27 April 2016
Syrians help a wounded youth following an air strike on the Fardous rebel-held neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 26 April 2016. (photo: Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images)
ISIS making advances against rebels in Syria (AP) Militants from the Islamic State group seized five villages from Syrian rebels close to the Turkish border Wednesday, further weakening the rebels’ foothold in the Aleppo area. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a network of activists monitoring the Syria conflict, said the extremist group took five villages in Azaz district, north of Aleppo, where rebels hold an enclave host to tens of thousands of internally displaced civilians...
Christians in Baghdad on pilgrimage to Ur (Fides) It was the biggest pilgrimage made by Iraqi Christians in recent years: about 200 Chaldeans from Baghdad went to Ur, the historical site of lower Mesopotamia, now in the Iraqi governorate in Dhi Quar, which is usually identified with the birthplace of patriarch Abraham, father of all believers...
Sharp increase in marriages in Gaza (Gulf News) Despite the sharp deterioration in economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, the number of marriages there increased in 2015 by 4,650 (28.8 per cent) making the largest annual increase since the Sharia courts were set up in the coastal enclave, said a senior Gaza official...
Army rescues children kidnapped in Ethiopia (Fides) Ethiopia’s military entered the territory of South Sudan to try to save hundreds of children abducted from Ethiopia by a group of south sudanese armed men. According to Ethiopian radio station Fana, children were taken when suspected ethnic Murle fighters attacked villages in Ethiopia’s southwestern Gambella region. More than 200 people were killed in those attacks. The Army surrounded the place where the children were kept prisoners and intervened to release them. According to the Ethiopian government, in the raid which took place on 15 April near the town of Gambella, western Ethiopia...
New Yorkers venerate relics of Lebanese saint (The Tablet) Fresh flowers, fragrant incense and hymns welcomed the first-class relics of Lebanese St. Sharbel Makhlouf as they entered the Holy Doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral, Brooklyn Heights. The relics are on their first U.S. tour to mark the 50th anniversary of the saint’s beatification. At the Brooklyn Heights’ cathedral, the 9-10 April visit was a major highlight of the Year of Mercy and observed with two days of devotions, including several Masses, a healing service, nocturnal adoration and opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation in Arabic and English...
26 April 2016
Anna Hafeli, 97, has been supporting CNEWA for decades through a variety of programs.
Every now and then, we have the good fortune to meet some of the generous donors who have supported CNEWA faithfully for many years — sometimes, for decades. They remind us of the spirit that has uplifted and guided CNEWA for 90 years. One of those people is Anna Hafeli, who is just seven years older than CNEWA. We met earlier this year on a visit to California:
Anna is a marvel: a 97-years-young powerhouse who exudes such joy, you can’t help but be uplifted in her presence. She has been contributing to CNEWA for decades — supporting our seminarian programs and work in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. She also has four annuities through CNEWA.
Touched that we took the time to drop by, she shared with us stories of her journey from her youth in Switzerland, to Canada, and then finally to California, where she worked a variety of odd jobs — mostly as a waitress — to make ends meet.
...To me, Anna represents the heart and soul of what CNEWA is about: faithful, committed people who quietly and selflessly give whatever they can to help those in need. Their generous spirit so often goes unnoticed. But today, I’d like you to notice Anna Hafeli. Thank you, Anna, for all you’ve done to make a difference in the lives of so many.
Want to join Anna and others like her in our mission? Visit this link.
26 April 2016
An icon hangs among the ruins of one of the few remaining structures at the site of the raized village of Navilovka near Chachersk, Belarus. Navilovka was among hundreds of villages in Belarus demolished by authorities and the residents evacuated following radiation contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. (photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine:
The meltdown at the Soviet plant was the worst nuclear disaster in history.
An uncontrolled reaction blew the roof off, spewing out a cloud of radioactive material which drifted into other parts of the USSR, including Russia and Belarus, and northern Europe.
Relatives of those who died attended candle-lit vigils at several churches, including at Slavutych, a town built to re-house workers who lived near the nuclear plant. A series of events are being held throughout the day.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko laid a wreath and observed a minute’s silence in the Ukrainian capital Kiev before heading north for a ceremony at the plant itself, not far from the Belarussian border.
Speaking in Chernobyl, he said the nuclear disaster had been Ukraine’s biggest challenge between the Nazi occupation in World War Two and the recent conflict in eastern Ukraine, which he described as “Russian aggression”.
Vasyl Markin, who had been working in Chernobyl at the time of the disaster, attended the midnight vigil in Slavutych.
“This tragedy will stay with us till the end of our lives,” he said. “I won’t be able to forget it anyway.”
The disaster forced over 250,000 to be relocated and resulted in the deaths of thousands from radiation poisoning, including 31 clean up workers.
Last week, Pope Francis remembered the victims:
Pope Francis on Wednesday prayed for the victims of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster 30 years from the tragedy.
Addressing the various groups of pilgrims of different nationalities present in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope had special greetings for those from Ukraine and Belarus.
Mentioning the International Conference that has been organized to mark the anniversary, Pope Francis said he is “praying for the victims of that disaster while expressing appreciation and gratitude to those who have assisted them and for the initiatives aimed at alleviating their suffering and the damage.”
26 April 2016
Christian church leaders gathered for a summit at the Carter Center in Atlanta last week vowed to work for peace in the region. Pictured above (l-r), Archbishop Suhail Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem; Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem; Rev. Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches;
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. (photo: courtesy, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb)
ISIS destroys “Clock Church” of Mosul (The Telegraph) Islamic State jihadists have blown up one of Mosul’s best known remaining churches, known as the Clock Church after its tower, according to Iraqi news reports. The clock tower was paid for by Empress Eugenie of France, wife of the last Emperor Napoleon III, as a gift to the Dominican Fathers who were building the church in the 1870s...
U.S., Mideast Christian leaders vow to work for peace, increase advocacy (CNS) Christian churches have a responsibility to work to bring the chronic conflict in the Middle East to a just peace, and more effective advocacy is needed in the United States, said church leaders meeting in Atlanta. Nearly 40 heads of Christian churches and church-related organizations in the U.S. and the Holy Land adopted a four-page document, “Pursuing Peace and Strengthening Presence: The Atlanta Summit of Churches in the USA and the Holy Land,” after meeting at the Carter Center in Atlanta on 19-20 April. “We believe that working toward a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would ... also promote peace in the Middle East region in general,” the document said...
Remembering Chernobyl 30 Years Later (NBC News) The forests and fields near the abandoned site of the world’s worst nuclear power plant disaster teem with animal life, proving that in some cases humans pose a bigger threat to animals than radiation. The Chernobyl nuclear reactor blew up 30 years ago on Tuesday, sending a radioactive cloud over much of Europe and prompting the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people from the area around the plant...
Copts return to Jerusalem for Palm Sunday (Fides) Palm Sunday, celebrated the day before yesterday by the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, saw an exponential increase of Egyptian Coptic pilgrims who have come to celebrate the rites of Holy Week in Jerusalem. According to the Egyptian media, in the current year already at least 5,700 Coptic Orthodox Christians have reached the Holy City, an increase of more than a thousand units compared to the Coptic pilgrims who had carried out a pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Jerusalem in 2015...
Russia signs agreements to help rebuild Syria (RT) Damascus and Moscow have signed nearly a billion dollars worth of agreements to rebuild war-torn Syria, according to the Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi. The two countries intend to develop energy, trade, finance and other sectors of the economy...
Indian bishops meet the Prime Minister (Fides) A delegation of Indian Bishops met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The group was led by the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, accompanied by the General Secretary, His Exc. Mgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, and Deputy Secretary General, Mgr. Joseph Chinnayyan. As reported in a statement sent to Fides, the delegation asked Prime Minister Modi to invite the Pope to visit India at a convenient date for both the Indian government and the Holy See...
