29 January 2013
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, visited Rome earlier this month, and a few high-profile media outlets covered some presentations involving our work.
First, Rome Reports interviewed Msgr. Kozar. The video is below:
Catholic News Service also spoke with Msgr. Kozar, who emphasized that preserving the church’s diversity is a matter of faith, not nostalgia:
Finally, EWTN’s Rome bureau chief Joan Lewis was on hand, too:
I’ve been out for much of the day at a variety of meetings, including one late afternoon gathering for a small group of journalists at the Rome offices of CNEWA — the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. It was a fascinating roundtable presentation and discussion with New York-based Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA president, and CNEWA’s three Middle East regional directors. Joining Msgr. Kozar were Ra’ed Bahou from Amman, Jordan; Issam Bishara from Beirut; and Sami El-Yousef from Jerusalem.
Also in attendance were Archbishop Terence Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada, who heads CNEWA in that country, and Carl Hétu, who spearheads CNEWA’s work in Canada. You’ll be hearing more about CNEWA’s amazing work in future columns and interviews for Vatican Insider. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is Chair of the Board of CNEWA.
Wednesday, Msgr. Kozar addressed over 100 prominent Italians about the needs of Eastern Christians, especially those of the Middle East, at the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Rome. He spoke in the presence of the Order’s Grand Master, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien and co-host, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches.
Msgr. Kozar highlighted the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy but noted the “thousands of volunteers came from far and wide to assist the victims of this horrific storm to help people rebuild.”
He then said, “almost every day, in an area of the world called the Middle East, people face forces far greater than the destruction of a hurricane: they face the storms of conflict, hostility, hatred, poverty, injustice and religious and political persecution. At times, there is little hope of survival, let alone the opportunity to rebuild and to live in peace with hope.
“The Catholic Church in this part of the world,” said the CNEWA president, “especially its family of Eastern churches, is small in number, but deeply rooted in the history, culture and fabric of society in the Middle East. It is the presence of the church that offers the poor, the oppressed and the victims of the daily storms of life a sign of hope, where otherwise there would be only flight, fear and despair.
Visit EWTN’s website for more.
24 January 2013
Tags: CNEWA Middle East CNEWA Canada Media CNEWA Pontifical Mission
In this 28 September 2012 photo, Violette Elias cuts pomegranates that will eventually be squeezed and turned into molasses at her orchard near Kafarchakna, in northern Lebanon. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)
In the November 2012 issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan discussed the role of pomegranates in Lebanese culture. In the course of his reporting, he joined farmer Violette Elias and her family for a meal in her home. Below, he shares his thoughts and impressions from the scene.
The farm of Violette Elias in the northern mountains of Lebanon is as typical as you are going to find in this small Mediterranean country. The house is a high-gabled, traditional Lebanese farm house, folded into a lush green environ — some 800 feet above sea level — with the soaring snow-capped peaks of Lebanon’s highest mountains behind it.
Around the house and down the hill behind it are scatters of trees, a motley orchard of apple, orange, pear and pomegranate trees that Violette harvests all year round. Toward late spring, the distinctive red flowers of the pomegranate trees begin to burst gently on the twigs, and as spring moves into summer the redness deepens. By August, pomegranate fruits are nearly ready for the picking. Violette picks them as she needs them throughout the harvesting season, which lasts until November.
In her kitchen, Violette has a basket of picked pomegranates and uses them for making her own molasses, which she says is an “indispensable” part of any kitchen. The day I visited her family, her four children — Adele, 31; Allisar, 29; Nassif, 28; and Habib, 25 — were back home for the weekend from Beirut. Each of them buzzes around Violette in the kitchen, preparing the dinner table as she works on a Lebanese snack featuring pomegranate. The scene is at once traditional and very contemporary, and I am struck by how well Lebanon has managed to hang on to its values and traditions — whereas countries like Ireland, where I am from, which once had similar values, often lose some measure of them in the face of evolving modernity and globalization.
