7 November 2018
This week, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received a letter from a longtime friend and partner in the Middle East, Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Syria.
The note featured this image of a praying St. John Paul II:
Inside was this message:
Archbishop Nassar also included a letter with this poignant plea:
IS SYRIA A FORGOTTEN LAND?
It is often said that the Syrian war is the worst and most cruel seen by the world since the Second World War.
The fact that seemingly much of the violence has died down has made us wonder if Syria is remembered at all by most of the world…what a chaotic scene:
600,000 dead with only some buried in dignity and many others in collective graves. All this has meant that many families live in perpetual sorrow and emotional instability.
200,000 have disappeared, including two bishops and four priests; this has made life a nightmare for those who grieve for their loved ones — parents, friends and the churches who have no news of them.
13,000,000 refugees — a very heavy burden as a consequence of this world war game on the Syrian territory…whole populations who suffer in silence and despair. Bitterness and a loss of meaning to life…a broken people, scattered and searching for a future.
95,000 hands cut off, feet amputated or paralyzed in a country which is ill-prepared to handle these sorts of problems alone, and the subsequent psychological and health consequences.
2,500,000 dwellings demolished or destroyed.
Local currency is valueless and inflation has risen alarmingly; the exodus of the young has marked the remaining hopes for future growth.
Faced with these scenes of desolation in the church in Syria, I cannot fall into the role of a mere spectator. The church is a strong witness of the Spirit and the Light which it brings. She is a sign of the Presence and a witness in the domain of health care, education, pastoral work with the young, family support, accompanying fragile families and supporting in every way the less fortunate. All of this is done in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.
If the world has forgotten Syria, the Lord is watching over her and will not let the boat flounder!
He added a personal handwritten note, too:
Thank you, dear Msgr. Kozar, for the mission of CNEWA in Syria. Our problems are too heavy. Please pray for us. We prepare for Christmas with a heavy Calvary. God bless you for all that you did and do.
Please do not let Syria become a "forgotten land." Their needs are great. Remember them in your prayers.
7 November 2018
U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, arrive for a press conference at the Vatican on 7 November. The Knights are preparing for a major meeting in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The 30,000 members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem fund about 80 percent of the annual budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, ensuring that Catholic parishes and seminaries, schools and hospitals in Israel, Palestine and Jordan continue to function, said U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien.
The cardinal, grand master of the Vatican-based order, said the knights and dames of the order come from 40 countries and pledge their prayers, their financial support and personal visits to the Holy Land to support the local Catholic communities there and to encourage ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Every five years, leaders of the order from around the world gather for their general assembly, called a “consulta.” The meeting was scheduled for 13-16 November in Rome and was expected to include an audience with Pope Francis.
Meeting with reporters on 7 November, Cardinal O’Brien said the knights and dames “do not become involved in local government or political questions” in the Holy Land but offer support to the local Catholic Church there in cooperation with the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
Cardinal O’Brien said the order provides about $15 million each year in grants to Catholic projects in the Holy Land. Most are run by the Latin patriarchate, but the Maronite and Melkite Catholic churches also receive assistance.
The knights and dames of the Holy Sepulchre have given priority to education and formation programs, said Leonardo Visconti di Modrone, governor general of the order. By supporting 35 nursery schools and 41 elementary and high schools in Israel and Palestine, he said, the order’s members hope “to improve their quality and, through them, to make a fundamental contribution to the pacification of the region.”
About 57 percent of the 19,000 students in the schools are Christian, and most of the others are Muslim, he said. But all of them learn “our values of dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect,” which should help “overcome that violent confrontation that for years has martyred peaceful coexistence among people of different ethnic and religious groups.”
Cardinal O’Brien said each member of the equestrian order pledges to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at least once in his or her lifetime, but most go regularly. The pilgrimage is built around prayer and visits to the holy sites, but always includes visits to schools, clinics, parishes and other projects funded by the knights and dames.
The funds are disbursed as grants, the cardinal said, and members of the grant-making committee visit the Holy Land three times a year to monitor the projects.
The order’s headquarters near the Vatican occupies a small part of the 15th-century Palazzo della Rovere; most of the order’s building was rented out to a company that ran it as the Hotel Columbus. The order’s contract with the hotel company expired years ago and, after a court-ordered eviction was issued in 2016, the hotel closed in May.
Visconti said the Italian government is insisting that restoration work be carried out on the hotel’s 15th- and 16th-century frescoes, and plumbing and other work is underway. But, he said, the knights and dames hope to have a new company renting the building and running it as a hotel soon, because the rental income covers the order’s administrative costs, allowing all donations to go directly to the Holy Land.
7 November 2018
Tags: Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre
Palestinian children receiving treatment are seen in early September at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. U.S. Christian leaders expressed "grave concern" about the Trump administration's decision to stop financial assistance to six East Jerusalem hospitals.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
U.S. completes food distribution at Syria camp near Jordan (Reuters) The United Nations has finished distribution of aid to thousands of Syrians, mostly women and children, stranded in the desert close to the border with Jordan, an aid official said on Wednesday. A U.N-led convoy of more than 70 trucks arrived on Saturday under Russian army protection after months of delay in the first such first aid delivery from inside Syria to the rebel-held camp that has over 50,000 people…
Christian leaders urge U.S. to restore aid to East Jerusalem hospitals (CNS) U.S. Christian leaders expressed “grave concern” about the Trump administration’s decision to stop financial assistance to six East Jerusalem hospitals. Israeli doctors from most of Israel’s major hospitals called the decision a blow to the health of the city…
Anger erupts in Egypt after massacre of Christian pilgrims (RNS) The Coptic bishop of this city south of Cairo, Anba Makarios, spent the weekend trying to comfort mourners after two buses carrying Coptic Christians were ambushed Friday as they left a monastery here, killing seven of the pilgrims and wounding 19. The Islamic State in Egypt claimed responsibility for the attack. But during Makarios’ appearance at Prince Tadros Church, as the bishop thanked provincial officials for issuing the necessary permits to conduct public funerals, the congregation erupted in anger…
Ethiopian Catholic Church pleased about first woman president (Vatican News) The Ethiopian Catholic Church says it is pleased that women in Ethiopia are getting their rightful place in the development of the country. According to a statement from the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat, it is a blessing to see that Ethiopians are recognising the invaluable talent women have to offer to the integral development of the nation…
A political power struggle for the soul of the Orthodox church (Financial Times) I’m in a 17th-century monastery at the edge of Moscow’s Gorky Park, having a conversation that transports me several more centuries back in time. I’ve come to talk to Russian church officials about a new schism in the Orthodox church, a rupture that piqued my interest for its geopolitical dimension — and, in a small part, a personal one. I was raised Orthodox. “Any schism is bad,” Vladimir Legoida, a church official, tells me, as we look back to the Great Schism of 1054, the split between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. “That’s a wound on the body of Christianity. We grieve it as a tragedy…”
Vatican sends ’cordial greetings’ to mark Deepavali (Vatican News) On 6 and 7 November, millions of people throughout the world will celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Deepavali. Rooted in the Hindu culture, Deepavali celebrates the triumph of good over evil. As is customary, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a message on 31 October entitled “Christians and Hindus: In Defense of the Vulnerable of Society”…
6 November 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Jerusalem Palestine Hindu
Pope Francis greets a rabbi during an audience with a group of rabbis attending the World Congress of Mountain Jews, at the Vatican on 5 November. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Sharing the same roots as their Jewish brothers and sisters, Christians cannot be anti-Semitic and must work to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from society, Pope Francis said.
Also, he said, “the Holocaust must be commemorated so that there will be a living memory of the past. Without a living memory, there will be no future, for if the darkest pages of history do not teach us to avoid the same errors, human dignity will remain a dead letter.”
