13 November 2019
Six members of the Carmelite order have joined the Gospel Journey Campaign that started in January 2018 in India. Pictured are Sisters Ginsa Rose, Princy Maria, Ann Ligy, Therese, Little Therese and Treasa Margret. (photo: CNS/Philip Mathew, Global Sisters Report)
Meeting with two Catholic nuns who were on a journey to spread the Gospel proved a turning point in the life of Mohan Kumar, a Hindu man in southern India’s Kerala state.
Sisters Little Therese and Treasa Margret of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel had gone to the 45-year-old alcoholic’s house as part of their Gospel Journey Campaign for spreading Jesus’ message and values to people of different faiths.
A week later, the nuns received a call from Kumar’s wife that her husband had stopped drinking and was acting more loving and kind to the family.
“We thanked God for the miraculous change in Kumar’s life and told the wife that we will continue to pray for her family,” Little Therese, 52, told Global Sisters Report.
For nearly two years, the Carmelite sisters have been on this journey of what they say is “radiating Gospel values on foot as Jesus did.” They walk with few possessions, expecting to live among people struggling with worldly and spiritual needs, in the pattern of Christ and his disciples.
Until May, the sisters, who go only by one or two given names, will be walking in the northeastern-most Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. From there they will go to the western Indian state of Maharashtra and one day hope to visit Mideastern and Asian nations.
The two nuns launched the campaign in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese in early 2018 and visited Kumar, his wife and their two children at their home.
Sister Margret, 44, said they have many stories of alcoholics quitting their addictions to return to normal life, bringing joy to their families.
She recalled Kumar’s wife sharing many family problems during their talks. Her main worry was her husband’s heavy drinking, which consumed all his earnings.
“We tried to convince Kumar about the need for quitting drinking and taking care of his family. With the permission of the family, we also prayed in their house,” Sister Margret said.
The two nuns walk through towns and villages to evangelize, share the Gospel and teach Scripture among the most marginalized people of all religions. They include unorganized agricultural workers, low-wage urban laborers, the unemployed and tribal (Dalit) people in what was formerly India’s lowest caste.
They were joined in April 2018 by Carmelite Sisters Ginsa Rose, 51, and Therese, 43, and in January this year by Sisters Princy Maria, 55, and Ann Ligy, 60.
“We walk in pairs and talk to poor and marginalized people,” said Sister Little Therese. They also meet people who hang around in public places or sit in groups at coffee shops and share with them the Gospel and Jesus’ love.
Sister Little Therese said they have not faced any major challenges or obstacles during the campaign, although Hindu extremists opposed to Christianity have become more active in Kerala these days.
“Before we started the campaign, we had decided that, if any challenges or obstacles come our way, we would accept them with joy and go forward with courage,” she said as the other nuns nodded.
The people the nuns visit have only good words for them.
“I felt overwhelmed when the sisters shared the messages from the Bible and gave us a prayer card,” Sanjeev Rajan, 37, an auto-rickshaw driver, told Global Sisters Report.
He said the auto-rickshaw drivers are “very ordinary people” who were moved when the nuns spoke to them and prayed for them and their families.
Sister Little Therese said they follow Jesus’ command to his disciples when he sent them to villages in pairs.
“We carry a bag for keeping some essential things for daily use. We never carry any money or food. We survive with what people give us,” she added.
She said they take a two-day break during the week and spend the time in a nearby convent to pray and meditate and review their work. While traveling, they stay in homes that welcome them and eat what is given to them.
Once they are in a new region, Sister Margret said, they never use public or private transportation to move from one place to another.
“We go everywhere on foot, come rain or shine,” she said, and added, “God has been so gracious and merciful to us. None of us has fallen ill or felt tired of walking.”
Sister Ligy, a former teacher and the oldest of the six nuns, told Global Sisters Report she has a walking problem, “but that hasn’t stopped me from the campaign. I always felt that God is guiding me and giving me strength.”
The nuns make it a point to get the family’s permission before they pray for them.
“Once we visited a Muslim house. The mother insisted that we pray for them since she believes that Allah will listen to the prayers of people with pure hearts,” Sister Therese recalled.
According to their superior general, Sister Sibi, the vision of the campaign is based on the verse from the Gospel of St. Luke, “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The congregation’s general council and Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, have approved the campaign.
After the campaign completed its first year in January, Cardinal Alencherry hailed the nuns for doing “amazing work.” He told them that more sisters from other congregations also want to join the campaign.
Archbishop George Njaralakatt of Tellicherry said the nuns on the Gospel campaign are role models for others. He said he prayed that more sisters will follow the six original travelers to reach out to people who have never known Jesus or the Gospel.
5 November 2019
Tags: India Sisters
Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel is seen at the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington last month. (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
Ethiopia is now managing nearly a million refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen and even Syria, said Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel. Because so many Ethiopians are refugees, those who remain in the country work to make newcomers feel welcome.
The cardinal, who visited Washington in late October, said his country had been “a country of hospitality, a country of open doors to migrants and refugees who suffer in other parts of the world. And if a poor country shares meager resources she has with migrants and refugees, how much more should the richer countries (do). Because one day, you might be a refugee or a migrant yourself.”
“I was surprised when I saw Syrian refugees in Addis Ababa and Ethiopia,” he added. “I don’t know how they arrived, the mothers arrived from Syria, and they have written on their chests in Amharic …’We are Syrians, we have come from Syria, please help us.’“
In separate interviews with Catholic News Service and with Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Souraphiel told of how the church is helping refugees and how the country’s poverty is forcing you people to emigrate from their homeland.
Souraphiel said the church is his country “is very much open to receive the refugees.” He said besides the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat, the church works with international agencies such as Jesuit Refugee Service, Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Caritas and affiliated agencies such as the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services. Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity especially help with trauma counseling, he said.
When refugees arrive, church workers want “to let them know that they are welcomed” and get them registered with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. If refugees register with a parish, they have access to Catholic education and Catholic health services.
“Ethiopians themselves are refugees in other countries in some areas. So they know the need of refugees,” he said. Ethiopians “have sympathy and empathy for refugees and also people on the move.
“They never had grudges with refugees, and that is why I think Ethiopia is blessed by the Lord.”
Part of what drives young people to become refugees is poverty, and that is the biggest challenge facing the church, the cardinal said.
“We live with the poor and we stay with them. Wherever they are, we try to be the voice of the disadvantaged, the displaced people,” he said. The church especially tries to help “abandoned children, and also mothers who suffer because of the big burden of taking care of the family, which they bring with them when they migrate from their own villages to the cities.”
As of May, more than 2.8 million Ethiopians were displaced within their country. As of 2018, Ethiopia’s unemployment rate was more than 19 percent.
Economic growth on the national level “might not trickle down to the poor,” so millions of unemployed young people — including those with college degrees — want “to go abroad, especially to the Arab world and to South Africa and to Europe.”
“Their aspiration is to escape the networks of poverty and change their own individual lives and the lives of their family members,” he said. And although many do, the majority struggle. They may end up abused, and many return home.
Church leaders try to encourage people to have hope, “especially the youth,” and they work with them to try to find employment within the country.
The cardinal said he is disturbed when he hears of Europeans closing their borders.
“This is not biblical; it’s not Christian,” he said.
He noted that the United States also is also a country of migrants and refugees.
“This has been what has made America a special country … to be a home for persecuted persons or for persons who looked for refuge from violence in their own countries,” he said.
He said Christians and Muslims were very moved when, in March, Pope Francis kissed the feet of politicians from South Sudan.
“Each politician whose feet was kissed — behind him are millions of refugees,” he said. The gesture was “to prick their conscience, to say to them, ‘You are responsible for the suffering of millions of mothers and children and elders because of, say, love of wealth and political power.”
“He did that just by bending down and kissing the feet, not by many other words.
“If you ask me to bend down and kiss your feet I might try, but I don’t know if I will get up,” the 71-year-old said, laughing. “He, at 82 years old … they gave him some help … is able to do that.”
Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel visited the New York offices of CNEWA last week.
31 October 2019
Tags: Ethiopia Refugees
Sister Marie-Therese and Sister Muntaha Hadaya visit a family who returned to Qaraqosh, Iraq, two years ago, after fleeing ISIS. Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs this week pressed the importance of preserving the Christian presence in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA/Raed Rafei)
Syrian-born Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs pressed the need to preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The patriarchs -- Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X of Antioch -- met with Peter Szijarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, in addition to Putin and Orban during their official visit to the Hungarian capital 29-10 October.
In a speech to Szijarto, Patriarch Absi said the exodus of Christians from the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Iraq, and most recently Syria, has become “an alarming issue” for Christian leaders.
“The failure of different groups to live together in harmony in Middle Eastern countries is a threat to convivial relations between different groups all over the world,” he said.
“Failure to help the Middle-East to remain an oasis for different religions to live peacefully together will set a dangerous historical precedent,” Patriarch Absi warned. “Soon, similar conflicts will start to take shape in different places of the world.”
The patriarch stressed that the Christian presence in the Middle East “gives us a special role regarding our Muslim compatriots: that of witnessing the Gospel through a commitment to the service of all, whether in our schools, our hospitals, our centers for the elderly or our orphanages.”
He praised “the courage of the Hungarian position against immigration,” citing in particular the government’s Hungary Helps program, which has benefitted war-torn Syrian communities.
While the churches in the Middle East are trying to encourage Christians to stay in their homelands, Patriarch Absi said, “this is a mission that needs the work of governments because the needs are truly big and go beyond the capacity of the church.”
“What we need is countries with a similar vision to Hungary and Russia,” Patriarch Absi said. “That is, to help people the way they want to be helped rather than to change entire countries to befit political agendas.”
Patriarch Absi continued, “We hope that other countries will follow their example and encourage Christians to stay. This can be done by the lifting of economic sanctions, putting an end to the embargo, and by helping to achieve lasting peace. The Russian Federation and Hungary can have an impact on the international community; they can show other countries the way to achieve peace and how to safeguard nations in conflict.”
In a news conference on 30 October with Putin, Orban said that Hungary and Russia have a shared interest in stopping migration and achieving stability in the Middle East.
21 October 2019
Tags: Syria Iraq Orthodox Persecution
Demonstrators near Al-Amin mosque in Beirut carry national flags during an anti-government protest on 20 October. Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, protests were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese of various religions sounded their cries in unison in streets and public squares throughout the country calling for government reforms.
Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, a fifth day of protests on 21 October were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes.
Lebanon’s Catholic patriarchs — who have repeatedly raised their voices against political corruption, imploring the government to address the country’s dire economic situation — expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, cut short a pastoral visit in Africa to return to Lebanon amid the unprecedented uprising.
Speaking from Laos, Nigeria, on 20 October, Cardinal Rai said that Lebanon’s government officials “know that they are the ones who brought their country to this situation and they must find successful ways to reform.”
The cardinal reiterated that more than one-third of Lebanese citizens are below the poverty line, the country’s unemployment rate stands at nearly 40 percent and that “hunger and destitution threaten many citizens.”
“We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger,” which the cardinal said threatens the lives of the Lebanese as did the famine in 1914.
The crisis, “imposed from within,” Cardinal Rai said, led elderly and youth alike to demonstrate their rejection of such political practices. “In so doing they (the demonstrators) have all shown that they are united from all spectrums demanding a decent living.”
In an effort to quell the demonstrations, Lebanon’s coalition government on 21 October approved a package of economic reforms that reportedly included a plan to overturn the new taxes and cut by half the salaries of top officials.
Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi also declared his solidarity with the people “who express today their pain and bitterness and loss of confidence in those who brought them to this bitter reality.”
He appealed to government officials “to respond to the demands of the Lebanese people and not drown them with promises, after reaching the brink of despair.”
Patriarch Absi emphasized that “serious reform and the elimination of waste and hot spots of corruption and respect for the dignity of the citizen is urgent and necessary to restore confidence in officials and the salvation of the homeland.”
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan offered his support to the protesters’ demands as well. “We appeal to the consciences of officials, if there is a conscience in this world of hypocrisy, to be within the responsibility assigned to them,” he said.
He urged officials to “listen to the voice of the people, and immediately undertake the necessary and fundamental reforms,” including fighting corruption and holding the corrupt accountable, ending the theft of public money, stopping waste in state facilities and refraining from imposing any tax increase.
“We ask God to inspire officials to get out of this current crisis and to implement the demands of the people, to return to Lebanon its peace, security and prosperity, and to its citizens to reassure, stability and a decent life, through the intercession of our mother, the Virgin Mary of Lebanon, and all the saints and martyrs,’’ he said.
In affirming their solidarity with the demonstrators, each patriarch pointedly called for maintaining peacefulness and rejected any violent means or destruction by protesters. “We are well aware of the role of the fifth column,” Cardinal Rai cautioned, referring to groups that foment violence.
