29 September 2016
In the video above, the UN Special Envoy to Syria expresses his gratitude to Pope Francis for his efforts to bring peace to Syria. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope Francis speaks to Mideast aid agencies (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received representatives from the various Catholic aid agencies and charitable organizations under the leadership of the Pontifical Council Cor unum working in Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region affected by the ongoing conflicts in both Syria and Iraq. The Pontifical Council Cor unum is the Pope’s special instrument for carrying out humanitarian initiatives, promoting integral human development, coordinating the initiatives of Catholic Organizations, and encouraging the faithful to give concrete witness to the Gospel through charitable activity...
Russia rejects U.S. demands for resumption of Syrian cease-fire (The New York Times) The Russian government vowed on Thursday to press ahead with its operations in Syria, dismissing Secretary of State John Kerry’s threat to cut off talks if the bombardment of Aleppo continued. “We have more than once suggested 48-hour pauses in order to ensure humanitarian access,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, told reporters in Moscow on Thursday. “But our American colleagues are totally fixated on demands of a seven-day pause for reasons that only they know...”
Patriarch: Palestinian refugees have right to return to their homeland (Fides) The international recognition of the Palestinian State is an act which cannot be delayed if one really wants to favor the re-establishment of peace in the Middle East. And one must also support and ensure the return of all Palestinian refugees, still scattered in the Middle East, to their homeland, which is one of their “natural rights.” This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai defined the prerogative claimed by the descendants of the Palestinian Arab populations who fled from Palestine after the birth of the State of Israel...
Baby born in jungle symbolizes suffering of India’s Christians (Crux) When Father Madan Singh was recently appointed the director of Jana Vikas, a grassroots organization based in the eastern Indian region of Kandhamal, the very first thing he did was to visit a young girl named “Jungle Rani,” whose mother gave birth to her in 2008 when tens of thousands of Christians took refuge in a forest during ferocious anti-Christian riots...
Vatican publishes theme for 2017 World Day for Social Communications (Vatican Radio) The theme for the Church’s 2017 World Day for Social Communications was published on Thursday. The theme or motto chosen for this event is: “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43.5). Communicating hope and trust in our time...
28 September 2016
Children help one another at the Our Lady of Armenia Education Center in Tashir, Armenia. For more about the spirit and perseverance of the Church of Armenia, check out An Unshakable Faith in the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
28 September 2016
In this image from 2014, Pope Francis welcomes former Israeli President Shimon Peres during a meeting at the Vatican. Peres died Tuesday at the age of 93.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)
Pope Francis offers condolences on death of Shimon Peres (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his “heartfelt condolences” to the people of Israel upon learning of the death of their former President, Shimon Peres. He died on Tuesday at the age of 93. “I fondly recall my time with Mr Peres at the Vatican and renew my great appreciation for the late President’s tireless efforts in favor of peace,” Pope Francis said...
Children of Aleppo, trapped in a killing zone (The New York Times) Among the roughly 250,000 people trapped in the insurgent redoubt of the divided northern Syrian city are 100,000 children, the most vulnerable victims of intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies. Though the world is jolted periodically by the suffering of children in the Syria conflict — the photographs of Alan Kurdi’s drowned body and Omran Daqneesh’s bloodied face are prime examples — dead and traumatized children are increasingly common...
Pope renews appeal for Aleppo (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has once again appealed for peace in Syria. At his General Audience on Wednesday, the Pope said, “dramatic news continues to reach me concerning the fate of the people of Aleppo, with whom, through prayer and spiritual closeness, I feel united in suffering...”
Among young Lebanese, only 25 percent are Christians (Fides) Today, Christians account for 34 percent of the Lebanese population registered in the civil Status register. But if the focus is placed on the Lebanese population up to 25 years of age, the percentage of Christians drops to 25 percent. This is the most eloquent demographic data on the current number of Christians in Lebanon, released by the vice president of the Maronite League Hiam Boustany at the Conference convened yesterday by the Movement for the Earth at the convent of Mar Yacoub, in the village of Karm Saddeh and dedicated to the sale of land belonging to Christian owners...
