1 April 2014
Jennifer Jozel, 17, a Catholic, holds a candle inside the Dormition of the Virgin Church in the Israeli Christian village of Mi’ilya in Galilee. She will join the air force in September. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Catholic News Service this week profiles a small but growing demographic, Israeli Christians who are volunteering to join the Israeli army:
At the end of a recent unofficial pre-induction briefing for about 30 young men preparing to join the Israeli army, the participants stood and, led by Greek Orthodox Father Gabriel Nadaf, recited the Our Father in Arabic with hands outstretched. They finished by making the sign of the cross.
“You are not going to shoot,” said Father Nadaf, the spiritual leader of the year-and-a-half-old Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, whose 18-year-old son, Jubran, was among the new recruits. Father Nadaf reminded them of the fate of Syrian Christians, some of whom have been kidnapped and killed.
“You are going to protect. You do not go to attack but to defend. The Messiah said not to kill, he did not say don’t defend. We have to defend our Holy Land,” the priest said.
The young men represent an increasing number of young Israeli Christians who are deciding to voluntarily join the Israeli military, explained Capt. Shadi Haloul, 38, the forum’s spokesman, a Maronite Catholic and reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Forum officials said about 84 Christians joined the army in the last half of 2013, the same number that joined in the prior 18 months. Although they are a small part of the 120,000 Christians who live in northern Israel, IDF officials called the forum’s impact “astounding.”
While Jewish men and women and Druze men from the age of 18 are required to serve in the military, Christians and Muslims have been exempt. Historically, Christian Arabs have viewed themselves as part of the Palestinian people and considered service in the army as unthinkable, although individual Christians have volunteered to serve on their own.
The forum was established to help Christians better integrate into Israeli society and to seek equal treatment and opportunities in a country where army service is key to accessing certain jobs and promotions, better mortgage terms and educational opportunities.
But also, as neighboring Arab countries remain in a quagmire of war and violence, some Israeli Christians say they want to help defend the only country in the region where they believe Christians have equal protection and freedom despite the occasional inequality.
Read more at the CNS website.
31 March 2014
Tags: Israel Palestinians Maronite Christian
Pope Francis blesses a woman during an audience with people who are deaf or blind in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 29 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
On Saturday, Pope Francis offered some stirring words to those dealing with physical limitations:
Only those who recognize their own limits can accept the great gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, which is why Catholics with disabilities are such important and powerful witnesses of faith, Pope Francis said.
Meeting March 29 with close to 7,000 members, staff and volunteers of the Apostolic Movement for the Blind and the Little Mission for the Deaf, Pope Francis insisted it is “truly blasphemous” to believe that a physical limitation or disability is a punishment from God.
“Jesus radically refused that way of thinking,” he said.
“The person who is sick or has a disability, precisely because of his or her fragility and limits, can become a witness of the encounter: the encounter with Christ who opens one to life and to faith; and the encounter with others, with the community,” Pope Francis said.
The key to being a trustworthy, effective witness to Jesus, he said, is first having had the experience of meeting Jesus.
“A witness to the Gospel is one who has encountered Jesus Christ, who knows him or, better, feels known by him, recognized, respected, loved and forgiven. This encounter has touched him deeply, has filled him with new joy and given his life new meaning,” the pope said.
CNEWA supports a number of institutions that offer those with physical challenges both inspiration and hope, including the Paul VI Ephpheta Institute, which helps deaf children in Bethlehem and the Santa Lucia Home in Egypt, which helps young people who are blind. Visit our giving page to learn how you can support these and other wonderful institutions that are doing so much to uplift those most in need.
28 March 2014
The Soorp Badarak, or Divine Liturgy, is celebrated daily by the Mekhitarist community.
(photo: Onnik Krikorian)
In 2007, we paid a visit to Armenia and discovered a seminary helping foster monastic vocations after the fall of Communism:
“Five years ago, when I was 75, I thought it was time to rest and pray in preparation for the last joyous journey to be with our Father in heaven, but it was not to be,” said Father Hovsep Behesniryan, a priest of the Armenian Catholic Armenia Congregation. After serving more than 64 years in ministries in Venice, Paris, Los Angeles and New York, “I was called into service once more, this time in Mekhitarist.”
He was sitting in a parlor of the Mekhitarist minor seminary, located in the Armenian capital city of Yerevan, where the Ethiopian-born priest supervises the education of those who hope to follow his path. The seminary opened in October 2004 and is now home to 22 boys, age 13 and older.
“Every boy who comes here believes God called him,” said 16-year-old Narek Tchilingirian, who spent a month at the seminary before deciding to enter. His mother, Tsovinar, was not surprised. “He always went to church regularly, and he always took part in religious ceremonies and youth organizations.”
Father Hovsep’s return to the land of his ancestors has more than personal significance for the octogenarian. The seminary also marks a significant step in the homecoming of an Armenian religious community after centuries in exile.
