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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
31 July 2013
Greg Kandra

Ethan Jacob Ramirez awaits his baptism in the arms of his mother at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Amman. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)

Two years ago, we visited Jordan and profiled the migrant workers there, many of them Filipino Catholic women:

On Fridays, Mass is standing room only at the English-speaking Sacred Heart Latin Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan. Friday is the Islamic day of rest and it attracts the largest number of parishioners, most of whom work the rest of the week in and around the capital.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem established Sacred Heart parish in 1996 to serve Amman’s swelling Catholic migrant community.

Among the families are a scattering of Europeans and North Americans, most of whom work in the foreign embassies of the posh Jabal Al Weibdeh neighborhood that surrounds the church. A few wear bright salwar kameez, the traditional pajama-like trousers worn by men and women from the Indian subcontinent. The vast majority, however, are Filipino women.

“It was a little strange for me in church at first,” says Father Kevin O’Connell, who has led the parish since its inception 15 years ago. “You’d look out to an entire congregation of women.”

A congenial 67-year-old Jesuit priest from Boston, who wears slacks and sandals under his vestments, Father O’Connell, looks and acts the part of a wise, friendly grandfather.

He helps the choir and he holds the lease on a house where the choir rehearses and other church groups gather. Father O’Connell also oversees the Sacred Heart youth basketball team and helped a group of youngsters from the church secure a space in the Jesuit Fathers’ center where they can breakdance.

Most important, Father O’Connell spends much of his energy responding to the spiritual, emotional and material needs of his predominantly Filipino congregation and other Filipino migrants in the country.

“I understood that the first task was to give people a place where they could be at home,” says Father O’Connell. “For these people, just the ongoing, regular liturgy — with Filipino music, with people reading, with them being able to participate in whatever way they want — gives a strand of consistency and continuity. It’s their home. It’s their place. In most cases, there’s no place else they can gather.”

Though some have jobs at the Philippine Embassy or in international organizations, most are domestic workers. They live in their employers’ homes and work long hours. Many experience intense feelings of loneliness and homesickness. They often have families back home whom they miss desperately.

With few job opportunities in the Philippines and families to support, these women come to the Middle East, where jobs in the “care-giving industry” are plentiful. Motivated by the promise of comparatively high earnings, most of which they intend on sending home to their families, they often accept without complaint long hours, little personal time or freedom and substandard living accommodations.

When the Filipino women attend Mass at Sacred Heart, they make the most of it. Friday’s celebration is usually their only free time all week. They embrace it as a chance to connect with others, speak their native language and openly practice their faith.

The Friday mass in the Catholic church in Amman’s Jabal Al Weibdeh is celebrated by the Sacred Heart English-Language Catholic parish, and the attendees are almost all migrant workers—the vast majority are Filipino women. They come on Friday, the Islamic day of rest, because for many of them that is the only day they are allowed time off.

Read more about Filipinos who are Far From Home in the November 2011 issue of ONE.

Tags: Jordan Catholic Migrants Women

31 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Residents rummage through the damage and debris left of their homes for their belongings after what activists said was an air attack from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al Assad in Aleppo on 27 July. (photo: CNS/Hamid Khatib, Reuters)

Why fewer ground reports are emerging from Syria (Christian Science Monitor) Many journalists are swearing off crossing the border into Syria, owing less to the threat of violence than the risk of kidnapping. Working in Syria during the war has always been dangerous. Since March 2011, the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 24 journalists and 60 citizen journalists. But for those working inside, there were ways to limit exposure to violence and there was relative comfort in knowing that they could trust those around them. In opposition-controlled areas, Syrians wanted the outside world to hear their story and many locals went to great lengths to protect and welcome foreign reporters. Nearly two and a half years into the war, circumstances have changed…

Pope voices concern over priest missing in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Pope Francis voiced concern on Wednesday over the fate of an Italian Jesuit priest missing in Syria. “I am thinking of Father Paolo [Dall’Oglio],” the pope, a fellow Jesuit, said at a Mass for members of the order. There have been conflicting reports this week about the fate of Father Dall’Oglio, a priest known for opposing the Syrian regime, with some activists saying they feared he had been kidnapped. But a Catholic charity working in the region, Aid to the Church in Need, said he had gone to meet members of Al Qaeda to demand the release of a captive…

