13 February 2018
Msgr. Peter Azar reads as Chorbishop Dominic F. Ashkar, pastor of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church in Washington, prepares ashes during Mass on 12 February. In the Maronite Catholic Church, ashes are distributed on Monday, two days ahead of the Latin rite’s traditional Ash Wednesday distribution. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
At the Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi in Bayada, north of Beirut, faithful gathered for Ash Monday Mass in the chapel on 12 February.
In the Maronite Catholic Church, ashes are distributed on Monday, two days ahead of the Latin rite’s traditional Ash Wednesday distribution. This allows Catholics to observe 40 days of Lent, but also celebrate two church feasts for which fasting is not required: the feast of St. Joseph and the feast of the Annunciation.
“To change our character, it is difficult, but we ask God for the grace to be able to fast,” Melkite Father Nidal Abourjaily said in his homily before distributing ashes.
“Fasting will help us to grow closer to God as we unite our sufferings with him, and this is the most important thing,” said Father Nidal, a Franciscan Capuchin and superior of the monastery.
Typically, in Lebanon, Catholics follow the recommendations of their respective rites regarding their fast for Lent. The Maronite Church, for example, asks for fasting daily from midnight until 12 noon, and abstinence from meat and dairy products for those in good health. Sundays are not considered days of fast or abstinence.
“All fast, in some way,” Father Nidal told Catholic News Service of the faithful — a blending from Catholic rites, including Maronite and Melkite as well as some Roman Catholic — who attend St. Francis.
Berthe Obeid, a Melkite Catholic, told CNS she fasts until noon and sometimes until 3 p.m.
“I like chocolate and nuts, so I try to stop eating those as well,” said Obeid.
“It’s not so difficult when I know I am doing this for the Lord. I want to do something to please him, to be near him, so he gives me more strength to do it. Lent is a time to draw closer to God, to leave the things that can pull us away from him,” she explained.
“Looking back over the years, I can see now how I’m growing in my faith because of Lent,” Obeid added.
During Lent, Myrna Chaker, a Maronite Catholic, will be fasting each day until noon and will abstain from dairy and meat.
“I also try as much as possible to give up the things I really like,”
Chaker said, noting that she likes crispy foods such as crackers and toasted bread. “And definitely sweets. I love chocolate.”
“When I give up material things, it helps me more in the spiritual life. I should forget myself during Lent and focus on how to help people and how to show more and more love. I want to offer up this Lent more for the people around me,” Chaker explained.
Aside from fasting, Chaker said she tries to devote more time to prayer and to attend Mass every day as well as eucharistic adoration.
“I ask God to use me as an instrument,” she noted, adding that social media offers an opportunity to share Scriptures, prayers and inspirational tidbits to encourage others in their Lenten journey.
Joseph Haddad, a Melkite Catholic, is a self-described cheese addict, but said he will not eat meat or dairy products during Lent.
“Lent is the time to work on the will. It’s the least I can do for the Lord,” said Haddad. “I need to step forward to the kingdom of God.”
“Actually, I was waiting for Lent. For Christians who don’t experience Lent, they don’t know what they’re missing,” Haddad said. “You might not see any difference during Lent but, afterward, surely there’s a blessing, even if it’s a few months later. And you see yourself maturing more with God.”
Haddad said he would intensify his fast during Holy Week. For three days, beginning on Holy Thursday until noon on Holy Saturday, Haddad fasts completely, taking only occasional sips of water.
Especially during Holy Week, Father Nidal senses that the faithful “really suffer with Christ and participate in his sufferings.”
“You can sometimes see people crying” in church, he said. “They know that Jesus saved us by giving himself on the cross. Knowing that, they in turn participate strongly.”
While some faithful have different ways of fasting during Lent, Father Nidal noted, “the most important thing is to arrive to a spiritual resurrection with Christ.”
