29 October 2013
At the Bird’s Nest, an Armenian orphanage in Lebanon, women make miters and vestments. To learn more about the Armenian Catholic Church, read our profile from the September 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
29 October 2013
Tags: Lebanon ONE magazine Orphans/Orphanages Armenian Catholic Church
In this photo from last month, Pope Francis walks with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch during a private meeting at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Heads of Eastern churches to meet in summit (VIS) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, announced in his address at the opening of the new academic year of the Pontifical Oriental Institute that a summit meeting of the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern churches of Syria, Iraq and the Middle East will be held in the Vatican, in the presence of Pope Francis, on 21 November. The meeting, which will take place from 19 to 22 November, will take as its general theme “The Eastern Catholic churches, 50 years after Vatican Council II…”
Jesuits on the Syrian conflict: Let’s stop arms dealers (Fides) In order to understand and stop the conflict in Syria, “one should recognize and call by name the real interests at stake — at a local, regional and international level — that do not correspond to the interests of the Syrian people,” the Provincial Superiors of the Jesuits of the Middle East and Europe said in a recent statement. The Jesuit provincials dwell in particular on arms trafficking as triggering and feeding the violence in the Middle East…
Orthodox bishop appeals to rescue the people of Qalamoun (AsiaNews) The Syriac Orthodox Bishop Silvanus Boutros Naame issued an appeal on behalf of the approximately 3,000 residents of Sadad and Hofar, in the Qalamoun region of Syria, near the border with Lebanon. The bishop asks that they that they be saved from siege and moved to safe places “in any direction, either towards the Convent of Al Attieh or towards the city of Homs, where we may welcome them…”
Beleaguered Syrian Christians fear future (Denver Post) The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar al Assad’s rule. Al Qaeda-linked fighters have damaged and desecrated churches in areas they have seized. In Raqqa, militants set fires in two churches and knocked the crosses off them, replacing them with the group’s black Islamic banner. Radical Islamists also torched an Armenian church in the northern town of Tel Abyad on Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…
Syria polio outbreak confirmed by WHO (BBC) The World Health Organization has confirmed ten cases of polio in war-torn Syria — the first outbreak in the country in 14 years. The United Nations body says a further 12 cases are still being investigated. Most of the 22 people who have been tested are babies and toddlers. Before Syria’s civil war began in 2011, some 95 percent of children were vaccinated against the disease. The U.N. now estimates 500,000 children have not been immunized…
Patriarch: Interreligious relations in Serbia ‘harmonious’ (B92) The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, has described interreligious relations in Serbia as “harmonious.” Patriarch Irinej last week headed a Serbian delegation on a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia. According to Tanjug, the patriarch said “there are no such [harmonious] relations in Kosovo and Metohija, where ethnic Albanians declared independence unilaterally.” The patriarch and his Indonesian hosts “agreed that religious conflicts occur when politicians abuse religious issues,” according to the news agency…
28 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Serbian Orthodox Church
Coptic Christians chant prayers during a candlelight protest after dozens were killed during clashes with soldiers and riot police in October 2011. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
In the Autumn issue of ONE, Sarah Topol reports on young Copts persevering during a time of turmoil in Egypt. Here, she offers some reasons why they dare to hope.
You read a lot of stories about Christians fleeing Egypt — they make up roughly 10 percent of the country’s 85.3 million people, and are now the largest Christian population in the Middle East.
Since the revolution, Egypt’s economy has crumbled, the political system has in some ways become even more repressive and instances of sectarian violence have mounted. One might imagine every Christian would want to leave Egypt — or at least they would be depressed by their prospects in a country they have inhabited for centuries. And while feelings of concern, fear and anxiety continue — and there are young people who want to leave — the kids I spoke with in Cairo want to stay put. In reporting this story, I was struck by how positive the young people I spoke to were.
