21 December 2011
A girl lights a candle during Christmas night Divine Liturgy at the church of Three Prelates in Moscow. (photo: Julia Vishnevets)
Last night marked the beginning of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Tony Spence, of the Catholic News Service recently blogged about Christian and Jewish ties that date back to the origins of the celebration.
While most Christians know that the Jews are celebrating Hanukkah this season, not all that many know the the story of the festival and the heroic deeds of the Maccabees, the Jewish martyrs who resisted Greek attempts to make them turn away from their ancient faith. Scripture holds that a mother and seven sons chose torture and death rather than renounce their faith. The Maccabees were regarded by the early church as proto-martyrs of the early Christians who died for their faith across the Roman Empire.
In fact, both the Catholic and Orthodox churches even today remember the Maccabean martyrs in their calendars of saints.
In Friday’s The Wall Street Journal, Jon D. Levensen, a Harvard Divinity School professor of Jewish studies and author, writes in his essay — “The Meaning of Hanukkah: A celebration of religious freedom, the holiday fits well with the American political tradition,” that the origins of Hanukkah would have been forgotten in Jewish scholarship and history had it not been for the inclusion of the Book of Maccabees in the Christian Bible.
Read more on the Catholic News Service Blog. And to our Jewish friends: Happy Hanukkah!
20 December 2011
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church Jews Jewish
Father Kiril Kaleda watches children from his parish prepare for a Christmas pageant in Moscow. (photo: Julia Vishnevets)
Recently The New York Times reported on the Russian Orthodox Church’s role in mainstream education.
Just over 20 years ago, any religious education outside church walls was still banned in the Soviet Union. Today, churches are being built on state university campuses, theology departments have opened around Russia, and the Russian Orthodox Church has built its own educational network with international contacts and even become something of a model for the secular system.
Still, state universities struggle on many levels to integrate into the international system; the Bologna Process, an agreement streamlining higher-education standards across Europe, has upset many Russian academics who contend that it undermines the achievements of the Soviet system, where a standard specialist degree required five years of study.
But the Russian Orthodox Church, which started building its education system virtually from scratch in the post-Soviet era, has applied international standards from the outset, said Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, deputy chairman of the church’s education committee. Speaking of the state education system, Father Hovorun said, “It is more concerned about finding compromises between the old Soviet system and the new European standards.”
In the March 2010 issue of ONE we also featured a story on how the Russian Orthodox Church is adapting to a changing society.
19 December 2011
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church
Women tend a flock of sheep in the historic Noraduz cemetery near Lake Sevan in Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
What would the approach of Christmas be without a shepherd or two?
Photographer Armineh Johannes has developed a colorful collection of images of Armenian life, as demonstrated in the photo above. We are grateful she has shared this collection with us over the years. To view some of her work for our magazine, check out her photos from the profile, The Armenian Catholic Church, featured in the September 2008 issue of ONE.
16 December 2011
An Iraqi mother holds her child near her home in Syria. (photo: Spencer Osberg)
Yesterday, the U.S. marked the end of a 9-year war in Iraq. Though the combat has ended and the troops are gone, the remnants of the war still remain. The countless number of Iraq’s citizens who have died, lost family members or been displaced in different countries around the world has changed a people and country forever — and left some unfinished business.
In the November 2008 issue of ONE we featured a story on Iraqis who found refuge in Syria, yet were still experiencing hardships:
If a refugee makes it out of Iraq, he or she usually leaves behind the war’s immediate perils. But, for a surprising number of refugees, the conflict’s dangers follow them to their new homes. In Damascus, many Iraqis report receiving messages and calls on their Syrian cell phones threatening torture or death should they return to Iraq. One woman even reported she found the same threatening letter from the same militia group slipped under her door in Damascus that she found while living in Baghdad.
When discussing the war and their own troubles, refugees often evoke an unidentified ominous “they.” While “they” may refer to the Mahdi Army or Al Qaeda, the war’s better known belligerents, they may also refer to any one of a number of loosely organized groups or individuals who threaten, kidnap, extort, torture and kill, usually in a fog of anonymity.
Though Syrian authorities maintain tight security in and around Iraqi neighborhoods — likely a major reason why sectarian violence has not erupted among Iraqis living in Damascus — the influence of Iraqi militias remains palpable in some areas of the city. From high on the tenements’ walls lining the streets of Saida Zainab, posters of Mahdi Army leader, Muqtada al Sadr, and his father, Muhammad Sadeq al Sadr, loom down on passersby. The Mahdi Army also operates an affiliate office in the neighborhood.
