20 August 2014
This image, “Rejoice, Mother Church,” is taken from “The Illuminated Easter Proclamation.” It is one of several original works going on sale this week to support the ongoing mission
of CNEWA in Iraq. (photo: courtesy Deacon Charles Rohrbacher)
A couple days ago, I got an email from Deacon Charles Rohrbacher in the Diocese of Juneau (Alaska), who wanted me to know about a fundraiser they are undertaking to help Christians in Iraq — and, specifically, to support the work of CNEWA.
Charles is a gifted artist who has created some magnificent icons (such as the one above). Now many of his most beautiful works are about to be sold, with all money going to benefit persecuted minorities in the Middle East. I was curious to know more, so he answered a few questions by email yesterday.
Q: Tell us about this unusual fundraising idea.
A:This coming Friday at the parish hall of the cathedral in Juneau, Alaska, we are having a fundraiser we are calling “Icons for Iraq” to support the relief work of CNEWA and CRS on behalf of Christians and other persecuted minorities in northern Iraq.
We are having an exhibit for the community this coming Friday from 4:30-7:00pm (AST) at the parish hall, displaying the original art from two books that I recently illustrated for Liturgical Press, “The Illuminated Easter Proclamation (Exsultet)” and the “The Passions of Holy Week” (which in June was honored by the Catholic Press Association.)
Parishioners and community members are invited to come by to see the artwork and have something to eat and drink. Everyone is encouraged to make a donation to CRS and/or CNEWA. In addition, all of the art on exhibit will be available for a donation — we have set a minimum donation for each of the matted and framed icon illustrations (although we’d be delighted if donors wished to contribute more.)
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: I got the idea as I was praying last week for Iraqi Christians. I was pondering what I might have to offer that could be of help to the Christians in Iraq who are in such dire need and it occurred to me that donating this artwork might be a way to help out.
I continued to pray about doing this, talked it over with some of my colleagues in ministry and then asked for the blessing of my bishop, Edward J. Burns, which he enthusiastically gave, along with the sponsorship of the Diocese of Juneau for the event.
Q: Have you or the diocese ever done anything like this before?
A: Our diocese is small here but our people are quite generous and creative raising funds for the work of the Church here and abroad. But I think this is the first time that I can recall that we’ve done something like this with icons.
Q: Tell us a little about your own background as an icon writer and deacon.
A: I just marked my seventh anniversary as a deacon and I regard creating icons as a part of my diaconal ministry. I’ve been doing this for the past 34 years. I’m grateful that I was able to study first with a Russian Orthodox iconographer and then with Fr. Egon Sendler SJ, a Byzantine Catholic iconographer in France. In Alaska and in other parts of the country, I’ve been fortunate to have painted (or written) icons for Orthodox, Eastern andRoman Catholic parishes. I’ve also done painted illustrations for Liturgical Press and Oregon Catholic Press.
What attracted me to the icon so many years ago was my discovery that the icon was, in the tradition of the undivided Church, a participation in the proclamation of the Word of God. The defense of the icon at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 was the last place of formal agreement between the Eastern and Western Churches. This suggested to me that the icon might be an occasion for unity between Christians, reaching across the various divisions and misunderstandings that separate us.
Q: How can people bid on this art?
A: The main event is on Friday, 22 August here in Juneau. But anyone interested in making an early donation to obtain a specific icon should contact me by noon Thursday, via email: email@example.com. The work being made available can be seen at the Facebook page of my studio, The New Jerusalem Workshop.
All requests from outside of Juneau will need to pay via credit card. All items that need to be shipped will have an additional 15% charge to cover postage and shipping.
To learn more, visit the “Icons for Iraq” page at the Diocese of Juneau website.
20 August 2014
Villagers gather for a candlelit satsang outside a house in a small village in Bhikkawala.