The pope made his remarks during an audience on 5 November with a group of rabbis attending the World Congress of Mountain Jews.
Mountain Jews -- who are believed to be descendants of Persian Jews -- settled centuries ago in the Caucasus region, maintaining their own unique language and various customs. They were also targeted and exterminated by German troops during World War II.
Speaking to the delegates, the pope expressed his joy that their visit marked the first time their community visited a pope at the Vatican. Pope Francis had met with Mountain Jews during his 2016 visit to Azerbaijan.
The pope anticipated the commemoration 9 November of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht when Jews, their property and places of worship were attacked throughout Nazi Germany. The attacks, he said, represented an intent to uproot “from the hearts of individuals and a people that which is absolutely inviolable: the presence of the Creator.”
“The attempt to replace the God of goodness with the idolatry of power and the ideology of hatred ended in the folly of exterminating creatures,” he added.
This is why, he said, “religious freedom is a supreme good to be safeguarded, a fundamental human right and a bulwark against the claims of totalitarianism.”
“Sadly, anti-Semitic attitudes are also present in our own times,” Pope Francis told his audience.
“As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life,” he said. “Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community.”
The pope emphasized the importance of friendship between Jews and Catholics, saying “we are called to promote and to expand interreligious dialogue for the sake of humanity.”
“I ask the Almighty to bless our journey of friendship and trust, so that we can dwell always in peace and be, wherever we find ourselves, artisans and builders of peace.”
6 November 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Jews
Entertainers captivate children of all ages at Marie Doty Park in Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA)
We were pleased to receive this update today on a project CNEWA has long supported in Bethlehem. Laura Schau-Tarazi in our Jerusalem office writes:
Marie Doty Park continues to be a beautiful green space for Bethlehem children and families. Our project coordinator, Gabi Kando, made a recent visit to the park to follow up on our work where two local area schools were holding activities.
Thanks to the Doty Foundation, work has been conducted during the year on various sections of the park including installing an alarm system and safety fence around the parameter of the park, new ventilators and new door for the multipurpose hall, games, rehabilitation of the water cistern and the procurement of new agricultural equipment. During this year, there has also been 16 children’s activities conducted so far, reaching 4,600 children. Additionally, the park hosted 38 different governmental and private schools and NGOs benefiting 2,500 children, as well as four summer camps for 500 children.
Some background on Marie Doty, from our magazine:
Over the years, Mrs. Doty, her husband, George, and their children have selflessly and generously supported CNEWA’s mission with their time, energy and financial resources.
Mrs. Doty played an active role in many agency works, including the restoration of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the development of the first recreational parks in Palestine. On a visit there more than a decade ago, she quietly observed, “The children have no place to play.”
Determined to remedy the situation, Marie and George Doty provided CNEWA with the funds to build and equip playgrounds and related facilities in Bethlehem, Gaza and Ramallah. In addition to swings and slides, handball and basketball courts, the parks feature fountains and green lawns, “luxuries” Palestinian children once associated with Israeli settlements.
Marie Doty entered eternal life in 2008 — but clearly, she left the children of Palestine a legacy of joy that endures to this day.
Marie Doty Park remains a peaceful oasis for children in Bethelehem. (photo: CNEWA)
6 November 2018
Tags: Bethlehem Donors
Dalit villagers gather for a prayer service in Bhikkawala, India. Christian Dalits across India will mark Dalit Liberation Sunday this weekend. (photo: John Matthew)
Fight against last vestige of ISIS stalls (The New York Times) An American-backed military offensive has stalled against the Islamic State’s last vestige in eastern Syria — in part because of the enemy that the allied fighting force had expected, and other threats that it very much had not…
Indian Christians to celebrate Dalit Liberation Sunday (Vatican News) Christians of various denominations in India are joining hands in jointly observing the Dalit Liberation Sunday (DLS) on Sunday. The Office for Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes (SC/BC) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), and the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), that comprises Protestant and Orthodox Churches, are marking the day on 11 November…
Is another Gaza war imminent? (Al Jazeera) Recently, rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza and three Palestinian children were killed in an Israeli air raid. Is another full-scale Israeli attack on the strip inevitable? Donald MacIntyre, former Jerusalem correspondent for The Independent and author of the book, “Gaza: Preparing for Dawn,” describes it as “a very fragile and dangerous situation”…
For one Moscow church, schism may spell end of unique status (Radio Free Europe) Tucked behind a Stalin-era skyscraper a short walk from Red Square, St. Nicetas is an “embassy church”, or metochi, of Mount Athos, the male-only monastic community in Greece that the world’s Orthodox Christians consider a spiritual home. While it belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church, St. Nicetas is symbolically tied to the mother church of Eastern Orthodoxy, the Constantinople Patriarchate, under whose jurisdiction Athos falls. ”On paper we’re part of the Moscow Patriarchate, but spiritually we represent Athos,” says Father Pyotr, a St. Nicetas clergyman who withheld his last name because he is not authorized to speak on the church’s behalf.
Is this how they built the pyramids? (CNN) Archeologists have spent centuries wondering how the towering pyramids of Giza were constructed thousands of years ago. Now, the discovery of a sophisticated ramp system has put them one step closer to solving the mystery. The remains of the 4,500-year-old ramp was found at an alabaster quarry -- of the same period -- in an Egyptian desert by a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool, UK, and Cairo’s French Institute for Oriental Archaeology…
5 November 2018
Tags: Syria India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank
A woman mourns during a 3 November funeral liturgy at Prince Tadros Orthodox Church in Minya, Egypt, for a group of Christian pilgrims killed by gunmen as they headed to a monastery on 2 November. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
In the wake of a deadly attack against Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt, Pope Francis prayed for the victims, their families and the entire Christian community.
Seven Christians were killed and at least seven others -- including children -- were injured after armed gunmen attacked two buses near the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in Minya province on 2 November. Another attack took place in the same area in 2017, which left 28 people dead.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the latest attack and Egypt’s interior ministry announced on 4 November that in a shootout, its security forces had killed 19 militants they accused of being behind the attack.
After praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on 4 November, the pope said he was saddened to hear about the terrorist attack against the Coptic Orthodox church.
“I pray for the victims, the pilgrims killed for the sole reason of being Christian,” he said. He asked that Mary, the Mother of God, would “console the families and the entire community,” and he led those gathered in the square in praying the Hail Mary.
Watch a video of the pope's remarks below, from CNS.
5 November 2018
The video above offers details of the deadly attack on Coptic Christians near a monastery in Minya, Egypt. (video: France 24/YouTube)
Pope Francis: ’A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite’ (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday held a meeting with representatives of the World Congress of Mountain Jews. It is the first time that a delegation from this community, which dates back to the 5th Century, has travelled to meet a Pope…
Egypt police kill 19 suspected in Coptic Christian attack (BBC) Nineteen Islamist militants accused of carrying out a deadly attack on Christians in Egypt have been killed by police, the interior ministry says. They died in a shoot-out after police pursued “fugitive terrorist elements” into the desert area west of Minya province, the statement said. Seven Coptic Christians were killed in an attack on two buses near a monastery in Minya on Friday…
Bishops in Holy Land speak out on Israel’s Nation State Law (Vatican News) It is out of a “spirit of dialogue” that the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land speak out in a statement responding to the “issue of the Nation State Law passed by the Israeli Knesset on 19 July 2018. The legislation at issue limits the promotion and protection offered by the State of Israel to “Jewish citizens of the State of Israel”…
Missionaries of Charity agree to resume adoption service in India (UCANews.com) The Missionaries of Charity (MC) congregation has agreed to resume its service of giving children for adoption. The congregation founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata, commonly known as Mother Teresa, discontinued giving babies from their orphanages for adoption in October 2015 after disagreeing with a new federal law that allowed single and divorced woman to adopt children…
Luxury city could show future of Syria (AP) Marota City, as Syria’s largest investment project is known, is seen as setting the blueprint for how the government will undertake the ambitious rebuilding of areas devastated in the nearly eight-year civil war. The government is using controversial new property laws to create zones where partnerships of the government and businessmen take ownership of neighborhoods and redevelop them. Officials say the projects aim at re-planning slums and destroyed areas and attracting private investors to join the massively expensive task of reconstruction…
The soul of Russian Orthodox church bells (Al Jazeera) An automated future where the robots have stolen human jobs is a widespread modern concern. Even the most traditional of professions can be vulnerable, for example, church bell ringing in Russia…
2 November 2018
Tags: Syria Egypt Israel Russian Orthodox Church Jews
Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2014. Looking on is Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina. CNEWA works on behalf of the Holy Father to help build bridges and heal wounds of division.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
You don’t need a post-graduate degree to notice our world right now is torn apart — and hatred and division are a big part of it.
Whether it’s violence in Pittsburgh or vandalism in the Holy Land or threats of military action against migrants, we find ourselves living in a world increasingly on edge — wary, angry, suspicious of anyone considered to be “The Other.” Whether they are Muslims fleeing war or Jews trying to worship in peace, they too often find themselves to be targets of brutality and hate.
And in this troubled world stands CNEWA.
One of the things that has struck me during my time with CNEWA is how faithfully, even courageously, this association has worked not only to build bridges with those of other faiths and traditions, but to try and heal the wounds brought about by hate, war and persecution.
It is intrinsic to who we are.
From our earliest days, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has worked to “create and sustain a friendly interest in the religious and moral life” of those we serve — and to promote unity. It is written into the name of our magazine, ONE, seeking to create a sense of unity with those who also dwell in our broken world.
More than that, we have also enthusiastically engaged in dialogue with “The Other” — whoever that may be. While we always work through the local church, the local church reaches out to the many, Christian or not.
But this is who we are.
We see in the faces of those who are poor, abandoned, hungry and rejected the face of Christ.
We see in them fellow children of Abraham, our brothers and sisters made in the image of God.
We see in those who are forgotten the people we need to remember — the battered person left by the side of the road, the wounded neighbor we can’t ignore. We can’t forget the words Jesus spoke when he told the lesson of the Good Samaritan, the foreigner who treated a stranger with love: “Now go and do likewise.”
When I visit parishes around the country to talk about CNEWA, I often tell the story of the Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq. During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, her convent offered shelter to her terrified Muslim neighbors in Mosul. She summed up her work plainly but powerfully. “We don’t help them because they’re Christian,” she said. “We help them because we are.”
This is who we are. This is part of our mandate and mission.
We are the ones who journey with those who have been brutalized, victimized, neglected, persecuted.
As I read the stories of all the troubles afflicting our world right now — and they fill the headlines again and again and again — I take solace and hope from the work CNEWA is doing. Work of healing. Work of hope.
It is work that sees beyond barriers and boundaries, beyond even personal beliefs and creeds. It is work that proclaims the Gospel and that lives it by remembering Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”
It is a commandment that is so often lost in our world right now.
It shouldn’t be. We need to reclaim it, and proclaim it. It is so essential to the times in which we live.
And CNEWA is a vital part of that. This is a subtle but enduring part of who we are and how we work — an urgent reminder to a dispirited, broken and downcast world that dialogue is possible, that hope endures, that love can transcend hate.
What a privilege to know that, to speak that, to believe that, and to be a part of that.
This is who we are.
We are CNEWA.
2 November 2018
Indian homeless children watch a movie on a cellphone on the roadside in Mumbai, India. The final document from the recent Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment called for the church to meet young people in the digital sphere.
(photo: CNS/Divyakant Solanki, EPA)