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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
20 September 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Concerned about what the future may hold without the protection afforded by the al-Assad regime, many Syrian Christians view the ongoing upheaval with trepidation. CNN reports:

Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians

20 September 2012
Greg Kandra

Marcie Alter enjoys the company of Dennis, a therapy dog that visits patients at St. Louis Hospital in Jerusalem once a week. (photo: Debbie Hill)

The current issue of the magazine takes us inside St. Louis Hospital in Jerusalem, an oasis of compassion in a troubled corner of the world. Writer Judith Sudilovsky notes one interesting form of therapy at the hospital:

Three years ago, the hospital joined a project in which volunteers bring therapy animals to the hospital. For some patients, the project has been a great success.

Marcie Alter, a 44-year-old Orthodox Jew originally from Pittsburgh, has been a patient at St. Louis for eight years. All week, she looks forward to her time with Dennis, a Boxer mix.

Almost completely paralyzed and unable to speak, she uses a computer and a letter board to communicate. Most of her family lives in the United States, though she has many friends in Jerusalem who visit her.

A smile spreads on her face when Dennis arrives and jumps on her bed. She reaches out to pet him. With the dog by her side, she points to the letters on the board, spelling out: “It feels like home.”

Read more about An Oasis of Compassion.

Tags: Jerusalem Unity Health Care Multiculturalism

20 September 2012
Greg Kandra

Pope Benedict XVI talks with Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, during his visit to Rome’s main synagogue on 17 January 2010. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Greets Jewish Community of Rome (VIS) Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram to Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, for the Jewish festivities of Rosh Hashanah (New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), which all fall in this period.

Controversial Film about Muhammad Spotlights Copts (Associated Press) The anti-Islamic movie trailer inflaming the Middle East opens with Muslims ransacking a Christian medical clinic and then segues into a flashback of Muhammad’s life. “Set the place on fire! We’ll burn out these forsaken Christians!” cries one Muslim character. The opening scene from “Innocence of Muslims,” although crude, resonates with some Egyptian Christians, who have suffered years of persecution and attacks by Islamic militants.

Vatican Condemns Attacks on Christian Holy Places in Israel (The Telegraph) Christian holy sites in Israel have been subjected to a series of organized attacks which the authorities have done nothing to prevent, a representative of the Vatican in the country has said. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, one of the church’s top officials in the Holy Land, said he is worried about relations between Jews and Christians in the Holy Land. “I think the main atmosphere is ignorance,” Father Pizzaballa said. “It’s important not just to condemn, but also to work, to take initiatives to stop this phenomenon.”

Ukrainian Culture on Display in Canada (Vancouver Sun) Black-and-white photos showing faces filled with hope and determination hang on the walls of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada. In front of the pictures are pieces of clothing, some with delicate beadwork from a region known as Bukovyna while others have detailed embroidery. There’s a wedding ensemble from the Hutsul region. And of course there are pysanky — better known as Easter eggs. “It’s a mixture, but it tells the story of people who came to Canada, who they were and why they decided to move,” says Krystyna Hudyma, the museum’s curatorial and programming assistant. Those are just some of the artifacts at the Saskatoon-based museum, the oldest Ukrainian museum in the country.

Tags: Ukraine Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI Coptic Christians Jewish

19 September 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

Last weekend, Pope Benedict XVI delivered his apostolic exhortation, entitled “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” in Lebanon. This long and detailed document, a summary of which can be found at the Vatican news site, lays out the hopes, concerns and general attitude of the Catholic Church on the church in the Middle East.

A week before this, however, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue gave a terse, compact speech discussing many of the same key points, focusing specifically on what lies ahead for Syria:

In his speech, [Colombian priest] Father Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot — an expert on Islam and the Middle East, who headed the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies for a number of years before being called to the Curia in the early summer - summarises the Vatican’s five priorities for Syria: “an immediate end to violence from whatever part; dialogue towards reconciliation as the necessary path to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; preserve the unity of the Syrian people regardless of ethnicity and religious affiliation; an appeal from the Holy See to the international community to dedicate itself to a process of peace in Syria and the entire region for the benefit and well-being of all humanity.” ...

Father Guixot underlines that by avoiding “partisan politics,” the Christian community does not show “cowardice” but “courage”: a “bridge” between different communities. This statement is also an implicit call to Christian leaders to try to ensure that the Church does not take sides.

In his speech, the number two man of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue recognizes the legitimacy of the government in Damascus, unlike Western chancelleries, but stresses that the “aspirations” of the Syrian people are “legitimate” and should not be ignored or crushed as if they were “foreign forces,” as many Christian leaders are doing. It is important to note that the international community’s call for continued efforts towards peace does mention the possibility of some form of armed conflict. ...

