Current Issue
March, 2019
Volume 45, Number 1
20 May 2019
Greg Kandra

Children wave Indian flags as they receive informal education at the Snehalaya Social Center run by the Sisters of the Holy Cross of Chavanod at a slum in New Delhi. (photo: Rita Joseph/

Religious sisters offer women and children a way out of a New Delhi slum ( if the sisters had not taken the initiative to set the center up, many of their young wards would likely end up as child laborers with no chance of ever getting a formal education. The Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod congregation has been running the center since 1981, offering kids an informal education and preparing them for formal schooling, said Sister Lavina Rogers, who joined five years ago…

Pope tells missionaries to evangelize with urgency (Vatican News) The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, or PIME, was founded in Italy in 1850 as a society of diocesan priests and lay people who dedicate their lives to missionary activities. Pope Francis met Monday with participants in the Institute’s 15th General Assembly, reminding them of the “co-responsibility of all dioceses to spread the Gospel to peoples who do not yet know Jesus Christ…”

Russia announces ceasefire by Syrian forces (Al Jazeera) The Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have unilaterally ceased firing in the northwestern Idlib province, the last major rebel-held territory, Moscow’s defense ministry said. However, opposition activists said shelling and air attacks continued on Sunday despite the announcement…

Putin intervenes to halt cathedral project after protests (The New York Times) President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intervened in a bitter dispute in a provincial Russian city that erupted in protests this week, calling on the regional authorities to settle the matter peacefully. Such bursts of public outrage are growing more common in Russia, where stagnating and even declining living standards juxtaposed with expensive foreign adventures, official corruption and environmental degradation are testing people’s patience and driving down Mr. Putin’s popularity ratings…

At bombed shrine in Sri Lanka, a closeness to the universal church (Vatican News) The shrine’s rector said they never gave up their faith and continue to pray and celebrate Mass inside the shrine saying, “Our God is not a god of revenge. He is the God of love…”

Feeling awe at Ethiopia’s reverence for the dead (The Observer) The Kidist Selassie, Amharic for the Holy Trinity Cathedral, is located near Ethiopia’s parliamentary buildings. This cathedral is the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia, specifically to adherents of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christianity has a vast following in Ethiopia, and it is no wonder that one of the Patriarchs (Popes) in the Orthodox Church sits in Addis Ababa.

Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Russian Orthodox

10 May 2019
Greg Kandra

On 9 May 2019, nuns and priests pray at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka. It was the first Mass at the church since the Easter bomb attack by militants linked to ISIS.
(photo: CNS/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)

Tags: ISIS Persecution

10 May 2019
Greg Kandra

The video above explains some of the preparations and practices surrounding Ramadan in Jerusalem. The Vatican has issued a message for Ramadan, urging universal fraternity between Christians and Muslims. (video: 24News/YouTube)

Muslims gather in Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers (AP) Crowds of worshippers have gathered at a Jerusalem holy site the first Friday prayers of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. Israeli police said more than 135,000 worshippers prayed at al-Aqsa mosque in the sacred compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount…

Vatican message for Ramadan urges universal fraternity (Vatican News) The Vatican is calling on Christians and Muslims worldwide to promote human fraternity and harmonious existence by building bridges of friendship and promoting a culture of dialogue where violence is rejected and the human person is respected. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) made the invitation in a message to wish Muslims worldwide a peaceful and fruitful celebration of Ramadan…

Lebanon won’t survive with refugees, says Aoun (Middle East Monitor) Lebanon would never survive if half a million Palestinian refugees and 1.6 million Syrian refugees remained in the country, the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, said yesterday. Aoun remarks came during a meeting held at the presidential palace in the Lebanese capital of Beirut with a delegation from the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), headed by its secretary general Souraya Bechealany. Aoun called on the MECC to help the Lebanese government resolve the Syrians refugees’ issue “by persuading Western countries to accept the refugees return to their countries as soon as possible…”

