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”…
6 November 2018
Tags: India Ethiopia Jerusalem Palestine Hindu
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…
Tags: Syria India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank