25 October 2013
A Syrian refugee boy flashes a peace sign along the border in Kilis, Turkey, in mid-September. More than a 1 million Syrian refugees are under 18, about 740,000 under 11, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Read more about the refugees in this story from the Catholic Register. And visit our Syria giving page to learn how you can help.
(photo: CNS /Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)
24 October 2013
A child of the village of Sebeya enjoys an enriched biscuit. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
The Autumn issue of ONE magazine is now online. One of the stories offers a look at a program to feed hungry schoolchildren in Ethiopia, in places where the need is great:
In places like Sebeya, Awo and Alitena near the northern border with Eritrea, famine and death are never far from the doorstep.
“I already shiver when I think of the dry season months that are coming. For some schools, we are not sure we will be able to secure food on time,” says Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Adigrat, whose eparchy of the Ge’ez Catholic Church administers some 52 schools in the region. “This is how we live, in a continuous kind of uncertainty.”
It is July, the fields have been planted and this continuous kind of uncertainty reigns over them. Farmers like Gebremichael Gebru, 68, from the village of Sebeya, about 20 miles from Adigrat, look to the skies for the much needed rain. So far, it has not come. If none falls in the next month, says Mr. Gebru, the harvest will be ruined and his family will have a very hungry year.
One of the many consequences of this condition is fainting — children passing out in class because they have had no breakfast and have no lunch to eat. The task of concentrating on a blackboard overpowers them.
“We usually eat three times a day, but when food is short we only eat once a day,” says Gebremichael Gebru’s 10-year-old son, Teklit, who attends the local Holy Trinity School. “I have to go to school hungry sometimes. It’s very difficult.”
The family used to have more than two and a half acres of land. But in Ethiopia, where the state owns all the land and has very strong powers of eminent domain, the government took half of that land to provide space for housing for the village’s growing population.
“It’s not enough land for us,” says Mr. Gebru. “Now, as there is no rain, I plan to move from tillage to livestock. I’m not interested in cultivation anymore. It’s not sustainable.”
Sustainability is the current watchword of the Ethiopian government and its international development partners. The numerous terraces lining the surrounding hills, the small dams, reservoirs and canals that punctuate the landscape attest to this. But in Sebeya and other rural outposts, such infrastructure for irrigation and water preservation looks obsolete and resembles the debris of a former, defunct civilization where living off the land in comfort and dignity was possible.
In some corners of the country, sustainability is a dream and simply surviving can be a struggle.
But there is hope. Read what CNEWA and others are doing. And check out this link to learn how you can help.
23 October 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Catholic education Hunger
Father Kevin O’Connell baptizes a child at Sacred Heart Church in Amman. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
Two years ago, we profiled Filipino workers who were making a new start in Jordan:
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem established Sacred Heart parish in 1996 to serve Amman’s swelling Catholic migrant community.
Among the families are a scattering of Europeans and North Americans, most of whom work in the foreign embassies of the posh Jabal Al Weibdeh neighborhood that surrounds the church. A few wear bright salwar kameez, the traditional pajama-like trousers worn by men and women from the Indian subcontinent. The vast majority, however, are Filipino women.
“It was a little strange for me in church at first,” says Father Kevin O’Connell, who has led the parish since its inception 15 years ago. “You’d look out to an entire congregation of women.”
A congenial 67-year-old Jesuit priest from Boston, who wears slacks and sandals under his vestments, Father O’Connell, looks and acts the part of a wise, friendly grandfather.
He helps the choir and he holds the lease on a house where the choir rehearses and other church groups gather. Father O’Connell also oversees the Sacred Heart youth basketball team and helped a group of youngsters from the church secure a space in the Jesuit Fathers’ center where they can breakdance.
Most important, Father O’Connell spends much of his energy responding to the spiritual, emotional and material needs of his predominantly Filipino congregation and other Filipino migrants in the country.
“I understood that the first task was to give people a place where they could be at home,” says Father O’Connell. “For these people, just the ongoing, regular liturgy — with Filipino music, with people reading, with them being able to participate in whatever way they want — gives a strand of consistency and continuity. It’s their home. It’s their place. In most cases, there’s no place else they can gather.”
Though some have jobs at the Philippine Embassy or in international organizations, most are domestic workers. They live in their employers’ homes and work long hours. Many experience intense feelings of loneliness and homesickness. They often have families back home whom they miss desperately.
