30 March 2015
Catholicos Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, is greeted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. Patriarch Dinkha died 26 March at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Sad news from Chicago:
Catholicos Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, died March 26 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. A virus infection and pneumonia were cited as the cause of death. He was 79.
In a message of condolence sent to the temporary head of the church, Pope Francis offered his prayers for the deceased patriarch and said, “The Christian world has lost an important spiritual leader, a courageous and wise pastor who faithfully served his community in extremely challenging times.”
Pope Francis said he knew from his conversation with the catholicos how he “suffered greatly because of the tragic situation in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and in Syria, resolutely calling attention to the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters and other religious minorities suffering daily persecution.”
Catholicos Dinkha was born Sept. 15, 1935, in Iraq. He was ordained a priest at age 21 and became a bishop just five years later. He was elected patriarch in 1976, at the age of 41, succeeding Catholicos Eshai Shimun XXIII, who was assassinated a year earlier. Catholicos Dinkha was the first patriarch to be elected; traditionally, succession was from uncle to nephew.
Because of political instability in Iraq, Catholicos Dinkha moved the patriarchal see in 1980 from its ancestral homeland in modern-day Iraq to suburban Chicago in the United States, where a growing diaspora community was located.
Religious leaders offered words of condolence on the patriarch’s death.
“We pray for his soul. We pray also that the fathers of the Assyrian Church of the East will elect a new shepherd who will lead the flock during this crucial time when Christians are persecuted in the Middle East and our Syriac-Chaldean-Assyrian people are being persecuted and forced to be displaced from their homelands,” Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch said in a statement to Catholic News Service.
“With great hope, we look forward to working together with the Assyrian community for the good of our people and a brighter future for all, following the footsteps of the late patriarch,” he said.
Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan told CNS in an email that he last met with the late patriarch in May at the Russian Patriarchate in Moscow.
“We then had the chance to discuss the tragic situation of Christians and other minorities in Iraq, as a sinister prelude of what will happen in Mosul on June 10 and in the Plain of Niniveh on the night of Aug. 6-7,” Patriarch Younan recalled, referring to the invasion of northern Iraq by Islamic State militants.
“He was equally concerned about the ongoing exodus of his church’s membership to the point to fear that a time would come when Iraq and Syria will be emptied of Christians,” Patriarch Younan added.
“Let us pray that the Lord inspire the Holy Synod of the sister church that they may elect a successor filled with wisdom, energy and charisma enabling him to defend the very survival of the Church of the East, either in the Middle East or in the diaspora,” he said.
Catholicos Dinkha has been credited with rebuilding the church and updating the liturgy, translating portions from classical to modern Assyrian. He was esteemed as a fatherly figure and as a strong promoter of ecumenism. The Assyrian Church of the East is not in communion with any other churches, either Catholic or Orthodox.
And you can learn more about the Assyrian Church of the East by reading “Against All Odds” and our profile of the Church.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him...
30 March 2015
Pope Francis carries palm fronds in procession at the start of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 29 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
On Palm Sunday, pope expresses solidarity with persecuted Christians (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis remembered the persecuted Christians in the world on Sunday — Palm Sunday — during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Following the proclamation of the Passion according to St. Mark, Pope Francis delivered a homily, in which he reflected on the plight of all those who endure humiliation because of their faithfulness to the Gospel, all those who face discrimination and pay a personal price for their fidelity to Christ...
Pope sends assistance to displaced in Iraq (CNS) As Holy Week and Easter approached, Pope Francis wanted to show his ongoing concern for people persecuted and displaced by violence in Iraq and in northern Nigeria. Although not specifying the amount, the Vatican press office said 27 March that the pope was sending aid money to people seeking shelter in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and to the Nigerian bishops’ conference to assist families in the northern part of the country where the terrorist group Boko Haram has been on a rampage. In addition, the Vatican said, the people of the Diocese of Rome, “united with their bishop,” Pope Francis, held a special collection and will send “colomba” Easter cakes to the displaced in Iraq...
Pope sends condolences on death of patriarch (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent his condolences upon learning of the death of the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV. “The Christian world has lost an important spiritual leader, a courageous and wise pastor who faithfully served his community in extremely challenging times,” Pope Francis writes...
Car bombings kill at least 11 in Baghdad (AP) A pair of car bombings in a Baghdad suburb on Monday killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens, officials said, hours after the arrival of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, for talks with the Iraqi officials.
