23 December 2014
Syrian refugees walk at the Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on 7 December. Pope Francis Tuesday wrote a pre-Christmas letter to the suffering Christians of the Middle East. (photo: CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Pope Francis writes letter to Christians in the Middle East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written a pre-Christmas letter to the Christians of the Middle East to express his closeness to them at a time of “afflictions and tribulations” due to “the continuing hostilities in the region, but especially because of the work of a newer and disturbing terrorist organization.” Though the Pope does not refer to the organization by name, Islamic State militants in recent months have forced hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities from their homes and villages in Iraq. The Pope, who says he follows daily reports of the “enormous suffering endured by many people in the Middle East,” describes the organization “of previously unimaginable dimensions,” responsible for “all kinds of abuses and inhuman acts.” Christians were “brutally driven out of their native lands,” he observes, where they “have been present since apostolic times…”
Israeli who joined ISIS may have citizenship revoked (The Jerusalem Post) Interior Minister Gilad Erdan is considering if he will revoke the citizenship of an Israeli minor who joined joined Islamic State in Syria or Iraq and is now trying to come back home for medical treatment. Erdan said, in an interview with Channel 2 on Monday, that he is waiting for Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s recommendation in order to decide how to proceed in revoking the citizenship of Marwan Haldi, a Nazareth resident, before he can return to Israel. “This is someone who was most likely trained to kill as part of the most brutal terror organizations in the world,” Erdan said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post. “It’s up to me to seriously reconsider his return to Israel as well as his continuing to be a citizen…”
Churches burned in Egypt last year are still in ruins (Global Post) Exactly 16 months ago here, as news flowed in of the bloody dispersal of sit-ins in Cairo that left more than 800 supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi dead, angry mobs in this Upper Egyptian city took to the street and attacked churches, shops and other Christian-run establishments. The churches, which the army promised to fix more than a year ago, still stand half-built as Minya’s Copts prepare for another drafty Christmas…
Winter could be a weapon of war in Ukraine (USA Today) A deteriorating humanitarian situation amid the hardship of an approaching winter in east Ukraine is giving the Ukrainian national government an opening to turn the local population against Russian-backed separatists…
Churches in India increase security for Christmas (Times of India) At 178 years, St James Church is Delhi’s oldest. Yet, this Christmas, it will be chary of welcoming visitors after morning service on Thursday due to security concerns and might even not allow anyone in after the ceremony. Other churches in the city are, meanwhile, making arrangements for additional security alongside Christmas preparations…
South African mosque hosts Christmas dinner for Christians (IOL News) The Open Mosque in Wynberg has not suffered a backlash after hosting a Christmas dinner for about 100 Christian guests, says its founder, Dr. Taj Hargey. Dr. Hargey described the dinner on Sunday as a “historic occasion that has never been [seen] anywhere in the world before…”
22 December 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Middle East Israel Copts
The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony on 19 December. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
22 December 2014
Girls at Good Shepherd Social Center in Deir al-Ahmar, Lebanon, make Christmas drawings and decorations for their parents during class on 17 December. More than 300 Syrian refugees ages 5 to 14 attend school at the center. (photo: CNS/Brooke Anderson)
Pope creates new diocese in India (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday created a new diocese in southern India’s Tamil state. He erected the Latin rite Diocese of Kuzhithurai in Kanyakumari district, appointing 63-year old Salesian priest, Fr. P. Jerome Dhas Varuvel as its first bishop. The new diocese has been created with territories taken from Diocese of Kottar, making it a suffragan of Madurai Archdiocese. Kuzhithurai Diocese has over 264,000 Catholics in 100 parishes and 123 mission stations spread across an area of 915 sqkm. They are served by 131 priests and 269 religious men and women. The cathedral of the new diocese will be the Church of the Most Holy Trinity at Thirithuvapuram, in Kuzhithurai city...
India’s Christians decry increase in anti-Christian violence (Vatican Radio) The Christian community in India has been feeling a sense of apprehension and fear at the incidents of violence against Churches and their personnel in various parts of the country...
Syrian refugee children get taste of normalcy (CNS) It could be the scene of an ordinary school day anywhere. Just a few days before Christmas, the younger students were making decorations and singing carols downstairs, while the older ones were taking their final exams upstairs. But for the Syrian refugee children at the Good Shepherd Social Center in Deir al-Ahmar, getting an education is something many of their young compatriots are missing...
Hamas conducts rocket tests in Gaza (Jerusalem Post) The IDF said it detected rocket experiments in the Gaza Strip on Monday. During the experiments, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards the Mediterranean Sea. Hamas fires rockets into the sea every few days, as part of its weapons program. The launches are used by Hamas arms designers to experiment with various projectile models...
Christmas in Ethiopia (The Guardian) Before dawn, our guide Sefiwe was waiting for our little group to gather. In the darkness, we joined the flocks of white-robed pilgrims and made our way towards the rock-hewn church of Bet Maryam (House of Mary). It was very early morning on 7 January: Christmas Day for the Ethiopian Orthodox church. We were in Lalibela, the town in the northern highlands that Ethiopian Christians consider their Jerusalem...
19 December 2014
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank
In this image from 2013, a man lights a candle in a temporary Ukrainian Greek Catholic tent church during anti-government protests in Kiev. (photo: CNS/Tatyana Zenkovich, EPA)
Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned their church is being driven underground again, according to CNS:
“In Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we’ve already effectively returned to the catacombs,” said Father Ihor Yatsiv, the church’s Kiev-based spokesman.
“It’s a sad paradox that history is being repeated just as we commemorate our liberation. But after a couple of decades of freedom, we again look set to lose our freedom,” he told Catholic News Service on 18 December.
The priest spoke as Ukrainian Catholic communities in Russian-occupied Crimea approached a 1 January deadline for re-registering under Russian law. He said the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church had no legal status in Russia and would therefore be unable, in practice, to register.
Father Yatsiv said Russian and separatist forces had not officially refused to register Ukrainian Catholic parishes, but had ensured it was impossible because of the lack of legal provisions. He added that there was no effective government in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, where rebel groups did not recognize Ukrainian Catholics and were “imposing whatever rules and regulations they choose.”
Earlier in December, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych told Austria’s Kathpress news agency that Crimea’s five Ukrainian Catholic parishes would find themselves “outside the law,” along with the territory’s Latin Catholic, Muslim and breakaway Orthodox communities.
“It’s ironic we’ve just been celebrating the 25th anniversary of our legalization in the former Soviet Union — but our right to legal activity will soon be withdrawn in various parts of our country,” Archbishop Shevchuk told Kathpress Dec. 12.
“There’s clearly no religious liberty already in Crimea and the occupied territories of the east, and I hope the international community will deploy its resources to restoring freedoms in the affected areas,” he said.
Ukrainian Catholics fled Crimea to escape arrests and property seizures after Russia annexed the region in March. Most church parishes have closed in Ukraine’s war-torn Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where separatists declared an independent “New Russia” after staging local referendums last spring.
Ukraine’s Catholic Caritas charity warned on 11 December of a “humanitarian catastrophe” this winter, with 490,000 people now registered as refugees, and 545,000 displaced abroad, mostly in Russia.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church makes up around a tenth of Ukraine’s 46 million inhabitants. It was outlawed under Soviet rule from 1946 to 1989, when many clergy were imprisoned and most church properties seized by the state or transferred to Russian Orthodox possession.
18 December 2014
Syrian refugees warm themselves around a fire on 3 December in Ankara, Turkey.
(photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
17 December 2014
Couples dance the tango in celebration of Pope Francis’ 78th birthday outside St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 17 December. Several hundred people gathered after the pope’s general audience to dance the tango in an informal event organized on social media.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis got an unusual birthday gift today. CNS has the scoop:
Pope Francis always asks for prayers, especially for his birthday, but this year he also got some tango.
Thousands of tango dancers, mostly from Italy, flocked to St. Peter’s Square to wave their white scarves “A Tango for Pope Francis” and cheer along with tens of thousands of other people at the Wednesday general audience.
...An Italian tango dancer had anidea, Cristina Camorani organized a “Street Tango Flashmob” over the Internet inviting people to what she hoped would become the “Biggest Milonga in the World.” Milonga, an older form of tango with a faster rhythm, is the pope’s favorite dance style. He has said he used to dance the tango when he was young, adding, “It’s something that comes from within.”
At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis greeted the tango dancers and said it seemed like the square was “for a 2 x 4,” which is mysterious tango-lingo referring to rhythm.
You can see more pictures at the CNS link. Meantime, check out the video below. Happy birthday, Pope Francis!
