17 December 2013
Pope Francis talks with three men on 17 December who live on the streets near the Vatican. As part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday, the pope celebrated morning Mass and had breakfast with the men. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis, in characteristic fashion, celebrated his birthday on Tuesday with some of Rome’s poor:
As part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday, Pope Francis celebrated morning Mass and had breakfast with three people who live on the streets near the Vatican. A small dog, belonging to one of the homeless men, was also on the guest list.
The pope requested that the daily morning Mass held in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae be attended by the staff of his Vatican residence “in order to create a particularly family atmosphere for the celebration,” the Vatican press office said in a written statement on 17 December.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, also invited the three homeless men to the Domus for the Mass and to greet the pope. In addition, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, represented the world’s cardinals at the Mass, and Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, attended.
All those present sang “Happy Birthday” to the pope, the Vatican statement said, and then joined the pope for breakfast in the residence dining room.
Happy birthday, Holy Father!
16 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Poor/Poverty Rome
The faithful pack into St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo for a funeral liturgy for slain Christian protesters. (photo: David Degner)
Sunday night, the American news magazine program “60 Minutes” on CBS broadcast a report on the plight of the Copts. The story throws a spotlight on the difficulties these Christians are having in Egypt, living as a tiny minority in a mostly Muslim country.
As the script for the report notes:
Copts have never had it easy there. They’ve been persecuted and discriminated against by the Muslim majority for centuries. They’d hoped the Egyptian revolution would change that. But it hasn’t. Instead, the last year has been one of their worst ever. Copts have been murdered by Islamic extremists. Dozens of their churches have been gutted...
Watch the report below, which includes an interview with the Coptic Pope Tawadros II. You can read more about the Copts and Faith Under Fire in the Autumn issue of ONE, and learn how to support them by visiting this page.
16 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Copts Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Coptic
In this image from March 2013, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, arrives for general congregation meetings at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Koch to meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch (Vatican Radio) The president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, heads off to Russia on Saturday for a visit being seen as an important milestone on the road towards reconciliation between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches. The Swiss cardinal will spend five days in St. Petersburg and Moscow, celebrating with the small Catholic communities there, as well as meeting with Russian Orthodox bishops, priests and seminarians…
United Nations launches record appeal for Syria (BBC) The United Nations has announced its biggest ever appeal, seeking $6.5 billion for humanitarian aid to Syria. The U.N. estimates nearly three-quarters of Syria’s 22.4 million population will need humanitarian aid in 2014. The appeal coincides with a new study by the International Rescue Committee, which warns that starvation is now threatening the Syrian population. Bread prices have risen by 500 percent in some areas, according to the report. Four out of five Syrians said their greatest worry was that food would run out, the survey found…
Retired patriarch expresses sympathy for demonstrators in Ukraine (ByzCath.org) The retired leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has said the Ukrainian government should be “dishonored for what it does.” Cardinal Lubomyr Husar expressed sympathy for anti-government demonstrators who have occupied some buildings in the nation’s capital, protesting moves to withdraw from the European community and ally more closely with Russia. The demonstrators have acted “very sensitively,” Cardinal Husar told an interviewer. “The government should thank God that the people behave as they do, because it could be worse…”
U.N. plans to resettle thousands of Ethiopian refugees (Sudan Tribune) The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday that it is planning to resettle over 3,800 refugees in Ethiopia to a third country. This follows record submissions for resettlement at the Tongo, Barahle and Bokolmanyo refugee camps, where resettlement has not not been previously conducted. “Notable this year was the first emergency resettlement to Sweden of a child-at-risk from Dollo Ado, as well as submissions of several highly vulnerable women and girls out of Barahle and Sherkole camps, including victims of female genital mutilation and other forms of sexual and gender based violence,” said Julia Zajkowski, the resettlement officer at UNHCR’s Ethiopia office. The plan to resettle 3,800 refugees exceeds the U.N. refugee agency’s 2013 resettlement target by over 20 percent…
13 December 2013
Tags: Syria Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church United Nations Cardinal Kurt Koch
Italian Marcello Piacenti, project manager on the renovation of the roof of the Church of the Nativity, points to a mosaic from 1100, the Crusader period, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
As the world prepares for Christmas, the “little town of Bethlehem” is seeing one of its historic landmarks undergo a massive restoration project:
Helping restore the roof of the Church of the Nativity is like touching a piece of the beginning of Christian history, said an Italian restorer who is heading work on the first phase of the long-awaited repairs.
“I am not a practicing religious person, but working on this church is very emotional,” said Marcello Piacenti, 53, the on-site project manager and a restorer with his family’s company, Piacenti Spa, which began the work in September. “I have restored many old churches in the world, but when I arrived here I knew I had arrived to the center of everything.”