Violette works her mortar and pestle, mixing her pomegranate molasses with herbs and raisins, and adding the resulting sauce to cooked rice to form a stuffing for peppers and zucchini, a traditional Lebanese snack. We all sit down at the table in the dining room and make small talk as we await Violette to finish and bring her homemade snacks and delicacies. Local cider is poured, and bread is sliced. We talk about Beirut, the rising rent and stagnant salaries — all obsessions for Lebanese in their 20’s and 30’s — but we also talk about the benefits of coming from the countryside and living in the capital, and what a luxury it is to quit the urban chaos at the weekend for the crisp climbs of the mountain.
I was a little envious of the Elias children — mainly because I don’t have such a haven in Lebanon, but also because it reminded me of Ireland, when I lived in Dublin and I had a similar country retreat: my native village in the midlands.
And then the food came out and it was, in some ways, like being at home. Even though the cuisine is worlds apart, it was mamma’s cooking in a way and it left a warm, satisfied feeling in my heart.
18 January 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Farming/Agriculture
Left to right: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Jesuit Archbishop Terrence T. Prendergast and Msgr. John E. Kozar hosted a reception in Rome to raise the Italian community’s awareness of the needs of the churches and people of the East. (photo: Carl Hétu)
This past Wednesday, in the frescoed reception rooms of the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches joined CNEWA in hosting a reception to introduce to the Italian community the needs of the Eastern churches.
The reception capped a flurry of public activities designed to better acquaint Italian Catholics with some of the issues challenging Christian families, especially in the Middle East. As in North America, the Italian media reports on the political and economic dimensions of the Middle East, but few raise the issue of the Christians who have been living there since the time of Christ.
Cardinal Leonardi Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches; Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre; Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA; and Archbishop Terrence T. Prendergast, S.J., chair and treasurer of CNEWA Canada, welcomed more than 100 prominent Italians, including members of the political community and actor Giorgio Lupano.
“Almost every day, in an area of the world called the Middle East, people face forces far greater than the destruction of a hurricane,” Msgr. Kozar said in an address that referenced the hurricane that devastated parts of New York City and the surrounding regions last autumn.
“They face the storms of conflict, hostility, hatred, poverty, injustice and religious and political persecution. At times, there is little hope of survival, let alone the opportunity to rebuild and to live in peace with hope.”
CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, Issam Bishara, reported on the current challenges and work being done for, through and with the Eastern churches in the midst of violent conflicts afflicting the region.
Comboni Missionary Sister Alessandra Fumagalli spoke about the work of her community in southern Jordan, where the sisters run the Italian Hospital in Kerak. “It’s really an emergency,” she said about the large numbers of people needing care from a 40-bed facility.
At his weekly audience the day before the event, the Holy Father thanked CNEWA and its benefactors, a few of whom joined Archbishop Prendergast and Msgr. Kozar in the audience hall, for all the work done on behalf of the church.
You, too, can join in these efforts of CNEWA to affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope. Click here to learn how.
10 January 2013
Tags: Syria CNEWA Middle East Christians Jordan Msgr. John E. Kozar
Snowstruck Bethlehem is seen through one of its many moisture-speckled windows. (photo: CNEWA)
It is true: One can’t predict what will happen in the Middle East — political conflict, war, refugees, persecutions. But who would have seen this coming? A snow storm has hit the Holy Land — the first in five years. And the magic of snow had its effect on the children and adults alike who turned out to play, laugh and enjoy the moment.
Yes, schools and offices are closed. Roads are hard to access and navigate — the region isn’t equipped to handle such events. But even here, people are having simple, basic fun. What a pleasure to see!
(Click any of the photos for a full-size image.)
Children build a snowman near the Church of the Nativity. (photo: CNEWA)
This 9 January photo captures the snowfall in Manger Square. (photo: CNS/Marcin Mazur, Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales)
9 October 2012
Tags: Holy Land Bethlehem West Bank Church of Nativity
In this 2009 image, students pause from physical education at the Latin School in Zerqa, Jordan, which receives support from the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. (photo: Nader Daoud)
This past Sunday, the Western Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem invited CNEWA’s Father Guido Gockel, M.H.M., and me to address their annual meeting in Palm Springs, California. In my remarks, I looked at some key questions concerning the region:
”Is there a future for Christians — indeed for any minority — in this new Middle East? What role will religion play,especially Islam, in governing these peoples? And, is Islam compatible with the so-called democratic aspirations expressed by the reformers leading the “Arab Spring?”
