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.
13 December 2013
Tags: Egypt Copts Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Coptic
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
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.)
5 December 2013
Tags: India CNEWA Homes/housing
In 2004 image, two women — a Muslim and a Catholic sister — take notes during class at Bethlehem University. The Catholic school serves both Christians and Muslims and promotes interreligious understanding. (photo: Steve Sabella)
Over the next couple weeks, the “little town of Bethlehem” will figure prominently in songs and liturgies. But several years ago, we visited a leading university there, which revealed a different aspect of the town:
Founded by the Holy See and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the university serves Christians and Muslims alike and offers degrees in such fields as arts and sciences, business administration, nursing, education, social work, hotel management and tourism.
It does so against the tense political backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose flare-ups often have forced the university to suspend operations. While the current intifada has not produced closings on the scale seen from 1987 to 1990, it has had a tremendous impact on the school.
“The past few years have been a struggle,” says Brother Vincent Malham, F.S.C., Bethlehem University’s President and Vice Chancellor since 1997.
“The closures and curfews and checkpoints make it difficult for our students and staff to get here.”
And the devastation of the Palestinian economy has slashed the availability of jobs. “In Bethlehem, once a relatively affluent Palestinian city, unemployment is at least 50 percent,” Brother Vincent says.
Even so, the university continues to grow in numbers and in academic offerings, Brother Vincent adds. As such, Bethlehem University must be seen as one of the great successes of recent Palestinian history.
Bethlehem University’s origins date to Pope Paul VI’s 1964 visit to the Holy Land. He believed Palestinians would be well-served by a university and that such an institution also would help stem Christian Palestinian emigration. The pope asked the De La Salle Christian Brothers to run the project.
It was a natural choice: In 1680, John Baptist de la Salle founded his congregation to educate the poor, who typically did not have access to education. (Today, about 7,000 brothers and their colleagues run schools in more than 80 countries.)
At first, the university occupied a few rooms in a Bethlehem elementary and secondary school for boys.
“We were pioneers, but we had great teachers who were creative,” says Dr. Jacqueline Sfeir, a student in the 1973 inaugural class and now a professor of education at Bethlehem University.
Read more about The Perseverance of Bethlehem University in the November 2004 issue of ONE.
And to support CNEWA’s work in Palestine, visit this giving page.
4 December 2013
Tags: Education Interreligious Catholic education Bethlehem University Catholic-Muslim relations
In this image from 2004, a man displays a three-bar cross — commonly used by Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the Slavic churches — before police during a protest in Kiev. (photo: Petro Didula)
The dramatic news out of Ukraine these days reminds us of events we chronicalled in the magazine nearly a decade ago, following the so-called “orange revolution.”
We reported in 2005 on the intersection of religion and politics in the public square during that historic standoff and the complicated history behind the protests in Ukraine, all growing out of the election that pitted reformer Viktor Yuschenko against Prime Minister Viktor Yankyovych:
Though both Mr. Yuschenko and Mr. Yanukovych are Orthodox, they drew their support from different confessional groups. Ukraine’s Catholic community, which accounts for about 13 percent of the country’s 48 million people (5 million Greek Catholics and 1 million Latin, or Roman, Catholics), supported Mr. Yuschenko and his pro-Western tilt. Meanwhile, the largest Orthodox community — the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which accounts for about 25 percent of the population — supported Mr. Yanukovych, an advocate for close ties to Russia. The two Orthodox communities independent of Moscow — the larger Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church — supported Mr. Yuschenko’s presidential bid.
“The ecclesiastical authorities are not supposed to take a stand in this crisis,” Father Oleksandre Hoursky told the International Herald Tribune. But then, like many clergy involved, he went on to ignore his own advice. “The church supports good against evil, the protection of human rights and the end of any injustices, and the state abuse of power,” the Roman Catholic priest continued.
Even Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who heads the country’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, weighed in on the crisis. “At the root of the crisis remains an immoral regime,” he said, “that has deprived Ukrainian people of their legitimate rights and dignity.”
Read more about Forging Ukraine, and the history that led up to the orange revolution, in the May 2005 issue of ONE.
Tags: Ukraine Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church