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December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
25 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this video, Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal describes his experiences visiting the regime-controlled side of Aleppo, Syria's largest city. Though some areas showed signs of normalcy, in others the wreckage from the civil war was ever present. (video: Sam Dagher/WSJ)

Syria civil war forces brutal split in Aleppo (Wall Street Journal) Once a vibrant mercantile and cultural center, Aleppo today is a city physically partitioned and traumatized by war. It stands as exhibit A in what Syria’s civil war has become: A ghastly, grinding stalemate in which noncombatants are paying the highest price…

Photos: Syrian refugees’ treacherous hike to safety in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) As the late-day sun slipped behind the mountains in front of them, a ragtag group of around a dozen Syrians desperate to flee their country’s bloody civil war set off on their treacherous nighttime trek across the rugged frontier into neighboring Lebanon. Ahead of them: at least a nine-hour climb in darkness up — and down — the 9,232-foot Mount Hermon. Once in Lebanon, they will join the more than 2.5 million other Syrians across the region who have escaped the civil war in their homeland to begin the life of a refugee…

Tensions rising in East-West as Russian troops gather at Ukraine’s border (Vatican Radio) Tensions are rising in the most serious East-West confrontation since the collapse of the Soviet Union with Russia moving tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine, while the NATO military alliance is boosting its presence in several nearby Eastern European countries…

Gaza quiet after Palestinian reconciliation deal (Al Monitor) Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Gaza’s government, declared the end of the seven-year Palestinian split between Fatah and Hamas and agreed to form a unity government in five weeks to prepare for elections at the end of 2014. In contrast to the applause that rose in the conference room attached to Mr. Haniyeh’s home, Gaza’s streets were quiet. Unlike with previous agreements, no celebratory atmosphere erupted in the Gaza Strip. Activist Samah Ahmed, who held a Palestinian flag and went to Jundi Square with others, explains: “We expected big celebrations, but we only found ourselves there. People have lost confidence in these agreements because they previously failed…”

Tags: Ukraine Refugees Syrian Civil War Palestine Aleppo

24 April 2014
Greg Kandra

The spring edition of ONE is now available online.

You can check out the stories at our spring 2014 link. Or, even better, visit this link to view the magazine in its full format, with layouts, graphics and interactive features.

Our cover story focuses on the remarkable efforts of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Lebanon to help refugees from Syria, especially children.

All that, plus an eyewitness account of the conflict in Ukraine; a visit to a country with only five Catholic priests; and an inspiring look at the legacy of India’s “Father of the Poor.”

Stop by and have a look. Spring is finally here!

24 April 2014
Greg Kandra

At Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Tbilisi, parishioners greet one another during the
Kiss of Peace. (photo: Molly Corso)

The spring edition of our magazine has just been posted online, and one of the stories focuses on the firm faith of Armenian Catholics, persevering and creating a sense of community in a country with only five priests:

The lack of priests on the ground means Armenian Catholics living in cities such as Borjomi, Ozurgeti and Chiatura attend Latin parishes, a phenomenon that impacts all Eastern Catholics where clergy and parishes are nonexistent. This means that a way of life, as well as a faith tradition, is imperiled. More Armenian Catholics are finding themselves disconnected from centuries of tradition without access to the sacraments and rites that have been a part of their faith and, in fact, their identity.

Yet, defying the odds, they stand firm. To spend time with Georgia’s Armenian Catholics is to rediscover the deep reservoirs of piety and purpose — and a remarkable strength of character — that have defined them for generations.

It is also to realize, above all, that the story of Georgia’s Armenian Catholics is one of unwavering faith.

“The Soviet period was a time of oppression for Armenian Catholic families,” says Tbilisi’s Rev. Mikael Khachkalian, the only Armenian Catholic priest in the city, of the challenges facing his flock in Georgia.

“The Soviet Communist regime’s deliberate policy gave birth to another problem — the Armenians of Tbilisi in particular don’t have a good command of the Armenian language, knowledge about their national Christian tradition and their rich, centuries-old history.”

