24 July 2017
In the video above, Iraq’s Patriarch Louis Sako visits Mosul on 20 July.
(video: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
Patriarch Louis Sako, the head of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, visited Mosul last week, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was there. Check out the video above — which also features CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar — to see what the patriarch had to say.
The visit came days after the city was liberated. Earlier this month, Patriarch Sako released a statement on the status of Christians in Iraq, with a plea for Christians to embrace their homeland and their heritage:
“Now is the right time to adhere effectually to the land of their parents and grandparents, their identity, history and heritage,” Patriarch Sako wrote. “The fact that we are the indigenous people of this country and its ancient civilizations, and that our history is traced back to the oldest Christian Church in the world, should be kept in our mind always.”
The patriarch called this a “historic moment and a test for Christians” to renew their commitment and confirm their presence in Iraq. He also urged the faithful to claim compensation for their losses from the Iraqi Central Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, as well as the international community.
After celebrating the liberation of Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, the patriarch said there’s still “a long way to go” before IS is “completely eradicated from the region.“
24 July 2017
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, celebrates Mass in Marj Al Haman, Jordan, 23 July. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)
Mideast church leaders meeting in Jordan developed a two-pronged action plan to help Catholic families.
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Catholic News Service the first step was to “change completely the preparation for the religious Catholic marriage.” Archbishop Pizzaballa explained that a revised teaching would entail “not just the immediate preparation to marriage that currently exists, but to start earlier the instruction with Catholic youth about what exactly marriage means.”
Secondly, he said the church sought to “create counseling offices in order to avoid couples immediately going to the courts” to deal with family problems that might arise.
In many Arab countries, where Islam and Islamic law predominate, there are no civil laws regarding marriage and divorce. That means that the state relies on religious bodies such as Catholic family law courts to certify marriages.
Often, civil divorce is impossible for Catholics in the Middle East, with many resorting to leaving the faith — becoming Orthodox or even Muslim — in order to find a tribunal that will allow them to escape their marriage.
With the Year of Mercy that began in late 2015, the church streamlined procedures for annulment cases, which have become a matter of urgency in many societies in the Middle East.
Archbishop Pizzaballa spoke to Catholic News Service 23 July after the conference’s closing Mass at Martyrs of Jordan Church. Delegations of clerics, judges and lawyers specializing in canon law from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Israel and Jordan participated in conference, which discussed a number of legal issues relating to marriage and the family. The proceedings were chaired by Father Emil Salayta, president of the church court in Jerusalem.
Archbishop Pizzaballa told CNS it is important to enhance the training for young people to “explain the meaning of a Catholic marriage and all the mutual commitments involved and to let them understand, with time in advance, what a Catholic marriage truly is.”
He said the main purpose of the conference was to help priests and lawyers who work in courts understand new regulations following Pope Francis’ September document bringing the basic legal instruments that govern the Latin- and Eastern-rite Catholic churches more closely into accord on several issues involving baptism and marriage.
“The decision has just been taken. Now we need to sit down with the pastoral offices, people, and other concerned offices to see what to do in order to build this,” Archbishop Pizzaballa said.
“We cannot expect in one year to have everything ready, but to build it. We are aware of the problem and we have to find not-easy solutions,” he said.
Archbishop Pizzaballa said today’s youth often have a “completely different mentality” about commitment, and preparations are needed to help them to make lasting ones.
“In the past, the youth used to ask: ‘Why do this?’ Now they ask ‘Why not?’” he said.
The papal nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin, stressed that “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation after two synods of bishops on the family, shows the importance of compassion that should be exercised by the church, especially on the subject of families.
He told conference participants that the Catholic courts should serve the law, demonstrate compassion and love through their judges and lawyers, and be witnesses to the greatness of marriage.
24 July 2017
Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man following clashes outside Jerusalem’s Old City on 21 July. Pope Francis has appealed for dialogue after a surge of violence in the area.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Pope appeals for dialogue after Jerusalem violence (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for moderation and dialogue after a surge of violence and killings over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, the Pope said he is following “with trepidation the grave tensions and violence of the last days in Jerusalem...”
