12 September 2018
The situation in Syria could lead to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, with even more people being displaced. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
UN: Syria war displacement this year has been the worst ever (AP) U.N. investigators warned Wednesday that a war against some 10,000 extremists in northwestern Syria should not take 3 million people hostages. They added that the expected attack by Syrian troops on Idlib province would make other battles in the country look minor. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry said government forces carried out three chemical weapons attacks in Syria and that violence displaced the largest number of people the year, the largest since the conflict began in 2011…
Weeks after flood, Kerala now fights dry spell (Indian Express) An unusual dry spell coupled with the reported fall in the groundwater level in flood-hit areas of Kerala has emerged as a cause of concern…
Floods trigger influx of alien fish species (The Hindu) The catastrophic floods that caused widespread havoc throughout the State last month have also released several alien species of fish into waterbodies, raising a threat to the endemic aquatic ecosystem and biodiversity, scientists have reported…
Moscow warns of ’catastrophic’ consequences of Ukraine church independence (TASS) The chief of Moscow Patriarchate’s department for relations between the Church and society, Vladimir Legoida, warned that steps to authorize autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church may have catastrophic consequences, including violence and seizure of churches belonging to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reporting to Moscow Patriarchate...
Pope to convene world meeting on abuse prevention with bishops’ leaders (CNS) Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops’ conference in the world to Rome on 21-24 February to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults…
11 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Ukraine
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, left, leads a procession on 9 September at the restored Our Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Aleppo. During the inauguration and rededication of the cathedral, Patriarch Younan said, "We will always be people of hope and life." (CNS photo/courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
In war-torn Aleppo, Syria, the Syriac Catholic patriarch proclaimed that “the will of life has overcome death; hope and security have overcome despair and chaos. Our people have overcome.”
Celebrating the liturgy on 9 September at the inauguration and rededication of the restored Our Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral, Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, “We will always be people of hope and life.”
The cathedral’s inaugural liturgy, filled with worshippers, was attended by Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Vatican nuncio to Syria; bishops of other Christian churches; and representatives of Aleppo civil authorities.
The patriarch led a procession through the nearby streets to the restored cathedral, then cut a white ribbon fastened to the main door and entered.
In his homily, Patriarch Younan recalled his visit to Aleppo in 2017, when he celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in the damaged cathedral with the faithful assembled under umbrellas “because the rain was falling on us from all sides of this cathedral.”
“We are gathered today to sing thanks and praise to the Lord who gave us this wonderful gift to be able to repair this cathedral in order to recuperate its beauty of the past. We are so delighted to come once again and pray with you, in this cathedral so dear to you,” the patriarch said.
“For many years, this house of God suffered a lot of devastation, being at the demarcation line with terrorists. It is now restored for worship, a sign of hope and victory of the good over the evil that destroyed so many churches and mosques in this beloved city, Aleppo,” Patriarch Younan said. He noted that Aleppo was recognized for centuries as the most important center for many Christian communities.
“During the horrendous siege at the hands of criminals that lasted four years, this second-largest and prosperous city of Syria was deprived of basic necessities,” the patriarch said. “You lacked water, food, fuel and electricity. All this happened under the eyes of the ‘civilized’ world.’“
“You and hundreds of thousands of civilians under the ruling of the legitimate Syrian government were forgotten, abandoned even manipulated by those opportunistic geo-politicians of our present time,” he said.
In December 2016, the Syrian army retook control of almost the entire city of Aleppo. The city had been split between government and rebel control since 2012.
“Aleppo has returned, and Syria will return to its previous glory, and even more beautiful, because there are many civil and spiritual officials who felt the duty of their responsibilities to serve ... with integrity and honesty,” Patriarch Younan said.
“We should first thank God almighty that helped you, beloved brothers and sisters, under the leadership of our brother-Archbishop Antoine Chahda (of Aleppo), to undertake the hard and costly works of repairing this wonderful cathedral built in the 1970s,” the patriarch said.
He thanked the “generous benefactors” from the archdiocese, Catholic organizations and the government of Hungary.
“We owe to our Catholic brothers and sisters from around the world a lot of appreciation and gratitude for the charitable and unconditional solidarity toward us and all Christians of the Middle East, most particularly the two beleaguered countries of Syria and Iraq,” Patriarch Younan said.
