18 March 2019
Members of the Chaldean Catholic community in Papatoetoe, New Zealand, placed flowers and a tribute outside Ayesha Mosque after the 15 March 2019, attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. The message reads in part: "Please accept our prayer and condolences in this terrible, painful time. God have mercy on the people and we pray for the injured ones. Your brothers, St. Addai Catholic Church, New Zealand." (photo: CNS/courtesy NZ Catholic)
The St. Addai Chaldean Catholic community in suburban Auckland felt the impact of the Christchurch mosque killings with a special poignancy, because many members have experienced the sufferings inflicted by terrorism.
“There is a lady in my community -- they beheaded her son in front of her,” the Rev. Douglas Al-Bazi, a Chaldean priest, told NZ Catholic. “Another man, they killed his parents in front of him.”
Father Al-Bazi, who was kidnapped for nine days by Islamic militants in 2006 in Iraq, suffering serious injuries -- including being shot in the leg by an assailant wielding an AK-47 -- said that when he heard of the events in Christchurch, he was “really angry.”
“There were thousands of questions in my head, and also for my people,” he said.
He said he told his parishioners that “we fully understand as Iraqi people, especially Christian, we really understand” the pain, “because we are survivors of genocide, systematic genocide.”
“I am still shocked, me and my people, how this could happen here in New Zealand,” he added.
Father Al-Bazi said people at his church have said they are scared in the wake of the events in Christchurch, fearful of revenge attacks.
“I told them, no, this is not the time to be scared. It is the time to be united. So, show your happiness, show we are brave, and we have to tell the people how to be calm. Because already, we have had that experience. So, we have to guide people to tell them.”
Parishioners placed a floral tribute with a message of support in Arabic outside a local mosque the day after the shootings.
Father Al-Bazi said most of his community came to New Zealand seeking a safe place, and the violence that happened in Christchurch is unacceptable.
“I don’t know what we can do for those survivors, for those relatives, the only thing we can do is pray for them and say, ‘This is not New Zealand.’“
At the end of Mass on 18 March, everyone at St. Addai Church sang the national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand” in Maori and in English.
Police were stationed outside the church and told Father Al-Bazi, “It is for your protection.” The priest said he asked the officers to park a little down the road, so as not to alarm Massgoers.
15 March 2019
Tags: Muslim Chaldean Church
Nathalie Piraino, right, embraces Atli Moges, a financial technical adviser at Catholic Relief Services headquarters in Baltimore, following a 14 March 2019, memorial Mass honoring their four colleagues who died in the 10 March crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. Moges spent three years working in Ethiopia, and knew the four. (photo: CNS/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)
Approximately 480 men and women work at the Baltimore headquarters of Catholic Relief Services, the overseas aid and development agency of U.S. Catholics.
None were more affected than Yishak “Isaac” Affin and Atli Moges by the 10 March Ethiopian Airlines crash that took the lives of all 157 on board -- including four who were not just colleagues, but their fellow countrymen and women.
Affin and Moges were part of the standing-room-only gathering at the CRS chapel 14 March, when Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori offered a memorial Mass. His concelebrants included a majority of the 14 bishops who serve on the CRS board of directors, in town for meetings.
Like the four who perished, Moges and Affin are natives of Ethiopia, which has approximately 100 million residents. Almost half lack access to clean water.
Trying to better themselves so that they could better their country, the four CRS administrators were en route to a training session in Nairobi, Kenya, when their flight crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, the capital of the east African nation that sits in a region wracked by famine.
“They do their work from their hearts,” Moges told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet. “They were the kind of people who stayed in the office until midnight or worked Saturday if that was necessary.”
She speaks from experience.
A senior adviser for CRS in financial technical support, Moges came to Baltimore in 1988, but from August 2015 to March 2018 served in Ethiopia as the deputy country representative for operations.