Russian implicated in shooting down Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine (The New York Times) A Dutch-led investigation has concluded that the powerful surface-to-air missile system that was used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine two years ago, killing all 298 on board, was trucked in from Russia at the request of Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night. The report largely confirmed the already widely documented Russian government role not only in the deployment of the missile system, called a Buk, or SA-11, but the subsequent cover up, which continues to this day...
Patriarch Kirill signs petition urging Putin to ban abortion (AFP) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Tuesday signed a petition calling for a legal ban on abortion, the Church said in a statement. The Patriarch met anti-abortion campaigners and signed a petition to be handed to President Vladimir Putin urging a ban on abortions. The Patriach’s signing of the petition apparently represents a hardening of the Church’s position as it has previously only called for a ban on state-provided abortions without a medical necessity...,/p>
Ethiopians mark Meskel (Reuters) Orthodox priests lit a bonfire in the heart of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday evening to mark the eve of Meskel, a festival to mark the finding of the cross of Jesus. Tens of thousands of people, many holding up candles in the failing light as the sun set, crowded on terraces around the square where the ceremony was led by the head of Ethiopia’s Christian Orthodox church, Patriarch Abune Mathias...
27 September 2016
Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana serves as the head of CAPNI, an organization dedicated to keeping hope alive for Christians in Iraq and Syria. (photo: European Parliament News)
More than two years ago, word reached us about the threat of ISIS to the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Long the center of Iraq’s ancient Christian community, Mosul had seen a constant bleeding of its Christians since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Once, Mosul sheltered more than 60,000 Christians, but only a few thousand remained by July 2014. But by the end of the month, the city’s remaining Christians had fled, as ISIS stormed the city and gave its Christian citizens the choice to pay an extortion tax, convert, flee or die. ISIS was less generous to Mosul’s Shiite and Yazidi minorities.
Through our regional director in Amman, we received up-to-date accounts from an archimandrite of the Church of the East, Abuna Emanuel Youkhana, who described the terror that followed, the fate of the city’s ancient churches and monasteries, and the unknown that awaited the Christians of all of northern Iraq. In one report, dated 23 July, Abuna Emanuel writes of the actions of ISIS:
“This reflects how deep the sectarian conflict is and how long it will take to recover — if any recovery is to come. ... The current situation reflects how the Iraqi structure was a fragile one. Is there really a common Iraqi people feeling that they are one people and one country?
“The situation is clearly a deep social and political crisis. ... The question and challenge is how to convince Christians that they have a future in Iraq. The nice words and sympathy statements are not enough. There should be deeds and practices.”
Last week, Abuna Emanuel traveled from Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, to New York, where he addressed the United Nations about the plight of all minorities in Iraq and the Middle East. Before his historic visit to the august body, he visited with CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar for Archimandrite Emanuel is not just a bystander recording the travails of his people, but the head of CAPNI, an organization dedicated to keeping “the hope alive” for Assyro-Chaldean Christians, and now one of CNEWA’s primary partners in Iraqi Kurdistan. There, in Dohuk, next to the city’s parish of the Church of the East, CNEWA established a clinic with a committee of representatives of the area’s churches, serving some 500 patients a week.
CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar, left, meets with Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, right, in New York on 23 September. (photo: CNEWA)
Asked about the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation among the committee’s different churches and their representatives, Abuna Emanuel laughed when asked to comment about such ecumenism in action.
“We don’t have the luxury to discuss this, and its theological implications. We do this practically, building bridges of hope, so as to survive.”
In addition to assisting with the management of the dispensary, which includes a laboratory and two operating rooms, the archimandrite has been interviewing displaced families, ascertaining information about their prospects and hopes as forces gather to take back the Nineveh Plain and the city of Mosul.
“Certain conditions, certain guarantees, have to be met to prevent this from happening again,” the priest said of those families considering returning to their homes should ISIS be pushed out and defeated.
“How do we restore coexistence and mutual trust?” he asked, adding that the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi government had failed to bind the diverse nation together, ignoring the existence of Iraq’s considerable non-Islamic minorities even in children’s text books.
“The sense of loss is profound,” he said, noting that, overnight, Christian communities founded by the apostles on the soil stained with the blood of martyrs lost their shrines, their relics and their patrimony. Families were uprooted, perhaps forever.
“We share in the liturgy and in the sacraments,” he said of what binds all Iraqi Christians together, “we share all, as seeds of hope.”
27 September 2016
In this photograph from 2014, Pope Francis greets Skender Brucaj, head of Albania’s Muslim community, during a meeting with leaders of other religions in Tirana, Albania. Last Friday, CNEWA took part in a full-day program which, among other things, explored the pope’s thoughts on religious freedom and the common good. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
For 90 years, CNEWA has been engaged in regions where conflict and war have aggravated poverty and destroyed basic human rights — including and often especially religious freedom — of people living in the regions. Painfully aware of the relationship between peace, justice and development and freedom of religion, CNEWA works to bring about the integral human development which Pope Francis sees as making people the “dignified agents of their own destiny.”
Last week, CNEWA was invited to share some insights on all this at New York’s Fordham University. “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals” was the topic of a full-day program sponsored by CAPP-USA and Fordham University. CAPP, which stands for Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, is a lay-led papal organization composed of Catholic business, academic and professional leaders whose purpose is to promote the social teachings of the Catholic Church.
The conference was attended by leading economists, financiers and bankers who dealt with practical ways to respond to Pope Francis’ call to help the poor. Presentations were made to the gathering by Cardinals Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State (who had to withdraw on short notice and had a priest present his paper), and Theodore McCarrick, as well as by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio to the UN. Many CAPP members from Italy and Germany were present as participants and presenters.
As would be expected, a great deal of emphasis was placed on how one measures poverty, deals with alleviating it and then measures the effectiveness of programs. Scholars and economists spoke of the different metrics used in dealing with poverty and various ways to alleviate poverty. Both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN as well as Fordham University’s sevenfold Pope Francis Global Poverty Index were compared, contrasted and studied at length.
I was invited to speak on religious freedom as one of Pope Francis’ indicators. Pulling together two rather broad topics, I indicated that Pope Francis’ understanding of religious freedom, based as it is on Dignitatis Humanae, Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, is not “denominationally limited.” Rather, Pope Francis sees religious freedom as “a fundamental human right” of all people and that questions intrinsic to one’s intimate essence...are questions of religions and...require religious freedom.”
Combining both realism and practicality, Pope Francis sees religious freedom as intimately related to the need for a peaceful society and for the achievement of the common good. Religious freedom, therefore, is characterized by two attitudes. The first is universal — one regards every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions “not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters.” The second attitude is practical — religious freedom also impels believers (and non-believers) to “work done in the service of the common good” with “concern for the whole of society without making distinctions....”
I noted that Pope Francis’ universal and practical understanding of religious freedom helps to bridge the sometimes differently understood concepts of “the common good,” used by the Catholic Church and “the universal destination of goods,” used by the UN. The two expressions/concepts, while not identical, are not contradictory and can, in fact, complement each other.
You can read the full text of my talk here.
27 September 2016
The Ethiopian Catholic bishop of Emdibir celebrates the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The Autumn 2016 edition of ONE turns a spotlight on the Eastern churches, celebrating their rich history and diversity. To learn more about the Church of Alexandria and its flourishing faith in Africa, check out this profile. (photo: John E. Kozar)
27 September 2016
Staffan de Mistura, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, addresses the Security Council
on 25 September. (photo: U.N./Kim Haughton)
‘If we lose this generation, we lose Syria’ (Al Jazeera) Millions of displaced Syrian children have been forced to quit school amid a protracted civil war that has left the country in ruins. In Turkey, which has grappled with a massive refugee influx over the past five years, more than half of Syrian refugee children are not receiving a formal education, according to Human Rights Watch. Finding few alternatives, many of these children have taken jobs in factories or turned to the streets, selling tissues or gum to earn a meager income...
U.N. briefing: ‘Chilling days for Syria’ (UN.org) The past week has been one of the worst ones in Syria during the near six years of this devastating conflict. Earlier in the week I had to deeply regret the fact that the meeting of the International Syria Support Group did not yield the results we were hoping...
Crisis in Ethiopia: Drought persists, nutrition suffers (Aleteia) Spring brought rain, and some relief, but in some places too much rain led to severe flooding, which displaced 190,000 people. “The majority of Ethiopian farmers are dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Rain failure is a disaster for farmers,” said Argaw Fantu, regional director in Ethiopia for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. “Some areas are also naturally disadvantaged areas as the rainfall is so erratic, [and because of the] rocky and mountainous nature of the area...”
Vatican releases details of pope’s upcoming visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan (Vatican Radio) At a briefing for journalists at the Holy See press office on Monday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke gave details of Pope Francis’ forthcoming three day visit to the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It’ll be his 16th pastoral visit outside Italy and it’ll be focused on the themes of peace and brotherhood, following on from the message of peace that he took with him to the neighboring republic of Armenia last June...
New program helps refugees in Canada develop job skills (The Catholic Register) Refugee youth in Calgary are learning essential job skills through a new program run by the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS). On 6 September, CCIS announced the launch of the program that will benefit young refugees in the Archdiocese of Calgary. The Enhancing Refugee Youth Employment Outcomes project will help 48 young refugee, ages 15 to 30, develop job skills and gain work experience...
26 September 2016
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk has led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church since 2011.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In the Autumn 2016 edition of ONE, writer Mark Raczkiewycz profiles Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — and below, offers some additional reflections on their conversation.
After spending a little over 30 minutes interviewing his beatitude, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk — head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — I was reminded of the strong historic continuity which clergymen bring to spiritual service.
Immediately acknowledging that the church’s roots stem from Constantinople, more than a half century before the Great Schism of 1054, Archbishop Sviatoslav carefully chose his words throughout the interview, as if to reinforce the institutional memory that his position embodies.
He didn’t convey his main points in a philosophical or lofty manner.
Archbishop Sviatoslav spoke with an upbeat and excited tone, a sign that he is at ease with his role of serving more than eight million faithful worldwide.
That assuredness keeps him grounded.
Speaking of being raised in an underground Catholic household in Soviet western Ukraine, where he also attended a secret seminary, he said: “I never thought that I would become a priest for the public service. I never thought that one day I would go abroad to study somewhere else outside the limits of the former Soviet Union. I never thought that I would become a bishop and the possibility to become a bishop for the Ukrainians in Argentina. This is an idea from another world.”
Along the way he got a doctorate in moral theology in Rome. He also learned to speak seven languages — our interview was in English, although I am fluent in Ukrainian — and, according to priests in Chicago, where Archbishop Sviatoslav visited earlier this year, the major archbishop is an avid violin player and even sings as a cantor when needed.
Although the majority of the faithful live in western Ukraine, the church in 2005 moved its headquarters from Lviv back to what he called its historic birthplace in Kiev. The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow protested—and objected again in 2013, when the newly built Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Our Lord was consecrated in Ukraine’s capital, close to the eastern bank of the mighty Dnipro River.
Referring to the war that Russia has waged against Ukraine for three years now, the major archbishop said, “we have to do everything to prevent further escalation of that aggression...We have to stop bloodshed between our nations.” Archbishop Sviatoslav said the church holds weekly prayers on Tuesdays for “our enemies...a prayer for the aggressors and for those who consider us their enemies.”
He said he would be eager to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to share a “message of reconciliation.”
Speaking of the other families of the Eastern churches, he spoke repeatedly about “political correctness,” and conveyed the idea that clergymen have the duty to share with others, their flock and with other people of the cloth, the truth of what is happening in their countries.
Archbishop Sviatoslav certainly does that every chance he gets.
Read more about the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and other Churches of the East in the Autumn edition of ONE.
26 September 2016
Bassem Hazboun, a Catholic Palestinian chef from Bethlehem in the West Bank, center, is pictured in an undated photo. Hazboun says food is part of his identity and he loves sharing cuisine from the Holy Land with those who are not familiar with it.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Bright Stars of Bethlehem)
When he was a child, Bassem Hazboun loved helping his mother prepare French delicacies in their Bethlehem kitchen. But it was his father who kept trying to steer him to study engineering as he reached his teens.
“You don’t need this,” his father said when Hazboun told him he wanted to take a cooking course. But the passion he found while cooking by this mother’s side never left.