(photo: John Mathew)
The Summer edition of ONE is now online, and one of the stories focuses on the plight of the Dalits — or so-called “untouchables” in India — who, despite obstacles and difficulties, convert to Christianity:
A Sanskrit term, Dalit denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of their birth. According to the 2011 national census, one in six Indians belong to this caste; in Uttar Pradesh, now home to Mahinder Singh, some 20 percent of the state’s nearly 200 million people belong to this group. And though Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalits “harijan” (children of God) and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those once identified as such continue to lag behind, socially and economically.
The Indian government recognizes and protects Dalits, but Mr. Singh cannot claim any benefits; his community, Rai Sikh, is not listed as a scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh. Nor may Mr. Singh appeal this status, as the special concessions for those of low-caste origin are restricted only to Dalits who identify as Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.
Mr. Singh accepted baptism as a Christian 12 years ago.
“I have wandered all my life for happiness and finally found peace in the Lord,” he says, standing tall and wiry despite a slight stoop.
Dalit Christians and Muslims are excluded from any concessions under the pretext that Christianity and Islam do not recognize the caste system. For the past 65 years, churches have been fighting to redress this injustice, saying it violates the Indian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste or gender.
But Mr. Singh is not alone. He belongs to a community of hundreds of Syro-Malabar Dalits united within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Bijnor, which includes Uttarakhand state and the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh.
He and his wife, Preetam Kaur, live in a small village in an area known as Gangapar, a few miles from the eparchy’s newest parish, St. Alphonsa, founded in July 2013. Theirs is a story of both purpose and perseverance. Despite tremendous obstacles, the parish community has managed to thrive, buoyed by a fervent and unshakable faith.
Read more about the Dalits in the Summer edition of ONE.
20 August 2014
An elderly Iraqi woman fleeing violence gestures at the Al Waleed refugee camp in Iraq
on 19 August. (photo: CNS/Morris Bernard, UNHCR handout via EPA)
U.S. Dominicans praying for Iraqi Dominicans, villagers (CNS) Dominican Sister Attracta Kelly in Adrian, Michigan, has been able to speak a few times with the superior of a group of Iraqi Dominicans and knows how desperate their situation is since they escaped Islamicists in northern Iraq. Sister Maria Hanna, the superior, and 51 other Dominican sisters, along with their family members and other villagers were driven from the Ninevah Plain by Islamic State fighters. “The problem is they have nothing,” Sister Kelly said of the group, which fled to the northern Kurdish city of Irbil. “They are sleeping in the streets, sleeping under trees. There is a church (where) they have been sleeping on pews, on the floor, outside in the yard, and they have no shelter. They are having a time getting food, and they want to leave the country...”
Pope thanks people for prayers (CNS) Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew’s wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience 20 August for their prayers. After each of the priests who translate the pope’s words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: “The pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children — one who was 2 years old and the other several months...”
Strike in Gaza hits family of Hamas military commander (The New York Times) Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home...
Maronite patriarch prepared to meet with leader of Hezbollah to discuss ISIS (Fides) The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Bechara Boutros Rai said he was ready to meet soon the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, in order to address together growing concerns about the threat posed by jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) that proclaimed the Caliphate in the regions which have fallen under their control in Syria and Iraq...
In Kerala, church decides not to bury bishops in sanctuaries (New India Express) In what could be called a revolutionary decision, the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the three Catholic denominations in India, has decided not to bury bishops in the sanctuary (madbaha) of churches. The decision was taken at the Synod of the church that began at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, the headquarters of the Church, on Tuesday. “From now onwards, deceased bishops and metropolitans will be laid to rest in the crypt (an underground burial place in churches) if such a facility is available, or at the chapel attached to the cemetery,” said Syro-Malabar Church spokesperson Fr. Paul Thelakkatu...
19 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Pope Francis Kerala Maronite
Palestinians in Gaza walk next to the ruins of houses destroyed during attacks, on the fifth day of cease-fire in Gaza on 18 August. Reports indicate talks broke down after rockets and airstrikes resumed Tuesday. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)
19 August 2014
A TV still image shows a firefighter standing next to the car in which three relatives of Pope Francis were killed on a highway between Rosario and Cordoba, Argentina, on 19 August.
(photo: CNS /DyN-www.noticraik.com handout via Reuters)
Relatives of Pope Francis killed in car crash (CNS) Pope Francis asked people to join him in prayer 19 August after he learned that two of his little great nephews and their mother had died in a car crash in Argentina and his nephew was in critical condition. The dead were identified as the wife and two young sons of Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio: Valeria Carmona, 39, Antonio Bergoglio, 8 months, and Joseph Bergoglio, 2 years. According to Argentine news reports, the 35-year-old son of the pope’s late brother Alberto Bergoglio underwent emergency surgery and was on a respirator...
Iraqi army advances toward Tikrit (Al Jazeera) Iraqi forces have launched an operation to retake Tikrit, the hometown of toppled President Saddam Hussein, from Islamic State fighters. Al Jazeera sources reported that the troops were advancing from the south and southwest and heavy clashes with the armed group were taking place 10km from the the city, capital of Salahidin province and located about 200km north of Baghdad. According to Reuters news agency, clashes are confined to the suburbs of the city as Iraqi forces have halted their advance into Tikrit in the face of heavy fighting...
Moscow-linked church calls for Crimea’s return to Kiev (Asia News) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate has spoken out in favor of the territorial integrity of the former Soviet republic and against the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, which took place in March after a controversial referendum...
Israeli mob attacks Eritrean refugee (International Business Times) An angry Israeli mob has reportedly beaten a 23-year-old Eritrean refugee in Tel Aviv’s new Central Bus Station, leaving him unconscious and on the verge of dying. The young man’s life was saved by Yosef Ganem, a police sergeant and medic who found the body of the Eritrean on the fourth floor of the station and tried to revive him. “When I got there I saw the man sprawled out on the floor. He didn’t have a pulse and he was unconscious,” Ganem told Ynet news. The six suspects, two of them minors, claimed that the refugee had tried to rob one of them but an ongoing investigation showed that they had attacked the Eritrean first with punches and kicks...
Escaping the Islamic State (Der Spiegel) On the eighth day up on the mountain, Bagisa gave birth to her first child, a girl. She named her Khudaida.Bagisa and her husband Hadi had fled from the village of Sumari. The couple was lucky; they had left alone, allowing them to avoid the groups that came under fire from attackers. But being alone also meant that when they finally stopped running, in the shade of a cliff wall, they knew none of the others who likewise found shelter there. There was no one willing to share their valuable water with Bagisa. The couple now had a daughter, but they didn’t have anything to drink...
Jewish-Catholic dialogue pledges to build peace, understanding (USCCB) Violent acts against Christians and Christian sites across the world are a mounting concern to leaders of Catholic and Jewish communities in the United States, according to a joint statement issued 14 August by the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue sponsored by the National Council of Synagogues and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We deplore all acts of religious persecution no matter their target,” the joint statement said. “Church communities have been subject to persecution, attack, expulsion and even murder. As a result, these same communities have often seen their numbers decrease, especially as their populations are dislocated from centuries old homes...”
Canadians prepare for visit from Coptic pope (Edmonton Journal) Pierre Farage remembers tangles of people at the airport but can’t remember if he caught a glimpse of the guest of honour. Farage was just eight when Pope Shenouda III graced Mill Woods with a three-day visit in October 1989. The Egyptian pontiff shook hands, ate with congregants at St. Mary and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, and consecrated the altar of the young church. Twenty-five years later, Farage is helping prepare for the visit of Shenouda’s successor, Pope Tawadros II, who arrives in Edmonton on 17 September during his first visit to Canada...
18 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Eritrea Coptic Christians
Msgr. John Kozar chats with the Rev. Volodymyr Malchyn, Deacon Greg Kandra and Father Volodymyr’s wife Olena in the CNEWA offices in New York (photo: CNEWA).
This morning, a couple of visitors from Ukraine stopped by our New York offices: the Rev. Volodymyr Malchyn of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and his wife, Olena. Father Volodymyr — vice chancellor of the curia of the major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, Sviatoslav Shevchuk — hosted Msgr. John Kozar when CNEWA’s president visited Ukraine last year for the dedication of the new cathedral.