The liturgy commemorated the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
“Our thanks go to our heavenly Virgin Mary, who protected the faithful of this cathedral, and protected the people of Aleppo,” the patriarch said. He stressed that Aleppo still needs her intercession after so much suffering and prayed that she would grant the Middle East “a true peace and unshakable security based on justice for all.”
He also prayed that she would hasten the return of Syrians who migrated to other countries.
The patriarch’s four-day visit to Syria from the patriarchate in Beirut included meetings with government officials and Muslim clerics. During the liturgy at the restored cathedral, the patriarch ordained six new deacons.
11 September 2018
Women religious and other residents walk in floodwaters in Kerala, in India. (photo: CNS/courtesy Father Jolly Vadakken via Global Sisters Report)
CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, just sent us this update on the aftermath of flooding in Kerala:
As a native of Kerala, it was terrible to see such devastating flooding. I thank God that my family somehow escaped.
It was really a catastrophic situation. This was the worst monsoon disaster in Kerala since 1924. More than 450 people died; many were missing for days.
Flood waters submerged houses, shops and destroyed crops. Tens of thousands of people had to be moved to relief camps. The situation was very scary in my own village, which was severely affected. Hundreds of families, including my own, had to take shelter in relief camps. More than 5,000 such camps were opened to accommodate flood victims.
There was no electricity in many villages for weeks; thousands of power connections were disrupted. Rivers changed course, dams overflowed and bridges collapsed.
Almost all the districts of Kerala were affected—more severely, in the districts of Idukki, Wayanad, Allepy, Trichur, Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Kannur. Hundreds of landslides occurred in several parts of the state. People were trapped atop houses surrounded by water. They were not able to move due to flooding.
People were evacuated by military helicopters, assisted by the great work done by members of the fishing community. They came with their fishing boats, risking their lives and rescuing those who were trapped. Their experience in the violent sea helped them to face this challenge and save lives.
The flood swept through hundreds of villages, destroying about 6,200 miles of roads. In Kannur district alone, 48 landslides occurred and 2,000 houses were damaged; out of this, 196 houses were totally destroyed, 122 open wells were inundated with dirty flood water, 941 animals were killed, and 95 cattle sheds were washed away.
In Wayanad district, 3,747 families were affected and 14,134 people fled to relief camps; 226 houses were fully destroyed, 1,893 houses partially damaged, and 2,650 acres of agriculture were destroyed.
Idukki was one of the worst hit places, due to landslides and heavy rain. Some 325 landslides occurred in this district. More than 6,175 families were severely affected by the landslides; 60 people died and more than 50 were seriously injured. More than 1,200 houses were fully washed away by the flood, mudflow and landslides. About 6,000 people have become homeless; 2,266 houses were partially damaged, 180 shops totally damaged. Many livestock were lost.
In North Parur region and Aluva in Ernakulam, 117 schools were hit. In North Parur Taluk, almost all the villages were submerged and people were evacuated. Chalakudy in Trichur district was heavily affected, as the water level rose very high due to the Peringalkuthu dam overflowing.
In Kuttanad region, situated at the tail end of four major rivers, the area looked like a festering swamp after four days of torrential rain. Some 125,000 people from this region were in relief camps; about 50,000 chose to move to the houses of their relatives.
Hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, banks, government offices, shops, cattle, crops, food materials, household items — everything was destroyed and people had to depend on relief supplies.
For the first few days, there were no supplies coming in, as the flooding was so heavy that no one could move from one place to another; the people in relief camps had to struggle without food and water. Then, the helicopters dropped food materials and the military vehicles tried their best to bring necessary items to the people in camps.
All the belongings and household items — kitchen utensils, beds, furniture, chairs, tables, medicines, food items, dress materials — almost everything was lost. The most affected are the poor and the daily wage workers who now have to rebuild from almost nothing.
Please give what you can to help support our brothers and sisters in Kerala. Visit this page for more information.
