Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
13 December 2019
Greg Kandra

While many are getting ready for Christmas, now less than two weeks away, here is a glimpse at how one corner of CNEWA’s world celebrates the birth of Jesus. In this image, Coptic monks chant the Gospel at a Christmas liturgy in the Sinai. Read more about the history and traditions of Coptic Orthodox Church in November 2005 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Tags: Egypt Coptic

13 December 2019
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis accepts a gift during an audience with a group of international performers at the Vatican on 13 December 2019. The pope marks the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood the same day. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis: 50 years of priesthood (Vatican News) 13 December marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Francis’ ordination to the priesthood. Vatican News celebrates this milestone recalling some of Pope’s reflections regarding priests and the priesthood…

Lebanon’s electricity crisis: stealing power to survive (BBC) Lebanon’s six million people have had enough of blackouts. A constant energy supply is one of the main demands of an unprecedented wave of protests that has swept the country over the past two months. It has brought hundreds of thousands of people out onto the streets, and forced the government to resign. The state electricity company, EDL, has been one of the main targets of their anger…

Early Christian basilica discovered in Ethiopia ( According to a Live Science report, archaeologist Michael Harrower of Johns Hopkins University and his colleagues have discovered a Christian basilica dated to the fourth century at the site of Beta Samati in northern Ethiopia, in what was the ancient kingdom of Aksum…

Turkey slams U.S. vote on Armenia (Al Jazeera) Turkey has reacted angrily at the US Senate move to unanimously pass on Thursday a resolution recognizing as a “genocide” the mass killings of Armenians a century ago…

Could reunion of Catholics and Orthodox be closer than we think? (Crux) In light of a recent declaration from Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople that reunion between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church is now “inevitable,” it’s worth a brief trip down memory lane regarding recent attempts to end Christianity’s longest-running schism…

Tags: Pope Francis Lebanon Ethiopia Armenia

12 December 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro

Sudanese migrant Adut embraces her son, Martin, in Beirut. To learn more about how the church is assisting those who arrive in Lebanon in search of a better life, read A Home for Migrants in the September 2019 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)

Tags: Middle East Migrants

10 December 2019
Judith Sudilovsky, Catholic News Service

Palestinian Melkite Catholics Peter and Eli Hosh prepare meat in the kitchen of their restaurant, Abu Eli, in Bethlehem, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Brothers Peter and Eli Hosh grew up knowing that their hometown was not only the place where they went to school and ran down to the corner market for their mother, but the town where Jesus was born.

It is a lesson they and their two sisters continue to teach their own children, especially during the Christmas season.

“I feel that here there is something great here. We are living in a holy place,” said Eli Hosh, who, at 50 is the elder of the two. “Bethlehem is important for our family, and I tell that to my children. Jesus was born here. I always feel the holiness here, this is my city, but the best time in Bethlehem is Christmas.”

Unlike many other Christian families in the Bethlehem area, none of the Hosh siblings have moved abroad.

“The most important thing is for the local Christians to stay,” said Peter Hosh, 33, the youngest of the siblings. “Year by year we see less Christian (families) here. Why? It is difficult everywhere. We have hard things in life, we know, but we have to stay here and fix that. You leave and you have to start from zero; here we have our family, our work. Everybody knows each other.”

Two of Eli Hosh’s daughters are studying at universities abroad in Europe.

“Of course they will come back. Bethlehem is important for our whole family, and we know we need to stay,” he said.

Together the two brothers, who are Melkite Catholics, run one of Bethlehem’s most well-known grilled-meat restaurants, Abu Eli. It was founded in 1999 by their late father, Anton. “Abu Eli” means the father of Eli in Arabic, and traditionally Palestinian men are given the nickname of “father of” after their first-born son. The restaurant is a favorite of local Christians for Christmas Eve dinner, and many tourists visiting over the holiday have also discovered its charms.

This year Peter Hosh said he is able to experience the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of his 3-year-old daughter, Yasmin, who is now beginning to understand the concept of the holiday and that she is living in the place where Jesus was born.

“My mother came over to help us start celebrating and decorating. This season is so special, and my daughter has been asking us to decorate already. We (adults) have a glass of wine, and we enjoy ourselves,” he said. “Every time we tell my daughter that the story of Christmas took place here, she begins to sing a song she learned at her nursery school.”

