7 June 2019
A widow stands amid the rubble of her destroyed home in Mudulisahi, India, on 22 May 2019, in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
Sabi Swati, stood on the ruins of her brick house, which had been ravaged by powerful cyclone Fani in early May, asking, “What will I do?”
“I am awaiting support to repair my house. I cannot stay in the palm-shed I am living in now when the monsoon comes (in mid-June),” Swati told Catholic News Service.
Nearby, Catholic Relief Service workers conducted a survey of damaged properties and the needs of hundreds of people who were evacuated from the remote village in Odisha state and returned home to find massive destruction.
Swati was not alone in her bewilderment. Dozens of people continued to wonder about their future a month after the storm as aid relief agencies worked to distribute emergency assistance and hygiene supplies.
Nearly all of the 120-plus houses in Mudulisahi suffered extensive damage from the storm that packed winds of 160 miles per hour when it walloped coastal and inland areas of eastern Odisha state on 3 May. Authorities said 70 people died and more than 500,000 families were affected by the cyclone.
Rows of roofless and severely damaged houses surrounded by stumps of headless and twisted coconut trees bear witness to Fani’s devastation throughout the region. Even a concrete roof in the village of Purushottam Ballabha, where CRS had distributed relief supplies, had sustained severe damage.
Because of timely and precise forecasts, the government was able to evacuate nearly 1.5 million people to inland communities ahead of the storm, Bhishnupada Sethi, special relief commissioner of Odisha, said, acknowledging that the swift action likely saved dozens if not hundreds of lives.
Sethi said the storm caused more than $1.7 billion in damage as assessments continued at the end of May.
“Over two lakh (US$200,000) families have been severely affected with their roofs blown away,” Sethi told CNS on 3 June.
“Along with restoring electricity and other amenities, our immediate target is to reach assistance to these families before the monsoon breaks in (mid-June),” Sethi said.
“We are reaching relief and cash assistance to over 100,000 families. Many (international) relief organizations are carrying out making meaningful relief and rehabilitation work. The government is working in coordination with them,” he added.
In Benpanjuri village, Caritas India workers met Sapura Bibi, whose home was roofless with the sun blazing into its interior. Bibi posed the same question heard countless times since the storm: “How can I live in this house?”
“Luckily, I had taken shelter with my children in the (government) cyclone shelter. Prone to cyclones frequently due to its curved coastline in the Bat of Bengal, Odisha has built thousands of cyclone shelters,” she said.
Anjan Bag, technical manager for humanitarian response with Caritas India, said the evacuation saved lives because Fani was more powerful and destructive than a super cyclone in 1999 that left more than 10,000 dead.
“The country realized the massive devastation only later. When I rushed to Odisha, there was neither electricity nor water. We had to sleep in the open under mosquito nets to coordinate the relief work,” Bag told CNS 6 June.
As of 3 June, Caritas India had distributed emergency shelter material to 5,537 households in 88 villages in addition to food supplies to more than 1,000 families, he said.
While the Caritas network has already donated nearly $255,000, Bag said, several other agencies have come forward to support a planned housing rehabilitation program. Homeowners will be trained in home reconstruction as well as small-business development.
