23 October 2018
Ukrainian Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, arrives for a session of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican on 23 October. The archbishop says the recent split in the Orthodox Church will harm ecumenical dialogue. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
UN: 88 percent of Syrian refugees want to return home (The Daily Star) The head of the U.N. agency for refugees in Lebanon has said that 88 percent of Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon want to return to their homeland, the state-run National News Agency reported Sunday. The UNHCR official, Mireille Girard, suggested that the main reasons preventing Syrians from returning are practical, security concerns, and have nothing to do with the question of political settlement in Syria or the need to rebuild homes…
Jordan economy groans under weight of refugee crisis (The Irish Times) Jordan faces “a severe debt crisis due to low economic growth as a result of closed borders, reduced international assistance and low economic productivity”, states Dr Mary Kawar, Jordan’s minister of planning and international cooperation…
Moscow’s veto on Catholic/Orthodox dialogue may be slipping away (Crux) In a recent interview with Crux, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Ukraine, head of the country’s Greek Catholic Church, said “this step by the Church of Constantinople has destroyed certain schemes of ecumenical dialogue that took hold during the time of the Cold War…”
Kerala to distribute crops, free seeds to flood-hit families (IANS)Two months after floods caused havoc in Kerala and flattened major standing crops, the state government has decided to distribute crop inputs, particularly seeds, as a part of the rehabilitation package for affected farmers…
Business hopes and refugee woes after Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal (Al Jazeera) While the border reopening has seen business boom in border towns in both countries, the number of migrants and refugees from Eritrea to Ethiopia has grown, with many citing Eritrea’s struggling economy, continuing indefinite conscription and political repression…
Swim team braves polluted waters off Gaza (GulfNews.com) On one of the world’s most polluted coastlines, 30 young Palestinians dive head first into the sea off the Gaza Strip, their minds filled with dreams of Olympic glory. Aged between 11 and 16, they make up a rare swimming club in the Palestinian enclave, and perhaps its only mixed-sex one. Coach Amjad Tantish talks through a warm-up before they race from the trash-strewn beach into the sea as he continues to bark instructions…
22 October 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox Church
The Trippadam Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center offers Indian women in need a safe, loving home. Read how CNEWA reaches out to them and so many others in the September 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
22 October 2018
Tags: India CNEWA
St. Paul VI left an enduring legacy on the Holy Land. (photo: CNS)
For Holy Land Christians, St. Paul VI left behind a legacy of Catholic institutions to serve and strengthen the community.
On a more personal level, for two Catholic families living in the Old City of Jerusalem, he left behind a special blessing and a relic which has taken on more significance for them after his canonization by Pope Francis on 14 October.
During his January 1964 visit to the Old City, which then was under Jordanian rule, St. Paul VI made a spontaneous stop to the home of a sick man to hear his confession. Upon leaving the man’s home, he was received with a traditional cup of coffee from Fairuz Orfali and greeted by Laila Soudah, neighbors who shared the same courtyard.
The Orfali family has kept the plain white cup safely stored in a felt-lined glass and wooden box while the Soudahs have photographs of the visit.
After the pope took a symbolic sip of the coffee, Orfali, in the old local tradition of welcoming honored guests, poured the remains of the coffee at the pope’s feet.
The cup remains as it was: coffee grounds still at the bottom and around its side.
“It gives me chills now, especially that he has been canonized,” said Soudah’s daughter, Hania, 52, who had not yet been born during the visit. Her oldest sister Hanady was blessed by the future saint as were others in the courtyard.
“This was the first visit of a pope to the Holy Land. My grandparents, mother, father, our neighbors welcomed him in the traditional way. This is now something to be passed down generations of our family,” Hania said.
“Who am I that the pope should come to visit us?” her father, Issa, 84, said as he leafed through a folder with photographs of the visit. “We moved flower pots so there would be room. We were very honored he visited our house.”
During the visit, St. Paul VI called for the establishment of social rehabilitation and development projects. His call eventually led to the founding of Bethlehem University, Ephpheta Institute for hearing-impaired children, Tantur Ecumenical Institute, and Notre Dame of Jerusalem Pilgrimage Center.
As early as the 1940s, the future pope -- Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini -- in his capacity as Pope Paul XII’s assistant responsible for displaced Palestinian refugees, had championed the Pontifical Mission Society’s relief efforts and continued to do so throughout his papacy.
