29 December 2016
Women light candles before attending Christmas Eve Mass at the Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, Syria. The Syrian government has announced a cease-fire agreement on Thursday, a potential turning point in the war. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)
Syrian government announces truce (The New York Times) The Syrian government and its most important ally, Russia, announced on Thursday that they had reached a cease-fire agreement with Syrian rebels and with Turkey — a potential turning point in a civil war that has lasted nearly six years and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives...
Winter moves in across Lebanon and refugees struggle (UNHCR) There are just over one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. One-in-two live in substandard shelters like tents, garages, warehouses, unfinished buildings and animal sheds. They require continuous support to maintain their shelters, especially during winter, which can be bitter and long in Lebanon. More rain and snowstorms are forecast for the coming weeks. Some high-altitude towns in the Bekaa Valley and northern Lebanon have already been blanketed in snow...
Iraqi units resume offensive in Mosul (The Washington Post) Iraqi army, police and elite counterterrorism forces launched a combined assault on eastern Mosul after a two-week break, the military announced Thursday...
Kerry’s blunt words for Israel draw criticism (The New York Times) Secretary of State John Kerry’s rebuke of the Israeli government on Wednesday set off a wave of criticism from lawmakers in both parties. Republicans denounced what they said was the Obama administration’s harsh treatment of a steadfast ally and Democrats signaled that they were uneasy with Mr. Kerry’s pressure on Israel, even as they praised the effort to promote Middle East peace...
Palestinian family celebrates first Christmas together in 26 years (CNS) For the first time in 26 years, Lilian and Nadeem Aqleh had all six of their children with them to celebrate Christmas. “This is the happiest day of my life,” said Lilian, 70, who is Catholic, as she celebrated the holiday with her children and grandchildren, some of who traveled from the United States and Canada. “It is hard having your children so far away. I want my children with me. At Christmas we remember the birth of Christ and the meaning of Christmas is to share it with family...”
28 December 2016
Abraham George, an Ethiopian Catholic, carries the cross during the Sunday Divine Liturgy in Bahir Dar. Read more about how Ethiopians are spreading the Gospel in Ethiopia’s Sleeping Giant in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: James Jeffrey)
28 December 2016
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, celebrates Christmas Mass at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
(photo: CNS/Musa Al Shaer, pool via EPA)
In Christmas messages, patriarchs plead for peace (CNS) Lamenting the exodus of Christians from their ancestral homelands, Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East pleaded for peace and security in their annual Christmas messages. In separate statements, the prelates shared their anguish regarding the persecution and uprooting of Christians from the region...
Pope asks for love, prayers for persecuted Christians (CNS) Despite increased persecution and attacks against Christians, the faithful must strengthen their courage and joyful desire to follow Christ no matter the cost, Pope Francis said...
Israel postpones vote on new settlements (BBC) An Israeli committee has postponed a vote to authorize construction of almost 500 new homes in Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The move apparently follows a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. It also comes ahead of a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. On Friday, the U.S. chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to settlement construction...
Turkey, Russia discuss cease-fire plan for Syria (AP) Turkish and Russian officials are discussing the contours of a cease-fire for Syria, Syrian opposition factions said, building on cooperation between the two countries following a deal they brokered for the evacuation of opposition fighters from the northern city of Aleppo earlier this month...
Russian Orthodox metropolitan sends Christmas greetings to Pope Francis (Moscow Patriarchate) Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, sent Christmas greeting to Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strom, chairman of the Council of the EKD, and heads of other non-Orthodox Churches...
27 December 2016
Santa delivered a wonderful gift last week: the Winter 2016 edition of ONE.
You can check it out online here, and read the digital edition, with the complete graphics and layouts of our print version, right here.
Among the remarkable people you’ll meet in this edition: the loving and generous Franciscan Sisters of Mary, caring for refugees in Jordan; the gifted lay catechists of Ethiopia; and the extraordinarily selfless Sisters of the Destitute in India, who spend their lives living side by side with the poorest of the poor.
All this, plus the acclaimed writing and photographs which have made ONE among the most honored publications in Catholic media.
From all of us at CNEWA, to all of our loyal and generous readers: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you for being a part of our world — and supporting others who are a part of it, too.
