Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
19 April 2017
Greg Kandra

In the video above, the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo reflects on the crisis facing Christians in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Cairo peace conference to include Pope Francis, Eastern Christian leaders (CNS) Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was scheduled to attend a peace conference in Cairo with Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad al Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar University…

Terrorist attack near historic Sinai monastery (Fides) Gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian police checkpoint near Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai late on Tuesday 18 April, killing one policeman and wounding four officials. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. After an exchange of gunfire, the attackers fled the scene, and some of the gunmen were wounded in the shootout…

Vatican releases itinerary for papal trip to Egypt (CNS) Pope Francis will meet with the leader of one of the world’s leading Sunni Muslim institutions, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church and representatives of the Catholic Church on a two-day trip to Cairo…

Syria resumes evacuations after deadly bombing (BBC) Evacuations from two government-held areas of Syria have resumed, monitors and reports say, days after an attack on a convoy carrying evacuees killed 126 people, many of them children. Some 3,000 people have left the north-western villages of Fua and Kefraya, which have been surrounded by rebels…

Making a splash on Easter Monday in Transylvania (The New York Times) Young men in Sancraieni have risen early on Easter Monday for as long as anyone can remember. So have the women and girls — to be soaked in ice-cold water and sprayed with patchouli. “Sprinkling” is a spring rite in the heart of Transylvania, in central Romania, when women are watered like flowers. The water, freshly drawn from a well, is believed to secure health, beauty and perhaps even love for the women who find themselves beneath a bucketful of it…

Tags: Syria Egypt Pope Francis Eastern Europe

18 April 2017
Greg Kandra

Children in Bangalore, India, hold Easter eggs on 16 April. (photo: CNS/Jagadeesh Nv, EPA)

Tags: India Eastern Christianity Easter

18 April 2017
Greg Kandra

A Christian worshiper lights candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Pope Francis prays for persecuted Christian communities (Vatican Radio) On Easter Monday Pope Francis greeted pilgrims and visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square, praying especially for Christians who are persecuted for their faith…

Pope Francis offers message to city and the world (Vatican Radio) “Jesus is risen!” — “He is truly risen, as he said!” Those were Pope Francis’ words as he delivered his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“to the city and the world”) message from the central loggia of St Peter’s Basilica on a sunny Easter Sunday…

Report: U.S. strike hit Syrian mosque (CNN) A new report suggests American forces failed to take necessary precautions to avoid dropping a pair of bombs on a Northern Syria mosque full of hundreds of worshipers. Syrians said the U.S. airstrikes hit a western Aleppo mosque on 16 March, killing at least 40 worshipers and injuring dozens more. The U.S. said the bombings targeted a meeting hall hosting Al Qaeda terrorists…

Mideast church leaders affirm Christian presence at Easter (CNS) In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East deplored the widespread carnage and suffering, yet affirmed the presence of Christians in the region by calling upon their faithful to carry on with hope…

What life is like for Iraqis fleeing Mosul (Al Jazeera) As the Iraqi government’s military offensive against ISIS rages on, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes. Since the push to regain control of the western half of Mosul began on 19 February, the Iraqi government estimates that more than 220,000 people have been displaced. About 70 percent of these people are living in overstretched, underdeveloped refugee camps, according to the United Nations…

Coptic Christians mark Easter in the shadow of ISIS (AP) As Christians around the world celebrate Easter Sunday, eight million of them will be praying alongside security checkpoints, police guards and the threat of religious violence. This is the fate of the Coptic Christians of Egypt — an ancient religious minority whose persecution today is “the worst it has ever been,” according to analysts…

Orthodox and Catholics celebrate Easter on same day (RT) This year, followers of the Orthodox and Catholic churches are celebrating Easter on the same day. The next time the two churches will share Easter celebrations won’t be until 2025…

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Easter

13 April 2017
Greg Kandra

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, dries the feet of a clergyman during the foot-washing ceremony on Holy Thursday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. The ritual reflects the call to imitate Christ by serving one another. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

13 April 2017
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis raises the Book of the Gospels as he celebrates Holy Thursday chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 13 April. He will celebrate a special liturgy in memory of “new martyrs” next weekend. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope to celebrate liturgy for ‘new martyrs’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will celebrate a special Liturgy of the Word in memory of the “New Martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries on Saturday, 22 April. A communique from the Holy See Press Office said the prayer will take place in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiberian Island, which is located in the heart of Rome on the Tiber River...

