16 February 2018
A monk walks outside Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 2013.
(photo: CNS/Baz Ratner, Reuters)
The heads and patriarchs of Christian churches in Jerusalem strongly denounced the city of Jerusalem’s plan to force churches to pay property taxes.
The proposal to levy taxes on some properties would run contrary to unofficial historical tax-exempt status the churches have enjoyed for centuries, the leaders said in a 15 February statement.
“The civil authorities have always recognized and respected the great contribution of the Christian churches, which invest billions in building schools, hospitals, and homes, many for the elderly and disadvantaged, in the Holy Land,” the statement said.
The leaders called on city officials to retract their intention and to “ensure that the status quo, which was sanctioned by the sacred history, is maintained, and the character of the Holy City of Jerusalem is not violated.”
“We declare that such a measure both undermines the sacred character of Jerusalem, and jeopardizes the church’s ability to conduct its ministry in this land on behalf of its communities and the world-wide church,” they said. “We stand firm and united in our position to defend our presence and properties.”
Fines totaling millions of dollars were handed out by the Jerusalem municipality last week to properties owned by the United Nations and by churches, citing a new legal opinion that determined the properties are not legally defined as places of worship and therefore were not entitled to exemptions from property tax.
Some observers said the step appeared to be an escalation in a financial dispute between the municipality and the Israel’s Ministry of Finance, with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat demanding the ministry provide his city with more funding. The threat to fine the churches seems to be another way the municipality is pressuring the ministry to release more funds to the city, which is one of the poorer larger cities in the country, observers said.
In late January, Barkat threatened to fire more than 2,000 municipal employees because, he said, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is preventing necessary funds from reaching the municipality. The announcement led to a citywide strike of municipal services, including garbage collection, which left trash and debris strewn throughout the city.
The Israel Hayom newspaper reported that the religious institution with the biggest tax bill was the Roman Catholic Church, owing more than $3.3 million.
Among the properties slated to be fined is the Notre Dame of Jerusalem hotel, restaurant and conference center across from the Old City, which is owned by the Vatican. The director of the complex declined to comment on the issue.
The Holy See and Israel have been in negotiations over the status of its Jerusalem holdings since 1993, when diplomatic relations were established.
16 February 2018
The video above shows how a daycare center in Georgia is helping give purpose to young lives through out. (video: Antonio di Vico)
This Friday, we visit Caritas Georgia, to see how art therapy is changing young lives at a daycare center.
When we published A Letter from Georgia two years ago, Anahit Mkhoyan, the director of the center, wrote:
I understood that change is one of the most important things in our lives. It helps us to stay humble in the continuous path of learning, it enriches us with knowledge and it makes us tolerant because we see that things can be at once good and bad in different ways and places.
So take a few moments, meet Anahit, and see how change is making a huge difference in some of the youngest people in that corner of the world.
16 February 2018
An Indian villager cradles her baby while she joins others in a multi-linguistic Lord’s Prayer. Read about how catechists and missionaries are Reaching the Unreached in India in the Winter 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
16 February 2018
The video above offers a first look at the new church in Egypt dedicated to the Copts who were beheaded three years ago in Libya by ISIS. (video: World Watch Monitor/YouTube)
Church leaders in Jerusalem say no to taxation of church property (Vatican News) The Church leaders in Jerusalem have made a formal request to municipality of Jerusalem to withdraw their statement of imposing municipal taxes on Church properties. A statement released on Wednesday by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem states that the intention to impose municipal tax on Churches contradicts the historical position between Churches and civil authorities over the centuries. It further states that the civil authorities have always recognized and respected the great contribution of the Christian Churches, which invest billions in building schools, hospitals, and homes, many for the elderly and disadvantaged, in the Holy Land...
Pope to Maronites: Be a light for the people in your region (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Friday received staff and students from the Pontifical Maronite College here in Rome, telling them that these years of training were the foundation stone of their future as pastors in Lebanon and the whole of the Middle East. Greeting seminarians and staff on Friday, Pope Francis began by reflecting on the figure of St. Maron and invited them to follow the example of this Saint’s qualities of faith and love which, he said, were pure sources for today’s spiritually thirsty people...
Cardinal: don’t forget the suffering of Syria (Vatican News) The Vatican’s representative in Damascus, Cardinal Mario Zenari, has appealed to the international community not to forget the suffering people in Syria. In an interview with the Vatican Newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the nuncio said there was a growing health emergency and food shortages in the country...
Egypt opens church dedicated to martyred Christians (Sight Magazine) It is a special day for the Coptic community of Minya province, Upper Egypt, as a new church was inaugurated this morning in Al-Our village in remembrance of 20 Egyptian Copts and one Ghanaian Christian beheaded by the so-called Islamic State on the Libyan coast three years ago on Thursday...
15 February 2018
This mosaic shows Satan tempting Christ while he is fasting in the desert — offering him stones to turn into bread. It comes from the Chora Church in Constantinople. Parts of the church date to the 11th century. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
For the western church, yesterday — Ash Wednesday — marked the beginning of Lent, a penitential season in preparation for Easter. Basically patterned on the Gospel stories of Jesus’ fast and temptation in the desert (Mt. 4:1-11; Mk. 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13), Lent is usually counted as 40 days, sometimes with some creative calculations involved. For some of CNEWA’s partners who are Orthodox, the preparation for Easter this year does not begin until Monday 19 February, which is the beginning of the Great Fast.
