18 June 2015
Fire damaged the historic Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish in northern Israel.
(photo: Israel Fire and Rescue Services/Haaretz)
A fire overnight did serious damage to a church built at the site where tradition holds that Jesus fed 5,000 in the miracle of the loaves and fish:
A fire broke out late Wednesday night at the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish at Tabgha, located on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. Sixteen yeshiva students were arrested Thursday morning over suspected involvement in the arson.
The detained youths reportedly are residents of the West Bank and are being represented by the right-wing Honenu legal rights organization.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Yoram Cohen, to conduct an accelerated investigation into the incident, his office announced.
“The shocking torching of a church is an attack on all of us,” Netanyahu said. “Freedom of worship in Israel is one of the foundation stones of our values and is protected by law. We will exercise the full weight of the law with those responsible for this criminal act. Hate and intolerance have no place in our society.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan denounced the attack as an “act of lowly cowardice which I fiercely condemn.” He ordered the northern district police to make investigation of this incident a top priority, adding: “We will not let anyone disrupt the coexistence between religions and ethnicities in Israel. Harming the principle of tolerance between religions is a blow to the most crucial values in Israel, and we will show zero tolerance for act like these.”
The Catholic Church in Israel told Haaretz that they saw this attack as a continuation of the aggression against holy Christian sites over the last few years, which it said the Israeli government and authorities have failed to deal with accordingly. A report on the matter has been given to the Vatican, the sources said.
Read the rest.
18 June 2015
The English edition of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is pictured during a news conference at the Vatican on 18 June. The encyclical is titled, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” At left is Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council
for Justice and Peace. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope’s encyclical connects care of world with justice for the poor (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ first encyclical is focused on the idea of ‘integral ecology,’ connecting care of the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Only by radically reshaping our relationships with God, with our neighbors and with the natural world, he says, can we hope to tackle the threats facing our planet today. Science, he insists, is the best tool by which we can listen to the cry of the earth, while dialogue and education are the two keys that can “help us to escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us”...
Overview of encyclical “Laudato si” (VIS) The following text offers an overview of the 191 pages of the Encyclical Laudato si’ and its key points, along with a summary of each of its six chapters (“What is happening to our common home”, “The Gospel of Creation”, “The human roots of the ecological crisis”, “Integral ecology”, “Lines of approach and action” and “Ecological education and spirituality”). The Encyclical concludes with an interreligious prayer for our earth and a Christian prayer for Creation... (Full text of encyclical)
Worldwide displacement hits all time high (UNHCR press release) Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released on Thursday (18 June), said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago...
Final UN shelter in Gaza closes (AFP) The U.N. has closed the last remaining shelter for Palestinians displaced in last summer’s war in Gaza, a spokesman said Thursday, with families seeking temporary accommodation elsewhere. The July-August conflict between Israel and Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, left 100,000 Gazans homeless and forced many to seek refuge in schools belonging to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA...
Suspected arson attack on historic church in Galilee (Fides) A suspected arson attack carried out between Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 June, by unidentified extremists devastated the church in Tabgha, the village located near Capernaum, on the northwestern shore of Lake Tiberias, considered one of the most important holy places of Galilee. It is built in the area where, according to tradition, Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. The criminal fire — according to official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — was extinguished by firefighters around 3:30 am, after having caused serious damage in the courtyard entrance. It also caused the poisoning of an elderly Benedictine monk and a young volunteer, who were taken to a hospital...
Canadian charity challenging groups to support Syrians (Toronto Star) The challenge is on: Canadians need to reach out and help Syrian refugees, say Mayor John Tory and Ratna Omidvar, founding executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University and chairwoman of Lifeline Syria. Canadians should reach out and help Syrian refugees just as they helped sponsor Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970’s, Omidvar says...
17 June 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Vatican
Pope Francis meets with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, director of foreign relations for the Moscow patriarchate, during a private meeting at the Vatican
on 15 June. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
16 June 2015
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, center, celebrates Mass for the ROACO participants. Others joining him include, from the left, Archbishop Cyril Vasil, Congregation Secretary; Menghisteab Tesfamariam, Metropolitan Archbishop of Asmara, Eritrea; and on the far right, Cardinal Berhaneysus Souraphiel, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa. (photo: CNEWA)
The annual meeting of the ROACO opened this morning with a Mass celebrated at the St. Stefano Degli Abissini Church in the Vatican Gardens. CNEWA Canada’s national director Carl Hétu notes that the main celebrant was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect for the Congregation of Eastern Churches:
In his homily, he reminded the ROACO participants that “we are gathered here this week following the instructions of Pope Francis that we need to listen and to serve the Eastern Catholic churches which are too often victims of modern marthyrdom, and thus witness a sign of hope as they persevere in practicing their faith despite extreme violence done against and around them.”
