18 November 2015
In this image from September, a laborer works to rebuild the 160-year old Mardin Protestant Church in Mardin, Turkey, one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Middle East. The first religious service in 60 years was held at the church on Sunday. Read more and see a picture of the completed work here. (photo: Don Duncan)
18 November 2015
Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the bishops’ migration committee, prays during the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore
on 17 November. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
Bishop disturbed by calls to end resettlement of Syrian refugees in U.S. (CNS) The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration said he was disturbed by calls from federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. “These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris,” said Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the migration committee. “They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization...”
Jordan’s King warns of “world war,” condemns ISIS as “savage outlaws of religion” (AFP) Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned Tuesday of a “third world war against humanity,” describing the Islamic State group as “savage outlaws of religion” in the wake of the Paris attacks. During an official visit to Kosovo, Abdullah said both Europe and Islam were under attack from the “scourge” of terrorism that could strike anywhere and at any time. “We are facing a third world war against humanity and this is what brings us all together,” he told a press conference. “This is a war, as I’ve said repeatedly, within Islam,” he said, stressing the high number of Muslim victims of the Islamic State (IS) group...
Holy See: Hate crimes against Christians under-reported (Vatican Radio) The Holy See delegation to the OSCE has made a statement at a meeting on Hate Crimes. “The poor attention given to hate crimes committed against majority communities and the fact that hate crimes motivated by religious bias or prejudice are under-reported and under-recorded...imply that the hate crimes against members of religions and, especially against Christians, are certainly more numerous than those indicated [in annual reports],” said Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the OSCE...
Kerala, largest exporter of clergy, feels shortage (Hindustan Times) Kerala was once the largest exporter of clergy, its priests and nuns the most sought after across the world, but insiders contend the church is now facing difficulties in managing its institutions across the country because of a shortage of hands. Informal estimates suggest there has been a 40% drop in the number of men and women joining religious life in Kerala though the northeastern states and Andhra Pradesh have registered a 30% hike in the enrollment of priests and nuns. Though there is no data on the strength of the clergy in India, church insiders say there are about 40,000 priests and 25,000 nuns across the country. At one time, Kerala accounted for more than 60% of the total...
One of Turkey’s oldest Protestant churches reopens (AINA) The 160-year-old Mardin Protestant Church, one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Middle East located in Artuklu, a district in the southeastern province of Mardin, has reopened following extensive restoration work. The first religious service was held on Sunday in the church which was closed 60 years ago and had been in ruins ever since...
17 November 2015
Tags: Syria India Refugees Jordan Kerala
Refugees from Afghanistan and Syria arrive in boats on the shores of Lesbos on 5 November 2015 near Skala Sikaminias, Greece. In the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Paris, U.S. bishops have underscored their support for refugees. To show your support for refugees, please visit this giving page. (photo: Etienne De Malglaive/Getty Images)
17 November 2015
In the video above, authorities are tightening security in Rome, following last Friday’s terror attacks in Paris. (video: Rome Reports)
Report: Terror suspect was target of airstrikes on ISIS in Syria (The New York Times) The Belgian man suspected of being the plotter of the Paris terrorist attacks was a target of Western airstrikes on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, as recently as last month, according to a European security official. The man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, a fighter for the Islamic State, is believed to have escaped to Syria after the authorities in January foiled another terrorist plot, which had targeted the eastern Belgian city of Verviers, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details...
U.S. Bishops: Paris violence won’t alter church outreach to refugees (CNS) Church resettlement programs in the United States will continue to aid refugees who are fleeing violence and social ills despite calls that the country’s borders should be closed to anyone but Christians. The church’s response is focused on people in need of food, shelter and safety and not their particular faith, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told reporters on 16 November during a midday break at the bishops’ annual fall general assembly. “We at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities, we are always open to helping families who come into the United States in need of help,” he said at a news conference. “We have that tradition of doing it and we’re going to contribute...”
Deal reached to reopen Gaza border (AP) A senior Palestinian official on Monday said the Palestinian Authority has reached an agreement with Egypt to reopen the Gaza Strip’s main border crossing in an arrangement meant to bypass the territory’s Hamas rulers...
