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Volume 44, Number 1
  
5 October 2012
Greg Kandra




Pope Benedict XVI attends a ceremony and signing of his apostolic exhortation on the Middle East at the Melkite Catholic Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa, Lebanon, on 14 September.
(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)


As we noted in our Page One headlines this morning, the Holy Father’s exhortation on the Church in the Middle East is being widely circulated in that part of the world.

Pope Benedict XVI had a lot to say to the people of the Middle East on a range of topics. Here are five subjects (among many) worth noting, as expressed in the pope’s own words:

  1. The four pillars of the early church. “According to Acts, the unity of believers was seen in the fact that ‘they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers’ (2:42). The unity of believers was thus nourished by the teaching of the Apostles (the proclamation of God’s word), to which they responded with unanimous faith, by fraternal communion (the service of charity), by the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist and the sacraments), and by prayer, both personal and communal. It was on these four pillars that communion and witness were based within the first community of believers. May the Church which has lived uninterruptedly in the Middle East from apostolic times to our own day find in the example of that community the resources needed to keep fresh the memory and the apostolic vitality of her origins!” (paragraph 5)
  2. Peace. “Peace is not simply a pact or a treaty which ensures a tranquil life, nor can its definition be reduced to the mere absence of war. According to its Hebrew etymology, peace means being complete and intact, restored to wholeness. It is the state of those who live in harmony with God and with themselves, with others and with nature. Before appearing outwardly, peace is interior. It is blessing. It is the yearning for a reality. Peace is something so desirable that it has become a greeting in the Middle East” (cf. Jn 20:19; 1 Pet 5:14). (9)
  3. Ecumenism. “[The Church in the Middle East] lives there in a remarkable variety of forms. Along with the Catholic Church, a great number of venerable Churches and Ecclesial Communities of more recent date are present in the Middle East. This mosaic demands a significant and continued effort to build unity in respect for the riches of each, and thus to reaffirm the credibility of the proclamation of the Gospel and Christian witness. Unity is a gift of God which is born of the Spirit and which must be cultivated with patient perseverance (cf. 1 Pet 3:8-9). We know that it is tempting, whenever our divisions make themselves felt, to appeal to purely human criteria, forgetting the sage counsel of Saint Paul (cf. 1 Cor 6:7-8). He entreats us: ‘Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Eph 4:3). Faith is the centre and the fruit of true ecumenism. Faith itself must first be deepened. Unity is born of constant prayer and the conversion which enables each of us to live in accordance with the truth and in charity (cf. Eph 4:15-16). The Second Vatican Council encouraged this ‘spiritual ecumenism’ which is the soul of true ecumenism.” (11)
  4. Religious freedom. “Religious freedom is the pinnacle of all other freedoms. It is a sacred and inalienable right. It includes on the individual and collective levels the freedom to follow one’s conscience in religious matters and, at the same time, freedom of worship. It includes the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public. It must be possible to profess and freely manifest one’s religion and its symbols without endangering one’s life and personal freedom. Religious freedom is rooted in the dignity of the person; it safeguards moral freedom and fosters mutual respect. Jews, with their long experience of often deadly assaults, know full well the benefits of religious freedom. For their part, Muslims share with Christians the conviction that no constraint in religious matters, much less the use of force, is permitted. Such constraint, which can take multiple and insidious forms on the personal and social, cultural, administrative and political levels, is contrary to God’s will. It gives rise to political and religious exploitation, discrimination and violence leading to death. God wants life, not death. He forbids all killing, even of those who kill” (cf. Gen 4:15-16; 9:5-6; Ex 20:13).
  5. Women. “The first creation account shows the essential equality of men and women (cf. Gen 1:27-29). This equality was damaged by the effects of sin (cf. Gen 3:16; Mt 19:4). Overcoming this legacy, the fruit of sin, is the duty of every human person, whether man or woman. I want to assure all women that the Catholic Church, in fidelity to God’s plan, works to advance women’s personal dignity and equality with men in response to the wide variety of forms of discrimination which they experience simply because they are women. Such practices seriously harm the life of communion and witness. They gravely offend not only women but, above all, God the Creator. In recognition of their innate inclination to love and protect human life, and paying tribute to their specific contribution to education, healthcare, humanitarian work and the apostolic life, I believe that women should play, and be allowed to play, a greater part in public and ecclesial life. In this way they will be able to make their specific contribution to building a more fraternal society and a Church whose beauty is ever more evident in the genuine communion existing among the baptized.”

