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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
7 June 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




Pope John XXIII visits Regina Coeli jail on 26 December 1958. (photo: Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images)

In many of the places where CNEWA works, there are prisons. Most have appalling conditions; many are places where hope is in short supply. The March 2018 issue of ONE, CNEWA’s magazine, chronicles the work of prison chaplains in Ethiopia who are seeking to change that. While this story is, of course, unique, it is replicated by committed Christians all over CNEWA’s world — and, in fact, the whole world — who are responding to the Gospel mandate to visit the imprisoned.

This story offers us an opportunity to reflect on where that mandate originates, and why it matters so much.

To begin with, prisons appear several times in the Bible. In the New Testament, John the Baptist is imprisoned and ultimately executed by Herod. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John are imprisoned several times as is Paul. In fact, in his letter to the Ephesians Paul describes himself twice as a “prisoner of the Lord.” However, perhaps the most important appearance of prison is in Matthew 25. In his description of the Last Judgment, Jesus harshly condemns those who are “on the left side of the Son of Man.” He condemns them: “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). This is one of the harshest statements of Jesus in all the Gospels. When he explains why these people are cursed, he notes they did not feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick. These are actions which we would expect of a follower of Jesus, especially after he makes them quite literally the linchpins of salvation. What is interesting is that Jesus not only includes visiting the sick but also visiting the imprisoned. The seriousness of this cannot be overlooked. Visiting the imprisoned is for Jesus here a condition for salvation.

Since the time of Jesus, prisons have evolved — though, to be honest, rarely improved. In the ancient world, a prison was basically the place where criminals where held until they we executed, sold into slavery, etc. Imprisonment itself was not the punishment but merely the place where one was held before punishment.

In the Middle Ages, imprisonment itself became a punishment. The ability to execute and imprison people was a sign of power and authority and many a nobleman had a dungeon in his castle where people were held in the most degrading conditions. In the 18th and 19th centuries in England and among the Quakers in Pennsylvania a new concept of the prison evolved. These reformers saw imprisonment not merely as a punishment but as rehabilitation. Prisons became “correction facilities,” where the criminal would repent, reform and return to society as a productive, law-abiding citizen. While a noble idea, it didn’t get very far; centuries later, prisons are horrible places where a “correction facility” far too often releases people who arefrequently no better — and often worse — than when they were initially incarcerated.

Recent popes have been increasingly concerned with the plight of the imprisoned. After years as “prisoner of the Vatican,” the first pope to leave the Vatican was Pope John XXIII. On 26 December 1958 the pope’s first excursion out of Vatican City was a Christmas visit to the prisoners at Regina Cœli, the notorious Roman prison on the Gianicolo. Since that time, popes have regularly visited the imprisoned. Pope Francis has made Holy Thursday the traditional day for such a trip, traveling outside the Vatican to celebrate the Holy Thursday liturgy and wash the feet of prisoners. He is modeling for us what Christ taught — and embodying in a powerful and modern way the very message of Matthew 25.

We are privileged to follow that example in our own work. Supported by CNEWA, prison ministers — very often lay people — are bringing hope and a future to people who otherwise would not have it. Based on a deep conviction that people can change, that grace is more powerful than sin and goodness more powerful than evil, prison ministers help the imprisoned turn their lives around and ultimately return to society.



Tags: Ethiopia Pope

7 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Deacon Kevin Mundackal recites prayers during his 5 May ordination to the priesthood at St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church in Somerset, N.J. He is the first U.S.-born priest to be ordained for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. (photo: CNS/Ed Koskey Jr., The Catholic Spirit)



Tags: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

7 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Bernadito Auza underscored the importance of faith-based organizations in helping migrants. He addressed an event at the UN on 4 June. (photo: Vatican News)

Holy See commends service of faith-based organizations to migrants (Vatican News) The Holy See has underscored the importance of faith-based organizations in providing protection and integration to migrants. Their efforts, alongside those of other key stakeholders, are essential in helping implement the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), the first intergovernmental agreement coordinated by the United Nations that will cover all dimensions of international migration…