Syria truce crumbles (Al Jazeera) Syrian government forces have carried out several air attacks in the Eastern Ghouta area outside of Damascus, a day after the Syrian military declared a cessation of hostilities in the area, according to a UK-based monitor. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Saturday had been relatively calm after the ceasefire took effect with isolated incidents of shellfire...
Christians welcome India’s new president with caution (Vatican Radio) India’s Catholic bishops have welcomed India’s new president, hoping he will be able to foster peace, development and justice for all...
Report: Young Syrian refugees being forced into child labor in Lebanon (Vox) About 280,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon have been forced into child labor, according to UNICEF. Many of these kids lost their loved ones and homes in their country’s brutal civil war. They fled to Lebanon for safety — only to find it comes at a very high price...
Catholic charity sends statues of Mary to Iraq to replace those destroyed by ISIS (Catholic Herald) A Catholic charity has sent 15 statues of the Virgin Mary to the Middle East to replace ones destroyed by ISIS. The group Œuvre d’Orient, a French association dedicated to helping persecuted Christians, has sent the statues from Lourdes to Ain Kawa, a suburb of the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has a majority Catholic population...
21 July 2017
The convent of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Qaraqosh sustained damage during the occupation. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on the challenges facing the people of Iraq:
The overwhelming need for those who are still considering returning home is the need for security at several levels. They seek assurances of a national government that guarantees them protection and their basic human and religious rights; they also seek local governance that will provide basic services; and they especially want freedom to maintain their faith and to worship as they please.
The insecurities are deep and the trust is lacking, so many have decided to wait and see before they make their final decision to return or to move on, whatever that might mean.
Despite the uncertainties and all the misery that accompanies those who are displaced, they find in the church a source of comfort and hope. Through Christ’s sacramental presence in the Eucharist and in many good works of charity and mercy, the church represents for them a beacon of the light of Christ and a reason to endure. Nothing is certain for the refugees, except the love of God for all, especially as Jesus has shared with them on the cross.
Read more and see more pictures as this link.
21 July 2017
In the video above, Cardinal Luis Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, speaks of the church’s concern for refugees and the dignity of the human person. Rising anti-refugee sentiment is causing concern in Lebanon. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Israeli aid gives ‘glimmer of hope’ for Syrians (The New York Times) Quietly, over the last year, hundreds of sick Syrian children and their chaperones have been whisked across enemy lines at dawn for treatment at clinics in Israel, slipping back home after dark...
Rising anti-refugee sentiment stirs concern in Lebanon (AFP) An attack on Lebanese troops raiding a Syrian refugee camp has stirred violent debate and polarized opinions, with rising calls to repatriate refugees but also warnings against racist rhetoric. The uptick in pressure comes after Lebanese soldiers were attacked as they stormed two refugee camps near the eastern border with Syria last month...
Power-sharing deal takes shape in Gaza (AP) A power-sharing deal between two former arch foes is slowly taking shape in Gaza and could lead to big changes in the Hamas-ruled territory, including an easing of a decade-long border blockade...
Report: Babies most affected by malnutrition around Mosul (Doctors Without Borders) The malnutrition we see here is primarily due to the scarcity of infant formula. Obviously, adults and children in the besieged part of Mosul suffer from lack of food and, indeed, we see a lot of extremely underweight people arriving in the camps. But once they’re out of the city, the adults soon gain weight, but not the babies. Many Iraqi mothers don’t breastfeed and the ones who do usually stop after two to three months. Conditions in the camps combined with stress and exhaustion make breastfeeding even harder...
A year later, families of those who resisted Turkey coup count cost (The Guardian) A year later, the country remains polarized, and has yet to come to terms with the traumatic putsch that is widely believed to have been orchestrated by followers of Fethullah Gülen, an ally-turned-rival of the president who leads a vast grassroots network from exile in the United States. For the families of the sehitler — the Turkish word for martyrs — the trauma remains close at hand...
20 July 2017
The video above, from 11 July, shows the extent of the destruction of Mosul, the largest city in Iraq that ISIS tried to conquer. (video: Radio Free Europe/YouTube)
Editor’s note: this week, we launch a new feature on our blog, “CNEWA Connections” — weekly posts that we hope will provide background and context to some of the stories unfolding in CNEWA’s world.
The Iraq city of Mosul has been in the news quite a bit lately and has been freed from the control of ISIS. It may, however, prove to be a Pyrrhic victory, since much of the city now lays in ruins.
While the world watches in sorrow the stories and images coming out of Mosul, and witnesses the humanitarian nightmare its destruction has created, it’s worth taking a moment to put the place in context. This city, the largest that ISIS tried to conquer, has a long history.
Mosul (Arabic al-Maw?il, “the connection, confluence, depot”) originally on the west bank now lies on both sides of the Tigris River. It is not a very ancient city, although it is close to the ruins of Niniveh, the capital of the very powerful Assyrian Empire which was destroyed by the Chaldeans of Babylon at the close of the 7th century BC. The position of Mosul made it an ideal center for trade between China and India via the Silk Roads to the east, to the Greek and Roman Empires to the west and Arabia and Africa to the south.
In pre-Muslims times, Mosul was a metropolitan see (archdiocese) of the Church of the East and was second to Ctesiphon — and later Baghdad — where the Catholicos/Patriarch resided. It was conquered by Muslim armies in the 7th century AD and later became part of the Abbasid Caliphate. As would be expected for a city on the juncture of several trade routes, Mosul was very cosmopolitan. Originally a Christian city, over the centuries it became increasingly Sunni Muslim. Nevertheless, there was a considerable Christian minority consisting of Christians of the Assyrian tradition (Church of the East and later also Chaldeans) and other Christian churches, Jews, Shi’ites and others. Ethnically, the majority of the population of Mosul was and remains Arab, although there were a good number of Kurds in the city. Many Christians in the region consider themselves Assyrian and not Arab. As might be expected, instances of sectarian conflict in Mosul were recorded over the centuries.
Mosul is the main city of the Nineveh Plain which has been home to a large Christian population spread over several small cities and villages. The Christian population of the Nineveh Plain is an ancient one, tracing its roots back in some instances to the 4th century AD.
Historians recount that Mosul was famous for its textiles and the English word, muslin, a type of fabric, is derived from the name Mosul.
Mosul and its environs were home to several pilgrim sites. Perhaps the most famous of these was the shrine of Nabi Yunas, the prophet Jonah — who, according to the Old Testament, had preached repentance to the Assyrians in nearby Nineveh and was buried at the site.
In this image from 1999, Iraqis visit the shrine of Nabi Yunas, the prophet Jonah.
(photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Originally a Christian shrine, it became a mosque as the Christian population diminished over the centuries.
Iraqis inspect the shrine of Nabi Yunas after ISIS destroyed it in 2014. (photo: CNS/EPA)
The al-Nuri Grand Mosque was built in the 12th century and underwent several renovations over the years. A huge structure, it was famous for its minaret, from which the Muslim call to prayer is broadcast. The minaret leaned at an angle similar to Italy’s famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Under the Ottoman Empire, modern day Iraq, was (wisely) divided into three vilayets or provinces: Bosra for the Arab Shi’ites in the southern third of the country; Baghdad for the Arab Sunnis in the center of the country; and Mosul for the Kurdish Muslims in the northern third of the country. After the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1917, the French and British united all three vilayets to form the new country of Iraq.
After several revolutions, Iraq evolved into one very diverse country held together by a strong man, Saddam Hussein. Kurdish revolts in the north and Shi’ite revolts in the south were common and were met with incredible brutality by the Hussein government.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq began to become unglued. Centrifugal forces surfaced and the old Ottoman vilayets provided the fault lines which continue to divide the country. In that vacuum arose first al-Qaida in Iraq under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a brutal terrorist. After Zarqawi’s death al-Qaida in Iraq went underground and metastasized to what would become known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and by its Arabic acronym da’ish.