Father Khachkalian estimates that around 80 percent of those worshiping in Tbilisi’s two Catholic parishes are in fact ethnic Armenians. The same problem exists around the country, outside the predominantly Armenian Catholic villages in southwestern Georgia, where the Armenian language and culture dominate. Yet even in these villages, the heart of Armenian Catholicism in the Caucasus, challenges exist. Priests must travel travel hundreds of miles in wretched conditions to provide the sacraments to far-flung congregations in shrinking communities largely empty of its men, most of whom have abandoned their families for work in Russia.

Solakat Davolian, 75, attends liturgy every morning in the small makeshift chapel in the Armenian Catholic center in Tbilisi, yet she prefers to attend Mass every Sunday afternoon at the Latin parish of Sts. Peter and Paul downtown.

Before Armenian Catholic priests arrived in Tbilisi, Armenian Catholics were served by Polish-speaking missionaries. This, Mrs. Davolian says, made participation in the life of the community a challenge. “Now that there is an Armenian priest, I come every day,” she explains. “It was hard before; we could not understand the language. Now, thank God, it is much easier.”

Read more about A Firm Faith in the Spring 2014 issue of ONE.

24 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this August 2013 image, a Syrian Armenian refugee sits on a bed in her apartment in Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave on the eastern suburbs of Beirut. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)

Following the global Armenian diaspora (New York Times) While Armenians had long settled in other parts of the world, the violence of the Armenian genocide in Turkey — begun 99 years ago — set in motion a global exodus that has established communities in many corners of the world. Through her own travels and curiosity, Scout Tufankjian has come to appreciate that diaspora’s diversity, which she saw as a much-needed addition to the traditional historical view of her people…

In Syria, war is woven into childhood (Los Angeles Times) Child soldiers hold rifles in a land where cemeteries fill with tiny graves and kids pretend to dodge sniper bullets for fun. Syrians talk about a “lost generation” of their children, an innocence stolen in the three-year conflict between opposition forces and the government of Bashar al Assad…

Clashes in eastern Ukraine intensify (Washington Post) Ukrainian security forces killed “up to five” pro-Russian activists Thursday in the restive eastern part of the country, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said, as Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned any use of the Ukrainian military against its own citizens. The Russian military launched “tactical drills” Thursday in the regions bordering Ukraine in response to events across the border, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting in Moscow…

In besieged Gaza, Palestinian unity deal sparks hope, caution (Al Jazeera) Shock, disbelief, elation and a surge of giddy optimism were among the reactions of Gazans to Wednesday’s news that Fatah and Hamas had agreed to form a unity government that, if implemented, would end the seven-year schism that separated Gaza from the West Bank. An Israeli airstrike on the besieged enclave the same day, however, served as a reminder of the scale of the challenges that lie ahead…

Why Israel may need to rethink its assumptions on Palestinian unity (Christian Science Monitor) “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] must decide if he wants to make peace, and if so, with whom. It is impossible to make peace with Israel as well as with Hamas, a terrorist organization advocating for Israel’s destruction,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “Signing an agreement of a Fatah-Hamas unity government is tantamount to [calling off] negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” Israel’s approach rests on two assumptions: that Mr. Abbas, who is also leader of Fatah, could enforce a peace deal without reconciling with Hamas; and that Hamas would never give up its stated intention to destroy Israel. Both may need rethinking…

Tags: Ukraine Children Syrian Civil War Armenia Israeli-Palestinian conflict

23 April 2014
Greg Kandra

A restorer displays fragments of a recovered mosaic near the Jordan River (left) and a reproduction of a finished product. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)

Several years ago, we visited the area around the Jordan where tradition holds that John baptized Jesus, and uncovered some remarkable archeological work:

Archeologist Dr. Muhammad Waheeb is the excavator of the most recently investigated major site associated with the life of Jesus. The two Gospel passages state that John the Baptist was baptizing at Bethany beyond the Jordan River, i.e., on the east side of the river, as seen from Jerusalem. This Bethany should not be confused with the home village of Mary, Martha and Lazarus on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem.