27 December 2016
A disabled child greets a visitor at an informal education center in Dehli, India. To meet more of these remarkable children and learn about them, read Msgr. John E. Kozar’s account in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE, now available online. (photo: John E. Kozar)
27 December 2016
Pope Francis greets the crowd after delivering his Christmas message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican
on 25 December. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
Pope: World scarred by war, greed must welcome Prince of Peace (CNS) The song of the angels that heralded the birth of Christ urges men and women to seek peace in a world divided by war, terrorism and greed, Pope Francis said. “Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace,” the pope said on 25 December...
Pope prays for victims of Russian plane crash (Vatican Radio) After the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square on the Feast of Saint Stephen, Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the Russian people and the families of victims of the Christmas day plane crash that took the lives of 92 people near Sochi...
Vulnerable Ukrainians receive aid from Pope (Vatican Radio) Thanks to Pope Francis over 2 million people affected by the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine will receive a first installment of much needed aid in time for Christmas...
Iraqi forces to resume assault on Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi forces will resume their push against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) inside Mosul in the coming days, a U.S. battlefield commander has told Reuters. The move would be a new phase of the two-month-old operation that will see American troops deployed closer to the front line in the city...
Abducted Kerala priest appeals to Pope Francis for freedom (Indian Express) In a video posted on social media platforms, a Catholic priest from Kerala, who was abducted in Yemen in March this year, has appealed to the central government and Pope Francis to secure his release. He has alleged that not enough efforts were being made to free him because, as an Indian, he was “not considered of much value...”
22 December 2016
The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, Massachusetts, features thousands of lights and a life-size nativity scene. (photo: Greg Kandra)
“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” These words, spoken frequently around CNEWA’s development department, are a good reminder that we, through our donors’ support, can bring the light of hope to children and families in some of the world’s darkest places.
The phrase, however, can also be interpreted literally. Nowhere is this more evident, perhaps, than at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where over 300,000 Christmas lights shine brightly, illuminating a nativity scene, Stations of the Cross, and just about every tree and bush in sight.
The lights adorn almost every tree and bush on the large grounds of the shrine. (photo: Greg Kandra)
Deacon Greg Kandra and I were invited to speak at the Shrine on 10 December, for an Advent reflection appropriately titled, “Let There Be Light: Bringing Healing and Hope to the Middle East.” Together, we shared stories of our remarkable partners in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon — people such as the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, and Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil. Attendees included deacons from the Dioceses of Worcester and Fall River making a retreat, as well as members of Knights of Columbus councils from the area.
Christopher Kennedy speaks about CNEWA’s work in the Middle East. (photo: Greg Kandra)
We were there at the kind invitation of the shrine’s director, the Rev. Ted Brown, M.S., who was eager to welcome people from the area to learn more about CNEWA and how they can get more involved in our work. We were deeply gratified by the response — especially from those who promised to tell their parish families about our work.
The chapel and welcome center at the shrine are adorned with blue lights, evoking their patroness, Our Lady of La Salette. (photo: Greg Kandra)
With Father Ted’s kind hospitality, we also had time to tour the Shrine grounds. The lights turn on at 5 p.m. each evening, preceded by a recitation of the “Our Father” and the singing of “Silent Night.”
The shrine’s Crèche Museum displays thousands of nativity scenes from around the world. (photo: Greg Kandra)
The Shrine also includes the International Crèche Museum, a display of hundreds of crèches of a variety of sizes, materials, and countries of origin. Most notably for this writer of Québecois descent, the cafeteria featured Tourtiere, a meat pie of French-Canadian origin.
Overall, like every chance to bring CNEWA’s mission to new people, it was a wonderful visit. Each and every time I travel the country to share our work is truly a blessing and a reminder from God to keep lighting candles in the darkness.
The shrine grounds attract thousands of visitors every winter to see its light and Christmas displays. (photo: Greg Kandra)
If you want to bring CNEWA to your parish, and indeed help to light candles of hope, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at email@example.com.
