8 February 2018
The video above offered a preview of the interfaith gathering at Assisi in 2011, with context and history about what the meetings there have meant. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
The promulgation of “Nostra Ætate” (“The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”) on 28 October 1965 committed the Catholic Church to dialogue with the great religious traditions in the world. The declaration was groundbreaking, in that the Catholic Church declared that it “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these [non-Christian] religions” and called Catholics to “enter ... into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions.”
It’s worth looking at how that “discussion and collaboration” came out — and how it is being carried out to this day.
On Pentecost Sunday 1964, a year before the promulgation of “Nostra Ætate,” Pope Paul VI set up the Secretariat for Non-Christians whose work was “to promote mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of other religious traditions.” In the decades since, that work has only deepened. As the Catholic Church became more sophisticated and deeply engaged in this dialogue, Pope John Paul II in 1988 restructured the Roman Curia (the central administration of the Catholic Church), creating the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID).
This stressed the importance of dialogue with other religions and expressed it more positively. As a result, no longer does the Catholic Church express its relationship to other religions as “non-Christians,” but sees the endeavor as more broadly conceived, attempting to understand the religions of the world on their own terms and not merely as “not us.”
In addition to maintaining bi-lateral dialogues with the great religious traditions of the world, the PCID encourages and promotes local dialogues. Three times a year it publishes “Pro Dialogo,” containing articles on theological topics related to inter religious dialogue; it also reports on the work of local dialogues throughout the year.
This work has entailed not only words, but also concrete actions. Three popes — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis — have hosted major interfaith events in Assisi. At these gatherings, religious leaders from around the world gathered to reflect on the values they hold in common and on how they might work together for a more just add peaceful world. In addition, every year the Holy See sends out greetings to members of other religions — including Hindus, on the feast of Diwali (the festival of lights) in November and Muslims on ‘Eid ul Fitr — the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Other religious traditions are included throughout the year, as well.
The PCID also has a special committee for relations with Muslims. The proximity of the two faiths and their often unfortunate histories together convinced the church to pay special attention to Islam. While the Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with many different Muslim majority countries, the PCID focuses primarily on religious issues. Recently, relations between the Catholic Church and Al Azhar University, perhaps the premier Sunni Muslim university in the world, were resumed with the hope of increased cooperation between Muslim and Catholic theologians and thinkers.
While the work of the PCID may seem remote to Catholics in general and also to CNEWA, nothing could be further from the truth. Catholics all over the world are increasingly encountering members of other religions. More and more, they are our neighbors. In the U.S., Europe and elsewhere mosques, Hindu mandirs (temples), Buddhist sanghas (religious communities), Sikh gurudwara (temples/centers) are becoming familiar fixtures in urban — and even rural — landscapes.
CNEWA works in the Middle East and southern India. In both regions, Christians are a minority surrounded by much larger religious communities — Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Good relations with these faiths in imperative. Often, members of these religions benefit from programs which CNEWA maintains.
Over the years the popes have stressed the importance of interreligious dialogue for the survival of the planet. The Catholic Church recognizes that centuries of interreligious conflict must be replaced by interreligious dialogue and understanding. Again and again popes have stressed that this not something added on to Catholicism but part and parcel of what it means to be Catholic.
8 February 2018
These are some of the students who attend classes at the St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Pallanad, India — a place that is Breaking the Cycle of family life scarred by alcoholism and abuse. Read more about the remarkable work the school is doing in the March 2017 edition of ONE.
(photo: Don Duncan)
8 February 2018
A picture taken on 8 February 2018 shows the exterior of the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus, one of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in the Syrian capital, reflected on the glass pane of a window that was broken after rebel mortar bombardment that struck the eastern Bab Touma neighborhood.
(photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate hit by gunfire (Fides) Mortar fire from armed groups still in control of the eastern outskirts of the city has hit central Damascus and in particular the area of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in the Bab Tuma neighborhood, at least two dead and three wounded. The shooting took place on 5 February and reached the border area of the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral St. George where a group of Russian volunteers had recently distributed aid packages to the local population...
U.S. bombs government forces in Syria (BBC) The US has carried out rare air strikes on Syrian pro-government forces after what it called an “unprovoked attack” on allied Kurdish and Arab fighters. US officials estimated that 100 pro-government fighters were killed in the incident on Wednesday...