For many centuries pilgrims have identified the location of the baptism of Jesus with a spot on the western bank of the Jordan River near Jericho. But over the past five years Dr. Waheeb has shown that for most Christians of the Byzantine period — the fourth through the seventh centuries — the activity of the Baptist was located at a site on the eastern bank known today in Arabic as Wadi el-Kharrar, about four and a half miles northeast of where the river empties into the Dead Sea.

The evidence of some pottery shards and other remains from the time of Jesus himself — what historians and archeologists call the Roman period in this region — is not yet sufficient to make an absolute identification of the site with the Gospel’s Bethany. And indeed it is difficult to “prove” archeologically the exact location of many, if not most, events of both the Old and New Testaments.

The earliest shrine-building efforts of newly free Christians, however, following the Romans’ issuing of an edict of religious tolerance in 311, as well as monastic settlements, bear witness to the attraction of particular sites to the faithful by at least the second quarter of the fourth century.

Read more about Bethany Beyond the Jordan in the January-February 2002 issue of our magazine.

Tags: Jordan

23 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

As Pope Francis’ newly appointed second secretary, Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid will assist with such tasks as translating and answering personal correspondences in the pope’s name. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis names Coptic priest second personal secretary (National Catholic Register) Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a priest of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, has been made second personal secretary to Pope Francis. The position is among the pope’s closest collaborators, and this marks the first time that an Eastern Catholic priest has been appointed to the position…

Statement on the anniversary of the Syrian bishops’ abduction (Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America) “We … express our grave concern over the escalation of unrest and ongoing violence in countries throughout the Middle East, especially in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. … One year ago, on 22 April 2013, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, were kidnapped by Islamist extremists during a joint philanthropic mission in the region. … For the safety of Metropolitan Paul and Archbishop John and for their return to their communities, let us pray to the Lord…”

More rockets hit Bekaa Valley towns (Daily Star Lebanon) Rockets from Syria hit two Bekaa Valley villages early Wednesday shortly after a Syrian warplane raided the outskirts of a border town known for its support for Syrian opposition fighters. A Lebanese army statement said a Syrian jet fired three rockets into the barren terrain surrounding Arsal shortly before midnight. Less than 20 minutes later, three rockets fired from the mountains targeted the Bekaa towns of Labweh and Nabi Othman, the statement added…

Palestinian factions announce deal on unity government (New York Times) The two main Palestinian factions announced an agreement on Wednesday to heal a seven-year schism and form a unity government within five weeks that would prepare for Palestinian elections six months later. The two groups — the Palestine Liberation Organization, which runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip — have reached similar accords before that were never carried out…

Tilt towards military unbalances Egypt’s ultra-conservative Salafists (Christian Science Monitor) When Egyptian military leader Abdel Fattah al Sisi made a televised address last July to announce the overthrow of President Muhammad Morsi, he was flanked by a coterie of the country’s most powerful religious figures. To his right sat the pope of the Coptic Church and the grand sheikh of Al Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning. Neither was a surprise to Egyptians. Less expected was the third religious leader: Galal el Morra, a prominent member of Egypt’s Salafist movement, which espouses a puritanical vision of Islam. This appearance may have been the high tide mark for the Salafists, who have been fractured and dislocated by the post-Morsi political shakedown…

Tags: Lebanon Pope Francis Refugees Palestine Coptic Catholic Church

22 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis carries a candle as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 19 April. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Easter Rome

22 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 14 January photo, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II receives Egypt’s minister of Irrigation and Water Resources to discuss the Ethiopian dam project and its impact on the relationship between the two nations. (photo: Coptic Orthodox Church)

Coptic pope advises Ethiopian patriarch to postpone visit (Daily Sabah) Patriarch Abune Mathias of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has indefinitely postponed a visit he was scheduled to pay to Cairo on Friday upon a request from the Coptic Orthodox Church, a source with the Egyptian church said Monday. According to the source, who asked not to be named, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II had advised his Ethiopian counterpart to postpone the visit due to concerns stemming from the dispute over Ethiopia’s controversial multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam on the Nile River…

Aleppo’s children struggle to stay in school (Al Monitor) An unofficial survey conducted by a group of activists from civil society organizations in Aleppo determined that half of the schools in the city and surrounding countryside were badly damaged or destroyed. The damage has come mostly from Syrian regime shelling against armed opposition groups that used some schools close to military front lines as headquarters…

