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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
13 March 2013
Bradley H. Kerr

In this March 25, 2005 photo, Cardinal Camillo Ruini leads the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum on Good Friday. The prayers that year were composed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who weeks later became Pope Benedict XVI. (photo: CNS/Greg Tarcynski)

On Good Friday in 2005, a large crowd gathered at the Colosseum in Rome. They were there to pray a traditional devotion with special meditations composed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: the Way of the Cross, which follows Christ’s journey to Calvary. Weeks later, the cardinal would become Pope Benedict XVI.

Here is an excerpt of the prayers and meditations that were read that day:

Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene, and you gave him, by his share in your cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbors in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Help us to realize that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that, when we share in your suffering and the sufferings of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the church.

Read the rest here.

Now, you can read and pray these special reflections in a beautiful booklet from CNEWA. Good Friday is less than three weeks away, but there is still time to get your copy of The Way of the Cross With Pope Benedict XVI. We’ll rush it to you today for a donation of only $10. Your gift will help the Eastern Catholic churches and the poor whom we prayerfully serve.

Visit this link to order your copy. We know you’ll treasure it for years to come — and your gift will help so many in need today!

Tags: CNEWA Pope Benedict XVI Prayers/Hymns/Saints

13 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Black smoke emits from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican shortly before noon on 13 March to signify that a new pope was not elected. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

More black smoke on morning of conclave’s first full day (CNS) More black smoke poured from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at 11:40 a.m. on 13 March, which seemed to indicate the 115 cardinal electors failed to elect a pope on their second and third ballots. The cardinals had voted once on 12 March without electing a pope. According to the schedule published before the conclave, the cardinals were to take two votes in the morning of their first full day in the Sistine Chapel and return to their residence at 1 p.m. for lunch if the voting was unsuccessful. Ballots are burned a maximum of twice a day: White smoke would pour out of the chimney at mid-morning or mid-afternoon if one candidate received the 77 votes needed to be elected pope; and black smoke would puff out at midday or late evening if the two morning or two evening ballots were unsuccessful…

Chaldean patriarch says church institutions must be fair and transparent (Fides) On Tuesday, 12 March, Patriarch Louis Raphael I — who celebrated his inaugural Mass on Wednesday, 6 March — issued a statement calling on all responsible institutions linked to the Chaldean Church to follow principles of fairness and transparency in the management of financial resources. He recommended everyone to follow the procedures laid down by the laws on accounting, setting aside discretionary practices. The intent of the provisions set out in the statement is to “preserve the reputation and credibility of the church”…

Gaza’s Orthodox church celebrates 1,606 years (Al Monitor) In the only Orthodox church in Gaza, surrounded by saints’ icons hanging on the walls, young and old churchgoers join Greek Orthodox Bishop Alexios in hymns, hold candles and burn incense, filling the place with an air of serenity. They pray in celebration of the 1,606th anniversary of the founding of St. Porphyrius Church in Gaza City, which was built in the year 407 A.D. While today Christians in the Gaza Strip number around 1,500 people — mostly Greek Orthodox — in the mid-1990s there were as many as 5,000 Christians…

U.N., Jordan to tackle crime in Syrian refugee camp (Daily Star Lebanon) The U.N. refugee chief says his agency is working with Jordan to bolster security at a camp for Syrian refugees where reports of drug trafficking, prostitution and other crimes have emerged. Antonio Guterres says the Zaatari camp near the Jordanian-Syrian border now is de facto Jordan’s fourth-largest city, with a “complex” environment. Jordan currently hosts 450,000 Syrian refugees…

Interfaith dialogue held in Cochin (New Indian Express) The Cochin-based International Interfaith Dialogue India (IIDI) held a seminar to discuss “Religion and Human Values” this weekend. “The aim of all religions is the striving for justice, peace and co-operation,” said Shri Prasanna Venkatachariar Chaturvedi Swamy, the founder of the Sri Ramanuja Mission Trust, Tamil Nadu. “Through one’s faith one should help the needy, irrespective of religious barriers.” The messages of Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, the chief patron of the IIDI, and Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, were presented via video…

