Current Issue
March, 2019
Volume 45, Number 1
23 April 2019
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

A woman weeps during a memorial service for victims in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 23 April 2019, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island.
(photo: CNS/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)

The liturgies of Holy Week are filled with references to Jesus as the Suffering Servant of God. The reference is to four poems in the book of Isaiah that speak of a mysterious “servant of God.” In the fourth poem (Isa 52:13-53:12), when harshly dealt with, the servant “bore it humbly, never opening his mouth he was like a lamb led to the slaughter house.” The servant ultimately is abused and killed for the sins and transgressions of all. This image of Jesus as the non-violent suffering servant of God is rooted deep in Christian theology and piety.

We see it again in the Gospels. When an armed crowd comes to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of his followers strikes out with a sword of his own, severing the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Jesus rebukes his follower and states “those who take up the sword, die by the sword” (Matt 26:53). Throughout the Passion narratives, in the face of incredibly cruel violence, Jesus remains the non-violent victim.

All this makes the tragic events of this past Sunday all the more poignant and powerful.

This year on Easter Sunday, almost 400 people were killed in Sri Lanka. Most of them were celebrating the Resurrection — the victory of the non-violent Christ. Terrorists targeted Christians as they worshipped — that is, as they were united with their Lord who had been mishandled, beaten and crucified, who did not respond to violence with violence and was victorious. Like the Jesus they were worshipping, the victims of the attack were non-violent innocent people.

Anger is a normal, human reaction. Anger directed towards violence, oppression and injustice can be a good thing. But it is very easy for anger, especially in the face of such brutal and senseless violence, to become rage and a drive for revenge. That is entirely understandable. The rage of those who lost loved ones must be understood and, to some extent, felt.

But at times like these, we Christians face our greatest challenge: will we opt to be violent like Pilate or non-violent like Christ?

It must never be forgotten that, after having endured hatred, violence and death, the risen Christ brings to the world a message not of revenge but peace.

The true mystery of Easter is that violence, brutality, death and power are not victorious. Rather, weakness, humility and non-violence overwhelm violence, conquering it with life and goodness.

There is something deadening and horrifying about what happened in Sri Lanka. However, it is by no means something with which Christians are unfamiliar. Violence has been directed against us since the time of our Lord; it has been with us since the beginning. Since that time there has always been an understandable temptation towards revenge. However, the risen Suffering Servant constantly and inconveniently reminds us of the divine power of non-violence.

It may be tempting at times like this to call for retribution and vengeance. But the words of Paul ring clear: “Never repay evil with evil but let everyone see you are concerned on with that which is good….never try to get revenge (leave that to God)….Resist evil and conquer it with good” (Rom 12:17-21).

It is the belief in the overwhelming power of non-violence over violence, rooted in the Resurrection of the non-violent Christ, that makes us who we are — or definitely who we should be.

Tags: Persecution

23 April 2019
Greg Kandra

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan celebrates Mass for displaced Iraqis on 20 April 2019 at the Church of St. Elias in Dekwaneh, Lebanon.
(CNS photo/ courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)

Tags: Syria Lebanon Iraqi Christians

23 April 2019
Greg Kandra

Nuns pray during Mass near St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on 23 April 2019, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island.
(photo: CNS/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters)

Pope, bishops renew solidarity with Sri Lanka after terror attacks (Vatican News) Churches, groups and individuals joined Pope Francis as he reiterated his spiritual and fatherly closeness to the people of Sri Lanka following terrorist attacks on 3 churches and 3 hotels on Easter Sunday. Speaking to a large crowd in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square at midday on Easter Monday, the Pope said he was very close to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and Archdiocese of Colombo, the capital, and prayed for the numerous victims and wounded. While urging the international community to offer the needed help to Sri Lanka, he called on them not to hesitate in condemning these terrorist and inhuman acts that are never justifiable…

Holy Land Easter message calls for lasting peace in Jerusalem and the world (Vatican News) The 13 patriarchs and heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem have expressed their Easter greeting to the people of the Holy Land, the larger Middle East and the world, wishing that the words of Christ, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” be realized everywhere…

Pope: Only risen Christ can bring peace to a world at war (CNS) As the machine of warfare continues to churn out more dangerous weaponry, only the power and joy of Christ’s resurrection can fill hearts with comfort and peace, Pope Francis said before giving his Easter blessing…

Religious minorities across Asia suffer amid surge in sectarian politics (The New York Times) The deadly attacks in Sri Lanka on Sunday highlighted how easily religious coexistence can be ripped apart in a region where secularism is weakening amid the growing appeal of a politics based on ethnic and sectarian identity. In India, the country’s governing right-wing Hindu party is exploiting faith for votes, pushing an us-versus-them philosophy that has left Muslims fearing they will be lynched if they walk alone…

During Easter season, some Russians look to strengthen bonds with Syrian Christians (The Washington Post) When Russians celebrate Orthodox Easter on 28 April, leaders in Moscow will send their annual messages of kinship to fellow Orthodox Christians around the world. In Syria, however, the bonds are part of a wider strategy endorsed by the Kremlin. A group of clerics, humanitarian groups and members of government has been quietly cementing ties with Syria’s tiny and embattled Christian communities, whose roots in the faith go back to its earliest centuries…

U.S. withdrawal from Syria threatens Kurdish language, too (Haaretz) Rojava University, opened only three years ago in the autonomous region established by Syria’s Kurds in northeastern Syria, is part of the revival of the long-suppressed Kurdish language. However, this revival is now under threat as the future of the region hangs in the balance following an announcement on the drawdown of the U.S. forces whose presence has protected the Kurds from a regime takeover or Turkish invasion…

Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Russian Orthodox

18 April 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro

Ruthenian Greek Catholics of the village of Tichy Potok, Slovakia, celebrate the paschal mystery on Easter in 2001. (photo: Jacqueline Ruyuak)

Tags: Cultural Identity Village life Slovakia Eastern Catholics Ruthenians

18 April 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro

Bulgarian Orthodox men take part in a Good Friday liturgy at St. Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral in Sofia on 10 April 2015. Pope Francis will be visiting Bulgaria in early May. (photo: CNS/Stoyan Nenov, Reuters)

India general election: world’s biggest exercise in democracy begins (Vatican News) India’s general election kicked off on Thursday with tens of millions heading to the polls, in what is described as the world’s biggest exercise in democracy. There are some 900 million eligible voters in the world’s biggest democracy — more than the combined population of the United States, the European Union and Australia. Of these, 15 million are young first-time voters. The seven-phase election that began on 11 April, will conclude on 19 May…

Islamic-Christian dialogue in Abu-Dhabi after the Pope’s visit (AsiaNews) Roberto, an Italian engineer who has been in the Emirates for years, says that since the Pope came, his Muslim colleagues — especially Egyptians and Pakistanis — have been bombarding him with questions to understand more about the Christian faith, the rites of Holy Week, the Bible. In short, the pope aroused curiosity and interest in the faith of Christians…

Israeli water pipeline threatens Palestinian agricultural lands (Al Monitor) Some Palestinians in the West Bank governorate of Qalqilya hope to stop construction of a water pipeline Israel plans to build that threatens to destroy agricultural areas there. The residents see the project as an attempt to uproot villagers and seize land…

Bulgarian Orthodox Church expresses ‘deepest support’ for the French people (Sofia Globe) Bulgarian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Neofit on 18 April expressed sorrow over the fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral — an event representing “a huge impact on the world’s cultural heritage.” In the two-paragraph statement, issued three days after the fire, Neofit said that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod expressed its “deepest support” for the French people, wishing that the emblem of the country would be restored soon, and that the upcoming Easter holidays would not be dimmed…

Tags: India Pope Francis Palestine Bulgarian Orthodox Church Abu Dhabi

17 April 2019
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on 17 April 2019. The Easter Triduum — marking Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday — begins tomorrow. (photo: CNS/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

Tags: Pope Francis

17 April 2019
Greg Kandra

People attend a vigil near Notre Dame Cathedral on 16 April 2019, a day after a fire destroyed much of the church's wooden structure. Pope Francis during his Wednesday General Audience thanked the many who risked their lives to salvage the beloved cathedral. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope thanks rescuers who risked lives at Notre Dame (Vatican News) Speaking to French pilgrims present at the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis thanked the many people who risked their lives to salvage Notre Dame as fire tore through Paris’ Cathedral. ”The gratitude of the whole Church goes to those who did everything they could, even risking their lives, to save the Basilica,” he said…