At a November 1948 meeting in the Vatican, Msgr. Montini named the head of Catholic Near East Welfare Association at the time, Msgr. Thomas J. McMahon, to lead a papal mission specifically for displaced persons in Palestine which became the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Pope Pius entrusted the mission to CNEWA.
As pope, he continued to show a deep commitment to CNEWA’s work by beginning his pontificate with the historic trip to the Holy Land, which he called a “pilgrimage of prayer and penance.”
“He wanted to establish such institutions that would help empower the situation of the local (Christian) community in the Holy Land,” said Joseph Hazboun, CNEWA regional director in Jerusalem.
The apostolic delegate in Jerusalem at the time, then-Father Pio Laghi, was a close friend of the pope and teamed with CNEWA and other organizations to make the pontiff’s ideas a reality.
“At that time, we were under Jordan rule with a majority of Muslims so for us these were very important,” said John Orfali, Laila Soudah’s son. “It made us feel that we belong here.”
The establishment of the Bethlehem University provided for the first time a school of higher learning for young Palestinians so they would not have to go abroad to study and boost emigration. The three other organizations continue their original mission, Hazboun said.
The initiatives St. Paul VI promoted testified to his belief in the church as an instrument of reconciliation and hope, CNEWA said in a statement about the canonization.
“St. Pope Paul VI left a large legacy and an example for many to follow in his quiet and humble way,” Hazboun said. “Really what we need now is humble people who can set aside the difficulties and disagreements that have accumulated over 1,000 years creating divisions which are due to political issues rather than theological issues. The unfortunate division still continues making it difficult to achieve unity.”
A year following his pilgrimage, Pope Paul VI issued the groundbreaking declaration “Nostra Aetate” on relations of the church to non-Christian religions.
“He was the continuation of the revolution but a completely different personality,” Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs, said of St. Paul VI. He noted that most Israelis -- unfairly in his opinion -- have a mixed response to St. Paul VI’s Holy Land visit because he refused to meet with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem and met them instead in the northern city of Megiddo.
“It was seen as a great thing by Israel, but as it did not lead to anywhere, no establishment of relations, there was a sense in Israel of a letdown,” Rabbi Rosen explained. “With the rapid pace of Pope John XXIII, there had been expectations which were not met. But I feel he really tried to move forward.”
He delivered a warm speech in Megiddo, said Rabbi Rosen, testing the waters but needing to be cautious because there was negative reaction from the Arab world. Still, in 1974, he established the Pontifical Commission for Relations with the Jews.
CNEWA also recalled the new saint’s desire to bring unity across religious lines.
“We remain deeply grateful for the love and passion he brought to his papacy, and which he shared so selflessly with the suffering peoples in the Holy Land, a place now so fraught with division, hardship and violence,” CNEWA said it its statement. “So many of those we serve need his prayerful intercession now, more than ever.”
The video below, from British Pathé, shows highlights of Paul VI’s historic 1964 pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
22 October 2018
Friends comfort the relative of a train victim following Friday's accident near Amritsar, India. (Vatican Media/ANSA)
Holy See reiterates Israel-Palestine two-state solution (Vatican News) The Holy See has reiterated its unwavering support for a fair, durable and early solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the resumption of negotiations aimed at reaching a Two-State solution, with Israel and a Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security within internationally-recognized borders. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York made the call in an address on Thursday to a UN Security Council debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question…
Indian bishops express shock and sorrow at train disaster (Vatican News) India’s Catholic bishops have expressed shock and sadness at a tragic train accident Friday night near Amritsar city in the northern Punjab state, that killed at least 60 and injured many others. A large crowd had gathered on the railway tracks to watch the celebrations of the popular Hindu festival of Dussehra, which involved the burning of a firecracker-filled effigy of demon king Ravana and a fireworks display…
Report: Russian Orthodox seeking Vatican support on split (Herald Malaysia) Pope Francis received Friday in the Vatican a Russian Orthodox delegation led by Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Department for Foreign Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate. The meeting was held behind closed doors, and the Vatican Press Office did not release any official information concerning the content of the meeting. According to the statements on the eve, the Russian metropolitan came to see the Pope in order to explain the decisions of the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, which during its meeting on Monday in Minsk decided to suspend Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the latter re-admitted Ukrainian bishops excommunicated by Moscow…
Coalition air strike targets mosque in Syria used by ISIS (The National) An air strike by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS targeted a mosque in Syria last week because it was determined to be an insurgent “command-and-control center”, the US said on Sunday. It denied that it had targeted civilians in the deadly raid in eastern Syria. The coalition said that while the law of war protects mosques, the use of the building as a headquarters by ISIS caused it to lose that protected status. It said a dozen fighters were killed…
Is Ethiopia taking control of the Nile? (CNN) The Blue Nile River is the Nile’s largest tributary and supplies about 85 percent of the water entering Egypt. Ethiopia is building its $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, near the border with Sudan. When completed, it will be the largest dam in Africa, generating around 6,000 megawatts of electricity for both domestic use and export. Ethiopia’s ambitious project is designed to help lift its fast-growing population out of poverty. But the new dam also puts management of the flow of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia’s hands -- and that has sparked a power shift in the region…
Pope promotes Share the Journey global pilgrimage (Vatican News) Pope Francis gave a special greeting at the Angelus prayer on Sunday to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and participants in a global pilgrimage expressing solidarity with migrants and refugees. ”You’ve just completed a short pilgrimage within Rome,” the Pope said, “to express your desire to walk together and thus learn to know each other better…”
19 October 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Russian Orthodox
Amir Maher, a Coptic Catholic seminarian studying in Cairo, greets Deacon Boutros Yousef Yacoub in his hometown of Al Wasta, outside of Assiut. You can read more about Mr. Maher and his journey into a life of service in the September 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
19 October 2018
Tags: Egypt Priests Seminarians
In this photo from 2006, Palestinian mothers and their children await their turns at a clinic of the Near East Council of Churches in Gaza. (photo: Bernard Sabella)
U.N. envoy warns Gaza is imploding (Al Monitor) With its economy in a freefall and tensions rising with Israel, the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza is imploding, the UN envoy for the Middle East warned Thursday. Nickolay Mladenov delivered the warning to the Security Council a day after Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip in retaliation at rocket firings from the Palestinian territory. “Gaza is imploding. This is not hyperbole. This is not alarmism. It is a reality,” Mladenov told the council…
U.S. mission to Palestinians to be folded into U.S. embassy in Jerusalem (Los Angeles Times) The United States will fold the operations of the Consulate General in Jerusalem into the new American Embassy in Israel, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said on Thursday, effectively shuttering its diplomatic representation to the Palestinian Authority here. The move comes weeks after the United States ordered the office in Washington that served as the Palestinians’ de facto embassy there closed…
World Council of Churches reiterates call for release of Syrian archbishops (Christian Today) The World Council of Churches (W.C.C.) has repeated its call for the release of two archbishops abducted in Syria five years ago. Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi were kidnapped at gunpoint outside Aleppo in April 2013 and haven’t been seen since…
U.N.: Eradicating poverty not a question of charity but of justice and human rights (Vatican News) The United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was observed across the globe on Wednesday. In a message for the occasion, U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres urged the international community to uphold the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of leaving no one behind in its fight to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions…
Ending India’s gap between rich and poor Catholics (UCAN India) The growth of communities dedicated to responding to poverty across India — such as the Small Christian Community of Immaculate Conception Church in the Diocese of Poona — help narrow a rich-poor divide, and caste-based discrimination, in hundreds of village parishes…
Water pollution threatens Mandaean religious practices in Iraq (Christian Science Monitor) Mandaeans, a minority religious group following the teachings of John the Baptist, have worshipped at the banks of the Tigris River for hundreds of years. Today, industrial chemicals and untreated sewage make it difficult for the Mandaeans to practice religious rites…
Beit Jamal Catholic cemetery desecrated again (Fides) Twenty-eight graves of the cemetery attached to the Salesian convent of Beit Jamal, near the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, has one again been desecrated by unknown persons. This was discovered on Wednesday 17 October…
U.N. Official: Syria has withdrawn controversial property law (AINA) A U.N. humanitarian aid official said Thursday that Syria’s government has withdrawn a controversial law that allowed authorities to seize property left behind by civilians who fled the country’s civil war, calling it a good sign that “diplomacy can win”…
Tensions high in Kerala as Hindu temple opens gates to women (The Guardian) A standoff is under way in the south Indian state of Kerala, where mainly female protesters are attempting to stop other women from entering the Sabarimala temple. On Wednesday, the Hindu shrine opened its gates for the first time since 28 September, after the supreme court struck down an entry ban on women of menstruating age. The judges ruled the ban against girls and women aged between 10 and 50 as discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional…
18 October 2018
Tags: Syria India Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine
Russian Orthodox worshippers pray during a liturgy in 2017 at St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg. (photo: CNS/Anatoly Maltsev, EPA)
Editor’s note: Monday, the Christian world was rocked by the news that the Patriarchate of Moscow, which governs the Orthodox Church of Russia, was breaking its ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
While the history behind this is long and complex, its effects today cannot be ignored or easily dismissed. Millions of Christians around the world could ultimately be affected — especially those in the world of CNEWA.
