22 December 2014
The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony on 19 December. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
19 December 2014
In this image from 2013, a man lights a candle in a temporary Ukrainian Greek Catholic tent church during anti-government protests in Kiev. (photo: CNS/Tatyana Zenkovich, EPA)
Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned their church is being driven underground again, according to CNS:
“In Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we’ve already effectively returned to the catacombs,” said Father Ihor Yatsiv, the church’s Kiev-based spokesman.
“It’s a sad paradox that history is being repeated just as we commemorate our liberation. But after a couple of decades of freedom, we again look set to lose our freedom,” he told Catholic News Service on 18 December.
The priest spoke as Ukrainian Catholic communities in Russian-occupied Crimea approached a 1 January deadline for re-registering under Russian law. He said the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church had no legal status in Russia and would therefore be unable, in practice, to register.
Father Yatsiv said Russian and separatist forces had not officially refused to register Ukrainian Catholic parishes, but had ensured it was impossible because of the lack of legal provisions. He added that there was no effective government in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, where rebel groups did not recognize Ukrainian Catholics and were “imposing whatever rules and regulations they choose.”
Earlier in December, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych told Austria’s Kathpress news agency that Crimea’s five Ukrainian Catholic parishes would find themselves “outside the law,” along with the territory’s Latin Catholic, Muslim and breakaway Orthodox communities.
“It’s ironic we’ve just been celebrating the 25th anniversary of our legalization in the former Soviet Union — but our right to legal activity will soon be withdrawn in various parts of our country,” Archbishop Shevchuk told Kathpress Dec. 12.
“There’s clearly no religious liberty already in Crimea and the occupied territories of the east, and I hope the international community will deploy its resources to restoring freedoms in the affected areas,” he said.
Ukrainian Catholics fled Crimea to escape arrests and property seizures after Russia annexed the region in March. Most church parishes have closed in Ukraine’s war-torn Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where separatists declared an independent “New Russia” after staging local referendums last spring.
Ukraine’s Catholic Caritas charity warned on 11 December of a “humanitarian catastrophe” this winter, with 490,000 people now registered as refugees, and 545,000 displaced abroad, mostly in Russia.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church makes up around a tenth of Ukraine’s 46 million inhabitants. It was outlawed under Soviet rule from 1946 to 1989, when many clergy were imprisoned and most church properties seized by the state or transferred to Russian Orthodox possession.
18 December 2014
Syrian refugees warm themselves around a fire on 3 December in Ankara, Turkey.
(photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
17 December 2014
Couples dance the tango in celebration of Pope Francis’ 78th birthday outside St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 17 December. Several hundred people gathered after the pope’s general audience to dance the tango in an informal event organized on social media.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis got an unusual birthday gift today. CNS has the scoop:
Pope Francis always asks for prayers, especially for his birthday, but this year he also got some tango.
Thousands of tango dancers, mostly from Italy, flocked to St. Peter’s Square to wave their white scarves “A Tango for Pope Francis” and cheer along with tens of thousands of other people at the Wednesday general audience.
...An Italian tango dancer had anidea, Cristina Camorani organized a “Street Tango Flashmob” over the Internet inviting people to what she hoped would become the “Biggest Milonga in the World.” Milonga, an older form of tango with a faster rhythm, is the pope’s favorite dance style. He has said he used to dance the tango when he was young, adding, “It’s something that comes from within.”
At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis greeted the tango dancers and said it seemed like the square was “for a 2 x 4,” which is mysterious tango-lingo referring to rhythm.
You can see more pictures at the CNS link. Meantime, check out the video below. Happy birthday, Pope Francis!
16 December 2014
In this image from 2002, men relax at a café in Bourj Hammoud, an Armenian enclave in Lebanon. To learn more about this community and its people, read Little Armenia in the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
15 December 2014
In this image from 12 December, Iraqi Christian children look at a nativity scene that is displayed in a tent erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia (Mar Elia) Catholic Church, in Ain Kawa. The church has now become home to hundreds of Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes as the Islamic State advanced earlier this year. Click here to learn how you can help Christians suffering in Iraq. (photo: Matt Cardy / Getty)
12 December 2014
Nabilah Abdul Bassih sits with her son Marvin in their tent in the Martha Schmouny camp of Erbil, Iraq, in September 2014. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Autumn edition of ONE features several profiles of people who have fled ISIS, including the Bassih family:
Nabilah Abdul Bassih’s mobile phone rings and she breaks away from her conversation to answer. Her brow creases and her voice drops.
Since Nabilah, her husband and her four sons arrived at the Martha Schmouny camp for internally displaced Christians, beside St. Joseph’s Church in Erbil, she has been getting many such calls. The calls are from other people who were displaced by ISIS from the Christian town of Bartalla in the plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq.
Unlike most, the Abdul Bassih family did not get out in time during the mass exodus of Christians. They remained trapped in Bartalla, under virtual house arrest for over a month. It wasn’t until 15 September that they finally made it to Erbil. Initially, they were mobbed with people who had left Bartalla in early August, and then the calls started coming in.
Starving for information on their hometown, or in search of missing loved ones, people contact the Abdul Bassihs because the family, due to its recent arrival in Erbil, is seen to have the latest. “Did you see my house, is it intact?” “Have you seen my son when you were there?” “What have they done to the church?” These and more are the questions Nabilah faces daily. She answers as best she can but her preoccupation now is finding a place for her own family to stay. As all the available space for the displaced in Erbil has been used up, the Abdul Bassihs have had to move into the tent of a neighbor from Bartalla while the bishop finds them a tent for themselves. Until then, 12 people crush into the tent at night to sleep, six from each family.
The phone call ends. Nabilah hangs up and returns to breastfeeding her youngest child, Marvin, 14 months old.
“I feel deep sadness,” she says. “It was our bad luck to get caught in Bartalla with ISIS. It was so difficult.”
Visit this link to learn how you can help our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq during this difficult time. And please remember them in your prayers!
11 December 2014
Fireworks explode over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on 6 December, the Feast of St. Nicholas. Palestinian hopes for a tourism windfall following Pope Francis’ spring pilgrimage did not pan out because the Gaza war broke out shortly after his visit, Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’ay’a told journalists. (photo: CNS/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)
Bethlehem is facing an unexpectedly bleak Christmas this year:
Palestinian hopes for a tourism windfall following Pope Francis’ spring pilgrimage did not pan out because the Gaza war broke out shortly after his visit, Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’ay’a told journalists.
At the start of the year, the Bethlehem tourism sector had experienced a 19 percent increase in visitors and a 37 percent increase in overnight stays, the minister said in an early December briefing. During the outbreak of the war, there was a 60 percent cancellation rate, she said. It was the first decrease in the number of visitors in the past few years, which have, until now, seen a steady if slight increase, she added.
Overall, however, 2014 ended up with a 9.2 percent increase in visitors, and authorities are expecting 100,000 visitors for the month of December and 10,000-15,000 visitors on Christmas, she said.
“We were very optimistic the pope’s visit would attract many tourists from all over the whole world. We had hoped that when people saw the pope walking around Bethlehem and meeting Palestinians without a problem, it would give a good image of the people here and many would want to come visit,” said Ma’ay’a.
But soon after he left the war broke out, she said. By early December, that had caused a $30 million loss in revenue to the Palestinian economy, she estimated.
“We still hope more tourists will follow in his footsteps,” she said.
10 December 2014
In this image from 2008, Bishop Christo Proykov blesses marriage crowns during a wedding liturgy in Sofia, Bulgaria. To learn more about the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, check out the profile from our July 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
9 December 2014
Children in Gaza paint and draw in workshops to help them cope with the aftermath of last summer’s war. To learn more about their lives, read Shell-Shocked: Growing Up in Gaza in the Autumn edition of ONE. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)