More than five years in the planning and researching, the restoration of the church’s wooden beams and lead roof and its 38 windows represents the beginning of an ambitious project, said engineer Imad Nasser, technical representative of the Palestinian Authority’s national committee for the restoration of the Church of the Nativity. Nasser said that, two years ago, it was estimated that the repairs would cost $15 million, not including the construction management fees.
Repairs are being done in several phases, as the funds become available, he said, with essential repairs such as the roof given priority. The next stage will include the completion of protection of the stone facade of the external walls once the funds are acquired, he said, noting that more than $2.7 million is still needed for that phase.
A member of the Franciscan order noted that members of the Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian churches, all of which have a presence at the Church of the Nativity, have agreed not to speak to the press in order to avoid any conflicts over sovereignty issues.
Though much care has been taken not to disturb the visitors and the church, Christmas pilgrims this year are being met with metal scaffolding, inside and outside, and protective wooden coverings around the marble columns inside the church.
Read more about the restoration.
12 December 2013
Tags: Bethlehem Architecture West Bank Church Church of Nativity
In this image from August, a Coptic Orthodox bishop surveys a damaged church in Minya, Egypt. (photo: CNS/Louafi Larbi, Reuters)
CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., appears in the pages of America magazine this week, writing about the struggle for democracy in Egypt — and how this is impacting Christians:
The situation of Christians in post-Morsi Egypt has grown rapidly and significantly worse. Pro-Morsi forces accuse the Coptic Christians of having staged a military coup against the democratically elected president. Although the number of Egyptian Christians is so small (estimates range between 5 percent and 15 percent of the population) that it would, practically speaking, be impossible for them to overthrow the government, nonetheless all over the country violent attacks on Christians and Christian institutions have reached an unprecedented level. On 17 August 2013, a list was published of 32 Christian institutions that had been attacked, looted or destroyed since Mr. Morsi’s removal. When the looting and destruction of Christian homes and businesses are also taken into account, the list is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The image of Patriarch Tawadros standing with General el-Sisi has become a rallying point for the pro-Morsi, anti-military demonstrators to focus attacks on Christians as the enemy.
Egypt is experiencing the worst of all possible situations; there is no clear good side and no clear bad side. The actions of the pro-Morsi supporters who attack Christians show quite clearly what their agenda may have been all along. Yet the military’s actions and the ferocity of its response to the pro-Morsi demonstrators make it very difficult to be sympathetic. In fact, that is a major problem: it is almost impossible to be completely sympathetic to either side. Each side has grievances and each side has committed atrocities. This has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for countries like the United States and the member states of the European Union to take a clear stand on what is happening and to support one group against the other.
The situation in Egypt highlights a very important fact that is crucial for the entire Middle East. Despite all the rhetoric, democracy alone is not and cannot be the answer. Since the advent of the Arab Spring, there has been a great deal of talk about democracy. Most of it has been shallow and naïve.
Read on to learn more.
Meanwhile, America’s editor, Matt Malone, S.J., draws a connection between this piece and one written six decades ago for the magazine by Senator John. F. Kennedy:
Nearly 60 years after J.F.K. wrote for these pages, America once again looks at a seemingly intractable problem in the Mediterranean region. Father Mallon’s analysis is, in fact, a faint echo of Senator Kennedy’s caution, especially when Father Mallon writes that “to expect democracy in the Middle East to emerge, develop democratic institutions and thrive in a decade or two is not only unrealistic; it is unfair.” Indeed, such a course would amount to something President Kennedy himself derided in a 1963 speech, an unsustainable “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” Still, there are many in the foreign policy establishment today who argue for such a “historically naïve” form of progress, says Father Mallon: “For many in the United States, democracy means ‘just like us.’ ”
12 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Egypt's Christians Democracy Arab Spring/Awakening
Bishop Borys Gudziak addresses protestors in Kiev and expresses solidarity with them. (photo: Bishop Ken Nowakowski)
Yesterday, Ukrainian authorities stormed the central square in Kiev, intensifying the standoff with protestors. After nine hours, security forces withdrew. The demonstrators remained.
We received an e-mail from Bishop Ken Nowakowski, Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop of New Westminister, Canada. He is in Kiev and following the protests in the city. He wrote:
Early Wednesday morning, 11 December 2013, Bishops Borys Gudziak of Paris, Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, Yaroslav Pryriz of Sambir-Drohobych and Bohdan Dzyurakh of Kiev went to Independence Square in Kiev to be in solidarity with those on the square as a result of the siege that was happening during night. They appeared on the stage, and spoke to the protestors, assuring them that the church stood in peace with them.
The bishops, who are members of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, also spoke directly to the military and special forces, urging them not to commit violence against their own people. The bishops led the people in prayer, blessed them and then went to the chapel tent that the Ukrainian Catholic Church erected. There, they celebrated Divine Liturgy. The chapel tent is on the spot where blood of the peaceful and unarmed students was spilled when special forces brutally beat these young defenseless people.
After the Divine Liturgy, the bishops went to the front lines, where the military was lined up, to urge them not to use violence against those on the squares and streets.
The Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church also released the following statement:
We are profoundly disturbed by the actions of the state security forces on the Maydan Square in heart of Kiev conducted under the cover of the night.
We condemn the action directed towards restricting civil liberties, especially the freedom of expression and peaceful civic manifestation of the citizens of Ukraine.
We declare our support and solidarity with all those on the Maydan Square who are standing with dignity and witnessing to the dignity of their fellow citizens and of the whole nation.
We strongly support the peaceful character of this civic gathering and declare our rejection of any type of violence.
We pray to God Almighty for peace, justice and the triumph of truth for our people.
In this time of great trial by the words of Jesus Christ that were proclaimed in all of our churches this past Sunday offer encouragement: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed!” (Lk 8:50)
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you!
11 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada
The cover of Time magazine’s Person of the Year issue, featuring Pope Francis. (photo: CNS/Time Inc., handout via Reuters)
This morning, Time magazine named Pope Francis its Person of the Year—the third pope, following Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, to earn that distinction.
Pope Francis is not seeking fame or accolades, but being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year will make him happy if it helps attract people to the hope of the Gospel, said the Vatican spokesman.
“It’s a positive sign that one of the most prestigious recognitions in the international press” goes to a person who “proclaims to the world spiritual, religious and moral values and speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice,” said the spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.
The choice of Pope Francis “is not surprising, given the wide appeal and huge attention” to his pontificate so far, Father Lombardi said in a written statement on 11 Decemberr, shortly after Time announced it had named the pope for the annual feature.
“Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly — young and old, faithful and cynical — as has Pope Francis,” Time said on its website. “With a focus on compassion, the leader of the Catholic Church has become a new voice of conscience.”
Blessed John Paul II was named Person of the Year in 1994 and Blessed John XXIII in 1962.
Other past honorees include several U.S. Presidents, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. The magazine says the title goes to the person or idea that “for better or worse ... has done the most to influence events of the year.”
In explaining the choice, Time writer Nancy Gibbs notes:
Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly—young and old, faithful and cynical—as has Pope Francis. In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.
At a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge. The world is getting smaller; individual voices are getting louder; technology is turning virtue viral, so his pulpit is visible to the ends of the earth. When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church. …
For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest church to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is Time’s 2013 Person of the Year.
10 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Pope John Paul II
Children in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, such as 13-year-old Tiblets Gebray, suffer from chronic malnurishment and depend on outside support during lean years. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Pope Francis is helping to launch a “wave of prayer,” drawing attention to the plight of starving people around the world:
People must stand united against the scandal of hunger while avoiding food waste and irresponsible use of the world’s resources, Pope Francis said.
People should “stop thinking that our daily actions do not have an impact on the lives of those who suffer from hunger firsthand,” he said in a video message on 9 December, launching a global campaign of prayer and action against hunger.
Organized by Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based federation of Catholic charities, a global “wave of prayer” was to begin at noon on 10 December on the South Pacific island of Samoa and head west across the world’s time zones.
Pope Francis offered his blessing and support for the “One Human Family, Food For All” campaign in a video message released on the eve of the global launch.
With about one billion people still suffering from hunger today, “we cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist,” he said in the message.
There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, he said, but only “if there is the will” to respect the “God-given rights of everyone to have access to adequate food.”
By sharing in Christian charity with those “who face numerous obstacles,” the pope said, “we promote an authentic cooperation with the poor so that, through the fruits of their and our work, they can live a dignified life.”
In the Autumn edition of ONE, we reported on efforts to eradicate hunger among students in one corner of Ethiopia. There remains much to be done. To learn what you can do in that part of the world to answer the pope’s plea, visit our Ethiopia giving page.
9 December 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia Children Prayers/Hymns/Saints Hunger
Protesters gather around small bonfires lit throughout the main square in Kiev. (photo: Ken Nowakowski)
The dramatic standoff in Ukraine has intensified, with protesters yesterday toppling a statue of Lenin in Kiev and riot police taking to the streets.
A few days ago, Carl Hétu, national director for CNEWA Canada, received an email from Bishop Ken Nowakowski, Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop of New Westminister, Canada. He is in Kiev and described the scene:
It is out of this world. … It is cold, but hearts are warm. It is somewhat scary, yet one feels among family.
The Ukrainian [Greek] Catholic Church has set up a little tent chapel with priests on hand and prayers being offered, very near the spot where the students were brutally clubbed by the Special Forces last weekend. There are tens of thousands out throughout [Independence] Square and the streets.
Keep us all in your prayers.
6 December 2013
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Eastern Europe Kiev
In 2007, Sister Christian Molidor captured the image above: A family left homeless by the December 2004 tsunami settles in to a new house, thanks to CNEWA’s generous donors. To discover more ways to help families in need in India today, check out our giving page. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Tags: India CNEWA Homes/housing