15 June 2015
In this image from 2007, an 11-year-old girl named Mira pauses during a game at the Pokrov day care center in Sofia, Bulgaria. To learn more about how the center has worked to reinvigorate Bulgarian Orthodoxy, read “Under Mary’s Mantle” in the January 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
12 June 2015
In Cairo, a young zabbaleen, or garbage picker, transports by a donkey cart his day’s scavenging to be sorted and sifted for anything useful. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York, Catholic New York, features this week an interview with CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, reflecting on his recent trip to Iraq and Egypt:
Msgr. Kozar said he found the same strong faith among the Christians in Egypt. They face a different, but no less worrisome range of problems, including the perception by their Muslim neighbors that they were supportive of, if not complicit in, the military overthrow of the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi nearly two years ago.
In the aftermath of that coup, mobs attacked Christians and burned their churches.
“About 55 church compounds were burned, destroyed, and I visited four or five of these,” Msgr. Kozar said. “And although there is a great improvement in having this government, we feel more protected but by no means are we free of violence or free of danger.”
Unlike other parts of the Middle East where better-educated Christians are at least better financially positioned, Christians in Egypt are often at the bottom of the social strata.
Part of the reason Msgr. Kozar visited Egypt was to show CNEWA’s solidarity for this marginalized, impoverished community. On the outskirts of Cairo is a municipal dump and on the fringes of that dump live 900,000 people in a squalid shantytown. They make their living picking through the garbage. These “garbage pickers” are overwhelmingly Christian. There are no public utilities and no water, no sewers and no electricity. You won’t find the shantytown on any government map.
“They collect garbage in donkey carts or on their backs and they hand-sort it,” Msgr. Kozar explained. “Food they can’t eat, they give to the pigs. And they sort out plastic. They have crude, hand-cranked machines to mulch plastic for recycling, same thing with aluminum.”
Read more and check out additional photos at Catholic New York.
And to learn more about the plight of the garbage pickers of Egypt, read “Salvaging Dignity” in the September 2012 edition of ONE.
11 June 2015
In this image from 2012, students at St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle Catholic School in Addis Ababa line up for Morning Prayer with their teacher. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
With the school year drawing to a close in many parts of the world, we were reminded of the classrooms we’ve visited in CNEWA’s world — including some remarkable ones in Ethiopia, where Catholic schools are thriving in a country that actually has very few Catholics:
Catholics — Latin and Ge’ez combined — make up less than 1 percent of Ethiopia’s roughly 85 million people. Forty-three percent of the population is Ethiopian Orthodox; 32 percent, Muslim; and 19 percent, Protestant. The Catholic Church plays a disproportionately influential role in the lives of many Ethiopians, however, especially through its schools, clinics and other social service institutions.
More than 350 Catholic schools operate around the country, enrolling some 120,000 Ethiopian students each year.
...Ethiopia’s Catholic schools generally provide the ideal learning environment. The grounds are well maintained. Books, computers and other equipment are plentiful. Class sizes are small. And the value of discipline is palpable. “Don’t underestimate the importance that in Catholic schools you have religious people around,” says Father Asfaw Feleke, director of the Lazarist School in Addis Ababa.
“They’re consecrated people — men and women — who are bound by vows for a lifetime. They do the work from the bottom of the heart, not because there are rules and directives. They set a tone.
They’re full-time workers. When you’re full time, focusing on the job and facilitating everything, that also makes a difference.”
Read more about how Catholic schools are “Making the Grade” in Ethiopia. And to learn how you can help support these institutions, check out this giving page.
11 June 2015
Pope Francis greets Russian President Vladimir Putin as he arrives for a private meeting at the Vatican on 10 June. At center is Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household.
(photo: CNS/Gregorio Borgia pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis meets with Vladimir Putin (Vatican Radio) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin met Pope Francis Wednesday evening in a private audience in the Vatican. It was the second meeting between the Pope and the Russian President...
Police probe death threat against Indian cardinal (Vatican Radio) Indian Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, the archbishop of Ranchi, the state capital, received a threatening letter on 8 June, allegedly from the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a splinter group of the Communist Party of India (CPI Maoist). The letter contained a demand for 50 million rupees (about 691,844 euro or US$780,000) to be paid within 15 days. Claiming that the Church has financially prospered through evangelism, the letter states: “You have made money [moolah] spreading the religion, which is why you should give a cut to the organization...”