Fuel lines grow in Syria (Reuters) Syria has suffered oil shortages since an Iranian credit line was halted six months ago and not one oil tanker has reached the country since then, a pro-government newspaper said on Wednesday, as a fuel crisis worsened. Syrians say shortages grew more acute a week ago: hundreds of cars waited in line at one Damascus petrol station on Wednesday, a witness said. State news agency SANA showed a photo of snarled traffic and said Syrians faced an “economic war”…

Christians, Muslims protest vigilante attacks ( Five days after a mob of Hindus beat to death a Catholic man for suspected cow slaughter in India’s Jharkhand state, Christian and Muslim activists joined in New Delhi to protest about violence against minorities. A mob attacked Prakash Lakra and three others on 10 April after suspecting them of slaughtering a cow in Jhurmu village in the eastern state’s Gumla district. Lakra died from his injuries hours after the attack, church sources said.

Sister presents her meditations on the Way of the Cross for Good Friday (Vatican News) Sister Eugenia Bonetti is a Consolata Missionary and President of the Association “Slaves No More.” Pope Francis invited her to prepare the meditations for this year’s Way of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday. Drawing from her experience in fighting the scourge of human trafficking, Sister Bonetti has highlighted the plight of those who are suffering new forms of crucifixion in society today…

Tags: Syria India Pope Francis

16 April 2019
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis meets on 15 April 2019 with Archbishop Borys Gudziak, who will be installed on 4 June as the metropolitan-archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
(CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Tags: Pope Francis Ukrainian Catholic

16 April 2019
Greg Kandra

Smoke rises around the altar inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris as a fire continues to smolder early on 16 April 2019. Officials said the cause was not clear, but that the fire could be linked to renovation work. Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the people of France.
(photo: CNS/Philippe Wojazer, Reuters)

Pope offers words of solidarity after Notre Dame fire (Vatican News) “Following the fire that ravaged a large part of Notre Dame Cathedral, I join you in your sorrow, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris, and all the French people.” Pope Francis sent those words of solidarity to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris on Tuesday. He assured all the people of France of his spiritual closeness and prayers during Holy Week, as the Church recalls Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection…

Russian Orthodox: Notre Dame blaze is a tragedy for all Christians (RT) The massive fire that had erupted at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a great tragedy for all Christians and those who value the cultural meaning of the ancient building, the Russian Orthodox Church has said...

Court reinstates Good Friday holiday in part of India (CNS) The Mumbai high court reinstated Good Friday as a holiday after it had been removed from the list of government-approved holidays in an area in western India ruled by the federal government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. ”We are very happy to inform you that we have won the Good Friday battle in the Mumbai high court,” Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi, secretary general of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference, said in a statement after the court’s 15 April ruling…

Indian state government to reopen church ( The High Court in India’s Uttar Pradesh state has directed its pro-Hindu party-led government to reopen a church that was closed seven months ago by state officials. Allahabad High Court on 12April ordered the state to reopen the church in Siddharth Nagar district and provide protection to Pastor Satyen Biswakarma and his community in conducting prayers. The church has been closed since last September after some people claiming to be working for government intelligence services barged into the church and recorded a prayer service…

Police to deploy thousands of officers in Jerusalem for Passover (The Jerusalem Post) More than 3,000 police officers will be deployed across the country, with a focus on Jerusalem, in preparation for and during the Passover holiday, which begins Friday at sundown. Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld, Israel Police foreign press spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post that tens of thousands of people are expect to ascend to Jerusalem for the first day of the holiday, as well as more than 100,000 on the second day for the Priestly Blessing prayer service, which will be held at the Western Wall…

Tags: India Pope Francis Jerusalem Russian Orthodox

15 April 2019

We were shocked and saddened, along with so many others around the word this afternoon, when news broke that one of the most beloved churches in the world, the 800-year-old iconic Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, was burning.

Early reports indicated it was caused by renovations and construction underway in the cathedral.

But images, such as those captured live on the video below, told the story.

Video: CNN/YouTube

As Christians around the globe begin to mark the holiest week of the church calendar — and prepare to remember again Christ’s passion, death and resurrection — we pray for the people of Paris and believers everywhere whose hearts are breaking at the destruction, the ruin and the loss of such a beautiful house of prayer.

This afternoon, CNEWA’s chair, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, released a statement:

I just went next door to our own beloved Cathedral, Saint Patrick’s, to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames! God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.

Mary, Queen of Peace and Help of Christians, pray for us!


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