CNEWA works closely with this chivalric order dedicated to supporting the church in the Holy Land, and Msgr. Kozar and I are blessed to be members.
To read the speech, click here. And please, let me know what you think.
17 September 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Christianity Islam Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
The Zabbaleen are descendants of migrant farmers from Upper Egypt who first came to Cairo in the 1940’s in search of employment. They began working in the garbage trade, collecting, sorting and recycling to earn a living. (photo: Dana Smillie)
The September edition of ONE can now be viewed on our website. Give it a look. One of our features this month comes from award-winning journalist, Sarah Topol. Topol profiles a family in Egypt’s Zabbaleen or “garbage people” community:
The Nagib family lives in Manshiyat Naser — also known as Garbage City — an impoverished Coptic Christian neighborhood nestled in the jutting desert cliffs that rise above Cairo’s bustling streets. Called Zabbaleen, or “garbage people” in Arabic, most hail from the rural province of Assiut, 250 miles to the south. For generations, the Zabbaleen have served as Cairo’s de facto garbage collectors, earning a meager living hauling away city dwellers’ trash and recycling anything salvageable.
To spend time with the Nagib family is to witness in microcosm the struggles of an entire class of people — and to realize that they are struggling not just to salvage what others discard, but also to salvage dignity and a way of life.
Mrs. Nagib’s husband collected trash for a living. Now too old to work, he has passed his route on to his children. And it seems, one by one, the Nagib children are carrying on the tradition.
Six days a week, Mrs. Nagib rises before dawn to see off three of her sons to their work as garbage collectors. At 5, the young men will have climbed into the family truck to head down the slopes to the city — a drive that takes two hours. There, they go from apartment to apartment along their route collecting garbage. By early afternoon, they head home, the truck loaded with trash.
For more, read Salvaging Dignity.
14 September 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa ONE magazine
Pope Benedict XVI greets officials during a welcoming ceremony at Rafiq Hariri International Airport in Beirut, 14 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
“Lebanese Hope Pope’s Visit Will Reduce Tensions and Promote Peace” (Vatican Insider, La Stampa) The civil war in Syria is having a terrible effect on the Lebanon and people in Beirut say they fervently hope Pope Benedict XVI’s visit can help to reduce tensions in the land of the cedars, stop the war in Syria, and advance peace throughout the Middle East.
“Maronite Patriarch Calls for a Christian Spring” (Vatican Radio) “The language of hatred and violence, both regionally and internationally, will never bring about a new Spring, only the opposite” says Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros al-Rai.
“Pope Arrives in Lebanon” (Vatican Information Service) “The successful way the Lebanese all live together,” said the pope, “surely demonstrates to the whole Middle East and to the rest of the world that, within a nation, there can exist cooperation between the various Churches, all members of the one Catholic Church in a fraternal spirit of communion with other Christians, and at the same time coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions.”
“Pope Calls for a Halt to Weapons to Syria” (The New York Times) On the airplane to Lebanon, the pope called for a halt to weapons to Syria, calling the import of arms a “grave sin,” according to a Reuters report on the pope’s remarks to reporters. It was not immediately clear whether the pope was faulting the Syrian government or its opponents, or condemning in general terms, the rapid militarization of the conflict.
“Lebanese of all Faiths Hope Visit Heralds Peace” (The Daily Star Lebanon) “The pope can try to ease any religion’s collective tension,” said Sawsan Darwaza, a theater and film director who said she was very supportive of the visit even though she is not Christian.
13 September 2012
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Middle East Pope Benedict XVI Middle East Synod
Workers hang a poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Beirut 12 September in preparation for his
14-16 September visit to Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Beirut tomorrow, among those greeting him will be CNEWA’s own president, Msgr. John E. Kozar.
Msgr. Kozar will be participating in the pontiff’s pastoral visit to Lebanon, where he will deliver his “apostolic exhortation,” a document that concludes the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was held in the Vatican in October 2010. Before he left for Lebanon, Msgr. Kozar sat down with the National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Gallagher to discuss the papal trip to Lebanon, the situation of Christians in the Middle East and CNEWA’s role in the volatile region.
“I want be there,” Msgr. Kozar said, “as this exhortation unfolds, as he [the pope] shares his insights. I would imagine that he really wants to show not only to Christians in the Middle East and others there, that the presence of the church is something to be cherished. To be cherished not only by its own membership, but by others of other faiths, such as Muslims, that the church historically has great gifts to share.”
Read the entire interview here.
And stay tuned for more on the pope’s trip to Lebanon. ONE-TO-ONE will feature news from the journalists traveling with the pope, as well as firsthand accounts from Msgr. Kozar, who will be blogging as the trip unfolds.
11 September 2012
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Msgr. John E. Kozar Beirut
On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's historic trip to Lebanon, veteran Vatican observer John Allen helps place this visit into its many contexts:
Quite often, how an event is framed beforehand determines judgments after the fact about whether it was a success or a failure. In the run-up to Pope Benedict XVI’s 14-16 September trip to Lebanon, which unfolds against the backdrop of ongoing violence in Syria, there seem to be four basic competing frames. …
First, there’s the official line from Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, asserting the pope is not traveling as a “powerful political leader” but as “the head of a religious community” whose mission is to confirm the Christians of the region “who serve the communities in which they live through the witness of their lives.” …
Second, there’s the frame proposed by Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit who lived in Syria for 30 years prior to being expelled in June for his advocacy of the anti-Assad uprising. On Tuesday, Dall’Oglio finished an eight-day hunger strike in Rome intended to raise awareness about the Syrian situation.
Dall’Oglio issued a statement Tuesday expressing hope that the papal visit to Lebanon, the closest Benedict is every like to come to Syria, will be an occasion for unmasking the “lies of the regime” under Assad, and for demanding that the Christian nations of the West stop “giving the regime the possibility of spilling more Syrian blood.” …
Third, there’s the frame offered by Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, who has suggested the papal trip should be a “line of last defense” stand in favor of Christian survival all across the Middle East.
As is well known, Christians today are estimated to represent no more than 5 percent of the population of the Middle East, down from 20 percent in the early 20th century. From 12 million today, the consensus estimate is that the Christian population of the Middle East will likely be 6 million in 2020. The decline is due to a number of factors, including lower birth rates, economic and political stagnation, and rising insecurity and the threat of Islamic radicalism. …
Finally, there’s a fourth frame suggested by Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian scholar based at St. Joseph University in Beirut: extolling Lebanon itself as a model for the Islamic future, one based on moderation, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. …
[Father Samir] published an essay Tuesday in advance of the pope’s trip pointing out that Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East where a citizen can convert from one religion to another “without the risk of being killed or severely marginalized.”
Read the rest at the National Catholic Reporter’s site.
10 September 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI
The Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan, is run by the Comboni Sisters. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Here at CNEWA, we are very familiar with the Comboni Sisters and their dedication to the sick. They are involved with institutions we support, such as the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. Today, the Catholic News Service reported on the tireless work of Sister Giacinta Niboli, a Comboni Sister, in Egypt. She has served Egypt’s sick for the past 60 years:
“We are here to help, we don’t speak about Jesus, but are teaching love through showing mothers to properly care for their children, wash them well, and take care of their eyes,” Sister Giacinta said.
She added that the dust and fine sand of the desert and mountains that surround Nazlet Khater are the source of what she calls the village’s most endemic malady: eye infections. Other common ailments, she said, include stomach illnesses and influenza.
“We used to get a lot of scorpion bites, but those have declined. I also used to deliver babies, but now I send mothers to the hospital in the city of Sohag, 21 miles away,” Sister Giacinta explained.
She quickly added: “Remember, I am almost 85.”
Sister Giacinta said she does not worry about what lies ahead in post-revolution Egypt, where anywhere from an estimated 4 to 12 million Christians live among more than 70 million Muslims.
“I love them all, and they love me,” Sister Giacinta said of the Muslim majority. “They tell me, ‘You are baraka,’” [the Arabic word for a blessing], she said.
For more, read Comboni Sister Nurses Egyptians for 60 Years.
Tags: Egypt Middle East Jordan Health Care Comboni Sisters