According to the Vatican, human rights, particularly religious freedom, can only benefit from democratic regimes taking root in the country and “Christians in the Arab world, alongside their fellow Muslim citizens, are ready to play their part as citizens who together strive to build societies that respect the human rights of all citizens.”

The first elections that took place following the “spring” in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have led to the victory of Islamic parties which “have adopted the language of pragmatism and moderation.” In response to these results, the Holy See has emphasized the need to cultivate a “culture of democracy” that can prevent this development from “descending into a negative form of “majoritarianism.”

But Guixot also understands the reasons behind the scepticism expressed by many moderate Muslim leaders towards western democratic systems, associated with “atheist” and “non Islamic” values they see coming from the West and underlines the importance of documents produced by Egyptian university Al-Azhar – the most respected centre of Sunni Islamic learning. These documents support the building of democratic systems, human rights and freedom of worship within the context of Islamic tradition. The Holy See upholds this, against groups like the Salafi movement, which uses “religion as a tool to create discord among the various components of the nation.”

Read the whole piece at Vatican Insider.

Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Vatican Arab Spring/Awakening

19 September 2012
Greg Kandra

The Saghmos Choir is the pride of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Lviv, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)

In the current issue of ONE, writer Mariya Tytarenko tells of how Armenians in western Ukraine have worked to rebuild a local church and restore a community’s faith. A key part of that effort has been the local choir:

In the early days, the choir consisted of just a handful of enthusiasts, only one of whom was ethnic Armenian: Father Gevorgian’s 13-year-old daughter Lusine. In the last ten years, however, it has more than doubled in size and improved immeasurably. Named Saghmos, “psalm” in Armenian, the choir now includes 12 singers, five of whom are ethnic Armenians.

“We take great pride in our choir,” says, 66-year-old Bishop Grigoris Bouniatian of the Armenian Apostolic Eparchy of Lviv. “Andriy Shkrabiuk and his choir sing almost the way they did in ancient Armenia.”

In accordance with the church’s ancient tradition, the choir stands not on the balcony, but near the altar during the Divine Liturgy.

“The choir is the motor of prayer,” says Mr. Shkrabiuk.

Read more about Restoring Faith in the September 2012 issue of ONE.

Tags: Ukraine Armenian Apostolic Church

19 September 2012
Greg Kandra

Waving to the crowd, Pope Benedict XVI passes a Swiss guard while leaving his general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Reflects on Trip to Lebanon (Vatican Radio) On Wednesday, as is tradition, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Angelus reflections to his recent apostolic voyage to Lebanon: “Dear brothers and sisters, today I would like to briefly return, in my thoughts and heart, to those extraordinary days of my apostolic journey to Lebanon — a trip that I had strongly wanted, despite the difficult circumstances, considering that a father should always be near his children when they encounter grave problems. I was moved by a sincere desire to announce the peace that the risen Lord gave to his disciples and summarized in the words: ‘My peace I give to you.’ ”

Christians in Syria Form “Committees” to Prevent Violence (Fides) The Christian communities in Syria, after suffering at the hands of armed gangs — often jihadist groups — have begun to organize “popular dissuasive committees.” Formed by young armed Christians, these groups seek to prevent banditry and violence and defend their neighborhoods. Christian communities have suffered abuse, kidnapping, rape, murder, theft and violations of property in the Christian Valley of western Syria, in the center of Aleppo, in the part of Damascus known as Jaramana and in other villages such as Qusayr and Rableh, near Homs.

Egypt Issues Arrest Warrants over Anti-Islam Film (Associated Press) Egypt’s general prosecutor issued arrest warrants Tuesday for seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor and referred them to trial on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that has sparked riots across the Muslim world.

Ukrainian Bishops Close Synod in Canada (Catholic News Service) Ukrainian Catholic bishops from four continents gathered for a final celebration on 16 September as they closed their weeklong Synod of Bishops. One of their emphases was on the role of the laity, and the final “gala,” as it was billed, included the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus, an honor guard and the Selo Ukrainian Dancers.

Orthodox, Anglicans to Attend Vatican II Celebration (Catholic News Service) The Orthodox ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople and the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury will join Pope Benedict XVI’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury will attend the Mass that Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate at the Vatican to mark the anniversary of the 11 October 1962 opening of the council, Vatican officials said.

Tags: Syria Egypt Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI Palestinians

18 September 2012
Greg Kandra

Pope Benedict XVI signs the apostolic exhortation at the Melkite Greek Catholic Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa, Lebanon, on 14 September. Pictured at far left is Melkite Patriarch Gregory III. Standing next to the pope is Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The Holy See has published online the apostolic exhortation that the Holy Father delivered in Lebanon on Friday. The document, “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente” (On the Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness), is available in pdf form on the website of the Holy See.

Click here to download the exhortation.

Tags: Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch Synod of Bishops for Middle East Exhortation

18 September 2012
Greg Kandra

A member of the Free Syrian Army helps civilians to leave a shelled building in Aleppo on
16 September. (photo: CNS photos/Zain Karam, Reuters)

Vatican: Make Syria’s Children a Priority (Vatican Radio) Less than 24 hours after Pope Benedict XVI’s heartfelt appeal to regional and global powers to stop the violence in Syria, the Vatican has redoubled its call for urgent aid to the innocent victims of the conflict, particularly children. Addressing the 21st Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N., Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, stated that the international community needs to make humanitarian assistance to all displaced people and other victims of bombardments and indiscriminate destruction — especially children — a priority.

Caritas Lebanon: the Pope Has Brought Us Hope (Vatican Radio) Caritas Lebanon, founded 36 years ago, is part of the far reaching family of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican aid agency with a mission to bring help and support to millions of people in need across the world. Father Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon, shares with to Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure his feelings regarding the pope’s visit to his country.

Pope’s Trip to Lebanon Shows the True Face of the Church (L’Osservatore Romano) The pope’s visit to Lebanon was a journey of peace. Yet his itinerary in the lands where Christianity was born and developed in the first centuries had a far deeper meaning: In showing the Church’s true face, it summed up all of Pope Benedict XVI’s journeys.

Chaldean Bishop: “The Pope’s Comfort Reached Aleppo” (Fides) Benedict XVI’s visit also gave comfort to the Christians of Aleppo, the Syrian metropolis which for two months has been in the middle of armed clashes between the rebels and the Syrian army. This is what the Jesuit Father Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo and president of Caritas Syria, tells Fides Agency.

Kerala Bishops Organize Student Protest Against Alcoholism (Indian Express/IBN Live) In a distinct way of protesting against the scourge of alcoholism, Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (K.C.B.C.)’s anti-drug movement, Madya Virudha Samithi, organized a march to the chief minister’s residence at Puthuppally on Monday. The march was made unique by a group of students who dressed up in military fatigues and arrived at the residence of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in a vehicle made to look like a military helicopter. According to organizers, it was the launch of a symbolic protest and an awareness program against the growing threat posed by rampant alcoholism.

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Kerala Russian Orthodox Church Aleppo Caritas Lebanon

17 September 2012
John E. Kozar

A crowd of at least 350,000 people is seen in an aerial view as Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass in Beirut on 16 September. (photo: CNS/pool via Reuters)

Yesterday, in the presence of some 300,000 people from all over the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI formally ended his historic visit to Lebanon with a Mass. The main purpose of the trip was to bring to a conclusion the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which began in 2010. He drew that synod to a close when he signed and delivered his Apostolic Exhortation on Friday at the Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa. But Sunday was really the high point of the pope’s pastoral visit and it fleshed out so much of what this trip was all about.

The importance of this Mass was obvious to the government as well: security was tight and traffic, controlled. As Issam and I traveled to the outdoor venue, we passed thousands of soldiers and many more thousands of police, auxiliary traffic and safety personnel and many thousands of most helpful ushers, guides and crowd control volunteers. To put it mildly, Lebanon did itself extremely proud with the amazing organization and planning that was evidenced each day — especially Sunday.

The site chosen for this Mass was itself an amazing story, as it had previously been a garbage dump that was transformed into a flattened landfill alongside the Mediterranean Sea, offering a perfect setting for this liturgy: the sea to the west and the skyline of a growing downtown Beirut to the east and south. The government, Maronite Patriarch Bechara told me, had paid for this transformation, including the newly completed asphalting of the huge gathering area. And there was a magnificent altar built large enough for all the bishops, clergy and special guests.

The sanctuary was beautifully adorned with flora, Arabic art forms and, in a special way, some cedars of Lebanon. Additionally, there were giant television screens that were place hundreds of yards out into the crowds and elevated speakers all around so everyone could be a part of the action.

When Pope Benedict XVI arrived, he was transferred into the popemobile and began circulating and weaving through the throng to emotional cheers and chants. He had come to be with everyone and even a glimpse of him from far away made the long journey and the blazing sun worth it. The congregation loved the pope!

When he finally came to a stop in front of the altar and popped into open view, the throng went crazy; this is the pope in our presence. The Catholic Church is alive and well in Lebanon and in the Middle East.

I was given a most privileged seat right with the bishops and the Orthodox patriarchs and bishops in full view of His Holiness. I also was able to take some great photos. But, to be honest, photos and video did not do justice to this event. As they often say: “You had to be there.”

This liturgy reminded us so completely that this is the unity and oneness that we all want in our church and in our world. Pope Benedict XVI was the celebrant and in a way we were all his concelebrants — celebrating the love that Jesus has for each of us.

In his homily he returned to the oft-mentioned challenge not to be afraid, but to be faithful to the calling of our Christian heritage. He invited especially the young to be vigilant against the culture of drugs, alcohol and violence. He mentioned Syria again and invited everyone to work and pray for peace. He stated very strongly that we Christians in this part of the world do not ask for any special privileges, but the basic right to believe and to freely practice our faith.

I was overwhelmed by the universal character of this Mass: There were Latin hierarchs dressed rather uniformly, Eastern Catholic patriarchs and bishops dressed each in their very colorful and distinctive liturgical robes, Orthodox brother bishops celebrating with us, representatives of government, and most of all, the faithful, mostly Lebanese, but many others who had traveled from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, the Arab Peninsula, Turkey, and other countries. There were Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Muslims. For this solemn occasion, we were all brothers and sisters who want peace and mutual respect. And one man brought us together.

For the distribution of Holy Communion, a cadre of several hundred priests, accompanied by attendants holding huge white umbrellas over the priests’ heads, made their way through the crowds. Each communion station was thus very visible and distribution was most orderly.

At the end of Mass, the Holy Father summarized the points he had been making at each event and he thanked the Lebanese for their overwhelming welcome. He seemed genuinely touched during this pastoral visit.

Given the violence reported in the news these past few days, his visit and his message of peace resonated in the hearts and souls of Christians and all people of good will in the Middle East.

During these days, so many commented that they have renewed hope and confidence in the providence of God. But Pope Benedict XVI, this soft-spoken ambassador of peace, invited us in celebrating our Christian heritage to follow the example of Christ and be messengers of peace.

This whole experience in Lebanon and with the Christian family from all over the Middle East has been memorable. I have been richly blessed in being here and honored to share my humble reflections with you each day. Now I return to New York, departing late Monday night.

Thanks for being such an important member of our CNEWA family. So many bishops from all over the Middle East have expressed their profound thanks to you for your generosity and for your prayerful support. They have all promised to place you in their prayers.

The Holy Father is now back at his residence at Castel Gandolfo, and I hope he gets a well-deserved rest. But he’s a busy man, and I wouldn’t make any bets on that.

I write this in the midst of the cedars of Lebanon. God bless each of you. God bless Lebanon. God bless the church in the Middle East, and God bless this man of peace, Pope Benedict XVI.

Tags: Lebanon Middle East Pope Benedict XVI Msgr. John E. Kozar

17 September 2012
Erin Edwards

The Zabbaleen are descendants of migrant farmers from Upper Egypt who first came to Cairo in the 1940’s in search of employment. They began working in the garbage trade, collecting, sorting and recycling to earn a living. (photo: Dana Smillie)

The September edition of ONE can now be viewed on our website. Give it a look. One of our features this month comes from award-winning journalist, Sarah Topol. Topol profiles a family in Egypt’s Zabbaleen or “garbage people” community:

The Nagib family lives in Manshiyat Naser — also known as Garbage City — an impoverished Coptic Christian neighborhood nestled in the jutting desert cliffs that rise above Cairo’s bustling streets. Called Zabbaleen, or “garbage people” in Arabic, most hail from the rural province of Assiut, 250 miles to the south. For generations, the Zabbaleen have served as Cairo’s de facto garbage collectors, earning a meager living hauling away city dwellers’ trash and recycling anything salvageable.

To spend time with the Nagib family is to witness in microcosm the struggles of an entire class of people — and to realize that they are struggling not just to salvage what others discard, but also to salvage dignity and a way of life.

Mrs. Nagib’s husband collected trash for a living. Now too old to work, he has passed his route on to his children. And it seems, one by one, the Nagib children are carrying on the tradition.

Six days a week, Mrs. Nagib rises before dawn to see off three of her sons to their work as garbage collectors. At 5, the young men will have climbed into the family truck to head down the slopes to the city — a drive that takes two hours. There, they go from apartment to apartment along their route collecting garbage. By early afternoon, they head home, the truck loaded with trash.

For more, read Salvaging Dignity.

Tags: Egypt Africa ONE magazine

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