16 December 2014
In this image from 2002, men relax at a café in Bourj Hammoud, an Armenian enclave in Lebanon. To learn more about this community and its people, read Little Armenia in the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
16 December 2014
In this image from June, Pope Francis greets Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon after praying with him at the tomb of St. Peter at the conclusion of Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. The metropolitan has expressed hope for progress toward full Christian unity. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Thousands of Christian refugees from Iraq now in Jordan (Fides) There are now more than 7,000 Iraqi Christians who have fled from Mosul and Nineveh Plain and have found refuge in Jordan and the resources available for their assistance will end within two months...
U.N.: Hardships growing in Ukraine (The New York Times) Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian armed groups is claiming an average of 13 lives a day, and after nine months of conflict, the approach of winter has created life-threatening conditions for many civilians in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations reported on Monday...
Leading Orthodox theologian hopes for “quick progress” toward full unity (ByzCath.org) One of the leading theologians of the Orthodox world has said that he sees prospects for “quick progress” toward full Christian unity under Pope Francis. Metropolitan John of Pergamon, the co-chairman of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, told the Vatican Insider that Pope Francis has brought new excitement to ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox world. “The way in which he is carrying out his ministry removes the many apprehensions and fears of the past” ...
Egypt’s Islamist Party to include women and Copts as candidates (AllAfrica) Egypt’s Salafi al-Nour Party announced on Saturday that its electoral list for the upcoming parliamentary elections will include Copts, youth, women, and other marginalised groups, as stipulated in the elections law...
Architects design unique bus terminal for a divided Jerusalem (Christian Science Monitor) In 2003, a decade after the initial Oslo Accord was signed, architecture students Karen Lee Bar-Sinai, Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, and Aya Shapira designed a bus terminal that would sit on the seam of divided Jerusalem under an eventual peace deal...
15 December 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Jerusalem Jordan Copts
Norma Intriago, Deacon Greg Kandra, Rev. Charles Magano and Christopher Kennedy are shown during CNEWA’s visit to Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Merrick, New York, on 14 December.
Last weekend, a group from CNEWA visited Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Merrick, New York, at the kind invitation of the pastor, Father Charles Mangano. We were there to help spread the word about the work we do — specifically CNEWA’s efforts right now in Iraq and Syria.
My colleagues Norma Intriago and Chris Kennedy, supported by parishioners Deb Johnson and Joe Gioello, had a wonderful chance to meet the good people of the parish — answering questions, passing out copies of ONE magazine and providing brochures and prayer cards. We also set up a display and a couple tables in the vestibule to offer even more information.
Parishioner Deb Johnson, works with CNEWA staffers Norma Intriago and Christopher Kennedy to set up our display in the church vestibule. (photo: CNEWA)
On top of that, I served and preached at all the Masses for the weekend. It was Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of “rejoicing.”
As I mentioned in my homily:
This Sunday, we turn with greater expectation and joy toward the East and the place where Christ was born.
As you look East, look as well on the people of the East, in the land we call Holy. Tradition tells us that the wise men, the Magi, who first paid homage to the Christ child, were from Persia, the land we now know as Iraq. These people were among the first to hear that salvation had come into the world.
Twenty centuries later, their descendants — despite bloody and brutal persecution and against incredible odds — still hold fast to that bright promise of the first Christmas.
I concluded by asking people to help our brothers and sisters in the Middle East to remember the message of the angels at Christmas: “Do not be afraid” — and to offer them during this holy time of year the priceless gift of hope.
Deacon Greg Kandra, CNEWA’s multimedia editor, preaches the homily during Mass at Curé of Ars Catholic Church (photo: CNEWA)
We always find these parish trips uplifting and rewarding, and are grateful for the new friendships we make and the partnerships we develop with many of the people we meet. The commitment and faith of those we encounter are truly humbling. So many people want to do something, but don’t know where to turn. One parishioner clasped my hand after Mass. “I pray a rosary every day for those people in Iraq,” he said, adding “thank you for coming here and spreading the word and giving me another way to help.”
If you’d like us to visit your parish — to speak at Masses or to prayer groups — just drop us a line at the address below. Our development director, Norma Intriago, will be happy to coordinate a visit.
Meantime, thank you to Father Charles and all the staff at Curé of Ars for making us all feel so welcome!
15 December 2014
In this image from 12 December, Iraqi Christian children look at a nativity scene that is displayed in a tent erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia (Mar Elia) Catholic Church, in Ain Kawa. The church has now become home to hundreds of Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes as the Islamic State advanced earlier this year. Click here to learn how you can help Christians suffering in Iraq. (photo: Matt Cardy / Getty)