UAE donates money to avoid shutdown of Gaza hospitals (Times of Israel) The United Arab Emirates has donated $2 million to help keep United Nations medical services in Gaza afloat amid a severe fuel shortage, the UAE’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday...
Cardinal calls Church the great driver in Indian society (Herald Malaysia) For Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, the Catholic Church is “a great driver of the social sectors” in India where millions of people are touched by the “service offered by an army of volunteers.” Indeed, Catholics “are the face of the compassionate Jesus to the poor and the broken.” The cardinal made these comments at the Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) currently underway in Bengaluru, Karnataka (2-9 February) where he is the guest of honor...
Jerusalem plans promenade to link settlements (Haaretz) The city of Jerusalem and Jerusalem Development Authority are advancing a plan to build a promenade in the Mount of Olives connecting the two Jewish residential compounds in the Palestinian A-Tur neighborhood. A proposal for a visitors’ center on the Mount of Olives is also being advanced...
7 February 2018
Children attend a summer camp at a Catholic church in Ader, Jordan. Learn more about how Jordan’s Christian Shepherds are leading the flock in that corner of the world in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
7 February 2018
Tags: Middle East Christians Jordan Holy Land Christians
Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 7 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope appeals for action against human trafficking (Vatican News) Pope Francis has appealed for concerted action against human trafficking as we prepare to mark the Day of Prayer and Awareness against this terrible scourge. “I invite everyone, citizens and institutions, to join forces to prevent the slave trade and to guarantee protection and assistance for the victims” he said during the weekly General Audience in the Vatican…
Israel strikes Damascus complex (BBC) Israeli warplanes have fired missiles at a Syrian military position near the capital, Damascus, Syrian media report. A Syrian military statement said its air defense systems blocked most of the missiles, but gave no further details…
UN warns Gaza it has just 10 days of emergency fuel left (Al Jazeera) The United Nations has warned that Gaza’s emergency fuel supplies will run dry in 10 days unless it receives immediate donor support. In a statement published on Wednesday, officials said $6.5 million was needed to buy generator fuel and stave off the collapse of “critical services…”
Churches accuse Jerusalem mayor of violating agreements on taxes (Haaretz) Church representatives have accused Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat of breaching international treaties after the municipality said it planned to collect 650 million shekels ($186 million) in back taxes owed by churches and international bodies with property in the city…
Pope emeritus Benedict: ‘I am on a pilgrimage towards Home’ (Vatican News) Pope emeritus Benedict has sent a short letter to the editor of the Italian news daily Il Corriere della Sera. The pope emeritus was responding to the many inquiries from readers as to how he is spending “this last period of his life.” Noting the “slow decline” of his “physical strength,” Benedict says: “interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.” The former pontiff admits that “this last stretch of the road” is “at times difficult,” but says, “It is a great grace for me to be surrounded by a love and goodness that I could not have imagined…”
6 February 2018
Tags: Syria Israel Jerusalem Pope Benedict XVI human trafficking
A young woman hones her culinary skills during a cooking class at the Kidist Mariam Center in
Meki, Ethiopia. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the current edition of ONE, Emeline Wuilbercq takes us to the Kidist Mariam Center in Ethiopia and discovers how it is offering skills to young Ethiopians and helping them stay in their homeland. Here, she offers some additional impressions.
Throughout my reporting career in Ethiopia, I have met hundreds of passionate people. I have been reporting mostly on politics, especially on the crackdown on protests in some parts of the country. I believe journalists have a duty to voice people’s concerns. But I strongly believe it is also our duty to deliver more than just sad news. Practicing “solutions journalism” is a good way of doing it.
Instead of writing about the problems, those who practice “solutions journalism” strive to write about how people can address those problems and offer solutions. In the end, the reader understands that, despite the challenges, there is hope. I’m not used to writing these kinds of “positive stories” but I’m convinced they offer another valuable perspective beyond most of the articles we read daily in the media. And I’m quite sure this journalism is just as rigorous and compelling as any other.
I experienced this kind of journalism when I reported at the Kidist Mariam Center. Visiting this training center — operated by the Community of St. Paul, in the Ethiopian town of Meki, about 80 miles south of the capital Addis Ababa — was both touching and delightful. It was touching because I met young and poor girls exposed to the danger of migration. They used to work abroad as housemaids to support their families. They were having hard times living abroad, with the fear of being beaten, sexually harassed, or facing other forms of exploitation and mistreatment. But it was also delightful because this center allowed them to foresee a better future in their hometown.
I spent a day there interviewing many of them and had no qualms disturbing them during their training. I was very impressed by one of them: Serkalem Keder, the aspiring pastry chef. She had been taking cooking classes at Kidist Mariam Center for the last seven months. Her shy smile betrayed her happiness, a feeling she had forgotten while she was out of her country. She had been through hard times in Saudi Arabia, but she keeps it for herself. When I met her, the only thing that mattered is how she is improving her cooking skills so that she can get a decent job and make a better living in her own country.
I met many Serkalems, whose lives changed thanks to the center. I felt humbled in front of those strong women who were almost my age. I was also happy to be able to share this story with readers who could help support the center, enabling it to train more young people and give them hope.
Discover more in the December 2017 edition of ONE.
6 February 2018
Workers repair a Syriac Christian church in southern Turkey. After years in exile, more Christians are returning to their homeland. To learn more, read Coming Home in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Don Duncan)
6 February 2018
In this image from 2014, the Rev. M.J. Joseph leads a service for Dalits in a mud hut in Utter Pradesh, India. This week, India’s bishops have been urged to reach out and do more for those once known as “untouchables.” (photo: John Mathew)
Indian bishops told to do more for ‘untouchables’ (Crux) Bishops in India have been told the Church must “move away from being content with doling out some schemes and programs” for Dalits — those at the bottom of Hinduism’s caste system formerly known as “untouchables” — and work to develop “a deeper understanding of the causes and manifestations of deprivation, discrimination and exclusion of Dalit Christians within the Church, by the larger society and by the State.” Jesuit Father A. Maria Arul Raja, a professor of Religious Studies at the Jesuit Theology Centre in Chennai, spoke about the Church and Dalits at the biennial meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India taking place this week in Bangalore...
Iraq official: Iraqi security forces are relocating refugees (Andalou Agency) An Iraqi lawmaker has accused security forces of forcibly relocating displaced civilians to their areas in northern and western Iraq. Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Monday, Raad al-Dahlaki, head of a parliamentary committee on displaced civilians, said the Baghdad Operations Command will close a refugee camp in western Baghdad by mid-February...
Syria, Russia escalate attacks in Syria (Al Jazeera) At least 40 people have been killed in Syrian and Russian air attacks in Eastern Ghouta near the capital, Damascus. Syria’s government has also deployed new anti-aircraft missiles to the front lines in Aleppo and Idlib, where it is battling rebel fighters...
Medical centers in Gaza forced to cease work due to lack of electricity, fuel (Middle East Monitor) The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza yesterday announced the suspension of operations in 16 hospitals and healthcare centers across the Gaza Strip due to the sever lack of electricity and fuel, Quds Press reported. Speaking to the news site, Spokesman of the Ministry of Health Ashraf Al-Qidra said: “Electricity generators in three more healthcare centers in Gaza stopped working; therefore, operations were suspended...”
Archaeologists uncover ancient church in Turkey (Christian Today) What’s believed to be one of the earliest churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, has been discovered during an archaeological dig in the Black Sea province of Karabük’s Eskipazar district. The excavation at the ancient city of Hadrianapolis, which now lies buried beneath Eskipazar, 160km north of Ankara, has uncovered a 1,500-year-old structure which could unlock secrets to monasteries thought to have existed in the town...
U.S., Ethiopia launch program to preserve historic church (EthioSports.com) U.S. Ambassador Michael RaynorEthi and Minister for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Hirut Woldemariam, jointly launched a new project for the preservation of Bete Golgotha Mikael Church in Lalibela, on Saturday, 3 February 2018. Since 2003, the U.S Embassy has supported the renovation of nine historical heritages throughout Ethiopia, including most recently the restoration of Bete Gabriel Rafael in Lalibela...
5 February 2018
Pope Francis talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a private meeting on 5 February at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Alessandro Di Meo via Reuters)
Pope Francis welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Vatican on 5 February for a private discussion that included the status of Jerusalem and the need to achieve peace in the Middle East through dialogue and respect for human rights.