7 June 2019
In this image from 2015, Pope Francis greets Russian President Vladimir Putin as he arrives for a private meeting at the Vatican. The two will meet again in July, possibly paving the way for a future papal visit to Russia. (photo:CNS/Alexei Nikolsky, RIA Novosti/Kremlin via Reuters)
Putin July trip to Rome could pave way for papal trip to Russia (Reuters) The Vatican said Putin, who will be on a state visit to Italy, will hold talks with the Argentinian-born pope on 4 July. The meeting, their third since Francis was elected in 2013, comes at a time of improving relations between the Vatican and the world’s Orthodox Churches. It also will be their first since Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill met in 2016, a landmark step in healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity…
Lebanon imposes curfew on Syria refugees (Middle East Monitor) Lebanon has restricted the movement of Syrian refugees in the Deir El-Ahmar area until Friday after a fire engine was ambushed yesterday. Governor of Baalbek, Bachir Khodr, imposed the severe restrictions on the refugees after a fireman was hopsitalised in the attack. A Syrian man is reported to have been involved in the attack…
Myths put lives of young Indian women at risk (UCANews.com) In large swathes of rural India, as well as some urban pockets, females are considered impure and segregated when menstruating. They are forced to sleep in separate ”menstruation huts,” which are often cowsheds or barns. Poverty and a general lack of awareness of health issues pushes them even closer to death as they are prone to infections while bleeding, or can be bitten by snakes or other wild animals in the huts, experts say…
Visiting the ’Sistine Chapel of Iran’ shows Christian-Muslim coexistence (B.C. Catholic) Located in the ancient Persian capital of Isfahan, this church is also known as Vank Cathedral (“Vank” is the Armenian word for monastery or convent). An Armenian Orthodox church, this gem is hidden behind walls, a living intersection of Perso-Christian-Islamic culture in one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The church is a part of old Christianity not often seen in that part of the world, a living proof of the harmony that has long existed among Muslims and Christians. In fact, it is one of the best places to observe a coexistence of cultures and religions…
Vatican to launch radio news service in Latin (Vatican News) Starting on Saturday, 8 June, a 5-minute weekly news bulletin in Latin will be broadcast to the world on Vatican Radio frequencies through the Italian language audio channels. Of course you will also be able to follow it on our web portal and listen to it on podcast, and it will soon be available on the English-language audio frequencies as well…
6 June 2019
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Muslim Iran
Former Bishop Geevarghese Mar Timotheos of India died Tuesday at the age of 91.
(photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
We received some sad news this week from India, regarding a man who was a great champion of the poor:
Geevarghese Mar Timotheos, 91, former bishop of Tiruvalla Diocese of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, passed away on Tuesday morning. The funeral will be held at St John’s Metropolitan Cathedral on Thursday. He was under treatment at Pushpagiri Medical College Hospital for the past six days due to age-related health problems.
Timotheos started his service as a priest under the Tiruvalla Diocese. He was the administrator of the diocese in 1987. He was elevated as bishop in 1988. He worked for the upgradation of Pushpagiri Hospital as medical college. Many hospitals and charity homes were launched by him when he served as bishop. He retired in 2003. He also served as the secretary of Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council (KCBC).
He was featured in our magazine in 1995, in a story entitled The Heirs of St. Thomas.
May his memory be eternal.
6 June 2019
Tags: Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Bishops
Pope Francis greets people as he visits Our Lady Queen of Iasi Cathedral in Iasi, Romania on 1 June 2019. During his audience Wednesday, the pope expressed joy at being among the Romanian people last week. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope expresses joy at being among Romanian people (Vatican News) During his Catechesis at the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis recalled his recent visit to Romania following in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II. The motto of the visit was “Let’s walk together” and the Pope expressed his joy at being able to walk as a pilgrim among the Romanian people. The Pontiff said that the various meetings whilst there “highlighted the value and the need to walk together both among Christians, on the level of faith and charity, and among citizens, on the level of civil commitment…”
Syrian airstrikes kill civilians in Idlib (Al Jazeera)At least five civilians were killed by Russian and Syrian government warplanes that targeted Syria’s northwest as residents marked the holiday of Eid al-Fitr. A local source told Anadolu Agency the five people died on Wednesday in air attacks targeting the town of Kansafra and three villages in Idlib…
Pope to meet Putin before Vatican Ukraine meeting (ABC News) Pope Francis will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican next month, a day before Catholic leaders from Ukraine gather at the Holy See to discuss the continuing conflict there and the fallout from the schism between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches…
Child beggars are the face of poverty in Gaza (Haaretz) There’s a fine line between being a peddler and beggar. The peddlers offer bunches of fresh mint, cookies, gum and tissues. When you refuse, they plead: “Please, give me something.” Many of the peddlers are children, who are up late in any event during Ramadan. They could be seen walking around after 1 A.M. hawking their small supply of wares...
5 June 2019
Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Romania
Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak speaks to his flock in Philadelphia after his enthronement. (photo: CNEWA)
I had the privilege of representing CNEWA yesterday at the enthronement ceremony of Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, as he became head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia — and, consequently, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the United States.
More than 1,000 people from around the world — including CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York — came to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for this important day.
There was a great atmosphere in the cathedral, and no wonder: Metropolitan Borys has demonstrated in the last 20 years that he is driven by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. He has inspired so many, in many corners of the world. I am reminded in particular of the remarkable work he has done at the Ukrainian Catholic University, where he was one of the founders.