Read more about The Long Road Home in the May 2007 issue of ONE.
27 March 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama presents a gift to Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican on 27 March. The president gave the pope a blue box containing a selection of fruit and vegetable seeds from the White House Garden. (photo: CNS/Stefano Spaziani, pool)
President Barack Obama met Pope Francis today for the first time, and the visit included the customary exchange of gifts. The CNS blog has details:
U.S. President Barack Obama gave Pope Francis a small chest full of fruit and vegetable seeds that are used in the White House Gardens.
“If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well,” the president said.
“Como no!” the pope replied in Spanish, “Why not?” or “Of course.”
The seeds were inside individual blue velvet pouches.
“These I think are carrots,” the president said as he opened one of the pouches.
The president said the idea for the seeds came after he heard that Pope Francis had decided to open to the public the gardens at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
The custom-made box the seeds came in is made from reclaimed wood from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore &mash; the first cathedral in the United States and an international symbol of religious freedom. [Read this story by the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s The Catholic Review for more interesting background on the box!]
The basilica’s cornerstone was laid by Jesuit Father John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States.
Read more about the gifts. And CNS also has additional details about the meeting.
26 March 2014
Father Ihor Hiletsky shows a picture of the grave of alcoholism in the village of Stankiv.
(photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn)
While Ukraine has been very much in the news lately, something that isn’t reported much is the country’s serious problem with alcoholism and addiction. We looked at how the country was coping back in 2010:
According to a 2008 study on alcoholism conducted by the World Health Organization, Ukraine ranked at the top of the list of countries with the highest rates of alcohol consumption among children and young people. With a population of 2.5 million people, the Lviv Oblast (or province) falls within the mean of Ukraine’s 24 oblasts with respect to substance abuse, which includes alcoholism and drug use. Last year, between 1 January and 1 July, public health authorities registered 428 cases of alcoholism and drug addiction among people under the age of 18, and 35,248 cases among adults.
“That is only the official data,” says Dr. Myroslava Kabanchyk, the chief physician at the Lviv State Clinical Pharmacological Dispensary. “There are many more people like that, a great number of whom fear seeking medical treatment. If they did they would not be able to work or go abroad for five years. Many others have just not been officially registered, such as those over 60 or those who live deep in the Carpathian Mountains.” She estimates the real number of addicts and alcoholics far surpasses the official numbers...
...In 2003, Viktor Proskuriakov took part in “The Burial of Alcoholism,” a ritual in which parishioners from the Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Stankiv joined together and took an oath to give up drinking and end alcohol dependency. The crowd gathered around an open grave, which was filled with liquor bottles, to pray and symbolically bury the disease. Marked with a tombstone to remind villagers of their oaths, the grave can be seen from the road leading to the church and rectory.
Father Ihor Hiletsky, who serves as the church’s pastor as well as the coordinator of youth programs for the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Stryj, organized the burial.
“The idea to conduct a series of events exposing alcoholism as a sinister evil occurred in 2001 just after I had come to Stankiv,” says Father Hiletsky.
Read more about Burying Alcoholism in the January 2010 issue of ONE.
25 March 2014
In this image from January, Pope Francis is pictured next to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, during an exchange of greetings with ambassadors to the Holy See at the Vatican. Cardinal Parolin today sent a message to participants at an Islamic-Christian Prayer Meeting in Lebanon, urging both Christians and Muslims to work together for peace and the common good and encourage dialogue. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
24 March 2014
Holed up in their caves in Lalibela, an important center of pilgrimage in Ethiopia, hermits dedicate their lives to study and prayer. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we took readers on a journey to Ethiopia, and disocovered a country at a crossroads:
In Ethiopia, one can now discern tension developing between priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church — the historic church of the Ethiopian people — and the faithful. This tension reflects the evolution of Ethiopia from an agricultural society of subsistent farmers to an urbanized and industrial modern state.
In the past, the priest was the natural reference point and adviser. Today, however, Ethiopia’s young, urban Orthodox Christians no longer perceive the priest as the only source of wisdom; they turn increasingly to their own experiences to find answers to life’s complexities.Ethiopia is celebrated for its many monasteries, ancient foundations peopled with men who, in the footsteps of the early desert fathers, have fled the world to fast, pray and participate in the weekly celebration of the Qeddase, the eucharistic liturgy of the church.
Academics describe Ethiopian Orthodox spirituality, with its focus on interior prayer and the communal celebration of the Qeddase, as introspective and monastic. They contrast this with the more extroverted spirituality pervading Christian life in the West, where ministry exercises a more “apostolic” dimension.
Though Ethiopia’s monks have retreated from the world, they have not forsaken it. Historically, monasteries have played a significant role in the development of the Ethiopian nation, its culture and its identity, even participating in its often volatile political life.