Managing administration, finance, human resources and IT for a staff of approximately 200 during her time in Ethiopia, Moges said she worked with the four deceased staffers “very closely.”
They were typical of the 7,000 people employed by CRS, which prioritizes hiring and training local people in the nations it serves.
Moges said that Mulusew Alemu, a senior finance officer, was devoted to his Ethiopian Orthodox faith and “a delightful person, very respectful and hard-working.”
Despite his low-key demeanor, she said, Sintayehu Aymeku had “wonderful leadership skills.” A procurement manager who had lived for a time in the United States, Aymeku left behind a wife and three daughters.
“I had high hopes for him,” Moges said.
Sara Chalachew, who once spent three weeks in Baltimore on temporary duty, was promoted last December to senior project officer for grants. Moges said she was always smiling, and “got along with everyone on staff.”
Getnet Alemayehu was a senior procurement officer, known for being patient and persistent while navigating shipments.
Before Affin, a senior accountant, came to Baltimore in 2003, he worked as an auditor in Addis Ababa, where he knew Alemayehu as a driver, albeit one “studying at university.”
As Moges got emotional remembering the four after the Mass, Affin placed his right hand on her left shoulder.
The Mass included a choir comprised of CRS staff based in Baltimore.
Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, who is chairman of the CRS board of directors, welcomed Archbishop Lori, who had made a short walk from the Catholic Center, headquarters of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to CRS.
“Sorrow shared,” Bishop Mansour said, “is sorrow lessened.”
“Why were such good colleagues taken from us?” Archbishop Lori said in his homily. “A tragic moment such as this, and the season of Lent itself, tests and probes the depth of our faith,” he said.
“It highlights the kind of faith, hope and love -- coupled with courage -- that undergirds the many risks you and your colleagues take each day to advance the kingdom of justice, peace and love in this world.”
Archbishop Lori said the four employees “died in pursuit of their mission to bring a measure of food security to regions of the world that are habitually plagued by famine. They met the Lord as they were dedicating themselves and their lives to the golden rule.”
12 March 2019
Worshippers pray at the Shrine of Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan in Kuzhikkattussery, India, on 18 February 2019. Blessed Thresia has been approved for canonization.
(photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
For the nearly 2,000 sisters and 200 women in formation who make up the Congregation of the Holy Family, the long wait is over.
Since 2012, members of the order based in Kerala state in southern India have observed strict fasts and engaged in earnest prayer awaiting recognition from the Vatican of a second miracle attributed to the order’s founder, Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan.
Pope Francis recognized the miracle on 12 February, clearing the way for the canonization of the religious leader popularly known as the “patroness of families.”
“We are thrilled now. Our joy has no bounds as the pope has approved the canonization of our foundress,” Sister Udaya Punneliparambil, the congregation’s superior general, told Catholic News Service.
“Mother’s life has been a life of prayer and fasting. So, we have been following her model,” Sister Punneliparambil said.
“We are happy our prayers have been heard. Now we are awaiting the announcement of the date of the canonization,” she added.
Blessed Thresia was born 26 April 1876, the third of five children to Thanda and Thoma Chiramel Mankidiyan in Puthenchira, 21 miles south of Thrissur. She founded the Congregation of the Holy Family in 1914 and died 8 June 1926.
Devout and prayerful, young Thresia resisted her parents’ plan to have her married at age 10, as per tradition. Instead, she chose to lead a life of simplicity and austerity, despite belonging to a wealthy farming family. For instance, she slept on the gravel floor of her family’s home rather than in her bed.
“I cannot sleep comfortably on a bed when Jesus is hanging on the cross on three nails,” Thresia is seen telling her mother in an hourlong documentary, “Blessed Mariam Thresia -- the Patroness of Families,” produced by the congregation.
The film depicts her interest in family ministry and desire to share Jesus’ love by caring for poor, sick and dying people. It re-enacts some of her practices as recorded by her spiritual director and congregation co-founder, Father Joseph Vithayathil, whose cause for sainthood is underway, and her contemporaries.
