15 February 2019
Even if Christians struggle to recognize him with his “torn clothes (and) dirty feet,” Jesus is present in the migrants and refugees who seek safety and a dignified life in a new land, Pope Francis said.
If Jesus’ words, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” are true, the pope said, then “we must begin to thank those who give us the opportunity for this encounter, namely, the ‘others’ who knock on our doors, giving us the possibility to overcome our fears in order to encounter, welcome and assist Jesus in person.”
Pope Francis spoke about overcoming fear and welcoming others during a Mass he celebrated 15 February at a church-run retreat and conference center in Sacrofano, about 15 miles north of Rome.
The Mass was part of a conference titled, “Welcoming Communities: Free of Fear,” which was sponsored by the Italian bishops’ office for migration, Caritas Italy and Jesuit Refugee Service’s Centro Astalli. The 500 participants included representatives of parishes, religious orders and Catholic-run agencies assisting migrants and refugees, as well as individual families who host newcomers.
At a time when Italy’s government is trying to severely restrict immigration, Caritas Italy said the meeting was designed to encourage those working with migrants and refugees and to counteract fear of migration by highlighting how individuals and the entire country benefit from welcoming them.
At a Mass on Friday, Pope Francis preached about the necessity of welcoming migrants and refugees. (video: CNS/YouTube)
The prayers of the faithful, most of which were read by migrants, included asking God to help pastors educate all Catholics to welcome migrants and refugees and to help government leaders promote tolerance and peace. Ending, as is traditional, with a prayer for the dead, the petitions made special mention of people who were killed for their faith.
In his homily, Pope Francis noted how the ancient Israelites had to overcome their fear of crossing the Red Sea and trust God in order to make it to the promised land. And, when the disciples were on the lake in a storm, Jesus told them to not be afraid and assured them he was there with them.
“The Lord speaks to us today and asks us to allow him to free us of our fear,” the pope said.
“Fear is the origin of slavery,” just as it was for the ancient Israelites, he said, “and it is also the origin of every dictatorship because, on the fear of the people, the violence of the dictator grows.”
Of course, the pope said, people naturally are afraid of what they don’t understand and of strangers who speak another language and have another culture. The Christian response is not to play on those fears, but to educate people and help them turn strangers into friends.
“We are called to overcome fear and open ourselves to encounter,” he said. “The encounter with the ‘other,’ then, is also an encounter with Christ. He himself told us this. It is he who knocks on our door hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned, asking to be met and assisted.”
Pope Francis asked Catholics who have had “the joy” of assisting migrants and refugees to “proclaim it from the rooftops, openly, to help others do the same, preparing themselves to encounter Christ and his salvation.”
15 February 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Migrants
Students take notes during a lesson at the St. Vincent de Paul School in Alexandria, Egypt, run by the Daughters of Charity. Learn more about how Charity’s Daughters are changing young lives in Egypt in the December 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
15 February 2019
Bishop Giovani Mele (seated)), first bishop of Lungro, is shown with several priests.
