12 June 2019
Syria says it shot down a number of Israeli missiles that were launched toward an area overlooking the Golan Heights. (video: i24News/YouTube)
Syria says it thwarted Israeli missile attack (Al Jazeera) Syrian Air Defenses thwarted an Israeli attack on Tal al-Hara in southern Syria and shot down a number of them, Syrian state news agency SANA said early on Wednesday. Located in Deraa Governorate, Tal al-Hara is considered a strategic hill overlooking the occupied Golan Heights…
Religion blamed for India’s poor grade on gender equality (UCANews.com) A global study of gender equality has placed India nearly at the bottom, with some research and rights groups accusing religion of playing a major role in Indians discriminating against women. The Sustainable Development Goals Gender Index ranked India 95th out of 129 countries. The index measures how well nations are progressing toward achieving gender equality by 2030, which is part of the 17 sustainable development goals set by the United Nations. Research done by Reshma Elizabeth Thomas of the University of Madras this year claims that religion is the main cause of depriving women of equality. For most Indians, the ideal concept of women comes from Hindu mythology as 80 percent of Indians are Hindus. …
Syrian refugees in Lebanon forced to destroy homes (AFP) Abu Mohamed lost his house in Syria early in the civil war. Six years on, it’s happening again -- only this time in Lebanon and he has to destroy it himself. His family and thousands of others crammed in this remote mountainous region of northeastern Lebanon have been ordered to demolish hard shelters, which the authorities consider illegal construction…
Report: dam in Ethiopia has wiped out indigenous livelihoods (Mongabay.com) A dam in southern Ethiopia built to supply electricity to cities and control the flow of water for irrigating industrial agriculture has led to the displacement and loss of livelihoods of indigenous groups, the Oakland Institute has found…
11 June 2019
Tags: Syria India Israel Hinduism
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, center, poses for a photo with Mark Morozowich, dean of theology and religious studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, left; John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America; Bishop Basil H. Losten, former head of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; and Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. (photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
Ukrainian Catholics in North America continue to struggle to develop ways to maintain their Ukrainian religious and ethnic identity amid a larger majority culture that beckons with the siren song of assimilation.
The answer may lie in young people, according to Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the newly enthroned archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, during a 6 June conference on the future of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in North America that he convoked at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
“It is time to give voice to our young people, to hear them,” Metropolitan Borys said in introductory remarks during the conference, which was part of an eight-day celebration of his 4 June enthronement in Philadelphia.
His words were echoed by Susan Timoney, an associate professor in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at Catholic University.
“Young people are fully invested members of our community today,” not at some point in the future, Timoney said.
One takeaway from last October’s Synod of Bishops on “young people, faith and vocational discernment” at the Vatican, was that “our parishes are rightly placed (with) exactly what our young people are searching for,” although “we don’t always use the same language,” she said, adding that “if Jesus were preaching and teaching today, we might think of him as that millennial hipster with some crazy ideas.”
Youth coming together to celebrate also is helpful, according to Timoney, who cited national, regional and local World Youth Day celebrations concurrent with the international World Youth Day as an example.
“Young people need help with discernment,” Timoney said. “They need help to make sense of who they are, and who God wants them to be.”
Assimilation into the larger culture is not limited to Ukrainians, said Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
“Among Hispanics, kids are speaking English,” Munoz-Visoso said. “They are subject to the same temptations and cultural influence as all of the other kids.” What is needed is “to reach out in a way that is meaningful to them,” she said.
But discipleship is not to be restricted to one’s own group, she added. “The church in Ukraine is missionary in its own identify,” she said. Evangelization should not be limited to just “the ones who speak like me, or look like me, or think like me, but all nations,” as Jesus decreed, she added.
The Rev. Peter Galadza, a Ukrainian Catholic priest and theologian, said the Ukrainian liturgical rites hold an appeal to some non-Ukrainians who have joined the Ukrainian church, which like all Eastern Catholic churches, are in communion with Rome. Still there are some Ukrainian Catholics who harbor resentment of non-Ukrainians worshipping with them.
“We will never allow anyone in our church to look at you and say, ‘What are you doing here? You’re not Ukrainian,’“ said the priest, who is director and professor of liturgy at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at the University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto.
There are people who have “an inferiority complex about being Ukrainian,” he added, but “we see parishes who refused to even have a homily in English in 40-50 years, and they are suffering today.”
Unity is key, Father Galadza said, but without unity in the pursuit of truth, “your sense of mission is going to be skewed.”
A recurring theme of the “From Heart to Heart” conference struck Robin Darling Young, an associate professor of spirituality at Catholic University professor, as profound, noting it was the motto of Blessed John Henry Newman, the 19th-century Oxford don and Anglican who joined the Catholic Church, became a cardinal, and whose canonization is expected later this year.
Blessed Newman probably spotted “cor” -- Latin for “heart” -- in St. Augustine’s “Confessions,” Young said, not to mention several biblical passages that refer to the heart.
“Our hearts are not isolates,” Young said. “Our hearts are affected by others, and of course by the heart of the Lord.”
11 June 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Deadly attacks in northern Syria have displaced thousands of civilians and sparked fears that millions of residents could be at risk. (video: TRT World/YouTube.)
Russian jets bomb Idlib (Al Jazeera) At least 25 people have been killed in aerial bombardment carried out by Russian jet fighters in Idlib region. The rebel stronghold of northwestern Syria has come under deadly regime bombardment in recent weeks, sparking fears for its roughly three million residents…
Body of Indian bishop exhumed after suspicions raised surrounding his death (UCANews.com) Police in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh have exhumed the body of a Catholic bishop after suspicions were raised that his death in a car accident six months ago could have been the result of foul play. Bishop Thomas Thennatt of Gwalior’s corpse was exhumed on 10 June after a court ordered police to investigate the prelate’s death on 14 December last year...
Violence with Gaza causing families to leave southern Israel (The Jerusalem Post) At least 10 families living in Gaza border communities have decided to leave the area following the repeated rounds of violence between Israel and terror groups in the Hamas-run coastal enclave, Channel 13 reported on Friday. According to the report, the families arrived in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council last year and have told the council that they will be leaving this summer due to the security situation…
Syria says no to restoring ties with Hamas (The Jerusalem Post) Syria is not interested in restoring their relations with Hamas despite the Palestinian movement’s readiness to bury the hatchet with Damascus. According to recent reports, Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, have been mediating between Syria and Hamas in a bid to persuade the two sides to restore their relations…
10 June 2019
Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Indian Bishops
Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Nizar Semaan is seen during his 7 June 2019, episcopal ordination at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, his birthplace.
(photo: CNS/Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)
Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Nizar Semaan begins his new mission in Iraq with hope “that Christianity will flourish again” in his homeland.
Bishop Semaan chose the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, his birthplace, as the site of his episcopal ordination on 7 June.
Still scarred from the Islamic State group and not yet fully restored, the church, Bishop Semaan said, is “a symbol of what happened to our cities and villages in 2014 until the liberation (in 2017) from ISIS.”
It’s also the church where the new bishop was ordained a priest in 1991.
Located in the Ninevah Plain, Qaraqosh was the largest Christian city in Iraq. Its 50,000 residents -- all of them Christian -- were expelled by Islamic State forces in a single night during the summer of 2014. They were among 120,000 Christians uprooted from Mosul and the Ninevah Plain that summer.
Of his new mission as a bishop, Bishop Semaan told Catholic News Service his ministry is “all about challenges: political challenges, economical challenges, spiritual challenges, social challenges.”
Yet he is optimistic.
“I’m sure with the help and prayers of many people who are interested in the Christians of Iraq, we will carry our mission and we will go ahead for a brighter future,” he said.
In his homily during the ordination Mass, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan acknowledged the challenges facing the church in northern Iraq. Pointing to the “terrible calamity” that affected “the most precious diocese in our Syriac Catholic Church,” he said his people’s resilience is “an example of the heroic testimony and the steadfastness in the face of the evil forces that wanted to kill hope in your believing souls.”
The patriarch noted how parishioners “carried the cross,” following the example of Jesus. “Your hope has won the admiration of the faithful around the world, in the East and West.”
Bishop Semaan, who spent 14 years as a priest in London, said he plans to focus on building: not just in the physical sense with new construction, but especially restoring relationships among Iraqis and to work on healing “the psychological and spiritual injury of our people.”
“It wasn’t easy for our people, who lived here their entire life and in one night, suddenly, immediately they lost everything, and found themselves without a piece of bread to eat, sleeping in the street, to be forced to live as refugees in the north, Ankawa, Kurdistan, Irbil,” he said.
Such horrific trauma, he explained, left deep wounds in people’s hearts and minds.
Stressing the pastoral role of priests and bishops, he said that establishing peace, political stability and security in Iraq is not in the hands of the church.
“For this, we need the help of the international community,” to put pressure on the Iraqi government so that people can live in dignity, with democracy and respect for human rights, he said.
Without security, Bishop Semaan noted, it is difficult for Christians to be expected to stay in Iraq and restart their lives. Likewise, he said, the lack of security hinders economic investment.
He urged Christians in the West to encourage their government “to look at the situation of Christians in Iraq and try to find a political solution.”
“We need their support and prayers, as well as economic help,” Bishop Semaan said.
While touring Qaraqosh before his installation, the new bishop said he was struck by how, in two years, the community was able to rebuild again, citing as evidence numerous homes, shops and restaurants.
“It’s kind of like a miracle,” he said. “This is a sign of hope, really.”
More reconstruction is needed, Bishop Semaan told CNS, and for that the Christian community in the region must depend on the continued help from international charities and church groups.
Although there are no exact figures, Bishop Semaan said about 20,000 people have returned to Qaraqosh, where he will be based initially.
Bishop Semaan said his return to Iraq is grounded in the hope “that Christianity will flourish again in Iraq, and every Christian will play his positive role in rebuilding the new Iraq.”
“Everyone around the world should care about what is happening to the Christians of Iraq,” Bishop Semaan said, adding that without help, “in 20 years we will vanish from here.”
Bishop Semaan noted that Pope Francis “is always talking about the importance of Christianity in the Middle East, the importance of staying here, giving testimony to our faith. We need help to continue our mission in the Middle East.”
In 2003, about 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq. Their presence dates to apostolic times. Now that number has dwindled to about 250,000, according to international observers.
For his motto as bishop, Bishop Semaan chose Galatians 5:22: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness. “Most important is peace and patience,” he said.
He said he hopes to bring that inspiration to the people of Iraq.
“If you look at the faces of our people and what they endured, you can see the sadness in their eyes,” he said. “They need a happy person.”
10 June 2019
Tags: Iraq Syriac Catholic Church
Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul, Iraq, center, concelebrates the liturgy at St. Thomas Syriac Catholic Church in the old city of Mosul in February. Announcing his desire to visit Iraq in 2020, Pope Francis called for a peaceful resolution to crises in the Middle East.
(photo: CNS/Khalid al-Mousily, Reuters)
Pope hopes to visit Iraq in 2020 (Vatican News) Pope Francis said on Monday he “thinks constantly of Iraq”, where he wishes to travel in the coming year. He was addressing representatives of ROACO, the ‘Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.’ As he listed countries that fall within the Reunion’s reach and where the faithful continue to suffer, — including Syria, Ukraine and the Holy Land — the Pope focused on Iraq…
Pope Francis releases message for World Mission Sunday 2019 (Vatican News) World Mission Sunday in 2019 falls on 20 October. Instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926, the annual day encourages prayers, cooperation and help for missions as well as reminding Christians about the fundamental missionary character of the Church and of every baptized person. The theme of this year’s observance is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”…
Inside Lebanon’s most dangerous refugees camps (The Independent) The original refugee camp at Bourj al-Barajneh was once a sea of canvas tents. Today it is a concrete labyrinth hiding Lebanon’s social outcasts, more than 20,000 Palestinian refugees, from view…
UN: Up to 2 million Syrians could flee to Turkey (Reuters) Up to two million refugees could flee to Turkey if fighting intensifies in north-western Syria as aid funds run dangerously low, the United Nations said on Monday. Syria’s Russian-backed regime forces have been pressing an assault on opposition and rebels in their last major stronghold with air attacks and ground battles that have already forced tens of thousands to leave their homes…
7 June 2019
Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Lebanon Refugees Refugee Camps
A widow stands amid the rubble of her destroyed home in Mudulisahi, India, on 22 May 2019, in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
Sabi Swati, stood on the ruins of her brick house, which had been ravaged by powerful cyclone Fani in early May, asking, “What will I do?”
“I am awaiting support to repair my house. I cannot stay in the palm-shed I am living in now when the monsoon comes (in mid-June),” Swati told Catholic News Service.
Nearby, Catholic Relief Service workers conducted a survey of damaged properties and the needs of hundreds of people who were evacuated from the remote village in Odisha state and returned home to find massive destruction.
Swati was not alone in her bewilderment. Dozens of people continued to wonder about their future a month after the storm as aid relief agencies worked to distribute emergency assistance and hygiene supplies.
Nearly all of the 120-plus houses in Mudulisahi suffered extensive damage from the storm that packed winds of 160 miles per hour when it walloped coastal and inland areas of eastern Odisha state on 3 May. Authorities said 70 people died and more than 500,000 families were affected by the cyclone.
Rows of roofless and severely damaged houses surrounded by stumps of headless and twisted coconut trees bear witness to Fani’s devastation throughout the region. Even a concrete roof in the village of Purushottam Ballabha, where CRS had distributed relief supplies, had sustained severe damage.
Because of timely and precise forecasts, the government was able to evacuate nearly 1.5 million people to inland communities ahead of the storm, Bhishnupada Sethi, special relief commissioner of Odisha, said, acknowledging that the swift action likely saved dozens if not hundreds of lives.
Sethi said the storm caused more than $1.7 billion in damage as assessments continued at the end of May.
“Over two lakh (US$200,000) families have been severely affected with their roofs blown away,” Sethi told CNS on 3 June.
“Along with restoring electricity and other amenities, our immediate target is to reach assistance to these families before the monsoon breaks in (mid-June),” Sethi said.
“We are reaching relief and cash assistance to over 100,000 families. Many (international) relief organizations are carrying out making meaningful relief and rehabilitation work. The government is working in coordination with them,” he added.
In Benpanjuri village, Caritas India workers met Sapura Bibi, whose home was roofless with the sun blazing into its interior. Bibi posed the same question heard countless times since the storm: “How can I live in this house?”
“Luckily, I had taken shelter with my children in the (government) cyclone shelter. Prone to cyclones frequently due to its curved coastline in the Bat of Bengal, Odisha has built thousands of cyclone shelters,” she said.
Anjan Bag, technical manager for humanitarian response with Caritas India, said the evacuation saved lives because Fani was more powerful and destructive than a super cyclone in 1999 that left more than 10,000 dead.
“The country realized the massive devastation only later. When I rushed to Odisha, there was neither electricity nor water. We had to sleep in the open under mosquito nets to coordinate the relief work,” Bag told CNS 6 June.
As of 3 June, Caritas India had distributed emergency shelter material to 5,537 households in 88 villages in addition to food supplies to more than 1,000 families, he said.
While the Caritas network has already donated nearly $255,000, Bag said, several other agencies have come forward to support a planned housing rehabilitation program. Homeowners will be trained in home reconstruction as well as small-business development.
7 June 2019
In this image from 2015, Pope Francis greets Russian President Vladimir Putin as he arrives for a private meeting at the Vatican. The two will meet again in July, possibly paving the way for a future papal visit to Russia. (photo:CNS/Alexei Nikolsky, RIA Novosti/Kremlin via Reuters)
Putin July trip to Rome could pave way for papal trip to Russia (Reuters) The Vatican said Putin, who will be on a state visit to Italy, will hold talks with the Argentinian-born pope on 4 July. The meeting, their third since Francis was elected in 2013, comes at a time of improving relations between the Vatican and the world’s Orthodox Churches. It also will be their first since Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill met in 2016, a landmark step in healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity…
Lebanon imposes curfew on Syria refugees (Middle East Monitor) Lebanon has restricted the movement of Syrian refugees in the Deir El-Ahmar area until Friday after a fire engine was ambushed yesterday. Governor of Baalbek, Bachir Khodr, imposed the severe restrictions on the refugees after a fireman was hopsitalised in the attack. A Syrian man is reported to have been involved in the attack…
Myths put lives of young Indian women at risk (UCANews.com) In large swathes of rural India, as well as some urban pockets, females are considered impure and segregated when menstruating. They are forced to sleep in separate ”menstruation huts,” which are often cowsheds or barns. Poverty and a general lack of awareness of health issues pushes them even closer to death as they are prone to infections while bleeding, or can be bitten by snakes or other wild animals in the huts, experts say…
Visiting the ’Sistine Chapel of Iran’ shows Christian-Muslim coexistence (B.C. Catholic) Located in the ancient Persian capital of Isfahan, this church is also known as Vank Cathedral (“Vank” is the Armenian word for monastery or convent). An Armenian Orthodox church, this gem is hidden behind walls, a living intersection of Perso-Christian-Islamic culture in one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The church is a part of old Christianity not often seen in that part of the world, a living proof of the harmony that has long existed among Muslims and Christians. In fact, it is one of the best places to observe a coexistence of cultures and religions…
Vatican to launch radio news service in Latin (Vatican News) Starting on Saturday, 8 June, a 5-minute weekly news bulletin in Latin will be broadcast to the world on Vatican Radio frequencies through the Italian language audio channels. Of course you will also be able to follow it on our web portal and listen to it on podcast, and it will soon be available on the English-language audio frequencies as well…
6 June 2019
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Muslim Iran
Former Bishop Geevarghese Mar Timotheos of India died Tuesday at the age of 91.
(photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
We received some sad news this week from India, regarding a man who was a great champion of the poor:
Geevarghese Mar Timotheos, 91, former bishop of Tiruvalla Diocese of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, passed away on Tuesday morning. The funeral will be held at St John’s Metropolitan Cathedral on Thursday. He was under treatment at Pushpagiri Medical College Hospital for the past six days due to age-related health problems.
Timotheos started his service as a priest under the Tiruvalla Diocese. He was the administrator of the diocese in 1987. He was elevated as bishop in 1988. He worked for the upgradation of Pushpagiri Hospital as medical college. Many hospitals and charity homes were launched by him when he served as bishop. He retired in 2003. He also served as the secretary of Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council (KCBC).
He was featured in our magazine in 1995, in a story entitled The Heirs of St. Thomas.
May his memory be eternal.
6 June 2019
Tags: Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Bishops
Pope Francis greets people as he visits Our Lady Queen of Iasi Cathedral in Iasi, Romania on 1 June 2019. During his audience Wednesday, the pope expressed joy at being among the Romanian people last week. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope expresses joy at being among Romanian people (Vatican News) During his Catechesis at the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis recalled his recent visit to Romania following in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II. The motto of the visit was “Let’s walk together” and the Pope expressed his joy at being able to walk as a pilgrim among the Romanian people. The Pontiff said that the various meetings whilst there “highlighted the value and the need to walk together both among Christians, on the level of faith and charity, and among citizens, on the level of civil commitment…”
Syrian airstrikes kill civilians in Idlib (Al Jazeera)At least five civilians were killed by Russian and Syrian government warplanes that targeted Syria’s northwest as residents marked the holiday of Eid al-Fitr. A local source told Anadolu Agency the five people died on Wednesday in air attacks targeting the town of Kansafra and three villages in Idlib…
Pope to meet Putin before Vatican Ukraine meeting (ABC News) Pope Francis will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican next month, a day before Catholic leaders from Ukraine gather at the Holy See to discuss the continuing conflict there and the fallout from the schism between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches…
Child beggars are the face of poverty in Gaza (Haaretz) There’s a fine line between being a peddler and beggar. The peddlers offer bunches of fresh mint, cookies, gum and tissues. When you refuse, they plead: “Please, give me something.” Many of the peddlers are children, who are up late in any event during Ramadan. They could be seen walking around after 1 A.M. hawking their small supply of wares...
5 June 2019
Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Romania
Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak speaks to his flock in Philadelphia after his enthronement. (photo: CNEWA)
I had the privilege of representing CNEWA yesterday at the enthronement ceremony of Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, as he became head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia — and, consequently, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the United States.
More than 1,000 people from around the world — including CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York — came to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for this important day.
There was a great atmosphere in the cathedral, and no wonder: Metropolitan Borys has demonstrated in the last 20 years that he is driven by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. He has inspired so many, in many corners of the world. I am reminded in particular of the remarkable work he has done at the Ukrainian Catholic University, where he was one of the founders.
In his very humble and moving speech after the liturgy, he spoke brilliantly of his vision for the church. He warned people not to be too distracted with all the glory of the celebration, with its fine vestments. Yes, it is a grand day, he said, and we should celebrate. But, he added, the church is about finding Jesus and promoting his teachings.
The metropolitan also asked a good friend in a wheelchair to come and join him for part of his talk. He alluded to the humanitarian and theologian, the recently deceased Jean Vanier, saying that he is a model of what the church should be. He explained how Jesus is found in the poor, in the handicapped, in the marginalized. The church is to serve them, he said, and he invited everyone to join him and the Lord in this great work.
Metropolitan Borys was clearly moved by the day and by the task ahead. I was humbled to be there for this moment. I left the cathedral uplifted and inspired — more committed than ever to continue CNEWA’s work with Ukrainian church leaders such as him in Ukraine, in Canada and in the United States.
For more, read Prayer and Protest, Borys Gudziak’s first-person account of the 2013 Kiev uprising in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE.
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church