In 1909, while under the spiritual care of Father Vithayathil, Blessed Thresia experienced stigmata. The bishop ordered that an exorcism be performed as her situation became public.
Undaunted by the setbacks, Blessed Thresia continued with her austere prayer life and dedicated herself to serving families in the community.
Father Vithayathil, under direction of the bishop in 1913, erected a “house of solitude” where Blessed Thresia could go to pray. Three friends joined her in the house.
In May 1914, she received canonical permission to launch the Congregation of the Holy Family in Puthenchira, which today is in the Diocese of Irinjalakuda.
In 1922, she moved to Kuzhikkattussery, a short distance from her native village, where she had been given eight acres by a Catholic family to launch a convent.
Struggling for funds and material to build the convent, Blessed Thresia took a 31-mile journey with another sister on foot and by boat to a Hindu king’s palace near Cochin. She planned to ask the king for funds to complete construction. Told the king was bedridden with a serious illness, Blessed Thresia made a potion from plants and instructed his assistants to apply it. The king was healed and sent word to bring the two women religious to him. He offered them high-quality teak from forests more than 90 miles away to complete the convent.
“All this wood is given by the king,” Sister Pushpa, vicar general of the congregation, told CNS while pointing to the roof of the sprawling 24-room convent, completed in 1922.
True to the charism of the order’s foundress, the convent includes a Family Retreat Center, where couples can attend a four-day retreat, offered twice a month.
“Even couples living separately for years and on the verge of divorces have gone back happily from here,” Sister Pushpa said.
Since 1987, the congregation has operated the Family Apostolate Training and Research Institute, where nearly 200 women religious, laypeople and priests are trained annually.
Blessed Thresia was declared venerable in 1999 and was beatified in 2000.
Father Vithayathil, who is buried in the same chapel with Blessed Thresia, was named venerable by Pope Francis in December 2015.
7 March 2019
Tags: Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Catholics
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan meets injured people in Douma, Syria, on 6 March 2019. (photo: CNS/courtesy Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
Catholic prelates in Syria, accompanied by Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, visited the eastern Ghouta region outside of Damascus and saw “unspeakable suffering.”
“In every face, mostly the children,” was a “very confused” expression, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service. The 6 March visit was part of the annual session of the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Syria.
Patriarch Younan said the overall reaction of the prelates while visiting Douma, the major city of eastern Ghouta, “was deep sadness and repulsion” in seeing “the horrible destruction of that region, held hostage for such a long time by radical Muslims.”
Patriarch Younan noted that “evidently, this visit had an impact on Cardinal Tagle, who expressed his deep grief in front of so much suffering,” adding that the cardinal compared the scenes to an earthquake or typhoon.
“Besides the humanitarian assistance so much needed and the urgent help to rebuild their city, it is mostly and, first of all, hope and dignity that this courageous community was looking for,” the patriarch added.
In addition to Patriarch Younan and Cardinal Tagle, participants in the meeting and the Ghouta outreach included Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi, who hosted the March 4-6 council session at the patriarchate in Damascus; and Catholic bishops of Syria.
Ghouta, the last rebel bastion east of the capital city of Damascus, was secured by the Syrian government in April 2018. At one point, some 400,000 people were under siege in Ghouta, according to the United Nations. It was the site of alleged chemical attacks.
Patriarch Younan characterized the suffering in the city as “unspeakable.”
“It is shameful that the so-called free world was accomplice to that disaster for no reason than satisfying the greed and opportunism of its politicians. All fake news of the agglomerate media, like the show play of chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian soldiers, were based on lies, in order to keep the fighting going on,” Patriarch Younan said.
“Less than a quarter of the population could return without any harassment and managed to find lodging, despite the destruction and the harsh winter,” he said of the situation. The patriarch pointed out that in Douma, there had been 50 schools. To date, the government has rehabilitated 20 of them.
The elementary school the prelates visited “was packed” with 1,800 children, he recounted. “It will take a long time for the children to heal from the trauma they lived.”
“The youth we encountered, though hesitant and confused, were looking to start their life again,” Patriarch Younan said. “We saw a number of them responding to the draft in the military service, judging it as a best try to restart.”
Patriarch Younan said he, Cardinal Tagle and Patriarch Absi “assured the people of our prayer and solidarity and planted three olive trees on the school grounds, as a symbol of revitalized life.”
In their 6 March statement at the conclusion of their meeting, the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Syria said they addressed the “difficult humanitarian and social situation facing the Syrian people as a result of the conflict taking place in their homeland and the sanctions imposed on them from abroad.”
The prelates urged the international community and international organizations to lift sanctions, noting that the poorest are affected.
The council pointed to their Ghouta visit “to express their care and closeness to their suffering and destitute Syrian brothers,” noting that they spoke and listened to the people as an expression “of their love and solidarity.”
The council expressed “satisfaction at the security and stability achieved by the Syrian state and the Syrian army in most areas of Syria thanks to their great sacrifices and wise policies.”
It also thanked “all those with goodwill who are working to show the true picture of the Syrian crisis and lend a helping hand to the Syrian people.”
4 March 2019
Tags: Syria Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy staff welcome Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak to the pastoral center on 1 March 2019.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ukranian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia)
While a graceful cascade of white snowflakes gently fell to the ground outside the chancery on 1 March, the staff of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia welcomed the new Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak to the archeparchy’s pastoral center.
Standing in front of a banner reading, “Welcome, Metropolitan Borys,” in both English and Ukrainian, featuring the Ukrainian colors of blue and gold, Bishop Andriy Rabiy offered a warm welcome to Archbishop
Gudziak, as he was presented with the traditional greeting of bread and salt and a bouquet of sunflowers.
After the welcome, Archbishop Gudziak met with the staff in the chancery conference room for an informal get-together. He briefly shared his goals for the archeparchy and also asked staff members for their prayers and to express what their expectations were of him: “What do you need of your new archbishop? What type of archbishop do you want?” he asked them.
Among the thoughts he shared with them, he said he wants to lead the archeparchy as a spiritual brother, father and shepherd, who would inspire the presbyterate, the religious and the laity, the entire archeparchy, to grow in their relationship to Christ.
For the church, for the world, in this age, he said, Catholics need to become a holy and spiritual presence to inspire all to live a life of virtue as they follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and do his will in the world.
He emphasized: “I want to be a good listener and I ask you to be my teachers.”
Archbishop Gudziak reflected on two qualities his mother sought to impress upon him and instill in him: kindness and gentleness. He hopes these character traits can be shared in his relationships with the clergy, religious and laity.
The new spiritual shepherd of the Philadelphia archeparchy, a native of Syracuse, New York was named to this hierarchical position by Pope Francis on 18 February. At the time of his appointment he was the Eparch of St. Volodymyr the Great Eparchy of Paris serving France, Benelux and Switzerland.
He will be formally enthroned 4 June in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.
Bishop Rabiy, an auxiliary of the archeparchy, has been serving as apostolic administrator since his appointment by Pope Francis after the pontiff accepted the resignation for health reasons of Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka on 16 April 2018.
Auxiliary Bishop John Bura also serves the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, which includes the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and parts of eastern Pennsylvania. It has a total Catholic population of about 15,000.
1 March 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
People ride motorbikes on the outskirts of Amritsar, India, 1 March 2019, before the arrival of an Indian air force pilot, who was captured by Pakistan two days earlier and later released. Catholic groups have joined the protest of military escalation in the region.
(photo: CNS/Danish Siddiqui, Reuters)
Catholic groups joined a protest against a military escalation in Pakistan and India following the recent suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir, reported ucanews.com.