They bake ginger cookies and special Christmas fruit cake, or buy them at one of the local bakeries for seasonal treats, he said.

Katherine Hosh, 70, said she is proud that all her children have remained in the city.

“I don’t want anyone of my children to leave,” she said. For her, as a Christian in Bethlehem, it is a privilege to be able to go to Mass at St. Catherine Church, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity. “I pray every Sunday.”

Eli and Peter Hosh said they never felt the need to leave Bethlehem for long. Peter Hosh completed all his academic studies, including his B.A. in hotel management, at Bethlehem University.

“I travel abroad, but I can’t stay away from Bethlehem for more than a week,” he said. “If I am away longer, I don’t feel well. I feel more comfortable here than any place in the world. Maybe there is something secret here. Maybe this is a sign that there is something special here. Most of our town is Muslim, so maybe some (Christians) leave (because) they are afraid, but I am not afraid. I feel this is our city, our town.”

Despite the political difficulties, he said, life for him in Bethlehem is good. Everyone knows everyone and greets each other on the street.

Abu Eli welcomes everybody, Peter Hosh said, and he recalled how, before the intifada, the restaurant was full of Israelis on Saturdays.

On Christmas Eve, the restaurant serves fukura, a festive lamb and potato stew that has been cooked for five hours in a covered clay pot on the charcoal flame. The Hoshes put on Christmas music and welcome Christian families celebrating the holiday.

“We feel very happy, you see many people coming here and enjoying themselves and feeling happy. We have known the families for a long time, and you feel like you are a part of their celebration, and you enjoy with them,” said Peter Hosh. “It is not just working. When we finish (serving) we sit down and join them and have a drink and talk.”

Since Christmas Eve is the busiest day of the year for the restaurant, the Hosh family celebrates Christmas together the following day. They go to mass at St. Catherine Church and then have lunch, which the Hosh sisters have prepared.

“I like this tradition,” said Peter. “We visit the church and pray. It is a special day.”

Tags: Bethlehem Melkite

10 December 2019
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2018, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, speaks at the Vatican. On Sunday, Pope Francis named him to lead the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope names Tagle to lead evangelization congregation, Filoni to Holy Sepulchre (CNS) In a move that may signal Pope Francis’ plan for the reform of the Roman Curia is close to completion, the pope has named Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The 62-year-old cardinal succeeds Cardinal Fernando Filoni, 73, who since 2011 had led the Vatican office overseeing the church’s vast mission territories. Announcing Tagle’s appointment on 8 December, the Vatican also announced that Filoni would become grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Filoni succeeds U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, 80, as grand master of the organization that supports Catholics in the Holy Land…

Chaldean patriarch appeals for aid to Christians in Ninevah Plain (CNS) Cardinal Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic patriarch, has appealed for Christian relief in the towns of the Ninevah Plain, the historical cradle of Christianity in Iraq. ”It is still so painful to remember” the 2014 attack by the Islamic State, or ISIS, that forced Christians to leave their homes and was followed by the looting and destruction of houses, churches, schools and more, Cardinal Sako said from the patriarchate in Baghdad on 7 December…

In Lebanon, impasse deepens as financial strains grow (Reuters) Lebanon’s political impasse has deepened after a tentative deal on a new prime minister unraveled, leaving the country rudderless as it grapples with the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war…

Ethiopian leader sidesteps the media in collecting Nobel Prize (The New York Times) When the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, for its peace prize this fall, it cited his efforts to free his country from years of political repression by releasing political prisoners, legalizing outlawed opposition groups and “discontinuing media censorship.” But when Mr. Abiy collects his prize in Oslo on Tuesday, he will not take questions from the news media, a move that breaks from tradition and has drawn criticism from the Nobel Committee…

Human Rights Day celebrates activism of young people (Vatican News) The United Nations is observing Human Rights Day, focussing on the role of young people in leading the way to a better future for all people. They are the ones who are “bringing human rights to life”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message for the day, Tuesday, 10 December...

Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Vatican Holy Sepulchre

6 December 2019
Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

The Nativity scene is pictured during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Vatican on 5 December 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

The Vatican unveiled the Nativity scene and lit the Christmas tree with energy-saving lights in St. Peter’s Square during a late afternoon ceremony on 5 December.

The 85-foot-tall spruce tree came from the forests of the Veneto region in northeast Italy and another 20 smaller trees were donated by communities in the region’s province of Vicenza.