A village left behind by Jews in Ethiopia is now a top tourist draw (The Times of Israel) he brightly painted Star of David comes as a surprise on the road from Gondar toward the Simien Mountains, just around a bend as you leave the city in northern Ethiopia. “Wolleka Falasha Jewish Village,” the hand-painted sign proclaims. Welcome to an abandoned Jewish village, one of Gondar’s top ten recommended tourist attractions...
25 April 2016
Orthodox Christians marked Palm Sunday yesterday. In this picture, a boy takes a break from the Palm Sunday procession in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 24 April.
(photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
25 April 2016
In the video above, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, reflects on the impact the ceaseless cycle of wars is having on people in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)
Suicide bombing near Muslim shrine in Syrian capital (CBS News) A suicide bombing near a Shiite Muslim shrine outside Syria’s capital city left at least 15 people dead and dozens more wounded Monday, Syrian officials told CBS News. Syrian State television said only that an explosion in Sayyida Zeinab, south of Damascus, had “killed and wounded some people,” without providing further information, but sources at the Ministry of Health told CBS News “at least 15 people were killed and more than 80 were admitted to nearby hospitals for immediate treatment in the aftermath of the bombing...”
Predominantly Christian city bombed by Islamist rebels (Fides) Islamist militias linked to Al Qaeda Jabhat al Nusra Front group launched an attack with mortars on the Syrian city of Sqelbiya, a predominantly Christian city, in the central province of Hama on Sunday, 24 April, killing at least four civilians...
Unemployment in Gaza reaches 60 percent (Middle East Monitor) Sixty per cent of the population of Gaza is unemployed, while 70 per cent live in poverty, QudsNet reported yesterday. Secretary-General of the General Federation of Palestine’s Trades Unions in Gaza (GFPTU), Sami Al-Amassi, said: “Palestinian workers ... live in accumulated suffering caused by the Israeli occupation which tightens the siege, closes crossings and bans the entry of raw materials...”
Copts celebrate Palm Sunday (Egypt Independent) Hundreds of Coptic Christians flocked to the churches of New Valley governorate on Sunday to celebrate Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, which will culminate in a week’s time with Easter Sunday. Many gathered in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Khariga Oasis, the largest church in the governorate, for a special mass marking the high day in the liturgical calendar...
Explaining the Mass to young people in India (Fides) The Jubilee of the 400th anniversary of the founding of St. Andrew’s Church in Bandra, in Mumbai, was the occasion for a special celebration dedicated to the young: it was a Holy Mass animated with theatrical dramatizations and music, as explained by Father Caesar D’Mello, the pastor of St. Andrew’s church. Furthermore, “the different moments of the Mass were explained in their deeper meaning, involving those present...”
22 April 2016
One of Cairo’s Zabbaleen hauls garbage in a homemade sack. Many of the city’s poorest residents make a meager living sorting and selling trash. Learn more about life in Egypt in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
21 April 2016
Sister Rosily Karuthedath works among the poorest of the poor at Grace Home in India.
In India, there is a thriving and devoted order of sisters committed to caring for those who have been forgotten, tossed aside, or neglected. The Nirmala Dasi sisters — Servants of God, in English — often care for the poorest of the poor, especially the sick:
Working with a strong but gentle faith, the Nirmala Dasi Sisters bring love and healing to people otherwise overlooked by society. Irrespective of caste and creed, all those whom the sisters care for are welcomed and accepted as children of God.
For all their energy and effort, they do not consider taking any remuneration for their services. Poverty is stipulated in their constitution.
“We eat, pray and work, everyone together, all the time,” said a sister who works at the Damien Institute, a hospital for people with Hansen’s disease staffed by the religious and supported by Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
One of the heroic women leading this great work is Sister Rosily Karuthedath, whom we profiled during our celebration of the Year of Sisters:
In sprawling cities and tiny villages across India, millions of people endure lives of struggle and abuse. For the poorest of the poor who also live with HIV and AIDS, that struggle can be totally overwhelming.
