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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
5 September 2018
Greg Kandra




In this file photo, Pope Francis greets Enzio Bianchi, founder of the Bose monastic community. The pope sent greetings to him and other participants in the Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality taking place this week at Bose in Italy. (photo: Vatican Media)

Pope Francis has sent a warm message to those taking part in the International Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality, promoted jointly by the Community of Bose and the Orthodox Churches. The theme of this year’s conference is “Discernment and the Christian Life.”

From Vatican News:

The message came in a telegram sent on the Pope’s behalf by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, and addressed to Enzo Bianchi, the founder of the Bose community.

Cardinal Parolin wrote that Pope Francis encourages those taking part in the conference to reflect on “the authentic discernment presented by St Paul as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” This discernment, he says, requires a person to “train oneself in the patience of God and of His times, which are not our own.”

The telegram also expressed Pope Francis’ hopes “that the days of fraternal engagement might be able to advance the search for the criteria of the necessary personal and communitarian discernment to reach the knowledge and the will of God, in which resides all the fullness of life.”

The International Ecumenical Conference is taking place at the Monastery of Bose in Italy, from 5-8 September.



Tags: Pope Francis Orthodox

4 September 2018
Catholic News Service




An overhead view taken with a drone in early June shows the clock tower of the rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria. Pope Francis appealed for peace and dialogue as the Syrian government and its allies prepare to launch strikes against the Idlib province. (photo: CNS /Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)

Pope Francis appealed for peace and dialogue as the Syrian government and its allies prepare to launch strikes against the last major rebel stronghold in Idlib province in the country’s northwest.

Speaking to hundreds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address on 2 September, the pope warned that “the winds of war continue to blow” in the already war-weary country.

An attack against the Syrian province’s nearly 3 million people, he said, would cause “a humanitarian catastrophe.”

“I renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community and to all the actors involved to make use of the instruments of diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations, in compliance with international humanitarian law and to safeguard the lives of civilians,” the pope said.

Several world leaders had expressed concern over the looming attack and the possible use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces.

Syrian army warplanes allegedly flew over and bombed the eastern town of Douma, 15 miles north of Damascus, in a suspected chemical-weapon attack 7 April. Despite the accounts of witnesses, the Syrian government denied involvement in the attack.

The pope’s appeal echoed the sentiments of the United Nations and the United States, who have expressed similar concerns and fears that Syria, led by President Bashir al-Assad, would use chemical weapons against innocent civilians.

Antonio Guterres, U.N. secretary-general, urged Syria and its allies, which include Russia, Turkey and Iran, “to exercise restraint and to prioritize the protection of civilians.”

“The secretary-general is deeply concerned about the growing risks of a humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full-scale military operation in Idlib province in Syria. The secretary-general once again reaffirms that any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable,” a U.N. statement said on 29 August.

On the same day Pope Francis made his appeal, U.S. President Donald Trump warned President al-Assad to “not recklessly attack Idlib province” and said Syria and its allies would be “making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!” President Trump tweeted.



Tags: Syria Pope Francis

4 September 2018
Greg Kandra




As Kerala recovers from last month's historic flooding, residents are now battling another hazard: rat fever. (photo: CNEWA)

Kerala battles rat fever in wake of flooding (BBC) The flood-hit south Indian state of Kerala has declared a health alert after dozens of people died of leptospirosis or rat fever in the last two days. The government has asked everyone who came into contact with flood waters to take medication as a precautionary measure to avoid an epidemic. Health officials in the state said there was no immediate cause for alarm and the situation was under control…

Greek Orthodox priests will be allowed to remarry (Greek Reporter) The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to allow a second marriage for Greek Orthodox priests in the event that they are widowed or abandoned by their wife, religious news website Romfea.gr says…

Final offensive in Syria may come at a horrific cost (The New York Times) On land, Syria’s government is mustering thousands of conscripts to bolster its depleted forces. At sea, a Russian naval flotilla is just offshore, ready to intervene with formidable firepower. In Idlib Province, millions of civilians are dreading what comes next. The warring sides in Syria’s long and merciless civil war are preparing for another brutal offensive, and this one may be the last. Where Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies see a chance to crush the remaining opposition, Western leaders warn of a humanitarian calamity in Idlib, where an estimated three million civilians live…

Indian leader assures help for Christians (The Times of India) Union home minister Rajnath Singh assured all help and assistance to Christians during a meeting with secretary general of the Catholic Conference of India, the CBCI stated…

Jerusalem prepares for Rosh Hashanah (The Jerusalem Post) A photographic journey through the city as it gears up for 5779…



Tags: India Kerala Orthodox Rosh Hashana

31 August 2018
Joseph Hazboun




CNEWA's regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, left, exchanges gifts with Anba Antonius, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA)

When I first visited the small but beautiful chapel of the Coptic Sisters’ convent in the Old City of Jerusalem, I was shocked at the amount of mold and mildew that covered the ceiling and walls, leaving a pungent odor in the air. The sisters told me that they covered the ceiling with plastic sheeting to prevent old plaster from falling onto the floor when they received guests and held liturgies in the chapel.

CNEWA provided a small grant to improve the conditions inside the convent. Rehabilitation work involved removing the old plaster of the ceiling and walls, which not only solved the humidity problem but revealed the original stone walls of the chapel that had been covered over for decades. The grant also renovated three small rooms of the convent to ensure the health and safety of the sisters.

This photo was taken during a recent joint visit of the CNEWA team with His Excellency, Anba Antonius, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem.

His Excellency offered the Jerusalem Office a beautiful icon of the Holy Family on their trip to Egypt, which was hand-painted by his brother, and an icon of Mark the Evangelist, who brought Christianity into Egypt. Similar paintings can also be found in the sisters’ chapel, which was renovated under the grant.



Tags: Jerusalem Coptic Orthodox Church

30 August 2018
Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service




Syrian refugee youth in Lebanon participate in a Caritas Lebanon education program. Christian and Muslim religious leaders appealed this week to the international community to work toward peace in the region to ensure the dignified return of refugees to their homes. (photo: CNS/courtesy Caritas Lebanon)

Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim religious leaders, meeting with the president of Switzerland, appealed to the international community to work toward peace in the region and to ensure the “dignified” return of refugees to their homelands.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, hosted Swiss President Alain Berset at Diman, the patriarchal summer residence in northern Lebanon on 28 August.

“This presence of high Muslim and Christian dignitaries clearly reflects the uniqueness of Lebanon as a country of convergence and interfaith dialogue,” Cardinal Rai said in welcoming Berset.

“In these difficult times, the countries of the Middle East are well aware of the fact that such cooperation and coexistence between Christians and Muslims is a beacon of hope for the peoples of this tormented region,” the cardinal said.

Those attending included Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi; Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X -- all of whom were born in Syria -- Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia for the Armenian Orthodox Church; Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, papal nuncio to Lebanon; Mohammad Sammak, secretary general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue; Muslim and Druze representatives, as well as Swiss diplomats.

“We appeal to the international community to shoulder its responsibility and strive to put an end to the ongoing conflicts and wars and to ensure the dignified return of the Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians, Iraqis and others to their country,” Cardinal Rai told the Swiss president.

Lebanon, a country of about 4 million, is host to more than 1 million refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria. In addition, thousands of Iraqi Christians who were uprooted from their homes in Iraq’s Ninevah Plain by the Islamic State organization, and 500,000 Palestinian refugees who fled the 1948 Arab-Israeli war also are in Lebanon.

“This right of return must be a priority,” Cardinal Rai continued, regarding the refugee presence in Lebanon.

“It is their right as citizens to preserve their culture and civilization and to continue to write their history. Therefore, the question of their return should not be linked to political solutions that may take years and years,” particularly as they relate to the interests of various regional and international powers, the Lebanese cardinal continued.

For his part, Berset said, “My visit to Lebanon is a sign of support for this country at a time when the Middle East is witnessing a hostile, weakened” situation.

“Spiritual leaders have a great responsibility toward each other to denote the path of dialogue, exchange and peace. We know very well how rugged this road is and the difficulties it faces,” Berset continued.

“Lebanon is a world center for civilizations and for dialogue between religions and people,” Berset affirmed to the religious leaders.

“This visit also aims to remind Lebanon that it is not alone concerned with the refugees and the displaced,” Berset told the gathering. He noted that the previous day he had met with Lebanon’s president, the house speaker and other officials “only to confirm our concern about helping Lebanon.”



Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees

28 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Sister María Niña plays soccer with the girls in the backyard of her community’s house in Dekhela, Egypt, where many of the girls live. Read more about how a congregation of religious sisters is Building a Brighter Future for these girls in the November 2004 edition of ONE. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)



Tags: Egypt

27 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Religious sisters from various congregations prepare items for meals at a relief camp in Trichur, Kerala. (photo: Rev. Jolly Vadakken/Global Sisters Report)

As Kerala struggles to recover from catastrophic flooding, sisters are pitching in with the relief effort.

From Global Sisters Report:

More than 6,700 Catholic nuns are among those helping over a million people taking shelter in relief camps after unprecedented floods ravaged Kerala, a southwestern Indian state.

“This is the biggest rescue and relief operation the Catholic Church in Kerala has undertaken in its history,” says the Rev. George Vettikattil, who heads the church’s relief operations in the state.

The church deployed its personnel and opened its institutions across Kerala to help people after rains and massive floods devastated 13 of Kerala’s 14 districts from 15 August through 20 August. The rain has stopped in many places and water is now receding.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on 24 August told the media that the rains and floods have claimed 417 lives. At least 36 people are still missing.

The floods initially displaced nearly 1.3 million people. About 869,000 people were still sheltered in 2,787 relief centers in the state, Vijayan said.

The initial estimated loss was around 200 billion rupees ($2.85 billion).

Catholic aid agencies such as Caritas India are now working among the flood victims. Caritas India has already spent about 6.1 million rupees ($87,140) distributing food, medicine and sanitation items. Its director Fr. Paul Moonjely says the agency plans to raise another 10 million rupees.

Vettikattil says all 32 Catholic dioceses in Kerala have joined relief works. As many as 69,821 young people and 99,705 lay volunteers joined 6,737 nuns, 2,891 priests and 354 seminarians to rescue stranded people with the help of government agencies and individually, the priest told Global Sisters Report.

Read more.

And to learn how CNEWA is supporting this effort — and how you can pitch in yourself — visit this link.



Tags: India Sisters Kerala

27 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Indian Christians marked the 10th Anniversary of the atrocities in Kandhamal with a Mass in Bhubaneswar on 25 August 2018. (photo: Vatican News)

India’s Christians mark somber anniversary (Vatican News) Ten years on, India’s Christians recalled the terrible massacre of their brothers and sisters in faith in eastern India’s Odisha state, with a commemorative Mass on Saturday in the state capital in thanksgiving, reconciliation and grace. Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful came together in large numbers for the high Mass at St. Joseph’s School in Bhubaneswar on 25 August, recalling the day 10 years ago when violence erupted with untold brutality against the Christians of Kandhamal District, with Hindu extremists blaming them for the 23 August murder of their Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples…

As India recovers from floods, sense of community grows (Channel News Asia) It is likely to take months for the Indian state of Kerala to get back on its feet, after severe flooding claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and washed away roads and bridges. But the disaster has brought out the best in people in Kerala — their sense of community…

Jordan’s king calls for help to refugee-hosting states (Andalou Agency) King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday called on the international community to assume its responsibilities towards the countries hosting Syrian refugees. This came during a meeting between the Jordanian monarch and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, who arrived in the kingdom on Sunday for an official visit...

Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation (Reuters) Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus, the Tasnim news agency reported on Monday. Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami traveled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and senior military officials, Tasnim reported…

Why Ethiopians believe their new prime minister is a prophet (CNN) Since taking office on 2 April, Africa’s youngest head of government has electrified Ethiopia with a dizzying array of liberal reforms credited by many with saving the country from civil war. Abiy has freed thousands of political prisoners, unblocked hundreds of censored websites, ended the 20-year state of war with Eritrea, lifted a state of emergency, and planned to open key economic sectors to private investors, including the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines…

Report: Orthodox clergy targeted by Russian spies (ABC News) The Associated Press has found that the same hackers charged with intervening in the 2016 U.S. presidential election also spent years trying to eavesdrop on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, often described as the first among equals of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christian leaders…



Tags: India Ethiopia Refugees Jordan Russian Orthodox

24 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Seminarians from the Pune Papal Seminary collected food, medicine and blankets to deliver to residents of Kerala who have lost everything in the floods. (photo: UCANews)

The disastrous flooding in Kerala has prompted a remarkable outpouring of humanitarian support.

CNEWA has rushed aid to the region — and others are also pitching in.

From UCANews:

Two trucks carrying the relief material from Pune left for Paravur, one of the worst flood-affected areas in southern Kerala state that is reeling under deluge for the past one week.

The collection was done in collaboration with De Nobili College, Pune and other houses of Pune Papal seminary.

The seminarians and others from the campus collected material for the past one week and sorted and packed them ready for transportation to relief camps.

“We were approached by the authorities seeking help, so started collecting materials,” said the Rev. Vincent Crasta who works in Papal Seminary

Flash floods and landslides in the past week have killed some 380 people and displaced some 800,000 to relief camps as overflowing rivers ploughed through residential areas washing away homes, farm lands, roads and bridges.

Schools, churches, temples, mosques and seminaries and convents have been converted to relief camps accommodating thousands who have no food, cloth or place to sleep.

Father Crasta said that one more truck will leave this evening carrying the relief material.

Five seminarians are accompanying the trucks carrying medicines, blankets, towels, toilet articles, candles, cleaning material, biscuits and bed sheets. The seminarians will return immediately after the relief materials are delivered on Sunday.

But goodwill is also pouring in from people of all religions and castes:

Transgressing all barriers of religion and caste, rich and poor, high and low, Indians have joined hands to provide succor to people reeling under the worst flood in five decades in Kerala.

Justice Kurien Joseph, a Supreme Court judge, Catholic and Kerala native, worked until late at night in New Delhi to help pack and label boxes containing relief materials for flood victims.

“It was heartening to see people unite in love for their suffering brethren casting aside all boundaries of religion and region,” Joseph said as he assisted children and women packing materials.

The flood in the southern state washed away hundreds of houses and submerged villages, killing at least 370 people and displacing about 800,000 to relief camps.

Not only Kerala people living in New Delhi “but people from other parts of India have gathered here. It just goes to show that goodness has not disappeared from humans,” Joseph said.

A group of lawyers launched the initiative through social media. Despite the short notice, people gathered with clothing and food to be packed and sent to the flood-hit state 2,500 kilometers away.

In Kerala, fishermen took out their boats on their own to rescue people. According to reports, they refused remuneration from the government for their voluntary work, saying they did not do it for money.

“Jesus’ love thy neighbor philosophy has never been so evident in our country,” said Lucy John, a teacher from New Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area, where a collection drive was organized by an association of Kerala people.

…Also keen to help, Indian Railways is ferrying relief materials free of cost.

The Ramakrishna Mission, a Hindu organization, is at the forefront of relief operations in northern Kerala, said Swami Shantatmananda, secretary of its New Delhi branch.

“We are sending cash donations from states while our Chennai centers are organizing relief materials,” he told ucanews.com.

Khalsa Aid, the U.K.-based Sikh organization’s Indian wing, has volunteers cooking and providing food for the marooned.

Churches, church-run schools, seminaries, convents and other Christian institutions have opened their doors to stranded flood victims besides providing relief in cash and kind.

Read more.

And to help CNEWA’s efforts in the region, please visit this page.



Tags: India Kerala

23 August 2018
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




Pope Francis listens as Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, speaks during an audience with participants in the annual meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network, at the Vatican on 22 August. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Catholic legislators must defend religious freedom around the globe, but they must take care to ensure they do not fall into the trap of showing disrespect toward or intolerance of other religions while doing so, Pope Francis said.

The pope met on 22 August with participants in the annual meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network and the group’s “freedom summit.”

According to the group’s website, the network began in 2010 “as an independent and nonpartisan international initiative to bring together practicing Catholics and other Christians in elected office on a regular basis for faith formation, education and fellowship.”

Pope Francis told participants that the Christian politician is called “to try, with humility and courage, to be a witness” to Christian values and to propose and support legislation in line with a Christian vision of society and of the human person.

The situation of Christians and other religious minorities in some parts of the world has “tragically worsened” due to “intolerant, aggressive and violent positions” even in countries that claim to recognize the freedom of religion, he said.

While defending religious freedom is part of the obligation to promote the common good, Pope Francis cautioned the legislators about the rhetoric and actions they use to do so. There is “the real danger of combating extremism and intolerance with just as much extremism and intolerance, including in attitudes and words,” he said.



Tags: Lebanon Pope Francis





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