13 March 2019
Pope Francis is seen Sunday during the Lenten retreat for the Roman Curia in Ariccia, Italy. Wednesday 13 March marks the 6th anniversary of his election as pope. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Curia officials celebrate anniversary of pope’s election (Vatican News) Some 65 officials of the Roman Curia who are on their annual Lenten spiritual exercises along with Pope Francis, Wednesday morning greeted the Holy Father on the 6th anniversary of his election as the head of the Roman Catholic Church…
Thousands surrender as ISIS group nears defeat in Syria (France 24) Around 3,000 Islamic State members have surrendered from the group’s last holdout in Syria, Kurdish-led forces said Tuesday, as air raids and shelling resumed after a brief lull. A ragged tent encampment in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz is all that remains of a once-sprawling IS group’s “caliphate” declared in 2014 across large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq…
In Ethiopia, deep grief for crash victims (Al Jazeera) Some 50 people sat in tense silence underneath a white tent outside a gated house on the southern outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital. The women were dressed in plain mourning black; the men mostly in white. But the lull did not last long. A chorus of loud wails soon pierced the air, as the women started rocking back and forth, their hands covering their faces. Nearby, the men stared blankly at the concrete floor…
Catholics attack Indian bishop in land dispute (UCANews.com) A Catholic bishop had to be hospitalized after a group of parishioners attacked him, a security guard and a priest in a five-decade-old land dispute in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Salesian Bishop Jerome Dhas Varuvel of Kuzhithurai left hospital on 12 March two days after he was attacked by a crowd of about 130 Catholic men and women. The guard remains in hospital after suffering serious injuries in his attempt to protect the bishop, diocesan chancellor Father Russel Raj told ucanews.com. The Rev. Augustine Ponnaian, the diocesan financial administrator, only suffered minor injuries and was not hospitalized…
Israel seeks to quell Temple Mount tensions (Haaretz) Despite the hurling of a firebomb at a police position and the forces’ subsequent decision to close all entrances to the Temple Mount, what was most apparent in Jerusalem on Tuesday was the joint effort to contain the conflict. Israel, with Jordanian assistance, seeks to prevent a flare-up at the Jerusalem site, partly in light of the latest events in the Gaza Strip…
12 March 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia ISIS Indian Catholics
Worshippers pray at the Shrine of Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan in Kuzhikkattussery, India, on 18 February 2019. Blessed Thresia has been approved for canonization.
(photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
For the nearly 2,000 sisters and 200 women in formation who make up the Congregation of the Holy Family, the long wait is over.
Since 2012, members of the order based in Kerala state in southern India have observed strict fasts and engaged in earnest prayer awaiting recognition from the Vatican of a second miracle attributed to the order’s founder, Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan.
Pope Francis recognized the miracle on 12 February, clearing the way for the canonization of the religious leader popularly known as the “patroness of families.”
“We are thrilled now. Our joy has no bounds as the pope has approved the canonization of our foundress,” Sister Udaya Punneliparambil, the congregation’s superior general, told Catholic News Service.
“Mother’s life has been a life of prayer and fasting. So, we have been following her model,” Sister Punneliparambil said.
“We are happy our prayers have been heard. Now we are awaiting the announcement of the date of the canonization,” she added.
Blessed Thresia was born 26 April 1876, the third of five children to Thanda and Thoma Chiramel Mankidiyan in Puthenchira, 21 miles south of Thrissur. She founded the Congregation of the Holy Family in 1914 and died 8 June 1926.
Devout and prayerful, young Thresia resisted her parents’ plan to have her married at age 10, as per tradition. Instead, she chose to lead a life of simplicity and austerity, despite belonging to a wealthy farming family. For instance, she slept on the gravel floor of her family’s home rather than in her bed.
“I cannot sleep comfortably on a bed when Jesus is hanging on the cross on three nails,” Thresia is seen telling her mother in an hourlong documentary, “Blessed Mariam Thresia -- the Patroness of Families,” produced by the congregation.