Our conversation this morning was an opportunity to get fresh news on what is happening in Ukraine. We reported extensively on the uprisings in Kiev last winter, and the world has been watching with some anxiety as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has only intensified.
Father Volodymyr told us that the Maidan in downtown Kiev is a very different place today from what it was last winter. The square has been cleaned out and has returned to being a busy crossroads, not a place of protest. But it’s also become a tourist destination. Visitors to Kiev are eager to see the spot that was the epicenter of last winter’s uprisings.
He described to us a country that is undergoing something of a renaissance — and a conversion of spirit.
”We stood shoulder to shoulder and all who loved their country have come together. Ukrainians are coming together more and more,” he said. “The country is undergoing a cleansing. There’s a cancer of corruption that developed over time, and this [the protests] is like a surgery that is needed to cleanse the country.”
Father Volodymyr was in the United States on 11 September 2001, and he told us he saw parallels between the atmosphere in the United States then and in Ukraine last winter. “There was a similar spirit of unity and compassion,” he said, and he described Ukraine today as undergoing a “spiritual revolution.”
Women gather inside a chapel on 18 August at a temporary tent camp set up for Ukrainian refugees near the Russian-Ukrainian border. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated on 15 August that 155,800 Ukrainians had been displaced by fighting, more than 2,000 people had been killed since mid-April and another 5,000 had been injured. (photo: CNS/Alexander Demianchuk)
“The heart of the Ukrainian people is faith,” he said, “and the heart of our faith is our liturgical tradition.” It is a tradition he and many others are working to keep alive not only in his own country, but throughout the world.
Despite the difficulties his homeland is facing now, Father Volodymyr sees a future of possibility and hope. More people, he said, are rediscovering their faith, drawing closer to Christ, and realizing their innate dignity.
“What happened in the Maidan,” he said, “was a pilgrimage from fear to dignity. We call it a ‘Revolution of Dignity.’ ”
18 August 2014
Tags: Ukraine CNEWA Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard the papal flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Rome on 18 August. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis once again took questions from reporters on the airplane en route back to Rome, and he made some news:
Pope Francis said the use of force can be justified to stop “unjust aggressors” such as Islamic State militants in northeastern Iraq, but he declined to endorse U.S. military airstrikes against the militants and said such humanitarian interventions should not be decided on by any single country.
The pope also said he was willing to travel to the war zone if necessary to stop the violence.
Pope Francis made his remarks 18 Aug. during an hourlong inflight news conference on his way back from South Korea.
In response to other questions, the pope acknowledged a need to lighten his work schedule for the sake of his health; said he might make a combined visit to the U.S. and Mexico in 2015; and explained why the Vatican is still studying whether the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero should be beatified as a martyr.
The pope’s words on Iraq came a week after his representative in Baghdad welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision to use military force against Islamic State positions.
Asked about the airstrikes 11 Aug. Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, told Vatican Radio: “This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped.”
That statement surprised many because, since the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Vatican has stressed that military interventions for humanitarian purposes should have the support of the international community.
When a reporter on the plane asked Pope Francis whether he approved of the airstrikes, he replied:
“In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ’stop’; I don’t say bomb, make war — stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: ‘Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?’ But only that, nothing more.”
The pope said his recent appeal to the U.N. to “take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway in Iraq” was one of a series of measures he had considered with Vatican officials, including his decision to send Cardinal Fernando Filoni to the region to meet with church and government officials and refugees.
“In the end we said, should it be necessary, when we get back from Korea I can go there,” he said. “At this moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am willing.”
He had much more to say about war, his health, and his upcoming travel schedule. Read it all.
18 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis War
In this image from July, Christians fleeing the violence in Mosul sleep inside Sacred Heart of Jesus Chaldean Church in Telkaif, Iraq. For some, that was the beginning of a long and dangerous journey. Last week, the first Christian refugees began arriving in Jordan. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Christian refugees are beginning to pour into Jordan, describing the world they left behind:
The first Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic State militants reached the safety of Jordan, helped by King Abdullah II and Catholic aid groups.
“Our money has run out,” said an Iraqi Catholic woman, Um Muwataz, as tears streamed down her face.
“The Islamic State put a big red Arabic letter ’N’ on our home, claiming the house as their property. We had no other choice but to flee, first to the northern Kurdish city of Irbil and now here to Jordan. We’ve spent our last penny,” the former teacher said, her body tensing.
“N” is the first letter of an Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani” or Nazarene.
“Never in my life could I imagine such a thing happening to us, Christians,” she told Catholic News Service.
Um Muwataz and her family of four managed to fly to Amman from Irbil with about 100 Iraqi Christians from Mosul, Qaraqosh, and surrounding Christian villages, beginning 13 August.
But she said she was concerned for her married daughter and the rest of the family stuck in Irbil, because the young woman’s 6-month-old twins do not have Iraqi passports. Nor they can return to Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to apply for these travel documents.
Ra’ed Bahou, Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, told CNS that about 1,000 Iraqi Christians from the Mosul area were expected to enter Jordan under special arrangements by King Abdullah.
Caritas, the Catholic Church’s humanitarian nongovernmental aid agency, is among the organizations assisting the refugees at a Catholic facility outside Amman by providing food, water and lodging.
They are the latest wave of Iraqi refugees seeking shelter in Jordan, which is still hosting 300,000 Iraqis from the 2003 U.S.-led war. At the height of the conflict, Jordan hosted some 1.5 million Iraqis.
“Since 2003, we have been suffering,” said a refugee who identified himself as Safwan, a 43-year-old engineer. “But this is the biggest suffering yet to befall us. Never in the past 1,700 years has there been no Christian presence at all in Mosul.”
Safwan said he, his 8-months-pregnant wife and two young sons escaped Mosul twice: first, when the area came under Islamic State bombardment in June; in early July they snuck out of the city.
“We left but heard that those who fled after us unfortunately had their cars, gold, money, even baby’s pampers and milk stolen from them by the Islamic State militants,” he said.
Safwan said it was impossible to remain in Mosul with the militants imposing Islamic law, or Shariah, demanding Christians either convert to Islam, pay a “protection” tax or leave.
He said he feared his wife could be taken from him as rumors were rife of the extremists kidnapping and selling some women, both Christians and Yezidis, another religious minority fleeing for their lives.
To support Iraqi Christians under seige, please visit this page.
14 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees
Pope Francis reacts as he learns that Simone Camilli, a video journalist for The Associated Press, was killed in Gaza, as he greets media aboard the papal flight from Rome to Seoul, South Korea, on 13 August. Speaking at right is Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The world follows the Pope wherever he goes, and news of one stricken part of the world reached him as he flew to South Korea:
Greeting reporters accompanying him to Korea 13 August, Pope Francis mourned an Italian video journalist killed earlier the same day in the Gaza Strip and urged journalists to serve as messengers of peace.
The pope listened with a bowed head and grave expression as Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, recounted the fate of Simone Camilli, who worked for The Associated Press.
Camilli and a freelance Palestinian translator, Ali Shehda Abu Afash, were killed along with three Palestinian policemen who were attempting to defuse unexploded ordnance left over from Israeli-Hamas fighting. Four other people, including an AP photographer, were badly injured.
Pope Francis then led the journalists in 30 seconds of silent prayer for Camilli.
“These are the consequences of war, that’s the way it is,” he said afterward.
“May your words always help unite us with the world,” the pope told about 70 journalists who accompanied him on the flight to South Korea. “I implore you, always send this message of peace, try to give a word of peace.”
13 August 2014
Children prepare for First Communion in Qaramlesh, Iraq, on 1 August. Islamist terrorists drove these Christian families from their homes, so their 8 August ceremony never happened. Read more about the latest from Iraq. (photo: CNS/Sahar Mansour)
Tags: Iraq Children Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees