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Current Issue
June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
16 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople delivers a blessing during a 2014 Divine Liturgy attended by Pope Francis in the patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul. The patriarch is urging Orthodox leaders to attend a historic meeting in Crete set to begin Sunday.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Patriarch Bartholomew urges leaders to attend pan-Orthodox meeting (CNS) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople called on his brother patriarchs and primates of the Orthodox churches to honor their commitments and join him for the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. Four of the churches — the Antiochian, Bulgarian, Georgian and Russian Orthodox — announced they would not attend the gathering scheduled for 19-26 June on the Greek island of Crete...

Iraqi militants attack fleeing civilians, displaying Christian symbols (Fides) In recent days, pictures have been circulating in the media and in social networks, showing some militiamen operating in paramilitary groups who participate in operations displaying crosses, effigies of Jesus and other Christian symbols.The Chaldean Patriarchate issued a statement to express the condemnation of such acts, and to reiterate that the perpetrators cannot claim any relationship with Christianity...

Pope thanks ROACO for support of Eastern Churches (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with members of the ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches) Assembly which raises funds for Christians in the Eastern-rite Churches. Among those taking part in the meeting were the papal representatives from Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and Jordan, as well as the new Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton...

Russia wants “long-term ceasefire” in Aleppo, Syria (BBC) Russia has called for a long-term ceasefire in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, hours after declaring a two-day pause in the fighting there. The Russian defense ministry said the “regime of calm,” which went into effect at midnight, was an effort to stabilize the situation in Aleppo...

Israel plans concrete wall along Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Israel’s defense establishment plans to build a concrete wall that goes tens of yards underground as well as above ground along the Gaza Strip border. The plan, revealed on Thursday on the front page of the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, will cost an estimated $568 million, less than previously estimated, according to the report. A wall that stretches underground is believed necessary to combat the proliferation of attack tunnels running under the border between Gaza and Israel...



15 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez sits in the “cathedra,” or bishop’s chair, alongside Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, during his 11 June ordination Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul. You can read more about the new bishop’s life and background from the Vatican announcement of his appointment here.
(photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)




15 June 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday denounces indifference and hostility toward refugees. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope: “Recognize the Lord in refugees, the poor, the disabled” (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis encouraged believers on Wednesday to open their eyes and hearts to God’s love for the poor and to the gift of healing that he offers to all who turn to him in faith...

Sunni Islam university condemns Orlando attack (Fides) Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat for Sunni Islamic learning, condemned Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Orlando, in a gay nightclub, but also expressed concerns about utilizing the incident to intensify anti-“Muslim rhetoric” campaigns...

Advocacy group accuses U.N. of not being neutral in Syria (The New York Times) An international advocacy group accused the United Nations on Wednesday of not being neutral in the Syrian conflict, claiming that the world body is prioritizing its relationship with the Damascus government over delivering aid to civilians. The Beirut-based Syria Campaign said in a scathing report that the U.N. has “allowed the Syrian government to direct aid from Damascus almost exclusively into its territories,” at the expense of establishing regular aid access to hundreds of thousands of Syrians besieged by government forces...

Jordan’s queen visits Caritas’ Restaurant of Mercy (Fides) In the holy month of Ramadan, Caritas volunteers who since December have been offering meals to those in need at the Restaurant of Mercy in Amman, in the Jabal al Weibdeh area, have modified their work plan: to adapt to the needs of their customers, mostly Muslims. They do not serve meals at lunch but they are opened in the evening, to offer, to those who observe the fast of Ramadan, the only meal eaten after sunset. On Tuesday, 14 June the restaurant and the other realities run by Caritas Jordan at the center of Jabal al Weibdeh received a welcome visit of Queen Rania of Jordan, wife of King Abdullah II...

Chaldean patriarch responds to criticism over call to fast during Ramadan (Fides) The request made by the Chaldean Patriarchate to all Iraqi Christians to unite for a day of fasting practiced by Muslims during Ramadan has provoked some criticism, also expressed “with inappropriate words” through social network. To clarify the true extent of the initiative and unravel possible misunderstanding, the Chaldean Patriarchate, through its official channels, has called the practice of fasting, prayer and penance as ordinary tools with which, from apostolic times, the Churches of the East and all Christian communities over the world express their supplications to the Lord, even before the situations of suffering and war, such as those currently experienced by all the Iraqi people, to ask for the gift of peace...