Here’s a brief Q &A with Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. , in which he addresses some of the questions we had about this break and its significance.
Okay. So the patriarchate in Moscow has announced it is breaking relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. What does that mean?
Initially it means that the Orthodox Church of Russia will no longer pray for the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. It can develop to the point where Russian Orthodox Christians will no longer be able to attend the liturgies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and that Russian Orthodox bishops and priests will not be able to concelebrate liturgies with those Orthodox churches in full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In other words, they are no longer in full communion. It is technically an excommunication.
Why are they doing this?
Because the Ecumenical Patriarch has begun the process which leaves room for a fully autonomous Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The Patriarch of Constantinople, who is considered the “first among equals” in the Orthodox communion of churches, traditionally has the right to do this. The Moscow Patriarchate, however, believes that Ukraine is part of its ecclesiastical territory.
What are the immediate effects of this?
Probably cessation of talks and relations between Moscow and Constantinople.
How does this impact those we serve?
CNEWA works in Ukraine where there are four Christian — three Orthodox and one Catholic — churches. While working primarily with the Catholic Church, CNEWA maintains good relations with the other churches. This will be greatly complicated and hostilities both old and new might surface.
Has this happened before?
Yes, this has happened before. Tragically, schisms remain a seemingly unavoidable part of Christian history. There were schisms after most of the Ecumenical Councils of the first five centuries; there was the schism between the East and West in 1054 and the great schism in the west brought on by the Reformation. Also, there have been schisms in the last two centuries involving other patriarchates, but these were healed eventually.
Why should we care?
A divided and mutually hostile Christianity is contrary to the will of Christ and undermines the ability of the church in preaching the Gospel. It took almost 1500 years to begin to heal the schisms of the first five centuries; discussions to heal the schism of 1054 are sporadic and of very varying success; the divisions of the Reformation, while showing some tractability, are still strong. This could have a lasting impact on any efforts to advance Christian Unity. With this in mind, we should fervently pray — as Jesus did in John’s Gospel — ”that all may be one.”
18 October 2018
Tags: Ecumenism Russian Orthodox Church
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican 18 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Firm in their faith in Jesus and working together, Orthodox and Catholic young people can resist forces trying to remove all traces of faith from society and even could reverse that trend, Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk told the Synod of Bishops.
Speaking to the synod on 18 October as one of the “fraternal delegates” or ecumenical observers at the gathering, Metropolitan Hilarion said that, since the fall of communism, young people have been returning to the Orthodox Church in Russia.
And, he said, “the upbringing of youth in the Christian spirit is a project that we, the Orthodox, are willing to implement together with the Catholics.”
Since 2015, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican have cooperated to promote exchange programs for their seminarians and young clergy. The Orthodox visit the Vatican and the Catholics spend time in Russia, which “helps us to overcome misconceptions, enriches us spiritually and lays the foundation for cooperation between our churches.”
At a time when young people are bombarded by conflicting information about what they should want and what they should strive for, Christian leaders must help young people learn the art of discernment, he said.
“The contemporary mission of the church,” Metropolitan Hilarion said, is “to teach the younger generation to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsehood, the genuine and truly valuable from that which is instant, transient and superficial.”
Young people need the moral values the church teaches, and they need prayer, liturgy and the sacraments, he said. But “the most important and necessary thing that we can offer all generations is Christ crucified and risen.”
“A cultural, psychological and spiritual abyss separates the contemporary young people from Christ, from his spiritual and moral teaching,” Metropolitan Hilarion said. “Our task is to help young people to overcome this abyss, to feel that they need Christ and that he can transform their life and fill it with content, meaning and inspiration.”
18 October 2018
Tags: Ecumenism Russian Orthodox
Ukraine's parliament on Thursday 18 October voted to hand over St. Andrew's Church in Kiev to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (photo: Creative Commons/Wikipedia)
Syria says it will re-open borders with Iraq soon (The Independent) Syria will reopen its borders with Iraq ”soon”, the country’s representative to the United Nations has said. Earlier this week the government of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, received a major boost as the country’s commercial gateway with Jordan and a crossing to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights were reopened…
Ukraine votes to hand landmark Kiev church to Constantinople (AFP) Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted to hand over a landmark Kiev church to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate after it agreed to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. The move is seen as a step towards the Constantinople Patriarchate granting independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church despite protests from Russia. Ukraine’s parliament voted 237 votes to 30 to allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate to use Kiev’s landmark Saint Andrew’s Church “for worship, religious rites (and) ceremonies…”
Syrian refugees in Lebanon weigh risk of returning (The New Arab) The past few months have seen a growing number of refugees in Lebanon returning to Syria, leading Russian envoys to claim that government-controlled areas are now safe for returnees. In July the Syrian regime made its first formal appeal for the return of refugees, opening reception centers to monitor return: a move many interpreted as a bid to regain international legitimacy. However, according to UNHCR, conditions are not yet ready for the return of refugees to Syria, especially while the siege on rebel-held Idlib continues. Even in regions where armed clashes and bombing have reduced, imprisonment, forced conscription, and a lack of basic primary services make safe return for Syrians premature…
Young migrants bring vitality, need support, synod members say (CNS) Helping young migrants hold fast to their cultural and religious identity, especially in situations where they are a minority, was a recurring topic at the Synod of Bishops. Blessed Sacrament Father Robert Stark, director of the Office for Social Ministry for the Diocese of Honolulu and regional coordinator for the Vatican’s Migrant and Refugees Section, offered synod members very practical advice for assisting young people on the move…
17 October 2018
Tags: Syria Ukraine Migrants Russian Orthodox
Students gather outside Sacred Heart Balanagar Hostel for Boys, near Cochin.
(photo: Meenakshi Soman)
In the current edition of ONE magazine, Anubha George writes of how the church is continuing to care for children in India, despite some significant changes in the country. She offers some additional impressions of those she met below.
I still think about my visits to orphanages in Kerala. It was about a month ago that the photographer and I set on our journey to see how a change in Indian law has affected Christian institutions that have taken in children who have either lost both parents or are from single parent families. This new law, the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 has brought big changes in how orphanages in India are run. It wants institutions to have a lot more staff than they previously had, and there is a restriction on foreign aid, among other things.
We chose three orphanages to visit. Well, we shouldn’t call them “orphanages” any more. All three places have had to change their status. They are now boarding places or hostels for boys and girls. Kerala has a big number of places that helped look after children. They are all pretty much missionary-run, and mostly Christian. I understand the concerns of the Indian government: there have been reports of child trafficking in India. Children have gone missing without a trace.
But what we saw were stories of success. Girls and boys who wouldn’t have otherwise stood a chance in life have gone on to do good for the society. Some have become nurses. I remember meeting this group of girls, their faces happy and shiny, singing for us. They all came from families that are broken—where the parents aren’t together, where the mother or father has left to set up another family. Their parents are daily wage workers; no one has steady income. Where they live, the houses are so close together that it’s all considered one big place to live— where men from neighboring houses come and go as they please. Abuse of girls is common. Safety is the biggest concern. It is in this context that these institutions are a necessity.
I remember in particular the story of one girl. She was three when her father attacked her mother, as the little girl stood watching. Her mother had, perhaps, been unfaithful. Her father then butchered the body into pieces and tried to burn it. The neighbors reported him to the police and he was arrested. But the girl, who is now seven years old, remembers it all. The headmistress of the nursery she used to attend brought her to an orphanage. Here, she at least has some kind of normal life. A life of routine and love; of prayer and belief; of safety and security, where she doesn’t have to wonder where the next meal will come from or when is the next time she will have a bath.
Then there was a boy, Abin. His parents have left him and his older brother in Kerala while they live in Delhi, hundreds of miles away. Actually, we never quite figured out what his parents do. I don’t think he knows why he is there at all. All he remembers is a promise: that he will go back to be with mom and dad when Christmas comes. When that Christmas will come, no one knows.
But for now, at least, he has other boys, who play and smile with him, to be there every Christmas until then.
Read more in ‘Our Doors Are Open’ in the September 2018 edition of ONE.
Tags: India ONE magazine Orphans/Orphanages