Russian Orthodox Church to give $1 million to Syrian residents (Zee News) The Russian Orthodox Church is preparing to give over $1.3 million to residents of Syrian cities, said Vasily Rulinsky, spokesman of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry. “At the end of June Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia urged believers to help those who fall victims of the armed conflict in Syria. Funds, which were collected by the Russian Orthodox Church eparchies, are being sent to the accounts of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry. Then the funds will be handed over to Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East, as well as to Supreme Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun of Syria…”

Push for Islamic law in Iraqi Kurdistan stirs controversy (AINA) As religious parties in the Kurdistan Region push for Sharia in the autonomous Iraqi enclave, rights groups warn that this move could curtail freedoms. Opposition Islamic parties in the Kurdistan Region have been pushing for implementation of Article 6 of the enclave’s draft constitution, which states that Sharia is the source of all legislation. Islamic opposition parties have consistently opposed the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s attempts to secularize the constitution, in a country with a predominantly Muslim population but with small Christian and other non-Muslim communities…

Ancient Coptic icons seized at Cairo airport (Egypt Independent) Customs officers at Cairo airport have seized three ancient Coptic icons that someone attempted to smuggle to the United States. Customs chief Mohamed al Shahat said that personnel were suspicious of a parcel that was being shipped to the United States. “We found three ancient Coptic icons in it,” he said. The icons were confiscated and sent to the Ministry of Antiquities…

Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Russian Orthodox Church Icons

30 July 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2011, women clean coffee beans at Abdirasid Ogsadey’s coffee mill in Ethiopia. The process requires manually sorting through the coffee beans to remove pebbles and imperfect beans — beans that are too young, too old, too moist, too dry, cracked or broken. To learn more about this fascinating facet of Ethiopian culture, read Brewed to Perfection in the November 2011 issue of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Tags: Ethiopia Cultural Identity Farming/Agriculture

30 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this video, dated 29 July, Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is seen addressing a crowd in Raqqa, Syria. His subsequent whereabouts are unknown, with reports suggesting either he has been kidnapped or has become involved in negotiations to release a television crew held hostage. (video: U.F.S.S. Raqqa)

Syria: Jesuit Father Dall’Oglio’s whereabouts uncertain (ANSA) A video posted on Youtube shows Father Paolo Dall’Oglio at an Armenian church in Raqqa, in northern Syria, speaking to a crowd of applauding youths. The priest states that Raqqa, a city home to Kurds and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, should become the symbol of the liberation of Syria. Various reports state that Dall’Oglio had an appointment in Raqqa with the jihadists to mediate for the release of a crew of Syrian journalists and technicians taken hostage a few days ago in the Aleppo region. The first attempt reportedly fell through, while in the second the priest was picked up and taken away. At this point in the story the versions diverge; some say he was taken hostage and other say he is involved in negotiations…

Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate issues statement on kidnapped bishops (Marthoman TV) On Monday, 22 April 2013, Aleppo Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Aleppo Metropolitan Paul of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped at the hands of an unknown group near the Turkish-Syrian border between Aleppo and Antioch. The two sister churches have publicly and in private and continue today to exert every effort at local, regional and global levels. These efforts concentrated on all types of communication as the two churches pursued every opportunity that was proposed by the loving friends and left no stone unturned to secure their release which to date has not eventuated…

Israelis and Palestinians open talks (Al Jazeera) Israelis and Palestinians have resumed direct talks for the first time in three years, with the United States urging negotiators to make tough compromises to reach a peace deal. The last direct talks collapsed in September 2010 amid continued Israeli settlement building. Israel and the Palestinians remain deeply divided over so-called “final status issues.” These include the fate of Jerusalem — claimed by both as a capital — the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the fate of dozens of Jewish settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank. As a first step, Israel said Sunday it would release 104 Palestinians imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo accords…

Religious proselytism in refugee camps: the Catholic Church stands off (Fides) Christians linked to evangelical groups were filmed distributing gospels and leaflets concerning spiritual reflection in the refugee camp in Zaatari, the main camp for the reception of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war present on Jordanian territory. The movie, on the internet, continues to provoke controversy. “You cannot bring provision and take advantage of that situation to distribute the Gospels,” says Archbishop Maroun Lahham, patriarchal vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. “In that way you are exploiting humanitarian initiatives to achieve forms of proselytism that have nothing to do with the dynamics of authentic Christian witness…”

Syrian rebels to form government late August, says chief (Daily Star Lebanon) The Syrian opposition will form a provisional government in the second half of August after months of failed efforts, Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba said on Tuesday. “I expect a government in exile to be formed around 10 days after Eid al Fitr,” the Muslim feast that falls on 8 or 9 August, he told AFP in Doha. “There are several candidates” for the post of prime minister, he added, saying one “will be chosen by consensus or through election.” The opposition has struggled to put forward a united front during the country’s more than two years of conflict. The last attempt to form a provisional government collapsed earlier in July when rebel Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto resigned after nearly four months of failed efforts…

Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Middle East Peace Process Refugee Camps human trafficking

29 July 2013
Norma Intriago

In this image from 2012, Al Lagan greets a young friend in Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA)

Last week, we received some sad news: Longtime CNEWA friend and benefactor Alfred A. Lagan passed away on 23 July. He was 77. Norma Intriago, a major gifts officer in our development office, recalls Al’s life and legacy.

I remember the first time I met Al. I was giving him an update on the Paul VI Ephpheta Institute, which he had supported with a large gift. I knew he was a successful businessman in charge of managing investment portfolios, and I felt a little intimidated. I thought I had to put on my business hat and talk about budgets, return on investment and that kind of thing. But he stopped me and said: “Okay, thank you for that piece of information. But I just want to have a conversation.” More than anything he wanted to hear how the children were doing and what the sisters needed.

Al was very close to Ephpheta. It really struck a chord with him, and he gave significantly to support the education of hearing-impaired children in Bethlehem. He also supported the education of seminarians and novice sisters. Catholic education was important to him.

Catholic education, to him, was the best way to tackle the issue of poverty — to give someone the opportunity of education, to arm them with knowledge and good values so that they can build a better life. I think Al felt very blessed as someone who had gone to college, got a master’s degree and started his own investment firm. He felt like his success wasn’t his to keep. It didn’t belong to him — it was God’s blessing. So it was his turn to share that opportunity with others. He was a true altruist. He really, truly, selflessly rendered of himself to others in need.

I visited Ethiopia with Al to see Catholic institutions associated with CNEWA, especially child care institutions and schools. Al went because he had invested a lot in schools in Ethiopia, and had done so for more than 30 years. He also wanted to introduce one of his daughters to the work of CNEWA. He wanted to share that with his family.

Al Lagan chats with children during a visit to Ethiopia in 2009. (photo: CNEWA)

The trip was a rough one. At one point, we were staying in pretty poor accommodations. The electricity went out. We went a couple of days without showering. You can imagine how that affects your mood. But Al’s mood never changed! Whether he was starved, unwashed, whatever, he just shrugged his shoulders. Because he knew the trip wasn’t about his comfort. It was about something bigger than him. It was about the children and their eager faces. It was about the sisters who ran the institutions and their resourcefulness. That was what the trip was about. These kids had nothing, and it was about making sure they have a chance. I think Al taught me quite a lot about living the Gospel.

I believe that Al’s legacy will continue. When you have one of these really exceptional forces in your life, I don’t think that goes away. I see it in his daughters. They are also friends and supporters of CNEWA and other Catholic organizations. Al led by example. I see it in his children, and I’m sure in his grandchildren. His legacy will live on.

Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA Education Donors

29 July 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2011, Petro Moysiak is ordained a priest in the Church of the Transfiguration in the city of Kolomyja in Ukraine. For more on the life of priests in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, read Answering the Call from our November 2011 issue. (photo: Petro Didula)

Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

29 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate, meets with Metropolitan Volodymyr, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate. To learn more about the status and history of this church, read see the Profile that appeared in the May 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate)

Patriarch: Unification of Ukrainian Orthodox churches not far off (Interfax) Patriarch Filaret noted that there are two distinctive features in the celebration of the 1,025th anniversary of the Christianization of the Kiev Rus — in particular, the fact that the state and the church celebrate the holiday together, and that all Ukrainian churches celebrate it together. He again expressed confidence that the unification of Ukrainian Orthodox churches into in a single local church is not far off…

Attack on Minya churches repelled by residents, security forces (Daily News Egypt) Residents protected Al Azraa and Anba Ebram churches from attacks by alleged Morsi supporters in Minya on Saturday, spokesperson of the archbishop of Mawas monastery Amgad Ezzat has told state-owned MENA agency. “They threw Molotov cocktails at Al Azraa and Anba Ebram churches but were not able to break in as nearby Muslims and Christians were securing the churches,” said Ishak Ibrahim, researcher at Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). He added that the protesters tried to storm in Al Eslah church but were prevented. “However, both Al Eslah church and an annex of the Catholic church were raided before, on 3 July,” he said…

In Egypt, love for Sisi overshadows protester deaths (Christian Science Monitor) The day after at least 74 Islamist protesters were killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces, none of Egypt’s main newspapers on Sunday showed the injured, the dead, or even the vast crowds staging a sit-in against the coup that deposed former President Mohamed Morsi. One newspaper went so far as to blanket the front page with regal photos of Egypt’s military chief, General Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and revered nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser with a headline roughly equivalent to, “Spot on, chief!” The elevation of General Sisi to almost legendary status when well over 200 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in clashes since he led a July 3 coup has raised cries of anguish from a small but vocal segment of Egyptians. They openly wonder how their fellow citizens — including so many who fought for democratic government in the 2011 protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak — have become so deliriously in love with the army, and worry they are blind to the potential for a return to dictatorship…

Rai urges leaders to attend National Dialogue session (Daily Star Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai urged rival leaders Sunday to attend National Dialogue sessions to achieve reconciliation, warning that a delay in all-party talks would deepen differences among the Lebanese and increase damage to the country. The patriarch also renewed his call for a new social contract based on the 1943 National Pact aimed at strengthening sectarian coexistence and the equal power-sharing formula between Christians and Muslims…

Millions of Muslims drawn to Marian devotion (AsiaNews) Each year millions of Muslims come on pilgrimage to the Catholic Marian shrines. Not only to the major shrines such as Fatima in Portugal or Harissa in Lebanon, but also to Egypt, Syria and Iran. Muslims — especially Muslim women — go to give thanks to the Madonna or great Christian saints, like St. Charbel or St. George…

Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Christian-Muslim relations Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Ukrainian Orthodox Church

26 July 2013
Greg Kandra

During a World Youth Day Mass this week, Pope Francis gestures and shows his chotki,
or prayer rope. (photo: AP via

Some Roman Catholics may have wondered what Pope Francis was wearing around his wrist during his visit to Rio de Janeiro this week. But the faithful in the Eastern churches — Catholic and Orthodox — no doubt recognized it: it’s a chotki, or prayer rope. It’s not uncommon to see patriarchs wearing one. It’s almost unheard of, though, to see one in the hands of the bishop of Rome.

Some background:

The rope is usually used with the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Historically it typically had 100 knots, although prayer ropes with 300, 50, or 33 knots or, less commonly, 250 or 12 can also be found in use today. There is typically a knotted cross at one end, and a few beads at certain intervals between the knots. “The purpose is to help us concentrate, not necessarily to count.”

Its invention is attributed to St. Pachomius in the fourth century as an aid for illiterate monks to accomplish a consistent number of prayers and prostrations. Monks were often expected to carry a prayer rope with them, to remind them to pray constantly in accordance with St. Paul’s injunction in I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”

Pope Francis, of course, has a close connection to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Shortly after the pope’s election, Patriarch Sviatoslav wrote:

The newly elected Pope Francis was mentored by one of our priests, Stepan Chmil who is now buried in the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome. Today’s Pope, during his time as a student of the Salesian school, awoke many hours before his classmates to concelebrate at our Divine Liturgy with Fr. Stepan. He knows our Tradition very well, as well as our Liturgy.

The last time I had an opportunity to see him was as I was preparing to leave Argentina for Ukraine. I asked him to bear witness to the process of beatifying Fr. Stepan Chmil, to which, he gladly agreed. The Holy Father very well knows not only of our Church, but also our liturgy, our rites, and our spirituality.

Apart from this, Pope Francis, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, was assigned as ordinary for Eastern Catholics, specifically those who at the time did not have members of their own hierarchy. Our Eparchy in Argentina is, let’s say, suffragan to the Archbishop’s seat of Buenos Aires. In this way, Cardinal Bergoglio, always took care of our Church in Argentina; and as a young bishop, I took my first steps in episcopal ministry under his watchful eyes and help. Because of this, I am positive that the Holy Father will be a great help to our Church, and I expect that great things await our Church with this Pope.

26 July 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2012, then-President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt is flanked by high-ranking military personnel as he address soldiers at a checkpoint in El-Arish.
(photo: CNS /Egyptian Presidency handout via Reuters)

Prosecutors charge Egypt’s Morsi with espionage (Los Angeles Times) Egyptian prosecutors have charged deposed President Mohamed Morsi with espionage and colluding with the militant group Hamas in provocative accusations ahead of rival rallies planned Friday by Islamists and largely secular opposition forces. The charges against Morsi, who has been in army custody since his overthrow on 3 July, are certain to infuriate tens of thousands of his Islamist supporters who have been demonstrating in Cairo and other cities. The accusations come the day after the army warned Islamists to disband their sit-ins or face retaliation...

Orthodox leaders demand end to torture, murder of Christians ( The heads and representatives of all 15 autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches have issued a joint statement lamenting the persecution of Christians around the world. The leaders have gathered to commemorate the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of Kievan Rus’, the medieval Slavic state that helped give birth to modern Russia and Ukraine. “Every day thousands of believers in Christ are being tortured and driven out of their native lands; many people meet their death,” they said in a statement published by Interfax, a Russian news agency. “News about tortures and murders are coming from Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India...”

Patriarchs meet, urge unity (Sofia News Agency) New Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit has met with Russian Patriarch Kiril in Moscow, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church informs. The Patriarch is leading the Bulgarian delegation which is taking part in the celebrations of the 1025th anniversary of the converting of Russia to Christianity, the so-called “Baptism of Russia.” The delegation will be in Moscow until July 30. The invitation was extended by the Moscow Patriarchy. The two Patriarchs first visited the chapel in the Synod's headquarters in Moscow and then held a talk...

Denver area home to 30,000 from Ethiopia, Eritrea (Denver Post) A bloody, 17-year civil war that began in 1974 drove a mass migration to the United States. Church groups helped at least 2,700 refugees from Ethiopia and Eritrea, the province that split off after the war ended in 1991, resettle in Denver. Others followed to join families, for education, for job opportunities. Today, activists and academics estimate there are more than 30,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans among the seven-county metro area’s nearly 2.9 million people. As a group, Ethiopians have stitched together a vibrant piece of the city’s social and commercial fabric. They own businesses, build ornate churches, send their kids to state colleges and live an American dream...

Pope is most influential, second most-followed world leader on Twitter (CNS) Pope Francis is the most influential world leader on Twitter, with the highest number of retweets worldwide. He also is the second most-followed leader of the world, running behind — albeit by a long stretch — U.S. President Barack Obama. The rankings were released 24 July in a recent study titled “Twiplomacy,” which refers to the use of Twitter by world leaders...

25 July 2013
Greg Kandra

Young men attend a shoemaking class at vocational training center in Minya, Egypt.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

Several years ago, we visited a vocational school in Upper Egypt that was giving hope and opportunity to the handicapped:

The Jesuit Center for the Handicapped is one of several projects in the region funded by CNEWA. The center is dedicated to youths who would otherwise have few opportunities for an independent life.

The center, originally for boys, was founded in 1983. Since 1992, girls have also been admitted. There are now 40 students at the center and admission is equally divided by gender.

Students are bused from surrounding areas and they room at the center from Monday to Thursday. By having a three-day weekend in their villages, respect is paid to both Muslims, who pray on Fridays, and Christians, who worship on Sundays.

Minya’s population is about 20 percent Christian and 80 percent Muslim. Osama Iseq, the center’s director, said there are tensions between the two religious communities, fueled largely by Islamic fundamentalists.

“At first we had problems with bringing the students to the center,” he said. “There was one village we could not even get to because of anti-Christian feelings, but now there is no problem. Here Muslims and Christians get along. That students are eating, studying, living and working together is better than any discussion...

...The center’s two-year course provides vocational training in the morning and literacy and simple mathematics classes in the afternoon. When students are finished with the course, they read, write, do basic arithmetic and are prepared for an independent life with practical job skills.

But while the vocational school is relatively new, the Jesuits have a long history of being educators in Minya. On the same campus as the Center for the Handicapped is a primary and preparatory school founded in 1889. The Jesuit Fathers school also receives scholarship grants from CNEWA.

The 800-pupil school is run by five Jesuit priests and one brother, two of whom are Egyptians, two are Maltese, one is French and the other is Dutch. Also on staff are a number of Christian and Muslim teachers.

Jesuit Father Joseph Mizi, the school’s director, said the school is one of the best in the district even though it primarily serves the poorer children of the area.

Read more about efforts to take young people From Dusty to Dignity in the November 2002 issue of the magazine.

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