“If we don’t end war, war will end us,” read placards held by staff of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Church’s human rights body in Pakistan, at the protest in front of Lahore Press Club 28 February.
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore also expressed solidarity with Pakistan’s armed forces in an interfaith news conference at the press club, ucanews.com reported.
“All issues must be resolved through peace talks and dialogue. War is not an option,” he said. Carrying Pakistani flags, the archbishop and clerics also prayed for peace.
Peace activists, including Christians nongovernmental organizations, also protested about “war mongering” and “bomb blasts.” Simultaneous demonstrations were held at press clubs in Islamabad and Karachi.
India and Pakistan conducted airstrikes on each other’s territory in late February as tensions ran high after 40 Indian paramilitary troops were killed in a 14 February suicide attack. A Pakistan-based terrorist outfit, Army of Muhammad, claimed responsibility.
Kashif Aslam, program coordinator of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, praised Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for announcing the release of an Indian air force pilot captured 27 February after his jet was shot down. A video of Pakistani soldiers trying to protect him from villagers has gone viral on social media.
“This is a diplomatic scoop. We are on high moral ground at this moment. Hope sanity prevails with this peace gesture. We appreciate such steps by the Pakistani government but condemn the ongoing aggression on electronic and social media. Only people-to-people contact can improve our strained relations,” Aslam told ucanews.com.
“The ever-escalating defense budget should instead be diverted toward developing the people,” Aslam added. “Only demilitarization can promise progress.”
Pakistani priests are using pulpits and social media platforms to pray for peace.
“In the name of God almighty, give peace a chance. Come and negotiate and find a solution to the issues that displease us,” the Rev. Abid Habib, former regional coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic religious major superiors, posted on Facebook.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting “a freedom struggle” in Kashmir against Indian administration. Some groups have also taken up arms in an effort to separate Kashmir from India.
An estimated 100,000 people have died, including civilians, militants and army personnel, since 1990, when Muslim militants began an armed struggle to free the region from Indian rule.
The conflict dates back to 1947 when India and Pakistan become separate states after British rule ended.
Both countries claim Kashmir in full and have fought at least three major wars and regularly exchange artillery and small-weapons fire across a disputed border.
22 February 2019
Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis, founding abbot of Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, holds a pair scissors to the head of Deacon Paiisi during a tonsure ceremony at St. Gregory Church in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. (photo: CNS/Sam Lucero, The Compass)
A Divine Liturgy brought together four jurisdictions of Eastern-rite Catholic communities, as well as the local Latin-rite Catholic community, at St. Gregory Catholic Church in St. Nazianz.
The 16 February liturgy celebrated the life tonsure of Father Paiisi into the monastic brotherhood of Holy Resurrection Monastery.
Catholics worldwide number around 1 billion, with the vast majority belonging to the Latin-rite Catholic Church. About 20 million belong to 22 Eastern-rite Catholic churches, which trace their roots to five ritual families. The largest of these are churches of the Byzantine tradition, to which the monks at Holy Resurrection belong.
Father Paiisi, whose birth name is Patrick Firman, is a member of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. In honor of his faith background, Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in Chicago, joined Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis, leader of the Holy Resurrection monastic community, for the tonsure ceremony, which is equivalent to a solemn profession in the Latin-rite Catholic Church.
“Holy Resurrection Monastery belongs canonically to the Romanian Greek-Catholic jurisdiction and is now the largest of these Greek-Catholic monasteries,” Abbot Zachariadis said. “It has always seen its mission as extending to all jurisdictions.”
The tonsure ceremony was a prime example of this collaboration.
The abbot explained that in the Byzantine Catholic Church, there are “basically two vocations or charisms of the Christian life: marriage and monastic life. Even priests and deacons are either married or monks.” Eastern Catholic priests are not allowed to marry after ordination.
