7 February 2017
In this image from 1999, CNEWA’s John Faris and Elizabeth Weese meet the Rev. Shaji Mekkara, whom “Grandma Elizabeth” had sponsored as a seminarian. (photo: CNEWA)
Many of the unsung heroes of CNEWA have worked tirelessly behind the scenes, changing lives in ways that often go unnoticed. One of those heroes is Elizabeth Weese.
She was a volunteer in our New York office for a number of years — but before that, sponsored a seminarian in India. She described her experience recently in an email to us:
About 1984 an Irish friend urged me to sponsor a seminarian. Bless her good soul! I filled out an application and it wasn’t too long before I received a letter and picture of Shaji Mekkara from India. And so it began. We corresponded all through his seminary days, learning about each other. Two or three years after his ordination, he was sent for two years to Lugano, Switzerland, to continue his studies. Plans were made pretty quickly for a visit to Lugano so that we could meet. Actually, I went twice, thinking I would never see him again. It was after these visits that he decided he should call me “Grandma” — and so I have been ever since.
But we did meet again when I brought him here, to the United States for three weeks. It was during that visit that we had a lovely meeting with [CNEWA’s Deputy Secretary General] Msgr. John Faris and some of the staff. That was also when I asked about doing some volunteer work for CNEWA and was invited and became a small part of the CNEWA family. It was all very fulfilling and I’ve continued to be a sponsor of various projects within the “family.”
I’m afraid my volunteer days are over, but not my affiliation with CNEWA. Never.
More on Shaji: I find it hard to believe that on May 8, 2017, he will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination! God gives us such lovely gifts.
Among her many other charitable activities, Elizabeth Weese is also a Lady of Charity and a Lady Grand Cross in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
We asked her what led her to volunteer with CNEWA, and she wrote back:
It was a sudden inspiration at the time Shaji and I had our visit. I had done some volunteering before but had never thought about CNEWA. I’m glad I did. It has been a rewarding experience for me and I hope my stuffing envelopes was helpful — although it’s difficult to understand how that might have an effect on someone half way around the world!
Then, again, God’s ways are mysterious and you never know how he’ll make use of our talents or even the every-day things we can do.
Amen, Elizabeth. Thank you for helping us to do what we do — and for helping nurture another vocation!
To learn more about how CNEWA supports seminarians and helps form church leaders, both religious and lay, visit this link.
7 February 2017
These young people greeted CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar during his trip to the Divine Renewal Retreat Center in Margherita, India. You can learn more about his recent visit here.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
7 February 2017
Rebel fighters sit inside an armored vehicle near the town of Bizaah northeast of the city of
Al-Bab, near the Syrian city of Aleppo, on 4 February 2017.
(photo: AFP/Nazeer al-Khatib/Getty Images)
ISIS ‘besieged’ al-Bab (Al Jazeera) Syrian government forces have advanced on the ISIS-held city of al-Bab, cutting off the last supply route that connects it to the armed group’s strongholds further east towards Iraq, according to a monitoring group...
Holy See calls on U.N. To address economic, social, spiritual poverty (Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations has told a commission for social development that world leaders must address “not only economic poverty but also social and spiritual poverty with policies and investments that people can see and touch”...
Iraq using corpses to wage psychological warfare in Mosul (Reuters) As Iraqi forces prepare to expand their offensive against Islamic State from east to west Mosul, they want to stamp out any sympathy that residents may have for the group, which won instant support when it seized the vast city in 2014. “We will leave the terrorists there,” said Ibrahim Mohamed, a soldier who was standing near three dead jihadists, ignoring the stench...
Egypt’s Christians granted leave to visit Jerusalem (Albawaba.com) Egypt’s Muslim civil servants have long had the right to take a one-off paid vacation to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Until now, however, the country’s Christian minority has enjoyed no such accommodation. That all changed on Saturday when the nation’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that Coptic government employees should be allowed an equivalent month-long holiday to visit Jerusalem...
Kerala bishop wants Catholics to marry earlier (Scroll.in) The bishop of Thamarassery diocese of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, the largest group of Catholics in the state, issued a pastoral letter in January, exhorting believers to ensure that their boys are married off before the age of 25 and girls before they turn 23. It said that late marriages have an adverse impact on the birth of children and the well-being of the family...
Pope releases Lenten message (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ Lenten message was released on Tuesday entitled “The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift”...