With few job opportunities in the Philippines and families to support, these women come to the Middle East, where jobs in the “care-giving industry” are plentiful. Motivated by the promise of comparatively high earnings, most of which they intend on sending home to their families, they often accept without complaint long hours, little personal time or freedom and substandard living accommodations.
Read more about Filipinos who are Far From Home in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
22 October 2013
Tags: Jordan ONE magazine Immigration Women Amman
A man orates near a casket during a funeral on 21 October for one of four victims killed the previous day in an attack at a wedding outside the Church of the Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox in Cairo. A masked gunmen fired an automatic weapon on a wedding party outside the Coptic church, killing four people, including two young girls, in an attack that raised fears of a new insurgency by extremists. To find out how you can help Christians in Egypt, visit this link. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
21 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Africa Coptic Christians Copts
Jordanian boys catch their breath during playtime at Our Lady of Peace Center in Jordan. (photo: Bill Lyons)
In 2004, we profiled a center in Amman seeking to help disabled youth:
Our Lady of Peace Center in Amman, Jordan, is more than just a rehabilitation center for the disabled; it is a meeting point for Christians and Muslims, caring adults and handicapped children, rich and poor. The center’s administration makes it so, ensuring that the facility is open to everyone regardless of ethnicity, religion or social background.
Inaugurated in April 2004 on behalf of Queen Rania by Prince Ra’d bin Zeid and his wife, Princess Majda, longtime advocates of Jordan’s handicapped, the center serves disabled children at no cost to their families.
The facility, whose funding took six years to secure, is the brainchild of Bishop Selim Sayegh, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan. He envisaged a comprehensive retreat and rehabilitation center offering academic classes, vocational training, physiotherapy, basic medical care, as well as community outreach programs.
“[The center] will be a source of consciousness raising, in order to teach and train the whole of Jordanian civil society to respect the basic rights of the physically or mentally challenged. It will guarantee equality of treatment both in their families and communities and in public institutions,” said the bishop.
Read more about how the center is Unlocking Talents from the September 2004 issue of ONE.
And to learn how to help the people of Jordan, visit this page.
17 October 2013
Tags: CNEWA Children Jordan Disabilities Amman
Pope Francis shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience in the pontiff’s library at the Vatican, on 17 October. (photo: CNS/Maurizio Brambatti, pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis today offered a practical gift to a visitor from the Middle East, according to CNS:
Pope Francis gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a fancy pen as a gift, and Abbas told the pope, “I hope to sign the peace agreement with Israel with this pen.”
Pope Francis responded with his hope that the agreement would be reached “soon, soon.”
The exchange took place 17 October in the papal library after the pope and Palestinian president had spent almost half an hour meeting privately.
Abbas had given the pope a Bible and a framed scene of Bethlehem, West Bank. The pope gave Abbas a framed scene of the Vatican along with the pen, “because you obviously have many things to sign,” which is when Abbas spoke about his hopes to sign a peace treaty.
A Vatican statement about Abbas’ meeting with the pope and a later meeting with the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said, “The reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” was a topic in both conversations.
“The parties expressed their hope that this process may bear fruit and enable a just and lasting solution to be found to the conflict,” it said. “Hope was expressed that the parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions in order to promote peace” and that the international community would support their efforts. The U.S.-mediated talks began in July.
The Vatican statement did not mention Pope Francis’ possible trip to the Holy Land, although when Abbas greeted Archbishop Mamberti he told him that he had invited the pope to visit. Abbas’ delegation also included the mayor of Bethlehem, which likely would be on the itinerary of a papal trip.
In April, Israeli President Shimon Peres also invited the pope, and Israeli media have been reporting that a papal visit is expected in the spring. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced on 16 October that the prime minister would meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on 23 October and meet the pope during the same trip.
The Vatican statement on Abbas’ meetings said the pope and Palestinian leader also discussed the ongoing war in Syria and expressed their hopes that “dialogue and reconciliation may supplant the logic of violence as soon as possible.”
The two also discussed the work underway on a Vatican-Palestinian agreement regulating “several essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine,” as well as the situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian territories and the contributions Christians make to society throughout the Middle East.
16 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Middle East Christians Palestine Vatican Middle East Peace Process
Pope Francis wears a firefighter’s helmet as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 16 October. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis today spoke of how the church is “apostolic”:
The church can describe itself as “apostolic” only if it shares the Gospel with the world, remaining faithful to the teaching of the apostles and living out Gospel values, Pope Francis said.
“A church closed in on itself and its past, a church concerned only with its little rules, customs and attitudes is a church that betrays its identity,” the pope told more than 70,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on 16 October for his weekly general audience.
Continuing a series of audience talks about how the creed describes the church, Pope Francis said the adjective “apostolic” comes from the church’s connection to the 12 men Jesus chose as his closest companions and sent to share with the entire world what he had told and shown them.
The church, he said, has “the firm conviction of being sent,” and of having an obligation to “safeguard and transmit” the teaching of the apostles.
Pope Francis said he wanted to emphasize the connection between the church’s apostolic identity and its obligation to be missionary, “because Christ calls everyone to go out, to encounter others; he sends us, asks us to move in order to bring the joy of the Gospel.”
“Once again,” he said, “let’s ask ourselves: Are we missionaries with our words, but especially with our Christian lifestyles; are we witnesses? Or are we closed, both in our hearts and inside our churches? Are we ‘sacristy Christians,’ Christians in word only who live like pagans?”
The pope said he wasn’t trying to scold anyone. “I also ask myself: ‘How am I a Christian? With my witness?’ ”
Read the rest at CNS.
15 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Evangelization
A woman waits to board a boat as she returns to her village on 13 October after Cyclone Phailin hit the village of Sunapur in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. India had its biggest disaster relief operation in history, evacuating the region and successfully moving more than a million people out of harm’s way before Cyclone Phailin swept through Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, ravaging crops and infrastructure and flattening hundreds of thousands of houses. Learn more about CNEWA’s work in India at this link. (photo: CNS/Adnan Abidi, Reuters)
11 October 2013
Tags: India Refugees Relief Homes/housing
Clowns cheer as Pope Francis leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 9 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In his remarks at his weekly general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke of what it means to be “catholic.” As CNS reports:
Professing that the church is “catholic” means accepting its teachings, accepting the gifts it offers to help one grow in holiness and accepting the fact that it is composed of different people with different gifts and opinions, Pope Francis said.
“Let’s ask ourselves: Do we live in harmony in our communities? Or do we fight among ourselves?” the pope asked 9 October as he focused his weekly general audience talk on the meaning of the creed’s profession that the church is “catholic.”
“Is there gossip” in the parish or movement, do people “accept each other, accept that there is a correct variety” or “do we tend to try to make everything uniform?” Pope Francis asked the estimated 60,000 visitors and pilgrims who braved the rain to join him. Many in the square had umbrellas, but Pope Francis spent almost 30 minutes in the rain, riding among the crowd in an open popemobile.
“We are not all the same and we shouldn’t all be the same,” he said. Each person has his or her own gifts, qualities and character, which “is one of the beauties of the church — everyone brings what God has given him or her to enrich the others.”
“When we try to impose uniformity, we kill the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” the pope said. He asked people at the audience to pray that the Spirit would make all church members more “catholic.”
Read the rest.
10 October 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Unity Catholic
In this 2005 photo, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, talks with Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interfaith Consultations, during a conference in Rome on 25 September on “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on interreligious dialogue. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
A leading figure on interfaith dialogue and ecumenism spoke out recently on the challenges facing Christians in some parts of the world today:
Pope John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” contains key principles of religious freedom that continue to have relevance for interreligious relations today. That’s the view of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, former nuncio to Egypt and former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Now based in Jerusalem, he was in Rome attending a recent conference marking the 50th anniversary of Pope John’s encyclical letter. …
In an interview, Archbishop Fitzgerald said: “There are principles of religious freedom, to practice one’s religion, not only in private but also in public, and freedom of conviction so that one can change one’s religion and this presents problems in the Islamic world in many countries. … There’s one country which doesn’t allow any churches or any public worship at all and that’s against fundamental human rights. I think the way forward is to found our dialogue on human rights and I think we can work together on that. …
“There have been some very encouraging signs,” Archbishop Fitzgerald said, including “an initiative taken by Al Azhar to bring priests and imams together.” He added: “If they can have an open attitude towards ministers of other religions, this will translate into common action and support — and there have been signs of support by Muslims for Christians who’ve been attacked.”
You can read more and hear the entire interview at the link.
You can find more of Archbishop Fitzgerald’s thoughts on interfaith dialogue in an essay he wrote for ONE in 2008, Islam’s Many Faces. He also sat down for an interview with us last year, marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and discussing the Middle East today.
Tags: Unity Interreligious Dialogue religious freedom Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald