13 May 2014
In Homs, the Syriac Orthodox Oum-al-Zennar Church last week hosted a liturgy of thanksgiving for the return of security to the city. (photo: CNEWA)
After three years, the Old City of Homs is gradually being brought back to life with an increasing number of residents returning to the homes they fled when terrorists took over the city.
Last week, with that portion of the city declared secure after the gunmen were evacuated, the Syriac Orthodox Oum al-Zennar Church hosted a liturgy of thanksgiving.
Syriac Orthodox Archishop of Homs and Hama, Mar Selwanos Boutros al-Neemeh, said that this liturgy expressed thanks to God for the restoration of stability to the city. He said that although terrorists vandalized places of worship—along with teaching and services facilities and homes, all in an attempt to sow discord among the people —the terrorists failed. The people, he said, remain strong.
As the locals continue returning to their homes, repair teams are working to restore life to downtown Homs—opening roads, removing rubble and roadblocks, and repairing the power grid.
To support the people of Homs as they work to rebuild their way of life, visit our emergency giving page.
13 May 2014
A Southist woman in Kerala, India, prays the rosary during Holy Week observances.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2002, we profiled a distinct group of Christians in southern India known as “Southists”:
It is Good Friday in Kottayam, a city in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A family of Christians gathers to bless a plate of fresh, unleavened rice bread. The head of the household reads from a prayer book written in Malayalam, the vernacular of Kerala. On the cover the Hebrew word for Passover is embossed in gold. By tradition, the youngest member of the family asks the eldest the significance of unleavened bread. He is told how their ancestors, the Jews, fled Egypt in haste and how they had only enough time to prepare unleavened bread.
Before sharing their Passover bread, these Christians greet each other, exclaiming, “Happy Pessaha!”
This Indian Christian family traces its origins to those Jewish Christians who immigrated to India from Mesopotamia in the fourth century. Rooted in the past by cherished traditions, they belong to a dynamic community — the Southists, or Knanaya — a group vital to the mosaic of modern India.
Among the Christians of southern India, explains Father Jacob Kollaparambil, a Southist scholar and Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Kottayam, there are two ethnically distinct communities, the Northists and the Southists:
“The Northists are the descendants of those families who were first evangelized by the Apostle Thomas as well as those who have since embraced Christianity. The Southists trace their origins to 72 Mesopotamian Christian families who settled in Cranganore in 345 A.D.”
Southists now number about 200,000 people, a minority within the whole Thomas Christian community of some 4.5 million people (Thomas Christians describe the descendants of those Christians — now members of several Eastern churches — evangelized by Thomas the Apostle). A Semitic people who have maintained their identity by avoiding intermarriage, the Southists are nevertheless divided into two distinct ecclesial jurisdictions. About two-thirds belong to the Eparchy of Kottayam, a diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The remaining third are in communion with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, who established a Southist eparchy in Chingavanam in 1910.
Read more in Ancient Christians, Modern Mission from the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine.
13 May 2014
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem pauses during an 11 May news conference in the northern city of Haifa, called because of recent attacks dubbed “price tagging.” Archbishop Twal said a spate of attacks he described as acts of terror against the church were poisoning the atmosphere ahead of this month’s visit by Pope Francis, and urged Israel to arrest more perpetrators. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Patriarch wants Israelis to crack down on vandalism at religious sites (CNS) The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem called a continuing wave of vandalism against Christian, Muslim and Druze properties a “blight on Israeli democracy” and urged authorities to step up prosecution against the perpetrators. Patriarch Fouad Twal said during a news conference on 11 May in the northern city of Haifa that the attacks, which involve scrawling and spray painting racist and anti-Christian and anti-Muslim messages on buildings and holy sites, was particularly troublesome in light of Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Holy Land on 24-26 May...
Cardinal challenges interfaith leaders to promote peace (Vatican Radio) Do the choices we make as individuals or collectively lead to increasing peace or increasing violence? That’s the question posed by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran to participants at a seminar Monday at Petra University in Amman, Jordan exploring the theme “religion and violence.” In his discourse entitled, “Religion, society and violence: causes and results. The role of religious leaders for peace and social cohesion,” the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue challenged religious leaders to be at the forefront of efforts to promote peace in their societies...
Group claims Syria used chemical weapons last month (AP) An international human rights group said Tuesday it has strong evidence that the Syrian army used chlorine gas on three rebel-held towns last month. The statement by the New-York based Human Rights Watch adds to concerns that chemical weapons are still being used in Syria, months after a chemical attack killed hundreds of civilians last August. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, said in April that it would investigate the chlorine claims but hasn’t commented further...
Metropolitan Hilarion says he was refused entry to Ukraine (Reuters) A top cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church said he was refused entry to Ukraine this week amid an escalating stand-off between Moscow and Kiev over separatist unrest in Ukraine’s east. The church’s Department of External Relations said its head, Metropolitan Hilarion, was turned back on Friday at the airport in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk where he came to award a prize to a local cleric. “I was given no explanation,” Hilarion told Russian state news channel Rossiya 24. “Apparently my name, and possibly the names of other Church hierarchs, are on a list of people who are banned from entering Ukraine.” The Ukrainian border guard declined to comment...
9 May 2014
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop William Murphy and the CNEWA team wrapped up their journey to Jordan on Wednesday.
In Kerak, they stopped by the Italian Hospital, administered by the Comboni Sisters. CNEWA has supported the hospital’s renovation and expansion, bringing health care to countless families.
We profiled the lives of Christians in the Kerak plateau two years ago in the pages of ONE magazine. Many of the people are descended from Bedouins, and have strong ties to the church:
As do most Jordanians, the Christians of the Kerak area express pride about their tribal past. But nostalgia for the old days is hard to find on the Kerak plateau. For generations, these villagers have struggled to achieve a better life, a fight that often has meant leaving behind tribal customs. Now, young and old have their eyes fixed firmly on the future. They want to talk about the Internet, not about camels and sheep; about college degrees, not tents and traditions.
The only vital thread weaving together their present and past, and one they speak about eagerly, is their Christian faith. According to these villagers, the church — Greek Orthodox and Latin and Melkite Greek Catholic — has held the community together and served as a bridge to modern society.
After visiting Kerak, the team traveled to the Christian Bedouin village of Ader to celebrate a First Communion liturgy at the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of St. Gregory.
After that, it was back to Amman for the trip home.
You can find more about this pastoral visit at Cardinal Dolan’s blog and at the blog for Bishop William Murphy. The complete Journey to Jordan is also archived here.
And if you’d like to be a part of the exciting and meaningful work we’re doing in Amman, Kerak and Ader, check out our giving page.
9 May 2014
Msgr. John Kozar and Cardinal Timothy Dolan meet with the CNEWA staff to discuss their just-completed pastoral visit to Jordan. (photo: CNEWA)
Fresh from his pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — he only returned last night — an exuberant Cardinal Timothy Dolan met with the members of the CNEWA team in their New York offices this morning.
“You are making great things happen in Jordan,” the cardinal said, his arm resting on his traveling companion and CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar.
We are very close to the local churches there, the cardinal said of CNEWA. “We do not lord over them, but accompany them, walking with them every step of the way.”
Though Jordan’s Christian community in Jordan is tiny, maybe two percent of the population, he said, it is well respected and faithfully lives the Gospel for all those in need, Christian and Muslim. “They don’t preach the culture of life,” he exclaimed, “they live it!”
“And isn’t the work of the women religious something, Monsignor?”
Follow our special coverage on the pastoral visit to Jordan here. You can also read more from Cardinal Dolan on his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age, or on the blog of Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, who as a member of CNEWA’s board of trustees, joined the cardinal for the pastoral visit.
9 May 2014
A painting of Pope Francis at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity shows him holding an icon of Sts. Peter and Andrew. The icon was given by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople to Pope Paul VI in 1964 and how hangs in the council’s
Vatican office. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Later this month, Pope Francis is not just making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; he is traveling, in effect, to visit a member of the family.
With the bishop of Rome going to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a family reunion will take place. The successor to Peter will meet the successor to the apostle Andrew, Peter’s brother, who founded the church in Byzantium.
The patriarch recently spoke about the meeting in an interview with the Associated Press:
Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians, says a meeting with Pope Francis in Jerusalem this month will help move the two churches closer to ending their nearly one-thousand-year divide.
In an interview with The Associated Press in his Istanbul office, Bartholomew also praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for improving rights for Christians but said pointedly, “it is not enough.”
The meetings between the ecumenical patriarch and the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics on May 25-26 will commemorate the historic visit of their predecessors 50 years ago that launched a dialogue aimed at ending the two churches’ schism in 1054.
“We shall say through our meeting and our prayer that it is the intention of both of us to work further for Christian unity and reconciliation,” Bartholomew said, sitting at his desk piled high with papers in his Patriarchate office. Around him, golden icons from Byzantium on the walls loomed over standing photos of the patriarch greeting world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Erdogan.
Although the Orthodox and Catholic churches remain estranged on key issues, including married clergy and the centralized power of the Vatican, there have been moves toward closer understanding, beginning with the 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem. It was the first encounter between a pope and Orthodox patriarch in more than 500 years.
Read more at the AP link.
9 May 2014
The Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., has been working tirelessly to ease the suffering of those who remain in Homs. To read more about his work, especially with children growing up in the crosshairs of snipers, read his Letter From Syria in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Jesuit priest’s work continues in Homs (Vatican Radio) A month after the Jesuit Rev. Frans van der Lugt was murdered in the Syrian city of Homs, his friend and fellow Jesuit, the Rev. Ziad Hilal, is continuing his tireless humanitarian work…
Pope: Church in Ethiopia, Eritrea a witness to unity (Vatican Radio) The church in Ethiopia and Eritrea is a unique example of “witness to the unity of the people of God.” Though from different countries and different rites, “each with its own particular richness” shares the same mission of service of Christ and his church. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ address to the bishops from Ethiopia and Eritrea on their pilgrimage…
Lebanon deports Palestinians back to Syria (Al Jazeera) Lebanon’s General Security department has forcibly deported 41 Palestinian refugees back to Syria, despite the fact that they had entered the country legally. The move on 4 May ran counter to an earlier decision by the Lebanese government to not deport any refugee back to Syria under any circumstances. Lebanese authorities pointed out that the arrests and the following deportation was due to the fact that the detainees held forged visas to Libya. After long hours of interrogation at Beirut International Airport, a decision was made to deport the group…
Evidence mounts: Syrian regime hasn’t abandoned chemical weapons (Der Spiegel) Although Damascus has turned over 92.5 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin, as agreed, reports indicate it continues to deploy poison gas against the Syrian people. Given chlorine’s use in everyday products, it isn’t included in the list of weapons the regime has agreed to place under international control. Its deployment against humans is nonetheless prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which Syria is a signatory. At least 10 chlorine gas attacks have been carried out since April 10 in the border areas of the Idlib and Hama provinces…
Egypt’s Sisi tells media not to push for democratic reforms (Al Jazeera) Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the country’s former military chief, warned newspaper editors Thursday not to cover freedom-of-speech issues or press for other democratic reforms, as such actions could lead to protests that jeopardize national security…
Ukraine’s political divisions play out among its Orthodox congregations (Christian Science Monitor) As Ukraine’s political divisions play out on the geopolitical stage, the country also faces an unsettling schism among its main churchgoers. And, as with national politics, a tug-of-war between pro- and anti-Moscow factions may be fueling the centrifugal forces that threaten to unravel Ukraine…
8 May 2014
Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Christian Unity Eritrea Ethiopian Christianity
Our CNEWA team — board chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan, board member Bishop William Murphy and president Msgr. John Kozar — continued their pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and discovered the “keys to the kingdom,” its wonderful and generous people.
An important stop yesterday was the convent of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Amman.
From their home, the sisters offer Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria counseling, schooling, formal catechesis and emergency assistance to those in dire need. The sisters’ “House of Mary” also offers a safe haven, a refuge from the storm that has enveloped these innocent families.
We described the work of the sisters — which is supported by CNEWA’s generous benefactors — in a story for ONE magazine we called, fittingly, “A Loving Embrace”:
Among the courses the convent school offers is a remedial tutorial for Iraqi children who have fallen behind since the war’s outbreak and fled west. Some of these children have missed several years of school — not until last August did the government permit Iraqi school-age children to enroll in its schools...
In addition to the remedial program for young children, the convent school operates a kindergarten, a second grade and a literacy course offered at no cost to young adults between the ages of 14 and 20.
...For a few short hours, the participants leave behind their worries and gather the strength to move forward despite the seemingly impossible and unending challenges in their lives — at least for one more day.
That’s the warm and supportive atmosphere that greeted the CNEWA team yesterday. The sisters and the families they are privileged to serve welcomed their visitors and made them feel right at home. Later, they celebrated Mass together and had the opportunity to share stories, and even a few laughs.
It was a meaningful and emotional visit for everyone.
To find out what you can do to support the good work of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Jordan — and extend that “loving embrace” of Christ to others — visit our Jordan giving page.
8 May 2014
A young girl tries on the pectoral cross of Cardinal Timothy Dolan during his pastoral visit to Jordan. Follow his trip this week in the series Journey to Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
8 May 2014
Pope Francis embraces the catholicos-patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, during a meeting at the Vatican on 8 May.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis to Armenian Catholicos: blood of martyrs is seed of unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, on Thursday at the Vatican. The Catholicos is in Rome on a three-day visit that concludes on 9 May. In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s 2001 visit to Armenia, and the many other visits the Catholicos has made to Rome and to the Popes in the Vatican, especially his 2008 visit to Pope Benedict XVI and his participation in the inauguration of Pope Francis’ own pontificate...
Explosion destroys hotel in Aleppo (BBC) A large explosion in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo has destroyed a hotel and several other buildings, state media and activists report. Rebel fighters are believed to have detonated a bomb placed in a tunnel beneath the Carlton Citadel Hotel, near the city’s medieval citadel and souk. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops had been based there and at least 14 died...
Report documents "egregious" violations of religious freedom in Syria (National Catholic Register) The U.S. government should designate Syria as a “country of particular concern” due to “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” in its ongoing conflict, a global religious liberty group said. “The existing humanitarian disaster and egregious human rights and religious freedom violations pose a serious danger to Syria’s religious diversity post-conflict,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2014 report...
American Christians pledge solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria (Fox News) On behalf of the suffering churches of Egypt, Iraq and Syria, a broad array of American Christians, with a degree of unity rarely seen since the Council of Nicaea in 325, have joined together in a “pledge of solidarity and call to action.” Their action results from deepening concern about the “wave of persecution” in the region of Christianity’s roots. Some 200 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders have signed on — from Catholic Cardinal Wuerl, to National Association of Evangelicals’ chair Leith Anderson, to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church to Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan...
Special novena organized ahead of pope’s trip to Holy Land (L’Osservatore Romano) Nine days of special prayer have been organized in preparation for Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the Holy Land from 24 to 26 May. According to the website of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Latins, the Jerusalemite Churches and Christian communities from 24-26 May will spiritually prepare and support the Pope’s pilgrimage and his meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, which will take place in the holy city...