6 February 2017
University student Rebecca Sisay attends a catechetical program to promote lay formation and leadership in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Learn more about efforts to inspire the future leaders of Ethiopia’s sacramental Christian communities in Ethiopia’s Sleeping Giant, featured in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. For more on the city, Mumbai Mirror published a short profile of Bahir Dar yesterday. (photo: James Jeffrey)
6 February 2017
Tags: Ethiopia Catholic Ethiopian Christianity Youth
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visits Aleppo on 1 February. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)
Meeting the Christians of Aleppo (Catholic Herald) On December 23, the guns finally fell silent and an apparent victory was handed to Syria’s President Assad in the battle for the city. Today, the cacophony of bombs is replaced by an eerie silence. Will the people come back? Not yet. With a political settlement still a distant hope, people are just marking time. In the meantime, the full cost of war can at last be counted, including the depletion of the city’s Christian population…
Syria’s Assyrians concerned about postwar existence (AINA) Some of Syria’s Christians fear that their existence in the postwar Syria would be threatened, particularly following the latest political and military developments accompanying the crisis. Those Christians expressed their worries after they were ruled out from the upcoming Geneva talks, and because the Syriac language was not included in the draft constitution that a Russian delegation handed over to representatives of the Syrian government in Damascus last month to provide equality between Kurdish and Arabic language in local administrative areas…
Jordan joins the table in Astana for Syrian ceasefire talks (Rudaw) For the first time Jordanian representatives are in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, meeting with officials from Russia, Turkey, Iran, as well as the United Nations to discuss the implementation of the Syrian ceasefire agreement on Monday…
Israel’s settlement bill ‘big step towards annexation’ (Al Jazeera) The Israeli Knesset has advanced controversial legislation that, if approved, would lead to a host of illegal settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land being legalized retroactively. The so-called “Regulation Bill,” scheduled for a vote on Monday, would apply to around 4,000 settlement homes in the West Bank for which settlers could prove ignorance that they had built on privately owned land and had received encouragement from the Israeli state to do so…
Israel not paying to de-mine Christian holy site (Al Jazeera) Nearly half a million tourists annually walk past two fenced-in minefields to visit Qasr al Yahud (“Castle of the Jews”), the site where Jesus was believed to have been baptized in the River Jordan. A $4 million project launched last year by the de-mining charity Halo Trust is hoping to make the site safer, after the group struck an agreement with Israeli authorities, the Palestinian Authority and local churches that own plots in Qasr al Yahud. But Israel, whose army peppered the site with mines after the 1967 war, is not paying for these de-mining efforts, observers note…
Tremors felt in northern India (Times of India) An earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale struck Uttarakhand late on Monday night. The quake caused tremors that were felt across northern India. Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (N.D.R.F.) “have been rushed from Ghaziabad to Uttarakhand to conduct rescue and relief operations, if the situation arises,” tweeted the Office of the Home Minister of India…
3 February 2017
Tags: Syria India Palestine Israel Aleppo
In this image from 1991, Cardinal John O’Connor speaks with the Lebanese press corps following a conference with Beirut’s ranking Orthodox leader, Metropolitan Elias Audi.
(photo: Maria Bastone)
He was a lion, a man who “said it like it was.” He never feared to make his point and rarely if ever apologized in public — except for one glaring exception: asking the Jewish community’s forgiveness for the acts and offenses committed against them by the Catholic Church. So read the obituaries of a man indeed larger than life, a passionate defender of life, a powerful enemy of racism and anti-Semitism, a man who preferred to be a priest’s priest and pastor, a boy from Philly, Cardinal John J. O’Connor.
Archbishop of New York and chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association from January 1984 until his death in May 2000, Cardinal O’Connor does not bring to mind cool feelings. After attending a prayer vigil at St. Patrick’s Cathedral the day of his death, I piled into a cab. The cabbie was listening to talk radio, and the talk that night was of the life and death of the cardinal. As the cabbie snarled through the congested traffic that defines the Big Apple, I heard caller after caller, New Yorkers from all walks of life, talk about a man who touched their lives in deeply personal ways — his midnight stops to hospitals, his visits to people dying of AIDS, his ability to listen and empathize, his love of mothers, his concern for the priests and sisters serving the people of the archdiocese, his passion for the rights of laborers and the poor.
At the end of the trip — a long one — even the cabbie had tears in his eyes.
Cardinal O’Connor’s commitment to and love of the CNEWA family extended years before he assumed the mantle of leadership. He served as a generous benefactor, friend and counselor. Of his impact on CNEWA as its head, my dear friend and former colleague, the late Peg Maron, said it best in the pages of our magazine, published soon after his death:
He challenged the leadership of CNEWA to renew itself.
Under his direction, programs in the Middle East expanded to include such innovative projects as a housing renovation program in the Old City of Jerusalem and a comprehensive village rehabilitation initiative in Lebanon. And, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, he committed CNEWA’s support of the church in post-Communist Eastern Europe.
Cardinal O’Connor tirelessly encouraged support of avenues of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox; Christians, Jews and Muslims; Israelis and Palestinians. On trips to the Middle East he met with religious and political leaders throughout the region to keep open the lines of communication.
And he had a special love for the people of Lebanon.
At great personal risk he traveled to Lebanon twice during its civil war, in 1986 and 1989, to demonstrate the solidarity of American Catholics with the people of Lebanon. ...
