19 June 2015
In this image from last year, Mor Ignatius Aphram II, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church (right), arrives to vote at a polling station in Damascus. He visited the Vatican today to meet
with Pope Francis. (photo: Louai Beshara/Getty Images)
Pope Francis welcomes Syrian Orthodox Patriarch to Vatican (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis welcomed the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Mor Ignatius Aphram II, to the Vatican on Friday. In his address to the Patriarch, Pope Francis spoke about the “bonds of unity and fraternity” that unite the Church of Rome to the Church of Antioch, recalling the meetings between Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob II and Pope Paul VI in Rome, and between Pope Saint John Paul II and Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas in Rome and Damascus...
Pontifical Council sends greetings for Ramadan (Vatican Radio) For the Islamic Month of Ramadan and the feast of Eid al-Fitr, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has published a Message to Muslims entitled “Christians and Muslims: Together to counter violence perpetrated in the name of religion.” In the Message, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Council, offers best wishes to Muslims “for a peaceful and joyful celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan...
Gaza flotilla to set sail (Al Jazeera) At least three boats carrying pro-Palestine activists are preparing to set sail to Gaza in the latest attempt to break Israel’s blockade against the territory. Members of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition in Palermo, Sicily, have told Al Jazeera that final preparations are under way, with the boats aiming to reach Gaza before the end of June. Activist Kalle Ohlsson said the flotilla’s main objective was not to bring aid, but to open Gaza’s port to allow freedom of movement and trade...
Evangelicals and Orthodox grow closer in Ethiopia (Christianity Today) Roughly two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians. The majority of these belong to the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; the rest primarily to Protestant denominations such as the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Makane Yesus (which recently broke ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over theological concerns). The Orthodox and Protestants have long had in common the search for a better life. Increasingly, they share even more. Veteran SIM missionary Howard Brant celebrates that “the two groups are coming closer and closer together” in Ethiopia, which he calls “one of the great success stories of evangelical Christianity...”
Kerala church to observe Yoga Day Sunday (Business Standard) Observing that yoga practice was not against Christian faith, a Malankara Marthoma church in Kerala today said it will be observing the International Yoga Day on 21 June after the Holy Communion...Bishops Conference of India, apex body of the Catholic priests in the country, had earlier expressed displeasure over government’s decision to organise Yoga day on 21 June, saying Sundays are “sacred day” for Christians in the country. CBCI President and Syro-Malankara Major Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, had made it clear that the Church was not against yoga, which was described as “anti-Islam” by certain Muslim bodies, including All India Muslim Personal Law Board...
18 June 2015
In this image from November, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople greet a small crowd after delivering a blessing in Istanbul.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I — dubbed “The Green Patriarch” — has written an eloquent and impassioned response to the new encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ in an exclusive essay for TIME magazine:
In a series of seminars organized between 1994 and 1998 on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul in Turkey, we drew attention to the close connection between ecology and economy. Both terms share the Greek root oikos, which signifies “home.” It therefore came as no surprise to us that our beloved brother Francis of Rome opens his encyclical, which is being released today in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican, with a reference to God’s creation as “our common home.”
Nor again did it come as a surprise to us that Pope Francis underlined the ecumenical dimension of creation care — the term “ecumenism” also shares the same etymological origin as the words “ecology” and “economy.” The truth is that, above any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner. All of us ultimately share the earth beneath our feet and breathe the same air of our planet’s atmosphere. Even if we do not do enjoy the world’s resources fairly or justly, nevertheless all of us are responsible for its protection and preservation. This is precisely why today’s papal encyclical speaks of the need for “a new dialogue,” “a process of education” and “urgent action.”
...In the third year of our brother Pope Francis’s blessed ministry, we count it as a true blessing that we are able to share a common concern and a common vision for God’s creation.
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...
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Turkey Russia