17 June 2016
Leaders of Orthodox churches gather at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Chania on the Greek island of Crete 17 June. Orthodox patriarchs and primates were meeting to consider a draft message for the 19-26 June Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church in Chania. The council is intended to be the first meeting of all the Orthodox churches in more than a millennium. From left are: Archbishop Sawa of Warsaw and all of Poland; Archbishop Chrysostomos of Nova Justiniana and all of Cyprus; Patriarch Irinej of Serbia; Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople; Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem; Patriarch Daniel of Romania; Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all of Greece; Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres, and all of Albania; Archbishop Rastislav of Presov, metropolitan of the Czech lands and Slovakia. Read more about the planned synod here.
(photo: CNS/Sean Hawkey, handout)
A historic gathering in Greece is due to begin on Sunday — but not without a few complications.
From the Associated Press:
Orthodox Christian leaders meeting for a historic council aimed at promoting unity made a last-minute appeal Friday to the Russian Orthodox Church and three others to attend the gathering, the first such meeting in more than a millennium.
A spokesman for Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said the leaders of 10 out of the 14 Orthodox churches that were supposed to convene on the Greek island of Crete will seek to resolve the issues that made the four churches decide not to attend.
“It will proceed but they want their brothers with them and (now) make a plea even at the 11th hour” for them to attend, said the Rev. John Chryssavgis.
He said the church leaders met earlier on Friday and would later in the day send an official request for the other churches to attend. “They will try hard to get their brothers to attend,” Chryssavgis said, adding that the leaders will reach out and ask the others: “How can we address your problems?”
17 June 2016
In this image from April, Pope Francis is followed by Syrian refugees as he disembarks from this flight from the Greek island of Lesbos at Ciampino airport in Rome. The pope concluded his one-day visit to Greece by bringing 12 Syrian refugees to Italy aboard his flight. Today, the Vatican announced that nine more refugees from the island had been brought to Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Nine more Syrian refugees brought to Rome (Vatican Radio) A group of nine Syrian refugees, including two Christians, arrived in Rome on Thursday from the Kara Tepe refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, following the visit of Pope Francis to the island on 16 April, when he accompanied three families of refugees back to Rome...
Cardinal Parolin embarks on visit to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, is on a six day official visit to Ukraine where he will meet with both Church and state officials. On Friday morning he celebrated Holy Mass at the Cathedral church of St. Alexander in Kiev and delivered a homily on the theme of the gospel warning “not to store up treasures on earth...”
Vatican message: Christianity and Islam both believe in a merciful God (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has delivered a message to the Muslim world on the occasion of the month of Ramadan. In the message, Cardinal Tauran extends best wishes for a spiritually rewarding fast, supported by good deeds. Making a pilgrimage to obtain God’s pardon for both for the living and the dead, he says, is truly a salient practice among believers...
Orthodox council: Greek Foreign Minister gives dinner for patriarchs (Vatican Radio) Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias hosted a dinner for the Primates of the Orthodox Church who are presently in Crete ahead of the official opening of the Holy and Great Council of the heads of all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, scheduled to take place from Sunday until the end of the month...
The “immovable ladder” of Jerusalem (The Irish Catholic) Over the years, the various communities have found it virtually impossible to agree on renovations [at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre], with each side jealously guarding their prerogative. The most potent symbol of this is the so-called ‘immovable ladder’ perched on the façade of the church leading up to a window. First placed there in the 18th century, the ladder is referred to as immovable due to an understanding that none of the six Churches may move, rearrange, or alter any property without the consent of the other five...
16 June 2016
Sister Lilly Chirayath, C.H.F., joined by the children at her “House of Hope,” enjoys a visit from CNEWA’s Msgr. John E. Kozar in 2012. (photo: CNEWA)
Some of CNEWA’s greatest heroes are heralds of hope.
That would include Sister Lilly Chirayath, C.H.F., who runs the Holy Family Asha Niwas in New Delhi, otherwise known as the “House of Hope”:
“Our main mission is taking care of our orphanage,” Sister Lilly explains. “It’s where we help neglected and unwanted street girls 4 to 18 years of age.”
More than 25,000 families live in the slums of southwest New Delhi, where even menial work is hard to find. Many people turn to petty crime or worse. And for the homeless girls the sisters have taken in, the orphanage has been a place that has literally saved their lives.
“These girls had been wandering around railway stations, markets and streets,” Sister Lilly points out. “Some lost their parents or are abandoned. Others have been ill-treated by their drunken fathers. They were exploited by antisocial elements. Many are undernourished, both mentally and physically.”
The sisters help them in many ways — from providing shelter, food and clothing to ensuring each girl receives an education. As Sister Lilly says, “We believe they should have vocational training, health care, counseling and guidance.”
On her orphanage’s website, Sister Lilly explains even more about the hope that animates her mission:
Jesus said, “When you do something for the least of my brethren, you do it for me.”
Children are the loveliest creation of God. They are so innocent, so unblemished, so lovely, and so marvelous. They deserve everything best in the world. They deserve love, they deserve to be happy and they deserve to be well taken care of. God entrusts them to us, elders.
But what do we see in the world? For me, a child being treated cruelly is the most painful thing in the world. The most terrible poverty is loneliness and feeling of being unwanted.
Love the children; care for the children, help the children to grow up happily, and the world will be beautiful.
When one is happy, he/she spreads that happiness to others, to the society, to the whole world. So fill the hearts of children with love and make them fully active, creative and enthusiastic.
It is something Sister Lilly and her sisters happily do with boundless compassion, tenderness and joy.
16 June 2016
Women clean and sort coffee beans in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, showing the painstaking human effort that goes into creating Ethiopia’s prized coffees. Learn more in Brewed to Perfection in the November 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
16 June 2016
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
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
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
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
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
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)