10 July 2013
Women from the village of Manhari weave religious articles in a program supported by the local eparchy. (photo: Sean Sprague)
While much of Egypt is in turmoil, faith somehow endures. Several years ago, writer-photographer Sean Sprague visited a Coptic Christian village in Upper Egypt for a closer look:
“People here,” [Father Matta] asserted as we strolled through the muddy lanes of Manhari, “don’t experience Islamic extremist aggression, but they do feel economically repressed.
“Many families cannot support themselves, although there are some wealthy Coptic families.”
Father Matta’s family, however, is not one of the wealthy ones. Typically, Eastern Catholic married priests in the Middle East must also hold down jobs outside the parish to support the family, thereby reducing the parish burden. The priest’s wife, in addition to rearing a family, must also work.
Father Matta led me on a tour of Manhari’s four-story Catholic Social Services Center. Here, working parents leave their children in a well-run kindergarten. School dropouts improve their reading and writing skills while young women learn to weave tapestries. The center offers additional vocational training in its tailoring workshop. Mothers and their children receive medical care in a mother-child clinic and the center conducts courses in health and hygiene.
“The villagers survive by raising livestock — cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats — and by growing clover for fodder,” Father Matta said. “Fuul, or fava beans, and wheat provide the Egyptian staple diet. They grow in fields around the village,” he added.
…A few miles from Manhari at an Orthodox church, which once served a monastic community, we met a priest revered by all Copts — Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant — Father Yacoub, an old man with a long white beard. Father Matta greeted him with elaborate embraces and kisses. Father Yacoub sat in virtual silence while we drank tea and spoke with his young colleague, Father Bola. His eyes gleamed with obvious pleasure at our visit.
“Relations between Orthodox and Catholic Copts in Manhari are warm,” Father Bola said, taking a sip of his sweetened tea.
“Caritas serves the entire community. Intermarriage is common. So it doesn’t really make much difference which church you are from. We are all from the same cloth.”
Read more on Upper Egypt’s Copts from the July 2002 issue of the magazine.
9 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Catholic Church
In this image from 2009, a Palestinian woman prays on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine, also has significance to Jews and Christians. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Muslims around the world are marking the beginning of Ramadan. Two years ago, Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., CNEWA’s external affairs officer, wrote about what this month means and how it is observed:
Ramadan is the most important event of the year for Muslims. There are five pillars of Islam: the šahada, or creed that there is one and only God and Muhammad is his messenger; salat, or the five daily prayers;zakat, or almsgiving; sawm, or fasting during Ramadan; and hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr, the feast ending it, have become increasingly visible in Europe and North America in the past two decades. Immigration has increased the number of Muslims in the West and more and more people are becoming aware of the monthlong fast and celebration.
In places where Muslims represent a religious minority, recognition of Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr increasingly symbolizes a degree of social acceptance by the majority. In the United States, for instance, the postal service issues a postage stamp for Eid ul Fitr every year. And more and more often, shops sell greeting cards for the holiday, and many non—Muslims now send or give them to their Muslim friends and neighbors.
During the 28 days of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The fast begins at dawn when one can distinguish a white thread from a black one (Quran 2:188) and ends when the sun has set below the horizon. The fast is absolute n that nothing enters the body. Thus, fasting excludes not only eating food but also drinking fluids, smoking and sexual activity.
Since the month of Ramadan moves “backward” through the solar year, it occurs at some point in every season of the year in any given location. In the summer in both northern and southern latitudes, days can be quite long and the fast can go on for more than 15 hours. If 15 hours without food is difficult, 15 hours in the summer without water is even more so.
In many places in the Muslim world, the end of the day’s fast is announced by a cannon shot or some other major public announcement after the sun sets, informing people they may now engage in iftar, or the breaking of the fast. Muslims often first eat a date to break the fast, as did Muhammad. The nightly meals during Ramadan are often quite festive and families gather and enjoy specially prepared dishes.
Read more from the September 2011 issue of ONE.
8 July 2013
Tags: Muslim Islam Ramadan
Pope Francis carries a pastoral staff carved from the wood of a shipwrecked boat as he celebrates Mass in Lampedusa, Italy on 8 July. The pope said he decided to visit the small island 70 miles from Tunisia after seeing newspaper headlines in June describing the drowning of African immigrants at sea. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In a powerful and historic trip that focused world attention on the plight of immigrants, Pope Francis traveled to an island off Italy to celebrate Mass. It was a visit rich with symbolism. CNS has details:
Before saying a word publicly, Pope Francis made the sign of the cross and tossed a wreath of white and yellow flowers into the Mediterranean Sea in memory of the estimated 20,000 African immigrants who have died in the past 25 years trying to reach a new life in Europe.
Just a few hours before Pope Francis arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa 8 July, the Italian coast guard accompanied another boat carrying immigrants to the island’s port.