Despite such power and influence, however, the laity understands that the role of a monk is contemplative. This traditional role is not reserved to those in monastic life alone, but extended to parish priests as well.
Read more about Ethiopian Orthodoxy at a Crossroads from the November 2007 issue of ONE.
21 March 2014
A woman cries as she holds a boy at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria, on 6 March.
(photo: CNS/ Hosam Katan, Reuters)
Two weeks ago, Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Beirut, spoke to a meeting of Aid to the Church in Need in Kaslik, Lebanon. He described the humanitarian crisis in Syria:
The latest estimates published by the UNHCR show that 6.8 million people in Syria are needy, 5.25 million people internally displaced and an additional 2.2 million seeking refuge in neighboring countries from a conflict that has reportedly killed over 130,000 people.
Some areas face food shortages, and even areas that have been spared large-scale violence like Damascus lack sufficient quantities of gasoline, heating oil and cooking gas. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that by the end of 2014 around 70 percent of the Syrian population will need emergency food help.
Harsh winter weather had made matters worse, and people lack winter clothes, blankets and fuel, with women and children particularly at risk.
In the large city of Aleppo, a battle zone for the past 18 months, the price of bread has climbed in some places more than 15-fold to 250 Syrian pounds ($3.50) a kilo, while it is estimated that half of public hospitals have been damaged by the conflict.
The Syrian displaced families in general and the Christians in particular are facing serious challenges to provide the basic necessities for their children. The need is further inflated when it comes to families who found refuge within their confessional communities and remained unknown — not registered with an international organization whose main activities are concentrated at the large refugee camps.
You can read the full text of his speech here.
And visit this page to learn how you can help our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria.
20 March 2014
Pope Francis waves as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican
on 19 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Fortune magazine has just published a list of the 50 greatest leaders in the world — and the Bishop of Rome tops the list:
When a reformer sweeps through an institution more forcefully in just a year than any other in memory — and when that institution is some 2,000 years old and the largest organization on earth — he draws attention, admiration, and wonder. That’s why Pope Francis leads our inaugural list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, and why he was proposed more often by our nominators than any other candidate. Reforming the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, finally beginning to address the child sexual abuse scandal, shaking up the Vatican’s self-absorbed bureaucracy, setting a striking new tone through his personal example of modesty and inclusiveness — this is what a great leader does.
The magazine describes Pope Francis this way:
Just over a year ago, a puff of white smoke announced the new spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world. In the brief time since, Francis has electrified the church and attracted legions of non-Catholic admirers by energetically setting a new direction. He has refused to occupy the palatial papal apartments, has washed the feet of a female Muslim prisoner, is driven around Rome in a Ford Focus, and famously asked “Who am I to judge?” with regard to the church’s view of gay members. He created a group of eight cardinals to advise him on reform, which a church historian calls the “most important step in the history of the church for the past 10 centuries.” Francis recently asked the world to stop the rock-star treatment. He knows that while revolutionary, his actions so far have mostly reflected a new tone and intentions. His hardest work lies ahead. And yet signs of a “Francis effect” abound: In a poll in March, one in four Catholics said they’d increased their charitable giving to the poor this year. Of those, 77% said it was due in part to the Pope.
Visit the Fortune link to see who else made the list.
19 March 2014
A Syrian girl in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp girl paints her vision of a perfect place to live.
(photo: CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)
With the number of Syrian refugees now soaring into the millions, CNS reports on one innovative effort to help the most vulnerable, the children:
As Syria’s civil war hurtles into its fourth year, hopes of returning home soon seem far off for the 2.5 million refugees sheltering in neighboring countries, like Jordan. Syrians are soon expected to overtake Afghans as the largest refugee population in the world, according to the United Nations.
Top U.N. officials warn that the grinding conflict will leave a generation of 5.5 million children — in and outside Syria — physically and emotionally scarred. But American street artist Samantha Robison is working hard to change that.
A native of Washington, D.C., Robison and her team of international artists paint alongside the refugee children, encouraging them to remain strong and positive in Jordan’s Zaatari camp.
Covered in splashes of paint in every color of the rainbow, Robison encourages a 9-year-old Syrian girl named Zeinab to express her future dreams through painting on a recycled tent tarp.
“I am drawing a bird flying in the air. To me, it represents the freedom we want,” the enthusiastic child said as she drew.
Peaceful demonstrations protesting the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted three years ago and were soon met by sniper fire from government troops before bursting into all-out civil war.
Robison said the young Syrian refugees at Zaatari remember the start of the conflict, but now look to the future.
“Yes, commemorate the three years, but also remember where they’ve come from and how much they’ve accomplished,” she said.
“Honor the human dignity and the next generation and the future of Syria. I think is where a lot of the energy needs to be focused,” she added, speaking of the children.
Read the rest.
And to learn how you can help needy children fleeing the war in Syria, visit our giving page.