It was adorned with silver and gold balls and “next generation” lights meant to have a reduced impact on the environment and use less energy.

The large Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square was made entirely out of wood and replicates traditional northern Trentino-style buildings.

Some 23 life-size wooden figures -- all with handcarved heads -- fill the scene, representing life in a small rural village in the northern Province of Trento in the early 1900s. There is a lumberjack pulling wood with a sled and people making cheese and washing clothes. Some of the faces reproduce the faces of real Italian shepherds from the region, including a man who recently died in an accident. Some of the clothes are real outfits handed down through the generations or once worn by local shepherds.

The scene also features broken tree trunks and limbs salvaged from severe storms in the region in late 2018. About 40 trees will be replanted in the area that had been seriously damaged by hurricane-like winds and torrential rains.

A smaller Nativity scene, provided by the northern province of Treviso, was set up in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall; with its Gothic arches, it imitates an old style of barns and stables in the Lessinia mountains of the Veneto region.

Early in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions responsible for the tree and Nativity scene.

Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said he was happy to hear that new trees will be planted in the region to help reforest areas hit by last year’s storms.

“These alarming events are warning signs that creation sends us and that ask us to immediately make effective decisions to safeguard our common home,” he said.

The Christmas tree they donated represents “a sign of hope, especially for your forests, that they may be cleared (of debris) as soon as possible in order to begin the work of reforestation,” he said.

The pope reminded his audience of his recent letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Christmas cribs.

“It is a genuine way to transmit the Gospel in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid to remember what Christmas really is and erases Christian signs in order to keep only those of a trivial, commercial” nature, he said.

Pope Francis also asked people to pray for help in seeing Jesus in the face of those who suffer and in lending a hand to those in need.

Tags: Vatican

6 December 2019
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2017, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, greets Pope Francis at a conference on international peace in Cairo. The two religious leaders have just proposed a World Day of Fraternity to be observed at the United Nations.
(photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope, Grand Imam propose World Day of Fraternity (Vatican News) The request was delivered to the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, by the High Committee for Human Fraternity, established to promote the objectives of the Document on Human Fraternity. In addition to a World Day, the group also proposed a World Summit on Human Fraternity…

Filipino workers flock to leave Lebanon (Channel News Asia) Hundreds of Filipinos, most of them female domestic workers, flocked to their embassy in Lebanon on Thursday to sign up for free repatriation from the crisis-hit country. The embassy issued a statement linking its offer of a free ticket home to Lebanon’s free-falling economy...

Thousands protest Indian citizenship bill excluding Muslims (AP) More than 1,000 students marched Friday in India’s northeast against a bill approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbors. The marchers took to the streets of Gauhati, the Assam state capital, carrying placards opposing the bill that’s likely to be introduced in Parliament next week for approval…

Refugees in Ethiopia grow impatient for right to work (VOA) Home to Africa’s third-largest refugee population, Ethiopia won praise in January for passing a law giving 700,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers who have fled conflict, drought and persecution the right to live outside 26 camps where they are currently hosted. But 11 months after the Refugee Proclamation was announced — allowing refugees and asylum-seekers to work, open bank accounts, legally register births and marriages, and attend primary school — Ethiopia has yet to pass further legislation to bring it to life…

Children at Indian school run race for safety of women (Vatican News) In the wake of rising crimes against women across India, a group of children in a remote village of northeast India ran a race on Wednesday calling for awareness and action to ensure the safety of women in the country…

Tags: India Lebanon Ethiopia Refugees Muslim

5 December 2019
Greg Kandra

Visitors stand in line in the Church of the Nativity on 1 December 2019, in Bethlehem, West Bank. Because of a large number of visitors, the church, which is built on what is believed to be the site where Jesus was born, has extended its visiting hours. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill

Tags: Bethlehem

5 December 2019
Greg Kandra

Protests continue in the streets of Lebanon, after the announcement of a new candidate for Prime Minister (video: France 24/YouTube)

Lebanon to begin talks on forming new government (Al Jazeera) Consultations to form a new government in Lebanon will formally begin on Monday, the presidency has announced, more than a month after a wave of protests led the prime minister, Saad Hariri, to resign. ”The presidency has set Monday as the date for the parliamentary consultations” for the designation of a new prime minister, the presidency announced in a short statement on social media on Wednesday…