The 165 immigrants, one of whom said they were originally from Mali, had spent two days at sea making the crossing from North Africa; the immigrants were accompanied to a government reception center, a locked facility where 112 people — half under the age of 18 — already were being housed. Most will be repatriated, although a few may receive refugee status.
In his homily at an outdoor Mass, Pope Francis said he decided to visit Lampedusa, a small island with a population of 6,000 and just 70 miles from Tunisia, after seeing newspaper headlines in June describing the drowning of immigrants at sea.
“Those boats, instead of being a means of hope, were a means of death,” he said.
Wearing purple vestments, like those used during Lent, and using the prayers from the Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins, Pope Francis said the deaths of the immigrants are “like a thorn in the heart,” which spurred him to offer public prayers for them, but also to try to awaken people’s consciences. …
The Mass was filled with reminders that Lampedusa is now synonymous with dangerous attempts to reach Europe: the altar was built over a small boat; the pastoral staff the pope used was carved from wood recycled from a shipwrecked boat; the lectern was made from old wood as well and had a ship’s wheel mounted on the front; and even the chalice — although lined with silver — was carved from the wood of a wrecked boat.
“Who among us has wept” for the immigrants, for the dangers they faced and for the thousands who died at sea, the pope asked. “The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep.”
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this,” Pope Francis said.
3 July 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Immigration Italy
Sister Lovely Kattumattam enjoys a laugh with a resident at Ashraya Old Age Home outside Mumbai, India — the land first evangelized by the apostle St. Thomas. We profiled her work among the poor in ‘Slumdog’ Sisters. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In his homily this morning for the feast of St. Thomas, Pope Francis spoke of how we — like Thomas — can discover the wounds of Christ daily, among our suffering brothers and sisters:
“In the history of the church there have been some mistakes made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found on the path of meditation, indeed that we can reach higher through meditation. That’s dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return. Yes perhaps they arrive at knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the Gnostics, no? They are good, they work, but it is not the right path. It’s very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbor.
“Others,” the pope said, “thought that to arrive at God we must mortify ourselves, we have to be austere and have chosen the path of penance: only penance and fasting. Not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ. They are the pelagians, who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts.” But Jesus tells us that the path to encountering him is to find his wounds.
“We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to our body — the body — the soul too, but — I stress — the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he’s in jail because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards him, but through these his wounds. ‘Oh, great! Let’s set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help.’ That’s important, but if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic. We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally. Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed.”
Read the rest here.
2 July 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Poor/Poverty Thomas Christians Saints Christian
A choir rehearses at Moscow’s Church of Three Prelates. With the decline of Soviet-era suppression, Orthodox Christianity saw a rapid and enthusiastic revival in Russia. You can read all about it in Orthodoxy Renewed, from the March 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Julia Vishnevets)
1 July 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Russia Russian Orthodox Church Prayers/Hymns/Saints
Pope Francis greets Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon after praying with him at the tomb of St. Peter at the conclusion of Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. The pope presented woolen palliums to 34 archbishops during the liturgy. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Over the weekend, Pope Francis used the occasion of the pallium Mass to speak of the unifying role of bishops:
Every bishop is called to be “a servant of communion,” working tirelessly to overcome divisions so that differences become a treasure and not a source of conflict, Pope Francis said.
The Christian community should be “like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God’s one great plan,” the pope said on 29 June as he celebrated the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and bestowed the pallium on 34 archbishops from 19 countries.
The pallium is a woolen band that symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him. Archbishops wear the pallium around their shoulders over their liturgical vestments when celebrating the liturgy in their regions. A pope also wears one, although his is marked with red crosses, while an archbishop’s has black crosses.
Read more at the Catholic News Service link.
28 June 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Catholic Christian Unity Orthodox
This baby girl was found in a garbage can. Now she's loved and cared for by the sisters of the Holy Family Children's Home. (photo: CNEWA)
The CNEWA staffers visiting the Holy Land just sent us this photograph from the Holy Family Children’s Home, also known as the Creche, in Bethlehem. The child was rescued from the trash and given a new life at the home.
Msgr. John Kozar visited the Creche two years ago and described his experience:
We proceeded to a peaceful home for unwanted babies and expectant mothers rejected by families. It’s called the Creche of Bethlehem. What a fitting name. The director of the facility is named Sister Sophie and she is something special. This sister is the embodiment of the protector of little babies and the unwanted. She loves each and every one of the 91 childen cared for at the Creche.
She took us to a room with little ones ranging in age from a few days old to about nine months. One of the babies was left at a big garbage dump, another at Sister Sophie’s doorstep. Some children were dropped off for various reasons. There is no legal system for adoption in Palestine and Muslim tradition does not allow for it, so this is a big challenge. But Sister Sophie, her staff and her many volunteers still present loving smiles to all who visit.
There are many ways to help children like these. Visiting our Giving Center to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of these little ones.