12 February 2018
Pope Francis meets at the Vatican on 12 February with Italian young people, adults and migrants rescued from human traffickers. The pope responded to the questions five of the young people asked about preventing trafficking and assisting survivors. “Human trafficking,” the Holy Father said, “is a crime against humanity.” Read more here. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
9 February 2018
Girls from San Joe Puram Children’s Village in northern India practice basketball. The complex of schools and facilities is proving to be A Place of Promise and Providence for kids with a variety of physical challenges. Read about it in the Winter 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
8 February 2018
These are some of the students who attend classes at the St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Pallanad, India — a place that is Breaking the Cycle of family life scarred by alcoholism and abuse. Read more about the remarkable work the school is doing in the March 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Don Duncan)
7 February 2018
Children attend a summer camp at a Catholic church in Ader, Jordan. Learn more about how Jordan’s Christian Shepherds are leading the flock in that corner of the world in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
6 February 2018
Tags: Middle East Christians Jordan Holy Land Christians
Workers repair a Syriac Christian church in southern Turkey. After years in exile, more Christians are returning to their homeland. To learn more, read Coming Home in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Don Duncan)
5 February 2018
Pope Francis talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a private meeting on 5 February at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Alessandro Di Meo via Reuters)
Pope Francis welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Vatican on 5 February for a private discussion that included the status of Jerusalem and the need to achieve peace in the Middle East through dialogue and respect for human rights.
During a 50-minute meeting, the two leaders discussed the current situation in Turkey, “the condition of the Catholic community, efforts in the reception of the many refugees and the challenges linked to this,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Aided by interpreters, Pope Francis and Erdogan also focused on “the situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to the status of Jerusalem, highlighting the need to promote peace and stability in the region through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and international law.”
The same topics were brought up during Erdogan’s separate meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister.
Erdogan arrived in Rome amid heavy security measures for a two-day visit that was to include meetings with Italian authorities and business leaders. More than 3,000 police officers had been deployed for the visit, according to Agence France-Presse, and demonstrations had been banned in Rome’s center for 24 hours.
Exchanging gifts, Erdogan gave Pope Francis a boxed collection of works by Jalal al Din Muhammad Rumi, the 13th-century Muslim mystic, philosopher and poet.
“Ah, matters of the mystics,” the pope replied, according to a pool report.
The Turkish president also gave the pope a large panoramic image of the city of Istanbul hand-painted on ceramic tiles.
Pope Francis then gave Erdogan a large bronze medallion of an “angel of peace,” who, the pope said, “strangles the demon of war.”
“This is a symbol of a world founded on peace and justice,” the pope continued.
The pope also gave the president a copy of his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’“ on the care of creation, his 2018 message for the World Day of Peace and an engraving of what St. Peter’s Basilica and the square looked like in the 17th century.
Speaking to reporters at Istanbul’s airport prior to his departure for Rome, Erdogan said his visit to the Vatican to see the pope — the first by a Turkish president in 59 years — was “a significant opportunity to draw attention to common human values.”
He said he planned to discuss the status of Jerusalem, the situation in Palestine, Syria and Iraq, as well as “counterterrorism, refugee issues and humanitarian aid,” according to Anadolu Agency, the state-run news service. The rise of Islamophobia in the West and “cultural racism” were also topics he planned to bring up, the agency reported.
Erdogan had telephoned the pope in December to discuss his concern over the status of Jerusalem after U.S. President Donald Trump announced on 6 December that he was formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Pope Francis has repeatedly upheld Vatican calls for a special, internationally guaranteed statute on the status of Jerusalem as the only way to preserve its unique identity as a place considered holy by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
The pope has publicly appealed for respect for the “status quo” of Jerusalem and prayed that “wisdom and prudence would prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts.”
2 February 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Jerusalem Turkey
Children practice their penmanship at the Our Lady of Armenia center in Tashir, Armenia. Read about the efforts to help Armenia’s Children, Left Behind in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
1 February 2018
The Didos family of Lviv — displaced after shelling destroyed their neighborhood in the Donetsk region of Ukraine — share a moment of happiness on a cold Sunday on their way home from church. Read about the plight of The Displaced from Ukraine in the March 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
31 January 2018
Sister Simone Abdel Malek, who leads the Daughters of Charity in Alexandria, Egypt, takes a call while meeting with patients at her order’s dispensary. Learn more about the extraordinary work of these religious sisters in Charity’s Daughters in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)