24 February 2014
A woman cries during a candlelight vigil at St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in New York City on 23 February. The service was held to pray for peace in Ukraine.
(CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters)
24 February 2014
Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of a consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 22 February. Pope Benedict’s presence at the ceremony marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public liturgy. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope creates 19 new cardinals, with Pope Benedict present (CNS) On a feast day commemorating the authority Jesus gave to St. Peter and his successors — the popes — Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI. To the great surprise of most people present, the retired pope entered St. Peter’s Basilica about 15 minutes before the new cardinals and Pope Francis. Wearing a long white coat and using a cane, he took a seat in the front row next to Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. Pope Benedict’s presence at the consistory 22 February, the feast of the Chair of Peter, marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public prayer service in the basilica. Pope Benedict resigned 28 February 2013, becoming the first pope in almost 600 years to do so...
Pope Francis: no divisions between Christians (Vatican Radio) Following the celebration of Mass on Sunday morning with the 19 new Cardinals, Pope Francis greeted the crowds in St. Peter’s Square gathered for the Angelus prayer. In his address to them he urged them to work for Christian unity avoiding all divisions, because he said: “a community does not belong to the preacher, but to Christ...”
Official in Ukraine accuses ex-president of mass murder (The New York Times) Ukraine’s acting interior minister said on Monday that authorities were in pursuit of the ousted president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, who was believed to be in Crimea in the south of the country, and that he would be arrested on charges of mass murder in the killings of dozens of antigovernment protesters last week. The minister, Arsen Avakov, who was appointed by Parliament on Saturday, wrote on his Facebook page that he was personally involved in the manhunt and had traveled to the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Sunday night hoping to intercept Mr. Yanukovych at the airport there, but that the deposed president had not turned up as expected...
In Ukraine, the bitterness behind an upheaval (The Washington Post) Anatoliy Zhalobaha didn’t pay much attention to politics, but he was angry, and growing angrier. That’s what drew him to Kiev on Wednesday, and into the path of a sniper’s bullet on Thursday. The uprising convulsing Ukraine gets much of its strength from places such as Dubliany, a village of 8,000 in the westernmost part of the country. But the driving force behind it is not so much about geography, or differences in language, or ideology, though those are significant factors. For Zhalobaha, it was the raw deal he felt he had gotten in a country where those in power were brazenly helping themselves to as much as they could get their hands on...
Senior al-Qaeda commander killed in Syria (Aljazeera) A Syrian rebel commander, who fought alongside al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack in Aleppo, intensifying in-fighting between rival armed groups. The killing of Abu Khaled al-Suri on Sunday in a suicide bombing in the al-Halq area of Aleppo was confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights...
Kerala group launches website for cancer survivors (India Today) For the first time in India, a youth movement in Kerala is launching a matrimonial website to find life partners for cancer survivors, bringing solace and hope to those who have successfully battled the disease. The initiative by the St George Orthodox Youth Movement, under the St Mary’s Orthodox Parish church at Kumbanad in Pathanamthitta district, is first of its kind in the country, the sources claimed...
21 February 2014
Two young carolers go out on Christmas Eve in Kosmach, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)
With Ukraine in our thoughts and prayers — and dominating the world’s headlines — we were reminded of this profile of one village 10 years ago:
Tucked into the Carpathian Mountains in southwestern Ukraine, Kosmach is the center of the 500,000-strong Greek Catholic and Orthodox Hutsul community.
The 13th-century Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus — which includes parts of present-day Belarus, Russia and Ukraine — is an essential chapter in Hutsul history. Many of those who survived the ruthless devastation of their homeland, peasants mostly, headed for the hills, seeking refuge in the Carpathians.
The earliest written references identifying these refugees as Hutsuls date to 14th- and early 15th-century Polish documents.
The intensification of serfdom, which bound the peasants to the land, provoked another exodus to the mountains hundreds of years later.
Today, the descendants of these refugees live in an area covering 2,500 square miles in southwestern Ukraine and northern Romania.
“In general, the Hutsuls are conservative,” says Roman Kyrchiv, professor emeritus of philology at the Institute of Ukrainian Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. “It was difficult for them to accept Christianity. They were attached to their pre-Christian traditions.”
…Caroling remains an important Christmas tradition. “According to legend, God gave gifts to all the countries,” says Father Hunchak, “Ukraine came late and God had nothing left to give except songs. Our Christmas carols are simply gifts from God.”
Read more about Faith and Tradition in Ukraine from the November 2004 issue of ONE.