Shortly before noon, the two explosive-laden cars went off simultaneously in a commercial area of the Shiite-dominated Husseiniyah district in northeastern Baghdad, a police officer said. Two policemen were among the dead. At least 26 people were wounded in the attack, he added...
Turkey moves to close gates at border with Syria (The New York Times) After maintaining an open-door policy throughout the four-year conflict in neighboring Syria, Turkey has moved this month to close the two remaining border gates between the countries, shutting out displaced Syrian refugees amid fears of a potential terrorist attack...
Kerala Christians observe Palm Sunday (NDTV) Churches in Kerala on Sunday were crowded on the occasion of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is celebrated with a lot of reverence as churches distribute palm leaves, freshly cut from coconut trees, to commemorate Jesus Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, when palm branches were placed in his path, before his arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday...
27 March 2015
Tags: Syria India Iraq Pope Francis Middle East
Parishioners request a blessing after the celebration of the liturgy at a new church in Babogaya, an Ethiopian village. The story of how the church came to be can be found in “12 Years of Perseverance” in the September 2005 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
27 March 2015
In this image from January, Iraqi refugees who fled their homes due to the violence of armed groups led by Islamic State are shown at the Arbat refugee camp in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. Pope Francis today expressed his concern for displaced Iraqis living as refugees.
(photo: Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pope expresses concern for displaced Iraqis (Vatican Radio) A statement issued Friday by the Holy See’s Press Office says the Pope is particularly concerned about those from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, many of whom have found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. The press statement further says the Holy Father is praying for the victims and hopes that they will soon be able to return to their former lives in their homeland where for centuries they have lived in good relations with their neighbors. In this coming Holy Week these families particularly share in the injustice and sufferings of Christ, and as a sign of unity, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will return to Iraq to be with the expelled families and to pray with them during this time of suffering...
Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East dies (Vatican Radio) The Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, died on Thursday at the age of 79. He assumed his office in 1976. The Assyrian Church of the East issued a statement saying: “His Holiness had dedicated his entire life, to serving our Lord and our Holy Church. All his life he worked hard to be a spiritual father to us all. Heaven has welcomed him today and may he rest in peace...”
Pope creates new eparchy in India (VIS) On 26 March, the Holy Father erected the eparchy of St. John Chrysostom of Gurgaon of the Syro-Malankars, India, appointing Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas Aerath, OIC, as its first eparchal bishop. Bishop Aerath was previously apostolic visitor for the Syro-Malankars extra-territorial missions in India. The new eparchy extends along the northern part of India, covering 22 of the 29 states...
Christians and Muslims celebrate feast together in Lebanon (Fides) The Marian solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which Lebanon proclaimed a national holiday in 2010, has also seen this year celebrations in various parts of the country promoted by organizations of Christian-Muslim dialogue, starting from Ensemble Autour de Marie group. This year, in particular, Christians and Muslims gathered around Mary in the Shrine of Notre Dame de Nourieh and Notre Dame de Jamhour, for a liturgy of reflections and songs — some in Latin and Aramaic — and also saw the participation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lione, together with the Imam of the Mosque of Lione, Kamel Kabtane...
Chechnya threatens to arm Mexico if U.S. arms Ukraine (The Moscow Times) A Kremlin spokesman reminded Russia’s republic of Chechnya that it is illegal for Russian regions to send weapons abroad, after the Chechen parliament threatened to supply arms to Mexico for it to fight the United States. The Chechen parliament made the statement in response to a U.S. congressional resolution that called for sending lethal military aid to Ukraine...
26 March 2015
Sister Sara treats a patient at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
Name: Sister Sara
Order: Dominican sisters of St. Catherine of Siena
Facility: Mother of Mercy Clinic
Location: Zerqa, Jordan
Their patients are many. Their workdays endless. But for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena? Helping the needy who flock to Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan is a job that has to be done.
Sister Sara knows this well. The town struggles with poverty, crime and pollution. More than half of all residents in some neighborhoods live below the poverty line.
Ever since she arrived from Iraq to work in this busy facility 15 years ago, Sister Sara has helped provide health care to thousands. From local factory workers to Iraqi, Syrian and Palestinian refugees, everyone is treated regardless of creed or nationality.
But at its heart? Mother of Mercy Clinic is a sanctuary for poor mothers and children. Although the sisters specialize in prenatal and postnatal care, children of all ages receive treatment their families could never otherwise afford.
“The most lovely time to my heart is when working with these small angels for treatment and vaccinations,” Sister Sara explains. “A small kid named Wadi was afraid to come near me and used to run away. But I talked to him gently and provided him with chocolate. He asked me to visit them at their house and we did. When they moved, he invited me to visit again, insisting they have a spare room for me!”
In Jordan’s traditional culture, the sisters have gained the community’s trust. As Sister Sara points out, “A female patient told me that her parents are not afraid when she comes to the clinic by herself, as the nuns make them feel comfortable and secure.”
She remembers treating one 65-year-old diabetic. “He used to visit twice a week until he died. I will not forget his words, ‘I was lucky to come to the clinic. You have treated me with kindness and love. Your words encouraged me to bear my pain and suffering.’.”
Unfortunately, excellent care is expensive to provide. Medical equipment, drugs and supplies have to be imported. And because the sisters treat their poorest patients for free, the clinic depends on donations to meet its budget.
That’s why Sister Sara is so grateful to the donors of Catholic Near East Welfare Association. But with their patient roster increasing, she and her fellow sisters need your help more than ever. As they serve the poor. As they serve humanity with compassion, the only way they know.
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.
26 March 2015
Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas Aerath, of the Eparchy of St. John Chrysostom of Gurgaon of the Syro-Malankara Church, is surrounded by new Catholics he baptized recently in Punjab. To learn more about Catholic outreach in northern India, read Msgr. Kozar’s account of a recent visit there in the Winter edition of ONE. (photo: CNEWA)
26 March 2015
In this image from February, Ukrainian soldiers play football on the road leading to the embattled town of Debaltseve outside Artemivsk, Ukraine. The Holy See has urged the international community to work to ensure stability in Ukraine. (photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
U.S. strikes ISIS in Tikrit (The New York Times) American warplanes began airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit late Wednesday, finally joining a stalled offensive to retake the Iraqi city as American officials sought to seize the initiative from Iran, which had taken a major role in directing the operation. The decision to directly aid the offensive was made by President Obama on Wednesday, American officials said, and represented a significant shift in the Iraqi campaign. For more than three weeks, the Americans had stayed on the sideline of the battle for Tikrit, wary of being in the position of aiding an essentially Iranian-led operation. Senior Iranian officials had been on the scene, and allied Shiite militias had made up the bulk of the force...
Holy See: All parties need to work to implement Ukraine agreements (Vatican Radio) The Holy See reminded the international community of the need to “respect international legality regarding Ukraine’s territory and borders” as a “key element” for ensuring stability, both for Ukraine and the entire region. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, on Thursday addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council about the situation in Ukraine...
Police in India make arrests in gang rape of nun (AP) Police arrested two suspects Thursday in the gang rape of an elderly nun in a Catholic missionary school this month in a crime that focused attention on the scourge of sexual violence in India despite tough anti-rape laws introduced two years ago. The suspects were arrested after a nationwide hunt, one of them was found hiding in the western city of Mumbai and the second from West Bengal state, said a police officer said who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters...
Thousands of Copts to visit Jerusalem for Easter (The Cairo Post) About 5,000 Coptic Christians are planning to visit Jerusalem starting from April 2 to attend Easter celebrations, in violation of the Coptic Church’s policy, Youm7 reported. The church, under the late Pope Cyril VI, in 1968 established a policy of discouraging Copts from traveling to Palestine, after the 1967 annexation by Israel, as long as Egyptian Muslims would not be able to make the trip, Pastor Paulis Halim told Youm7...
Saving Gaza’s only grand piano (BBC) The only concert grand piano in war-ravaged Gaza has been rediscovered and brought back to life after years of neglect. It survived last year’s war with Israel — though only just — but was unplayable until a restorer arrived on a special mission from France, and paved the way for a rare concert...
25 March 2015
Tags: Iraq Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Coptic
Lunch is served in the traditional Indian manner at St. Antony’s English Medium School. To learn more about this school, read “Education as a Common Goal” in the September-October 2003 edition of the magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
25 March 2015
A peshmerga checkpoint stands beside pools of oil with damaged oil pipeline infrastructure, as Iraqi Kurdish forces push the frontline forward against ISIS forces 20 miles southwest of Kirkuk, Iraq, on 13 March 2015.These peshmerga units of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) faction have made significant gains against villages held by ISIS, in concert with an Iraqi government and Shiite militia attack further south to free Tikrit from ISIS control.