(photo: Vatican Media)
Pope sends greetings to Lungro Eparchy for 100th anniversary (Vatican News) Centenary celebrations took place at the Cathedral of San Nicola in the southern Italian town of Lungro, in the Calabria region, on Wednesday, 13 February. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, was on hand as the Italo-Albanese Eparchy of Lungro of Continental Italy celebrated 100 years since its foundation. Bishop Donato Oliverio, head of the Eparchy, celebrated the Divine Liturgy to begin a special Jubilee Year. Albanian President Ilir Meta was also present at the event…
Trump’s Syria withdrawal order forces allies to weigh return of ISIS detainees (The New York Times) President Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw American troops from northern Syria provoked widespread fears over a future resurgence of the Islamic State. But it may yet have a silver lining: Other countries have signaled they are willing to take back their citizens who joined the terrorist group but are now detained in makeshift camps…
Ukraine deports Orthodox bishop (The Guardian) Ukraine has stripped an Orthodox bishop of his citizenship and barred him from entering the country as a dispute escalates over the Ukrainian and Russian branches of the church. Ukrainian border guards said on Thursday that they had detained and deported Bishop Gedeon, the abbot of a Kiev monastery, because he allegedly held dual Ukraine-US citizenship. The deportation was condemned by Russian officials, who called on the US to intervene…
Hindus oppose statue of missionary at Indian parish (UCANews.com) Members of a Hindu group are up in arms over a statue of a German Jesuit priest outside an Indian Catholic church, claiming that the missionary worked against local people and honoring him insults tribal sentiments…
Catholics, Muslims bond over weekly lunch in Indianapolis (CNS) The openness to people of other faiths that Pope Francis modeled during his 3-5 February visit to the United Arab Emirates has been embraced for more than 20 years at a weekly lunch shared by Muslims, Catholics and other Christians at Shapiro’s Delicatessen in Indianapolis…
14 February 2019
Tags: Syria India Hindu Muslim Americans
Through countless efforts across Egypt, the Coptic Catholic Church — although numerically small — works tirelessly to elevate lives and promote the flourishing of communities. The challenges are great, particularly when serving those who are marginalized.
But some of the success stories offer inspiration and, in so many ways, signs of hope.
Video produced by Roger Anis for CNEWA.
Learn more about the remarkable work underway in Egypt in Signs of Hope in the December 2018 edition of ONE.
14 February 2019
Tags: Egypt Coptic
Parishoners gather in Prophet Elijah Church, where Father Ivanyuk carries out the work of Caritas. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
The current edition of ONE contains a story by Mark Raczkiewycz about how Caritas Ukraine is opening Windows to the World for some of the country’s elderly pensioners:
In addition to running the local chapter of Caritas, the Rev. Vasyl Ivanyuk has his hands full, shepherding six parishes and serving as a chaplain to those serving in the nearby front.
At Prophet Elijah Church, a moderately sized, eye-catching wooden building where he celebrates the Divine Liturgy every Sunday, he passively points to a sign. It reads: “With prayer and fasting we can stop war.”
Only when asked does he point out the church’s shattered yellow and white stained glass windows as scars of war.
“Three are from mortar shrapnel, one is from a rocket that came through here in July 2014,” Father Ivanyuk says. It was during this time that he saw an influx of seniors seeking help at the house of worship.
Some 600 displaced families sought refuge here through March 2015 at the height of the war, just as the second of two truces was being brokered in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
The agreements have never quite taken hold.
“Half of the displaced we helped were elderly. We served 60 families a day, handing out 10 days’ worth of food [to each]. Altogether, we have distributed 300 tons of clothes and 17,000 food boxes since 2014,” Father Ivanyuk says.
Seniors are always the least demanding, he observed. They never ask for more, and are the most gracious.
He recounted the story of one couple. Both were 82 years old; both had walked a tortuous 24 miles in frigid February weather at the height of the war in 2015 to find safety. Units from the Ukrainian army picked them up on the government-controlled side and drove the pair to Father Ivanyuk, who arranged for their care.
On the day of the priest’s 25th wedding anniversary, the elderly man gave Father Ivanyuk a bouquet of flowers for his wife.
“It was obviously plucked from the city grounds and not bought,” the priest says. “It was the kindest gesture. They often return to show their gratitude, especially to our female volunteers.”
Although the human spirit is undoubtedly strong, pensioners can find it difficult to adapt to new circumstances, the priest notes.
“A mature tree can’t be easily transplanted,” he says of those who find themselves uprooted suddenly.
Read more in the December 2018 edition of ONE.
14 February 2019
Tags: Ukraine Caritas
Leaders from Russia, Turkey and Iran held talks Thursday to plan the post-war future of Syria. (video: VOA/YouTube)
Russia, Turkey, Iran hold Syria talks (The Washington Post) Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the leaders of Turkey and Iran on Thursday, intensifying efforts to usher in peace in Syria as a fragile truce is threatened in the country’s final rebel stronghold. The three presidents — Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani — gathered at the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, where they pledged to take some sort of action against militants in Idlib province in northern Syria…
Some refugees who returned to Syria have fled back to Lebanon (The Daily Star) Amid increasing calls for Syrian refugees to return, a Lebanon-based NGO said in a report earlier this week that its researchers had spoken to refugees who returned to Syria only to flee back to Lebanon after encountering unexpected dangers and obstacles. Researchers with SAWA for Development and Aid, a small NGO that has been working with refugees in the Bekaa Valley for the past seven years, interviewed 40 refugees living in various parts of Lebanon — most of them in camps — about conditions in Lebanon and the factors that influenced their decision to return or stay in Lebanon…
Ukrainians in U.S. commemorate five-year anniversary of Maidan uprising (Kyiv Post) Ukrainian-Americans are commemorating the fifth anniversary of the end of the EuroMaidan Revolution, which ended after security forces shot dead more than 100 demonstrators in Kiev in February 2014, the same month that Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych fled power…
Rome remembers Jesuit missionary kidnapped in Syria (Crux) Last night, a torchlit rally took place in front of Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore for Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a native Roman and Jesuit missionary in Syria who disappeared in 2013, along with the thousands of both natives and foreigners who’ve been subject to kidnapping or arbitrary detention in Syria since violence broke out in 2011…
The curious case of Gaza’s only grand piano (The National) Right now, the Gaza Strip’s only grand piano is covered by a big bit of bright red fabric. A piece of paper has been stuck on top haphazardly, a scrawled note that reads simply: “no touch.” The sleek, black Yamaha has been through a lot already, but after being used in a rare public concert last year, in which a group of Japanese and Palestinian pianists performed to a crowd of 300 people at the home of the Red Crescent Society, the piano was seized by the Ministry of Culture and locked away in an office…
13 February 2019
Tags: Syria Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia
David Safaryan displays one of his paintings from art class at the Little Prince Center in Armenia. The church is accompanying countless people in need in his homeland — both young and old. Read more about the journeys they are taking in ‘This Is the Only Light’ in the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
13 February 2019
In this image from 2016, Syrian girls walk near garbage inside an informal refugee camp in Zahle, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
Syrian refugees face growing pressure to return to insecure conditions (The Washington Post) With resettlement increasingly less possible and the domestic instability surrounding fears of naturalization, the regional and global push for the return of Syrian refugees is underway. In most instances, however, it is premature for the proper conditions of a sustainable, safe, secure and dignified repatriation to occur. Refugees are, thus, at risk of forced return to Syria, the result of shifting norms in the existing refugee solutions model…
Pope approves canonization of Syro-Malabar sister, Cardinal Newman (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Tuesday cleared the way for the sainthood of renowned English Cardinal John Henry Newman and an Indian nun, and brought six others a step closer to canonization. The Pope received in audience Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints and authorized him to promulgated two decrees on miracles for sainthood, a decree on martyrdom and five on heroic virtues…
India’s parliament shelves citizenship bill (UCANews.com) The upper house of India’s parliament has shelved a controversial bill on citizenship amid prayers by tribal Christians for its defeat…
Decision to raze Palestinian Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem denounced (WAFA) The Islamic-Christian Committee to Defend Jerusalem and the Holy Sites denounced Israel’s decision to raze the remaining part of an ancient Palestinian Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem. The Committee’s Secretary-General Hanna Issa denounced Israel’s decision to raze the remaining part of Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery as a prelude to the construction of new roads and public buildings as a gross encroachment upon the inviolability of the cemetery, which enflames Muslims and Jerusalemites’ sensibilities…
Author holds up martyred Copts as model for contemporary Christians (Crux) Four years ago this week, 21 men were videotaped on a beach in Libya as their ISIS captors beheaded them one by one. Of the 21 victims, 20 were Coptic Christians from Egypt who had migrated to Libya for work. In his new book, The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs, German novelist and poet Martin Mosebach chronicles his travels through Upper Egypt, where he met with the families and priests of the martyrs. Mosebach believes Coptic Christianity offers a purer form of the faith from which modern believers should seek to learn…
12 February 2019
Tags: Syria India Refugees Palestine Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Dalit children often drop out of school to work menial jobs to help support their families. But a new resolution in the Andhra Pradesh state will help Dalits receive welfare benefits enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
CNEWA has long worked with the Dalits of India — many of them outcast, marginalized and poor. So we were heartened to read this news today, a hopeful milestone in the journey of the Dalits, who continue to seek justice and ways to retain their dignity:
India’s Andhra Pradesh state has passed a resolution which church leaders say will help socially poor Dalit Christians receive welfare benefits enjoyed by their counterparts in Hinduism.
The legislative house of the southern state passed the resolution on 7 February appealing to the federal government to make amendments to regulations to allow Christians from Dalit communities to enjoy benefits meant for the advancement of socially disadvantaged people.
The resolution proposed by chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu said that if Dalit people convert to Christianity it does not change their social and economic status.
“We appreciate the move. Naidu understood the plight of the poor Christians but that does not mean we achieved our target. There is still long way to go,” the Rev. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for Dalits, told ucanews.com.
The Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC), an ecumenical organization of heads of different churches, welcomed the resolution on behalf of the Christian community.
The APFC said it appreciated Naidu’s “consistent stand on this issue” that Dalit Christians should be treated on a par with Dalits who had adopted Sikhism and Buddhism.
The Christians’ struggle began in 1950 when a presidential order said only Dalit people following Hinduism could enjoy constitution-guaranteed concessions and seat reservations meant for the socioeconomic advancement of Dalit people.
The order effectively cut off benefits to Dalit people who converted to other religions. It was amended twice to include Dalits among Sikhs in 1956 and Buddhists in 1990.
Christians of Dalit origin are estimated to be make up 33 percent of India’s 28 million Christians.
Healing the Forgotten
India’s Christian Untouchables
12 February 2019
Tags: India Dalits
In this image from 2016, Pope Francis greets Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Iraq, during a meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia. Cardinal Sako has expressed his hope that Pope Francis will visit Iraq. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Top Iraqi Catholic says country’s Christians ‘really need’ a papal visit (Crux) Though reaction to Pope Francis’s recent joint declaration with the leader of Al-Azhar, arguably the most important figure in the Sunni Muslim world, received a mixed verdict — from being hailed as historic, to being dismissed as another feel-good statement without teeth — few men have more reason for wanting it to be the former than Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako. The Patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, Sako is among those who openly described the 3-5 February papal visit to United Arab Emirates, the first ever to the Arabian peninsula, as “historic” and the declaration on “Human Fraternity for world peace and living together” signed by Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, as a “seed for a possible papal visit to Iraq…”
Forces strike Syria mosque being used as ISIS command center (Haaretz) The U.S.-led coalition says it has hit a mosque used by Islamic State as a command and control center in eastern Syria. The coalition said Tuesday it launched the strike in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to drive the extremists from their last tiny stronghold near the border with Iraq. It said the strike occurred Monday as Islamic State was using the mosque to direct attacks and employ suicide car bombs against the SDF…
Egyptian authorities arrest students for mocking Christianity online (AFP) Egyptian authorities have arrested four students for mocking Christian rituals in an online video and ordered them to be kept in custody for four days, a judicial source said Monday. The university students aged between 19 and 24 were accused of being in “contempt of the Christian religion”, the source said…
In Ethiopia, climate change leads herders to retrain as farmers (Reuters) With extreme droughts as much as five times more likely than 60 years ago in parts of the country, the estimated 12 million pastoralists in Ethiopia living off flocks of cows, goats and sheep have been hit hard in recent years. In the Hamar region, where Orgo lives, 1.5 million of the 3 million animals that herders owned perished during the particularly brutal 2015-2016 drought, when the region saw poor rainfall for 18 months, according to district authorities…
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia ISIS