Sister Rosily Karuthedath knows how much they suffer. In the village of Peringadoor, she and four other Nirmala Dasi Sisters have run an oasis of hope called Grace Home since 1999. On a slender budget bolstered with funds from Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the sisters provide shelter, food and medical support for sixty-five HIV infected patients, including thirty children.
For the poor and ill who arrive at Grace Home, the door is always open. And the caring sisters are always inside. “We believe in giving acceptance and dignity to the patients, even if they are socially isolated and discriminated against,” Sister Rosily says. “We attempt to fill the emptiness experienced by the patients with love, concern and care.”
Sister Rosily is offering a home to those who suffer — a home, literally, of Grace.
21 April 2016
A restorer in Jordan displays fragments of a recovered mosaic (left) and a reproduction of a finished product. In 2001, archeologists made exciting new discoveries at the site where it is believed Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. To learn more about what they uncovered, check out Bethany Beyond the Jordan in the January-February 2002 edition of our magazine.
(photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
21 April 2016
Italian navy personnel, left, approach a rubber dinghy filled with refugees in the Sicilian Channel in the Mediterranean Sea in March. There are new fears that hundreds are dead after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean on Monday. (photo: Italian Navy/Associated Press)
Hundreds of refugees feared dead in Mediterranean shipwreck (AP) As many as 500 people are feared dead after a shipwreck last week in the Mediterranean Sea, two international groups said Wednesday, describing survivors’ accounts of panicked passengers who desperately tried to stay afloat by jumping between vessels... The tragedy ranks among the deadliest in recent years on the often-treacherous sea voyage along the central Mediterranean by refugees and migrants from Africa, the Middle East and beyond who have traveled in droves hoping to reach relatively peaceful and wealthy Europe...
UN undertakes evacuation in Syria (Newsweek) A U.N.-backed humanitarian operation to evacuate hundreds of wounded people from four Syrian towns began on Wednesday, with the support of relief agencies. The Syrian Red Crescent in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross began to evacuate some 250 people from two Syrian towns — Zabadani and Madaya, near the Lebanese border — under siege by pro-government fighters...
Christian school workers demand reform of Palestinian social security system (Fides) Christian school workers participated in the demonstration in which thousands of Palestinians called for a new social security reform and expressed their disagreement with the decree law that currently governs the social security and pension system in Palestine. The sit-in, organized by different unions, was held yesterday in front of the council of ministers, in Ramallah. The protesters demand new representation in negotiations also for the 350 thousand workers in the private sector, and the establishment of a minimum unemployment benefit in favor of 400 thousand unemployed...
Dominican nuns in Iraq keep hope alive (CNS) When the Islamic State group rolled across Iraq’s Ninevah Plain in 2014, tens of thousands of Christians fled for their lives to Kurdish-controlled areas of the country. They still wait in limbo in crowded camps, facing an undefined future. The only certainty they enjoy is knowing that whatever happens to them, a group of Dominican nuns will be at their side. “We will not leave our people. Wherever they go, we will go with them,” said Sister Luma Khudher, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena...
Ukraine, Russia agree to prisoner exchange (Vatican Radio) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has agreed to a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure the release of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko who is serving a 22-year jail sentence in Russia. The presidents of Russia and Ukrainia had a telephone conversation over the fate of jailed high-profile prisoners, raising the possibility of a swap. The call came after Ukraine jailed two alleged Russian special forces soldiers for several crimes including terrorism...
Latest attack on Christians in India confirms climate of fear (Crux) A second attack in two months on Pentecostal Christians in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, a fast-developing region known for electricity and steel, brings into sharp focus the insecurity facing the miniscule Christian minority in India, as well as the climate of impunity for radical Hindu groups menacing them...
Pope remembers victims of Chernobyl on 30th anniversary (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday prayed for the victims of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster 30 years from the tragedy. Addressing the various groups of pilgrims of different nationalities present in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope had special greetings for those from Ukraine and Belarus...