9 October 2019
In this image from June, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of Stamford, Connecticut, in front of altar with book, concelebrates the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
Leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States have appealed to seminarians to identify candidates for the priesthood who can be “true missionaries and pastors.”
The appeal came in a September letter from the six bishops of the Metropolia of Philadelphia, which covers much of the U.S. It discussed some of the challenges and opportunities facing the Ukrainian Catholic Church and outlined the “spiritual and pastoral expectations of candidates to the priesthood.”
The bishops said parishes throughout the metropolia “will need a substantial replenishment of its clergy over the coming years.”
As an example, they cited the Philadelphia Archeparchy’s needs: 15 new priests in the next five years “to serve its faithful adequately and respond to their needs.”
“We are not looking for workers to simply accomplish a task or fulfill a plan, but for true missionaries and pastors who will care for the faithful with a willingness even to sacrifice their lives for them, from love of God and neighbor,” the bishops wrote.
The Metropolia of Philadelphia includes the Archeparchy of Philadelphia and the eparchies of Stamford, Connecticut, St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio, and St. Nicholas in Chicago.
Signing the letter were Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak and Auxiliary Bishops John Bura and Andriy Rabiy of the Philadelphia Archeparchy; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of Stamford; Bishop Bohdan J. Danylo of the St. Josaphat Eparchy; and Bishop Venedykt Aleksiychuk of the St. Nicholas Eparchy.
In the archeparchy and three eparchies, 185 active priests serve in ministry, according to a church spokesman. That includes 48 priests in Philadelphia, 59 in Stamford, 37 in Parma and 41 in Chicago.
The bishops said they remain committed to serving the faithful in the Ukrainian Catholic Church despite dwindling numbers. The letter cited how the number of parishioners has declined from more than 250,000 in the 1960s to 25,000 today.
The letter called for a widespread effort to rebuild the Ukrainian Catholic Church “one person at a time.”
“We need pastors who are ready to heal, inspire and rejuvenate, who, through their sermons and example, will give clear guidance to the conflicted postmodern person and will proclaim ‘the message of reconciliation,’“ the bishops wrote, citing St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.
The leaders said the church’s priorities will focus on spreading the word of God, evangelization and catechization. Special emphasis will be made to appeal to youth and young adults through “creativity from the pastor and the ability to address -- persuasively but serenely -- deep and difficult questions of the present day.”
“Answering the appeal of Pope Francis, we should and will go outside the gates of our church buildings. A shepherd should follow the scent of his sheep, even those who are now outside the fold,” the letter said, citing the “millions” of people within the territory of the metropolia who are “unchurched, do not know God, do not enjoy the support of community.”
The bishops called for “team-based” ministry to carry out the important work ahead.
In appealing for priest candidates, the bishops said they were not seeking people “to improve their material status” nor those “with personal or family motivations, rather than the priority of evangelization.”
The task facing future priests will be difficult, the bishops wrote.
“A commitment to serve in our church must be a commitment for the long haul,” they said. “It is not for those who are quickly discouraged or disillusioned. True service to the flock entrusted to a pastor requires dedication and endurance -- an understanding the realities of the community you serve, in all their unvarnished truth.”
26 August 2019
Tags: Vocations (religious) Ukrainian Catholic Church
In this image from February, Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s Al Azhar mosque and university, are seen in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Pope Francis welcomed Abu Dhabi’s formation of an international committee to implement the "Document for Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together," which he and Sheik el-Tayeb signed in the country in February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
At a time when conflict and division dominate the world’s headlines, people need to know there are a growing number of important initiatives to promote interreligious dialogue and understanding, Pope Francis said.
The pope welcomed the Abu Dhabi government’s formation of an international committee to implement the document on “human fraternity,” which he and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university, signed in Abu Dhabi in February.
“Although sadly evil, hatred and division often make news,” the pope said, “there is a hidden sea of goodness that is growing and leads us to hope in dialogue, reciprocal knowledge and the possibility of building, together with the followers of other religions and all men and women of goodwill, a world of fraternity and peace.”
The Vatican press office published the pope’s remarks on 26 August, a week after Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, announced the initiative to promote meetings of religious leaders, academic study of the document and support legislation to broaden religious liberty and tolerance.
Spanish Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, was named a member of the committee.
In an interview with Vatican News, Bishop Ayuso said the document is an appeal to build a “civilization of love,” and should not lead to a fear that Catholics will stop believing that the fullness of salvation lies in Christ.
“I think fear is the number one enemy of interreligious dialogue,” he said. “The Catholic Church remembers the value of its own identity, the courage of otherness and the sincerity of intentions” of those who engage in dialogue.
“It is not about creating a ‘melting pot’ in which all religions are considered equal,” he said, “but that all believers -- those who seek God and all people of good will without religious affiliation -- are equal in dignity.”
22 August 2019
Tags: Muslim Interreligious Abu Dhabi
In this image from 2018, the Rev. John Szada, chaplain of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, distributes Communion during an annual Marian pilgrimage at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church. This year’s pilgrimage will be held on Sunday. (photo: CNS/Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness)
With the mass shootings that have taken place in this country in recent weeks and “the state of our society in our big cities and small towns,” this is a time “when we all need to turn to God,” said the pastor of a historic Ukrainian Catholic church in Pennsylvania.
The Rev. Michael Hutsko, pastor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, made the comments in an interview with SSPTV of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, ahead of the annual Call to Prayer Marian Pilgrimage set to take place at the church on 25 August.
The white church, with its distinctive three onion-shaped blue domes, sits on a hill to the north of the town, which has been almost entirely condemned as a result of underground mine fires that have undermined the stability of the ground.
“People are coming from all over the East Coast (to) make their way here to pray,” Father Hutsko said. “It truly is a day of prayer and we try to keep the property as peaceful and calm as possible, not to turn it into a reunion or a picnic. It’s a place to experience to God and this mountain is conducive to that.”
The fact the church sits high above the town, escaping the underground mine fires is “something providential, “ the priest added. “Only God knew it would be a place to call people and remind people of his presence.”
Today, while the town is a memory, the church still serves a thriving parish family, with congregants driving to the hilltop on Sundays and holy days from communities throughout the area.
This year’s annual Marian pilgrimage will feature five bishops who will concelebrate the Divine Liturgy: Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Latin-rite Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of the Latin-rite Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Metropolitan-Archbishop Gudziak will be the homilist. Father Deacon Paul Spotts will serve as deacon. Responses to the Divine Liturgy will be congregational singing led by Dennis Hardock, cantors from local parishes, members of St. Nicholas Choir in Minersville, Pennsylvania, and Holy Family Ukrainian National Shrine Choir in Washington.
After the Divine Liturgy, a procession from the church will take the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv to the outside chapel where the icon will be placed for veneration.
Priests will be available for much of the day offering the sacrament of reconciliation for pilgrims at various locations on the church grounds.
A living rosary will be prayed in the afternoon before the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv. Afterward the Akafist Prayer to the Dormition (Assumption) of Mary will be sung.
The schedule also will include a 5 p.m. a candlelight procession with the icon from the Pochaiv Chapel to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” or prayer of (prayer of supplication) to the Mother of God. At the conclusion of the moleben, prayers for healing and the anointing with holy oils for the healing of soul and body will take place.
“During this Marian pilgrimage, as we are called to prayer,” Father Hutsko said, to ask that Mary “extend her mantle of protection over us and lead our nation toward a spiritual conversion of mind, heart and soul.”
The first pilgrimage to the Centralia church was held in 2016 and the story of this unique pilgrimage site has been told throughout the world. It was the cover story for the Christmas 2018 edition of Reader’s Digest and BBC News did a feature story in February 2018.
During a 2015 visit, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, Ukraine, the head of the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church, marveled at the continuing presence of the church in Centralia. He also noted how this coal region parish fostered vocations of four men to the priesthood and three sisters to religious life.
With the visit of Major Archbishop Shevchuk and the encouragement of now-retired Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, the place was designated a holy site of pilgrimage.
21 August 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
A statue of Our Lady of Consolation is surrounded by pilgrims during a candlelight procession and vigil Mass outside the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio on 14 August 2019. (photo: CNS/Katie Rutter)
With its one stoplight and surrounding cornfields, the small Ohio village of Carey seems an unlikely travel destination. Yet, once a year, an estimated 5,000 visitors swell the town population to more than double.
For nine days, climaxing on the evening of 14 August, scores of charter buses drop off pilgrims, most of whom are Iraqi Christians. Hundreds of families fill a five-acre plot with tents, recreational vehicles, Middle Eastern food and music.
“We feel that we’re like in our old village back home. Like when I walk around I know a lot of people,” said Khalid Markos, who is now a resident of Sterling Heights, Michigan, but was born in Alanish, Iraq.
His family, like most of the pilgrims, fled from war and persecution in their home country. Now exiled refugees, they have found consolation by celebrating their faith and traditions at the aptly named Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey.
“We love our faith a lot and as you may know, we left our country because we didn’t want to deny our faith,” Conventual Franciscan Friar Raad Eshoo told Catholic News Service, “and it’s sad that we see a lot of people here and in Iraq there are few Christians, Chaldean Christians.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church, based in Iraq, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome. Chaldean Catholics trace their faith back to the second century and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
In recent decades, however, war and terrorism has caused hundreds of thousands of these Christians to flee their homeland.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce estimates that 160,000 Chaldeans now reside in the Detroit metropolitan area.
“My mother says, ‘Even if someone paid me a million dollars, I wouldn’t go back,’” said Martha Yousif, niece of Markos, whose parents fled Iraq in 1997.
“You can’t guarantee (you will) come back safe,” she related.
“Many things I faced -- bombing. In front of my clinic, even,” said Syrian Orthodox Christian Nawar Awbawyvalsheikh, a physician and native of Mosul, Iraq.
“Terrorists. They came to our building to kill us and American soldiers saved us,” she recalled.
These exiled Christians began traveling two hours from Detroit to the Carey shrine about two decades ago. Many were drawn by stories of miraculous healings, others by a devotion to Mary. All are reliving an Iraqi tradition of visiting shrines and holy sites for pious practices and celebration.
“We have a lot of feasts we call them ‘shera,’ (with) a lot of people camping, music, dancing, food, and we end it with Mass and procession,” said Friar Raad, who was born in Mosul.
“When I’m here, I feel like home,” he said.
The nine days of celebration in Carey are marked by a constant line for confessions, regular blessings by clergy and several Masses daily, often in Aramaic.
At dusk on 14 August, the pilgrims carried candles and processed with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation from the basilica to an open field, called Shrine Park. There Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo presided over an outdoor Mass for the vigil of the feast of the Assumption.
“It breathes a lot of new life into me and I think the friars that come here love to do this,” said the Rev. Father Thomas Merrill, a Conventual Franciscan, the shrine’s rector. He was joined by dozens of fellow Conventual Franciscans to help care for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims.
“The people are so hungry for anything that is faith-based and so hungry to practice their Catholic faith and receive the sacraments,” Father Thomas said.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation was established in 1875 by a priest from Luxembourg and has welcomed regular waves of pilgrims, often immigrants.
The lower church contains three display cases full of crutches and mementos left by those healed or those who want to thank Our Lady of Consolation for a favor received.
“(The Chaldean people have) suffered a lot. They go through a lot of problems. God and the Virgin Mary saved them to come over here and live peacefully,” Markos told CNS.
“Anytime you’re in need of something, you ask for it, she always (provides), especially here,” said Rafa Kattoula, whose family has made a pilgrimage to the shrine for over 40 years.
Expressing gratitude for Mary’s intercession, Kattoula concluded: “We’ve asked and we come and we receive from her.”
Watch a video of the procession below.
Thousands of Iraqi Chaldean Catholics and other pilgrims converge on the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, for a vigil and procession to honor Mary.
(video: Katie Rutter/CNS/YouTube)
5 June 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians Chaldeans
In this image from 2017, a Dominican sister visits the Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah in Qaraqosh, Iraq, heavily damaged by ISIS. The United Nations has established 22 August as the Day to Commemorate Victims of Violence Based on Religion. (photo: Raed Rafei)
On 28 May, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing 22 August as the Day to Commemorate Victims of Violence Based on Religion.
The resolution invites all member states, relevant organizations, civil society, individuals and the private sector to observe the international day and show appropriate support for victims of religiously motivated violence.
In the wake of recent religiously motivated terrorist attacks, the resolution notes a serious concern for “continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, including against persons belonging to religious communities and religious minorities around the world, and at the increasing number and intensity of such incidents.”
Poland initiated work toward the commemorative day, but united with Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, and the United States to co-draft the resolution.
Ultimately, 88 U.N. member states voted to co-sponsor the resolution.
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which is commonly referred to as the right to freedom of religion or belief, is a universal right of every human being and the cornerstone of many other rights,” Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz said in his keynote speech before the vote.
In response, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington issued a statement praising the resolution.
“We applaud the U.N. General Assembly for adopting this resolution, which acknowledges and honors victims of violence based on religion or belief around the world,” said Tenzin Dorjee, chair of the commission. “But we must not stop at condemnation. Like-minded governments must also increasingly work together to hold perpetrators accountable, whether they are state or nonstate actors responsible for the abuses.”
The Vatican, too, commented on the resolution after its adoption in a statement released by its Permanent Observer Mission to the U.N. The statement recalled the recent religiously motivated violence in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, California and Burkina Faso.
“This resolution and the international day it establishes is an opportunity for the international community to focus on the victims and to strengthen efforts to eradicate such violence and acts of terrorism targeting persons because of their religion or belief,” it said.
The Vatican also reminded the U.N. that religion and belief cannot be blamed for these acts. They are, rather, deviations from religious practices and must be condemned.
31 May 2019
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians United Nations
In this image from March, Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak is pictured in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Archeparchy of Philadelphia)
In what promises to be one of the most impressive liturgical ceremonies in recent Philadelphia memory, an estimated 50 bishops will be present 4 June in Philadelphia for the enthronement of Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
The Divine Liturgy and enthronement ceremony for the prelate will take place at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He will be the seventh metropolitan-archbishop of the archeparchy and as such, he will be the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States.
He succeeds Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka who resigned for health reasons in April 2018. Since then, the archeparchy has been led by Bishop Andriy Rabiy, an auxiliary of the archeparchy, as apostolic administrator.
The appointment of Archbishop Gudziak, the 58-year-old native of Syracuse, New York, by Pope Francis was announced 18 February following the recommendation by a synod of Ukrainian Catholic bishops held in September 2018.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church worldwide is the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches that have distinctly different liturgies than the Latin Catholic Church but are nevertheless in full communion with Rome.
The enthronement and the inauguration of Archbishop Gudziak’s ministry is really the centerpiece of a weeklong celebration, according to the Rev. John Fields, an archpriest of the archeparchy who is its communications director.
The celebration begins 2 June and centers on the theme “From Heart to Heart.” Participants will include clergy, religious and lay faithful and young people from the Philadelphia archeparchy and other U.S. and international eparchies.
Among the events is the opening that first day of an art exhibit titled “Icons on Ammo Boxes” at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. That evening, also at the cathedral, well-known book author, columnist and commentator George Weigel delivers a lecture “Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Mission: Eastern Catholics and the Universal Church.”
On 4 June. there will be a 10 a.m. liturgical procession, which will include bishops from the Ukrainian Catholic Church, other Eastern Catholic churches, the Latin Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as 125 priests, 11 deacons and 70 members of religious orders.
In the cathedral, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, patriarch of the Ukrainian Catholic Church worldwide will preside at the Divine Liturgy, along with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States.
Archbishop Pierre will also present greetings from the Holy Father and present the papal bull, the document confirming Archbishop Gudziak’s appointment.
Among the concelebrants of the liturgy will be Archbishop Gudziak, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop Soroka and other archbishops and bishops.
Archbishop Gudziak, who is the son of immigrants to the United States from Ukraine, received his bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in 1980 with further studies at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, at Harvard University and the Pontifical Oriental Institute. He returned to Ukraine, his ancestral homeland, in 1992 where he served in various position, mostly in the field of theological education and he is credited as the founder of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1998.
He was ordained to the episcopacy in December 2012, and the following month appointed bishop for a newly formed eparchy covering France, Switzerland and Benelux, which is a region that includes Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.
His work especially in his Ukraine years did not go unnoticed in the wider world. In early May, the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, announced that Archbishop Gudziak will receive its prestigious Notre Dame Award at a ceremony in Lviv on 29 June.
He joins such other distinguished past recipients as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter with his wife, Rosalyn, St. Teresa of Kolkata and John Hume of Northern Ireland.
“In the face of innumerable challenges, Archbishop Gudziak has made the Ukrainian Catholic University a center for cultural thought, Christian witness and the formation of a Ukrainian society based on human dignity,” said Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, at the time of the announcement.
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church