To go or not to go: Syrians’ dilemma in Lebanon (Gulf News) With the Syrian regime seemingly on the path to winning the war, there have been growing calls in host countries for the refugees to go back. Nowhere else has this been more pronounced than in Lebanon…

Rights group: Gaza children on brink of mental health crisis (Al Jazeera) A generation of children in the besieged Gaza Strip are on the brink of a mental health crisis, a children rights group said. ”A whole generation of children in Gaza is balancing on a knife edge where one more shock could have devastating life-long consequences,” Marcia Brophy, a senior health adviser at Save the Children, said in a statement..

Tensions rise between Ukraine and Russia in territorial waters (Newsweek) kraine’s navy is in a state of heightened alert in the Sea of Azov, a body of water shared by the Eastern European nation and Russia. ”The security service said: ’Watch closely, the Russians are preparing countermeasures. They are planning seizures and hijackings of Ukrainian ships,’” a Ukrainian shipowner told Radio Free Europe in a video published on Wednesday…

Soccer match canceled over Jerusalem (The New York Times) A decision by Argentina’s national soccer team to cancel a World Cup warm-up match against Israel after protests by Palestinian activists has set off hand-wringing and recrimination here in a nation obsessed with the sport and geopolitics…



Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Vatican

6 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Sister Frehiwot Chisha greets a class in Rosa Gatorno Kindergarten in Ethiopia. Discover how young religious sisters are being formed to lead and teach in Ethiopia in The Habit of Learning in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)



Tags: Ethiopia

6 June 2018
Greg Kandra




A Franciscan priest in the video above describes his efforts to help rebuild a devastated Syria. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Lebanon leader says Iran, Hezbollah forces to remain in Syria until it is ’liberated’ (Reuters) Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Iranian and Hezbollah forces will not withdraw from Syria until the country is “liberated” and its “territorial integrity is restored,” Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Wednesday…

Street protests continuing in Jordan (Vatican News) King Abdullah II says he wants a review of a draft income tax law, after days of protests against new austerity measures which led to the resignation of the prime minister. Several thousand protesters gathered in Amman soon after premier Hani Mulki stepped down…

Ethiopia says it will ‘fully accept’ Eritrea peace deal from 2000 (The New York Times) Ethiopia announced Tuesday that it would accept a 2000 peace agreement with Eritrea over their disputed border, potentially a major step toward resolving one of post-colonial Africa’s bloodiest and most protracted conflicts. A statement by the governing party of Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa, said it would “fully accept and implement” the agreement with Eritrea, a former province of Ethiopia, which was signed but never honored…

Lebanon presses UNHCR on refugee return strategy (The Daily Star) Lebanon Tuesday gave the UNHCR a fortnight to respond to a request to develop a strategy to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to safe zones in their homeland. The Foreign Ministry’s political affairs director, Ghady al-Khoury, met with the body’s Lebanon representative to voice Lebanon’s reservations over the UNHCR policy on the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, a statement from the ministry said…

Italy calls on Israel not to demolish Bedouin village in Jerusalem (Middle East Monitor) The Italian foreign ministry has called on Israeli occupation authorities not to demolish a Bedouin village and an Italian-funded school in eastern Jerusalem, expressing concern that such a step threatens the two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Jordan

5 June 2018
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Joseph Jbara, center, visited CNEWA’s staff in Amman, Jordan, on 31 May. (photo: CNEWA)

We recently received the following email and accompanying photograph from Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman:

Earlier this year 2018, Pope Francis approved the proposal presented by the Synod of the Melkite Roman Catholics to transfer Bishop Joseph Jbara from the Diocese of Our Lady of Paradise in Sao Paulo to the Greek Melkite Catholic Archeparchy of Petra and Philadelphia. He thus became an archbishop.

Archbishop Jbara visited CNEWA’s office on 31 May. His visit was a gesture of love and thanks to all who attended his installation ceremony in April. I briefed him on all our projects and programs involving the Melkite churches and parishioners, and was privileged to give him a tour at our community center.



Tags: CNEWA Jordan Melkite

5 June 2018
Greg Kandra




The Rev. Rajeev Philip, ordained on 2 June 2018 at a ceremony in Tampa, Florida, is pictured meeting with Pope Francis in 2017. He has become the first U.S.-born priest to be ordained for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syro-Malabar Diocese of St. Thomas)

First U.S.-born Syro-Malbar priest ordained (CNS) In a 2 June ceremony in Tampa, Florida, the Rev. Rajeev Philip became the first U.S.-born priest to be ordained for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church…

U.S.-backed forces withdraw from Syrian border town (AP) The United States says the Syrian town of Manbij will be governed by “locals” who are “mutually agreeable” to the U.S. and Turkey following the withdrawal of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces from the city…

Syria tells Lebanon it wants refugees to return (Voice of America) Syria has told Lebanon it wants refugees to return to help rebuild the country, its envoy to Lebanon said on Monday, after Beirut expressed concern that a new land redevelopment law could discourage them from going home. Lebanon, which is hosting about a million registered Syrian refugees, wrote to the Syrian government last month over “Law 10,” which aid and rights groups fear could result in Syrian refugees losing their property in the country…

Refugee agency recommits to serving Syrians (CNS) The Jesuit Refugee Service pledged to continue supporting some of the 11 million displaced Syrians as the U.S. government’s response to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War II is in “retreat”…

India’s bishops support strike by desperate farmers (UCANews.com) Millions of farmers across India’s seven major states have launched a ten-day strike demanding higher prices for their produce and loan waivers with rights activist and church groups pledging support to their struggle. Days after beginning on 1 June, the strike has begun to affect urban areas of central and northern India where farmers are refusing to provide produce to markets resulting in soaring food prices…

Jerusalem artist wants to give Prince William a tattoo during his visit (Haaretz) The Duke of Cambridge is preparing for a solo Middle East tour in late June, when he is set to visit Israel, Jordan and the West Bank…



Tags: Syria India Lebanon Jerusalem Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

4 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Children kick around a soccer ball near statue of the Virgin Mary at the refugee camp in Dbayeh, on the northern outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon. To learn more, read Defining Dbayeh, from the September 2007 edition of ONE. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)



Tags: Lebanon Refugees Children Refugee Camps

4 June 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Protesters wave flags near Jordanian security forces during a demonstration outside the prime minister's office in the capital Amman late on 3 June 2018. (photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)

Jordan PM Hani Mulki quits after austerity protests (BBC) Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani Mulki has resigned after days of protests against tax rises and austerity measures. The recent demonstrations in the country, which is a key Western ally, are the biggest in years. Protesters have chanted anti-government slogans and clashed with police, who have fired tear gas and blocked roads…

Greek Catholic Annunciation Society targets youth dropout rate in Jerusalem through remedial education (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) For the past six years the Greek Catholic Annunciation Society in Jerusalem, has been working through its remedial education project to reduce the rate of youth dropout, as well as to offer the mothers of these young people awareness sessions and social activities. The project, which is funded by CNEWA and now by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, aims to reduce the dropout rate among 200-300 students by providing them with support lessons and extra-curricular activities such as educational trips to museums and historical sites with certified tour guide…

Iraq’s water crisis traced upstream to Turkish, Iranian dams (AINA) The water crisis has spread in southern and central provinces of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region as dams built by Turkey and Iran, irrespective of international laws, slow the flow of rivers into Iraq to a trickle. There are growing fears up to seven million people will be displaced due to the dramatic fall in water resources…

Bethlehem: A Franciscan priest attacked for defending pilgrims (Fides) Franciscan priest, Father Fadi Shalufa was attacked on 1 June by one of the two young men who had previously harassed a group of pilgrims in visit to the birthplace of Jesus. The two attackers were arrested by the Palestinian police…

Thousands of Palestinians mourn ‘reprehensible’ killing of Gaza medic (TeleSUR) Thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral procession of Razan Najjar, the Palestinian medic who was killed while trying to save an injured protester at the Gaza-Israel border during a demonstration Friday. Various U.N. officials issued statements Saturday condemning Najjar’s killing. “The killing of a clearly identified medical staffer by security forces during a demonstration is particularly reprehensible,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the local U.N. humanitarian coordinator…

Patriarch Kirill confirms metropolitan of Estonian Orthodox Church (Err.ee) Patriarch Kirill on Sunday confirmed the election of Archbishop Yevgeny (Eugeni) of Vereya as the new metropolitan bishop of Tallinn and All Estonia and the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate…



Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Jordan Catholic education

31 May 2018
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




This 18th-century icon of Mary by Pokrov Bogomateri hangs at the museum in Palekh, Russia. The Orthodox tradition reveres Mary, but never separates her from Christ. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Last week in our reflections on Mary, Mother of the Church, a new Marian feast initiated by Pope Francis, we looked at how Christians in the Western (Roman Catholic) church revere Mary. Today, we will look at how she is revered in the Eastern (primarily Byzantine Orthodox here) churches. These are churches that have a special relationship to CNEWA, for they are cornerstones of faith in many of the regions we serve. Understanding their devotion to the Mother of God helps us understand, as well, the piety of the people — many of whom draw strength and consolation from Mary.

Perhaps the best insight into the Eastern churches’ reverence for Mary can be found in “The Sanctity and Glory of the Mother of God: Orthodox Approaches” by Kallistos of Diokletia (The Way, Supplement 51, 1984), a scholar at Oxford and titular Metropolitan of Diokletia.

At the outset, Metropolitan Kallistos states that “she (Mary) is honored, revered, loved but not the subject of critical analysis. We have no developed ‘Mariology’; indeed, the very word, suggesting as it does an autonomous and systematically organized body of doctrine, has about it a non-orthodox flavor.” For Roman Catholics, accustomed to Marian devotion in the Catholic Church and (at best) Protestant discomfort with it, the Orthodox way is both interesting and important. The Orthodox approach to Mary shows that there is more than one way to approach reverence to the Mother of God and still be faithful to the church’s tradition.

Bishop Kallistos notes that — unlike in the west — there are only two titles of Mary which are fully recognized among all Orthodox: Theotokos (Mother of God) and Aeiparthenos (Ever Virgin). The primary title is Theotokos but — as the bishop correctly notes — the title speaks “not so much about the person of Mary as about the person of Christ.” Orthodox tradition never separates Mary from Christ. When Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation ”Marialis cultus” (2 February 1974) wrote of “the indissoluble link and essential relationship of the Virgin to the Divine Savior; we reject any tendency to separate devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary from its necessary point of reference — Christ,” Orthodox theologians and believers could only approve.

Bishop Kallistos treats two recent points of divergence between Catholic and Orthodox understanding of Mary, namely the Immaculate Conception (proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854) and the Assumption of Mary (Pius XII in 1952). It is not that the Orthodox reject these Catholic dogmas, although they sometimes understand them differently; rather, the Orthodox recognize that “the Mother of God was never a theme of the public preaching of the apostles,” while Christ was proclaimed to the whole world. With the traditional Orthodox sensitivity to the “ineffable” — or that which cannot be adequately expressed — Bishop Kallistos warns, “There is a danger of trying to say too much about the Mother of God. St. Basil’s warning is not to be forgotten: ‘Let things ineffable be honored in silence.’ “

The different ways of giving reverence to Mary reflect the different “theological cultures” of the Eastern and Western churches. While the West has a tendency to analyze, to define and to codify the “mysteries of the faith,” the Eastern churches have a tendency rather to contemplate in awe and silence. The same applies to a great extent to how the two traditions approach Mary in the church in the lives of believers.

We in the West might have something to learn from churches in the East. Not everything is best dissected, categorized and studied. Some things are best simply contemplated. While adding titles to the lengthy Litany of the Virgin Mary might be helpful to some Catholics, quietly entering into the deeply mystical relationship between Mary, Mother of God, and Christ her son might also be a useful thing.



Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Mary





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