“My food is my identity,” said Hazboun, a Catholic Palestinian who traveled in September from his native Bethlehem in the West Bank to showcase food from his homeland to various U.S. cities, including Washington and Connecticut, part of the “Room for Hope” festival. The festival aims to raise money for scholarships to help youth in the Holy Land study music, dance, cooking and other arts.
Chef Hazboun, 39, studied at Bethlehem University, a Catholic university in the Holy Land, and is the head of the culinary arts program at Dar al-Kalima University’s College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem, which helps youth in the Holy Land hone skills in arts and culture.
Hazboun said food from the Holy Land is in a way unique for Christians because some of it hails from biblical times. Sometimes he prepares biblical menus, he said, for those who arrive in the Holy Land for religious pilgrimages. This may mean a menu that includes a lentil soup, a dish of lamb and yogurt, too. Food from the Holy Land also features lots of olives, which are abundant in the region, he said, and spices you won’t find elsewhere.
“All the foods are special,” he told Catholic News Service.
It’s important for him, he said, to help his students develop a love for the food of their region and to see something positive about their identity as Palestinians through the craft. It’s a love that many of them can share with others and can also allow them to stay in the Holy Land, where work for Palestinians is scarce. Luckily, with tourism, many of them are able to find jobs at restaurants in Bethlehem, he said.
“Sometimes I visit the restaurant and they feed me good,” said Hazboun.
Beth Nelson Chase, executive director of Bright Stars Bethlehem in the U.S., the nonprofit that sponsored the festival, said programs such as the ones chef Hazboun teaches in Bethlehem help students learn skills that are useful for the economy of their homelands, where coming across a job can sometimes prove difficult.
“It gives people hope,” Chase said.
The Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor and president of Bright Stars of Bethlehem, said in a statement that the events focusing on the arts and food of the Holy Land were part of the mission of building cultural bridges “important for both the U.S. and Palestine.”
“We are excited to expose our friends in the U.S. to Palestinian culture and art,” he said.
26 September 2016
A picture taken on 25 September 2016, shows trucks carrying humanitarian aid, parked on a road in Idlib after entering Syria through a border crossing with Turkey.
(photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)
Syria: aid reaches Madaya and other besieged towns (BBC) Aid has been delivered to four besieged towns in Syria for the first time in almost six months, the International Committee of the Red Cross says. Seventy-one lorries reached rebel-held Madaya and Zabadani, near Damascus, and government-controlled Foah and Kefraya, in Idlib province, on Sunday. They brought food, medical supplies and hygiene kits for 60,000 people. Last week, the UN suspended aid deliveries across Syria for 48 hours after a deadly attack on a convoy.
Activist: India’s anti-Christian massacre carefully planned (Vatican Radio) The untold atrocities that Christians in eastern India’s Odisha state were subjected to in 2008, are the result of careful planning by Hindu nationalist groups of the “Sangh Parivar” network at the highest level, an Indian journalist and rights activist told the media on Thursday, alleging illiterate masses of militants were manipulated by propaganda and incited to kill. Thanks to the investigation carried out by Anto Akkara, “one can rewrite the history of Kandhamal,” the district in Odisha where the atrocities were concentrated...
Keeping Jordan’s balance amid crisis (CBS News) The bombs in New York and New Jersey last week brought the specter of terror home, again. It seems no country is safe, but there is one that is beating fearsome odds. ISIS burned through Syria and Iraq until it hit a firewall, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The king, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, is holding the front and sheltering millions of refugees despite his struggling economy, no oil wealth and precious little water. If the king can keep his balance, Jordan may prove that an Arab state can remain peaceful, tolerant, and modern...
‘Couples for Christ’ movement thriving in India (Vatican Radio) Evangelization, renewal of families and care of the poor are part of the mission of a Filipino lay group called Couples for Christ (CFC) that visited Odisha, eastern India, from 13 to 18 September. The Vatican-approved CFC lay movement began their unit in Odisha’s main Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese in 2013...
Relics of Russian Orthodox saint to be sent into space (Radio Free Europe) After spending nearly nine decades forgotten in a Moscow storeroom during the Soviet era, some relics of Russian Orthodox St. Serafim of Sarov should soon be circling the globe aboard the International Space Station (ISS)