U.S. strike on Syria raises moral questions (CNS) The U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base days after chemical weapons were dropped on civilians in rebel-controlled territory further endangers innocent people, observers familiar with the just-war theory said. If anything, the observers told Catholic News Service, the unilateral U.S. response could embolden Syrian President Bashar Assad to undertake future attacks, exposing more lives to harm — including those of people fleeing the violence...

Confronting suffering and hope in Syria (CNS/CNEWA) Fifteen Franciscan friars continue to live and work in Syria; two of the friars minister in towns controlled by Islamic State forces. The Rev. Michael Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, visited most of the friars the first week of April, but he could not enter areas controlled by Islamic State or by forces opposed to the government of President Bashar Assad...

Egypt names suicide bomber at Coptic church (Reuters) Egypt has named the suicide bomber who attacked a cathedral in Alexandria, describing him as a fugitive with links to militant cells that carried out previous strikes in the country. Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak Abdullah detonated his explosives at the entrance to Saint Mark’s Cathedral, the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, on Palm Sunday, killing 17 people as mass was being conducted...

Packed Iraq morgue reveals toll of Mosul conflict (Reuters) The stench hits you long before you reach the morgue where the latest casualties of war between Islamic State militants and Iraqi forces are kept. Doctor Mansour Maarouf dons a surgical mask as he approaches the morgue refrigerator and pauses before pulling open the door to an icy blast. “In the name of God,” he says out of respect for the dead. Inside, around two dozen corpses lie on the floor: some in body bags, several wrapped in blankets and a few so torn to pieces they come in sacks...

Christians prepare for Easter in Russia (Asia News) This year Russian Catholics and Orthodox Christians are preparing together in Easter services. As happens every five or six years, in 2017 the date of Easter coincides for all Christian denominations. The Great and Holy Week — as it is called in the Byzantine Rite (also the title of “Authentic Week” or “Passion”) — began three days ago with crowds of faithful gathered with the willow branches (the olive tree does not grow in Russia) in procession around the Orthodox churches, but also Catholic ones (about 300 across the country)...

12 April 2017
CNEWA staff

Ragaa and Emad Anwar hold a picture of their late son, Mina. (photo: David Degner)

The recent horrific events in Egypt have turned the attention of the world to the plight of Christians in Egypt. In the current edition of ONE, Magdy Samaan writes about Copts in Cairo:

The parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation Coptic Catholic Church has grown with the neighborhood. The Rev. Youhanna Saad says its first Divine Liturgy, 18 years ago, had only four attendees; now, the church serves more than 600 families. Through his close relationship with the tight-knit community, Father Saad understands the concerns within his congregation.

“There is a state of anxiety of the future and a feeling of fear because of the economic situation and increasingly sectarian incidents against the Copts,” Father Saad says.

As it is the only Catholic church in a large area, buses bring families from a wide radius every Friday and Sunday to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. After the Friday liturgy, parishioners of all ages — but from one common economic background — come together to share an inexpensive breakfast of beans and falafel.

The church acts not only as a place of worship, but also a site for activities such as nursery school, elder or youth meetings, Sunday school and programs to assist people with special needs. But the congregation continues to grow, outstripping the building’s capacity and prompting Father Saad to seek a license to turn a new building nearby — currently a service center — into a more ample church.

“The situation is normal for us as Christians,” says Raof Rateb, 53, a local shopkeeper. “But regarding making living, we don’t feel secure. The rising of prices is horrible.”

...Renowned as one of the most beautiful, cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the world in the first half of the 20th century, Cairo integrated people from different nationalities and religions into Egyptian society — where they could live, work and worship freely.

This tolerant face of Cairo has gradually faded. Much of the country’s Jewish population left the country in the 50’s because of state persecution amid the Arab-Israeli conflict. Many of those who remained later faced expulsion — along with foreign-born Egyptian citizens who lost their citizenship — amid a wave of Arab nationalism intensified by events such as the Suez Crisis. And for a variety of reasons that often relate to economic mismanagement and a restrictive and heavy-handed state, many middle-class Egyptians, including Copts, have emigrated since the 60’s.

