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Volume 45, Number 3
29 February 2016
Greg Kandra

Abune Mathias I, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, visited Pope Francis today. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis today met with His Holiness Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church:

During the meeting the bishop of Rome emphasized that the patriarch’s visit strengthens the fraternal bonds that already unite both churches. He mentioned as milestones of the common path towards unity His Holiness Abune Paulos’s encountered with St. John Paul II in 1993 and with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, who invited him to participate in the Synod of Bishops for Africa as was common practice in the early church for representatives to be sent to the synods of other churches. Likewise, a delegation from the Holy See was present at the 2012 funeral of Patriarch Abune Paulos.

Moreover, as Francis explained, since 2004 the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches have deepened their communion through theological dialogue in the International Joint Commission, which over the years has analyzed the fundamental concept of the churches’ communion understood as participation in the communion between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Many things have been found in common: one faith, one baptism, one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and many elements of the monastic traditions and the liturgy. “What unites us,” the pope said, “is greater than what divides us.”

The meeting comes at a time when Ethiopia is facing tremendous challenges. As we’ve reported in our magazine, the country is undergoing rapid urbanization and contending with the worst drought in decades. To learn more about the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church — and its rich history in Africa — check out our profile from the May 2010 edition of ONE.

Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Christian Unity Ethiopian Orthodox Church Patriarchs

29 February 2016
Bradley H. Kerr

Spring has arrived early in New York City, and, during a much-needed spring-cleaning of my desk, I uncovered this memento from a trip to the Holy Land back in 2013.

I met the little artist who drew this card at the Infant Welfare Center, in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. He’s one of about 27,500 Palestinian Arabs who, since Israel seized the Old City in 1967, still live within its ancient stone walls.

Jerusalem is a prosperous place, but many of the Palestinian families are deeply poor. The children of the Old City suffer from overcrowded housing, a lack of access to health care and limited educational opportunities — as well as a permeating mood of frustration and hopelessness. At bottom, they’re victims of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

But behind the heavy metal door of the Infant Welfare Center, I didn’t see any suffering. The happy shouts of children filled the 700-year-old building with joy.

The center is a program of the Greek Catholic Annunciation Society and houses a kindergarten, a health clinic, tutoring for at-risk teens and other services that address genuine needs of the Palestinian children in the Old City. It’s a very impressive place. The youngsters I met there were just four or five years old, but the center was already teaching them English. We sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” together.

Now that the card has been rescued from the bottom of a drawer, it’s hanging on the wall above my desk. And I want to thank you for the wonderful memory. Because the Infant Welfare Center is supported by your generous donations to CNEWA.

Tags: Jerusalem Palestine Education

29 February 2016
Greg Kandra

Refugees speak to the press on the Greek-Macedonia border on 29 February 2016 in Idomeni, Greece. (photo: Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

Pope prays for refugees, Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday prayed for refugees fleeing wars and what he called “other inhuman situations.” In particular, he drew attention to the migrant crisis in Greece and in other countries that are on the front line in offering aid to those in need which he added, required the cooperation of all nations…

Syria’s cease-fire holding (Time Magazine) A fragile cease-fire remained intact for a third day in parts of Syria on Monday, even as monitoring groups reported renewed Russian airstrikes on areas held by opponents of the Syrian government. The cease-fire applies only to the government and its allies, and a handful of rebel groups…

Canada welcomes 25,000th Syrian refugee (CBC) A plane touched down in Montreal on Saturday night carrying the 25,000th Syrian refugee to arrive in Canada since November. It marks the end of the first phase of the resettlement program launched by the Liberal government shortly after taking office…

Pope Francis to Ethiopian patriarch: Martyrs are the seed of Christian unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis urged world leaders to “promote peaceful coexistence” in the face of “a devastating outbreak of violence against Christians” on Monday, when he received the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Matthias I, in the Vatican…

U.S. warns of ‘catastrophic failure’ if Mosul dam breaks (CNN) Iraq’s Mosul Dam is facing a “serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning,” the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad warned on Sunday. “A catastrophic breach of Iraq’s Mosul Dam would result in severe loss of life, mass population displacement, and destruction of the majority of the infrastructure within the path of the projected floodwave,” the U.S. government said in a fact sheet…

After 20 years, Palestinians in Gaza can once again go to the movies (Reuters) Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are enjoying their first night out at the movies since political tensions led to the torching of cinemas in the enclave 20 years ago. Hollywood blockbusters have yet to return and Hamas Islamists, who now rule Gaza, are looking out for anything they consider immodest. Nevertheless, the projectors are rolling again, in a newly opened cinema whose shows have been limited so far to films about the Palestinian struggle for statehood…

