16 November 2015
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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...
10 November 2015
Tags: India Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Refugees
Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic Bishop Milan Sasik, C.M., looks out the window of his
office in Uzhorod. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)
The Autumn edition of ONE features an online exclusive profile of Bishop Milan Sasik of Ukraine, who describes efforts to revive what had been, during the Soviet era, an underground church:
As Ukraine still struggled with nascent nation building, Bishop Milan encountered a community in a state of “spiritual hunger.”
Its shepherds, 128 priests, had been placed in Soviet prisons and sent to exile in Siberia, and 20 would never return alive. Some 40 churches had been destroyed by the Communist government, and 273 more were transferred to the Orthodox Church of Russia — the only church the Soviets had authorized, which operated under the strict control of the Kremlin.
In 1991, when Ukraine gained independence, the eparchy initially regained only 117 churches and four monasteries from Moscow. Of the more than 500 eparchial institutional buildings that were nationalized, the eparchy was left with 60.
As a result, Bishop Milan initially had nowhere to live.
“I joked that I would live in the cathedral tower, or in the crypt or even in the sacristy.”
The priority was clear: The bishop initiated numerous brick-and-mortar projects — most importantly, a seminary to meet the demand of the newly resurgent faithful.
Read more of the profile here.
And in the Autumn edition of ONE, learn more about the seminarians being formed in Ukraine, helping the church come “Out From Underground.”
10 November 2015
Forces of the Syrian opposition launch missiles targeting Hemeimeem military airport in Latakia, Syria, on 10 November 2015. (photo: Ali Hafavi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Blasts strike Syrian city (Reuters) At least 23 people were killed and 40 wounded in two explosions in the Syrian city of Latakia on Tuesday, a monitoring group said, in one of the bloodiest attacks on President Bashar al-Assad’s coastal stronghold. The blasts hit two separate areas of the city, one from rocket fire and the other either from a rocket or a planted explosive device, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. With many of the wounded in serious condition, the death toll was expected to rise, said the Observatory, which monitors the war using sources on the ground...
Canadians brace for surge of Syrian refugees (CBC) Refugee resettlement agencies across Canada are working overtime to develop plans for integrating an unprecedented surge of refugees, without knowing how soon they’ll arrive or whether their agencies’ budgets will increase to meet the costs...
A Christian safe zone in Iraq? (Al-Monitor) Christian activists are making the unlikely gamble as their yearslong exodus from Syria and Iraq has turned into an outright stampede under the Islamic State (ISIS). They’re launching a lobbying blitz to get the United States to label their plight a genocide — and create pressure for the subsequent creation of a Christian safe haven in Iraq. “We are forming a lobby team and trying to raise some money to hire [a] very respected diplomat so we can get more countries involved in this issue,” said Loay Mikhael, head of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council...
Ethiopia appeals for help to feed thousands (AP) An Ethiopian official says the country’s more than 730,000 refugees could go hungry if $55 million in food aid is not raised by the end of the year. Ayalew Awoke, deputy director of refugee affairs, said Monday that a $20 million donation by the U.S. will be used up by the end of December and he warned of “a major crisis” unless aid comes in...
Russian Orthodox church to offer “pure” Wi-Fi (The Guardian) The Russian Orthodox Church has said it will offer free “Orthodox internet” Wi-Ficleansed of immoral content near churches and in public places around Moscow. Orthodox priest Roman Bogdasarov, who heads the Russian Inter-religious Council, told Izvestia newspaper that the internet contains many threats to users, including recruitment materials for Christian sects and Islamic State, pornography and “distorted versions of history”...
9 November 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Russian Orthodox
Three young men work on a site for the new light rail in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The country’s landscape is becoming more urbanized, and that is creating new challenges for both the people and the churches. Read more in “Bright Lights, Big Problems” in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
9 November 2015
A refugee family from Mosul rests in their home, a hut at the Bahirka Tent City in Erbil, Iraq,
29 October 2015. (photo: Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.N. prepares for refugee exodus in Iraq (Voice of America) The United Nations is expecting huge numbers of civilians to flee when Iraqi forces mount an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants. It is not clear when Iraqi forces will be ready to attack the northern city. The much anticipated counter-offensive has been repeatedly postponed because Iraqi forces are unprepared and bogged down in battle elsewhere...
Confirmation of attack on Russian jet could strengthen Putin’s resolve (The New York Times) The main bell in St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg tolled 224 times on Sunday, once for each victim of the destruction of a Russian charter flight in Egypt a week ago. Although President Vladimir V. Putin and his aides at first indignantly dismissed suspicions of a terrorist act, the Kremlin has since then clearly come to grips with the idea that a bomb was probably involved in the crash: Late Friday it suspended all travel by Russians to Egypt, and initiated an emergency airlift that by Sunday had repatriated 11,000 Russians, by government count. Should an attack be confirmed — and particularly if the Islamic State’s claim that it bombed the plane in revenge for Russia’s intervention in Syria turns out to be true — analysts and other experts expect that it will only strengthen Mr. Putin’s resolve to become more deeply involved in the Middle East...
Dialogue council sends message to Hindus (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has sent a Message to all people professing the Hindu religion, who are preparing to celebrate the festival of Deepavali (Diwali). The theme of the Message this year is our common duty to care for creation and work to build and develop an authentic “human ecology”...
Eritreans risk deadly odyssey to reach Europe (Al Jazeera) In addition to armed groups from Sudan to Sinai who seek to abduct them for ransom, and a treacherous Mediterranean Sea crossing that has killed more than 3,000 people this year, Eritreans now face a new peril — Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also knows as ISIS) gunmen who have caught and executed scores of African Christian refugees as they crossed Libya...
Oldest Ukrainian Catholic parish in the U.S. getting a makeover (ByzCath.org) Usually there isn’t scaffolding in the middle of the pews at this church in Shenandoah, but St. Michael’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is getting some needed repairs. For years, the domes at the church have been leaking and the lighting wasn’t energy efficient but that“s changing. “We had to start first with our roof and our domes because that’s where most of the water leakage was coming from,” explained Msgr. Myron Grabowsky...