Meanwhile, Egypt has witnessed the steady growth of the Muslim Brotherhood and other more militant Islamic groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Islamic Jihad.

From a population of about two million in the 50’s, Cairo has expanded to some 23 million, growing in uncontrolled spurts. Among other factors, high rural unemployment has driven millions to Cairo in search of a better life.

As a result, it has become one of the most polluted and congested cities in the world, ringed by unplanned districts where newcomers carry with them various, relatively isolated rural cultures, creating enclaves and slowing assimilation.

Nowadays, Muslims and Christians in Cairo enjoy a mostly peaceful relationship. The megacity keeps its people busy with other daily crises. Moreover, the shared memory of a highly cosmopolitan city does live on in the old neighborhoods, old movies and other cultural relics.

Read more. And take a moment to watch the video below, about one family’s struggles.

12 April 2017
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Father Michael Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, walks past the rubble of a bombarded building in Aleppo, Syria, during an early April visit to Franciscan friars there.
(photo: CNS/courtesy of the Franciscan Generalate)

Fifteen Franciscan friars continue to live and work in Syria; two of the friars minister in towns controlled by Islamic State forces.

The Rev. Michael Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, visited most of the friars the first week of April, but he could not enter areas controlled by Islamic State or by forces opposed to the government of President Bashar Assad.

He drove to Homs on 7 April, just hours after U.S. bombers attacked the nearby Shayrat air base in retaliation for the Syrian government's suspected use of chemical weapons.

“We didn’t see anything, but we certainly sensed the tension,” he told Catholic News Service in Rome on 12 April.

In Damascus, he said, he and the other friars could hear bombing “every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day” from one of the neighborhoods controlled by opposition forces. “This was constant, a constant reminder that nothing is settled; everything is still up in the air and people feel a great deal of insecurity.” The people just want it to stop, he said.

“We have two Franciscans who are caught (in territories) under ISIS control,” he said. “They are living in two villages, 25 and 40 kilometers from Aleppo. They have been able to negotiate space and pay what is necessary” in order to stay and help the estimated 300 families remaining. The families are made up mostly of the elderly, children and “those who are too poor or too weak to find another place to go.”

“The friars are staying with them and showing their solidarity and suffering the same conditions as the people,” Father Perry said. To be able to stay, they had to remove all crosses, pictures of saints and other visible signs that they are Christians.

“It’s a miracle they’ve been able to negotiate the space, but it's a testimony to the perseverance and endurance of the Syrian people,” he said. Both friars are Syrians.

Father Perry began his weeklong trip in Beirut with Franciscans helping those who have fled Syria. The rest of his trip took place by car, including long detours to avoid areas controlled by Islamic State or by opposition forces.

“All along the south and eastern side to the eastern entry into Aleppo, I did not see one town that was alive,” he said. “They had all been bombed out, abandoned.”

“The closer we got to Aleppo, we saw a few people who were beginning to farm again, but we just didn’t see any signs of life, human life,” Father Perry said. “By contrast, the fields were in full bloom with poppies and different colored flowers. So it was this stark contrast of the death of humanity and nature almost saying, ‘It’s not over. Stop. It’s going to come back. There’s still hope. There’s a future even if it doesn’t look like there’s one now.’”

At a Catholic parish in Aleppo, Father Perry brought a weighty contribution to the hope professed by parishioners, the women religious, the friars and Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, apostolic vicar for the city’s Latin-rite Catholics.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, had given Father Perry three of the bricks used to close up the basilica’s Holy Door between jubilee years. Father Perry took one to South Sudan, one to Malaysia and the last he brought to Aleppo "as an invitation to dialogue, reconciliation and rebuilding.”

“I’ve been in war zones for the (U.S.) bishops, I’ve been in war zones for Franciscans International, but I’ve never witnessed anything on the scale of Syria. Ever,” Father Perry said.