Fasting is something common to almost all the religions of the world. It is connected often with asceticism — those practices which help the believer overcome the drives of the body and elevate the spirit to a higher reality. However, for members of monotheistic religions who believe in the one God — Judaism, Islam and Christianity — fasting plays a central and important role.
Again and again in the Hebrew Scriptures we find the Israelites proclaiming a fast to atone for some transgression or to avert some tragedy. The biblical book of the Prophet Joel revolves entirely around a period of fasting and repentance. It seems that a plague of locusts had attacked the land and was devastating the crops. Joel compares the locust to an army of countless warriors, devouring the land and hurling the people into a deadly famine. Joel exclaims “order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly!” (1:13; 2:15) God calls the people to repent, “..come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning...” (2:12 ff.) Fasting and repentance are outward signs of an inner conversion to the justice which God demands (Isa 58:5-7). Fasting focuses the spirit and purifies prayer throughout the Hebrew Bible. The tradition continues to this day; for contemporary Jews the Holy Day of Yom Kippur, the Day of the Atonement, is a day of fasting, prayer and repentance.
For Muslims, fasting also plays a major role. The holy month of Ramadan is the month of fasting. For a lunar month, Muslims observe a total fast in which nothing enters the body. Whereas Christian fasting does not include water, Muslims go further; they abstain from food, water, smoking and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Unlike the case with Judaism and Christianity, Muslim fasting during the month of Ramadan does not have a strong penitential element. For Muslims, the fast of Ramadan is rather a joyful thing — an act of self-control, to be sure, but also primarily an act of worship to God.
Finally, in the New Testament fasting plays an important role and is connected for Christians with penance and prayer. Fasting here understandably has roots deep in the Hebrew tradition. And it is mentioned with surprising frequency. We tend to overlook how often people in the New Testament are presented as “praying and fasting.” It is so common that it is almost self-evident and often mentioned merely in passing. In Luke, the prophetess Anna spends her time in the Temple with “prayer and fasting” (Lk 2:37). In 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds his readers of the times he has spent praying and fasting (2 Cor 6:5; 11:27). Simply assuming that his followers will fast, Jesus warns them against making an outward show of their fasting (Mt. 6 passim). Although it is often overlooked, fasting in both the Old and New Testaments is closely connected with acts of charity and justice (see especially Isa 58).
For Christians, then, the fasting of Lent has several levels of meaning deeply rooted in the Scriptures. Outwardly fasting is an act of self-denial and self-discipline. But it is far more than just self-discipline. It is an act of stripping away the non-essential and focusing on what is central. It focuses inward, as the believer focuses on God and the act of God in Jesus Christ. And focusing inwardly on the saving act of God in Christ, the Christian is impelled to focus externally to bring about the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus — a kingdom of justice, peace and compassion.
15 February 2018
The Rev. Miguel Maria Cobo Guzman of Spain sprinkles ashes on a young Palestinian woman from the Latin Patriarchate School during Ash Wednesday Mass on 14 February at Annunciation Church in Beit Jala, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
15 February 2018
Staffan de Mistura United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria at the United Nations on 14 February 2018.
(photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images)
UN envoy: Civilians killed ‘on a horrific scale’ in Syria (Al Jazeera) The UN special envoy for Syria has given warning that violence in the country is the worst he has seen since taking the job four years ago. Staffan de Mistura’s remarks on Wednesday came as the US and Russia again traded blame at the UN over the ongoing conflict. “Civilians have been killed on a horrific scale — reports suggest more than 1,000 civilians in the first week of February alone,” he told the UN Security Council...
Russian Orthodox leader criticizes Trump decision on Jerusalem (The Moscow Patriarchate) Answering questions from Romfea, a Greek church news agency, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR), spoke on a number of issues concerning inter-Orthodox relations, the situation in the Middle East and the situation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church...
Hindu party in India offers to send Christians to Jerusalem for free (Almasdranews.com) The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), the ruling party of India, is trying to woo Indian Christians into voting for it by promising free pilgrimages to the holy sites in Jerusalem if the party breaks through further in upcoming elections...
Gaza’s only power plant shuts down over fuel shortage (The Times of Israel) The closure of the plant, which normally provides around a fifth of Gaza’s electricity, will exacerbate an already critical power shortage. Gaza’s two million residents receive only around four hours of electricity a day...
A ‘small miracle’ for Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Crux) Sana Samia is managing director of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archdiocese of Zahlé, Lebanon, but that’s a job title, not a description, of this 32-year-old married laywoman with a work ethic the size of Texas. What she really is, certainly in the eyes of the Syrian refugees she assists on a daily basis, is a miracle-worker...
14 February 2018
Sister Eman Fawzy chats with students at the St. Vincent de Paul School in Alexandria. Learn more about the school and the Daughters of Charity who run it in the December 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
14 February 2018
Tags: Egypt Children Sisters Education Catholic education
Syrian children play in the street as a United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter-agency aid convoy arrives in the town of Utaya, in the eastern Ghouta, on 14 February. (photo: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images)
U.N. officials, church leaders decry escalating situation in Syria (CNS) As Syria’s war soon enters its eighth year, many decry the recent dangerous escalation in the conflict, whether in the country’s north, between Turkey and the Kurds, or in the south, between Iran and Israel. Speaking from the sprawling Zaatari Refugee Camp housing 80,000 Syrians near Jordan’s border with Syria, the head of the U.N. refugee agency condemned the recent Israeli-Iranian confrontation over Syria, which threatens to open a new and unpredictable front in the war…
U.N. chief launches two-year plan to fast-track Iraq reconstruction (U.N. News) United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday launched a reconstruction program for Iraq, urging the global community to support Iraqis as they embark on the journey to rebuild their country and make sure that it is committed to unity and inclusivity…
Site of Jesus’ baptism to be cleared of mines after half a century (Christian Today) An ancient site revered as the location where Jesus was baptised may be reopened to the public as a massive de-mining programme gets under way. Qasr al Yahud, about 6 miles east of Jericho, has seven churches along with chapels and monasteries, mainly built during the 1930’s during the British Mandate period. It was a popular pilgrimage spot until Israel blocked access to it in 1968…
Bishops say religious nationalism in India is self-annihilation (UCA News) Promotion of nationalism based on religion threatened India with annihilation, the nation’s Catholic bishops warned at the conclusion of a biennial meeting. The alarm was sounded following a series of hardline Hindu attacks on Christian and other religious minorities…
13 February 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq India United Nations
Capuchin friars enter Gulele St. Francis Parish Church on 10 February to celebrate their vice-province becoming a province in Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: Our regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu shared with us some joyful news about the Capuchin Friars in Ethiopia, whose vice-province last week was raised to the status of province:
The presence of Capuchin Franciscan missionaries in Ethiopia goes back to 17th century, when the first two French Capuchin missionaries, Father Agathange and Father Cassien, planted the seed of faith, and nourished it by shedding their blood and giving their lives within two days of arrival in Gondar from Egypt in 1638.
Later, the legendary Italian Capuchin, Cardinal Guglielmo Massaja (1846-1880), helped create the Oromo Vicariate in the western part of Ethiopia and expanded Catholicism in the country. In the later days, a group of French Capuchin Missionaries followed. The growth of the Catholic church and Catholic faithful is due to the presence of these missionaries who devotedly paid with their lives. These true evangelizers reached out to the remotest corners of the country — erecting churches, establishing schools, providing health services and witnessing to the faith with their simple way of life.
After decades of devoted work and growth, on 10 February the Capuchin Friars Minor Vice-Province of Mary Kidane Meheret in Ethiopia was raised to the status of Province.
The celebration took place at Gulele St. Francis Parish Church, with a Mass presided over by Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Sourapheal, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, attended by Msgr. Luigi Bianco, Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia and Djibouti, the entire local Capuchin Franciscan friars, along with other invited religious congregations.
At this stage the new Capuchin province is blessed to have 101 local ordained friars serving in the country. The order, despite some challenges, is blessed by increasing vocations. Currently, there are 21 candidates attending Philosophy and Theology at the St. Francis Institute, which is fully administered and run by same order. There are also seven postulants and 10 pre-postulants in Nazareth/Adama. The last Custos, Rev. Br. Yohannes Wossen put it well: “Simplicity and brotherhood attracts many to join us.”
Related: Head of the Class
In Ethiopia, the Capuchin Franciscans serve in eight church jurisdictions (three Eastern rite Eparchies and five Latin Rite dioceses) in 20 community houses. Besides the focus on evangelization, the Capuchins run five highly respected Catholic secondary schools in Baher Dar-Dessie Eparchy and in Soddo vicariate, along with the Abune Andreas Girls’ Home in Dire Dawa. They also run many junior and primary schools; a boarding facility for boys in Dessie; and they also support a university chaplaincy programs. One of the secondary schools — Abba Pascal Catholic Girls’ School (named after Father Pascal, a French Capuchin missionary) in southern Ethiopia in Soddo vicariate — was established for educating rural girls. Most of these services were initially located in the most remote parts of the country.
CNEWA partners with Capuchins in Ethiopia, supporting five of these remotely located schools and the Girls’ Home in Dire Dawa, thanks to our generous donors who sincerely value the services of these missionaries, who continue to witness to the faith through simple lives of evangelization.
The Capuchins continue to be moved by the charism of St. Francis, eager to share their “joy, humility and simplicity.” We’re also reminded of the words of Msgr. Angelo Pagano, Vicar Apostolic of Harar and Capuchin who said at this celebration: “Wonderful pages were written by our predecessors in evangelizing the faith in Ethiopia. They left their foot prints. But now is the time for us to write new pages for the journey before us.”
By supporting these zealous missionaries for the good of the local church in Ethiopia, let us be part of that journey before them — accompanying the local church through the efforts of the Capuchins!
Below, you can see a brief video of some of the friars joyfully singing a hymn of thanksgiving during the Mass.