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan Vatican Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Chaldean Church

12 March 2013
Bradley H. Kerr

This image from last fall shows the burned interior of Kevork Church is seen after clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al Assad in Aleppo. (photo: CNS/George Ourfalian, Reuters)

Since Syria fell into civil war, more than 900,000 Syrians have fled their homeland and two million more are displaced inside Syria. Christians have been hit especially hard. Cities like Homs, once the heart of the Christian community, are now all but empty of the faithful. Moreover, Christian refugees in neighboring Lebanon are reluctant to reach out for aid from the United Nations and the Red Crescent, out of fear for their safety.

Recently, the New York Times took readers into the heart of the crisis:

Quietly but inexorably, a human tide has crept into Lebanon, Syria’s smallest and most vulnerable neighbor.

As Syrians fleeing civil war pour over the border, the village priest here, Elian Nasrallah, trudges through muddy fields to deliver blankets. His family runs a medical clinic for refugees. When Christian villagers fret about the flood of Sunni Muslims, he replies that welcoming them is “the real Christianity.”

But the priest and his parishioners cannot keep up. The United Nations counts more than 305,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but local officials and aid workers say the actual number is about 400,000, saturating this country of four million.

The Lebanese government — by design — has largely left them to fend for themselves. Deeply divided over Syria, haunted by memories of an explosive refugee crisis a generation ago, it has mostly ignored the problem, dumping it on overwhelmed communities like Qaa.

So far, Lebanon’s delicate balance has persevered, but there is a growing sense of emergency.

Read further for more details. The picture it paints is harrowing.

We at CNEWA are working with our partners in the Eastern Catholic churches to ensure Syria’s Christians do not fall through the cracks.

This is how:

Coordinating Church Aid

Churches in Syria and Lebanon are already ministering to the needs of displaced Christians. But the Christian community is fractured and does not have a history of working together. The only institution known and trusted by all sides is CNEWA. Perhaps our greatest contribution to the relief effort has been to coordinate the initiatives with our church partners. Working together works.

Feeding Displaced Families

Inside Syria, we are helping our partner churches to feed 3,000 of the most vulnerable Christian families who are in their care. Some of these families live in especially violent areas and are too frightened to leave home; others are simply too poor to afford the cost of food. The families are receiving emergency food packages with enough to feed five people for a month.

Medicine for Refugees

With our help, the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lebanon are providing 800 Iraqi refugees with medicine for chronic health problems. They include families like Walid H., his wife and three children, all of whom have become asthmatic since moving into a moldy, one-room slum apartment. This family is receiving inhalers and other necessary medications, thanks to the sisters and CNEWA.

Helping Families Adjust

No one knows how long the refugees will be in Lebanon, but they are not going home any time soon. Working with Armenian Catholic and Armenian Orthodox church leaders, we are helping children from 450 families to adjust to Lebanon’s education system — a real challenge, as many schools only teach in French. We are also providing women with vocational training so they can find jobs.

Sheltering the Homeless

Lebanon has many parishes, congregations of religious and other Christian institutions. Right now, we are helping to survey church-owned real estate in order to identify vacancies where refugee families can live in stability and dignity.

You can be a part of our effort to bring help and hope to the suffering people of Syria. Visit our Syria emergency donor page to learn how your gift can make a difference!

Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Refugee Camps

12 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Huddled in the rain, people in St. Peter’s Square watch on a large television monitor as cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI on 12 March. Shut off from the outside world, the 115 cardinals will cast their ballots to select a new pontiff. (photo: CNS/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

The conclave to elect to new pope began today, and so did the waiting:

Invoking the aid of the Holy Spirit and the holy men and women from all over the world recognized as saints, 115 cardinals processed slowly into the Sistine Chapel to begin the process to elect a pope.

Once in the chapel, the cardinals from 48 countries vowed that, if elected pope, they would faithfully fulfill the ministry of universal pastor of the church and would defend the rights and freedom of the Holy See.