(photo: Scott Peterson/Getty Images)
U.S., Iraq considering airstrikes to liberate Tikrit (Wall Street Journal) Iraqi officials are considering asking a U.S.-led coalition to launch airstrikes to liberate the Iraqi city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants, according to a spokesman for the president, after a more than three-week offensive in the city stalled without foreign assistance. Khalid Shwani, a spokesman for President Fouad Massoum, said Iraqi military leaders were meeting with U.S. military officials to study whether to request the airstrikes...
Syrian rebels capture Bosra from regime forces (AP) Syrian rebels on Wednesday seized an ancient town near the Jordan border that is a key government stronghold, ousting Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen from the region after four days of intense battles, opposition activists and rebels said. There was no immediate comment from the government on the fall of Busra Sham, a town in southern Syria classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic citadel, ruins and well-preserved Roman amphitheater. It was once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia and a stopover on caravan routes to Mecca, according to UNESCO...
A visit with the refugees of war-torn Syria (Archdiocese of Toronto) In part 1 of our interview with Carl Hétu, national director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), he described his trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories with an international delegation of bishops. Following that visit, he traveled to neighboring Jordan and Lebanon to meet refugees from war-torn Syria. Hétu shared with us his first-hand account of their plight...
Aleppo’s Christians see regime as last hope (Al-Monitor) The conflict in Syria entered its fifth year this month, and many parts of the country and their inhabitants are hardly recognizable. This is true of the war-torn city of Aleppo, my hometown, with its mosaic of religious, social and ethnic groups who have all had to deal with the harsh realities and horrors of war on a daily basis...
Christians in India rally to protest nun’s rape (Indian Express) The Christian community on Tuesday took out a mammoth rally in protest against the rape of a 71-year-old nun in West Bengal and attacks on the Christian community and churches. According to estimates, 30,000-35,000 people, including sportspersons Dhanraj Pillay and Anjali Vedpathak, took part in the rally. A lot of people from as far as Talegaon and Lonavala were also among the crowd...
Armenian parliament endorses statement condemning genocides (Fides) On Tuesday, 24 March the Armenian Parliament voted a resolution condemning the massacres against the Assyrians and Greeks carried out in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. The resolution was supported by all political forces in Parliament , and won the unanimous favor of 117 MPs...
24 March 2015
Tags: Syria India Iraq Armenia
Hana Habshi adjusts the irrigation pipes in his apple orchard in Deir El Ahmar.
(photo: Laura Boushnak)
In 2012, we reported on ways CNEWA is helping bring water to parched corners of Lebanon:
“The presence of water gave us a means to stay here,” says 65-year-old Hana Habshi, a resident of the Maronite Catholic town of Deir El Ahmar. The once-bustling agricultural hub nestles on the slopes of the fertile Bekaa Valley, about 60 miles northeast of Beirut, where Mr. Habshi has lived and worked since the height of civil war in the 1980’s. But for the past decade, thanks to several irrigation projects, Mr. Habshi has returned to his hometown every summer to farm his family’s ancestral lands. “It helped us come back and live off the land again.”
Lebanon’s civil war — which ravaged the country from 1975 to 1990 — destroyed much of the nation’s infrastructure, including its irrigation systems, and sounded the death knell for the Bekaa Valley’s agricultural economy.
Without reliable sources of water, and subsequent erosion, farmers could no longer cultivate the land that formerly nourished lush fields and bountiful yields. Desperate for work, inhabitants moved to Lebanon’s major coastal cities, such as Beirut, Saida and Tripoli. Some left the country altogether. The few who remained scraped by as sustenance farmers, growing crops that require little water such as wheat, hay and, in some cases, hashish.
Deir El Ahmar, like most settlements in the area, remains but a shadow of its former self. Its many empty homes and crumbling public buildings remind locals and visitors of a more prosperous past. Though municipal authorities register some 10,000 residents, in reality half as many actually live there — and only then in the summer months. In winter, the town’s population plunges to little more than 3,000.
However, in the last ten years, Deir El Ahmar has been slowly but surely bucking the trend. Locals attribute this reversal to one thing — water. Since 1999, when the town installed its first irrigation system drawing on natural spring water, residents such as Mr. Habshi have been trickling back to town and reviving their parched properties and the Christian identity of the town.
“Before it was all just trees and shrubs, but look what happens when water comes,” says Mr. Habshi, pointing to the surrounding hillsides and valley below.
Learn more in “Springs of Hope in Lebanon” from the January 2012 edition of ONE.