Sources: only a toddler left after airstrike in Syria (BBC) Dozens of people have reportedly been killed after government and Russian air strikes were stepped up in north-western Syria. Two-year-old Khadija al-Hamdan was pulled out of the rubble in Idlib after one such assault. She was the only member of her immediate family to survive…

Pope sends cardinal to Lesbos as refugees continue to arrive (CNS) Three years after Pope Francis visited Lesbos and took 12 refugees back to Rome with him, Cardinal Krajewski returned to the Greek island on 8 May to check on the situation for the pope, to make contact with government officials and to distribute more than $100,000 to Caritas Hellas and to projects the Greek Catholic charity is supporting…

Tags: Syria Refugees Jerusalem Muslim Ramadan

9 May 2019
Greg Kandra

Marian devotion is especially widespread and popular during the month of May. In this photo from 2008, people attending a retreat in Purakkad, Kerala, pray at a shrine devoted to Mary.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)

Tags: India Mary

9 May 2019
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis prays in front of a candle in memory of victims of sexual abuse as he visits St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin in August of 2018. Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope issues new norms for mandatory reporting of abuse (CNS) Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse. The new juridical instrument is meant to help bishops and religious leaders around the world clearly understand their duties and church law, underlining how they are ultimately responsible for proper governance and protecting those entrusted to their care. For this reason, the new document establishes a clearer set of universal procedures for reporting suspected abuse, carrying out initial investigations and protecting victims and whistleblowers…

Indian Christians seek better security at churches ( Christian leaders in India have intensified their call to make churches safer after police arrested a man and accused him of having links to Islamic terror groups and planning to attack religious places in Kerala state…

Iraq’s Christians grapple with new threat from Iran-backed militias (National Catholic Register) After surviving the genocidal campaign of Islamic State militants, Iraq’s Christians are facing new challenges as they attempt to rebuild their lives in their ancestral homeland…

Government forces capture village in Syria (Al Jazeera) Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have pushed their way into a northwest rebel-held enclave, clashing with armed groups and capturing a strategically located village in Hama province, widening an offensive that had previously involved mainly aerial bombings and shelling…

Calls for reform over India’s ’vanishing girls’ ( Indians’ preference for male children has created a skewed gender ratio but the trend could be reversed with social change and government determination to implement laws, say rights activists. About 100 medical doctors, activists and lawyers attended a national consultation in New Delhi on 2 May with the theme “Vanishing girls: Revisiting Civil Society Response Against Sex Selection…”

Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Iraqi Christians

8 May 2019
Greg Kandra

People move through debris on a road last week, after Cyclone Fani hit Puri, India. The storm tore through India's eastern coast, lashing beaches with rain and winds gusting to 127 miles per hour and affecting weather as far away as Mount Everest. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

Tags: India

8 May 2019
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2015, a red sun is seen over a dinghy overcrowded with Syrian refugees drifting in the Aegean sea between Turkey and Greece after its motor broke down off the Greek island of Kos. The United States has slashed the number of refugees it will admit to the country, with Syrians being the most affected. (photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)

U.S. has slashed its refugee intake; Syrians are most affected (The Washington Post) Under the Trump administration, the number of refugees allowed into the United States has fallen to its lowest level since the resettlement program began in 1980. And few groups have been as affected as Syrians, who have been fleeing a brutal civil war that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead since it began in 2011…

Solidarity of India’s Catholic Church and Islamic organization for victims in Sri Lanka (Vatican News) The Catholic Church of India and a leading Islamic organization of the country have issued a joint statement vehemently condemning the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka. They also plan to send an inter-faith delegation as a gesture of their condolence and solidarity with the victims…

Pope Francis pays tribute to Jean Vanier (Vatican News) ”I want to express my gratitude for his testimony” Pope Francis told journalists aboard the papal flight from Skopje to Rome, as he recalled Jean Vanier who died on Tuesday. As he prepared for the questions put to him during the usual inflight press conference upon his return from an apostolic visit abroad, the Pope’s priority was to pay his heartfelt tribute to the man whom, he said, was able to read and interpret the Christian gaze on “the mystery of death, of the cross, of suffering”, on “the mystery of those who are discarded by the world…”

Church-run training changes lives for young Indians ( Since September 2017, the Jan Vikas Center also aided unemployed urban youths trapped by circumstances such as drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies and various forms of abuse. With support from the Don Bosco congregation, under its flagship Don Bosco Tech program, the center trains people aged 18 to 35 in computer, electrical, sewing machine, driving, carpentry and other skills…

A cathedral for Russia’s armed forces rises (Radio Free Europe) The Main Cathedral of Russian Armed Forces, set to become Russia’s third-tallest Orthodox cathedral, is rising in a wooded clearing overlooking the highway on the grounds of Patriot Park, a military-themed recreation and expo complex opened by the Defense Ministry in 2016. When it’s unveiled one year from now — on 9 May 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II — it will be the set piece of an ostentatious memorial complex merging Russia’s Orthodox tradition with the most sanctified episode of the country’s past: the Soviet Union’s victory over invading Nazi forces in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War…

Tags: Syria India Refugees Muslim

7 May 2019
Greg Kandra

Jean Vanier helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over the past half century. (photo: CNS /Abramorama)

A man whom many had dubbed a “living saint” has died.

From CNS:

Jean Vanier, 90, founder of L’Arche communities and co-founder of Faith and Light, died on 7 May. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris.

Vanier was the author of some 30 books, a member of the Order of Canada, winner of the Templeton Prize and member of France’s Legion of Honor, but he was perhaps best known as a kind of village elder to the world.

Vanier permanently changed the fate of intellectually disabled people everywhere by demonstrating how the care of a community could open lives to meaning, joy, hope and trust -- not just the lives of the disabled, but the lives also of those who live with them and care for them.

“Jean Vanier’s legacy lives on. His life and work changed the world for the better and touched the lives of more people than we will ever know,” L’Arche Canada spokesperson John Guido said in a prepared statement.

Over the past year, Vanier gradually entered into the sort of frailty and weakness natural to his age, before entering palliative care in France in April.

In a visit to Chicago in 2006 to accept the Catholic Theological Union’s Blessed are the Peacemakers Award, Vanier said he had noticed that people who have mental disabilities often have great faith, but they never speak of “Christ” or “the Lord.”

“They always talk about Jesus,” Vanier said. “It’s a personal relationship.”

In L’Arche communities, the disabled residents are seen as the “core members,” and treated as individuals, with respect and love, and nondisabled and disabled residents alike learn to live together.

“Our danger is to see what is broken in a person, what is negative, and not to see the person,” said Vanier. “It’s not just a question of believing in God, but of believing in human beings, believing in ourselves, and seeing people as God sees them.”

That means not relating to them from a sense of power, even if that power comes from generosity.

“Generosity is something that is good,” Vanier said. “When we have more wealth, resources and time, we want to succor those in need, and that’s good. But behind generosity is a notion of power. Generosity must flow into an encounter. We must meet people. It’s not a question of doing for, but of listening to their stories.”

CNEWA has supported the efforts of Vanier’s mission at L’Arche for many years, at various places around the world.

In 1990, for example, we reported on Hope Kindled in Bethany, at a L’Arche community, and described Vanier’s guiding philosphy:

In this international federation of Communities, stretching from Burkina Faso to Brazil, handicapped people and those who help them work and share their lives together.

According to its charter, the members of L’Arche also believe that “a person who is wounded in the capacity for autonomy and in the mind is capable of great love which the spirit of God can call forth, and we believe that God loves each one in a special way because of this very poverty.”

Unfortunately, many of the handicapped are rejected, without work, without homes or are shut up in psychiatric hospitals. In addition to providing care, L’Arche seeks to develop in society “a greater sense of justice and brotherly concern toward all.”

For L’Arche assistants, living and working with the handicapped is a lesson in love, an experience from which they have as much to gain as the needy they help. According to Jean Vanier, “We discover the immense joy God wants for us by meeting Jesus in the poorest, the weakest and the most broken.”

That mandate remains close to the heart of all of us at CNEWA, wherever we find ourselves seeking to serve those in need and give to them light, dignity and hope.

We lift up our prayers today for all those who were touched by Jean Vanier’s remarkable legacy, and we pray in gratitude for the great gift he gave to so many, including to us.

May his memory be eternal.


The Way to the Ark

Helping Cairo’s Handicapped

A New Home With a New Family

Tags: India Egypt Mental health/ mental illness

7 May 2019
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis accepts gifts from women in traditional dress as he arrives at the international airport in Skopje, North Macedonia, on 7 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Pope in Macedonia: respect human dignity, diversity (Vatican News) In his first speech on North Macedonian soil on Tuesday, Pope Francis encouraged the West Balkan state in its effort to be a beacon of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration between cultures, religions and peoples. Addressing the nation’s authorities, the diplomatic corps and representatives of civil society at the presidential palace in capital, Skopje, the Pope described the land as a bridge between East and West and a meeting-point for numerous cultural currents. With a Christian presence that dates back to the apostolic times, the country also bears elegant testimonies of its Byzantine and Ottoman past…

Early evacuation in India spares more than a million from deadline cyclone (CNS) A powerful cyclone ripped through eastern India and sideswiped Bangladesh, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 30 deaths. Authorities said the evacuation of 1.2 million people from more than 10,000 villages prior to Cyclone Fani’s landfall on 3 May prevented a larger death toll and minimized injuries, reported…

Jean Vanier dies at 90 (Vatican News) Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, a community which supports people with disabilities, died during the night, aged 90. The community is active all over the world with about 150 centers. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris. Pope Francis was informed of his death and the ad interim director of the Vatican Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said the Pope “prays for him and for the whole L’Arche community.” Jean Vanier had met with Pope Francis in 2014, calling him a man of smiles and encounter…

Why Israel and Gaza keep fighting brief battles (The New York Times) More than two dozen people were killed and homes and businesses destroyed in the weekend’s fighting between Israel and Gaza, but on Monday leaders on both sides declared themselves satisfied with the outcome. The cycle of violence-ceasefire-repeat that keeps verging on all-out war may look like pointless destruction to the outside world. But analysts say it is amply serving the interests of the two main antagonists…

Syrian Kurds reshape region with books and schools (Reuters) A law student who was tortured for carrying a Kurdish book now owns a bookstore. A woman who once secretly huddled with friends at night to learn Kurdish is now a de facto education minister. Kurdish activists who could not protest without risking arrest now have printing presses, festivals and television channels. ”We never imagined this. This was a dream,” said Semira Haj Ali, who co-chairs the education board in the northeast. “Of course, we will not go back to before 2011. We will not turn back…”

Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Balkans

6 May 2019
Greg Kandra

Palestinian men grieve over the body of a little girl they say was killed by a drone strike over the weekend. (image: YouTube/CBS News)

A fragile truce is taking hold in Gaza after days of relentless shelling and cross-border fighting that killed at least 22 and, according to one account, claimed the life of a little girl who was playing outdoors.

CNEWA’s regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, sent us an email this morning:

I called our partners in Gaza this morning. Thank God, none of our community members or the staff at our partner institutions were harmed. Also no damages were sustained by any of our partner institutions.

The cease-fire announced early morning today is holding. None of the parties is interested in escalations. Ramadan started today and Independence Day is on Thursday.

Let’s hope this truce will endure.

We pray for all those who are victims of this violence — and pray this peace will hold.

The video below from CBS News has the latest, as of Monday afternoon:

A fragile cease-fire is taking hold between Gaza and Israel after days of cross-border fighting.
(video: CBS News/YouTube)

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank

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