They also solemnly swore to scrupulously follow the rules for the election of a pope and keep secret the results of the votes, unless they have express permission from the new pope to reveal details.

After reciting the oath together, each cardinal walked up to the Book of the Gospels, put his right hand on it, said his name and sealed his oath, “So help me God and these holy Gospels that I touch with my hand.”

The portion filmed by Vatican television ended with Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, saying, “Extra omnes,” ordering out everyone not authorized to remain.

There’s more the Catholic News Service site.

Tags: Vatican Catholic Pope Papacy Rome

12 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presides over the Mass for the election of the Roman pontiff in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 12 March. Concelebrating were some 170 cardinals, including 115 under 80 who were to enter the conclave in the Sistine Chapel that afternoon. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

In pre-conclave sermon, Cardinal Sodano calls for unity (CNS) Hours before the start of the conclave that will choose the next pope, the dean of the College of Cardinals celebrated the papacy as a source of unity among Catholics and of evangelization and charitable service to the world. Christ “has established his apostles and among them Peter, who takes the lead, as the visible foundation of the unity of the church,” Cardinal Angelo Sodano said in his homily at St. Peter’s Basilica March 12. “Each of us is therefore called to cooperate with the successor of Peter, the visible foundation of such an ecclesial unity.” Cardinal Sodano’s homily included words of thanks for the “brilliant pontificate” of Pope Benedict XVI, which prompted more than 30 seconds of applause. The cardinal quoted the retired pope’s description of charity as a “constitutive element of the church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her being”…

Coptic Catholic leadership enthroned in Cairo, voting in Rome (Fides) After a period of spiritual retreat, His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, elected Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria on 15 January, has taken possession of his patriarchal see. The enthronement liturgy occurred today in the Coptic Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin, in Cairo. At the same time, in Rome, the Pro Eligendo Roman Pontiff Mass began at the Basilica of St. Peter, presided by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. The liturgy in Rome will also be attended by the Egyptian Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Coptic Catholic patriarch emeritus of Alexandria, who in January had to give up the exercise of his patriarchal ministry for health reasons…

Iraq’s new Sunni awakening (Al Monitor) Protesters in Iraq are calling for an end to sectarian discrimination by the Iraqi government and unfair treatment of Arab Sunnis. Osama al Nujaifi, the speaker of parliament and a leader of the largest government coalition, told Al Jazeera in an interview that Iraqi Sunnis are a majority in Iraq, denying the Shiite claims of the same. Ahmed Abu Risha, the former leader of the “Awakening group” that allied with the US army in the battle against al Qaeda in Anbar, maintained in another TV interview that Baghdad is a Sunni city. The protesters’ calls last February to “march on Baghdad” symbolized the emerging Sunni narrative in which Baghdad is presented as the “promised land” that must be redeemed by its original owners…

Islamists continue push for a puritanical Egypt (L.A. Times) The brother of al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri is an unflinching man with a graying beard whose aim, as a Salafi, is to impose Islamic law on the divided country that has emerged since the overthrow of secular autocrat Hosni Mubarak two years ago. Seated at a rooftop cafe as dusk draped the Nile, traffic screeching and lights flickering in the ancient city below, he wagged a finger in the air and spoke of an “epic battle” to scour Egypt of corruption and immorality. “God’s teachings must be carried out,” said Mohammed Zawahiri, an engineer who was acquitted by a military court last year after being imprisoned for more than a decade on charges of attempting to overthrow the state. Once at the edges of Egypt’s political spectrum, puritanical Islamists known as Salafis have been emboldened by the nation’s revolution…

Tags: Iraq Egypt Vatican Coptic Catholic Church Papacy

11 March 2013
Greg Kandra

In their new village home in Kerala, boys say grace before their meal. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In 2003, we took readers to a community in southwestern India caring for the poor and sick, where people were finding a new home with a new family:

Ajith, 7, and his brother, Ranjith, 10, used to eat dirt to stave off hunger pangs while living on the streets in a remote corner of India’s southwestern state, Kerala. The diet of the two boys, who had been abandoned by their parents, greatly improved, however, after they found a home in a village established two and a half years ago by a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest, Vincentian Father Anthony Plackal.

“We had no food, shelter or clothes, but now we are happy and well-fed,” Ranjith said. “We even attend school.”

The village, located in Vettikkuzi near the Christian heartland of Irinjalakuda, provides much-needed shelter and a new sense of “family” to local homeless people, young and old, healthy and infirm. Ajith and Ranjith live with 80 other residents, or patients as they are called, in six brick homes scattered across the gardens of the community’s 13 acres.

Local demand for the services of the project, dubbed Sacred Scripture Social Message Into Living Experience, or SSSMILE, is growing. The constant devotion of local religious and the construction of a new dormitory, built with financial assistance from CNEWA, will enable the village to help even more of those in need.

Read more on this remarkable project from the November 2003 issue of the magazine.

11 March 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from last December, a blind man walks past cars and buildings damaged in fighting in the old city of Aleppo, Syria. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)

Few civilian areas remain untouched by Syrian war (Reuters) Few civilian areas in Syria remain untouched by the country’s two-year civil war and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced internally, according to the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria. Over the past two months, there has been a dramatic erosion of areas inside Syria where civilians are able to live unaffected by the violence and destruction caused by the conflict,” the panel told the Human Rights Council in Geneva today, according to an advance copy of its presentation. In its latest report, the commission said the collapse of Syria’s economy has crippled citizens’ access to basic economic and social rights...

UN: Syrian refugees top one million (Vatican Radio) The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says number of Syrians who have fled the conflict to other countries has now reached the one million mark. The agency says about half of the refugees are children, the majority under the age of eleven...

Timetable announced for conclave (VIS) During the course of the briefing for journalists on Saturday in the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, outlined a timetable for the ceremonies and proceedings on the first days of the upcoming Conclave...

Egyptian Christian reportedly dies in Libyan custody (Associated Press) An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official says a man suspected of trying to spread Christianity in Libya has died in prison there. The diplomat says Ezzat Atallah, who suffered from diabetes and heart ailments, likely died of natural causes. He spoke anonymously Sunday in line with regulations. Atallah was among five Evangelical Christian Egyptians detained in Libya for allegedly proselytizing in the predominantly Muslim nation...

Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Pope Benedict XVI Libya

8 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Workers cover the floor of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel on 8 March in preparation for the papal conclave. Cardinal electors assembled in Rome will begin voting for the next pope on 12 March. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

It was announced today that cardinals will begin the process to elect the pope next Tuesday:

Cardinal electors assembled in Rome will begin voting for the next pope on 12 March.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, announced the date for the start of the election, known as a conclave, in a message to reporters on 8 March.

The first session of voting inside the Sistine Chapel will begin in the afternoon, following a morning Mass “Pro eligendo Summo Pontifice” (“for the election of the supreme pontiff”) in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Rules governing papal elections state that a conclave must start between 15 and 20 days after the Holy See falls vacant; but shortly before his resignation on 28 February, Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree allowing cardinal to move up the start date if they choose.

The College of Cardinals decided the date on the fifth day of its pre-conclave meetings, after waiting for the 115 cardinals eligible and expected to vote. The last to arrive in Rome was Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, who joined the others on 7 March.

At the morning session on 8 March, before announcing the scheduled vote, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, told the assembly that with the changes made by Pope Benedict, the cardinals would not have to debate on whether they were authorized to begin the conclave before 15 March, Father Lombardi said.

Tags: Vatican Pope Papacy Rome

8 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit was elected and enthroned on Sunday, 24 February 2013, following the death of Patriarch Maxim on 6 November. (photo: Russian Orthodox Church)

Bulgarian Orthodox patriarch urges against further protester suicides (Sofia Globe) Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit has called on protesters not to go to the extreme of committing suicide, an appeal made after three cases of self-immolation in the country in recent weeks. The death of Plamen Goranov, who died several days after setting himself on fire outside the Varna municipal offices after calling on mayor Kiril Yordanov to resign, was at the forefront of national attention and prompted the Cabinet to declare a day of national mourning on 6 March. The church leader said that the suicide was tragic, and whatever the motives and goals, they were in contradiction with Christian morality…

Cardinal Timothy Dolan shares a glimpse of the cardinals’ activities (Archdiocese of NY) “We cardinals sure are praying a lot. Every day we each begin with the most effective prayer of all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In our sessions we pray from the Divine Office, begin each meeting with the ancient prayer to the third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Veni Sancte Spiritus, and we break at lunch with the beautiful words of the Angelus. Wednesday, we cardinals made a Holy Hour of adoration before Jesus, really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica. We’re praying a lot; and, from what I hear, so are you. Thanks! … We spend most of our time discussing issues such as preaching; teaching the faith; celebrating the seven sacraments; inviting back those believers who have left; serving the sick and poor…”

Cardinals to vote on conclave date tonight (VIS) “The eighth General Congregation that will meet this evening will vote on the date to begin the conclave,” announced Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. “It is likely,” he clarified, “that the Conclave will begin early next week: perhaps Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. It definitely will not be tomorrow or Sunday. Tomorrow a General Congregation will only take place in the morning and on Sunday it is expected that the cardinals will visit their titular churches in the city to pray. They are under no obligation to do so, but it is likely that they will”…

Concerns over Islamic extremism bringing Eastern Christian churches closer (Al Monitor) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter last month conducted a four-day visit to Moscow on the invitation of Patriarch Kirill I. The meeting is significant and constitutes an advanced step taken by the Maronite leader to bring Eastern churches of various doctrines into closer cooperation. The Kremlin and the Vatican have both expressed support for such endeavors seeking to protect the Christian minorities in the East, whose survival is being challenged by the dominance of Islamic forces over the Arab Spring movements. An inside source says the patriarchs discussed several topics related to preserving and fortifying the Christian presence in the Middle East — and the Maronite patriarchal edifice in Lebanon represents a strategic fulcrum in this regard. Lebanon is a rallying point for Christian presence in the region…

A mother inspires the fight for Palestinian rights (Al Monitor) On 8 March every year, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements for International Women’s Day. In the spirit of the day, lawyer-activist Shireen Issawi writes about how her mother inspired her and her brother, Samer Issawi, who has been on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison for some 222 days, to fight for Palestinian independence…

Tags: Vatican Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Palestinians Patriarch Kirill Papacy

7 March 2013
Greg Kandra

In Ohrid, Macedonia, a priest takes to the streets, blessing the faithful with holy water. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In 2004, writer Sean Sprague visited a corner of Macedonia to report on the thriving faith of the Orthodox:

Although Macedonia became a republic within the newly created Yugoslav federation, which also included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, the Communist government of Josip Broz Tito encouraged Macedonian nationalists and the independence of the Church of Ohrid — if only to irritate Greek ambitions in the area.

The Archdiocese of Ohrid was restored in 1958. Nine years later on the 200th anniversary of its dissolution and despite opposition from the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church proclaimed itself autocephalous.

“We are now a free church and a free people,” exclaimed Father Eftim Betinski, a parish priest from St. George Church. “Now that we have independence, people feel free to visit churches, participate in public ceremonies and make old traditions a part of their lives again.”

When Macedonia was a part of Yugoslavia, people were free to worship, but the Communist government discouraged public religious activities.

“We have an annual tradition where the bishop throws a cross into the lake on 19 January, symbolizing the baptism of Christ. Men dive into the frigid water to retrieve the cross and the one who finds it keeps it for 40 days and receives small donations from people,” Father Betinski said. “The practice used to be forbidden, but now it is allowed.”

The Macedonian Orthodox Church — now under the leadership of Stefan, Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia — is clearly growing.

Read more about the Macedonian Orthodox in Answering the Macedonian Question from the July 2004 issue of ONE.

Tags: Cultural Identity Eastern Europe Communism/Communist Macedonia Macedonian Orthodox Church

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