Christians protest book claiming Jesus was a Hindu (Christian Today) Indian Christians in Maharashtra state have protested against a book by one of the founders of the right-wing Hindu nationalist political organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.) claiming Jesus was a Hindu. First published in 1946 and written by Ganesh Savarkar, Christ Parichay — translated into English as “Jesus was a Tamil Hindu” — claims Jesus was a Brahmin and that Christianity is just a sect of Hinduism…

Tags: Syria India Iraq Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

26 February 2016
CNEWA staff

In this image from January, a priest gives Communion to a woman during a Mass for Iraqi Christian refugees at Our Lady of Peace Center on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, Amman.
(photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)

The current issue of America Magazine features a compelling essay on religious freedom by CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., PhD:

The status of religious freedom in the world is not something to celebrate these days. The situation in the Middle East remains dire. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, and religious minorities are being persecuted and slaughtered. But this sad state of affairs is not unique or limited to that region. South Asia has recently seen a disturbing increase of sectarian violence against Christians and Muslims. Together the Middle East and South Asia are home to most of the major religious traditions of the planet. Not surprisingly, they are also home to many of the violations against religious freedom.

“Freedom of thought, conscience and religion” is guaranteed as a human right in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which most countries of the world have bound themselves by treaty and international law. Nevertheless, the sad fact is that abuses against freedom of religion are probably the most widespread and varied of all abuses. Issues involving the freedom of religion vary from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act in the United States to the genocidal tactics of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. They run the gamut from the legal to the existential.

Read the full essay at the America link. Meantime, check out the Sirius satellite radio interview below, which offers more from Father Elias on the topic.

26 February 2016
Greg Kandra

Father Sharbel Bcheiry plays with his sons Gabriel, 5, and Emmanuel, 3, at his home in suburban Chicago. To read more about the life of a married priest, check out this profile from the
Summer 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Karen Callaway)

26 February 2016
Greg Kandra

A Syrian boy receives treatment for wounds, sustained following an airstrike, at a make-shift hospital in the rebel-held city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, on 26 February 2016. Intense fighting has continued, just hours before a midnight deadline for a landmark ceasefire in the country's five-year civil war. (photo: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria ceasefire deadline looms, fighting continues (CNN) As the clock races toward the deadline for Syria’s warring parties to declare them in or out of a proposed “cessation of hostilities,” the stakes could hardly be higher — for those groups vying for power, for the Syrian people, for the Middle East, for Europe — and for the world as a whole...

Pope Francis meets with members of ‘Cor Unum’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with participants at an international conference organised by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum’ to mark the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est’. Reflecting on the theme of the conference, “Love will never end’, Pope Francis said the message of the encyclical remains timely, especially in this Jubilee year as we celebrate the central belief of our faith, that God is love...

Cardinal Sandri addresses conference on Christianity in the Middle East (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, spoke on Thursday to an international conference organized by the German Episcopal Conference and the University of Munich. The International Conference Between World Society and Regional Transformations: Christians, Christian Churches, and Religion in a Changing Middle East took place in Rome on 24-26 February. Many Catholic and Orthodox leaders from the Middle East took part in the event...

Franciscans in India request 1,000 pardons for inmates (CNS) In honor of the Holy Year of Mercy, Franciscans in India have asked their government to pardon 1,000 prisoners guilty of minor crimes. The men and women religious of the Association of the Franciscan Families of India voted during their national assembly in February to make the request, according to Matters India, a news portal that focuses on religious and social issues in India...

Egyptian court sentences Coptic Christians to five years in prison (Fides) The Egyptian court in Minya issued a heavy sentence against four Coptic students accused of contempt of Islam after mimicking an Islamic State beheading video of a Muslim faithful who was praying...

Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis

25 February 2016
Greg Kandra

The faithful gather to pray at the Church of the Forty Martyrs in Mardin, Turkey. To learn more about Christians who have returned to their homeland, read Coming Home in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)

25 February 2016
Greg Kandra

A refugee woman from Syria carries food while other displaced people sit near a border gate in Kilis, Turkey, on 9 February. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)

Iraqi Christians move to have greater representation of minorities in government (Fides) In recent days, members of Christians present in the Parliamentary Assembly of Iraq have called for greater representation of minorities in the government of technocrats led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, at least in part to stem the marginalization suffered by Christians and other minorities...

UN says aid drop to Syria failed (BBC) The UN’s first aid-drop over the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour, part of which is under siege by Islamic State militants, may have been off-target. Wednesday’s operation “faced technical difficulties” and “adjustments” were needed, the World Food Programme said. It added that it would try again when possible to deliver aid to the 200,000 civilians who have been trapped in a government-held area since March 2014...