For more see, On the Road to Damascus. To learn more about how you can join CNEWA and the churches of the Middle East in supporting the people of Iraq, visit our Canadian website which includes facts, figures and ways you can help.
15 December 2011
Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Iraqi Christians Damascus
St. Joseph’s girls perform a traditional Keralite dance. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
In the September 2005 issue of ONE we featured a story on St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Pulincunnoo, Kerala:
But for all its classes and study periods, St. Joseph’s Orphanage is hardly a brain-stuffing sweatshop. The girls have plenty occasions for fun, and even the classes are likely to be interrupted by a fit of giggles. On feast days, the girls choreograph elaborate dances, which they perform in their school uniforms and bare feet in the orphanage’s common room. There is also occasion to sing, play sports and gossip. The girls also tend to their pets — tiny turtles that have made their home in the orphanage’s garden.
“Nearly all the girls are scared when they first get here, which is only natural,” said Sister Flower Mary. “But they soon make friends. We try to make this transition period as easy as possible for them by making sure the new girls are well-attended to.
“In many cases, the friends they make here will be with them for the rest of their lives,” Sister Flower Mary continued. “And they will always be a part of my life. Just because they move away and get a job or get married doesn’t mean I don’t stay in touch with them. We are all one big family.”
For more from this story see, St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’.
13 December 2011
Tags: India Kerala Orphans/Orphanages
Hermina Tharwat, 12, studies for winter exams at Santa Lucia, a home for the blind
in Abou Kir, Egypt. (photo: Holly Pickett)
Today is the feast day of Saint Lucy, the patron saint of the blind. In the May 2010 issue of ONE we profiled a home for the blind in Egypt named after the saint:
The Santa Lucia Home — named in honor of the patron saint of the blind — was built with funds from CNEWA’s donors and houses ten girls and eight boys from ages 8 to 18. The children do not attend school next door, which is not equipped to teach the blind. Rather, they are enrolled in public programs in other areas of the city. The boys attend El Nour School in Alexandria’s Muharram Bey neighborhood, while the girls attend a similar school in the Zizina area.
Sister Souad and her colleague, Sister Hoda Chaker Assal, rouse the children every morning for breakfast, baths and a 7:45 date with the school bus.
“Here we wake them and prepare them for school, we feed them and do their laundry and we tuck them in at night and make sure they get a good rest,” says Sister Souad. “It is just like at home.”
For more from this story see, Blind to LImitations.
12 December 2011
Tags: Egypt Children Africa Disabilities
Cardinal John Patrick Foley greets a Syriac prelate in Lebanon on a fact-finding trip with members of CNEWA’s governing board in April 2010. (photo: Gabriel Delmonaco)
Early Sunday morning, I learned that a good friend of CNEWA and of the Catholic press, Cardinal John Patrick Foley, had died in Philadelphia after battling leukemia. He was 76, and just a few weeks shy of the golden jubilee of his priesthood.
For those of us in the trenches of the Catholic media, Cardinal Foley was like a godfather, a prelate with media credentials; he had a Master's in Journalism from the Columbia University School of Journalism, and was a longtime editor of the Catholic Standard and Times in Philadelphia. He understood us and sympathized with the challenges we faced as Catholics and as journalists. “We know as journalists,” he said, “that the more some people try to cover up bad news, the more likely it is to be known.”
For more than two decades, Cardinal Foley headed the Holy See’s social communications council, and perhaps he is best known for his commentary during the pope’s celebration of midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
I remember him best for his yearly trek to the annual convention of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. This ragged band of wounded warriors (well, some of us) were his colleagues and friends, and he made no attempt to hide the fact that this visit was a highlight on his very busy calendar. Though an archbishop, he did not preside at events or deliver key note addresses. Instead, he mingled with the gang — attending seminars, asking questions, grabbing minutes here and minutes there for a question or simply to tease. His presence was powerful.
His annual celebration of the Eucharist commemorating those colleagues who had died since the previous convention — and his excellent homilies at those liturgies — stand out. Whether in a convention hall or a 19th-century church, John Patrick Foley celebrated the Mass as one expected from a priest bred in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia: with reverence, thoughtfulness and care. His homilies always inspired, always brought laughs, always brought tears.
Despite my reluctance to hobnob with the famous and the titled, for 20 years this kind priest — Philly’s best — took the time to tell me how he read the magazine “cover to cover,” how he “always learned something new,” and urged me to keep pursuing excellence in Catholic publishing.
Last February, the cardinal retired to his beloved native city of Philadelphia after serving for four years as the grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. During his brief tenure as grand master, the cardinal reanimated the ancient chivalric order — which was founded to support the church in the Holy Land through the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — by extending its mandate to include the support of Latin Catholic initiatives in Lebanon and Egypt.
In April 2010, the cardinal traveled to Lebanon and Syria on a fact-finding trip with members of CNEWA’s governing board, which included Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., of Ottawa and Archbishop Alexander Brunett, emeritus of Seattle, and the cardinal’s good friend and classmate, Msgr. Robert L. Stern, who then led CNEWA.
The group met with patriarchs and seminarians, refugees and farmers, needy children and religious superiors. “It was,” said CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon and Syria, Issam Bishara, “a whirlwind visit that benefited from the cardinal’s astute analysis, compassion, curiosity and wit.”
“The church in the Middle East,” said Msgr. Stern, “has lost a good friend. The church universal has lost a shepherd, a humble and prayerful giant.”
9 December 2011
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Vatican Cardinal John P. Foley
A villager samples clean water from the new filtration system in Lebanon.
(photo: Marilyn Raschka)
“Water is the stuff of life,” Msgr. John Kozar wrote on this blog a few days ago. Traveling through Lebanon on his first visit as CNEWA’s president, Msgr. Kozar is observing firsthand how this modest-sized agency of the Holy See is reclaiming land, restoring families and reviving parishes simply by bringing the basics like water to a forlorn community.
Since the end of Lebanon’s civil war (1975-90), CNEWA’s Beirut staff has worked tirelessly to resettle displaced families, revive abandoned villages and restore what has made Lebanon unique: A diverse mosaic, a home to all people, Christian, Druze, Sunni and Shi’ite. “Lebanon is more than a country,” Pope John Paul II said during his visit in 1997. “Lebanon is a message.”
In 2000, in the pages of our November issue of the magazine, writer Marilyn Raschka wrote about two neighboring villages in the Chouf region, just south of Beirut. Dmit is home to the Druze, a religious community that developed from Shi’ite Islam. Serjbal is a Christian farming community.
Historically, the two villages got on well, “feast days and funerals find villagers heading in each other’s directions for a respectful courtesy call,” writes Ms. Raschka. “But it’s water that will bring these two communities closer together, now that their pipe dreams have come true.”
Creating reservoirs, excavating trenches and laying irrigation pipe isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t even sound appropriate for an agency of the Holy See, but in Lebanon it reinforces what the Holy Father believes is that nation’s unique calling: to serve as a model of coexistence and love.
7 December 2011
Tags: Lebanon Beirut Water
An altar server stands near a statue of the Virgin Mary in greater Stockholm’s
Syriac Catholic church. (photo: Magnus Aronson)
According to the Latin calendar, tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Roman Catholics celebrate 8 December as the day that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother free from original sin. Many churches in CNEWA's world, meantime, observe the feast on the following day. You can find out more by visiting the online Catholic Encyclopedia.
5 December 2011
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Syriac Catholic Church Sweden
Boys at Bhorathannoor Ambeaker Harigen Colony show off hats the village sells in larger towns. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
The work of priests in CNEWA’s world is often crucial to the communities they serve. In the November 2005 issue of ONE, writer Paul Wachter explored the sometimes challenging ministry of priests in rural India, work which can even include helping people learn new skills — such as how to weave hats like those pictured above:
Bhorathannoor Ambeaker Harigen Colony is home to 700 families, 100 of whom are Catholic and the remainder Hindu. Most of the Catholics entered the church about 10 years ago, the priests said.
The villagers live in small brick homes — they have one or two rooms each and the roofs are made of coconut leaves. There is a lone, tiny convenience store in the village, which sells a few staple goods and packets of candy that are popular with the children.
“There is a general lack of education in the area,” Father John said back at St. Mary’s. “There is a lot of unemployment and most people are small farmers who work only here and there throughout the year. That is why we try to introduce programs such as basket weaving or making other handicrafts.”
For more from this story see, Village Priests.
Tags: India Kerala Village life