12 April 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2016, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad is greeted by an elderly Iraqi woman after a prayer service at the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ainkawa. The patriarch this week released his Easter message to the Iraqi people.
(photo: CNS/Amel Pain, EPA)

Chaldean patriarch: Let the Easter flame not be turned off in your hearts (Vatican Radio) The Chaldean patriarch in his Easter message released on 9 April in Baghdad highlights the suffering and daily grief endured by Christians in Iraq and the world. The Chaldean Catholic Church has dedicated 2017 as the Year of Peace. For the patriarch, Holy Week culminating in the Easter celebration offers a fresh hope to breathe new life into prayer and reflection, reconciliation and dialogue...

Coptic patriarch: The massacres on Palm Sunday “were a test for the faith of Egypt’s Christians” (Fides) Pope Tawadros is sorrowful and deeply saddened, it is not easy to speak with him. This was how Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Primate of the Copt Catholic Church expressed to Fides the feelings of many baptized Egyptians, after the carnage perpetrated last Sunday by suicide bombers in two Coptic Orthodox churches...

Holy Week for Copts will never be the same (Al Jazeera) Immediately following the twin bombings in Egypt that killed at least 40 Christians last Palm Sunday, the country’s president Abdel Fattah El Sisi released a statement saying “the attack ... will only harden the determination (of the Egyptian people) to move forward on their trajectory to realise security, stability and comprehensive development.” But just four months ago, another attack in Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral that killed at least 25 Christians did not bring Egyptians closer to security or stability...

Syrian nun honored by State Department says U.S. bombing is step back (CNS) Two weeks after the U.S. State Department honored her as a Woman of Courage, a Salesian sister from Syria told reporters President Donald Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian air base is another step back from peace...

Easter plight of India’s Christians (Herald Malaysia Online) Even on Palm Sunday and Holy Week before Easter, there are reports of incidents of violence, intimidation and harassment against Christians in India, a discriminated minority oppressed by the majority Hindus...

Russian cosmonaut says he has taken relics of saints into space (AP) A Russian cosmonaut who has returned to Earth after a mission on the International Space Station said on Wednesday he had taken a relic of a Russian Orthodox saint with him. Astronauts and cosmonauts routinely take small items such as their children’s toys or CD’s with them as reminders of home. Sergei Ryzhikov told Russian news agencies that he would give the tiny relic of St. Serafim of Sarov’s body, which he received from its home monastery last year, to an Orthodox church in Star City outside Moscow, home to the cosmonaut training center...

11 April 2017
CNEWA staff

A young student reviews his classwork at St. Joseph’s Home for Children. (photo: Don Duncan)

In the March 2017 edition of ONE, journalist Don Duncan explores efforts at Breaking the Cycle of addiction and suffering that has scarred so many young people in Kerala, India:

Alcoholism strongly afflicts Kerala, reputed to be the heaviest drinking of India’s 29 states.

A 2007 report by the Alcohol and Drug Information Center (ADIC)-India, estimated Kerala’s consumption at more than two gallons of pure alcohol per person per year. Other studies suggest rising consumption rates since then — part of a broader trend spanning several decades.

In the last ten years, Kerala’s government has made a number of attempts to combat alcoholism — including, in 2014, announcing phased prohibitionary measures, restricting alcohol sales in hotels and limiting liquor license renewals, resulting in the closure of hundreds of bars and liquor distributors. The effects have been inconclusive, and recent election results have likely signaled a shift away from such heavy-handed measures.

Primary knock-on effects of alcoholism — domestic violence, marital crisis and the premature deaths of men — are clearly detrimental to children. But secondary consequences, such as the squandering of family income and the perpetuation of negative behaviors, also disrupt the lives of Keralite youth and obstruct them from reaching their full potential.

With no easy answers in sight, it has fallen to the church and its institutions to seek solutions for a problem that seems only to be growing worse.

And one way the church is trying to help is through education: creating institutions that help families struggling with a wide range of financial, medical or social issues. For more, check out the video below.

11 April 2017
CNEWA staff

Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, poses with a villager on 2 April in Batnaya, Iraq. Msgr. Kozar was on a pastoral visit to Iraq. Read more about his visit and his impressions of Iraq here.
(photo: CNEWA)

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