Pope to visit Rome synagogue in January (Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office today announced that, following an invitation from the Chief Rabbi and Jewish Community of Rome, Pope Francis will pay a visit to the Great Synagogue in the afternoon of Sunday 17 January 2016. It will be the third visit by a Pope to the Great Synagogue of Rome, following John Paul II and Benedict XVI...
Vatican Christmas tree to be unveiled early (Vatican Radio) When the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins on 8 December, all eyes will be looking towards Rome. So the Governorate of the Holy See has decided to take advantage of the attention and unveil the St. Peter’s Square Christmas tree on the same day...
16 November 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Jews
The Blue Ridge Mountains near Lynchburg, Virginia. (photo: CNEWA)
Late Sunday night, my colleague Norma Intriago and I returned to New York City after an inspiring trip to Lynchburg, Virginia, where we paid a visit to St. Thomas More Catholic Church.
St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. (photo: CNEWA)
Nestled near the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from the border with North Carolina, Lynchburg is an overwhelmingly Protestant enclave in the South — among other things, it’s home to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University — but the parish family at St. Thomas More is vibrant and enthusiastic and proud of their Catholic identity. They also care passionately about what is happening to Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria — which is why they invited us to come and talk about CNEWA.
The pastor, the Rev. Msgr. Michael McCarron, is a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre; he’s made 15 pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and is getting ready to lead his 16th next spring. He’s also a longtime CNEWA supporter and reader of our magazine, ONE. He and his parish team gave us a warm and enthusiastic welcome. They’ve already raised funds for Christians by selling cookbooks and small decorative ceramic tiles for the Year of Mercy, and they’ve made awareness of the plight of Christians a priority.
I preached at all three Masses — drawing some connections between what has happened in Paris and what is continuing to happen to people in Iraq and Syria — and Norma gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation that told more about the work we do and the mission we've undertaken.
Director of Development Norma Intriago speaks to parishioners. (photo: CNEWA)
The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Karen Birkmeyer proudly shows her support for Christians in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)
Parishioners gather more information from CNEWA after the Masses. (photo: CNEWA)
We thank the good people at St. Thomas More for their hearty welcome and passionate commitment to CNEWA’s work in the Middle East and around the world — and we need to give a special shoutout to Tom Lucente and Sybil Frey, who were our gracious hosts. And the big-hearted, big-voiced Msgr. McCarron made our visit a joy. Thank you!
We hope to come back soon.
Meantime, if you’d like us to visit your parish, drop us a line. We’d love to meet you and spread the word about how you can make a difference in the lives of the people CNEWA serves. Simply contact Norma Intriago at email@example.com.
Msgr. Michael McCarron, Norma Intriago and Deacon Greg Kandra. (photo: CNEWA)
16 November 2015
In Paris on 16 November, a man weeps as people gather to observe a minute of silence at the Place de la Republique in memory of the victims of last Friday’s terror attacks.
(photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
16 November 2015
Women hold roses as Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris celebrates a Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15 November to pray for those killed in terrorist attacks.
(photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis sends condolences to France (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, assuring victims, their families and emergency personnel that he is united with them in prayer. Signed by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the telegram condemns this and all acts of violence, and asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity...
Pope says nothing can justify terrorist attacks (CNS) Using God’s name to try to justify violence and murder is “blasphemy,” Pope Francis said 15 November, speaking about the terrorist attacks on Paris. “Such barbarity leaves us dismayed, and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events,” the pope said after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square...
Text of initial Vatican statement on Paris attacks (CNS) Here in the Vatican we are following the terrible news from Paris. We are shocked by this new manifestation of maddening, terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way together with the Pope and all those who love peace...
Muslims condemn terror attacks in Paris (USA Today) Muslims worldwide on Saturday strongly condemned the terrorist attacks by the Islamic State that killed at least 127 people in Paris. Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body that represents more than 500 organizations including mosques, schools and charities, described the killings as “horrific and abhorrent.” “My thoughts and prayers for the families of those killed and injured and for the people of France, our neighbours,” he said in a statement. “This attack is being claimed by the group calling themselves ‘Islamic State’. There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith...”
Archbishop: Religions must work together against hate (Vatican Radio) The President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy is needed even more after the terrorist attacks in Paris. In an interview with the Italian magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, Archbishop Fisichella said all three monotheistic religions agree that God is merciful. “It is one more reason to work together — and to help each other in this task — to explain to the world that religions do not exist to be imprisoned by hate, but they are to spread compassion, and to work against fear as a way of life in all nations,” he said...
Israel approves entry of thousands of Ethiopians with Jewish lineage (Deutsche Welle) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday his government had given the green light to a proposal allowing more than 9,000 Ethiopians to settle in Israel. “Today we have taken an important decision, to bring to Israel within the next five years the last of the communities with links to Israel waiting in Addis Ababa and Gonder,” Netanyahu said in a statement. The Ethiopians in question, the last members of a group known as Falash Mura, claim Jewish ancestry even though they themselves are Christians, having converted in the 18th and 19th centuries. For this reason, they are not eligible for Israeli citizenship...
Christians get a Bible reading month in India (New India Express) Drawing inspiration from ‘Ramayana Masam’ during the Malayalam month of Karkatakam, the Catholic Church in Kerala is planning to observe December as ‘Bible Reading Month’, coinciding with the Christmas fast. It is an initiative of the Bible Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC). According to KCBC, the plan is to observe Bible Reading Month every “December to highlight the theme ‘word become flesh’. As the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated in December, the month is appropriate. The faithful await Christmas with prayers and fasting. Reading the Bible will enrich prayers,” said KCBC deputy secretary the Rev. Varghese Vallikkattu...
13 November 2015
This image from June 2015 shows the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, speaking during a visit to Florence. The imam has condemned an attack on a Christian church in Egypt, saying it goes against Islam. (photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)
Imam condemns attack on evangelical church in Egypt (Fides) Attacks against places of worship “go against the authentic Islamic religion and its teachings of tolerance”, but fail to undermine the unity of the Egyptian people. This is how Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar condemned the attack carried out on Thursday, November 12 against a church in Cairo belonging to the Evangelical Coptic community...
Foundation opens nursery, kindergarten in Erbil, Iraq (Fides) The capital Erbil is home to about 250,000 displaced persons and refugees of
different ethnic groups; next to the Kurdish population there are also displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees. In order to allow these families to recover at least some normalcy in a situation deeply marked by discomfort, AVSI Foundation opened a nursery in 2015, run by a community of Dominican nuns, which houses about 130 children and is located in Ozal City. 1,200 families live in this area, of whom over 900 are Christians, some are Muslim yazides and others are Muslims, and have all fled the violence of ISIS...
Arafat’s Gaza home to become a museum (Haaretz) Yasser Arafat’s home in Gaza City will be opened as a museum after Hamas handed it back to Fatah, the party Arafat founded, in a ceremony on November 11th, the anniversary of Arafat’s death in 2004. The house has been closed since the Islamic militant group Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. Faisal Abu Shahla, a member of Fatah’s revolutionary council, said it was an emotional moment to enter the house, where Arafat resided from 1994 to 2001. The museum will tell the story of Arafat’s life, Shahla said...
Syrian refugees find new home in Miami (The Miami Herald) Rama Saleh always intended on leaving her hometown of Aleppo, Syria — but she never imagined a civil war would be the catalyst for her departure. In August, the 19-year-old arrived in Miami, with her parents, brother and two sisters. She had spent two years living in Turkey, where she worked 12-hour shifts in a T-shirt factory, six days a week, to help pay for her family’s rent and food. Today, Saleh is looking forward to furthering her education. The war prevented her from finishing high school, so her goal is to pass the GED exam and enter college. And while she is determined to create a better future for herself, the memories of her family’s escape still haunt her...
