likely to discuss a range of common concerns, including the predicament of Christians in the Middle East, conservation of the natural environment and defense of the traditional family. “We hope that this will not just be a meeting like others, but we hope that this will give a new horizon for the relations between our two sister Churches,” Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France told Catholic News Service in Rome. “In a divided world, we need unity...”
Pope issues appeal for Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for peace in Ukraine on Sunday. Speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the middayRegina coeli prayer (which replaces the Angelus at Eastertide), The Holy Father said, “I would like to invite you to entrust to Our Lady the situation in Ukraine, where tensions continue unabated.” The Holy Father went on to say, “I pray with you for the victims of recent days, asking that the Lord instill sentiments of peacemaking and brotherhood in the hearts of everyone...”
Report: tens of thousands flee Syrian province (Aljazeera) At least 60,000 people have fled towns in the Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria which has been the scene of fierce clashes between rival rebel groups, opposition activists say. The al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front have been battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for four days despite an order from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to stop fighting, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday. “Residents of the towns of Busayra, home to 35,000 people, Abriha, home to 12,000 people, and al-Zir, home to 15,000 people, have nearly all been displaced by the fighting in the area,” the Observatory said...
Coptic patriarch: church does not take sides in elections (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II has explicitly excluded any choice of the Coptic Orthodox Church in favor of one of the two candidates in the Egyptian presidential elections to be held next 26 to 27 May. “I ask every citizen, Christian or Muslim”, said Pope Tawadros in an interview published on Sunday, 4 May in the Egyptian Catholic weekly Hamel el-Resale “to read the electoral program of each candidate and choose who you want as President”. In the same interview, the Coptic Orthodox patriarch wanted to reaffirm the “institutional” nature and not political of the explicit support expressed by the Coptic Church regarding the transition program that led to the removal of President Mohamed Morsi, the promulgation of the new constitution and presidential elections...
Vatican statistics report church growth steady (CNS) The number of Catholics in the world and the number of priests, permanent deacons and religious men all increased in 2012, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics. The number of candidates for the priesthood also showed its first global downturn in recent years. The statistics come from a recently published Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which reported worldwide Church figures as of 31 December 2012...
2 May 2014
Alaa, a 7-year-old from Homs, Syria, holds up a drawing depicting events in his hometown. To read about efforts to help these children, check out Syria, Shepherds and Sheep in the Spring edition of ONE. Click on the image to read the story in the full magazine layout. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
2 May 2014
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Children Sisters
In this image from last September, a man walks along a battered street in the besieged area of Homs, Syria. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
Ceasefire in Homs to allow rebel withdrawal (Reuters) Syrian authorities and rebel fighters agreed to a 24-hour cease-fire in the Old City district of Homs on Friday to allow besieged rebels to pull out of their last stronghold in the central Syrian city, a monitoring group and television stations said. A final rebel withdrawal from the city once dubbed the “capital of the revolution” would mark a significant and symbolic military advance by forces loyal to Bashar al Assad, one month before his likely reelection as president…
Russia calls urgent meeting on Ukraine (Voice of Russia) Russia called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday to discuss the “serious escalation of violence in Ukraine,” where security forces have clashed with pro-Moscow separatists…
Two helicopters shot down over Ukraine (CNN) Two helicopters were brought down in the flashpoint city of Slavyansk on Friday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said, as Ukrainian security forces launched their most intensive effort yet to try to dislodge pro-Russian separatists. Residents of Slavyansk were warned to stay home and avoid windows as the latest phase of the authorities’ “anti-terrorist operation” began…
Pope calls for attitude of ‘evangelical service’ at Vatican (CNS) Pope Francis told his new economic oversight council that it must be “courageous and determined” in its critical role of helping the church not waver from its real mission of bringing the Gospel to the world and helping those most in need. The church has a duty to use its assets and manpower responsibly in promoting its spiritual mandate, and “a new mentality of evangelical service” must take hold throughout the Vatican, the pope said on 2 May…
1 May 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Syrian Civil War Russia
You may remember that I received a kind note in March from Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus. He sent me his Easter letter a few days ago, which noted the particular tragedy that struck Damascus during Holy Week, when a shell fell on school children:
Everyone ran to carry these little ones to St. Louis hospital, the nearest place where the struggling Daughters of Charity and the medical staff treat the wounded to save the lives of these angels caught up in senseless violence that strikes Syria in this fourth year. The emergency room was crammed; some students were transferred to other hospitals. Some of these children will become disabled for life bearing the signs of hatred on their bodies.
Tertullian in the second century said: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”
And he concluded with a handwritten personal message, which touched me deeply:
Thank you, dear monsignor, for all that CNEWA did for our poor refugees...
We continue to lift up in prayer all those who are struggling through this nightmare, especially the very young. Please join me in praying for their safety and their healing. And, if you can, please support them with a gift. Any amount you can offer will give hope in a place of despair and bring consolation to those facing sorrow and fear. You can find out how you can help at this link.
On this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, I pray in a special way that the saint who worked so diligently to bring shelter and protection to the Holy Family will also shelter and protect the most vulnerable and needy in our suffering world.
St. Joseph, pray for us!