The film depicts her interest in family ministry and desire to share Jesus’ love by caring for poor, sick and dying people. It re-enacts some of her practices as recorded by her spiritual director and congregation co-founder, Father Joseph Vithayathil, whose cause for sainthood is underway, and her contemporaries.
In 1909, while under the spiritual care of Father Vithayathil, Blessed Thresia experienced stigmata. The bishop ordered that an exorcism be performed as her situation became public.
Undaunted by the setbacks, Blessed Thresia continued with her austere prayer life and dedicated herself to serving families in the community.
Father Vithayathil, under direction of the bishop in 1913, erected a “house of solitude” where Blessed Thresia could go to pray. Three friends joined her in the house.
In May 1914, she received canonical permission to launch the Congregation of the Holy Family in Puthenchira, which today is in the Diocese of Irinjalakuda.
In 1922, she moved to Kuzhikkattussery, a short distance from her native village, where she had been given eight acres by a Catholic family to launch a convent.
Struggling for funds and material to build the convent, Blessed Thresia took a 31-mile journey with another sister on foot and by boat to a Hindu king’s palace near Cochin. She planned to ask the king for funds to complete construction. Told the king was bedridden with a serious illness, Blessed Thresia made a potion from plants and instructed his assistants to apply it. The king was healed and sent word to bring the two women religious to him. He offered them high-quality teak from forests more than 90 miles away to complete the convent.
“All this wood is given by the king,” Sister Pushpa, vicar general of the congregation, told CNS while pointing to the roof of the sprawling 24-room convent, completed in 1922.
True to the charism of the order’s foundress, the convent includes a Family Retreat Center, where couples can attend a four-day retreat, offered twice a month.
“Even couples living separately for years and on the verge of divorces have gone back happily from here,” Sister Pushpa said.
Since 1987, the congregation has operated the Family Apostolate Training and Research Institute, where nearly 200 women religious, laypeople and priests are trained annually.
Blessed Thresia was declared venerable in 1999 and was beatified in 2000.
Father Vithayathil, who is buried in the same chapel with Blessed Thresia, was named venerable by Pope Francis in December 2015.
12 March 2019
Tags: Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Catholics
A parish priest in Raigarh Diocese leads a procession to his village church to start a prayer chain launched by Catholics in two dioceses of India’s Chhattisgarh state.
(photo: Raigarh Diocese/UCANews)
Marathon prayers in India ahead of election (UCANews.com) Ahead of national elections in India, Catholics in two dioceses of Chhattisgarh state have launched a marathon prayer program, encouraged by the result of a similar program during a state election last year. The all-night prayer program has been designed to cover all 96 parishes of Jashpur and Raigarh dioceses…
Report: Iran preparing for role in Syria’s reconstruction (VOA) Iranian construction companies are to build thousands of residential units in the suburbs of Syria’s capital, Damascus, an Iranian state-run news agency has reported. Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) recently quoted a business official with the country’s investment association, who announced that Iran would build 200,000 residential units near Damascus…
Christians condemn acquittal of suspected vandals in Jerusalem (AP) Christian authorities in Jerusalem are denouncing the acquittal of two Jewish youths suspected of vandalizing a famous monastery. Wadie Abunassar, an adviser to church leaders in the Holy Land, said on Tuesday that an Israeli court’s decision to acquit those suspecting of sprawling anti-Christian graffiti on the Dormition Abbey several years ago is “unacceptable”…
Study finds discrimination in Kerala flood relief (Times of India) Flood-affected people belonging to the scheduled caste/scheduled tribe and Dalit Christian communities faced discrimination after the deluge, a ”fact sheet” released by an NGO reported last week…
Gaza women walk thin line between hope and despair (The Jerusalem Post) More than 2 million Palestinians live in the narrow Gaza Strip, which shares borders with Israel and Egypt. Israel maintains tight control of Gaza’s land and sea borders, citing security concerns emanating from Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group which controls the coastal territory. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. Those restrictions have devastated Gaza’s economy and left many of its women struggling to find work after graduating from college…
11 March 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Iran
People watch a tractor excavate Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash on 10 March 2019, near Bishoftu, Ethiopia. Among the dead were four Catholic Relief Services staffers: Getnet Alemayehu, Mulusew Alemu, Sintayehu Aymeku and Sara Chalachew.
