12 April 2017
Father Michael Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, walks past the rubble of a bombarded building in Aleppo, Syria, during an early April visit to Franciscan friars there.
(photo: CNS/courtesy of the Franciscan Generalate)
Fifteen Franciscan friars continue to live and work in Syria; two of the friars minister in towns controlled by Islamic State forces.
The Rev. Michael Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, visited most of the friars the first week of April, but he could not enter areas controlled by Islamic State or by forces opposed to the government of President Bashar Assad.
He drove to Homs on 7 April, just hours after U.S. bombers attacked the nearby Shayrat air base in retaliation for the Syrian government's suspected use of chemical weapons.
“We didn’t see anything, but we certainly sensed the tension,” he told Catholic News Service in Rome on 12 April.
In Damascus, he said, he and the other friars could hear bombing “every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day” from one of the neighborhoods controlled by opposition forces. “This was constant, a constant reminder that nothing is settled; everything is still up in the air and people feel a great deal of insecurity.”
The people just want it to stop, he said.
“We have two Franciscans who are caught (in territories) under ISIS control,” he said. “They are living in two villages, 25 and 40 kilometers from Aleppo. They have been able to negotiate space and pay what is necessary” in order to stay and help the estimated 300 families remaining. The families are made up mostly of the elderly, children and “those who are too poor or too weak to find another place to go.”
“The friars are staying with them and showing their solidarity and suffering the same conditions as the people,” Father Perry said. To be able to stay, they had to remove all crosses, pictures of saints and other visible signs that they are Christians.
“It’s a miracle they’ve been able to negotiate the space, but it's a testimony to the perseverance and endurance of the Syrian people,” he said. Both friars are Syrians.
Father Perry began his weeklong trip in Beirut with Franciscans helping those who have fled Syria. The rest of his trip took place by car, including long detours to avoid areas controlled by Islamic State or by opposition forces.
“All along the south and eastern side to the eastern entry into Aleppo, I did not see one town that was alive,” he said. “They had all been bombed out, abandoned.”
“The closer we got to Aleppo, we saw a few people who were beginning to farm again, but we just didn’t see any signs of life, human life,” Father Perry said. “By contrast, the fields were in full bloom with poppies and different colored flowers. So it was this stark contrast of the death of humanity and nature almost saying, ‘It’s not over. Stop. It’s going to come back. There’s still hope. There’s a future even if it doesn’t look like there’s one now.’”
At a Catholic parish in Aleppo, Father Perry brought a weighty contribution to the hope professed by parishioners, the women religious, the friars and Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, apostolic vicar for the city’s Latin-rite Catholics.
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, had given Father Perry three of the bricks used to close up the basilica’s Holy Door between jubilee years. Father Perry took one to South Sudan, one to Malaysia and the last he brought to Aleppo "as an invitation to dialogue, reconciliation and rebuilding.”
“I’ve been in war zones for the (U.S.) bishops, I’ve been in war zones for Franciscans International, but I’ve never witnessed anything on the scale of Syria. Ever,” Father Perry said.
11 April 2017
Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, poses with a villager on 2 April in Batnaya, Iraq. Msgr. Kozar was on a pastoral visit to Iraq. Read more about his visit and his impressions of Iraq here.
10 April 2017
Mourners attend the 10 April funeral for victims of a bomb attack the previous day at the Orthodox Church of St. George in Tanta, Egypt. Also 9 April, an explosion went off outside the Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria where Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was presiding over the Palm Sunday service. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Hossam, EPA)
7 April 2017
An altar server carries incense through new Coptic Catholic parish community center still under construction in Izbet al Nakhl, in northern Cairo. To learn more about the lives and challenges facing Copts in Egypt’s capital, read Anxiety in Cairo in the newly published March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: David Degner)
6 April 2017
Tags: Egypt Coptic Catholic Church Coptic Urbanization
Students attend classes taught by the Daughters of Mary at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Pallanad, India. The church is working to help children victimized by alcoholism and abuse in their families. Read more about efforts at Breaking the Cycle in the current edition of ONE.