Following the war, in January 1992, the Cardinal visited Lebanon a third time. During this visit he promised to do whatever he could to help rebuild that shattered nation. He fulfilled this pledge immediately after his return when he invited Lebanese American leaders to his residence on 26 February and challenged them to forget their differences and coordinate their efforts toward rebuilding their homeland. Also, at their request, he led a representative delegation to a White House meeting with President George Bush to seek a change in the United States’ Lebanon policy.
In gratitude for the Cardinal’s efforts on behalf of Lebanon, the Ambassador of Lebanon to the U.S., on behalf of the Lebanese President, presented Cardinal O’Connor with the Order of the Cedar, Lebanon’s highest honor, in January 2000.
Cardinal O’Connor was and remains a CNEWA hero. He retooled the agency, challenging its administrators to clarify its Catholic identity, update its systems, improve its transparency, expand its good works, and to remember always the needs of the poor. His leadership set CNEWA on a course to enter the turmoil of the 21st century, when the works of this special agency of the Holy See have been so sorely needed.
His life was one of a true leader. No doubt, he was received into the bosom of the Lord with the words, “well done, John Joseph.”
3 February 2017
Tags: CNEWA Catholic Cardinal John O’Connor
Ivlita Kuchaidze relaxes at the Caritas Georgia Harmony Day Center and shares pictures from her past. The center serves the elderly in Tbilisi. Read about their work in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Antonio Di Vico)
2 February 2017
A displaced Syrian woman, fleeing from Deir Ezzor city besieged by ISIS, walks through the falling snow carrying a child on her shoulder in a refugee camp in al-Hol, near the Iraqi border
on 1 February 2017. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
Lebanon backs returning Syrian refugees to ‘safe zones’ (AP) Lebanon’s president says the international community should facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to Syria by setting up “safe zones” in coordination with their government. Michel Aoun made his comments Friday during a meeting with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. Lebanon is home to some 1.2 million Syrian refugees, equivalent to one fourth of its own population...
Trump discusses safe zones with Jordan’s king (Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump discussed with Jordan’s King Abdullah the possibility of establishing safe zones in Syria, the White House said on Thursday...
Advocates stress the U.S. has moral obligation to help refugees (CNS) Leaders from six organizations want Americans and President Donald Trump to understand that refugees, especially those from war-torn Middle Eastern countries, are average people with careers, comfortable homes and loving families rather than see them as a monolithic threat to the United States...
In Mosul hospital, nothing left but scavengers and the ISIS dead (The Daily Beast) After three months of battle and over two years under the rule of the so-called Islamic State, Mosul’s health sector is stretched beyond its limits, and the destruction of the city’s biggest and most prestigious hospital weighs heavily on the people here. It is symbolic of the price the city has had to pay for its liberation, which remains incomplete...
Gentiles in fight to save Kerala’s Jewish monuments (Asia Times) For Jews, Mala, a small town in southern India, is unique in many ways. Some 50 families are said to have lived there peacefully for over a thousand years — something that is quite rare in Jewish history. Mala also has the largest Jewish cemetery in India and one of its oldest synagogues. These are the monuments of their existence that the Jews of Mala handed for preservation to the local government before they left en masse for Israel, after its formation in 1948...
2 February 2017
In this image from 2015, displaced Iraqis celebrate the liturgy in a tent church in Kasnazan, in northern Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
There has been a lot of discussion lately about Christian refugees in the Middle East — and a lot of misinformation has been appearing online and in the media. CNEWA’s communications director Michael J.L. La Civita sets the record straight today at the website Aleteia. He notes:
This piece is offered to help dispel some of the erroneous information currently feeding confusion and partisanship where there should be none. Especially with portions of the electorate that self-identify as Christian or Catholic, it is vitally important to understand the realities about refugees and immigrants, beyond the unhelpful partisan narratives that are making assistance to both problematic and politicized...
...Much has been written regarding Middle East Christian refugees, their status, and whether or not they and other religious minorities should be offered refuge in the United States before other groups, such as Sunni Muslim refugees, whose numbers are far greater.
Here are a few points to consider:
- Of the 120,000 Christians pushed out of the Nineveh Plain into Iraqi Kurdistan (Irbil and Dohuk) in 2014 by ISIS, some 80,000 remain.
- Those living in Iraqi Kurdistan are legally identified as internally displaced peoples, and all are receiving some form of assistance from the UN, as well as from church organizations, such as CNEWA.
- Many have fled to Jordan — the king offered hospitality and expedited visas, but he asked the churches to care for the primary needs of the community. Parishes did just that, temporarily housing the refugees and providing for their basic needs.
- Others have returned to Baghdad, where they continue to draw pensions and salaries if once employed by the state.
- In 2016, 955 Iraqi Christian families, including 1,187 children, left Jordan for resettlement. Many went to Australia.
There is much more, including details about Syrian refugees, at the Aleteia website.
2 February 2017
Tags: Syria Iraq Middle East ISIS
Students perform at The Infant Jesus School in Dwaraka, India. CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar visited the region in December. You can learn more and check out a video describing the trip here. (photo: John E. Kozar)