27 June 2013
Tags: CNEWA Children Holy Land Holy Land Christians Bethlehem
With direction from the sisters, women at Queen’s Garments have a chance to better their lives. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Can a needle and thread change a life? We saw evidence of that a few years ago in India:
Inside a large house in the wooded hills of Kottayam, a district in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Sangeetha Pushpam crouched over a sewing machine, stitching fabric. She is 19, and has been working for four years to help support her family, which her father had abandoned.
After dropping out of school at 15, Sangeetha was hired by a cashew factory. She was getting paid practically nothing, however, and the factory conditions were taking their toll on her health. She suffered chest pains. Sangeetha wanted to move on and enrolled in a tailoring course. She did not have enough money to complete it, however, and she dropped out.
Fortunately, Sangeetha was invited to Kottayam to join Queen’s Garments, a sewing shop run by the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, a religious community for women of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Founded in 1866, the community includes 6,000 sisters who run charities, schools and hospitals throughout India and abroad.
In a converted novitiate, Sangeetha works with 20 other young women from poor, often broken, families.
“Our mission is to promote plain living, high thinking and selfless service to eradicate poverty and suffering,” said Sister Suma Rose, who started Queen’s Garments in May 2004.
There is a special need for helping women in India, Sister Suma said. They are “undervalued, underrecognized, underrepresented and marginalized in society.”
Read more about Queens Garments in the September 2006 issue of ONE.
26 June 2013
Tags: India Sisters Education Poor/Poverty Indian Catholics
Sister Katharina helps a young friend at Maison du Sacre Coeur, a home for children with severe physical and mental challenges. (photo: CNEWA)
As we noted yesterday, CNEWA staffers are visiting the Holy Land this week, along with members of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, to see first-hand some of the places and projects supported by CNEWA’s generous donors.
One of those places is Maison du Sacre Coeur, which our magazine profiled several years ago:
“We try to give good care to the children,” explains Sister Katharina Fuch, D.C. “We try to assure good health and good food. We try to make life as agreeable for them as we can. We try to find what each child likes — music, play, laughter, television, radio, video. We want these children to feel good.”
The children are some 60 severely mentally and physically handicapped boys and girls, aged from newborn to 16 years. The place is the Maison du Sacre Coeur — the House of the Sacred Heart — in the Israeli port city of Haifa. The care-givers are Sister Katharina, three other sisters, a number of local specialists and other staff.
Sister Katharina is the Austrian-born superior of the House of the Sacred Heart, established by the Daughters of Charity, the religious community founded in France by St. Vincent de Paul.
In addition to caring for the resident children, the sisters also maintain a day-care center with 240 children, assuring working mothers that their children are well cared for during the workday.
Sister Katharina outlines all these activities as we sit in her neat office. Administrative responsibilities, keeping track of the staff and all the activities, are in efficient hands.
But it is when we go down to see the children that she really comes alive. It is with them that Sister Katharina feels most at home. As we walk between the cots she greets each child in turn, stroking their heads lovingly and talking to them affectionately. As she walks past, some grab at her hands, wanting to feel her touch.
Read more in Heart to Heart in Haifa from the December 1997 issue of the magazine.
25 June 2013
Tags: Children Jerusalem Holy Land Health Care Holy Land Christians
A young girl completes a class project at Meki Catholic School. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Over the years, we’ve done a number of stories about the dramatic impact Catholic education is having in a country that is predominantly non-Catholic: Ethiopia. In 2005, photojournalist Sean Sprague visited one town to report on the diverse student body:
At 25, Lemi Meta is the oldest of Grabafila elementary school’s 170 students. At well over 6 feet tall, Mr. Meta dwarfs his classmates, some of whom are as young as 7. And yet, Mr. Meta does not feel uncomfortable in this setting — a Catholic school not far from the southern Ethiopian town of Meki.
“I had a dream about going to school but I never had the chance,” Mr. Meta said. “I live in a remote area where there is no school. In my village only three people out of 600 have ever been to school.”
Each day, Mr. Meta walks two and a half hours each way to attend class and, despite his advanced age, he talks about becoming a doctor.
The Grabafila elementary school is one of two area Catholic schools supported by CNEWA (the agency also provides support to many of its students, who are enrolled in the agency’s needy child sponsorship program). The school consists of four classrooms and a single office for the staff. It lacks electricity, running water, computers and a library. Cows and goats wander nearby. Primitive by Western standards, the school nonetheless fulfills a need not yet addressed by the government.
“Ethiopia is a rural society, where 80 percent of the population depends on subsistence agriculture,” said Abune (Bishop) Abraham Desta of Meki. “Droughts, famine and war have devastated this country. Only recently have we seen the government, and some religious organizations, build schools.”
Though Ethiopia’s Catholics number only 500,000 (the total population is 70 million), the Catholic Church has built more than 230 schools and vocational centers throughout the country. “Education is the church’s priority in Ethiopia,” asserted Abune Abraham.
Read more about schools in Meki in Never Too Late to Dream in the July 2005 issue of ONE.
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Catholic education Ethiopia’s Catholic Church