31 October 2017
Sisters Irene, Catherine and Veronica, members of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, are pictured at their residence at La Paix Hospital in Istanbul. (photo: CNS/Oscar Durand)
At 10 a.m., the Rev. Dominic Ko walked to the altar to begin Mass in Korean, his native tongue.
“Amen,” replied the 30 people in attendance, all of them also Korean.
The Church of St. Mary Draperis is in the heart of Istanbul, where the Franciscan Father Dominic landed 10 years ago to tend to the country’s Korean community. He is the only Korean priest in Turkey but, as a religious from a foreign country, he is not alone. He is one of the 125 Latin-rite Catholic religious from more than 20 nations. It is a tiny yet very diverse community for a country with very few Latin Catholics. Accurate numbers are not available, although the Istanbul Vicariate estimates they number about 5,000; Eastern Catholics number about 20,000.
“This place is very important in Christianity, a Christian treasure; therefore, we have to maintain this place,” said Father Dominic, who comes to Istanbul every week to celebrate Mass. He lives south of Istanbul, near the ancient city of Ephesus.
Turkey is a storied area in the history of Christianity. Early church communities began here and later expanded to the rest of the world. St. Paul traversed the region during his missionary journeys.
Much has changed since then. Today, the majority of Turkey’s 80 million inhabitants are Muslim. The number of Christians is estimated at about 100,000.
“Because there are Catholics present, we (the religious orders) are present,” said Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, apostolic vicar of Istanbul. Bishop Tierrablanca, who is originally from Mexico, is a Franciscan friar; his order has been in Turkey since the 13th century.
Bishop Tierrablanca said some of the Latin Catholic religious orders currently active in Turkey put down roots many years ago. Today, despite the modest number of Catholics, they continue their mission.
Less than three miles from the church of St. Mary Draperis is the oldest psychiatric hospital in Turkey, Hospital La Paix (Peace Hospital), owned by the French Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent of Paul.
During the Crimean War, France and the Ottoman Empire asked the Daughters of Charity to help treat wounded troops. The order responded by sending a contingent of 255 sisters. About 100 of them died during their service.
After the war ended in 1856, Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid wanted to thank the sisters for their contribution and offered them titles and medals of honor. The sisters refused and requested instead land to build a place where they could continue their charism of serving the poor. The sultan accepted and, two years later, Hospital La Paix opened its doors.
The Daughters of Charity no longer run the day-to-day operations, although they are still present at the hospital. The five sisters come from Italy, France, Greece, Slovenia and Vietnam.
“When I arrived here five years ago, I had never seen such a diversity to express the love of Christ,” said French Sister Catherine, head of the community of sisters at the hospital. Turkey is her first experience living in a country other than her own.
“It is important to show this diversity, which proves that we can live together, like brothers and sisters, doing well to each other,” she said.
Latin-rite Catholics in Turkey can attend Mass in English, Italian, French, Turkish, Korean, German and Spanish. Sometimes the Mass is only in one of these languages; sometimes it is a combination.
Back at St. Mary Draperis, as the Korean Mass ended and Father Dominic and the Korean community moved to another room to mingle, a new crowd took its place. Father Eleuthere Makuta of Congo arrived to celebrate Mass in English, French and Italian.
The Mass began and the choir, made up of Congolese, sang in French, accompanied by musicians on a keyboard and two drums.
Among the about 40 people attending Mass was Bing Giducos, who has been living in Turkey for nine years.
“It is beautiful, the joy of praying in my own language. It is as if I am one with God,” she said.
30 October 2017
In one Indian village, a volunteer explains how to stay healthy and battle encephalitis — one of the most serious health issues in Uttar Pradesh. (photo: CNEWA)
This morning, we received an email from M.L. Thomas, CNEWA’s regional director for India, describing efforts to combat encephalitis in the region — and how CNEWA is helping:
The Diocese of Gorakhpur took the initiative for major awareness and cleanliness activities essential to control an outbreak of encephalitis, implementing the project “JEEVAN,” through the financial support given by CNEWA. The support was very extensive — providing encouragement for the church’s volunteers in reaching out to the poor, especially when a large number of children succumb to the illness.
Encephalitis, or “killer brain fever,” is one of the most serious health issues of eastern Uttar Pradesh. It is categorized as Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). The villages in Gorakhpur district have a been the most affected. It is an epidemic — a silent witness to the innumerable deaths (mostly children under the age of 15, some of them infants). It destroys many with life-long mental or physical disabilities. Mosquitoes and contaminated water are the major known causes of the disease. Tragically, the season when the disease is most prevalent stretches too long, beginning with the advent of monsoons in July and lasting until December and winter every year.
As part of the project:
- The trained leaders share different themes associated with encephalitis — its symptoms, cause, prevention and cure in monthly meetings in 20 villages.
- They demonstrate the use of hand pump bleaching (purifying water through bleaching, helping to encourage cleanliness of of surroundings and the house).
- Leaders implement a community-level awareness campaign on safe drinking water, nutrition (intake of nutritious diet for decreased malnutrition in children) and sanitation.
- They organize street plays, puppet shows, and distributed pamphlets to raise the awareness of the disease.
- They host awareness sessions at schools, speaking about the importance of education, vaccination, hygiene and sanitation.
CNEWA is proud to be a part of this important initiative which — thanks to the generosity of our donors — is helping to save lives and foster hope among some of the most vulnerable people of India!
27 October 2017
Displaced Iraqi Christian girls play during a break at the summer school organized by the Syriac Catholic Church of Martha Shmouny in Ain Kawa, a suburb of Erbil in Kurdish Iraq. Read more about the status of Christians of the Nineveh Plain in Hard Choices, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
26 October 2017
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi
Palestinian Christians Najwa and George Saadeh pray in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Following the death of her daughter at the hands of soldiers, Najwa says she has drawn strength from her faith to pursue reconciliation. For more on families who have suffered tragedies working diligently to create a better world, read Love as a Healing Balm, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nadim Asfour)
25 October 2017
Tags: Palestine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Bethlehem
Sister Davida Twal has made a big difference at the Rosary Sisters Elementary School in Bethlehem. Here, schoolchildren greet her and Mrs. Alexandra Bukowska-Mccabe, Representative of Poland to the Palestinian Authority, during a recent visit. (photo: CNEWA)
When Sister Davida Twal was entrusted with the responsibility of running the Rosary Sisters Elementary School in Bethlehem — a few steps from the “King David Wells” mentioned in the Bible (2 Sam 23:15) — little did she know that her leadership skills and long experience in school administration in Jerusalem and later in Gaza would be crucial to help turn the school into a wonderful safe haven for the children of Bethlehem.
When she arrived, in 2014, the kindergarten had around 16 children; the whole school, which goes up to 7th grade, had a total of 294 students.
Today, thanks to Sister Davida — and in close cooperation with CNEWA and a few other partner donors — the school has around 67 children in kindergarten, and a total of 415 students. The school is at full capacity and has had to turn away students. But thanks to a generous grant through CNEWA (Shaheen Endowment), the school will be able to expand, adding three more classrooms to enable more children to enroll.
24 October 2017
Seniors play chess and backgammon in a Yerevan, Armenia park. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
ONE magazine has been chronicling the struggles of Armenia’s elderly for many years. In 2008, for example, we took a look at Pensioners in Crisis:
Most senior citizens depend on pensions to survive. And though the average pension has increased by $10 over the last five years, the cost of living has risen, mitigating the effectiveness of any increase. Today a typical pension pays a third of what is considered necessary for the average person to maintain the minimum standard of living in Armenia.
“The problem with raising pensions is quite difficult,” said Anahit Gevorgian, who heads the Elderly Issues Division in the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues. “Paying higher pensions is impossible in a country with widespread unemployment.
“Today there is just 0.9 worker for every pensioner, when there should be at least two workers to pay for one person’s pension.” About 11 percent of Armenia’s citizens are 65 or older.