The smallest church in Frankfurt to be consecrated (ByzCath.org) From next week, Saint George’s Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology will have probably Frankfurt’s smallest church. The new house of worship, to be consecrated by Patriarch Gregorios III from Damascus, measures just 42 square metres. “This church is something special: small, but exclusive,” says artist Oleg Kuzenko while he contemplates his colourful paintings on the wall and the ceiling, For they depict Jesus Christ, his mother Mary, the Apostles’ Communion, John the Baptist and the four evangelists’ symbols. Oleg Kuzenko created the murals and the icons for Saint George’s Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology’s new Byzantine church, which will be consecrated next Wednesday by Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Damascus and the Limburg Bishop Thomas Loehr. It will be called “Of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem...”
12 November 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Islam Copts
Abanoub Sherif carries a beekeeper’s hat to his father’s apiary near their home in
El Mahalla, Egypt. (photo: David Degner)
In 2014, we visited a school for visually impaired children in Egypt and met one student, Abanoub, hoping to attend a university:
Abanoub is a 17-year-old student from El Mahalla el Kubra, an industrial city in the Nile Delta about two hours’ drive from Cairo. When he first came to the home at the age of 5, he admits, he was terrified. “But then I got used to the place and I felt that I wanted to stay there forever. I built a new life for myself and made new friends,” he says. He is currently in his second year of high school and wants to attend college and major in psychology. He recently started learning the guitar.
But the transition from a school for the blind to a university can be a challenge. Sister Souad says they begin preparing children for the task from day one.
“We tell them, ‘One day, you will leave here and go to university with all kinds of people around.’ Since they are prepared, the transition is normal. We encourage them to take recorders to class, then listen again at home. They study normally.”
One of their students recently received a scholarship to study in the United States.
“I hope other blind children learn that going away from their family is not that difficult; it can be much better for their future,” Abanoub says.
“We teach them there is nothing they can’t do,” Sister Souad says proudly. “They are normal children. The only difference is they cannot see, but that doesn’t mean they can’t live a normal life.”
Read more about young people in Egypt journeying “Out of Darkness” in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE. And to help support the Christians of Egypt, please visit this giving page.
12 November 2015
Smoke rises after the Peshmerga forces belonging to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) attack the Sinjar town of Mosul, Iraq, on 12 November 2015.
(photo: Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Report calls ISIS attacks on minorities “genocide” (Reuters) Islamic State militants committed genocide against Iraq’s Yazidis in the north of the country and carried out crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes against other minorities, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said on Thursday...
Pope urges Slovakia church to receive migrants in charity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday told the bishops of Slovakia the Church is called to receive migrants “in a spirit of charity and respect for the human person,” while, at the same time, necessarily observing the law. The Holy Father was meeting the bishops as part of their ad limina visit to Rome. He held an informal discussion with them, while presenting them his speech in written form...
Ukraine passes anti-discrimination law (BBC) Ukraine’s parliament has passed a law banning discrimination in the workplace, including that based on sexual orientation. It is the last of a package of ten laws that had to be approved for the European Union to consider visa-free travel for Ukrainians. Several previous attempts to get the bill through parliament failed over fears it would lead to the introduction of same-sex marriage in Ukraine...
Pope sends message to India’s Eucharistic Congress (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to the participants in India’s National Eucharistic Congress, taking place in Mumbai from 12-15 November. In the message, Pope Francis praises the gathering, saying, “The Eucharistic Congress is God’s gift not only to the Christians of India but to the entire population of a country so culturally diverse and yet so spiritually rich.” The theme of the Congress is the Eucharist as nourishment, which moves and inspires us to nourish others...
Coptic Church warns against collection of money on behalf of damaged monasteries (Fides) The Coptic Orthodox Church, with a statement sent to the Egyptian media through its official channels, has warned individuals and groups not to announce the collection of money for and on behalf of the historical monasteries in the area of Wadi al-Natrun, badly damaged by floods in recent weeks. The statement of the Coptic Church also indicates the only account number opened at a bank in Egypt and officially authorized by the church to collect donations for the restoration of the flooded monasteries...
Tags: India Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Refugees