In general, in Eastern-rite Catholic churches in their homelands, married men may become priests; they cannot marry after ordination. Under a Vatican rule in the early 20th-century, married priests could not serve the Eastern-rite churches in the United States, Canada and Australia.
But by the early 2000s, the Vatican had stopped suspending married men ordained to the priesthood for service in the Eastern Catholic churches of North America and Australia. In 2014, the Vatican lifted its ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood in Eastern Catholic churches outside their traditional territories, including in the United States, Canada and Australia
With married Eastern-rite clergy becoming much more common, even in the United States, the witness of monastic life will be even more important than ever to emphasize the two charisms in the church,” Abbot Zachariadis said. “This tonsure celebrates the witness of monastic life in the Greek-Catholic churches in the USA and the co-operation between all the Greek-Catholic churches in order to make this happen.”
The tonsure -- from the Latin word “tondeo,” meaning to shear or shave -- is rich with historical symbolism.
It consists of cutting the hair of the candidate, a gesture that is found in Scripture.
For example, Chapter 18, Verse 18, of the Acts of the Apostles, describes Paul being “at Cenchreae, where he had his hair cut because he had taken a vow.”
Before the tonsure rite, Abbot Zachariadis addressed the assembly that numbered over 100 people.
“We hope that this will be the beginning of many more associations with the Ukrainian community of Chicago,” he said, in his welcome to Bishop Aleksiychuk, who brought with him from Chicago a choir that led the congregation in song.
The abbot said the gathering of so many communities bodes well for their future. “This shows a very, very important direction of our monastery and, hopefully, of our Greek-Catholic churches in the USA,” he said.
He also acknowledged the presence of six nuns from the Byzantine Catholic Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, in the Eparchy of Parma.
In its 25-year history, the monastery in St. Nazianz has been unique, Abbot Zachariadis said.
“We were traditional, we were in America and we were a monastery especially for all Greek Catholics,” he said. “Not just for Romanians, not just for Ruthenians, not just for Ukrainians, not just for Melkites, but for all Greek Catholics. ... I appeal to all the Greek-Catholic jurisdictions in the U.S. to be inspired by this vision, to promote monastic life.”
He said that, unlike the Latin-rite Catholic churches, the Eastern-rite Catholic churches are small and need each other to succeed. “Each of our jurisdictions is too small, too lacking in resources, too uninformed about the richness of monastic life for each jurisdiction to recreate the wheel of monastic life,” he said.
Father Paiisi’s tonsure is a positive sign for the future, added the abbot, showing that Eastern- and Latin-rite Catholics “are in this together.”
“I’m very proud this morning to be kind of cementing this reality,” he said, by receiving Father Paiisi, a deacon of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, into the monastery. He hoped it would be the beginning of many such “monastic vocations to our monastery.”
“May Father Paiisi, as I will be tonsuring him for life, be a witness, and an important witness, to that reality,” Abbot Zachariadis added.
With the tonsure of Father Paiisi, he said, the monastery now has 10 members. Two novice monks are scheduled for life tonsure this year.
“We are growing, but the size of a monastic community is not as important as the quality,” he said. “I am very impressed by the quality of our monastic candidates.”
30 January 2019
Tags: Priests Ukrainian Catholic Church
Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is pictured celebrating Mass 3 March 2008. Pope Francis met with family members of the Italian Jesuit, whose fate is still unknown after he was kidnapped in Syria in 2013. (photo: CNS/P. Razzo, CIRIC, via Catholic Press Photo)
Pope Francis met with family members of the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, the Italian Jesuit whose fate is still unknown after he was kidnapped in Syria in 2013.
Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, told reporters on 30 January that the pope held the private audience at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
The meeting took place in “a particularly cordial atmosphere,” Gisotti said, and included Father Dall’Oglio’s mother, four sisters and one brother.
“The audience represents the pope’s affection and proximity toward the family of the Italian Jesuit who was kidnapped in Syria in July of 2013.”