The shrine’s director, the Rev. Ted Brown, center, hosted Christopher Kennedy and Deacon Greg Kandra, who gave presentations on efforts to help Christians in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)
22 December 2016
Tags: CNEWA United States
As a seminarian from Ukraine, Oleksandr Bohomaz told us in 2014, “I want to be a witness of God’s greatness.” (photo: courtesy Seminary of the Three Hierarchs, Kiev)
In 2014, in the wake of the upheavals in Kiev, Antin Sloboda from CNEWA’s office in Canada interviewed a seminarian in Ukraine, Oleksandr Bohomaz, who described his background, his vocation and his faith:
I aspire to bring people closer to God. Our people are very poor, materially and spiritually. Soviet rule wounded spiritual life in Ukraine, and now it is strongly needed. Many people struggle with addiction — families are broken.
My family has been also touched by the problem of alcoholism. I believe only Jesus can help us to overcome these challenges and that he calls me to dedicate my life to proclaiming his love to all people. …
The Lord has used the recent events in Ukraine to strengthen the faith of our people. First of all, Ukrainians, who for centuries were dominated by others, finally have realized they are one nation. Since November 2013, our priests have actively supported the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to fight for their dignity and justice. More people now trust the church, even those who previously identified themselves as atheists.
On the Maidan Square in Kiev, I had a chance to pray with people who have never prayed before. People asked me to teach them how to pray and how to live a life of a Christian. This is indeed wonderful! Being able to speak with such people is an incredible experience of God's love in action. The recent events in the country have strengthened my faith and the faith of my neighbors.
And he offered this beautiful testimony:
I hope I will successfully complete the seminary and that I will become a faithful and humble priest. I want to be a witness of God’s greatness, and I want to proclaim his Gospel. I already see how God gives us a chance to become authentic Christians. I hope we will become the people who provide care for the marginalized and the weak. …
When I realize someone on the other side of the planet is praying for me, it is very encouraging and a source of support. It’s wonderful to realize that through the prayer we are united, regardless of where we live.
Since that interview, Oleksandr has been ordained to the priesthood. He now serves in the town of Melitopol is southeastern Ukraine, not far from Crimea.
Pray for more heroic young men to answer the call to the priesthood-and please help support us in our mission to support them. Visit this page to learn more.
22 December 2016
Tags: Ukraine Seminarians Ukrainian Catholic
Christmas decorations hang from a balcony in Aleppo, Syria, on 12 December.
(photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
22 December 2016
Syrians children play in the snow at a tent city in the Azaz neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, on 21 December. (photo: Mustafa Sultan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.N. to create team to investigate Syria war crimes (Al Jazeera) The United Nations General Assembly has voted to establish a special team to “collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence” as well as to prepare cases on war crimes and human rights abuses committed during the conflict in Syria. The General Assembly adopted a Liechtenstein-drafted resolution to establish the independent team with 105 in favor, 15 against and 52 abstentions. The team will work in coordination with the U.N. Syria Commission of Inquiry…
Three car bombings strike Mosul (AP) Three car bombs ripped through an outdoor market in Mosul on Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and eight policemen, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement. The attack occurred in the eastern district of Gogjali, which Iraqi forces retook from Islamic State militants weeks ago as part of a massive operation to drive them from Mosul, the brief statement said. It did not say whether the explosions were caused by suicide attackers…
Indian Christians in Orissa seek protection for Christmas (Fides) A few days before Christmas, the Christians of Kandhamal district in the Indian state of Orissa, the epicenter of the anti-Christian massacres of 2008, have called for a Christmas free from all violence. “We want to celebrate Christmas in peace and serenity,” says the Rev. Pradosh Chandra Nayak, pastor of Our Lady of Charity Church in Raikia in Kandhamal. The pastor submitted a written request to the local police station in Raikia to ask protection for churches and Christian villages during the Christmas celebrations…
Israeli university defends Christmas tree against criticism (RNS) Administrators at the Technion, a public research university in Haifa, are rushing to defend the presence of a Christmas tree in the campus’ student union building. Their statement of support is part of a larger pushback against Jewish religious authorities who hold that such decorations have no place in public settings in predominantly Jewish areas in Israel…
Christmas thrives in Lebanon (CNS) Amid the turmoil in the Middle East and persecution of Christians in surrounding countries, the Christmas spirit is evident in Lebanon: sparkling lights, decorated trees and even mangers in public places. “Wherever you go you can find Christmas decorations,” even in the cities and the places where the residents are Muslim, the Rev. Joseph Soueid told Catholic News Service…
Tags: Syria India Iraq Lebanon Israel