(photo: CNS/Maheder Haileselassie, Reuters)
This morning, Catholic Relief Services issued a statement regarding the tragedy this weekend in Ethiopia:
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that four members of our staff were killed when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just after take-off Sunday morning. Their names are: Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku, and Mulusew Alemu. All four individuals were Ethiopian nationals traveling to Nairobi to attend a training on our behalf.
Although we are in mourning, we celebrate the lives of these colleagues and the selfless contributions they made to our mission, despite the risks and sacrifices that humanitarian work can often entail. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and all of those who lost loved ones as a result of this tragedy.”
There are further details at the CRS website.
We at CNEWA share in the sorrow and loss, and offer our deepest sympathies and prayers to our friends at CRS.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
11 March 2019
A representative of the American Jewish Committee gives Pope Francis a certificate on 8 March 2019, certifying that a grapevine in Israel has been dedicated to him and promising that each year he will receive a bottle of wine produced with the vine's grapes. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Engaging in any form of anti-Semitism is a direct contradiction with the Christian faith, Pope Francis said.
Meeting members of the American Jewish Committee on 8 March, the pope shared his “great concern” over “the spread, in many places, of a climate of wickedness and fury, in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root,” including “the outbreak of anti-Semitic attacks in various countries.”
“It is necessary to be vigilant about such a phenomenon,” he said, because, as the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews said, “History teaches us where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead: the human tragedy of the Shoah, in which two-thirds of European Jewry were annihilated.”
Cultivating good relations, showing respect for others and being vigilant against any sign of hatred and prejudice is “a call from God,” the pope said.
Christians and Jews, he said, must transmit to their children “the foundations of love and respect. And we must look at the world with the eyes of a mother, with the gaze of peace.”
Meeting the group on International Women’s Day, Pope Francis spoke of “the irreplaceable contribution of women in building a world that can be a home for all,” a home where believers strive to fulfill God’s command in Deuteronomy to “love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.”
“Women make the world beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive,” the pope said. “They bring the grace of renewal, the embrace of inclusion and the courage to give of oneself.”
“If we take to heart the importance of the future, if we dream of a future peace, we need to give space to women,” Pope Francis said.
Interreligious dialogue, he said, is an important part of efforts to fight hatred and anti-Semitism. The dialogue aims to promote “a commitment to peace, mutual respect, the protection of life, religious freedom and the care of creation.”
Pope Francis urged Jews and Christians to work together, countering the spread of “a depersonalizing secularism” by “making divine love more visible for humanity” and engaging in common works of charity “to counter the growth of indifference.”
“In a world where the distance between the many who have little and the few who have much grows every day,” he said, “we are called to take care of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, the weak, the sick, children and the elderly.”
Pope Francis also encouraged Catholics and Jews to involve young people in interreligious dialogue as “an effective means of countering violence and opening new paths of peace with all.”
John Shapiro, president of the American Jewish Committee, thanked Pope Francis for deciding to open to scholars in March 2020 material in the Vatican Secret Archives covering World War II and the papacy of Pope Pius XII.
“We look forward especially to the involvement of the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the U.S. to objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as valiant efforts during the period of the Shoah,” Shapiro said, according to a statement from the AJC.
Members of the group also presented Pope Francis with a certificate testifying that a grapevine dedicated to him would be the first in a “vineyard of the nations,” a vineyard in Israel where each vine is sponsored by a Christian outside of the country. In addition, they told the pope, each year he would receive a bottle of wine from his vine.
11 March 2019
Tags: Pope Jewish-Catholic relations anti-Semitism
Pope Francis has expressed his condolences and prayers for victims of a plane crash in Ethiopia which killed all 159 people on board. (video: The Guardian/YouTube)
Pope prays for victims of Ethiopia Airlines plane crash (Vatican News) Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to victims of a plane crash that occured near Bishoftu, some 50km from Ethiopia’s capital: Addis Ababa. In his telegram, the Pope “offers prayers for the deceased from various countries”, and sends his condolences to their families. He invokes “the divine blessing of consolation and strength” to all those who mourn. The Kenya-bound Ethiopia Airlines plane had taken off from Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa Airport 6 minutes prior to the fatal crash, which took the lives of all 159 people on board…
U.S. Ukrainian Catholic bishops meet with new metropolitan archbishop (CNS) The Ukrainian Catholic bishops of the United States met and prayed 5-6 March with Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, newly appointed by Pope Francis to head the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. During a daylong meeting 6 March, the bishops discussed plans for the week of prayerful events 2-9 June in conjunction with a Divine Liturgy and enthronement ceremony of the new archbishop 4 June at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia…
Syria’s future remains buried under millions of tons of rubble (CBS News) Five years after the Syrian army liberated Homs, this city is still trapped. CBS News asked architect and author Marwa al-Sabouni if she has faith in the government to rebuild. ”No, the short answer is no,” she said…
Tensions remain over ’Gate of Mercy’ in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) Hundreds of police were deployed around the Old City on Friday as thousands gathered for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque. The prayers came amid heightened tensions over Muslim prayers inside the Gate of Mercy and calls by Islamic leaders to protest on the Temple Mount…
8 March 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Ukrainian Catholic Church
Natalie plays with her doll at the St. Barbara Mother and Child Care Center in Tbilisi, Georgia, which assists women and their children in a variety of ways. You can read more about this center and the people it serves in the pages of the September 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
8 March 2019
Tags: Children Georgia Women Caritas
Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Mesrob II of Constantinople and All of Turkey, center, meets with a delegation of visitors, including former CNEWA President Msgr. Robert Stern, left, in August 2005. (photo: CNEWA)
Armenian patriarch in Turkey, Mesrob II, dies at 62 (Daily Star Lebanon) Patriarch Mesrob II, the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Turkey, has died. He was 62. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the 84th Armenian patriarch of Constantinople died Friday at Istanbul’s Armenian Surp Pirgic hospital. He had been incapacitated since 2008 due to early onset Alzheimer’s disease…
India’s tribal people pledge to fight for forest rights (UCAN India) Indigenous communities in India are fighting against a Supreme Court of India order that threatens to evict millions of their people from their natural habitat. Hundreds of Dalits and Adivasis blocked trains and road traffic in several cities across India on 5 March as they held a shutdown protesting the court’s move and the federal government’s inability to overrule it…
Syrian Orthodox priest: Negotiations under way for release of archbishop (Fides) Syrian Orthodox priest Samuel Gümüs, engaged in the pastoral care of the Syriac Orthodox communities present in Germany, declared that the Syriac Orthodox metropolitan of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim, is being held prisoner by ISIS in the Baghuz area of eastern Syria, and “negotiations” for his release are under way…
India’s alarming air pollution crisis (Vatican News) India has an alarming air pollution problem, containing 22 of the 30 most air-polluted cities worldwide, according to a new study…
7 March 2019
Tags: Syria India Armenian Apostolic Church Dalits
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan meets injured people in Douma, Syria, on 6 March 2019. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
Catholic prelates in Syria, accompanied by Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, visited the eastern Ghouta region outside of Damascus and saw “unspeakable suffering.”
“In every face, mostly the children,” was a “very confused” expression, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service. The 6 March visit was part of the annual session of the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Syria.
Patriarch Younan said the overall reaction of the prelates while visiting Douma, the major city of eastern Ghouta, “was deep sadness and repulsion” in seeing “the horrible destruction of that region, held hostage for such a long time by radical Muslims.”
Patriarch Younan noted that “evidently, this visit had an impact on Cardinal Tagle, who expressed his deep grief in front of so much suffering,” adding that the cardinal compared the scenes to an earthquake or typhoon.
“Besides the humanitarian assistance so much needed and the urgent help to rebuild their city, it is mostly and, first of all, hope and dignity that this courageous community was looking for,” the patriarch added.
In addition to Patriarch Younan and Cardinal Tagle, participants in the meeting and the Ghouta outreach included Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi, who hosted the March 4-6 council session at the patriarchate in Damascus; and Catholic bishops of Syria.
Ghouta, the last rebel bastion east of the capital city of Damascus, was secured by the Syrian government in April 2018. At one point, some 400,000 people were under siege in Ghouta, according to the United Nations. It was the site of alleged chemical attacks.
Patriarch Younan characterized the suffering in the city as “unspeakable.”
“It is shameful that the so-called free world was accomplice to that disaster for no reason than satisfying the greed and opportunism of its politicians. All fake news of the agglomerate media, like the show play of chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian soldiers, were based on lies, in order to keep the fighting going on,” Patriarch Younan said.
“Less than a quarter of the population could return without any harassment and managed to find lodging, despite the destruction and the harsh winter,” he said of the situation. The patriarch pointed out that in Douma, there had been 50 schools. To date, the government has rehabilitated 20 of them.
The elementary school the prelates visited “was packed” with 1,800 children, he recounted. “It will take a long time for the children to heal from the trauma they lived.”
“The youth we encountered, though hesitant and confused, were looking to start their life again,” Patriarch Younan said. “We saw a number of them responding to the draft in the military service, judging it as a best try to restart.”
Patriarch Younan said he, Cardinal Tagle and Patriarch Absi “assured the people of our prayer and solidarity and planted three olive trees on the school grounds, as a symbol of revitalized life.”
In their 6 March statement at the conclusion of their meeting, the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Syria said they addressed the “difficult humanitarian and social situation facing the Syrian people as a result of the conflict taking place in their homeland and the sanctions imposed on them from abroad.”
The prelates urged the international community and international organizations to lift sanctions, noting that the poorest are affected.
The council pointed to their Ghouta visit “to express their care and closeness to their suffering and destitute Syrian brothers,” noting that they spoke and listened to the people as an expression “of their love and solidarity.”
The council expressed “satisfaction at the security and stability achieved by the Syrian state and the Syrian army in most areas of Syria thanks to their great sacrifices and wise policies.”
It also thanked “all those with goodwill who are working to show the true picture of the Syrian crisis and lend a helping hand to the Syrian people.”
7 March 2019
Tags: Syria Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
In this image from 2014, Syrian President Bashar Assad looks at destroyed religious artwork with a member of the clergy during a visit to the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Syria. Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan have begun a bid to have Assad tried for war crimes.
(photo: CNS/Syria's national news agency handout via Reuters)
Syrian refugees launch bid to try Assad for war crimes (The Independent) Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan after being tortured and witnessing massacres have submitted dossiers of evidence to the international criminal court in a novel attempt to prosecute President Bashar al-Assad. Although Syria is not a signatory to the court, based in The Hague, lawyers in London are relying on a precedent set by the ICC in extending jurisdiction to the crime of forcible population transfers…
India’s alarming air pollution crisis (Vatican News) India has an alarming air pollution problem with 22 of the world’s 30 worst cities in the country, according to a new study. The 2018 World Air Quality Report by Greenpeace and Air Visual Analysis, released on 5 March, showed Delhi continuing to rank first among the world’s 62 worst capitals. Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Kabul (Afghanistan) are among other Asian capitals with polluted air…
Indian tribal people pledge to fight forest rights (UCANews.com) Tribal people in India are on the warpath against a Supreme Court of India order that threatens to evict millions of them from their natural habitat. Hundreds of socially poor Dalit and tribal people blocked trains and road traffic in several cities across India on March 5 as they held a shutdown protesting the court’s move and the federal government’s inability to overrule it…
Five years after ’Maidan,” Ukraine’s small successes are its real revolution (The Guardian) As we ponder the impact of the momentous events we have experienced, we rarely pay attention to the “smaller” stories. Such as this one from the region of Zhytomyr: under a new decentralization law, local communities have united into a single entity to control their budget and finance priority projects they’ve chosen themselves. They have been able to set up a local fire station — something the state had for years failed to provide…
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Dalits