With incredible speed in 2014, ISIS attacked Mosul. The large Iraqi army fled when faced with an almost minuscule ISIS force and Mosul became part of ISIS. In June 2014 in the al-Nuri Grand Mosque in Mosul Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (whose name has changed several times, each time giving him a more noble pedigree) declared himself Caliph. ISIS was now on the world stage with a vengeance. Although Raqqa in Syria was the purported capital of the caliphate, Mosul was in some ways more important. ISIS plundered the many resources which Mosul had to offer — military equipment left behind by the fleeing Iraqi army, many banks whose funds were stolen, and a population estimated at 1.8 million, half of which fled, leaving behind properties, money, etc., which was confiscated by ISIS.
ISIS was driven from Mosul in the spring and summer of 2017 by a coalition of Iraqi troops, Kurdish militias and American advisors. The loss of Mosul was a serious loss for ISIS but perhaps a greater loss for the people of Mosul and the Christians who had fled from the Plain of Nineveh. Arial photographs show the city to be leveled. The retreating ISIS forces used explosives to destroy the Shrine of Jonah and the al-Nuri mosque. Christians who fled to Irbil in Kurdish Iraq wait and wonder if the Niniveh Plain will ever again be safe enough for them to return.
It is a sad irony that for centuries Mosul lay just across the Tigris River from the ruins of ancient Niniveh — ruins which Mosul itself now resembles.
20 July 2017
Men carry the casket of Israeli policeman Hail Sethawi 14 July who was killed in an attack at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. The heads of Jerusalem’s Christian churches have expressed “serious concern” over rising tensions and violence in the Old City.
(photo: CNS/Ancho Gosh, EPA)
The heads of Jerusalem’s Christian churches expressed “serious concern” over an escalation in tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City as hostilities remained high following the mid-July shooting deaths of two Israeli policemen and three gunmen on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
The church leaders said they were worried that any change to the status quo of the site could “easily lead to serious and unpredictable consequences.”
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, were among the signatories of the 19 July statement.
Police believe the gunmen — three cousins, Arab citizens of Israel who were killed by Israel police — stashed their weapons inside the compound of the holy site for use in the 14 July attack.
“We express ... our grief for the loss of human life and strongly condemn any act of violence,” the Christian leaders said. “We are worried about any change to the historical situation in Al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram ash-Sharif) and its courtyard, and in the holy city of Jerusalem. ... We value the continued custody of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on Al-Aqsa mosque and the holy places in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which guarantees the right for all Muslims to free access and worship to Al-Aqsa according to the prevailing status quo.”
Israel, which maintains control to access the site and has set up metal detectors at the entrance of the compound, repeatedly has said it has no intentions of changing the status quo in the area. The Jordanian Waqf Islamic trust administers the inside of the compound. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site but cannot pray there.
The compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is also considered a Jewish holy site as the historical location of the two Jewish biblical temples. Today, Jews pray at the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the platform, below the compound. Visitors to the Western Wall plaza must go through metal detectors to enter the site.
Jerusalem Muslim leaders have called on worshipers not to go through the metal detectors, and Muslims have been converging outside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate for prayers instead.
“We renew our call that the historical status quo governing these sites be fully respected, for the sake of peace and reconciliation to the whole community, and we pray for a just and lasting peace in the whole region and all its people,” the Jerusalem church leaders said.
On 14 July, the same day as the attack, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the incident as a “desecration.” The bishops said they mourned for those killed and deplored “the heightened tensions that such an attack can span.” They noted that the “path to peace, for which both Israelis and Palestinians yearn, cannot be paved with violence.”
20 July 2017
India’s President-elect Ram Nath Kovind greets people during a ceremony in New Delhi after his election on 20 July 2017. (photo: Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)
Citizens of Iraqi Christian village protest mayor’s removal (Fides) Hundreds of citizens in Alqosh, a Christian majority city of the Nineveh Plain, participated in the protest march on Thursday that crossed the central streets of the town center. They wanted to show their dissent regarding the sudden removal from office of the local mayor, ordered in recent days by the Council of the Nineveh Province...
‘Untouchable’ elected president of India (Bloomberg) Ram Nath Kovind was elected as president of India, the world’s most populous democracy, becoming the second leader from country’s ‘untouchable’ community to occupy the highest post...
