6 November 2018
Pope Francis greets a rabbi during an audience with a group of rabbis attending the World Congress of Mountain Jews, at the Vatican on 5 November. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Sharing the same roots as their Jewish brothers and sisters, Christians cannot be anti-Semitic and must work to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from society, Pope Francis said.
Also, he said, “the Holocaust must be commemorated so that there will be a living memory of the past. Without a living memory, there will be no future, for if the darkest pages of history do not teach us to avoid the same errors, human dignity will remain a dead letter.”
The pope made his remarks during an audience on 5 November with a group of rabbis attending the World Congress of Mountain Jews.
Mountain Jews -- who are believed to be descendants of Persian Jews -- settled centuries ago in the Caucasus region, maintaining their own unique language and various customs. They were also targeted and exterminated by German troops during World War II.
Speaking to the delegates, the pope expressed his joy that their visit marked the first time their community visited a pope at the Vatican. Pope Francis had met with Mountain Jews during his 2016 visit to Azerbaijan.
The pope anticipated the commemoration 9 November of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht when Jews, their property and places of worship were attacked throughout Nazi Germany. The attacks, he said, represented an intent to uproot “from the hearts of individuals and a people that which is absolutely inviolable: the presence of the Creator.”
“The attempt to replace the God of goodness with the idolatry of power and the ideology of hatred ended in the folly of exterminating creatures,” he added.
This is why, he said, “religious freedom is a supreme good to be safeguarded, a fundamental human right and a bulwark against the claims of totalitarianism.”
“Sadly, anti-Semitic attitudes are also present in our own times,” Pope Francis told his audience.
“As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life,” he said. “Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community.”
The pope emphasized the importance of friendship between Jews and Catholics, saying “we are called to promote and to expand interreligious dialogue for the sake of humanity.”
“I ask the Almighty to bless our journey of friendship and trust, so that we can dwell always in peace and be, wherever we find ourselves, artisans and builders of peace.”
6 November 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Jews
Entertainers captivate children of all ages at Marie Doty Park in Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA)
We were pleased to receive this update today on a project CNEWA has long supported in Bethlehem. Laura Schau-Tarazi in our Jerusalem office writes:
Marie Doty Park continues to be a beautiful green space for Bethlehem children and families. Our project coordinator, Gabi Kando, made a recent visit to the park to follow up on our work where two local area schools were holding activities.
Thanks to the Doty Foundation, work has been conducted during the year on various sections of the park including installing an alarm system and safety fence around the parameter of the park, new ventilators and new door for the multipurpose hall, games, rehabilitation of the water cistern and the procurement of new agricultural equipment. During this year, there has also been 16 children’s activities conducted so far, reaching 4,600 children. Additionally, the park hosted 38 different governmental and private schools and NGOs benefiting 2,500 children, as well as four summer camps for 500 children.
Some background on Marie Doty, from our magazine:
Over the years, Mrs. Doty, her husband, George, and their children have selflessly and generously supported CNEWA’s mission with their time, energy and financial resources.
Mrs. Doty played an active role in many agency works, including the restoration of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the development of the first recreational parks in Palestine. On a visit there more than a decade ago, she quietly observed, “The children have no place to play.”
Determined to remedy the situation, Marie and George Doty provided CNEWA with the funds to build and equip playgrounds and related facilities in Bethlehem, Gaza and Ramallah. In addition to swings and slides, handball and basketball courts, the parks feature fountains and green lawns, “luxuries” Palestinian children once associated with Israeli settlements.
Marie Doty entered eternal life in 2008 — but clearly, she left the children of Palestine a legacy of joy that endures to this day.
Marie Doty Park remains a peaceful oasis for children in Bethelehem. (photo: CNEWA)
6 November 2018
Tags: Bethlehem Donors
Dalit villagers gather for a prayer service in Bhikkawala, India. Christian Dalits across India will mark Dalit Liberation Sunday this weekend. (photo: John Matthew)
Fight against last vestige of ISIS stalls (The New York Times) An American-backed military offensive has stalled against the Islamic State’s last vestige in eastern Syria — in part because of the enemy that the allied fighting force had expected, and other threats that it very much had not…
Indian Christians to celebrate Dalit Liberation Sunday (Vatican News) Christians of various denominations in India are joining hands in jointly observing the Dalit Liberation Sunday (DLS) on Sunday. The Office for Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes (SC/BC) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), and the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), that comprises Protestant and Orthodox Churches, are marking the day on 11 November…
Is another Gaza war imminent? (Al Jazeera) Recently, rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza and three Palestinian children were killed in an Israeli air raid. Is another full-scale Israeli attack on the strip inevitable? Donald MacIntyre, former Jerusalem correspondent for The Independent and author of the book, “Gaza: Preparing for Dawn,” describes it as “a very fragile and dangerous situation”…
For one Moscow church, schism may spell end of unique status (Radio Free Europe) Tucked behind a Stalin-era skyscraper a short walk from Red Square, St. Nicetas is an “embassy church”, or metochi, of Mount Athos, the male-only monastic community in Greece that the world’s Orthodox Christians consider a spiritual home. While it belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church, St. Nicetas is symbolically tied to the mother church of Eastern Orthodoxy, the Constantinople Patriarchate, under whose jurisdiction Athos falls. ”On paper we’re part of the Moscow Patriarchate, but spiritually we represent Athos,” says Father Pyotr, a St. Nicetas clergyman who withheld his last name because he is not authorized to speak on the church’s behalf.
Is this how they built the pyramids? (CNN) Archeologists have spent centuries wondering how the towering pyramids of Giza were constructed thousands of years ago. Now, the discovery of a sophisticated ramp system has put them one step closer to solving the mystery. The remains of the 4,500-year-old ramp was found at an alabaster quarry -- of the same period -- in an Egyptian desert by a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool, UK, and Cairo’s French Institute for Oriental Archaeology…
5 November 2018
Tags: Syria India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank
A woman mourns during a 3 November funeral liturgy at Prince Tadros Orthodox Church in Minya, Egypt, for a group of Christian pilgrims killed by gunmen as they headed to a monastery on 2 November. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
In the wake of a deadly attack against Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt, Pope Francis prayed for the victims, their families and the entire Christian community.
Seven Christians were killed and at least seven others -- including children -- were injured after armed gunmen attacked two buses near the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in Minya province on 2 November. Another attack took place in the same area in 2017, which left 28 people dead.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the latest attack and Egypt’s interior ministry announced on 4 November that in a shootout, its security forces had killed 19 militants they accused of being behind the attack.
After praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on 4 November, the pope said he was saddened to hear about the terrorist attack against the Coptic Orthodox church.
“I pray for the victims, the pilgrims killed for the sole reason of being Christian,” he said. He asked that Mary, the Mother of God, would “console the families and the entire community,” and he led those gathered in the square in praying the Hail Mary.
Watch a video of the pope's remarks below, from CNS.