Report: Turkish troops engaged in covert battle against ISIS (The Telegraph) Turkish troops are locked in a covert fight against ISIS in north Iraq, the Telegraph has learned, despite Baghdad’s insistence that they leave the country. Just nine miles northeast of the Isil stronghold of Mosul a number of tanks overlook the sprawling Nineveh plains, where they have been positioned for months. With their barrels trained on the city, Ankara’s ground forces are engaged in shelling Isil, according to a Kurdish Peshmerga general...

The science behind Ethiopia’s hunger crisis (Mother Jones) Tens of millions of people are facing a hunger crisis as a widespread drought is decimating crops and livestock in Ethiopia and southern Africa. The drought — which has received far less US media coverage California’s dry spell — could prove to be one of the most devastating consequences of the ongoing El Niño event that is wreaking havoc on global weather...

Secondhand clothes from Israel prove popular in Gaza (AP) The clothes were faded and worn out, and came from an unlikely place: Israel. But that didn't bother the Palestinian women rummaging through piles of tattered jeans, shirts, jackets and baby clothing at the weekly flea market in a refugee camp in central Gaza. Demand for the garments has become a barometer for the economic situation in Gaza, where after nearly a decade of rule by the Hamas militant group, poverty and unemployment levels are higher than ever, and the market for used clothing is buoyant...

Ukraine agrees to resume truck transit back to Russia (TASS) Ukraine’s cabinet of ministers approved the proposal of the ministry of infrastructure to unlock Russia’s motor freight transit in its territory on Wednesday. “We are ready to put back temporary permits from midnight of 25 February and return transit actually blocked for the last ten days to Ukraine’s territory,” minister of infrastructure Andrei Pivovarsky said...

Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Turkey

24 February 2016
Chris Kennedy

Among the many joyful aspects of working for CNEWA, one of my favorites has been helping to expand our Parish Awareness Program. This role has taken me, along with my colleagues Deacon Greg Kandra and the Rev. Elias Mallon, across the country to a variety of parishes, in order to share our mission and work.

This past weekend, Deacon Greg and I took CNEWA’s message of hope from coast to coast — literally — as we traveled to St. William’s Parish in Atascadero, California, about 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo.

CNEWA’s team visited St. William’s Parish in Atascadero, California last weekend. (photo: CNEWA)

Deacon Greg preached at the weekend masses, connecting CNEWA’s work to the theme of “light” present throughout Sunday’s readings. Across the Middle East and beyond, he explained, Christians’ light of hope is flickering, and in danger of going out. Through our regional partners, including the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Erbil, Iraq, CNEWA is helping to ensure that Christians and other persecuted minorities have the resources — and the hope — to sustain themselves through hardships that few of us could imagine.

CNEWA’s multimedia editor, Deacon Greg Kandra, preached at all the Masses. (photo: CNEWA)

After the masses, we greeted parishioners at a table we set up outside, under the warm California sunshine. There, parishioners were able to learn more about our work and sign up for a subscription to our magazine, ONE. Many people I spoke with expressed a sentiment I hear often: “We’ve heard about the struggles of our Christian brothers and sisters, and we’re so grateful for the chance to help!”

We’re especially grateful to a few wonderful people at St. William’s for making our visit such a success. Deacon Rick Minton, the parish’s Pastoral Associate, and his wife, Debbie, made sure we were well-fed and well-rested. The pastor, the Rev. Edwin Limpiado, welcomed us warmly and gregariously. It quickly became clear that he is well-loved by his flock! We also met Gabriel Okafor, a seminarian of the Diocese of Monterey who is doing his pastoral year under Father Edwin.

Chris Kennedy and Deacon Greg visit with pastor Father Edwin Limpiado and Deacon Rick Minton. (photo: CNEWA)

Overall, it was a wonderful visit, and, as I am at every parish visit, I was touched by the large number of people who stopped by to make a donation and learn more about us. It’s gratifying to meet such engaged, caring people who want to make a difference, and it’s an honor to welcome them to the CNEWA family!

If you’re interested in having CNEWA visit your parish, and spread our mission of hope, please do not hesitate to contact Norma Intriago, Director of Development, at

24 February 2016
Antin Sloboda

The photo above, from November 2015, shows a memorial in Kiev, Ukraine. This week, Ukrainians are commemorating victims who died during December 2013 — February 2014 protests in downtown Kiev. At that time, about 100 peaceful protesters were killed by the pro-presidential security forces. In addition to ordinary Ukrainian citizens, victims included citizens of Belarus and Georgia. You can read a first-hand account of the protests in the Spring 2014
edition of ONE. (photo: Carl Hétu)

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