In his very humble and moving speech after the liturgy, he spoke brilliantly of his vision for the church. He warned people not to be too distracted with all the glory of the celebration, with its fine vestments. Yes, it is a grand day, he said, and we should celebrate. But, he added, the church is about finding Jesus and promoting his teachings.
The metropolitan also asked a good friend in a wheelchair to come and join him for part of his talk. He alluded to the humanitarian and theologian, the recently deceased Jean Vanier, saying that he is a model of what the church should be. He explained how Jesus is found in the poor, in the handicapped, in the marginalized. The church is to serve them, he said, and he invited everyone to join him and the Lord in this great work.
Metropolitan Borys was clearly moved by the day and by the task ahead. I was humbled to be there for this moment. I left the cathedral uplifted and inspired — more committed than ever to continue CNEWA’s work with Ukrainian church leaders such as him in Ukraine, in Canada and in the United States.
For more, read Prayer and Protest, Borys Gudziak’s first-person account of the 2013 Kiev uprising in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE.
5 June 2019
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
In this image from 2017, a Dominican sister visits the Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah in Qaraqosh, Iraq, heavily damaged by ISIS. The United Nations has established 22 August as the Day to Commemorate Victims of Violence Based on Religion. (photo: Raed Rafei)
On 28 May, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing 22 August as the Day to Commemorate Victims of Violence Based on Religion.
The resolution invites all member states, relevant organizations, civil society, individuals and the private sector to observe the international day and show appropriate support for victims of religiously motivated violence.
In the wake of recent religiously motivated terrorist attacks, the resolution notes a serious concern for “continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, including against persons belonging to religious communities and religious minorities around the world, and at the increasing number and intensity of such incidents.”
Poland initiated work toward the commemorative day, but united with Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, and the United States to co-draft the resolution.
Ultimately, 88 U.N. member states voted to co-sponsor the resolution.
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which is commonly referred to as the right to freedom of religion or belief, is a universal right of every human being and the cornerstone of many other rights,” Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz said in his keynote speech before the vote.
In response, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington issued a statement praising the resolution.
“We applaud the U.N. General Assembly for adopting this resolution, which acknowledges and honors victims of violence based on religion or belief around the world,” said Tenzin Dorjee, chair of the commission. “But we must not stop at condemnation. Like-minded governments must also increasingly work together to hold perpetrators accountable, whether they are state or nonstate actors responsible for the abuses.”
The Vatican, too, commented on the resolution after its adoption in a statement released by its Permanent Observer Mission to the U.N. The statement recalled the recent religiously motivated violence in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, California and Burkina Faso.
“This resolution and the international day it establishes is an opportunity for the international community to focus on the victims and to strengthen efforts to eradicate such violence and acts of terrorism targeting persons because of their religion or belief,” it said.
The Vatican also reminded the U.N. that religion and belief cannot be blamed for these acts. They are, rather, deviations from religious practices and must be condemned.
5 June 2019
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians United Nations
Clergy from around the world process for the enthronement of Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on 4 June 2019.
(photo: CNS/Jonathan Drake, Reuters)
Ukrainian Catholic Church installs new leader (AP) An Eastern Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania has installed a new leader. The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia has named the Rev. Borys Gudziak as the metropolitan archbishop, which makes him the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States. Gudziak is a 58-year-old native of Syracuse, New York. He succeeds Stefan Soroka, who resigned for health reasons last year…
Ethiopian Christians, Muslims clean stadium in show of solidarity for Eid-al-Fitr (NAIJ.com) Ethiopian Christians on Monday, 3 June, joined their Muslim brothers and sisters in a clean up exercise to show solidarity and love ahead of the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Leading the group was Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed who was also spotted sweeping the ground where the celebrations are expected to take place on Wednesday when the Muslim community across the world mark Eid-al-Fitr…
UN: crops and farmland being burned in Syria as a ’weapon of war’ (Al Jazeera) Thousands of hectares of vital crops and farmland have been set on fire by fighters in northwest Syria in a campaign that has turned food supplies into a “weapon of war”, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said…
Egypt’s president speaks out on Muslim treatment of Christians (National Review) Sunday Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi delivered a speech during a ceremony in Cairo for Laylat al-Qadr, which is one of the odd-numbered nights during the last ten days of Ramadan. Since before the Egyptian revolution in 2011 propelled the country into chaos and till this year, Egypt’s Coptic Christian population has been facing a wave of persecution that some Copts describe as the worst in 700 years. President Sisi’s remarks, however, may be a sign of his efforts imploring peaceful coexistence in Egypt between Muslims and Christians…
4 June 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Muslim Ukrainian Catholic Church
Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak displays the papal bull about his appointment during his enthronement as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on 4 June 2019.
(photo: CNS/Jonathan Drake, Reuters)
4 June 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
The video above shows Syrian forces bombing hospitals in Idlib in May. (video: Sky News/YouTube)
In Syria, even the hospitals aren’t safe (The New York Times) After eight brutal years, it is hard to find anything shocking about the Syrian civil war. But somehow, the government forces under President Bashar al-Assad always find a way. On 15 May, Syrian bombs destroyed the Tarmala Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Idlib, the 19th medical facility attacked since late April…
Leprosy patients receive help and hope at center in India (UCANews.com) Some 160 families now live in Leprosy Care Center center with their children and grandchildren. With the third generation growing up here, the place has become their home. All the older residents fled their homes and villages following severe social exclusion…
Westminster Abbey denies Ethiopian Christians permission to pray with relic (Times of Israel) Westminster Abbey has been accused of cultural insensitivity after it turned down a request from Ethiopian Christians to pray beside a tablet that the Ethiopian church considers sacred…
New Ukrainian Catholic archbishop faces challenge of renewal among faithful (The Philadelphia Inquirer) On Tuesday, Borys Gudziak, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., and the son of immigrant parents, will be installed as the metropolitan archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy, or archdiocese, of Philadelphia, making him the titular head of the faith in the United States. Gudziak, 58, who has helped fuel a resurgence in the church in Ukraine, will work to inspire a similar renewal in this country of a faith — with fewer than 100,000 adherents — that has faced many of the same struggles as other Christian denominations…
Record turnout for Eid prayers in Ethiopian capital (Andalou Agency) More than one million people gathered in and around the Addis Ababa stadium for Eid al-Fitr prayers on Tuesday. The Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr was celebrated across Ethiopia — a country hosting the largest Muslim community in Sub-Sahara Africa after Nigeria. Muslims account for 34% of Ethiopia’s more than 100 million population…
3 June 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Muslim
Pope Francis gives a blessing as he meets with members of the Roma community, sometimes called gypsies, in Blaj, Romania, on 2 June 2019. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
On his final stop before departing Romania for Rome, Pope Francis visited members of the Roma community living in the neighborhood of Barbu Lautaru. According to the Vatican, a newly erected church and pastoral center were built to assist the Roma community to fully integrated within the social fabric of the city of Blaj.
“In the church of Christ, there is room for everyone,” the pope told members of the community, “otherwise it would not be the church of Christ.”
The pope told the Roma community that his heart was heavy due to “the many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment experienced by your communities,” inflicted upon them, including by members of the Catholic Church.
He asked forgiveness to them “for those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you” instead of defending them in their “uniqueness.”
Waiting for the pope Razaila Vasile Dorin, a 16-year-old, told reporters, “We are proud he is coming here in our community -- a person like the pope! I don’t know what to say. It’s a great honor.”
Asked about discrimination, Dorin, speaking English, said, “In every country there is racism. When we go out everyone looks, ‘Look, look, a Roma, a Gypsy.’“ But, he said, the Roma are “proud to be Gypsies.”
“Whenever anyone is left behind, the human family cannot move forward. Deep down, we are not Christians, and not even good human beings, unless we are able to see the person before his or her actions, before our own judgments and prejudices,” the pope said.
According to the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, a 2011 census estimated that there are more than 620,000 Roma people in Romania. However, the figure may not reflect the actual numbers because many do not declare their ethnicity out of fear of discrimination.
Despite the trials they have endured, the pope encouraged them to not go down the path of vengeance and instead to choose the “way of Jesus” which brings peace and can heal the wounds of injustice.
“May we not let ourselves be dragged along by the hurts we nurse within us; let there be no room for anger. For one evil never corrects another evil, no vendetta ever satisfies an injustice, no resentment is ever good for the heart and no rejection will ever bring us closer to others,” he said.
Tags: Romania Roma