In addition to the high unemployment rate, many Armenians work in the country’s substantial but informal economy. These “black market” jobs undermine the national pension system since neither the employee nor the employer pays taxes on salaries. Tax evasion of this kind plagues Armenia’s economy; the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund recently urged Yerevan to address the problem swiftly, which poses a principal hurdle to the country’s economic health.
Though pensions continue to fall short, the government is taking measures to make primary medical care freely available to pensioners in need; but those requiring specialized care must register in the hospital system. Generally, patients in Armenia pay for at least a portion of their medical costs. Under a special state-issued order, however, hospitals are required to waive their fees for pensioners, including those associated with specialized examinations and procedures.
Unfortunately, the order, signed into effect by the health minister, has had little success in compelling profit-driven hospitals to waive fees for pensioners.
“Each time we take an elderly person to the hospital using the state-issued order, they simply refuse the patient. In cases where we manage to have them admitted, we are forced to pay for everything,” said Karine Hayrapetian, a social worker with Mission Armenia, a social service agency serving the needs of elderly Armenians.
All too aware of these and other gaps in the health care system, Ms. Gevorgian says the breadth of the problem reaches farther than anything the Elderly Issues Division can tackle alone. A solution demands an overhaul of the entire national health care system.
For generations, Armenia’s seniors lived out their golden years in the company and loving care of their children. Their plight today comes as an alarming wake-up call to many in a society deeply rooted in traditional family values. A crisis that cannot be chalked up to inadequate pensions alone, it reveals a fundamental change of the family’s role in contemporary Armenian society.
23 October 2017
Sisters at St. Mary Monastery in Bediani, Georgia tend the community’s vineyards. Learn more about Georgian women choosing Alternative Lifestyles of prayer and service in the September 2007 edition of ONE. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
20 October 2017
Children socialize outside St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ader, Jordan. Read more about this ancient community of Bedouin Christians, and how they work to adapt to a changing world in Jordan’s Christian Shepherds, from the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
19 October 2017
Tags: Children Jordan Cultural Identity Village life Bedouin
U.S. Franciscan Rev. Michael Perry, minister general of the order, center, leads the ceremony for the opening of the celebrations of the anniversary of 800 years of Franciscan presence in the Holy Land on 16 October at the Church of St. Saviour in Jerusalem's Old City. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Franciscans serving in the Holy Land have had an impact on Christian pilgrims, said Franciscan Rev. Michael Perry, minister general of the order.
“The Franciscans’ care for pilgrims, their attention to detail, their efforts to demonstrate the love of God, the mercy of God through different religious services and ... how they welcome people in hospitality houses, these become elements that people themselves, Christians and others, take back to (their) countries,” said Father Perry.
Father Perry spoke to Catholic News Service in Jerusalem during official celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the presence of the Franciscans in the Holy Land. The celebration included three days of prayer, reflections, music and conference meetings, which discussed the history and archaeology of the Franciscans in the Holy Land. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, was among those who attended.
The service of the Franciscans “should be a call to go beyond division, a call to recognize each other truly as brothers and sisters belonging to the one same family, whether you call it family of God or the one human family,” Father Perry told CNS following the celebrations’ opening ceremony on 16 October. “I think their service is absolutely essential; that is why in the 14th century, the Holy Father at the time asked the Franciscans to dedicate energy and personnel to care for the holy sites.”
In his missionary service, Father Perry said, he has seen pilgrims from many countries talk of the gratitude they felt for the way the Franciscans welcomed them and guided them, offering them an opportunity to meet Jesus, to meet the living God, giving real witness to their Christian faith.
He said he witnessed one of the strongest examples of the Franciscan dedication both to the local Christians and to the holy sites in Syria, which he visited in April. There, two Franciscan friars remained with 300 Christian families in two villages under the rule of the Islamic State group in order to “guarantee Christ’s presence ... and the presence of Eucharist and a presence of church” for the families, he said.
He added that although these friars were not able to cross over into Aleppo to see him, he did see how other Franciscans there were active in organizing the laity to help themselves.
“The Franciscans really serve as a cornerstone for coordinating and implementation and getting the funding in ... and also empowering laity to become partners in caring for their own people in Syria, so the laity in Syria, the young people in particular, were involved in this dire service to their own people, and not just to Christians, but to Muslims as well. This was an amazing witness to me,” he said.
Reflecting on the significance of the 800th anniversary, Father Perry said two words came to mind: “inter gentes,” Latin for “among the people.”
“This going among the people, becoming a brother to other people: I think the significance of this event is not simply to look back at 800 years of ‘oh what a wonderful job we have done,’ although in many ways I think the brothers have given up a tremendous witness of faith, hope and love, but I also think the significance of this event is to propel us toward the future,” said Father Perry. “This new perspective ... means we have to be open and sensitive to where other people are, because we recognize God’s presence, the Spirit’s presence, already there. We are not there to convert people, we’re there to recognize with them what God is doing.”
The 800th year anniversary is one of celebrating the work that God continues to do in the Holy Land, he said.
“All of us have to reach out, not only to all human beings, but ‘Laudato Si,’ to reach out to all of creation to safeguard the future of our planet for all of humanity,” Father Perry said, using the title of Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical. “This is what the holy sites tell me, this is what the place of the burial of Jesus tells me, the cross and the event of the resurrection. I think this is what it tells us as Franciscans. He calls us forward.”
18 October 2017
People displaced by fighting eat lunch inside a heated tent at a train station during evacuations in 2015 in the Ukrainian city of Slaviansk. The Catholic bishop responsible for eastern Ukraine has backed calls for the deployment of international peacekeepers and praised “pressure from below” to end the four-year war. (photo: CNS/Anastasia Vlasova, EPA)
The Catholic bishop responsible for eastern Ukraine has backed calls for the deployment of international peacekeepers and praised “pressure from below” to end the nearly four-year war.
With the Ukrainian government ready to establish conditions for a peacekeeping force, “there are now good signs this could happen,” said Bishop Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, whose diocese includes rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Although some politicians still hope to use this conflict for their own power interests, pressure for reconciliation is spreading up from below among the people who’ve had enough of it. This is a positive change, and it brings a real chance of peace,” he told Catholic News Service 18 October.
Peacekeeping proposals were being debated by European Union and U.N. officials in mid-October to end the conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russia-back separatists.
Bishop Szyrokoradiuk said he has been in continual contact with people on both sides who believe pressure from the U.S. and Western governments would induce Russian President Vladimir Putin to “talk and reach agreements.”
“Those whose decisions led to this war, and who saw it as a way of making dirty money, will naturally stand by policies they’ve staked their reputations on,” Bishop Szyrokoradiuk said. “But people at large are demanding their leaders do something to end this terrible bloodshed. Peace will come sooner or later, from below if not from above.”
Ukrainian church leaders have accused Western governments of ignoring continued suffering in their country, where war has left more than 10,000 dead.
Ukraine’s armed forces have been substantially rebuilt with $857 million in “non-lethal” Western military aid. Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, chief of the military’s general staff, predicted in mid-October he could recapture Donetsk and Luhansk from the separatists with defensive weaponry requested from the U.S., but only at a heavy cost in lives.
Bishop Szyrokoradiuk said his church’s Caritas-Spes charity was helping needy Ukrainians on both sides of the conflict.
However, he added, more than 100,000 displaced people, a fifth of them children, were living in industrial containers, abandoned barracks and railway sheds in Kharkiv alone as winter approached. Effective humanitarian aid would be essential to any peace process, he said.
“Ukraine cannot stand alone. It needs support, and we’re grateful to people of goodwill in Europe and the U.S. who are engaging and showing solidarity with us,” the bishop said.
“The feeling we’re not abandoned has been very important for unifying Ukraine during this war. Although opinion was once divided between pro-Russian and pro-Western groups, no one now doubts our salvation lies in moving closer to the European Union,” he said.