Syria: Rebels resist in Homs, Christians commemorate abductions (Vatican Radio) Syrian rebels are making their last desperate stand in the city of Homs, as government forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad make their strongest push yet to dislodge them from their positions in the city that was an early and important hub of unrest…

Maronite patriarch calls on international community to end war (SANA) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Antioch and All the East reiterated his call on international community “to stop the terrorist war in Syria.” In a speech after the Divine Liturgy in Bkerke, the patriarch said: “Its time for U.N. to shoulder its responsibility…”

Fight brews between Israeli settlers and army (Al Jazeera) In two weeks, the residents of the settlement of Yitzhar, known as one of the West Bank’s most ideological and uncompromising, will vote on whether it’s acceptable to fight the army that is assigned to protect them. Perched on a hill outside of the Palestinian city of Nablus, this small town of about 1,100 people has developed an oversized reputation. In 2011, it earned the distinction of carrying out more attacks on Palestinians than any other settlement in the occupied West Bank — one out of every six incidents documented by the United Nations that year involved a resident of Yitzhar…

In Iraq, gangs seize homes of fleeing Christians (AINA) Gangs in Baghdad are seizing homes left vacant by Christian families who have been forced to flee from sectarian violence, according to Barnabas Aid. Iraq’s Christians are most at risk of having their homes seized as they lack the tribal affiliations that protect their Arab Muslim neighbors…

Tags: Iraq Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict

17 April 2014
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2008, early morning sunshine fills St. Basil the Great Church in Krajné Cierno in Slovakia. The region is noted for its historic wooden churches. To learn more, read Rooted in Wood from the May 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Andrej Bán)

Tags: Cultural Identity Eastern Churches Architecture Church Slovakia

17 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Terrorism expands from Sinai to Cairo (Al Monitor) The violence in Egypt has taken a marked geographical shift in recent months from the remote areas of the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal to the metropolises of Cairo and the Nile Delta. Analysts have two divergent opinions to explain this shift. Some analysts believe that the move by armed extremists toward the capital did not happen voluntarily and was not a planned strategy, but rather a shift enforced on these groups due to security measures and army operations in the Sinai Peninsula. The second opinion argues this was a premeditated step taken by armed groups, to extend the war against the post-Muslim Brotherhood regime…

Ukrainian security forces kill three pro-Russian protesters (New York Times) Ukrainian security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in a firefight overnight in the eastern city of Mariupol, the interim Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday. The clash was the most lethal so far in the east of the country…

Ukrainian civilians take up arms (Der Spiegel) It remains unclear what Russia might have in store for eastern Ukraine, but nationalist groups are preparing for the worst. In terms of their numbers, right-wing groups were only a minority during the Maidan protests, but they formed the backbone of the revolt against the Yanukovych government…

Syrian war takes heavy toll at a crossroad of cultures (New York Times) At the first-century Temple of Bel, one of the best-preserved buildings in the ancient city of Palmyra, a prominent column bears a new scar. A mortar shell left a telltale splash mark on the stone, without budging a structure that has stood for 2,000 years. Elsewhere, two other columns have collapsed, officials said, and bullets have pockmarked walls. But compared with the wholesale destruction that was feared, the damage, for now, is minimal. Yet the war has left deeper, less obvious wounds. Illegal digging, long a problem at the many sprawling archaeological sites in Syria, has accelerated during three years of conflict. Grave robbers, some crude, others professional, have stolen numerous objects from Palmyra’s tombs, museum officials say, sometimes sawing funeral friezes in two to make them easier to carry…

Report: Journalist killings in Syria likely to go unpunished (Al Jazeera) A spike in targeted murders of journalists in Syria landed the war-shattered country for the first time on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual Impunity Index, joining a list of countries where journalist killings are most likely to go unpunished, the international watchdog said Wednesday. More than 60 journalists have been killed by crossfire in the past three years, according to C.P.J. At least 61 were kidnapped in Syria in 2013, most by rebel forces, it said. Some of the journalists have since escaped or been released…

Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Cultural Identity Russia

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