13 November 2018
Melkite Catholic bishops from around the world are seen on 7 November for their synod in Rabweh, Lebanon under the leadership of Patriarch Joseph Absi (seated center).
(photo: CNS/courtesy Melkite Catholic Synod)
Melkite Catholic bishops from around the world, meeting for their synod, criticized the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories and rejected Israel’s Nation State Law.
In a final statement following their 5-10 November synod in Rabweh, Lebanon, the bishops underscored “the seriousness of the oppression and the violation of the rights of innocent citizens” in the Palestinian territories and called upon “stakeholders to find the best ways to stop the tragedy of the Palestinian people.” The bishops appealed to the Palestinians “to unite their forces in the face of the new reality that is intended to be imposed on them.”
The bishops also rejected the Nation State Law passed by the Israeli Knesset on 19 July. The law limits the promotion and protection offered by the State of Israel to “Jewish citizens of the state of Israel.”
In their statement, the bishops said they support the position taken by Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. That group’s 31 October statement said: “We must draw the attention of the authorities to a simple fact: Our faithful, the Christians, our fellow citizens, Muslim, Druze and Baha’i, all of us who are Arabs, are no less citizens of this country than our Jewish brothers and sisters.” That statement, signed by 25 prelates representing the Latin, Armenian, Melkite, Chaldean, Maronite and Syriac churches, called on Israel to rescind the law.
Addressing the general situation in the Middle East, the Melkite bishops voiced concern about “the deteriorating economic situation that makes most people suffer under the problem of poverty and need.”
They warned that such an atmosphere can be used “by those with influence and power to continue to control people in need.” The bishops appealed “to those concerned -- wherever they may be -- to work for the lifting of social injustice and the achievement of justice, in the interests of humanity and for the preservation of dignity.”
Regarding Lebanon, the Melkite bishops expressed their concern about the delay in the formation of a new government as the country’s rival political parties have yet to reach consensus since parliamentary elections in May. The bishops urged all parties “to put narrow interests aside and cooperate to speed up the formation of a government in order to mitigate the adverse negative effects of the delay at all levels.”
As for neighboring Syria, the bishops expressed their satisfaction “at the decline in fighting in most areas” in the country, the establishment of security and safety, the start of reconstruction and the return of refugees to their homes. They renewed their determination “to pursue the work of the church in order to alleviate the suffering of their children at all levels.”
13 November 2018
Tags: Lebanon Melkite
Mahinder Singh, a Dalit, sits with neighbors on charpai (cots of woven ropes) in their tiny village in Gangapar, India. (photo: John Mathew)
Indian Christians demand justice for Dalit Christians (Vatican News) India’s Catholics and Protestants jointly observed Dalit Liberation Sunday on 11 November with liturgy and activities calling for an end to discrimination suffered by Christians of lower-caste origins within the Christian community and in society. Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur, chairman of the Office for Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), asked people to remember the 100 poor Christians killed in anti-Christian violence in Odisha state’s Kandhamal 10 years ago…
Botched Gaza spy mission puts Israel back on the brink of war (The New York Times) On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured Israelis weary of conflict with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that he was “doing everything I can in order to avoid an unnecessary war.” A day and a half later, Israel appeared to be on the brink of just that. After a botched intelligence mission by undercover commandos left seven Palestinian fighters dead, the militant group Hamas and other armed factions mounted an intense and escalating rocket and mortar barrage across much of southern Israel that continued into Tuesday morning…
Syrian Kurds resume push to remove ISIS from Syria (CNN) Syrian Kurdish forces are resuming the final phase of operations against ISIS, as the terrorist group is pushed back into its last remaining slivers of territory. The resumption comes as CNN releases remarkable and rare frontline footage of the recent intense fight against ISIS, filmed by Brazilian photographer Gabriel Chaim…
Holy See urges practical, effective action against human trafficking, slavery (Vatican News) The Holy See and the Catholic Church are deeply committed in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery, both in tackling the drivers that fuel the scourge and in reaching out to victims. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York made the statement on 9 November at a conference at the UN on “Practical Solutions to Eradicate Human Trafficking”…
Thousands join Ethiopia-Eritrea peace run (AFP) Thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans took part in a 10km reconciliation run Sunday in Addis Ababa in the first joint sporting event since the former bitter foes launched a rapid diplomatic thaw in July. The peace run through the Ethiopian capital caught a new positive mood after years of “cold war”…
Conference explores Syriac Christianity (Vatican News) A two-day conference entitled “Syriac Christianity at the Crossroads of Cultures” gathered researchers from all over the world at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome last week. Both Mar Gewargis III, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, and Cardinal Louis Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, participated in the opening session of the conference commemorating the 700th Anniversary of Abdisho of Nisibis…
9 November 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Israel ISIS Eritrea
Myroslav Marynovych, a Ukrainian who was jailed for being the founding member of a human rights group, gestures during an interview with a Catholic News Service reporter in Washington.
(photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
Few dissidents who were exiled to gulags, the labor camps run by the Soviet Union, would think of them as pleasant experiences.
But for Myroslav Marynovych, a Ukrainian who was jailed for being the founding member of a human rights group that operated above-ground, it gave him the opportunity of a lifetime.
In the camp, he said, “I became a Christian.” And it was from his becoming a Ukrainian-rite Catholic that he learned the social doctrine of the church that served as the underpinning for much of his life after he was freed.
“It was a change in the system of my world view,” said Marynovych, now the vice rector of Ukrainian Catholic University, a position that lets him lecture without having a PhD.
“I got my PhD in [the] gulag,” he said with a laugh.
“I understood the world cannot be imagined without God,” he said. Christian views, Marynovych added, “became a very important basis for the reconstitution of the society.”
He recalled growing up under the notion that “only the Soviet system took care of the simpler worker. Then I read ‘Rerum Novarum,’ the first social encyclical, by Pope Leo XIII. I thought, ‘Wow!’“
The Soviet system also presented each struggle as a win-lose proposition, Marynovych said. But from reading Catholic social teaching, he came to the discovery that “each side needs the other,” adding that the world’s wealthiest countries were “the ones where cooperation between businesses and workers takes place.”
Marynovych acknowledged there is still a way to go in those former Soviet republics, because Soviet-style communism was all they knew.
“That’s the interesting difficulty,” he told Catholic News Service during an interview on 8 November. “You may not accept the communistic system philosophically, but it is much easier to change your flag” than to change a political system wholesale.
The church has a place in society, he said, noting a one-time government threat to shut down the church “if it did not do things in a certain way” met with a response from Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk that “the church must stand with our flocks.”
Marynovych said ecumenical relations with the church’s Orthodox counterparts in Ukraine are halting at times but filled with goodwill. This is different from past times, when church leaders regarded the other as being part of “a clear zero-sum game,” he added. “There’s no zero-sum language anymore.”
The situation may be different, though, between the Ukrainian Orthodox and their Russian Orthodox brethren. Recently, the Ukrainian Orthodox signaled their intent to cleave themselves from the Russian Orthodox, the largest single branch of Orthodoxy.
Marynovych said the Russian Orthodox had subsumed the Ukrainian Orthodox in 1686, and that the Ukrainian Orthodox want to recover their own symbols, lost over the centuries.
“I’m generally in favor of this new development,” he said, in spite of complications in connection with the ongoing hostilities between Ukraine and Russia.
9 November 2018
Pope Francis greets Mar Gewargis III, Catholicos Patriarch of the Church of the East. (photo: Vatican Media)
Pope prays for peace with head of Assyrian Church (Vatican News) During an audience with Mar Gewargis III, Pope Francis prayed for an end to the suffering of Christians in the Middle East, and celebrated the fruits of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Church of the East…
Syria war: Army frees 19 ISIS hostages (BBC) The Syrian army has freed 19 women and children held hostage since July by ISIS, state media say. They say the captives were rescued when troops launched an operation north-east of the desert city of Palmyra. The hostages were seized during an IS attack in the southern Suweida region. More than 200 people were killed. Suweida is a stronghold of the Druze religious minority, and the captives were drawn from this community…
Christians in Indian state seek religious freedom (UCANews.com) Christian leaders in India’s poll-bound Chhattisgarh state have presented a charter of demands to major political parties seeking to end discrimination and violence. The charter prepared by leaders of the ecumenical Chhattisgarh Christian Forum expressed concerns over the security of the miniscule Christian community in the central state, now ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party. It also calls on the next government to ensure freedom to practice religion...
Gaza youth protest march reaches Jerusalem (Haaretz) President Reuven Rivlin joined thousands of students from Gaza border communities and other communities across the country at a rally in Jerusalem on Thursday, the culmination of a five day march to protest the tension and hostilities along the border…
8 November 2018
Tags: Syria India Iran Assyrian Church
Germans pass by the broken shop window of a Jewish-owned business in Berlin that was destroyed in 1938 during Kristallnacht. That year, from 9 to 10 November, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues and vandalized Jewish homes and schools. (photo: CNS photo/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.)
It has been said that, though history does not repeat itself, it certainly does rhyme. More academically and more ominously, the philosopher George Santayana is reputed to have said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Eighty years ago on the night of 9 November, there were riots in Germany. Because of the amount of broken glass on the street, the night is remembered in history as Kristallnacht, literally “the night of crystal,” or the Night of Broken Glass. Synagogues were torched and Jewish business destroyed. The Fasanenstrasse Synagogue in Berlin was burned and photos of the ruins have become icons of the horrors to follow. On that night 100 Jews were killed. In the days that followed, more than 30,000 Jews were arrested and government restrictions on Jews became increasingly harsher. The supposed cause for the riots was “patriots” responding to the assassination of the Nazi diplomat Ernst van Rath by a 17-year-old Polish-German Jew in Paris.
Almost exactly 80 years after Kristallnacht, an American hater of Jews in Pittsburgh brought an assault weapon and hand guns to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shouting “death to Jews,” he killed 11 worshippers, among whom were three octogenarians and one 97-year-old. This occurred at the end of a week in which bombs were mailed to prominent political figures in the United States.
In a country where mass shootings are quite literally a weekly occurrence — we are seeing it again this very day, in Thousand Oaks, California — it is easy to become numb to the violence and write it off as the work of another crazy person. That would be a big mistake. Words and actions have effects. Those familiar with Nazi Germany found the torch-carrying, anti-Jew-shouting neo Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, eerily similar to the Party Rallies held in Nuremberg, Germany, from 1927-1939 — torch processions and all. While one may not be able to draw a direct and causal connection between Charlottesville and Squirrel Hill, it is naïve in the extreme to consider the two events merely coincidences.
Anti-Semitism is a recurring cancer in Western society and culture. Recognizing the role it played in the anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish rhetoric of the past, the Catholic Church in Vatican II rejected all forms of anti-Semitism and even declared it a sin. Every pope since John XXIII (d. 1963) has condemned anti-Semitism.
Like any cancer, when it comes to anti-Semitism it is important to remain vigilant. We can never assume that the hateful fires of Kristallnacht are out forever. They can tragically flare up at any time. Vigilance requires awareness. We must be aware both individually and communally that anti-Semitism is a sin and that it persists. One cannot hate Jews and be a good Catholic or Christian at the same time. Pope Francis himself told a group of rabbis just days ago, ”A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life. Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community.”
As an agency of the Holy See committed to interreligious dialogue and understanding, we at CNEWA can only echo that sentiment with a heartfelt “Amen.”
Times of great division, times of racial hatred and times of authoritarian governments throughout the world are times which have historically been fertile grounds for anti-Semitism. With Pope Francis and his predecessors, all Catholics need to stand against anti-Semitism and anything that nurtures it in our communities and our world.
8 November 2018
Youth of a Mishing community, an indigenous tribal group in India, put on a performance in their village. (photo: John E. Kozar)
8 November 2018
Egyptian Christians mourn during a 3 November funeral at Prince Tadros Orthodox Church in Minya. Gunmen killed seven pilgrims as they headed to a monastery on 2 November. Survivors have begun describing details of the attack. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
Russian military distributes food near Aleppo (TASS) Members of the Russian military have carried out a humanitarian mission, distributing 450 food sets to residents in a village in Syria’s Aleppo Province, Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko, chief of the Russian center for reconciliation of conflicting sides in Syria, told reporters on Wednesday…
Egypt’s Coptic monastery survivors describe bus attack (Arab News) Survivors from an attack on a convoy of Coptic Christian pilgrims have told Arab News of the horrific moments when extremists opened fire killing seven. The survivors included 7-year-old Mina Basem who lost his mother Reham Milad Yusuf in the attack. His older brother Fadi is recovering from his injuries. ”We visited the monastery and spent a wonderful time but on our way back we were attacked by two cars who fired on us,” Mina said. “I don’t remember anything after that.”A member of his family said Mina hid under the bus seats to avoid the bullets…
UN: ISIS left 200 mass graves in Iraq (BBC) More than 200 mass graves containing thousands of bodies have been found in areas of Iraq that were once controlled by the Islamic State (IS) group, a UN investigation has found. The graves were found in the north and western governorates of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Anbar. They could contain as many as 12,000 victims, the UN report said.
Ethiopian Jews mark holiday in Jerusalem (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) On a national holiday for Ethiopian Jews, before a crowd of tens of thousands, the president of Israel vowed that the citizens of his country will not discriminate on the basis of skin color. “We are brothers and sisters, and anyone who tries to undermine that has no place amongst the tribes of Israel,” Reuven Rivlin said in his address Wednesday to mark Sigd, a state holiday since 2008 that marks the Ethiopians’ yearning to return to Jerusalem and Zion…
Schools opt for cleaner air during Diwali (Vatican News) As Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights approaches panic grips the Indian capital and its surroundings, with thick smog hanging in the air. Experts have warned that the air quality is expected to deteriorate drastically with the use of firecrackers in the run-up mark Diwali, which this year fell on Wednesday, 7 November. In a move against the annual threat, 12 Catholic schools in the national capital opted for a pollution-free Diwali this year…
7 November 2018
Tags: Syria India Iraq Egypt
This week, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received a letter from a longtime friend and partner in the Middle East, Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Syria.
The note featured this image of a praying St. John Paul II:
Inside was this message:
Archbishop Nassar also included a letter with this poignant plea:
IS SYRIA A FORGOTTEN LAND?
It is often said that the Syrian war is the worst and most cruel seen by the world since the Second World War.
The fact that seemingly much of the violence has died down has made us wonder if Syria is remembered at all by most of the world…what a chaotic scene:
600,000 dead with only some buried in dignity and many others in collective graves. All this has meant that many families live in perpetual sorrow and emotional instability.
200,000 have disappeared, including two bishops and four priests; this has made life a nightmare for those who grieve for their loved ones — parents, friends and the churches who have no news of them.
13,000,000 refugees — a very heavy burden as a consequence of this world war game on the Syrian territory…whole populations who suffer in silence and despair. Bitterness and a loss of meaning to life…a broken people, scattered and searching for a future.
95,000 hands cut off, feet amputated or paralyzed in a country which is ill-prepared to handle these sorts of problems alone, and the subsequent psychological and health consequences.
2,500,000 dwellings demolished or destroyed.
Local currency is valueless and inflation has risen alarmingly; the exodus of the young has marked the remaining hopes for future growth.
Faced with these scenes of desolation in the church in Syria, I cannot fall into the role of a mere spectator. The church is a strong witness of the Spirit and the Light which it brings. She is a sign of the Presence and a witness in the domain of health care, education, pastoral work with the young, family support, accompanying fragile families and supporting in every way the less fortunate. All of this is done in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.
If the world has forgotten Syria, the Lord is watching over her and will not let the boat flounder!
He added a personal handwritten note, too:
Thank you, dear Msgr. Kozar, for the mission of CNEWA in Syria. Our problems are too heavy. Please pray for us. We prepare for Christmas with a heavy Calvary. God bless you for all that you did and do.
Please do not let Syria become a "forgotten land." Their needs are great. Remember them in your prayers.
7 November 2018
U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, arrive for a press conference at the Vatican on 7 November. The Knights are preparing for a major meeting in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The 30,000 members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem fund about 80 percent of the annual budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, ensuring that Catholic parishes and seminaries, schools and hospitals in Israel, Palestine and Jordan continue to function, said U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien.
The cardinal, grand master of the Vatican-based order, said the knights and dames of the order come from 40 countries and pledge their prayers, their financial support and personal visits to the Holy Land to support the local Catholic communities there and to encourage ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Every five years, leaders of the order from around the world gather for their general assembly, called a “consulta.” The meeting was scheduled for 13-16 November in Rome and was expected to include an audience with Pope Francis.
Meeting with reporters on 7 November, Cardinal O’Brien said the knights and dames “do not become involved in local government or political questions” in the Holy Land but offer support to the local Catholic Church there in cooperation with the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
Cardinal O’Brien said the order provides about $15 million each year in grants to Catholic projects in the Holy Land. Most are run by the Latin patriarchate, but the Maronite and Melkite Catholic churches also receive assistance.
The knights and dames of the Holy Sepulchre have given priority to education and formation programs, said Leonardo Visconti di Modrone, governor general of the order. By supporting 35 nursery schools and 41 elementary and high schools in Israel and Palestine, he said, the order’s members hope “to improve their quality and, through them, to make a fundamental contribution to the pacification of the region.”
About 57 percent of the 19,000 students in the schools are Christian, and most of the others are Muslim, he said. But all of them learn “our values of dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect,” which should help “overcome that violent confrontation that for years has martyred peaceful coexistence among people of different ethnic and religious groups.”
Cardinal O’Brien said each member of the equestrian order pledges to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at least once in his or her lifetime, but most go regularly. The pilgrimage is built around prayer and visits to the holy sites, but always includes visits to schools, clinics, parishes and other projects funded by the knights and dames.
The funds are disbursed as grants, the cardinal said, and members of the grant-making committee visit the Holy Land three times a year to monitor the projects.
The order’s headquarters near the Vatican occupies a small part of the 15th-century Palazzo della Rovere; most of the order’s building was rented out to a company that ran it as the Hotel Columbus. The order’s contract with the hotel company expired years ago and, after a court-ordered eviction was issued in 2016, the hotel closed in May.
Visconti said the Italian government is insisting that restoration work be carried out on the hotel’s 15th- and 16th-century frescoes, and plumbing and other work is underway. But, he said, the knights and dames hope to have a new company renting the building and running it as a hotel soon, because the rental income covers the order’s administrative costs, allowing all donations to go directly to the Holy Land.
7 November 2018
Tags: Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre
Palestinian children receiving treatment are seen in early September at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. U.S. Christian leaders expressed "grave concern" about the Trump administration's decision to stop financial assistance to six East Jerusalem hospitals.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
U.S. completes food distribution at Syria camp near Jordan (Reuters) The United Nations has finished distribution of aid to thousands of Syrians, mostly women and children, stranded in the desert close to the border with Jordan, an aid official said on Wednesday. A U.N-led convoy of more than 70 trucks arrived on Saturday under Russian army protection after months of delay in the first such first aid delivery from inside Syria to the rebel-held camp that has over 50,000 people…
Christian leaders urge U.S. to restore aid to East Jerusalem hospitals (CNS) U.S. Christian leaders expressed “grave concern” about the Trump administration’s decision to stop financial assistance to six East Jerusalem hospitals. Israeli doctors from most of Israel’s major hospitals called the decision a blow to the health of the city…
Anger erupts in Egypt after massacre of Christian pilgrims (RNS) The Coptic bishop of this city south of Cairo, Anba Makarios, spent the weekend trying to comfort mourners after two buses carrying Coptic Christians were ambushed Friday as they left a monastery here, killing seven of the pilgrims and wounding 19. The Islamic State in Egypt claimed responsibility for the attack. But during Makarios’ appearance at Prince Tadros Church, as the bishop thanked provincial officials for issuing the necessary permits to conduct public funerals, the congregation erupted in anger…
Ethiopian Catholic Church pleased about first woman president (Vatican News) The Ethiopian Catholic Church says it is pleased that women in Ethiopia are getting their rightful place in the development of the country. According to a statement from the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat, it is a blessing to see that Ethiopians are recognising the invaluable talent women have to offer to the integral development of the nation…
A political power struggle for the soul of the Orthodox church (Financial Times) I’m in a 17th-century monastery at the edge of Moscow’s Gorky Park, having a conversation that transports me several more centuries back in time. I’ve come to talk to Russian church officials about a new schism in the Orthodox church, a rupture that piqued my interest for its geopolitical dimension — and, in a small part, a personal one. I was raised Orthodox. “Any schism is bad,” Vladimir Legoida, a church official, tells me, as we look back to the Great Schism of 1054, the split between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. “That’s a wound on the body of Christianity. We grieve it as a tragedy…”
Vatican sends ’cordial greetings’ to mark Deepavali (Vatican News) On 6 and 7 November, millions of people throughout the world will celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Deepavali. Rooted in the Hindu culture, Deepavali celebrates the triumph of good over evil. As is customary, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a message on 31 October entitled “Christians and Hindus: In Defense of the Vulnerable of Society”…
Tags: India Ethiopia Jerusalem Palestine Hindu