Catholic leaders urge investigation of hate crimes (CNS) The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land condemned vandalism attacks in two Arab villages and called on Israeli authorities to “investigate seriously” what they termed hate crimes. In addition to dozens of cars damaged and anti-Arab Hebrew graffiti spray painted on walls in the Arab town of Jaljulia in central Israel, graffiti was scrawled in Hebrew on a wall and a car was burned in the Palestinian town of Taybeh, east of Ramallah…

Turkish goods face boycott in northeast Syria (The Washington Post) A boycott of Turkish goods by Syrian Kurds was intended to express Kurdish anger with Turkey’s assault against their autonomous enclave — but has also revealed the extent of Kurds’ dependence on their bitterest foe…

India weighs religion-based citizenship bill for minorities (Reuters) India’s cabinet approved a bill on Wednesday to give citizenship to religious minorities persecuted in neighboring Muslim countries, the first time that the country is seeking to grant nationality on the basis of religion…

Coptic woman wins inheritance case in Egypt (The Brooklyn Tablet) Late last month, an Egyptian higher court granted a Coptic Christian woman equal inheritance with her brothers, overturning the rulings of two lower court judges. The verdict counters Sharia law, under which a woman receives only half the inheritance as male heirs do. Sharia law is the basis for much of Egyptian law, and so any ruling that upholds the rights of someone who belongs to a minority religion is potentially groundbreaking…

Tags: India Egypt Lebanon Arabs

4 December 2019
Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service

Patriarchs and others attend a meeting in Cairo on 25-29 November 2019.
(photo: CNS/Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)

Amid deadly protests in Iraq, a people’s uprising in Lebanon and continued suffering in Syria, Catholic leaders of the Middle East called upon officials of their homelands to “ensure safety, peace and tranquility and stability for their citizens.”

Meeting in Cairo on 25-29 November, the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East addressed political, economic and social difficulties that many countries are suffering as a result of unrest, violence, extremism and terrorism as well as the situation of displaced people and the inevitability of returning to their villages and homes.

Massive demonstrations against the political ruling class have plagued Iraq and Lebanon since October.

Despite some confrontations with security forces and supporters of established parties, protesters in Lebanon have largely been spared the violent crackdown seen in Iraq. There, about 400 people have died and thousands have been wounded in protests.

In their final statement, the patriarchs called on the political authority in Iraq “to take courageous action to get the country out of this great crisis so that the bloodshed will stop and life will return to normal by building a strong state on sound foundations, in which true democracy, justice and human dignity prevails, combating corruption.” They also called for “revealing who killed and kidnapped peaceful demonstrators” and asked authorities to hand the killers “over to the judiciary.”

The patriarchs appealed to all to work to “uproot the terrorist ideology of the Islamic State.” While acknowledging the “adversity and tribulation” in Iraq, the patriarchs encouraged Iraqi Christians “to take root in their land and preserve the heritage” of their ancestors.

Turning to Lebanon, the patriarchs said they “support the demands of the Lebanese people in general and the youth in particular, in their movement,” expressing their hope that peace and patriotism be maintained.

The Middle Eastern patriarchs urged Lebanon’s political authority to expedite the formation of a new government “whose first task will be to respond with the popular movement to find radical solutions to the current situation, by transcending personal and factional interests and working to achieve the common good, and freeing the national will from all outside interference.” The patriarchs also stressed the need for the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homelands. Lebanon is host to some 1 million Syrian refugees.

While council members said they “are optimistic about the stability achieved in Syria in most of the country,” they expressed their pain regarding human suffering and damage caused by bombings.

The patriarchs called on “all components of the Syrian people to join hands” to rebuild what is destroyed and to promote the economy.

They also called on “global decision-makers to stop interfering” in Syrian affairs and to help “all the good Syrians to work hard to recover Syria from its long-standing ordeal.”

The council expressed “full support for the Palestinian people tormented by the occupation.”

“We reiterate our call on the international community to recognize the Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, within the framework of the two states, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes,” the patriarchs said.

As for Egypt, the Catholic leaders commended the Egyptian state’s achievements “that have contributed effectively to improving the situation of Egyptians” at all levels, including “practical steps” in consolidating the foundations of citizenship and society.

During the meeting, the patriarchs met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and urged him to work toward reconciliation and dialogue in the countries of the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

They also met with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.

Tags: Egypt Patriarchs

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