Religious in India urged to “answer the call” to mercy (Vatican Radio) “The Year of Mercy is something real, it is not simply something where we say a prayer or attend a conference. We can answer the call of Pope Francis by generously launching concrete action plans, in favor of the poor and the suffering”: says Salesian Father Joe Mannath, to Agenzia Fides. “The need is urgent, the possibilities are big, and we religious are in a better position than most people: our contribution can make a difference,” explains Father Mannath who is the National Secretary of the “Conference of Religious Indians” (CRI), which unites the congregations and religious orders in India...



14 June 2016
Greg Kandra




In this picture from 10 June, a Syrian woman carries her child on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Manbij, held by ISIS. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S.-backed forces in Syria appeal for aid (Reuters) U.S.-backed forces waging an offensive against the ISIS-held city of Manbij in northern Syria appealed for international assistance for those fleeing the fighting on Tuesday as the forces tightened their encirclement of the city...

Russian Orthodox Church won’t attend historic synod on Crete (Associated Press) The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday that it will not go to a historic meeting of all of the world’s Orthodox churches because churches have walked out. The meeting on the Greek island of Crete due to start Sunday would be the first in more than a millennium. Orthodox Church leaders have not held such a meeting since the year 787, when the last of the seven councils recognized by Orthodox and Catholics, was held...

Will Egypt’s Copts get to build more churches? (Al Monitor) Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Magdi al-Agati told Al-Monitor that the ministry is finalizing a draft law — known in the media as the “unified houses of worship law” — governing the construction of churches, which will be referred to the parliament for approval in its first legislative four-month term ending at the end of September. According to Article 235 of the Egyptian Constitution, “In its first legislative term following the effective date of this constitution, the parliament will issue a law to regulate the construction and renovation of churches, in a manner that guarantees the freedom to practice religious rituals for Christians...”

Pope Francis sets up committee to help war victims in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has decided to set up a committee to oversee the distribution of money to Ukrainians who are affected by the conflict in the east of the nation. The money was collected by Catholic churches across Europe on Sunday 24th April in response to a personal appeal by the Pope...

Vatican UN observer speaks out on migrant rights (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s representative to the UN in Geneva has spoken at the Human Rights Council about the need for consistent policies to protect migrants, especially the most vulnerable children, women and elderly people...

Orthodox Metropolitan issues statement on Orlando shootings (OCA.org) On Monday, 13 June 2016, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon issued an Archpastoral Letter to the hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America and a Public Statement in the wake of the tragic shootings that occurred in Orlando, FL on Sunday, 12 June...

Gaza: Resistance through poetry (Middle East Monitor) The spirit of Gaza is the spirit of Mu’in Bseiso: beautiful, poetic, tortured, strong, undying, and loving and although confined by ever-shrinking spaces, always resisting. I am writing this, not only as a nod of gratitude to Gaza’s great poet for the way he influenced me and several generations of Palestinian and Arab intellectuals in Gaza and elsewhere, but to denote a fact that seems to escape many of us: Gaza is also an abode of poetry...



9 June 2016
Greg Kandra





Sister Najma greets visitors at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Some of the most dedicated heroes in CNEWA’s world are religious sisters — and some of our closest collaborators over the years have been the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who serve the people of the Middle East.

One particularly dedicated woman is Sister Najma, the administrator of the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. The sheer volume of people they serve is astonishing:

Run by the sisters and funded by CNEWA, the clinic offers a range of services to Jordan’s needy. While the staff treats injuries and common ailments, it focuses on prenatal and maternity care — a major demand in a country with a young and growing population. With only two doctors, two laboratory technicians and a handful of nurses and staff, Mother of Mercy manages to see between 100 and 130 patients a day. Patients of all creeds and ethnicities come from Zerqa — a sprawling, poverty-ridden city populated mainly by Jordanians of Palestinian ancestry — and from the impoverished industrial areas that surround it. They also travel from more distant northern cities, such as Mafraq, Jerash and Irbid. They are drawn by the clinic’s reputation for treating patients with respect, and by the affordable cost of its care.

“Some groups or families, they come here and they don’t pay, because they’re poor. Sometimes we just charge them small amounts of money,” says Sister Najma. “There are a lot of poor people in Zerqa. There are poor immigrants, some of whom are from Bangladesh, and some from Egypt. Egyptian workers come as well,” she adds.

And Sister Najma never seems to tire of helping those in need:

Even in the face of immense public health challenges, the Mother of Mercy Clinic forges ahead with its mission, which is as much spiritual as charitable. “We cannot talk about spirituality in our work,” says Sister Najma. “What we do and how we do it shows our spirituality. We are sisters. We’ve devoted our whole lives to helping people. This is our work, this is our message.”

And the message has gotten through. Though the clinic serves people of all faiths, the vast majority of its patients are Muslims... People come up to the sisters in the street and hug them.

“Sometimes, when we are in the supermarket, or about town, a woman wearing the hijab, or the niqab, she will say, ‘Oh, hi, sister,’” says Sister Nahla, who assists in the clinic. “Even if we can’t see her face, she knows us, and she hugs us. They are kind people.

“Our mission here is for everyone,” she adds. “If you go to a hospital, sometimes they will include ‘religion’ in your file. We don’t have that kind of stuff here. Just the name and the age is what we need to know.”

If you’d like to help Sister Najma and others like her in their mission in Jordan, check out this giving page.



9 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Anna Valavanal (left) and her sister, Irin, visit the Deivadan sisters and residents in Thankamany, India. Read about the Fearless Grace of the Deivadan Sisters in the July 2010 edition of ONE.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)




9 June 2016
Greg Kandra




In Tel Aviv, an Israeli couple looks towards people gathering at the restaurant targeted during a shooting attack on 9 June 2016. (photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel imposes travel restrictions after Tel Aviv attack (The New York Times) Israel suspended thousands of travel permits to Israel for Palestinians, sent two battalions of soldiers to the West Bank and blockaded a town there on Thursday, a day after gunmen killed four people in a crowded restaurant district of Tel Aviv. The assault on a cafe serving chocolate in the Sarona shopping complex on Wednesday, just as a nine-month wave of stabbing and shooting attacks appeared to have ebbed, was particularly brazen as it was very close to Israel’s military headquarters...

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch meets president of Iraqi Kurdistan (Fides) A delegation composed of nine Syriac Orthodox, Syrian Catholic and Chaldean Bishops, led by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, was received today Tuesday, 7 June by Masud Barzani, President of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan, in the presidential Palace in Erbil...

Syro-Malabar Church gets first married deacon (Vatican Radio) In a historic development, Joice James, a father of four has been conferred with permanent diaconate by Card. Alencherry, of the Syro-Malabar Church at a ceremony held on 6 June. Though the Church has conferred deacon status on laymen in the past, it is for the first time that a permanent diaconate is being conferred on a married man after the Syro-Malabar Church became an independent Church...

Russian Orthodox official comments on upcoming council (Tass) In the recent days, Orthodox Churches, one after another, keep refusing to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council on 17-26 June in Crete. The Bulgarian Church was the first to announce that, followed by the Church of Antioch (Syria). But with absence of at least one of 14 Local Churches, the Council loses the status of pan-Orthodox, and its decisions become not mandatory for those absent. Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department for relations with society and media Vladimir Legoyda has shared with TASS his view of what is going on...

Egypt becomes hotspot for Eritreans headed to Europe (Albawaba.com) Cairo has long been home to a small community of Eritrean refugees fleeing war, oppression and traffickers, but local activists say the number of new arrivals has soared over the last year. In the past, most Eritreans who came to Egypt registered asylum claims with the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and waited years for a shot at resettlement to Europe or the United States...

New monument found in Petra (National Geographic) An enormous monument has been hiding in plain sight at the World Heritage site of Petra, according to a study recently published in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Archaeologists Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic fellow, and Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, used high-resolution satellite imagery followed by aerial drone photography and ground surveys to locate and document the structure...



8 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrians help a wounded woman after a helicopter belonging to the Syrian army carried out barrel bomb attacks on Beyan hospital and a bazaar in Aleppo, Syria, on 8 June 2016.
(photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Syria denounces distribution of aid packages (The Jerusalem Post) Amid recurrent claims by the Syrian regime accusing Israel of supporting rebel factions fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, the local council of Quenitra claimed that Israel was supplying food aid to opposition-held areas in the southern governorate. In a statement issued on Wednesday, Quneitra’s local administration council said that it “strongly denounces the distribution of aid packages with Hebrew captions which were supplied by the Israeli enemy...

Russian Orthodox Church to gather Holy Synod prior to Council meeting (TASS) The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) will gather in Moscow prior to the Pan-Orthodox Council the Holy Synod to decide how to act in conditions of some local churches’ refusal to take part in the Council on 17-26 June in Crete, Greece, a senior ROC official said Tuesday. “We will monitor what is going on in local churches, will attentively listen to voices from local Orthodox churches, and I think we will need to hold one more session of the Holy Synod to understand how to act in such a situation,” Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion told TASS...

Iraq’s child soldiers (Al Jazeera) The child soldier posed for the camera, holding a machine-gun and wearing black clothes and army boots. He refused to give his name or his age, but it was obvious from his appearance — his facial hair barely grown — that he was only a teenager. The boy fights along with Hashd Al Ameriat — a shia militia. The child soldier was fighting against Daesh (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Amiriyat al-Fallujah, a city 40 kilometres west of Baghdad, where fierce battles have been taking place between Daesh, the Iraqi Army, and the “Popular Mobilisation Forces” — militias allied with the Iraqi government...