Hundreds pour into Turkey from Syria (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of people have fled from Syria into Turkey as moderate fighters and Kurdish forces battle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group holding the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad. Activists on the Turkish border said that Turkish authorities allowed Syrian refugees in Raqqa province to cross into Turkey on Wednesday after another group of hundreds crossed over to Turkey on 4 June...
ROACO meeting to address plight of suffering Christians (VIS) ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches) will hold its 88th annual plenary assembly in the Vatican from 15 to 17 June. The assembly will begin on Monday morning with an audience granted by Pope Francis to the representatives of the various aid projects to the Oriental Catholic Churches. As in previous years, it will be a session dedicated to the situation in Syria with attention also given to Iraq in view of the recent tragic developments in that region which also affect the faithful of the Eastern Churches. The results of the recent visit to Iraq made by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, during which he and a delegation from ROACO met with refugees, bishops, priests, and religious in Baghdad, Erbil, and Dohuk, will be presented...
10 June 2015
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Turkey Russia
Ukrainians attend Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 10 June. The sign in Italian says, “Holy Father, Pray for Ukraine.” Ukrainians were calling attention to their country as Pope Francis was scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the
Vatican Wednesday. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope, Putin to meet today (NPR) Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis will meet for the second time on Wednesday. Russia Today, the English-language news outlet of the Russian government, reports that Putin will head to the Vatican for the meeting. RT reports: “The two men champion similar conservative values in a rapidly changing world, as well as concerns for emerging threats to Christianity. During their last meeting in 2013, Putin and the Pope discussed the danger Christians face in the Middle East at the hands of radical Islamists”...
Putin’s calculated revival of the Russian Orthodox Church (The Fiscal Times) Something remarkable, though little noticed outside Russia, happened during the massive Victory Day parade and celebration held in Moscow last month. With troops assembled in Red Square awaiting his inspection, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, standing in the back of an open car, was driven through the gate in the Spasskaya Tower. As the car passed beneath the tower’s giant icon of Jesus it slowed and Shoigu, with the portrait above him and the massive edifice of St. Basil’s Cathedral to his right, made the sign of the cross. This was remarkable because Shoigu, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, neither is an ethnic Russian nor is he even a Christian. Born in the Siberian region of Tuva, Shoigu is widely believed to be a Buddhist...
Holy See: Poor countries need better access to medicines (Vatican Radio) The Vatican has called for waivers for the Least Developed Countries from certain obligations of intellectual property treaties in order to give them better access to essential medicines and vaccines. Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, said this particularly needed to help fight HIV/AIDS...
Chaldean Patriarch: only national reconciliation can save Iraq (Fides) On the first anniversary of what is called “the tragedy of Mosul” when the jihadists of ISIS conquered the second city of Iraq, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I, turns to refugees forced to flee from their city with a message to express his closeness in prayer, along with the hope “that you can return home soon, in the land of your fathers”...
Lebanese will pray for their country before Mary (Fides) From 12 to 16 June, a series of liturgical celebrations and moments of Marian devotion will be held in various locations in Lebanon on the occasion of the second anniversary of the consecration of the Lebanese nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary...
9 June 2015
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Ukraine Russia
This Romanian icon of St. Ephrem the Syrian was written in 2005. (photo: Wikipedia)
Today, 9 June, marks the feast of St. Ephrem in the Latin church (it’s celebrated on 28 January in the East). Often called the “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” Ephrem was born in Nisibis — then in the Roman province of Syria — now Nusaybin, Turkey in 306. He spent much of his life preaching and writing hymns and poems:
Ephrem had a complex and artistic personality marked by a strong tendency to be hot-tempered. But with tremendous self-control, he dominated his fiery nature and devoted his life to asceticism.
Ephrem taught in Nisibis until the city was ceded to the Persians and he was forced, with other Christians, to emigrate to Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey). There, Ephrem continued his teaching at the famous School of Edessa whose reknown, and even founding, has been attributed to him.
An aspect of Ephrem’s unusual personality is evident in the fact that, although ordained a deacon, he never became a priest — avoiding consecration by feigning madness. Although no certain explanation can be found for this behavior, some biographers believe it was due to a feeling of unworthiness.
St. Ephrem died in 373, at the age of 67.
A familiar prayer among the Eastern churches remains this brief invocation for Lent:
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.
At a time when the land so closely associated with St. Ephrem is facing increased turmoil and strife, let us pray that the saint will watch over Syria and Turkey, and help guide all who dwell there on the path to peace.