There is much more, of course, stretching across 100 paragraphs. We’ll have more from this important document in the next edition of the magazine. Meantime, you can read the exhortation in its entirety online.

CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar was in Lebanon during the pope’s trip last month. You can read his account of that visit here.



Tags: Lebanon Middle East Pope Benedict XVI

5 October 2012
Sarah Topol




A boy plays with a toy camera he found in the garbage. (photo: Dana Smillie)

Cairo-based journalist Sarah Topol covers events in the Middle East. For the September issue of ONE, she reports on Egypt’s Zabbaleen, or “garbage people” in Arabic. Here, she offers her personal impressions of a class of people struggling to live on what others discard.

The fetid smell of garbage hits you immediately. It is sickly sweet and hangs in the air, suspended in the desert heat. Honking trucks piled with bags of trash and bleating donkeys carting more of the same cram the narrow, unpaved road that cuts through the Christian quarter of Manshiyet Nasr, a neighborhood on the rocky cliffs outside of Cairo. This is the home of the “Zabbaleen,” the city’s trash collectors.

While men collect and drive the trucks, women sit outside in the narrow alleys sorting through the waste. Sometimes they hammer apart items, like cassette tapes: sturdy case plastic goes into one pile, and the black ribbon in another. Other times, their hands are dripping with remnants of refuse — the leftover yogurt from a container or bits of orange peel. Their children run barefoot through the congealed remains. Goats chew on the rubbish, while stray cats stare at visitors before returning to their scavenging or naps. Flies are everywhere.

This is one of the most squalid areas in Egypt. It is also home to one of the most efficient systems of disposal in the world — 80 percent of the garbage brought here is recycled. Life here was never easy, but for a long time it was at least predictable. Then in 2009, the Egyptian government decided to kill all of the country’s pigs as a foolhardy attempt to prevent swine flu. Now times are tougher; the goats don’t eat nearly as much trash as pigs did, and in post-revolutionary Egypt, many, especially those in the country’s Christian minority, are afraid of the near-constant political and economic instability.

Um Abanoub is a mother of six. She is 40 years old, but her harshly lined face makes her look older. When I approach, she’s hunched down sorting waste with her teenage daughter. “Now we have to pay money for disposing organic waste,” she tells me, referring to the fees people pay for using trash dumps. “Before, we fed it to the pigs.

“Things have gotten worse since the revolution,” she tells me plaintively, explaining that she owes money to many of her neighbors because she married one of her daughters and the two others are engaged. Weddings are expensive affairs in Egypt. “This is how we find ourselves in life. Only God knows how things will go,” she tells me.

When I ask her if she receives any charity, she says: “No, we don’t see anything from those organizations, or from the church — we thank God for whatever little he provides us.” The community is deeply devout, but most people I speak to agree they see little assistance from the church.

I take these concerns to Father Abraham, one of the five priests responsible for the Zabbaleen at St. Simon, an imposing church cut into the cliff face. “As much as it can, it helps its children,” the black-robed priest explains while fielding calls from congregation members with personal problems during our interview. “The church can’t satisfy everyone.”

As for the relationship between local Muslims and Christians, Father Abraham reports there are no problems and others in the community agree — relationships based on trade have continued despite the political instability.

“I deal with almost everyone, including the Muslim Brotherhood,” plastics trader Francis Sawiris tells me of the conservative Islamist group that now controls nearly half the seats in Egypt’s post-revolutionary parliament. “It’s all about the attitude, not the religion: he needs me and I need him. That’s the benefit of a working relationship,” he explains while cheerfully sorting through plastic on the ground floor of his home.

But on a wider scale people tell me they are afraid. Egypt’s revolution has also unleashed more radical Islamists into politics, including the ultra-traditionalist Salafis who control a quarter of seats in the new parliament. Sectarian incidents are on the rise.

My tour guide, Mousa Nazmy from the Spirit of Youth Foundation — an N.G.O. run by and for the Zabbaleen — told me he was looking for a way out. Nazmy’s brother was killed during sectarian clashes that struck the neighborhood when a protest on 9 March spiraled out of control. He was 26 years old and left behind two children and a wife.

“After that we were all afraid,” Nazmy tells me. “We thought the revolution would lift people up, but the opposite happened.”



Tags: Egypt Coptic Christians

5 October 2012
Greg Kandra




Bishop Amba Tadros visits Port Said, Egypt and distributes sweets during a feast before Lent. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In 2009, writer Liam Stack reported on the efforts by Coptic Orthodox Bishop Amba Tadros to bring a sense of renewal and hope to a community along the Suez Canal that has seen alternating periods of boom, bust and bombing:

When he was installed in November 1976, he was charged with creating an Orthodox ecclesiastical jurisdiction for a city that had never had one. Port Said was also missing most of its population. As the 1967 war began, the city was evacuated in the face of a massive Israeli aerial bombardment. Soon after, Egypt lost control of the strategically important Sinai Peninsula, which lies just east of the city.

For Egyptians, it was one of the darkest periods of the country’s modern history, and, in the middle of it all, Amba Tadros was building up the local church from scratch.

“Many homes and buildings had been destroyed by bombs, and people were living in shelters or on the streets,” says the bishop, now an elderly man. “Electricity and water were difficult to have all through the day.”

Over the course of the 1970’s, people began to trickle back to their homes, but most of the city was ruined in the war.

For men like Amba Tadros it was a challenging time. Some would have found providing physical and spiritual aid to the city’s displaced residents a crushing task. But local Coptic leaders say that something unexpected grew out of the ashes: renewed friendships among peoples of all faiths that was a harbinger of a citywide renewal.

Read more about Hope and Renewal in Suez in the November 2009 issue of ONE.



Tags: Egypt Coptic Christians

5 October 2012
Greg Kandra




An image of Mary is seen near a hole in a church after shelling in the old city of Homs, Syria, on 30 September.(CNS photo/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)

Mother superior from Syria says Christians “cleared” by rebel forces (The Australian) The mother superior of a 1500-year-old monastery in Syria warned yesterday during a visit to Australia that the uprising against Bashar al-Assad has been hijacked by foreign Islamist mercenaries, with strong support from Western countries. Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix was forced to flee to neighboring Lebanon in June when she was warned of a plot to abduct her, after she revealed that about 80,000 Christians had been “cleared” by rebel forces from their homes in Homs province.

Apostolic Exhortation: a document that gives hope to Christians in the Middle East (Fides) Christians and Muslimss read, spread, photocopy, and study the Post-Synodal Exhortation “Ecclesia in the Middle East”, issued by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Lebanon. As reported by local sources of Fides Agency, people are studying the document in Lebanon but also in Syria, Jordan and the Holy Land. The Christian faithful, of all confessions, pending the release of an official document in Arabic by the Vatican Publishing, print the exhortation from the Vatican website, photocopy it, read it and study it in the various communities.

Coptic children accused of insulting Islam released (Fides) The Egyptian Prosecutor General ordered yesterday afternoon, October 4, the release of the two Coptic Orthodox children who had been taken the previous day to a juvenile detention after being accused of urinating on some pages containing the verses of the Quran, in a village in the southern province of Beni Suef.

Russian Orthodox clergy allowed to run for office (Interfax) The governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church has allowed clerics to run for elected office in government “in the event of dire ecclesiastical necessity.”



Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Middle East Muslim

4 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




A farmer brings peppers to sell at a wholesale market in Malatia, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Under the Soviet Union, Christians in Armenia were forced to practice their faith in secret. When Armenia declared its independence in 1991, the suppression of Christianity ended. Even so, some divisions, predating even Soviet communism, would still take time to mend.

In the January 2006 issue of ONE, John Hughes wrote on religious life in Armenia before and after independence:

“If you go to the left, you’ll find the Armenians,” explained a villager. “To the right are the Franks.”

The villager’s directions speak not only of a geographic divide, but a lingering theological and cultural divide that has survived despite 70 years of Communism.

In Dzithankov, Arevik, Lanchik and Panik — villages with large Catholic populations — there was a time when Armenian Catholic (“Franks”) and Armenian Apostolic Christians (“Armenians”) hardly mixed.

The two share the same rites and traditions, but Armenian Catholics maintain full communion with the Church of Rome. (The term Franks derives from the influence of French Catholic missionaries.)

In Arevik, 83-year-old Yeproxia Grigorian remembers when a “mixed marriage” would have caused scandal. It was practically forbidden for Franks to integrate with Armenians. But by the time her daughter Julietta married, only hardliners might have objected to a husband from the Armenian Apostolic Church, an ancient church to which 95 percent of Armenians belong. …

Julietta’s 13-year-old daughter, Armineh, is making up for the church-going opportunities denied her mother and her grandmother. And Armineh’s generation has only their elders’ recollections to connect them to the time when the church was divided by labels and lifestyles, even in a village of only several hundred.

“There was a time,” Julietta said, “when there was a big difference between Franks and Armenians. But there is one God.”

For the Catholic and Apostolic Christians of Dzithankov that one God is worshiped in St. Prkitch Church, which, since Armenia achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, both communities share.

For more, read A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics.



Tags: Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist Soviet Union

4 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Benedict XVI uses incense in front of a statue of Our Lady of Loreto as he celebrates Mass outside the Sanctuary of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy, on 4 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

At Marian shrine, pope entrusts Year of Faith, synod to Mary (CNS) During a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, Pope Benedict XVI formally entrusted to Mary the world Synod of Bishops and the Year of Faith. The pope's visit marked the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII's visit to the Marian shrine, about 175 miles northwest of Rome, when he entrusted to Mary's care the Second Vatican Council. "Fifty years on, having been called by divine providence to succeed that unforgettable pope to the See of Peter, I, too, have come on pilgrimage to entrust to the Mother of God two important ecclesial initiatives: the Year of Faith. ... I wish to entrust to the Most Holy Mother of God all the difficulties affecting our world as it seeks serenity and peace," the pope said.

Turkey approves military operations in Syria (Al Jazeera) Turkey’s parliament has authorized cross-border military action against Syria, if deemed necessary by the government. The mandate, valid for one year, was passed by 320 votes in the 550-seat Turkish parliament, the Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday. Besir Atalay, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said the authorization was not a declaration of war but was intended as a deterrent. The vote came as Turkey resumed shelling Syrian government military positions on Thursday morning in retaliation for a mortar attack which landed over its border in southeastern Turkey killing five of its citizens — a woman and four children from the same family.

Two Egyptian Coptic Christian boys charged with defiling a Quran (New York Times) Two Coptic Christian boys have been detained by the authorities on charges that they defiled the pages of a Quran, the latest in a spate of recent cases involving accusations that people have insulted Islam. The boys, ages 9 and 10, are being held in juvenile detention in the village of Ezbet Marco, south of Cairo, according to Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights who is investigating the case. The charges seemed likely to add to growing anxieties in Egypt about free speech rights, the sway of hard-line Islamists and the status of the country’s Christian minority, which fears an erosion of rights under an Islamist government.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Church plays matchmaker (Indian Express) Going beyond its traditional role of performing weddings, the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has started an online matchmaking service to ensure that its members marry from among the state’s Catholic community. The church recently registered syromalabarmatrimony.org, controlled directly by its headquarters in Cochin. Bishop Joseph Porunnedam, head of the church’s internet mission, said: “Catholic youths are migrating in drives to various places in India and abroad for education and employment. ... In such a scenario, the chances of our men and women tying the knot with persons from other religions are high. If that happens, in future, they may even abandon the Catholic faith. Hence, we decided to launch a matrimony service.”

Papal exhortation gives hope to Middle East Christians (Fides) Christian and Muslim communities are reading, spreading and studying the post-synodal exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” issued by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Lebanon. As reported by local sources of Fides Agency, the widespread interest is not exclusive to Lebanon but stretches to Syria, Jordan and the Holy Land. “Muslim communities that are studying it appreciate it. Christians of all denominations — Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants — underline a very important point: the invitation ’not to be afraid’, to live in the Middle East building peace and coexistence. It is a key phrase that remains etched in the minds of Christians, in the context in which we live today,” says Wissam Lahham, a member of the Assembly of Eastern Christians, an N.G.O. based in Beirut.

Egyptian Copts hold memorial service for Maspero victims (Daily News Egypt) The Coptic Orthodox Church held a liturgy on Wednesday at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. The service commemorated the protesters who died almost a year ago in Maspero Square. On 9 October 2011 a large group of predominantly Christian protesters marched from the Cairo neighborhood of Shubra and were confronted by the army near the state television and radio building, leading to an assault that left many Christian protesters dead. While S.C.A.F. conducted an investigation and claimed the army was not at fault, video and witnesses indicate that the army ran over many of the demonstrators with tanks. Wednesday’s liturgy marked the end of a three-day church-wide fast in preparation for the next stage of the papal election process.



Tags: Egypt Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Coptic Christians

3 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




The faithful celebrate the liturgy at the Church of St. Nicholas in Kampala, Uganda. (photo: Tugela Ridley)

“Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa,” noted Andrew Rice in his article appearing in the March 2006 issue of ONE. “According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But ‘all Africa,’ for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara.”

Rice described how an Orthodox Christian identity in sub-Saharan Africa — the Ugandan Orthodox Church — was shaped by colonialism in the 19th century, two African rebels and just a bit of confusion over a name:

[Anti-colonial rebel Reuben] Spartas was, in short, a man in search of a vehicle for his nationalist passions. As it turned out, that vehicle was to be a church. He was a devout man, but by the mid-1920’s Spartas had grown increasingly frustrated with what he saw as the established church’s compromises and inconsistencies. He and an army buddy, Obadiah Basajjakitalo — Metropolitan Jonah [of Kampala and All Uganda]’s grandfather — began exploring other religions. What happened next has taken on the air of a creation myth: Spartas supposedly ran across an entry for the word “Orthodox” in the dictionary. “Like another Archimedes,” a subsequent church leader wrote, “he ran out into the streets shouting: ‘I have found, I have found!’ ”

The real story is a bit more complicated, involving an iconoclastic early civil rights leader and a case of mistaken religious identity. Sometime in the 1920’s, Spartas got hold of a copy of a newspaper called the Negro World, which was published by Marcus Garvey, the West Indian progenitor of the “back to Africa” movement. Spartas learned that Garvey had championed the creation of an African Orthodox Church. Other than sharing a name, Garvey’s church had no relationship to mainstream Orthodoxy. But Spartas did not know that. In 1925, he wrote African Orthodox Church leaders in America, saying he wanted to join up and convert other Ugandans.

After a long courtship-by-letter, Spartas announced that he had left the Anglican Church and declared the establishment of a new church “for all right-thinking Africans, men who wish to be free in their own house, not always being thought of as boys.” In 1932, one of Garvey’s bishops traveled to Uganda and ordained Spartas and Basajjakitalo priests. The kabaka of Baganda donated a section of his personal estate at Namungoona to the new church, and within a few years, it claimed 5,000 members.

There was just one problem — the church was not really Orthodox. Spartas discovered this when a Greek expatriate in town came to baptize a child and told him he had the rituals all wrong. Worried correspondence with Alexandria ensued and, after some confusion, all links to Garvey’s church were severed, and Spartas traveled to Egypt to be ordained by Patriarch Christophoros II. The Ugandan Orthodox had Alexandria’s recognition. Acceptance would be longer in coming.

For more of this fascinating story, read Orthodox Africa.



Tags: Christianity Africa Orthodox Church Orthodox

3 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican observer at the United Nations in Geneva, speaks at a town hall discussion on migration hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See at the Pontifical North American College in Rome on 8 March 2012. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Archbishop urges solidarity and protection for refugees (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, made a statement before the 63rd session of U.N.H.C.R.’s Executive Committee: “Mr. Chairman, The surge in the number of recent conflicts has produced new waves of refugees and displaced persons. ... Forcibly uprooted people challenge the international community, which has failed to prevent it, to respond to their vulnerability. ... [A]s armed clashes persist and new uprooted people are obliged to seek survival in exile and in precarious conditions of physical and psychological suffering, it becomes our common responsibility to search and apply more creative and concrete forms of solidarity and protection.”

More than 40 killed as 4 bombs strike Aleppo (New York Times) Four huge explosions struck a government-held district of Aleppo, Syria, on Wednesday, shearing off the fronts of two tall buildings, killing more than 40 people and filling the streets with rubble in a square near the area’s public park, according to video, photographs and reports from the Syrian government and its opponents. The bombings hit a central square bordered by a graceful public garden, a downtown district full of hotels and offices, and the Christian neighborhood of Aziziyeh, where many people had sought refuge over the weekend.

Huge turnout for Sukkot blessings in Jerusalem (Haaretz) Tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers descended upon Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Wednesday to hear the traditional priestly blessing that is considered a hallmark of the annual Sukkot festival. “The aura was just amazing,” said 38 year-old Emily of Massry of Brooklyn, New York, who attended the event for the first time, along with three of her friends. “We felt the achdut, the unity, of so many different communities coming together.”

Study: Orthodox Christians in Russia lack churches (RIA Novosti) Orthodox Christians constitute 43 percent of the Russian populace, but they have less churches and parishes per believer than any other major confession in the country, according to a new study presented on Wednesday. “There’s a huge demand for faith, which is not being met” due to a shortage of religious facilities, said sociologist of religion Roman Lunkin of the Sreda polling service at a presentation in Moscow.

Explosion in east Lebanon kills at least four (Lebanon Daily Star) An explosion that ripped through a house in east Lebanon killed at least four people and wounded three more, according to security sources. It is not yet clear what triggered the blast. A local official in Nabi Sheet, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star that the explosion most likely targeted a “Hezbollah arms depot.”



Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Jerusalem Vatican Russia

2 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




Despite his busy schedule, Father Jose is always available to his parishioners. (photo: Sean Sprague)

For decades, the people of Kerala have suffered from high poverty rates, exacerbated by high rates of unemployment. The Indian government’s Ministry of Labor and Employment recently released a report revealing that against India’s average rate of 3.8 percent, unemployment in Kerala currently hovers at 9.9 percent. Though lower than a decade ago, this is still very high in absolute terms.

In such an environment, people like Father Jose Thottakkara are a godsend. In the May 2008 issue of ONE, Jomi Thomas reported:

“Once priests start to think of themselves as sacrament machines, they lose the real sense of what they do,” said Father Jose Thottakkara, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest working in suburban Ernakulam.

A highly educated 44-year-old, Father Jose epitomizes a new, dynamic breed of priest. Founder and director of Naipunya International — a nonprofit agency of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly that places thousands of qualified young people in good jobs worldwide — the priest also leads more than 100 families at St. George Church, a suburban Syro-Malabar parish.

For a son of poor farmers, the priest has accomplished a great deal at a relatively young age. After some eight years of advanced education, he holds degrees in business management, economics, theology and world history. Complementing these studies, he undertook formal and on-the-job training in social work and management. In addition, he has received faculties to serve both Syro-Malabar and Roman Catholic communities.

Father Jose manages a tight schedule during the week. And while his responsibilities at Naipunya take up the lion’s share of his day, the families to whom he ministers remain close to his heart.

Read more about Father Jose in A Priest With Global Reach.



Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Economic hardships

2 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




Shelling leaves a church in ruins in the Old City of Homs, Syria, on 30 September. (photo: CNS/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)

Syrian Christian churches urge protection of heritage (Fides) Christian leaders of all denominations and communities have filed an appeal to UNESCO, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Council for Culture. “Religious buildings (synagogues, churches, mosques, monasteries and sanctuaries) are used for military purposes, which causes their progressive destruction. We implore the belligerents to save the protected areas and not to use them for military purposes.”

Franciscan monastery in Jerusalem vandalized (BBC) Vandals have spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti on the main door of a Franciscan monastery outside Jerusalem, Church officials have said. Photographs published online showed blue graffiti denigrating Jesus at the Convent of Saint Francis on Mount Zion. Also painted on the door were the words “price tag”; Jewish settlers and extremists have been carrying out so-called “price-tag” attacks in retaliation for Israeli government curbs on settlement growth.

Poll: most Jordanians oppose admitting more refugees (Christian Science Monitor) As Syria’s civil war drags on in bloody stalemate, Jordan has maintained an open-door policy for its refugees, allowing in tens of thousands of people. But with no end to the conflict in sight, the friendly relationship between Jordan and its “guests” is showing signs of strain. According to a nationwide poll by the Center for Strategic Studies at Jordan University, 65 percent of Jordanians oppose allowing more Syrians into the country, and more than 80 percent said the Syrians already present should be confined to camps.

Austerity measures may begin to target Greek Orthodox Church (Der Spiegel) The Greek Orthodox Church has managed to cling onto many of its economic privileges, despite austerity stinging nearly all other parts of the country’s society. Now, fueled by continued stagnation and growing popular resentment in the face of scandal, the Greek government has begun scaling back its financial support for the church.

On Palestinian right of return, Israel raises matter of Jewish refugees (Christian Science Monitor) Israel is demanding that the losses of displaced Arab Jews be acknowledged and compensed in some way. In doing so, the campaign touches one of Palestinians’ most sensitive wounds, harbored since Israel’s founding in 1948: their right to return to lands and homes left in 1948-49, when at least 750,000 either fled or were expelled by Israel. Though many Palestinians recognize at least some Arab Jews as refugees, they are concerned that Israel is trying to cancel its debt to them by putting the suffering of Arab Jews on the same international ledger.



Tags: Syria Refugees Violence against Christians Jerusalem Jordan





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