The pope met with family members on another occasion at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome in July 2014 — just a few days after the first anniversary of the priest’s disappearance.
The Italian missionary was a respected promoter of peace and Christian-Muslim dialogue in Syria.
Witnesses had reported that on the day the priest disappeared he was going to speak to leaders at the Islamic State headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, to try to persuade them to release several hostages being held there.
13 December 2018
Tags: Syria Pope Francis
Austrian Scout Niklas Lehner poses with a Greek Orthodox priest in the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, where Christ was born. Niklas had just kindled the flame that would be known as the Peace Light from Bethlehem and would be spread around the world.
(photo: CNS/courtesy ORF)
Brian Duane’s maroon Subaru had already covered about 1,800 miles when he pulled into the parking lot at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette on 4 December.
It was Duane’s 18th stop in what would be a weeklong, cross-country journey for the resident of Pembroke, Massachusetts, and his car contained precious cargo with a radiance of goodwill.
This road trip was a mission from Bethlehem carrying a message of peace, contained in a glowing lantern.
This fire had originally been kindled at Christ’s birthplace, the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank. Duane is part of a national network of volunteers spreading this “Peace Light from Bethlehem” across the nation.
“It is symbolic of Christ’s love for us and of the Prince of Peace,” Duane told Catholic News Service. “It serves as a reminder to us.”
For more than a decade, volunteers like Duane have driven this flame from coast to coast, lighting hundreds of lanterns along the route.
The effort to spread the Peace Light is spearheaded by Scouts and Scouting advisers, most often associated with Catholic churches.
The goal is to kindle peace in all hearts by remembering Christ’s mission began in Bethlehem.
“It’s symbolic, but it’s the effort, the coming together, the dedication to peace and heading home and spreading the message, even at the family level,” said Bob McLear, who lives west of Chicago.
McLear planned to take the light from Lafayette back to his parish in Batavia, Illinois, and pass it off to another volunteer headed to Madison, Wisconsin.
The Peace Light’s journey can be traced back to a tradition in Austria. For the past 32 years, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF has sent a child to Bethlehem to kindle a flame from the oil lamps hanging above Christ’s birthplace.
The fire, stored in two explosion-proof miner’s lanterns, is then flown with a safety adviser back to Europe, where it is spread to more than 30 countries.
“The reaction of the people touched my heart,” said Wolfgang Kerndler, a security expert for Austrian Airlines, who has escorted the flame for about two decades.
“Even the crew is proud to be part of the operation,” Kerndler told CNS in an email. “It’s an honor.”
The Peace Light first arrived in the United States in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The Austrian government and national Scouting association sent the flame with a VIP delegation to comfort the grieving nation.
“New York City really was devastated,” said Paul Stanton, the international representative for New York City with the Boy Scouts of America.
“It was a great sign of kindness from the people of the world,” he told CNS in a phone interview from New York City.
The light has been flown by Austrian Airlines to New York every year since. Stanton helps to organize the official reception at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
This year, about 150 adults and children gathered at the airport’s Our Lady of the Skies Chapel to welcome the light of peace and kindle their own flames.
“The youth are needing to know that there is hope, but they also need to know if there is going to be a better world, it will start with them,” Stanton said.
Duane was at the chapel to light his lanterns and begin his journey.
From New York, he drove as far west as Denver, before heading back to Massachusetts, logging more than 5,400 miles.
Along the way, Duane stopped at 26 locations to meet volunteers, participate in ceremonies and pass on the flame.
“I’ve walked into so many different places, a very liberal congregation, a very conservative congregation,” he said, “and yet we all agree on the need for peace and civility.”
Duane arrived in Indianapolis on 4 December, where more than 60 people, mostly children, gathered at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish to welcome him and spread the flame from Bethlehem. Lanterns and candles lined the altar.
“I think that it’s really beautiful and I’m really happy that we came,” said Eliza Frank, a student at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.
“We hear about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, but we never actually see anything from there or go there, so I thought that was really cool,” Frank said.
When Duane arrived at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette later that evening, nearly 100 Scouts and parents were present to spread the light. Even the youngest were challenged to share the flame with at least three other people in their local community, spreading hope and peace in the process.
“To the people out there that don’t have a chance to get the peace light,” said John Niemann, an Eagle Scout and student at Purdue University, “you can still hold Christ’s peace in your heart throughout this Christmas season and really strive to have that, even though you can’t physically have the flame with you.”
The Peace Light was set to reach California by 13 December and is reported to burn in more than 30 states.
A Facebook page set up by volunteers mapped out the spread of the Peace Light and continues to field requests from individuals wishing to take the flame to their own communities.
In most cases, the lanterns lit by the Peace Light will illuminate congregations and homes through the Christmas season. Duane hopes that those lights serve as a constant reminder that small actions, like small lanterns, have the power to light a darkened world.
“We sometimes feel overwhelmed when there’s major conflicts going on in the Middle East or wherever it happens to be,” Duane said.
“Like, what can I do? Well, I can be kind and gentle to my family, my neighbors, the lady at the store, everybody else. Be a vehicle of peace, be a vessel of peace,” he said.
Check out the video about the Peace Light below, produced by Katie Rutter for CNS:
4 December 2018
The Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East gathered for its annual meeting 26-30 November in Baghdad under the theme "Youth is a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries." (photo: CNS/courtesy Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East)
Catholic leaders of the Middle East cautioned that the very existence of Christians in the region is threatened, but their faithful continue “to bear witness to the Lord Jesus amid a turbulent world interrupted by mighty waves.”
The Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East reminded young people: “In light of the difficulties and challenges you face in the midst of the current situation in the Middle East, and in light of the bleak migration that threatens your future and the Christian presence in the East as a whole, we stand by you. As we share the same present pain, we look forward to a bright future with your presence, and we assure you that we will work together to provide the foundations of your steadfastness and steadfastness in your land.”
The patriarchs met in Baghdad 26-30 November with the theme, “Youth Is a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries.”
Cardinal Louis Sako, patriarch of Chaldean Catholics, opened the meeting and noted that emigration and religious extremism are pressing challenges.
At a 27 November liturgy at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph, overflowing with young people who shared their questions, concerns, fears and aspirations for their future with the prelates, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said: “We live in this terrible legacy that we have inherited in recent years. Today, many people want to leave because of the difficulties and pain created by takfiri terrorism and external interference.”
However, Patriarch Younan exhorted, “If we want to be faithful and faithful to our fathers and grandfathers, we must remain steadfast despite all the challenges.”
The patriarchs also concelebrated the liturgy on 26 November at the Syriac Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad, marking the attack there eight years ago in which two young priests and 45 believers were martyred.
In their final statement, the patriarchs called upon Iraq’s officials “to work hand in hand to renew the country and its development.”
The patriarchs also met with Iraqi President Barham Salih, who was received by Pope Francis at the Vatican on 24 November. The president told the prelates that he had invited the pope to visit Iraq.
Regarding Syria, the patriarchs expressed satisfaction “with the stability in most parts of the country, where life has returned to normal, hoping that this will include stability in all of Syria.” They appealed “to all decision-makers to work hard for the return” of displaced people and refugees, which they stressed “will have a profound impact” on maintaining national unity “so that Syria will remain the land of peace, freedom and dignity.”
In their statement, the Middle East patriarchs affirmed their solidarity with Palestine and its people “who still groan under the occupation and long for the dawn of salvation and independence.” They called upon the international community to “recognize the Palestinian state within the framework of the two states and the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.”
They also urged respect for religious minorities, adding, “The truth, as Pope Benedict XVI warns us, is that ‘peace and justice in our world cannot be achieved if religious freedoms are not respected for all.’“
Tags: Iraq Middle East