5 November 2018
The video above offers details of the deadly attack on Coptic Christians near a monastery in Minya, Egypt. (video: France 24/YouTube)
Pope Francis: ’A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite’ (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday held a meeting with representatives of the World Congress of Mountain Jews. It is the first time that a delegation from this community, which dates back to the 5th Century, has travelled to meet a Pope…
Egypt police kill 19 suspected in Coptic Christian attack (BBC) Nineteen Islamist militants accused of carrying out a deadly attack on Christians in Egypt have been killed by police, the interior ministry says. They died in a shoot-out after police pursued “fugitive terrorist elements” into the desert area west of Minya province, the statement said. Seven Coptic Christians were killed in an attack on two buses near a monastery in Minya on Friday…
Bishops in Holy Land speak out on Israel’s Nation State Law (Vatican News) It is out of a “spirit of dialogue” that the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land speak out in a statement responding to the “issue of the Nation State Law passed by the Israeli Knesset on 19 July 2018. The legislation at issue limits the promotion and protection offered by the State of Israel to “Jewish citizens of the State of Israel”…
Missionaries of Charity agree to resume adoption service in India (UCANews.com) The Missionaries of Charity (MC) congregation has agreed to resume its service of giving children for adoption. The congregation founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata, commonly known as Mother Teresa, discontinued giving babies from their orphanages for adoption in October 2015 after disagreeing with a new federal law that allowed single and divorced woman to adopt children…
Luxury city could show future of Syria (AP) Marota City, as Syria’s largest investment project is known, is seen as setting the blueprint for how the government will undertake the ambitious rebuilding of areas devastated in the nearly eight-year civil war. The government is using controversial new property laws to create zones where partnerships of the government and businessmen take ownership of neighborhoods and redevelop them. Officials say the projects aim at re-planning slums and destroyed areas and attracting private investors to join the massively expensive task of reconstruction…
The soul of Russian Orthodox church bells (Al Jazeera) An automated future where the robots have stolen human jobs is a widespread modern concern. Even the most traditional of professions can be vulnerable, for example, church bell ringing in Russia…
2 November 2018
Tags: Syria Egypt Israel Russian Orthodox Church Jews
Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2014. Looking on is Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina. CNEWA works on behalf of the Holy Father to help build bridges and heal wounds of division.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
You don’t need a post-graduate degree to notice our world right now is torn apart — and hatred and division are a big part of it.
Whether it’s violence in Pittsburgh or vandalism in the Holy Land or threats of military action against migrants, we find ourselves living in a world increasingly on edge — wary, angry, suspicious of anyone considered to be “The Other.” Whether they are Muslims fleeing war or Jews trying to worship in peace, they too often find themselves to be targets of brutality and hate.
And in this troubled world stands CNEWA.
One of the things that has struck me during my time with CNEWA is how faithfully, even courageously, this association has worked not only to build bridges with those of other faiths and traditions, but to try and heal the wounds brought about by hate, war and persecution.
It is intrinsic to who we are.
From our earliest days, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has worked to “create and sustain a friendly interest in the religious and moral life” of those we serve — and to promote unity. It is written into the name of our magazine, ONE, seeking to create a sense of unity with those who also dwell in our broken world.
More than that, we have also enthusiastically engaged in dialogue with “The Other” — whoever that may be. While we always work through the local church, the local church reaches out to the many, Christian or not.
But this is who we are.
We see in the faces of those who are poor, abandoned, hungry and rejected the face of Christ.
We see in them fellow children of Abraham, our brothers and sisters made in the image of God.
We see in those who are forgotten the people we need to remember — the battered person left by the side of the road, the wounded neighbor we can’t ignore. We can’t forget the words Jesus spoke when he told the lesson of the Good Samaritan, the foreigner who treated a stranger with love: “Now go and do likewise.”
When I visit parishes around the country to talk about CNEWA, I often tell the story of the Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq. During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, her convent offered shelter to her terrified Muslim neighbors in Mosul. She summed up her work plainly but powerfully. “We don’t help them because they’re Christian,” she said. “We help them because we are.”
This is who we are. This is part of our mandate and mission.
We are the ones who journey with those who have been brutalized, victimized, neglected, persecuted.
As I read the stories of all the troubles afflicting our world right now — and they fill the headlines again and again and again — I take solace and hope from the work CNEWA is doing. Work of healing. Work of hope.
It is work that sees beyond barriers and boundaries, beyond even personal beliefs and creeds. It is work that proclaims the Gospel and that lives it by remembering Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”
It is a commandment that is so often lost in our world right now.
It shouldn’t be. We need to reclaim it, and proclaim it. It is so essential to the times in which we live.
And CNEWA is a vital part of that. This is a subtle but enduring part of who we are and how we work — an urgent reminder to a dispirited, broken and downcast world that dialogue is possible, that hope endures, that love can transcend hate.
What a privilege to know that, to speak that, to believe that, and to be a part of that.
This is who we are.
We are CNEWA.
2 November 2018
Indian homeless children watch a movie on a cellphone on the roadside in Mumbai, India. The final document from the recent Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment called for the church to meet young people in the digital sphere.
(photo: CNS/Divyakant Solanki, EPA)
2 November 2018
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas spoke to an interfaith gathering in New Delhi last week and called for unity as a way to end religious violence in India (photo: AsiaNews).
U.S. Accuses Russia of blocking aid to Syrian refugee camp (CNN) The US military accused Russia on Thursday of blocking the delivery of critical aid to the Rukban refugee camp in Syria, a desert camp that the United Nations has described for months as in a “desperate” situation. ”Russia has again refused to support a UN delivery of humanitarian assistance from Damascus to the Rukban internally displaced persons camp despite US security guarantees,” US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, told CNN in a statement…
Indian bishop calls for unity to end religious violence (UCANews.com) An Indian bishop has asked religious leaders to come together to foster peace amid increasing religion-based violence, especially against religious minorities and weaker groups. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, was speaking at a 27 October interreligious gathering in New Delhi marking the 300th anniversary of the death of Sikh religious leader and social worker Bhai Kanhaiya (1648-1718)…
Lebanon’s forgotten refugee camp (The World) The Dbayeh refugee camp in Dbayeh town is a Palestinian Christian camp established in 1951, when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rented the area prior to Lebanese government restrictions on Palestinian land rights. Currently, the camp is home to around 520 families. Fifty of those families are Syrians who came to Lebanon after the civil war broke out in their country in 2012…
Untold story of Kerala flood: a deluge of digital volunteers (GulfNews.com) While rains were lashing Kerala in August, submerging many parts of the state in the worst such incident in nearly a century, a largely untapped trait of Keralites was surging above the waters — an outpouring of voluntarism in the digital domain…
Ethiopia swears in first woman Supreme Court chief (NPR) Ethiopia swore in its first female Supreme Court chief on Thursday, part of a wave of appointments of women to top government positions backed by Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed…
31 October 2018
Tags: India Lebanon Ethiopia Palestine
Hindus light candles in clay lamps in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights. Read more about this holiday here. (photo: Khokarahman via Wikimedia Commons)
Christians and Hindus to defend the vulnerable in society (AsiaNews) In a statement commemorating Diwali, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said: “Attentiveness and cooperation are needed, not only to defend the legitimate place and rights of the vulnerable in society, but also to cultivate a culture of care and concern in their regard…”
US-backed Syria force suspends anti-ISIS attacks after Turkey strikes (Al Monitor) A Kurdish-led force backed by a U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday it was suspending operations against the Islamic State group after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria…
Ancient Assyrian sculpture up for sale at Christie’s — but should it ever have left Iraq? (AINA) A 3,000-year-old Iraqi artifact goes on sale at Christie’s auction house in New York this week, where it is expected to fetch more than $10 million for its American owners. However, the Iraqi government has demanded a halt to the sale of the two-meter frieze taken from an ancient Assyrian palace…
Coptic Church gears up for a new fight at Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre (Haaretz) A dispute between the Coptic and Ethiopian churches reared its head last week. The incident involved the forcible dispersal by the Israel Police of a quiet protest by a few Coptic monks, who were objecting to renovations by the Israel Antiquities Authority at St. Michael’s, a chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre…
30 October 2018
Tags: Syria Iraq Interreligious Ethiopian Orthodox Church Coptic Church
Students at the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia sing and pray together after breakfast. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
CNEWA’s regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu, forwarded us a report from the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia — a CNEWA-supported facility that is working wonders with young people.
Some highlights of the report:
Entrusting ourselves in the hands of God, we began the new scholastic year (2017-18). In spite of the political disturbances, we carried on our good work. Regular and fulltime teaching started by the end of September, as it took time to reach all our students, perhaps because of the political unrest throughout the country.
This year the teachers had the opportunity to attend a workshop held in our Catholic mission school. Though it was difficult for only two sisters to see to the running of the residential school—with the political unrest every now and then and other problems—nevertheless, with God’s grace, everything became possible. May God bless those we are privileged to serve!
As soon as all the children arrived we had an opening ceremony with the Holy Eucharist. Abba Tesfaye, our parish priest, offered the Mass, invoking God’s blessing on the school. This was followed by Bunna (coffee) ceremony.
We were happy to have the visit of our Bishop Abraham Desta along with Abba Gobezayehu, Abba Tesfaye and some visitors from abroad. They took time to go around the school and interact with the children. At the end, we met together to share some concerns of the school.
There were several visitors during the year — students from different universities and friends. All expressed appreciation for the work being done.
Ex-students: Most of our former students are well-settled in life. One of our ex-students who is married and is working for a government organization was happy to give a talk to the students on causes and prevention of HIV. Another two students doing their research on the foundation and development of the school had a lot to share as a part of their research. It was also a joy to meet five of our ex-students from Hawassa Universitym, who visited the school along with their colleagues. These five have completed their graduation this year and hope to be employed in the near future.
Volunteers: We thank a couple from Poland who occasionally gave their services by teaching the children music. They also gave a short training to the teachers on how to operate the braille printer. Another group of youngsters from Shashemane spent time with the children every Saturday. They taught them hymns and games.
Christmas Celebrations: This year, the celebrations, were extra colorful with a beautiful decorated tent. New dance costumes added flavor to the show. Many friends, some ex-students, and relatives of children who are not too far away attended. Our children are always happy and excited when they get an occasion to exhibit their talents such as acting, music, dance, acrobatics, reciting poems,etc. Thanks to the efforts of the music teacher, some of the boys were able to handle the key board and perform well, to the delight of the audience.
Day of the Differently Abled: This is what the children are — talented and intelligent. On this special day, we created an atmosphere to make them feel that they are indeed able and not disabled. Through a short program, they showed that they are gifted and on a par with any sighted person.
Maintenance: The school is 37-years-old. No doubt the buildings and furniture need maintenance and replacements. With the help of our benefactors, we were able to purchase some furniture, water tanks, mattresses, blankets, two sets of sweaters and other necessary items. A lot of maintenance was also done. Here I need to mention Luigi, a volunteer from Italy, who worked hard to get our electrical system in order. We look forward to re-arranging our water system by replacing the old rusted iron pipes with fiber pipes. We hope this will solve our perennial water shortage problem.
Tree Planting: Bunna (coffee) is the specialty of Ethiopia. Our teachers were very eager to plant coffee saplings in our school garden. They continue to water and nurture their respective coffee plants. All praise to you, God, for our beautiful green garden!
Outings: What a joy to go out for a picnic! We went often with our children to a beautiful park. They looked extra-smart this year in their new school T- Shirts, which had this printed on the front: “Disability is Not Inability.” May they continue to enjoy their childhood and their dignity.
Our staff too had a great day at Hawassa Lake. IThey cooked their lunch and had a sumptuous meal. All felt a bond of togetherness as they sang, ate and had a boat ride together. Let us keep up the joy of togetherness!
Graduation: This year, we bade farewell to 12 students who completed their elementary education in the residential setting. On the day of their farewell, for the first time, to the amazement of the parents and staff our 12 children dressed in blue graduation gowns and walked elegantly in the midst of the audience. All were filled with joy to see these students in their new attire. All the best, dear students, God bless you!
For the first time, students donned gowns for their graduation.
(photo: Shashemene School for the Blind
A Word of Thanks: We — the students, staff and sisters — owe a deep debt of gratitude to our many kind and generous benefactors, both individuals and groups, without whom our work would not have been possible.
My heart-felt thanks to all those who helped us economically and morally, encouraging and strengthening us during the past year.
May God bless you!
Sister Ashrita Mendes, Shashemane School for the Blind
CNEWA remains grateful to all who have helped so many of the young people at Shashemane — truly bringing light to their darkness. What a difference you are making in so many lives.
On behalf of all of them, and the people who serve them in Ethiopia, we can only echo this heartfelt sentiment from Sister Ashrita: "Thank you! May God bless you!"