Sunday in an Indian jail (National Catholic Register) Whenever I go to Kandhamal — the ground zero of one of the worst persecutions of Christians in Indian history — unexpected things unfold. The primary objective of my visit mid-June to the remote jungle district in Odisha state on the east coast, where Christian targets had gone up in flames since August 2008, was to confirm couple of important stories, including elephants saving a Catholic youth from being burnt alive by a mob...
Drought worsens in Ethiopia (IPS) Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert...
Flow of tourists into Armenia (Public Radio of Armenia) 1,350,791 people have visited Armenia over the first half of this year — 24.3 percent more than at the same period a year before, Zarmine Zeytuntsyan, head of the Economic development and investments ministry’s tourism committee, told journalists on Wednesday referring to the figures received from border checkpoints, reports ARKA News Agency...
19 July 2017
Caritas Georgia Director Anahit Mkhoyan visited CNEWA’s New York office today, 19 July 2017, and led a discussion on the region she serves. (photo: Greg Kandra)
We were delighted to get a visit Wednesday from a longtime friend in Georgia, Anahit Mkhoyan.
Her name may ring a bell. She is director of Caritas Georgia, and wrote A Letter From Georgia in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE — a deeply personal and moving essay that was honored last month at the Catholic Press Awards in Quebec. We were pleased to present Anahit with her award certificate and hear her thoughts about the important work she is doing in Georgia.
“We touch the human,” she told our staff. “This is the precious part of Caritas.”
She spoke, in particular, of her gratitude for CNEWA’s support of the organization’s mother and child center — and the boundless generosity of CNEWA’s donors. The impact of CNEWA’s donors, she explained, is dramatic.
“Financial support becomes spiritual support for us,” she explained. “We can take a case and give the first support, human support, which people really need. We know if we don’t catch a woman and her child now, the kids may end up as street children, she may become a prostitute. It is a vicious cycle. People, when they are left out of one circle, then they drop out of other circles, and Caritas is the only place for them to be safe.”
And she emphasized: “I want you to feel like every spirit, every smile, every saved soul is behind every penny you are raising.”
Thank you, Anahit, for that message — and for being such a generous collaborator in CNEWA’s work!
19 July 2017
Tags: Georgia Caritas Caucasus
Iraqis celebrate in Baghdad on 10 July as Prime Minister Haider al Abadi announces victory over the Islamic State in Mosul. Iraq has announced a 10-year plan to rebuild Mosul. (photo: CNS/Khalid al Mousily, Reuters)
With ISIS gone, Iraq shapes plan for rebuilding Mosul (Voice of America) Just days after Iraqi forces evicted ISIS militants from the last parcel of land that they controlled in Mosul, Iraqi government officials say they are ready to rebuild the war-torn city and return an estimated million displaced civilians to their homes. Officials from the Iraqi Ministry of Planning told VOA that they had drawn up a 10-year plan to reconstruct the city, which came under full control of U.S.-backed Iraqi forces last week…
Christian mayor in Iraq dismissed (Fides) With an unusual emergency procedure, the Council of the Iraqi Province of Nineveh dismissed the mayor of Alqosh, a town of the Nineveh Plain historically inhabited by Christians, and replaced him with a local political leader close to the Democratic Kurdistan Party…
Chicago center hopes to train Syrians how to launch startups (The Chicago Tribune) Chicagoan Steve Lehmann has taken his expertise in early business development nearly 6,000 miles away to the Turkish border town of Reyhanli. His mission: to teach Syrian teens how to launch startups of their own. Even as war rages in the nation, there are still students learning business and plenty of people who can’t find work…
Indian Catholics prepare for Asian Youth Day (Vatican Radio) Asian Youth Day, a major event of the Catholic Church in the continent, is taking center stage in two weeks’ time in Yogyakarta in the Archdiocese of Semarang, Indonesia. Over 2,000 young people from 21 Asian countries are gathering in the central Javanese city, from 2 to 6 August, for the seventh Asian Youth Day…
Last Russian Tsar and family remembered (Radio Free Europe) Large numbers of people marched near the Russian city of Yekaterinburg before dawn on 17 July to mark the 99th anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Marchers carried Russian Orthodox icons and crosses in the procession from the site where Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Aleksandra, and their five children were killed in 1918 — months after the Bolsheviks seized power — to the spot where their bodies were buried...