11 September 2018
Tags: India Kerala
Families are struggling to salvage their homes and business after the massive flooding in Kerala last month. (video: TRTWorld/YouTube)
Disease and snakes await Kerala flood victims (UCANews.com) Sheela Joseph and her family spent a week in a relief camp before they were able to return to their flood-hit house on the banks of Periyar River in the southern Indian state of Kerala in late August. She was among 1.3 million people who found themselves displaced in the middle of last month when flash floods hit the state. Many have since gone back home as the waters have receded but many thousands still reside in temporary shelters as their abodes remain waterlogged and uninhabitable, if not completely destroyed…
Turkey warns attack on Idlib would cause humanitarian disaster (Reuters) A Syrian government offensive in the country’s northern region of Idlib would cause humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, Europe and beyond, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday in an article in the Wall Street Journal…
Ethiopia, Eritrea reopen border points for first time in 20 years (Reuters) The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea re-opened crossing points on their shared border for the first time in 20 years on Tuesday, cementing a stunning reconciliation and giving Addis Ababa a direct route to its former foe’s Red Sea ports…
Coptic abbot’s murder points to strains over ecumenism in Egypt (Religion News Service) The Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt is reeling from the recent murder of the abbot of St. Macarius Monastery, apparently by traditionalists of his own faith, in the fourth-century center of meditation and scholarship 60 miles northwest of Cairo…
Bishops from mission territory gather at Vatican (Vatican News) Bishops who have been ordained within the last two years in dioceses which are still considered mission territory have gathered in Rome to take part in a Seminar organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 3-15 September. There are 75 Bishops from 34 countries gathered for the Seminar hosted at Collegio San Paolo (Pontifical International Missionary College of St Paul the Apostle) in Rome…
Virtual reality allows visitors to walking through Jerusalem during the time of Jesus (Aleteia) Australian start-up Lithodomos VR will offer visitors the chance to actually see how ancient cities looked hundreds of years ago, thanks to virtual reality tours based on architectural reconstructions done by professional archaeologists. The Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem’s Old City will launch a VR tour of the city for the holiday of Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that celebrates the gathering of the harvest…
10 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Vatican
CNEWA's Philip Eubanks speaks at Holy Disciples Parish in Puyallup, Washington, last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
Last weekend, two members of CNEWA’s development team, Philip Eubanks and Thomas Moore, paid a visit to Holy Disciples Parish in Puyallup, Washington, where they spoke at the weekend Masses. They also spoke at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Eatonville, Washington. They’re continuing their travels this week through the greater Seattle area, visiting churches and meeting donors.
We love getting out to parishes around the United States to help tell CNEWA’s story, It’s an opportunity to bring the good news of the Eastern churches’ tireless efforts to alleviate poverty and despair across the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. It’s also a great way to thank all who continue to support the work of CNEWA.
If you’d like us to visit your parish or community, let us know! Drop a line to our development associate, Christopher Kennedy: email@example.com.
10 September 2018
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, announced that the Moscow Patriarchate has threatened to sever relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate if a patriarchate in Kiev is recognized. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Rebel-held areas bombed in northwest Syria (Al Jazeera) Syrian government forces have pounded rebel-held areas in northwest Syria, killing at least five people in a second day of heavy bombardment, according to rescuers, as Turkey sent more troops to the region. The intensified strikes on Sunday, including air attacks, shelling and helicopter-dropped barrel bombs, targeted villages in southern Idlib and northern Hama provinces. The escalation comes amid growing fears over a seemingly imminent all-out offensive against the densely populated Idlib province, the last rebel bastion in Syria…
Monsoon rains pounding northern India, rendering millions homeless (UCANews.com) India’s monsoon floods have claimed 1,400 lives and rendered millions homeless as church agencies and others work to provide relief. The unusually heavy southwest monsoon that hit the southern tip of India in June is making its last lap in northern India and creating unprecedented rains…
Russian Orthodox Church threatens retaliation (Radio Free Europe) The Russian Orthodox Church has threatened to retaliate against its Istanbul-based rival if it allows Ukraine to cut its spiritual ties with Moscow and thereby end Russian religious rule in the country. Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s External Relations Department, said on 8 September that if the patriarch of Kiev was recognized, “we will have no choice but to sever relations with Constantinople”…
Ethiopia reopens embassy in Eritrea (Al Jazeera) Ethiopia has reopened its embassy in Eritrea after a 20-year hiatus, in a further sign of improving relations between the neighbors who signed a peace accord earlier this year…
Bishop’s home, religious items sustain damage from Kerala floods (The Times of India) During the floods, the Pamba River had devoured vast stretches of land and inundated several houses on its banks. One of the damaged houses belonged to Philipose Mar Chrysostom, the Mar Thoma Metropolitan. Now, weeks after the waters have receded, the bishop’s pets, including turkeys, rabbits, love-birds, ducks and goats, which were shifted during the deluge, have been brought back and are moving restlessly inside their pens…
Supporting Israelis in need on Rosh Hashanah (The Jerusalem Post) On Sunday evening, families across Israel are sitting down with loved ones and friends for a festive Rosh Hashanah meal. For most families, the new year festivities are an opportunity for celebration. For others, however, they are a stark reminder of their struggle to provide food for themselves and their households…
7 September 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Israel Russian Orthodox Eritrea
An icon of the Blessed Mother and the infant Jesus is seen as pilgrims walk in a procession to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church on 26 August. (photo: CNS/ Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness)
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, seems an unlikely place for a pilgrimage.
Located on a lonely tree-filled hilltop, above a famous but mostly abandoned town, this church built in 1911 could have been forgotten. Instead, with its three onion-shaped domes, it stands as a testament to faith in tough times and places.
Centralia’s claim to fame isn’t the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but the fire burning in a network of mines underneath the town since 1962. That fire eventually sent poisonous gases into homes and businesses.
As a result, most residents moved out using money from a federal relocation program. Hundreds of buildings were demolished. Today, less than a dozen people live in Centralia, often called a ghost town.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church is the only church left of the seven once here. Among them was St. Ignatius Catholic Church, where Masses were celebrated just a year after the Diocese of Harrisburg was established in 1868. Once home to 3,000 members, a parochial school, convent and cemetery, St. Ignatius was directly affected by the fire in the early 1980s. The last Mass celebrated there was on 25 June 1995. St. Ignatius Church was razed in November 1997. Today, its cemetery is the only standing reminder of the once flourishing parish.
Still, people of faith continue to be drawn to the church on the hill and hundreds traveled there 26 August for the third annual Marian pilgrimage.
“We’re located on the side of a mountain, a place conducive to meditation and prayer,” said the Rev. Michael Hutsko, an archpriest who is pastor of the church. The church was declared a Ukrainian Catholic pilgrimage site in 2015.
Pilgrims came from Pennsylvania and nearby states for the day of prayer led by four bishops with three Catholic traditions: Ukrainian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic.
“It’s a time to place your heart, soul and mind in the hands of our Savior and ask him to heal all of us, bring us peace and strengthen our faith,” Father Hutsko said.
The day of prayer included a Divine Liturgy with responses sung by the choir of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, a living rosary and a procession to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” which is a service asking for the mother of God’s intercession.
Pilgrims sang the traditional Akathist hymn to Mary, the mother of God.
In his homily, Bishop Andriy Rabiy, apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, thanked the pilgrims for journeying to this holy mountain, where “you can feel something special, the presence of God.” He was accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the archeparchy.
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Latin-rite Diocese of Harrisburg urged the pilgrims to “take time and meditate on each prayer at each bead” when praying the rosary.
At the prayer service, Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey, talked about forgiveness and “fresh beginnings.” When he had needed to forgive, he was given the strength to do so, he said. “I prayed in front of the icon of Mary and asked her to pray for someone. After a while, it worked. God softened the hardness of my heart.”
Assumption’s parishioners know all about challenges. Most lost their family homes due to the mine fires. They also worried about losing their church.
While they were relocating, there was talk about demolishing Assumption. That plan was dropped after a survey done under the church indicated that it was built on solid rock, not coal.
Although the vast majority of Assumption’s parishioners moved out of Centralia, 50 of them still faithfully attend Divine Liturgy every Sunday morning, Father Hutsko said.
“We have members whose families belonged to this church for generations,” he said. “We also have new members. We’re a prayerful church where faith is expressed in an open and real way.”
Joanne Panko, who relocated to nearby Numidia, is the third generation of her family to belong to Assumption. She is raising her children in that church too.
“My grandparents went to Assumption,” she said. “My parents were married there. I was baptized and married there. My parents were buried from there. My three children were baptized there. It’s a big part of my life.”
7 September 2018
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
A new mosquito-borne tropical illness is now threatening victims of the flooding in Kerala. The video above shows more of the aftermath and recovery efforts in the Indian state. (video: Firstpost/YouTube)
Russia warns U.S. of pending attack on Syria (CNN) Russia has warned the US military twice in the last week that its forces, along with Syrian regime units, are prepared to attack in an area where dozens of US troops are located, according to several US defense officials. Russia claims that there are militants in the area protected by US troops…
New disease threat faces Kerala flood victims (Times of India) Even as the health department is trying to curb the spread of leptospirosis, the state is now facing a new health threat in the form of dengue — a mosquito-borne tropical disease. Health minister KK Shailaja said an alert has been issued for dengue in the wake of increasing cases being reported in the state. Mosquito menace has risen in Kerala due to stagnant water after floods…
Back to school, but not for all of Syria’s children (AP) Standing in line in the courtyard of their school in the capital Damascus, scores of Syrian girls in pink and blue uniforms saluted the flag and sang the country’s national anthem. A few miles away in a suburb, children played in the courtyard of a rehabilitated school, where shattered windows were replaced but charred walls and pockmarks from bullets remained on the building facades. With fewer areas in active combat in Syria, more children are going back to school this year, the Syrian government said, putting the number at 4 million…
Russian Orthodox Church wants to build an ’Orthodox Vatican’ outside Moscow (BBC) The Russian Orthodox Church hopes to erect an “Orthodox Vatican” in Sergiyev Posad, just outside Moscow, that would require the demolition of several downtown buildings, according to the BBC Russian Service. Journalists learned about plans for an “open-air temple” at the walls of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius with a platform stage that would allow the church to hold outdoor liturgies…
Indian bishop seeks federal help for fraught Christians (UCANews.com) Indian Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas has personally asked federal Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh to intervene over the mistreatment of Christians and their organizations in eastern Jharkhand state. Bishop Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, met Singh at his New Delhi office on 3 September. The minister was briefed about difficulties being faced by the Christian minority…
Children in Jordan refugee camp at risk of becoming ’lost generation’ (The Independent) Despite their courage and ambitions, these children may not be able to fulfill their potential. They risk becoming part of Syria’s lost generation: children who have been stripped of the chance to develop into the adults they could have been because of the war…
6 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Jordan Russian Orthodox Church
A sister greets a young friend at the St. Rachel Center in Jerusalem, which primarily serves those in the migrant population. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Last week, we looked at “charity” as it is understood and practiced in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We saw that care for the weak, the poor and the suffering was central to each of these faiths, although each approached it in a slightly different way. This week, we are looking at how CNEWA embodies Christian charity as it responds to the command of Jesus to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
The command to love one another is not an abstract one for Christians. Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus manifests love by showing compassion to those around him. When in Matthew’s Gospel John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus to ask if he is the “one to come,” Jesus responds by saying “the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are healed and the poor hear the good news of the Gospel” (Matthew 11:4ff.). Jesus sees his identity and mission as coming to those who are burdened under sickness, poverty, oppression and sin. Caring for the poor and the outcast is not, therefore, merely a side event to being a follower of Jesus, nor is it a theoretical obligation. It is central to salvation.
In Matthew’s Gospel, salvation or damnation are presented as dependent not on orthodoxy, not on liturgical practice, but on how one treated the poor. In this Gospel narrative, whether one enters eternal life or punishment depends entirely on whether or not one fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, took in the stranger and visited the imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-36).
For over 90 years, CNEWA has taken that teaching to heart, making Christian love visible by caring for the poor. It is a love that extends far and wide. Recognizing the challenge of Jesus, “if you love only those who love you, what thanks can you expect” (Luke 6:31), the cover of CNEWA’s publication ONE even proclaims that we serve the one “God, one world, one human family and one church.” Originally working in the Middle East, CNEWA’s mission has expanded to also serve those in need in northeast Africa, Central Europe, the Caucuses and India.
The reach is extensive. CNEWA partners with the Eastern Catholic Churches to support hospitals and clinics, to educate children as well as church and community leaders, to care for the handicapped and the outcast. For the past several years, CNEWA has been intensely involved with the plight of refugees in the Middle East—a situation that has been described as the largest humanitarian crisis since World War I.
Although it partners with the Eastern Catholic Churches, CNEWA serves all in need. Serving “the one human family,” CNEWA tries to embody the love of Christ, love which is for all and not just a few. When one of the sisters working in one of CNEWA’s programs was asked if she was caring for Christians, she responded, “I do not help them because they are Christian, but because I am.”
This is the all-embracing love of Christ in action.
Philanthropy is part of all the great religious traditions of the world, and each carries it out differently. The “Golden Rule” of “do to the other as you would have others do to you” exists in every religion. As we have tried to show, love—unconditional and universal love, even of enemies—is a central and unique characteristic of Christianity.
CNEWA tries to make that love visible and effective in the world in which we work.
6 September 2018
Armenian Catholics in the southern Georgian village of Djulgha gather for the Divine Liturgy. To learn more about the Armenian Catholic Church, read our profile from the September 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Tags: Armenia Georgia Armenian Catholic Church