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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
25 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, patriarchal exarch of all Belarus, prays the Divine Liturgy in the Minsk Holy Spirit Cathedral on 23 June 2013, also known as Trinity Sunday, or the celebration of Pentecost in Eastern Christianity. The Belarus Orthodox Church is another name for the Belarusan Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. (photo: Belarus Orthodox Church)

Belarus Orthodox Church head decries capital punishment (Belarus Digest) The business-oriented weekly newspaper Belarusy i Rynok reports that the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, patriarchal exarch of all Belarus, spoke out against the death penalty during a roundtable that recently took place. Apart from the Orthodox Church, the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, legislative and judiciary authorities, delegates from the Council of Europe, diplomats and human right activists participated in the event. “We, Christians, cannot legitimize capital punishment since this is the sin of murder,” he said, adding that “we sinful people” do not have the authority to make such decisions about another’s existence…

A series of attacks shake Iraq, including a church hit in Baghdad (AsiaNews) A dozen bombings on Monday in and around Baghdad killed at least 41 and wounded 125 others. Many of the attacks struck outdoor markets or restaurants in the Iraqi capital, including the neighborhoods Al Nasser, Karrada, Al Jihad and Nahrawan. Bombings were also reported in Mosul and Tikrit. Christian-owned shops and businesses were among the casualties, along with religious buildings. Last night, masked men attacked St. Mary Assyrian Church in the east of Baghdad. The attackers stood front of the building and fired wildly at the guards standing outside, seriously wounding two of them…

The Coptic Orthodox Church thanks armed forces for keeping the peace (Fides) In view of the demonstration against the government of Morsi convened on 30 June — the first anniversary of his rise to power — by opposition forces, the Coptic Orthodox Church published a message of thanks and appreciation for the Egyptian army. The high military instances had publicly stated its intention to remain at the service of the people and to want to avoid the ruin that hangs over the entire country. The Coptic Orthodox Church applauds military’s efforts to balance force and security…

Will Ethiopia’s ‘grand’ new dam steal Nile waters from Egypt? (Christian Science Monitor) Africa’s largest hydropower project, a new 6,000-megawatt dam on the Blue Nile, has sparked a row between Egypt and Ethiopia. But it could increase the overall water flow in the Nile in the long run, through the creation of a reservoir roughly half the size of Rhode Island…

Tags: Egypt Ethiopia Iraqi Christians Coptic Orthodox Church Belarus

24 June 2013
Greg Kandra

In Egypt, a Zabbaleen man takes a break from operating a plastics grinding machine. This photo accompanied the story Salvaging Dignity in the September 2012 issue of ONE. The story, by Sarah Topol, on Friday was honored with First Place in the category of Best Personality Profile at the 2013 Catholic Press awards in Denver. (photo: Dana Smillie)

Tags: Egypt ONE magazine Copts Egypt's Christians

24 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2010 image, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land, speaks to a reporter while attending a conference on Christian-Muslim dialogue at Sant’Egidio headquarters in Rome on 22 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Syrian priest offered his martyrdom for peace (Fides) On Sunday, June 23 the Syrian priest François Murad was killed in Gassanieh, in northern Syria, in the convent where he had taken refuge. The circumstances of the death are not fully understood. According to local sources, the monastery came under fire by militants linked to the jihadi group Jabhat al Nusra. “Let us pray,” writes Custos of the Holy Land Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., “that this absurd and shameful war ends soon and that the people of Syria can go back to living a normal life.” Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis reports to Fides: “Father Murad sent me some messages that clearly showed how conscious he was of living in a dangerous situation, and offered his life for peace in Syria and around the world…”

Greek Orthodox patriarch slams failure to free bishops (Daily Star Lebanon) Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X questioned the failure of states and security forces to expedite the release of two abducted bishops. “We appreciate the efforts exerted by the [relevant] states and security forces to seek out information on the fate of the two bishops, but we wonder if they lack the resources to secure their release?” the patriarch said during a liturgy at Balamand Monastery. He added, “We believe their fate is in the hands of God, but this doesn’t [free] anyone from the responsibility of finding out the truth and releasing them as soon as possible…”

Deadly fighting rages in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) At least 15 Lebanese soldiers are now known to have died in clashes between government troops and followers of a Sunni sheikh, who is opposed to the Shia movement Hezbollah and its involvement in the war in Syria. The clashes, which broke out on Sunday between the army and supporters of Ahmad al Assir, continued overnight in Sidon, reported Al Jazeera’s Nour Samaha on Monday. The fighting raged around Abra and the Ain al Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, she said…

Pope: ‘A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!’ (VIS) At noon today, the Holy Father received 30 members of the delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. The pope recalled that 21 previous meetings have helped to strengthen the mutual understanding and ties of friendship between Jews and Catholics. “The church recognizes that ‘the beginnings of its faith and election are to be found in the patriarchs, Moses, and prophets.’ … Due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!” he said…

Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Holy Land Catholic-Jewish relations Orthodox Church of Greece

21 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

An elderly refugee from Azerbaijan languishes in an unsanitary government housing project in Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

In 2008, Gayane Abrahamyan reported on the tragic state of seniors in Armenia:

[Azerbaijani refugee] Sonya Sargsian resides in a dilapidated government-owned building housing impoverished pensioners and the homeless — one of three clustered in a forgotten suburb of Yerevan, the Armenian capital. Built as a student dormitory after World War II, the building has not been renovated since its construction. Residents share a common bathroom, which barely functions. Decrepit plumbing supplies water at irregular intervals.

“We can’t take a bath for months. We walk a district away to get water. Those unable to make the trip try to forget they have basic human needs,” Mrs. Sargsian said, pointing to the sewage leaking through the ceiling. …

For many elderly Armenians such as Sonya Sargsian, a normal life is but a memory. …

Prior to independence, Armenia had only one nursing home and it operated at 50 to 60 percent capacity. Today, seven nursing homes are scattered throughout the country. Overcrowded, these facilities have long waiting lists with as many as 100 or 200 persons waiting for a room.

“Attitudes about bringing elderly family members to nursing homes have changed,” said Artur Markosian, deputy director of a government-run nursing home in Yerevan. “It used to be shameful to do so; no child would bring a parent to such a place. But today, everything is seen from a different point of view.”

The growing demand for nursing homes is not the sole indicator that Armenia’s traditional family-centered values are deteriorating. The children of aging Armenians are not only admitting their parents into nursing facilities in record numbers, they are also in large part abandoning them in the process.

To read more about the plight of the elderly in Armenia, as well as efforts by the Armenian Apostolic Church and charity groups to help, check out ONE’s January 2008 cover story, Pensioners in Crisis.

Tags: Armenia Caring for the Elderly

21 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2010 photo, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch and All the East, right, meets with Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch at the monastery and seminary of St. Ephrem the Syrian, in Syria. (photo: CNEWA)

Prayers for the bishops of Aleppo kidnapped two months ago (Fides) The churches of the Middle East unite in prayer for the release of the two metropolitan bishops of Aleppo — the Syrian Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox Boulos al Yazigi — kidnapped on 22 April. On Saturday evening, 22 June, exactly two months after the kidnapping, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch (brother of the kidnapped Greek Orthodox bishop) and the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I will lead jointly a prayer in Lebanon for the bishops’ release and for peace to prevail in Syria…

Syriac Christians, Kurds working together in Syria (Al Monitor) A shared desire to remain neutral in Syria has inspired cooperation between the Syriac Christian and Kurdish minorities, despite government encouragement of sectarian security branches. This Syriac-Kurd entente is rooted historically in the denial of both peoples’ rights in Syria…

U.N. agency denounces killing of Palestinian refugees in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) The United Nations agency concerned with Palestinian refugees condemned Friday the recent killing of six Palestinians at the Khan Eshieh camp just outside of the Syrian capital. In a statement, the agency said at least three mortar bombs struck the camp outside Damascus Wednesday. UNRWA said it was not clear which party to the conflict had fired the mortar bombs. “In the strongest terms, UNRWA condemns these latest examples of disregard for civilian lives in the Syria conflict,” the Palestinian relief organization said…

Kerala Catholic association fights to save coast from erosion (The Hindu) Members of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council and the Kerala Latin Catholic Association undertook a fast from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday to draw attention to the need for immediate measures to protect the Thanni-Eravipuram coast from sea erosion. Inaugurating the protest, Syro-Malankara Bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios said that life turned miserable for people living along the Kerala coast every monsoon because the authorities took no timely steps to prevent erosion…

Indian bishops: Solidarity with Hindu pilgrims affected by floods (AsiaNews) The Bishops’ Conference of India expresses “deep concern” over the devastation caused by floods and landslides that have hit many parts of the State of Uttarkhand. To date, these disasters have left 150 people dead and tens of thousands of Hindus affected by torrential rains during a pilgrimage. The police have carried over 30,000 people to safety, but 50,000 more remain trapped by landslides. Through the diocesan Caritas and NGO’s, the Indian church has pledged to support the government agencies providing aid and assistance to victims of floods…

Guard shoots Israeli at Western Wall (Al Jazeera) A security guard has shot and killed an Israeli man at one of Judaism’s holiest sites in Jerusalem, the Western Wall, apparently mistaking him for a Palestinian fighter, police said. The shooting took place shortly before 8 a.m. as the plaza in front of the wall filled with worshippers for morning prayers ahead of the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown. The site was temporarily closed to the public…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Aleppo Palestinian Refugees

20 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this photo from April, Eritrean children under the care of religious sisters gather to meet visitors. Eritrea itself is an extremely young nation, having gained independence only in 1991. However, its spiritual roots are quite ancient. To learn more about the Eritrean Orthodox Church, check out the profile from the January 2005 issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Tags: Children Orthodox Church Eritrea Orthodox Orphans/Orphanages

20 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Syrian refugee families dwell in a derelict school building without a regular supply of electricity or water in Beirut, Lebanon, in this March 2013 photo. At the end of his weekly general audience on 19 June, Pope Francis called attention to World Refugee Day, 20 June. (photo: CNS/Don Doll, S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service)

Pope to Middle Eastern Christians: Never lose hope (Vatican Radio) Today, Pope Francis attended the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) at the conclusion of the group’s 86th plenary assembly. ROACO is a committee that unites funding agencies from various countries around the world to coordinate charitable efforts. “The confrontation that sows death should give place to the encounter and the reconciliation that brings life. To all those who suffer I say forcefully: never lose hope! The church is close to you, the church walks with you and sustains you!” the pope said…

Witnessing to the love of Christ in Syria, plagued by hatred and war (AsiaNews) “In a small village north of Aleppo conquered by the rebels, Father Hanna, a Franciscan priest, rings the bell each day at the small local church. The chimes mark the hours of the day and are a sign of hope for the whole population, Christian and Muslim, knowing that in the small chapel there is someone ready to listen, to alleviate their suffering, regardless of faction, and religious beliefs. In Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and other cities, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd provide continuous assistance to the displaced, bringing clean clothes, food and words of comfort,” says Archbishop Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Damascus. “Clergy are laying down their lives life for Christ — and at this time the features of his face are those of the Syrian people, who are suffering…”

Chaldean patriarch: the only solution is political (Fides) “Blood calls for more blood, revenge calls revenge,” said Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis. As such, to achieve peace in Syria, “the only solution to look for is political.” The prospect of supplying arms to the rebels — favored by some Western Countries — will only lead to more chaos and bloodshed…

Building bridges in Belgrade (Vatican Radio) Vatican Radio interviews Gerard Mannion, the chairman of the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, who discusses the major themes of a conference taking place this week in the Serbian capital. The assembly brings together a network of theologians and ecumenical experts from countries around the globe to discuss the themes of religion, authority and statehood. “For a long time now we’ve wanted to come to an area that is predominantly Orthodox and to involve as much of the Orthodox perspective as we could. … We’re delighted with the Orthodox participation and especially that [Serbian Orthodox Patriarch] Irinej opened the conference formally for us…”

Ethiopian refugees face dam backlash in Egypt (Al Jazeera) Over the last few weeks, there has been an emergence of xenophobic attacks against Ethiopians on the streets of Cairo, motivated by Ethiopia’s goal to build the “Grand Renaissance Dam.” The Ethiopian government is planning to dam the Blue Nile for hydroelectric power, a move Egypt worries will affect its water supply…

New Palestinian prime minister resigns (Reuters) Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas just two weeks after taking office, an official in his press office told Reuters on Thursday. A government source told Reuters that Hamdallah made the abrupt, unexpected move because of a “dispute over his powers”…

Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Orthodox Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

19 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Santa Lucia staff member Iman Bibawi Iskandar helps a resident practice writing Arabic Braille in preparation for an exam. (photo: Holly Pickett)

Almost half of Egypt’s population survives on less than $2 per day. According to the United Nations, poverty in Egypt has risen sharply over the past three years. And when economic conditions worsen, those with special needs often suffer disproportionately.

In the neighborhood of Abou Kir, northeast of Alexandria, the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross provide critical services to many of society’s most vulnerable members:

Home to some 300,000 people, Abou Kir is named for an important Egyptian early Christian martyr, St. Cyrus. Today, the city has a large Christian minority (about 30 percent of the population), most of whom follow the Coptic Orthodox or Catholic traditions. …

The Franciscan School dominates Abou Kir’s main thoroughfare, which is lined with mobile phone shops, vegetable stands and idling taxis. The Franciscan Sisters of the Cross, a Lebanese congregation whose members run the school, know their facility is the most prominent institution in town. …

Next to the school, the sisters operate a pioneering project that, since the early 1980’s, serves one of the country’s most disadvantaged groups: blind children.

“This is a special Franciscan apostolate committed to caring for the blind,” explains Sister Souad with pride. “Their food, their drinks, their sleeping, their health care — from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to sleep at night — the Franciscans take care of everything.”

The Santa Lucia Home — named in honor of the patron saint of the blind — was built with funds from CNEWA’s donors and houses ten girls and eight boys from ages 8 to 18…

Most of the residents at Santa Lucia come from poor Christian communities in and around Alexandria or from impoverished areas of Upper Egypt, which lie south of Cairo. Many have experienced the stigma associated with being blind before coming into the sisters’ care.

To read more about the Santa Lucia Home, check out Liam Stack’s Blind to Limitations, from the May 2010 issue of ONE.

Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Poor/Poverty ONE magazine

19 June 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 19 June. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope: Christian unity calls for Catholic unity (VIS) Pope Francis dedicated his catechesis of the Wednesday general audience to the expression “of the body” that the Second Vatican Council used to indicate the nature of the church: the church is the body of Christ. “How much damage is caused to the church by divisions among Christians, by being apart, by narrow interests! The divisions among us,” he continued, “but also the divisions between the communities: evangelical Christians, Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, why are we divided? We must try to bring unity…”

Pope commemorates World Refugee Day (VIS) After giving his catechesis at the general audience, the Holy Father spoke of World Refugee Day, which is commemorated on this day. “We cannot be insensitive to these families or towards our refugee brothers and sisters. We are called to help them, opening ourselves to understanding and hospitality. … In their faces is etched the face of Christ!”…

Cardinal Sandri: A cry for peace in land of Christ’s birth (Vatican Radio) In his homily before this year’s R.O.A.C.O. assembly, which brings together charitable agencies from around the world to support the global church, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and president of R.O.A.C.O., said the following: “The journey towards Christian perfection is … highly demanding, for it is measured by the paradoxical love of the Cross: ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’! When one thinks of the vortex of violence — as unceasing as it is irrational — which has struck our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, as well as of the tension threatening in the Holy Land, in Egypt, and in other places in the Middle East, one cannot avoid the fully paradoxical nature, from a human point of view, of the Gospel’s command…”

‘Islamization’ of Gaza schools endangers Catholic institutions (AsiaNews) Catholic schools in the Gaza Strip risk closure. The Hamas government is implementing legislation to prevent the presence of “non-Islamic” schools in their territory and those that do not conform to the rules, such as the strict separation between the sexes, will be closed. At present, there are three Catholic schools in the Gaza Strip: the school of the Latin Patriarchate, a school run by the Sisters of the Holy Family and the school of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary. Together, they educate over 1000 students, most of whom are Muslim. In recent weeks, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem has expressed a desire to discuss the issue with Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Gaza…

Coptic Pope: Egyptian Christians should follow their conscience in civic matters (Daily News Egypt) Members of Egypt’s Christian minority are free to express their opinions on the streets, just as they were to vote for whomever candidate they supported in the past presidential elections, said head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II. In a Monday interview on MBC Egypt satellite channel, the patriarch said the decision for Copts to protest, both on 30 June and in general, was an issue of personal freedom of expression. “Anyone is allowed to express their opinions peacefully,” said the pope. He went on to say the church is above politics and focused on its social and religious role…

Sunnis, Shiites clash in Lebanese town (Washington Post) Fighting erupted in the southern Lebanese town of Sidon on Tuesday between the supporters of a Salafist sheik and local Shiites affiliated with the Hezbollah movement in the latest example of sectarian tensions fueled by the conflict in neighboring Syria. The state-run National News Agency said one person was killed and four were injured. Tensions also have soared in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where adjoining Sunni and Shiite communities have become entangled in the war across the border…

Tags: Pope Francis Patriarch Fouad Twal Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Cardinal Leonardo Sandri ROACO

18 June 2013
Cory Eldridge

Father Mansour Mattosha is the only priest in his Syriac Catholic parish. (photo: Cory Eldridge)

Cory Eldridge wrote about the plight of Iraqi refugees in Jordan for the Spring 2013 issue of ONE. One of the people he met was a very busy Syriac Catholic priest.

After Father Mansour Mattosha spent a day driving around Amman visiting parish families, a Jesuit school and then finally his small Syriac Catholic church, I was worried about him. The priest has been in Amman for three and a half years, which makes him the longest-serving priest in the parish’s 64 years. The majority of his parishioners are Iraqi Christians, refugees who have fled horrific violence, destroyed neighborhoods and broken communities. Most of them arrive with just a few thousand dollars, usually made from selling a home and all the non-transportable valuables they own. They arrive in Amman separated from their families, friends and a land their ancestors have called home for thousands of years.

Father Mattosha cares for his community with inspiring humor and humility. One of the first things he told me when he picked me up in his very used Toyota Corolla was that most of the families who made up the founding members of the parish — Palestinians who fled the 1948 War — had left the Syriac Catholic Church. There had only been a handful of priests over the years. The families either went to the Latin churches in the city, keeping their ties to Catholicism, or they went to the Syriac Orthodox Church, keeping their language and liturgy. “This is our fault,” Father Mattosha said, meaning the tiny Syriac Catholic Church that has few resources. “It’s not their fault. There was no priest to marry the young people, do baptisms or celebrate Mass.”

After going around town, we finished our day in the dining room of his exceedingly tidy apartment, just a door or two away from the chapel. The parish cannot afford a caretaker for the church. He served me tea while he drank hot water to stave off the cold, saying he cannot drink more than a sip of tea without becoming wired.

Then he told me about his cousin who had been kidnapped. Like most of his congregation, Father Mattosha comes from a small city called Qaraqosh, just outside Mosul in northern Iraq. His cousin, a chicken farmer named Ghassan, was abducted. The criminals, as Father Mattosha calls them, demanded $30,000. He chipped in money, along with his brothers, to ransom Ghassan. Luckily, the kidnappers kept their word and released Ghassan.

That was when I became concerned for Father Mattosha. He has suffered many of the same losses as his parishioners and then in the course of his ministry he suffers theirs as well. After a day of doing pastoral work, he is left to his church, his prayers, and his thoughts. I asked him who ministers to the priest.

“What can you do?” he said and smiled. “You complain to God, to Jesus. Thank God the church is next door. I can go there. But I am mature enough for it.”

Being alone at the church, he says, helps him better understand his parishioners. It is a lonely life away from home.

Tags: Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees Amman Syriac Christians

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