21 February 2014
Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Village life Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Yesterday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke out against the violence and division in Ukraine. The patriarch also expressed recently his “expectant joy” for his meeting with Pope Francis, planned for May. (photo: Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constinople)
Ecumenical patriarch discusses tragic situation in Ukraine (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “In the wake of the anniversary last year, celebrating 1025 years since Christian faith and civilization was conveyed to the Kievan Rus by our own predecessors in the Church of Constantinople, we are compelled, in the name of the ethos and culture of the freedom granted by God to all people as a divine gift, to condemn the present relentless brutality and insist on a peaceful and reasonable solution to the internal problems of Ukraine…”
Accord signed in Ukraine, amid hopes to end bloodshed (New York Times) Opposition leaders signed an agreement with President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday to try to defuse a deadly political crisis that has left scores of protesters and security officers dead and hundreds injured in Kiev, the capital. The German Foreign Ministry announced in a Twitter message that the leadership council of the Ukrainian protest movement had authorized the signing of the deal, which calls for early presidential elections, a coalition government and the reduction of presidential power through constitutional changes. A spokeswoman for the protest movement told the Associated Press that opposition leaders were headed for the president’s office to discuss the agreement…
Gaza left out of Middle East peace talks (Washington Post) This crowded bit of Mediterranean shore is a long way from the closed-door rooms where Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are holding the first real peace talks in years. But as Secretary of State John F. Kerry prepares to publicly present outlines of a proposed peace deal, the isolated and besieged Palestinian territory called the Gaza Strip is the rarely mentioned elephant in the bargaining room — a huge obstacle to a permanent settlement of the decades-old conflict…
Greek and Turkish Cypriots unite to restore a church and a bond (New York Times) In the days before this island was cleft between Greek and Turkish control, the church of St. Charalambos in this tiny village was a gathering place for all. But after decades of division, and fruitless talks between political leaders, local people grew tired of watching its paint peel and its altar decay. They took matters into their own hands. Like the church, relations between the two communities had crumbled after the island was partitioned after the Turkish military invasion of 1974. But this month, Turkish artisans’ drills buzzed. Greek woodworkers carved flourishes into the altar. After two years of work, craftsmen from both communities hurriedly polished the church in time for a grand rechristening that united nearly 500 Greek and Turkish Cypriots in a celebration under its lofty vaults — the first time the church had been used in 40 years. “After all this time, the people are ready to reconcile,” said Xenios Konteatis, 79, a retired Greek Cypriot who lived in Kontea before the Turkish invasion forced his family into a tearful flight to what is now the Greek-controlled south…
Pope names new members of Congregation for Eastern Churches (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis confirmed the top leadership of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and named among its new members Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Byzantine Archbishop William Skurla of Pittsburgh. The Vatican announced Wednesday that the pope confirmed Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri as prefect and Archbishop Cyril Vasil as secretary of the congregation, which assists the Eastern Catholic churches throughout the world and the Latin-rite Catholic dioceses of the Middle East. The new members also include: Coptic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak of Alexandria, Egypt; Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad; Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England; and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia…
20 February 2014
Tags: Ukraine Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Cyprus Congregation for Eastern Churches
Mira Kaldany has been working as a volunteer in our New York headquarters for several weeks. (photo: CNEWA)
Mira Kaldany, a 25-year-old woman from Lebanon, has been volunteering at CNEWA’s New York offices while visiting the United States. As she prepares to return to her homeland, we invited her to write about her background and her experience.
Lebanon was always a country of emigrants, where young people leave in order to find better job opportunities in Europe and in North America. Growing up in Lebanon, you learn to adapt to difficult circumstances and instabilities. You live your day-to-day life without much hope for the future or any long term plans.
Lebanon has always been a host country for large proportions of refugees — from Palestinians to Iraqis, and now Syrians. The Syrian crisis has affected the country socially, economically and politically. Today over one million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon. The support of the international community is absolutely critical for the vitality of this small country.
A little about my background: I was raised Maronite Catholic and have always been committed to my Maronite identity. The Maronites are considered the second-largest Christian community in the Middle East — after the Copts of Egypt — and are the biggest Christian community in Lebanon. In my college years, I studied political science and public administration at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. During my undergraduate studies I was fortunate to work as an intern in several U.N. agencies and international nongovernmental organizations.
After my studies, I worked as a caseworker in Beirut for almost two years with International Catholic Migration Commission, where I used to counsel refugees in order to resettle them to the United States. Case working demands a great deal of patience, tolerance, and compassion. You interact daily with people who have lost everything, from their family to their home to their country. I used to work directly with refugees coming from Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Syria. Despite the gratitude of helping the refuges, hearing stories about rape, torture, kidnapping and mass murder also took an emotional toll.
Last summer, I had an opportunity to visit the United States for several months. In January 2014, I was introduced to CNEWA by the chairperson of Education and Opportunities for Lebanon — an organization that sponsors students and school projects in Lebanon, through CNEWA. Shortly after that, I started volunteering at CNEWA’s New York headquarters, working with the fundraising team.
I was particularly interested in volunteering because it is committed to reaching out to those who suffer all over the world. By volunteering with CNEWA, I hope I can make a positive contribution with my humanitarian background and my commitment to helping underserved populations.
My experience with those populations and with refugees has transformed my life. I remember the words of an Iraqi refugee I interviewed many months ago in Lebanon. She said: “Yes, I hope to God I will start a new life. I will never forget my past, or my husband, but I will try to start a new life, without looking back too much.” This woman who lost her husband and home in Iraq still has the strength to keep moving forward.
I am blessed to volunteer for an organization that strives to help people like this every day.
Mira Kaldany holds 3-year-old Fatima, an Iraqi refugee, in the offices of the International Catholic Migration Commission in Beirut. (photo: Mira Kaldany)
20 February 2014
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Maronite Catholic
An anesthesiologist waits for his patient in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Baghdad. To learn more about ways CNEWA has assisted Iraqi institutions like this hospital, read After the Storm, from the May-June 2003 issue of our magazine. To get involved, click the image! (photo: Sherrlyn Borkgren)
20 February 2014
Tags: Iraq CNEWA Health Care
Riot police stand near a crucifix as smoke rises above Independence Square, where anti-government protesters are holding a rally in central Kiev, Ukraine, on 19 February. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Truce crumbles amid gunfire in Ukraine, protesters claim 100 dead (CNN) A short-lived truce crumbled Thursday as gunfire erupted at Independence Square, the center of anti-government protests and an increasingly violent crisis that threatens catastrophe for this divided nation. The head of the protesters’ medical service said 100 people died and 500 were injured in clashes on Thursday, just hours after the government declared a truce in fighting that had shocked world leaders with the deaths of 28 people two days before. The Ukrainian government has not released its own casualty figures, but Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko said 25 police officers had been wounded and an unspecified number of them had died. Some others had been taken hostage, he said. If Thursday’s death toll is confirmed, it would make it the deadliest day in Ukraine since protests began…
Priests on front line in battle for Ukraine (NBC News) Carrying a cross, and at times a shield, Orthodox priests have placed themselves in the line of fire amid the turmoil of Ukraine’s bloody uprising. On Thursday, several priests stood alongside protesters in central Kiev, performing blessings and delivering the last rites to those who were killed…
Israel begins sending African migrants to Uganda (ABC News) Israel has begun sending dozens of African migrants — mostly from Eritrea and Sudan — to Uganda, an Israeli official said Wednesday, a move that has sparked concerns that they are being coerced into going to a country that may not keep them safe. The resettlement of people in Uganda, and perhaps other countries, marks a new phase in Israel’s campaign to rid itself of thousands of Africans who have poured into the country in recent years. Migrants and activists said the arrangement, which includes a one-way ticket and a stipend, is questionable because it is unclear if there is an official agreement with Uganda that would secure the migrants’ status. They said the new arrivals risk deportation to their home countries, where they may face conflict or persecution. Uganda, for its part, denied any deal…
Iraq moves to preserve Christian heritage, Syriac language (Al Monitor) Over the past 11 years, the Christian population in Iraq has decreased by more than 75 percent. It started to decline gradually after 2003, following the overall rise in violence and attacks targeting Christians. Before 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, and according to recent church figures, only 300,000 remain. Perhaps this drastic difference pushed administrators in charge of education to find ways to preserve Christianity’s cultural and religious heritage in Iraq…
Aid workers deliver food to Damascus district: U.N. (Daily Star Lebanon) According to a statement by UNRWA, the relief agency supporting Palestinian refugees resumed food distribution inside the rebel-held district of the Syrian capital, which has been suffering from crippling shortages of food and medicine for months…
India’s government approves new 29th state (Washington Post) India’s Parliament has approved a plan to create a 29th state following days of political mayhem, including a melee in which a lawmaker unleashed pepper spray on his colleagues. The president is now expected to sign the bill to create the new state, called Telangana, from mostly poor, inland districts of Andhra Pradesh. Opponents had objected to including wealthy tech and industrial hub Hyderabad in Telangana…
19 February 2014
Tags: India Ukraine Iraqi Christians Relief Migrants
A man who was injured during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police receives medical treatment inside St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, on 19 February. Ukraine’s political crisis escalated sharply, with more than two dozen people killed and scores injured in violent, often fiery battles between demonstrators and police in Kiev.
(photo: CNS/Maks Levin, Reuters)
19 February 2014
Anti-government protesters walk amid debris and flames near the perimeter of Kiev’s Independence Square on 19 February 2014. (photo: Brendan Hoffman/Euromaiden via Twitter)
Clashes leave 25 dead in Kiev (The New York Times) Ukraine’s Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 25 people, including police officers, protesters and a journalist found dead on a side street near the square, had been killed after hundreds of riot police officers advanced on the anti-government demonstrators Tuesday and in subsequent fighting on streets in the government district of the Ukrainian capital. The Health Ministry said that 241 people had been injured and that nine of the dead were police officers...
Pope appeals for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis called for peace in the Ukraine, saying “With a worried soul I have been following what is happening in Kyiv in these days.” The Holy Father assured the Ukrainian people of his closeness to them, and prayed for the victims of violence, for their families, and for the injured. The Pope called “on all parties to cease all violence and to seek harmony and peace in the country...”
Ukrainian Orthodox Church calls for halt to bloodshed (InterFax) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has called for a halt of the bloodshed in Kiev and prevention of a civil war. “Since the beginning of the political crisis and in the course of the entire period of this conflict, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than once called for a halt of violence and a peaceful solution to the conflict. To our great regret, the voice of the Church has not been heard,” the property management of Metropolitan of Borispol and Brovar Antony said in a statement...
Patriarch calls for “Chaldean League” in Iraq (ByzCath.org) The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, has called for the formation of a “Chaldean League” to unite Catholic laity in a fragmented Iraqi society. “Our presence in society is weak, fragmented in the field of politics, culture, social action,” Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako told the Fides news agency. “A ‘Chaldean League’ can help us give a more concrete and effective contribution to the civic life of our country...”
Lebanon feels impact of Syrian conflict (BBC) For the first two years of the Arab uprisings, Lebanon seemed a haven of calm. But no-one expected the uprising and the war in Syria to last this long. The spillover became inevitable and the more it drags on the harder it will become for Lebanon to withstand the shockwaves, and resist the descent into chaos...
Pope names members for the Congregation of the Oriental Churches (VIS) Pope Francis nominated and confirmed several members of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches, including numberous consultors from around the world. View the complete list here.
18 February 2014
Syrian Armenian Tamar Yeranossian, 26, and her brother Hagop, 15, sit in one of the rooms of their apartment in Bourj Hammoud. Fearing for the safety of their family back in Syria, they turned from the camera to hide their faces (photo: Dalia Khamissy)
Don Duncan visited Lebanon last year to report on the plight of Syrian Armenian refugees for the current issue of ONE. Here, he adds more context.
Eight months had passed since I had last been in Lebanon, in January 2013, to report a story for ONE about the fate of Christian Syrians fleeing Syria to Lebanon in search of refuge. Back then, the flow of refugees across the border was certainly an issue but on returning in August, it was clear that the situation had gotten much, much worse.
The burgeoning fears I heard among the Lebanese in January — that the Syrian conflict would trigger sectarian tensions and conflict in volatile Lebanon — was beginning to prove true by summer. On 9 July, 53 people were wounded in a busy shopping street in Dahiya, the southern suburb of Beirut, which is dominated by the pro-Assad Hezbollah Shia militia. Then, a few days after my arrival, another explosion in Dahiya, this time killing 21 people, and thought to be a reprisal for Hezbollah’s military support of the Assad regime in Syria. Next, on 23 August, two Sunni mosques were targeted in the northern city of Tripoli, killing 47 people — the deadliest bombing in Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1991.
I lived in Lebanon for three years and I’m accustomed to ebbs and flows in the country’s security situation. I’ve also grown used to ignoring the Western media’s tendency to whip up panic or make a situation look more widespread than it is. But this time was different. It was different because of my Lebanese friends’ reactions. They were nervous. They spoke less. People were going out less. The streets, usually at their busiest in the high summer season, when Arab tourists flock to Beirut and much of Lebanon’s extensive diaspora return home on holiday, were very quiet. Lebanese people are used to handling insecurity and I have always been amazed by their ability to continue as normal when the security situation around them is not great. But this time was different. Some friends were already whispering about plans to leave the country, while others expressed approval that I was leaving the back to Europe. “It’s only going to get worse around here,” they said.
Sure enough, on the last two days of my trip, the Syrian and Lebanese crisis was raised a notch with moves by Western leaders to gain governmental approval for direct strikes on Syria. The announcement sent tremors across Lebanon — people feared not just national instability but indeed a regional war involving foes such as Israel, Iran and Syria, as well as Western superpowers.
While all this was going on, I couldn’t help but notice all the children: the masses of Syrian children who had arrived to Hamra street in West Beirut since my last visit in January. Most of them sold roses or a shoeshine along the street’s many café terraces. They were young, between the ages of six and ten, and were shadowed by their mothers, who sat at the street’s corners, often begging. Such scenes were unthinkable just a few years ago in Lebanon. But during my most recent visit, Hamra street was punctuated by the odd male Syrian who had bedded down for the evening in the doorway of a closed shop.
They made me sad, for both the Lebanese and the Syrians. These are people who are often quite different, who have a fraught political and military history with one another. Yet, as one of the Syrians I talked to said: “When it comes to war and conflict, it is always the people who suffer. War doesn’t step around religious or political conviction. It is the people who always suffer.”