Deadly bombings in Turkey show terror has come home (TIME) For Turkey, war is coming home. The string of deadly attacks throughout the country over the last year has continued this week with two attacks in two days — the bombing in Istanbul on Tuesday, and a day later a car bombing in Midyat in southeastern Turkey, killing at least three. In Istanbul, which has now been hit four times since January, the blasts have begun to erode the sense of normality in this cosmopolitan city of 14 million...

Report: Christian refugees being quizzed on “Bible trivia” (Haaretz) Refugees applying for asylum in Britain based on a claim that they have converted to Christianity and face religious persecution are being grilled by immigration officials on their knowledge of the Bible, Britain’s Guardian news website has reported, citing findings contained in a report released on Tuesday that was prepared by an unofficial group of British members of parliament. Refugees have been asked, for example, what the Ten Commandments are and how many books there are in Bible, the Guardian reported, and refugees who don’t answer the questions correctly are being denied asylum in the United Kingdom...



7 June 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from the 1970’s, Msgr. John G. Nolan greets the children at the Pontifical Mission Orphanage in Bethlehem during one of his frequent visits. (photo: CNEWA)

“A rascal for God” is how longtime CNEWA president Msgr. Robert Stern described Bishop John G. Nolan, who served CNEWA for 25 years as National Secretary and then President. Bishop Nolan had “a fantastic imagination,” Msgr. Stern wrote, and loved a good story. But above all, this “rascal” had a special commitment to orphans, particularly those CNEWA helped support in Bethlehem.

As Msgr. Stern wrote not long after Bishop Nolan’s death in 1997:

His heart was always in the Holy Land. As did his predecessors, he spent every Christmas there. He always shared in the ceremony and splendor of Midnight Mass in Bethlehem. Then, Christmas morning, he would go to the Pontifical Mission Girls’ Orphanage and offer Mass for them. After, with the children gathered around him, the celebrant would become Santa Claus, giving each of them her gift. “This is my parish,” he would say with deep feeling. “This is my family.”

His background and experience were far-ranging and far-reaching:

The youngest of six children, John Nolan was born in Mechanicville, N.Y. He entered the former St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville, Md., and completed theological studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and at Theological College of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Ordained for the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., on 11 June 1949, Bishop Nolan served in parishes and held a number of teaching positions, including a post at the College of St. Rose. In 1956, Bishop Nolan earned a doctorate in theology from Catholic University.

Appointed to CNEWA in 1962, Bishop Nolan succeeded Archbishop (then Msgr.) Joseph T. Ryan as National Secretary in 1965. Bishop Nolan initiated a number of fund-raising programs, including an Annuity Program in 1968. Children were dear to the heart of Bishop Nolan and he started CNEWA’s Needy Child Sponsorship Program during his tenure. An expert on Middle East affairs, he visited the region often and was regularly consulted by the Holy See. In 1974, Bishop Nolan established Catholic Near East magazine. In 1985, he initiated a reorganization of CNEWA to expand its services. Ordained by Pope John Paul II in Rome on 6 January 1988, Bishop Nolan was responsible for the chaplaincy program for U.S. military personnel stationed in Europe. Among his many awards was the Gold Cross of the Council of Rhodes, presented by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I in 1967. Bishop Nolan was the first Catholic to receive this award.

In 1976, our magazine described his great commitment to the care of orphans of Bethlehem:

Monsignor John Nolan, President of the Pontifical Mission and National Secretary of Catholic Near East, has spent many a Christmas with “his children.” His greatest wish is that each child in need will find a home here as these happy youngsters have, and that no child in Bethlehem need ever hear the words, “There is room...”

But perhaps it was Msgr. Stern who best captured his character and personality:

Wherever he went, whomever he was with, he would spin them a fascinating tale...His imagination was so great that he always imagined others would respond with the same love he had.

At Bishop Nolan’s funeral in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, when all the tributes were paid and prayers said, his former boss and good friend, John Cardinal O’Connor, fondly reminded the congregation that, besides everything else, John Nolan was a rascal!

The world needs more heroic “rascals” like John Nolan — and we’re grateful his legacy lives on in CNEWA’s care for children around the world, care made possible through generous donors who help to give these little ones a place to call home.

To continue Bishop John G. Nolan’s work and help care for needy children, visit this page.



7 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Women from Manhari, Egypt, weave religious articles in a program supported by the eparchy. For a closer look at the challenges facing some Christians in that corner of the world, read Upper Egypt’s Copts in the July-August 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)







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