It shouldn’t have shocked me, because you see this phenomenon throughout history; time and again, young people have asked for change because they are too youthful to have been disappointed in the past. They have less to lose than their parents. And let’s face it — your early 20’s are the time for idealism.
But what made their optimism interesting to me is that these particular young people have been disappointed. In Feb 2011, president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, and many thought they toppled a dictator. They believed there was a New Egypt on the horizon.
Instead, the transition has been turbulent. Ruled by an interim military government that prosecuted more civilians in military courts in 18 months in power than Mubarak did in his nearly 30-year reign, they then saw the election of Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi. Under his term, journalists have been intimidated, the economy has continued to fail, rolling blackouts have hit the country and protests against his term have ended in more violent clashes with security services. From inflation to security to trash collection, everything in Egypt seems to be stagnating, if not getting worse. Yet the young people I spoke with were trying to stay positive, though even they admit that’s not easy. But why?
The best answer I got was from Diana Maher Ghali, a 24-year-old who is expecting her first child this fall. She had this to say about their youthful optimism:
We believe that after the dawn there is light. That’s the rule of the world; it’s not dark all the time, and it’s not light all the time, and we feel this is our time to make a change.
We didn’t live under [Gamal] Nasser or [Anwar] Sadat. We didn’t live through all those wars. We didn’t live under the English occupation. This is our time to do something and this is our time to make history as young people.
If we don’t do anything, then our kids are going to blame us in the future for standing still and watching our country fall apart. I think we get our enthusiasm from this. We try to encourage each other. If we ever give up, it’s over. It’s always important to have hope that something will change, but it’s about taking action — not just sitting in your home.
Read more about Faith Under Fire in the Autumn issue of ONE.
28 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Cultural Identity ONE magazine Coptic Christians Copts
Children take part in the dedication of the new cathedral in Ukraine. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Several weeks ago, CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar had a chance to visit Ukraine and take part in the dedication of a new cathedral. He writes about it in the new issue of ONE:
We came at the invitation of Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to participate in the consecration of the new Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Our Lord, located in Kiev, Ukraine, and to commemorate a historic religious event heralding the beginning of the church in Ukraine. Gathered with us for the formal celebrations were Cardinal Timothy Dolan, CNEWA’s chair and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Richard Smith, his counterpart in Canada; and a number of Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops from Canada and the United States.
But our primary reason for visiting Ukraine was pastoral — to demonstrate CNEWA’s abiding support for this church that is, in fact, relatively young. Let me explain.
I say “young” because even though the church has been present there for over 1,000 years, it was suppressed for generations — forbidden and driven underground until only 22 years ago. With the fall of communism and the end of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has risen from the underground. Today, it is a dynamic and vibrant church. It never lost the faith — in fact, despite thousands of bishops, priests, sisters and lay faithful being executed or sent off to labor camps in the countryside and into Siberia, the faith was heroically passed on to successive generations.
What amazed and moved me was that these brave and courageous people do not complain about their great sufferings. Nor do they not look for pity. Rather, they celebrate their joy of rising with Christ and proclaiming him to all. The consecration of the new cathedral was a dramatic sign to the faithful in Ukraine and beyond that the faith shared in baptism can flourish — even in the worst of times.
Read more about his visit in the Autumn issue of ONE.
28 October 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Msgr. John E. Kozar Eastern Europe CNEWA Canada
In this 2010 photo, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem blesses the people of Madaba, a town south of Amman, Jordan. (photo: Joseph Zakarian)
Church of Antioch may break off relations with Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Pravoslavie) The Greek church news agency Romphea has reported the decision of the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Antioch regarding the issue of jurisdiction over the state of Qatar. Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch has warned Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem that if within two months he does not take steps to resolve the problem with Qatar, the Church of Antioch will have to break off relations with the Church of Jerusalem. Both local churches consider the state of Qatar to be their canonical territory…
Aid still a trickle as Syrians contend with hunger, disease (Washington Post) With more than five million people internally displaced, a suspected polio outbreak and starvation threatening, the United Nations and aid agencies say that just a trickle of the required assistance is getting into war-ravaged Syria as the harsh winter months loom. After more than two and a half years of conflict, the accounts of struggling civilians paint a portrait of abject human suffering amid what the World Health Organization has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis…
Vatican sends greetings to Hindus for Diwali (Vatican Radio) The Vatican has sent a cordial message of solidarity to Hindus as they celebrate the feast of Deepavali, also known as “the festival of lights,” or Diwali. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran writes: “Regardless of our ethnic, cultural, religious and ideological differences, all of us belong to the one human family.” The full text follows…
Christian book burning in Raqqa (Fides) The militia of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the faction that in several regions of Syria monopolized the armed insurrection against the regime in Damascus in recent days have organized a book burning of Bibles and Christian books in front of the Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Raqqa, the Syrian city which has been for months under the control of anti-Assad militias…
Israel agrees to release 26 more Palestinian prisoners (Al Jazeera) The Israeli government voted Sunday to release 26 long-held Palestinian prisoners as part of a United States-brokered deal that led to the resumption of Middle East peace talks in August. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the 26 prisoners, jailed for violence committed before a 1993 interim accord, would be released. However, the actual release of the prisoners will take place at least 48 hours after their names are published to give bereaved Israeli families the opportunity to appeal their release before the courts, which rarely intervene in such cases…
25 October 2013
Tags: Refugees Jerusalem Health Care Christian-Hindu relations Church of Antioch
The demands of life in the village of Ujmana include fetching water by hand. (photo: Molly Corso)
Photojournalist Molly Corso lives and works in Tbilisi, Georgia, and wrote about one community of Georgians in the Autumn edition of ONE. Here, she offers some personal insight into what it was like covering the story.
In my very blessed life as a foreign correspondent based in Georgia, I travel to a lot of villages. Georgian villages, Armenian villages, Azeri villages. Villages high in the mountains, villages built too low to survive flooding. I see villages that were once prosperous and villages that have been abandoned. But, regardless of where I am traveling there is one constant: villages in Georgia are heart stopping, spirit crushingly poor.
So, heading out to two Catholic Armenian villages in the southern region of Samtskhe Javakheti very early one morning in August, I had two expectations: the villages would be poor and the roads would be bad. I was not, however, prepared for the beauty of the region or the breathtaking generosity of the locals.
The road, once we turned off the main highway that connects the region with the capital (and the rest of the country), was little more than a stony country path. It was so bad, in fact, that some smart local had created an alternative route off to the side because driving through the field was smoother than trying to circumvent the potholes on the road.
Driving aside, the countryside was intensely beautiful, a scrub hard valley tucked in between sloping rock hills. There were neat stone farmhouses – very different from traditional Georgian homes – lining golden fields. The pungent odor of farm life was everywhere, following us as we skirted a pretty stream and crossed old stone bridges.
Once we turned off the main highway, very few people spoke Georgian although most – but not all – spoke Russian, so we could communicate even without known Armenian. But communication was not always easy, all parties trying to speak through an obviously foreign tongue. That was especially true of our first encounter with the locals. We pulled up beside a group of two men and a woman with a child to ask directions. The men spoke a smattering of Russian, enough to tell us we were on the right path to the village – and to ask us to take the woman and child with us. They clamored into the car and away we went. Very soon, however, it became clear they only spoke Armenian.
The lack of language, however, did not stop Peghekya, the woman, from inviting us for coffee and “some bread.”
“Some bread” ended up being an entire meal and the experience was repeated at nearly every home we visited the entire day. One of the poorest families we visited, two pensioners left to live out their old age alone in a crumbling farmhouse, wouldn’t let us leave without taking some homemade cheese (delicious!) and were deeply offended we would not stay for some homemade brandy.
Generosity is an important trait in the Caucasus — a part of the regional culture and a source of pride. But never, in a decade of living and traveling in Georgia, have I met people as gracious and rich of spirit as the Armenian Catholics in these villages. At our last stop, at a house in Ujmana, we asked one gentleman where this fountain of generosity comes from and he answered with a shrug, "It has always been like that here. Samtskhe Javakheti is a very kind place."
Truer words were never spoken.
You can read more on Armenian Catholics in Staying Power in the Autumn edition of ONE.
25 October 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Armenia Village life Georgia Armenian Catholic Church
A Syrian refugee boy flashes a peace sign along the border in Kilis, Turkey, in mid-September. More than a 1 million Syrian refugees are under 18, about 740,000 under 11, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Read more about the refugees in this story from the Catholic Register. And visit our Syria giving page to learn how you can help.
(photo: CNS /Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)
25 October 2013
In this image from 2012, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III attends Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on the waterfront in Beirut. At left is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Patriarch: ‘Syria is walking the way of the cross’ (Independent Catholic News) Bombs, kidnapping and financial extortion are among the problems facing Syria’s Christians, the leader of the country’s Catholics told a meeting in Westminster Cathedral Hall. Speaking to more than 300 benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregory III — the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church — said: “Syria is experiencing a lengthy, bloody way of the cross, stretching along all the country’s roads.” The patriarch, who is president of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria, added: “You may think that it is safe here or unsafe there, but at any moment you may be killed by bomb, missile or bullet, not to mention being kidnapped or taken hostage for ransom, or murdered...”
Syrian Orthodox bishop calls for “humanitarian corridor” (Fides) The Metropolitan Silwanos Boutros Alnemeh, of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Homs and Hama, has launched an appeal to institutions and international humanitarian organizations on behalf of the civilian population. About 3,000 people have remained besieged in the villages of Sadad and Hofar, in the region of Qualamun, about a hundred kilometers north-east of Damascus, where another front of the conflict between the government army and anti-Assad militias has opened. Those responsible for the siege, the bishop explains in his message, must “facilitate the departure of the population safely in any direction, both towards the monastery of Al-Attieh, and in the direction of the city of Homs, where we could welcome them.” Metropolitan Silwanos begs international organizations, recipients of his appeal, to avoid “statements that may compromise the safety of the residents of the besieged cities and residents in Syria...”
Canadian government to direct millions to aid Syrian refugees (Catholic Register) The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is directing $5.4 million of Canadian government funding to Syrian refugees who are living outside official refugee camps. More than half the Syrian refugees, including over four million displaced Syrians still inside Syria’s borders, aren’t in any of the refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. There are more than 2 million refugees who have made it out of the war torn country...
Church in Kerala celebrates feast with a Hindu flair (Catholic News Service) In the Christian heartland of Kerala, India, feisty church festivals are commonplace, but the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima at St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Kottekad remains unique. Emulating a typical Hindu pooram, or festival, when the deities are carried in procession to the temples on elephants to the accompaniment of traditional bands called “panchavadyam,” a portrait of Our Lady of Fatima was carried to the Syro-Malabar Catholic church on elephants on 20 October...
24 October 2013
Tags: Syria Refugees Kerala Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch
A child of the village of Sebeya enjoys an enriched biscuit. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
The Autumn issue of ONE magazine is now online. One of the stories offers a look at a program to feed hungry schoolchildren in Ethiopia, in places where the need is great:
In places like Sebeya, Awo and Alitena near the northern border with Eritrea, famine and death are never far from the doorstep.
“I already shiver when I think of the dry season months that are coming. For some schools, we are not sure we will be able to secure food on time,” says Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Adigrat, whose eparchy of the Ge’ez Catholic Church administers some 52 schools in the region. “This is how we live, in a continuous kind of uncertainty.”
It is July, the fields have been planted and this continuous kind of uncertainty reigns over them. Farmers like Gebremichael Gebru, 68, from the village of Sebeya, about 20 miles from Adigrat, look to the skies for the much needed rain. So far, it has not come. If none falls in the next month, says Mr. Gebru, the harvest will be ruined and his family will have a very hungry year.
One of the many consequences of this condition is fainting — children passing out in class because they have had no breakfast and have no lunch to eat. The task of concentrating on a blackboard overpowers them.
“We usually eat three times a day, but when food is short we only eat once a day,” says Gebremichael Gebru’s 10-year-old son, Teklit, who attends the local Holy Trinity School. “I have to go to school hungry sometimes. It’s very difficult.”
The family used to have more than two and a half acres of land. But in Ethiopia, where the state owns all the land and has very strong powers of eminent domain, the government took half of that land to provide space for housing for the village’s growing population.
“It’s not enough land for us,” says Mr. Gebru. “Now, as there is no rain, I plan to move from tillage to livestock. I’m not interested in cultivation anymore. It’s not sustainable.”
Sustainability is the current watchword of the Ethiopian government and its international development partners. The numerous terraces lining the surrounding hills, the small dams, reservoirs and canals that punctuate the landscape attest to this. But in Sebeya and other rural outposts, such infrastructure for irrigation and water preservation looks obsolete and resembles the debris of a former, defunct civilization where living off the land in comfort and dignity was possible.
In some corners of the country, sustainability is a dream and simply surviving can be a struggle.
But there is hope. Read what CNEWA and others are doing. And check out this link to learn how you can help.
24 October 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Catholic education Hunger
In this May photo, Coptic Pope Tawadros II celebrates the Divine Liturgy at St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. (photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church)
Pope Tawadros II discusses perpetrators of church attack (Daily News Egypt) During his weekly sermon on Wednesday, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, said: “We pray for those who were killed and injured as well as those who killed the happiness of the innocent.” Those comments are the Coptic pope’s first since the attack on a Coptic wedding at Virgin Mary Church in the Giza neighborhood of Al Warraq. “The door of repentance is still open for [the attackers], and we pray for Egypt so that God will protect it,” the pope said…
Pope meets with Jewish human rights group (Vatican Radio) In a meeting with a delegation from an international Jewish human rights organization on Thursday, the pope stressed that the problem of intolerance must be confronted. Several representatives from the United States-based Simon Wiesenthal Center met with Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina. He acknowledged the mission of the center, which is to fight every form of intolerance and to promote mutual understanding between cultures. The pope remarked that he has had several occasions in the past few weeks to restate “the church’s condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism…”
Muscovite builds record-breaking statue of Jesus in Syria (The Moscow Times) A bronze statue of Jesus Christ, taller than the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, has appeared in war-torn Syria. The statue, entitled “I Have Come to Save the World” was the brainchild of Yury Gavrilov, a 49-year-old Muscovite who runs an organization in London called the St. Paul and St. George Foundation. Patrons of the project include both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government. Despite the statue’s Russian connection, it was cast in Armenia and made by an Armenian sculptor, Artush Papoian. Syria’s ethnic Armenians have been fleeing the country in droves since the conflict began, to the extent that Armenia has built a new settlement called New Aleppo to house them, named after the war-torn northern Syrian city where the majority of Syria’s ethnic Armenian population lives. The statue is located on a mountaintop near the city of Sednaya…
Latin Patriarch opens conference on women in the Middle East (Fides) On 24 October, a conference organized by the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations began with a report by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal on the role of women in the church and society in the Middle East. The conference is taking place under the patronage of Queen Rania of Jordan and has as its theme the service rendered by women devoted to “life, dignity and the common good…”
In Ethiopia, IKEA shelters house refugees (Der Spiegel) The Swedish furniture giant IKEA had 13 newly developed huts erected on the Ethiopian savanna at the Kobe refugee camp last August. The precisely arranged row of Swedish-designed structures stands in stark contrast to the tents and barracks in other parts of the camp. It’s a test case for the company, and if the IKEA huts pass, they could soon offer refugees around the world a better home than conventional tents…
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Art Women Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II