During a 50-minute meeting, the two leaders discussed the current situation in Turkey, “the condition of the Catholic community, efforts in the reception of the many refugees and the challenges linked to this,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Aided by interpreters, Pope Francis and Erdogan also focused on “the situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to the status of Jerusalem, highlighting the need to promote peace and stability in the region through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and international law.”
The same topics were brought up during Erdogan’s separate meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister.
Erdogan arrived in Rome amid heavy security measures for a two-day visit that was to include meetings with Italian authorities and business leaders. More than 3,000 police officers had been deployed for the visit, according to Agence France-Presse, and demonstrations had been banned in Rome’s center for 24 hours.
Exchanging gifts, Erdogan gave Pope Francis a boxed collection of works by Jalal al Din Muhammad Rumi, the 13th-century Muslim mystic, philosopher and poet.
“Ah, matters of the mystics,” the pope replied, according to a pool report.
The Turkish president also gave the pope a large panoramic image of the city of Istanbul hand-painted on ceramic tiles.
Pope Francis then gave Erdogan a large bronze medallion of an “angel of peace,” who, the pope said, “strangles the demon of war.”
“This is a symbol of a world founded on peace and justice,” the pope continued.
The pope also gave the president a copy of his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’“ on the care of creation, his 2018 message for the World Day of Peace and an engraving of what St. Peter’s Basilica and the square looked like in the 17th century.
Speaking to reporters at Istanbul’s airport prior to his departure for Rome, Erdogan said his visit to the Vatican to see the pope — the first by a Turkish president in 59 years — was “a significant opportunity to draw attention to common human values.”
He said he planned to discuss the status of Jerusalem, the situation in Palestine, Syria and Iraq, as well as “counterterrorism, refugee issues and humanitarian aid,” according to Anadolu Agency, the state-run news service. The rise of Islamophobia in the West and “cultural racism” were also topics he planned to bring up, the agency reported.
Erdogan had telephoned the pope in December to discuss his concern over the status of Jerusalem after U.S. President Donald Trump announced on 6 December that he was formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Pope Francis has repeatedly upheld Vatican calls for a special, internationally guaranteed statute on the status of Jerusalem as the only way to preserve its unique identity as a place considered holy by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
The pope has publicly appealed for respect for the “status quo” of Jerusalem and prayed that “wisdom and prudence would prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts.”
5 February 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Jerusalem Turkey
Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, shown in this file photo from 2015, on Sunday encouraged bishops in India to urge the faithful to become fully Indian and Christian. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
Church in India urges faithful to become fully Indian, Christian (DaijiWorld.com) Inaugurating the 30th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (C.C.B.I.) of the Latin Church, here on Sunday 4 February, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Conference of Catholic Bishops of India and archbishop of Mumbai, exhorted the bishops in India to urge the faithful to become fully Indian and fully Christian…
Palestinians slam Jerusalem move to end tax breaks for churches, UN properties (Times of Israel) Palestinians on Sunday strongly denounced an Israeli decision to collect taxes from churches and United Nations agencies in Jerusalem, saying the move was aimed at “emptying” the city of its Arab residents and Christian holy sites…
Ethiopia launches job creation project for refugees, returnees (Ethiopian News Agency) A job creation project, which aims at supporting Ethiopian returnees and Eritrean refugees, was launched by the European Union Trust Fund for Africa and Ethiopian Government. The two-year project benefits 1,500 potential returnees and 200 Eritrean refugees. The project areas in Addis Ababa are Arada, Addis Ketema, Kirkos, and Yeka sub-cities, while the value chain areas are leather construction and metal, it was indicated…
Kurds express shock over ‘mutilated’ female fighter video (Vatican News) In one of the most gruesome episodes of the conflict, Kurds in Syria have accused Turkish-backed rebels of mutilating the body of a female Kurdish fighter, then posting the footage online. The victim, a member of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit — known as YPG — has been identified as Barin Kobani. She took part in a recent operation to drive the so-called Islamic State from areas in northern Syria…
Eagles fans in Jerusalem flying high after Super Bowl win (The Jerusalem Post) As is the tradition, American sports fans congregated at, Mike’s Place, in the heart of the capital, which hosted several hundred diehard sports fans for Super Bowl LII…