(photo: Don Duncan)
5 April 2017
New construction accommodates the growing parish in Izbet al Nakhl, Egypt. Read about why some Christians are experiencing Anxiety in Cairo in the March 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: David Degner)
4 April 2017
Youth pray at Holy Savior Cathedral in Adigrat, Ethiopia. The bishop of the Eparchy, Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin, shares some personal reflections on life in his country in A Letter from Ethiopia in the March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
3 April 2017
Syrian refugees Ramy and Suhila and their children, Khodus, Rashid and Abdul Mejid, relax in Rome in 2016 after Pope Francis brought them with him from a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. The original three families that came with Pope Francis have moved to housing outside the Vatican, and three new Syrian refugee families have taken their place. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The first three refugee families from Syria welcomed by the Vatican left their temporary homes to start their new lives in Italy, and three new families took their places in Vatican apartments.
The papal Almoner’s Office, which helps coordinate Pope Francis’ acts of charity, announced on 2 April that two Christian families and one Muslim family moved the apartments that housed the first refugee families welcomed by the Vatican in late 2015 and early 2016.
The two Christian families, the papal almoner’s office said, arrived in March after “suffering kidnapping and discrimination” because of their faith.
“The first family is composed of a mother with two adolescent children, a grandmother, an aunt and another Syrian woman who lives with them,” the office said.
The second family is a young couple, who had their first child — a daughter named Stella — shortly after moving into the Vatican apartment, the Almoner’s Office said.
“The mother had been kidnapped for several months by ISIS and now, in Italy, has regained serenity.”
The third family — a mother, father and two children — arrived in Italy in February 2016, the office said. The children have been attending elementary school in Italy while the mother has been attending graduate courses and currently has an internship.
The Vatican welcomed the refugee families after an appeal made by Pope Francis on 6 September 2015, in which he called on every parish, religious community, monastery and shrine in Europe to take in a family of refugees, given the ongoing crisis of people fleeing from war and poverty.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, said that aside from providing a home for the three families, the office also continues to provide financial support to the three Syrian families whom Pope Francis brought to Italy after his visit last year to the Greek island of Lesbos and for the nine additional refugees who arrived later.
31 March 2017
Sister Anahid, a Dominican sister of St. Catherine of Siena, administers a primary school in Dohuk. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
The new edition of ONE features a web exclusive: a story by photojournalist Paul Jeffrey describing the efforts to keep hope alive among Iraq’s displaced Christians:
Ahlam Ibrahim, a displaced Chaldean Catholic, fled from Tesqopa in 2014. Although ISIS was driven from her home late last year, she continues to rent a small apartment in Sharafiya.
“If the mobile clinic didn’t come here, we wouldn’t have medicines, because none of us can afford to buy them from a pharmacy,” Ms. Ibrahim says. “We are far from the fields where we can earn our living, and most of what we have goes into paying the rent every month.
“There’s little for us here, but we’re not ready to go back yet, either. I can rebuild my house, but I can’t do it without some sense of security that ISIS won’t return.”
The mobile clinic, a lifeline to many, is one of many initiatives of the Christian Aid Program Nohadra-Iraq (CAPNI), an organization based in Dohuk. Since 2014, CAPNI — which CNEWA helps suppport with funds — has focused on responding to the humanitarian crisis generated by ISIS.
The Rev. Emanuel Youkhana is an archimandrite of the Church of the East and the executive director of CAPNI. He previously served congregations in the Dohuk area destroyed by the government of President Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s — including many displaced members. When Kurds of the region rose against the government in 1991, Abuna Emanuel became a spokesperson for the local Christian population, helping journalists and church leaders from abroad to understand the plight of religious minorities. As a result, President Hussein blacklisted him, and in 1994 a grenade was thrown into his family’s home. No one was injured, but Abuna Emanuel responded by moving his family to Germany.
For most of the year, however, he remains in Iraq.
“God wants me here,” he says. “I am a priest, so I must be present in order to be a voice for the voiceless, and a bridge between the persecuted church here and the sister church in Europe and beyond.”
Read the whole story and see more pictures here.
30 March 2017
An Ethiopian Orthodox worshiper with traditional nikisat tattoos visits St. George Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral in Bahir Dar. Learn more about Ethiopia’s sacramental Christian communities in Ethiopia’s Sleeping Giant, featured in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: James Jeffrey)
Tags: Ethiopia Cultural Identity Ethiopian Orthodox Church Ethiopian Christianity