11 May 2016
In this picture from 2014, a Christian family who fled from violence in Mosul, Iraq, sit in the room of a church in Amman, Jordan. The Vatican is funding a job-creation program for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, a country that is hosting close to 1.5 million refugees, but is struggling to provide work for them. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)
Vatican funds job-creation project for refugees in Jordan (CNS) The Vatican is funding a job-creation program for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, a country that is hosting close to 1.5 million refugees, but is struggling to provide work for them. With $150,000 donated to the Vatican by visitors to its pavilion at the World’s Fair in Milan in 2015, the Vatican will provide the funding that Caritas Jordan needs to launch the project...
Pope Francis sends letter to Coptic patriarch on Day of Friendship (Vatican Radio) 10 May marks the anniversary of the first encounter between Pope Paul VI, the Bishop of Rome, and head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, which took place 43 years ago. Today, on the Day of Friendship between Copts and Catholics, Pope Francis has written to His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, to commemorate the occasion...
Cardinal: Don’t let Marrakesh Declaration be ignored (CNS) Noting the untimely death of previous declarations of Muslim comity with other faiths, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Washington’s retired archbishop, urged that the Marrakesh Declaration, drafted in January to have the same effect, not remain ignored. Cardinal McCarrick, during a 10 May “Newsmaker” assembly at the National Press Club in Washington, referred to the Medina Charter issued by the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, which allowed Muslims and non-Muslim “tribes,” including Jews, to live in Medina in peace and to come together for common defense...
Ethiopia hosts conference on hate speech (Vatican Radio) A two day forum exploring the role of religious leaders in Africa in preventing hate crime and atrocities, is taking place in Addis Abada, Ethiopia. Religious leaders from across Africa have gathered for the forum, which is co-sponsored by the Office of the UN Special Advisor on the prevention of Genocide, the World Council of Churches and the King Abdulla bin Abdulaziz Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID)...
10 May 2016
François Moniz, left, takes a break with his wife, Edith, during a 2014 rally in Ottawa to show support for Iraq’s persecuted Christians. (photo: CNEWA)
One year ago today, CNEWA lost a beloved member of our family, François Moniz. We asked CNEWA’s national director in Canada, Carl Hétu, to reflect on this unsung hero.
François Moniz isn’t known to most people outside of the CNEWA family. He was CNEWA Canada’s first office administrator from December 2004 until his death on 10 May 2015.
Back in 2004, François had a full time job in the private sector in administration. But he was out on sick leave, fighting a vicious cancer. After several treatments during the winter and spring of 2004, he was told that nothing had worked and his days were numbered. Knowing this, I brought him back some oil from the tomb of Saint Sharbel in Lebanon. Sharbel was a 19th century monk who was canonized in the 1960’s. Many miracles have been attributed to him.
A couple of months later, after using the oil and with many prayers, François learned some amazing news: the tumor was gone. The doctors were shocked. A real miracle! Before he went back to his job, I asked François if he could give me a hand with his free time in laying out the plan to start CNEWA Canada. I had known him for over 25 years, and I knew I could take advantage of his administrative expertise.
As we sat discussing how to proceed, it became obvious that he was the perfect person to join me in this new challenge. So I offered him the job and I remember his words that day: “I’ve never worked for the church, but I guess I owe one to God.” He turned out to be a superb fit.
The years passed by and CNEWA Canada grew. François was an important part of that growth, and we shared many exciting hours of planning, debating, and evaluating. But then, his cancer reappeared in 2013. This time, we knew that the chances of survival were slim; he needed an operation to remove the tumors. Yet, six months after the surgery, in July 2014, he was back on the job. “You’re back too early,” I told him. He replied, “Not early enough.” He couldn’t stand to be away.
In October of that year, the cancer returned in full force. But even then, François came to the office. He missed some days, but remained very committed. I would say to him, “Stay home, we can manage.” And he would reply, “Carl it’s not from home that I can make a difference.”
Finally, in February 2015, he told me that he would be leaving his job. Heartbroken and sad, we hugged each other, both of us knowing he would never come back. I visited him in the hospital during his final days, and he told me, “You know, working for CNEWA was God’s plan, not mine. And I am privileged that he allowed me to help so many people all over the world.”
François cared. To the end, he was committed to CNEWA’s mission.
He did such a good job that I believe God needed François for other purposes. God called him home on 10 May 2015, Mother’s Day. He was 56.
François left behind his wife, Edith, two children and three brothers.
Thank you, François, for your honesty, objectivity, professionalism and, above all, your friendship.
10 May 2016
In this image from 2007, an Ethiopian seminarian leads a procession. Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church finds modernization challenging some long-held traditions. How is it coping? Read Ethiopian Orthodoxy at a Crossroads from the November 2007 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
10 May 2016
Indonesians take part in a demonstration in solidarity with the civilians of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in front of Syrian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 9 May 2016. A fragile cease-fire in Aleppo has been extended another 48 hours.
(photo: Agnes Rudianto/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syrian government extends cease-fire (The Washington Post) The Syrian military on Monday extended a fragile cease-fire that had broken down in the northern city of Aleppo, as the United States and Russia worked together to try to get peace talks back on track and quell the violence. Shortly before the cease-fire was due to expire and as fighting raged in the northern city of Aleppo, the Syrian military announced that the truce would be extended for 48 hours...
U.S. Announces $50 million aid program for Gaza (AP) The United States has announced a $50 million aid program for the Gaza Strip. U.S. officials said Monday that the money will be used over five years to provide basic humanitarian assistance and create jobs. The money will be distributed by the U.S Agency for International Development in partnership with Catholic Relief Services...
Indian bishops condemn rape and murder of Dalit student in Kerala (Vatican Radio) The Catholic bishops of India have joined political parties, rights activists, women organizations and others in condemning the rape and brutal murder of a young Dalit law student in southern India’s Kerala state. The 30-year-old student by the name of Jisha was raped and murdered at her home in Perumbavoor on 28 April...
New bishop appointed to Phoenix eparchy (CNS) Pope Francis has appointed Bishop John S. Pazak of the Byzantine Eparchy of Sts. Cyril and Methodius of Toronto as bishop of the Holy Protection of Mary Eparchy of Phoenix. The Pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerald Dino, 76, of the Phoenix eparchy, where he had served eight years...
Chaldean patriarch writes about priests who have emigrated to U.S. without permission (Fides) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, writing to the priests, religious and faithful of the Chaldean diocese in the U.S., says to divide the ecclesial body into separate groups is a “serious sin,” in a time when the Chaldean Church is also prompted by the dramatic historical circumstances which guards unity with special care. For this reason, he said, even the communities in diaspora that belong to the eparchy of St. Peter of the Chaldeans, based in San Diego, California, are called to walk the path of reconciliation, and take advantage of the new Apostolic Administrator to favor the return to its “excellent start.” He made this comments in the letter which he also announces the appointment of Archbishop Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad as their Apostolic Administrator, waiting for the Chaldean Synod to proceed to the election of the new Bishop, after Saturday, 7 May...
Israeli general compares Jewish state to Nazi Germany (The Washington Post) On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, a top Israeli general gave a speech saying he saw “revolting trends” in today’s Israel that he compared to Nazi-era Germany and Europe in the 1930s. No surprise — this has created a big stir in Israel, flaring again Sunday...
India rejects U.S. report on religious freedom (RNS) India is rejecting a U.S. panel’s charges that the religious freedom of minorities in the world’s largest democracy is being violated with tacit support from elements in the ruling party. By contrast, leaders of the country’s Christian and Muslim minorities welcomed the findings of the report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), released on Monday (2 May) in Washington...
Visiting the ancient Ethiopian churches carved into the mountains (The Daily Mail) For centuries, young men and boys have climbed the steep mountainsides of Tigray, Northern Ethiopia, to reach ancient churches carved into the side of the jagged rock faces. Believed to have been built over a thousand years ago, churches in these remote mountains have been a place of worship and study for Orthodox Christians in the region. Hoping to get closer to God literally and figuratively, the young students risk their lives on a daily basis as they scale the cliff-sides to get to the churches where teachers have spent decades studying holy scriptures...
9 May 2016
In this image from 2011, an Iraqi man inspects the damage at a Catholic church after attacks in Kirkuk. Despite predictions that Christianity could be wiped out of his war-torn homeland within five years, Chaldean Archishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk said he believes in God's ultimate preservation. (photo: CNS/Khalil Al Anei, EPA)
Despite predictions that Christianity could be wiped out of his war-torn homeland within five years, an Iraqi Catholic cleric said he believes in God’s ultimate preservation.
“This prognosis may be of thinkers or politicians, but not of the believers,” Chaldean Archishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk told Catholic News Service at an April trauma counseling training in this Lebanese mountain retreat town.
“When our faith reaches the edge, even to the point of death, there is always an intervention of God, something amazing happens,” said the archbishop.
“This is the faith of the Old Testament witnessed in Exodus and (the) parting of the Red Sea, and in the New Testament with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, I don’t believe those who say that there won’t be Christians in Iraq.”
Iraq’s Christian population numbered about 1.4 million during the rule of Saddam Hussein, but figures now hover between 260,000 and 300,000 as political instability and persecution by Islamic State militants have drastically reduced their numbers. Other religious minorities, such as the Yezidis, also have been targets of vicious persecution by the extremists.
Half of the remaining Christians in Iraq struggle to remain true to their faith or flee to other countries due to dangers the Islamic State poses, including forced conversion to Islam. Every year, the Christian population decreases by 60,000-100,000, according to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, in a report issued late last year.
Archishop Mirkis has argued otherwise from his experience of helping those who have fled extremist persecution and are displaced within their homeland. He said healing in his diocese to those traumatized has taken a number of forms, whether using puppets, theatrical scenes, art, song and poetry as well as group “talk.”
“We try to use all the possibilities in our community and especially spiritual services such as masses, Bible study groups. The best thing is not to give up. We shall overcome,” he said of the 130,000 who fled from the 2014 Islamic State militant takeover of Mosul and the Ninevah Plain. “There are too many questions for us about Daesh and what is to follow,” he said, using the militants’ name in Arabic.
“But this is not the first time we experienced this kind of persecution,” he said, noting past times of Christian persecution.
The Aid to the Church in Need report references an exodus from Iraq of Christians fearing ethnic cleansing and potential genocide at an unprecedented pace while the world has stood by. It warned that “Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq within possibly five years — unless emergency help is provided on a massively increased scale at an international level.”
In late April, Islamic State militants blew up Mosul’s iconic clock tower church, known as al-Latin or al-Sa’ah Church. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako denounced the destruction.
“We have received news that the ISIS elements blew up the archaeological Latin church belonging to the Dominican fathers, located in the center of Mosul. We strongly condemn the targeting of the Christian Church and also condemn the targeting of mosques and other houses of worship,” he said.
The patriarch urged Iraqi politicians to speed up the national reconciliation process, while imploring the international community and religious authorities to do more to end ongoing sectarian conflict in order to protect the country and its citizens.
But the storming of Iraq’s parliament building by Shiite protesters in late April underscored the extreme fragility of the government and plunged Iraq into a deeper political crisis as divisions spread not just among Sunni Muslims, Shiites and Kurds, but splinter each grouping from within.
Archbishop Mirkis said: “Those who decide to emigrate are making a very hard decision. Those who stay, we try to help them.”
He said his diocese has taken in 800 families and 400 university students who want to continue their studies in Iraq, even though their parents have emigrated.
“Christians who are stable in Iraq discovered that they can do more than be Christian only. By welcoming the displaced and helping them, many have overcome the trauma they have experienced,” he said. “I spend all my time, not only with material needs of the traumatized, but also addressing their psychological and spiritual healing.
“Our faith is very rich. It dies, if you don’t use it,” he said. “Please use the faith you have. Don't let it die inside you.”
9 May 2016
Pope Francis meets Catholics and Muslims taking part in an interfaith colloquium.
(photo: Vatican Radio/L’Osservatore Romano)
Catholics, Muslims highlight shared beliefs for social, political life (Vatican Radio) Catholic and Muslim experts in interreligious dialogue have issued a joint communique stressing their shared beliefs as a basis for peaceful coexistence and cooperation for the common good...
European Award for Armenian church in Turkey (Fides) The Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Giragos in Diyarbakir has been awarded for its recent restoration by the European Union, but the awards ceremony and the laying of the commemorating plaque of the award cannot be held at the place of worship, which since March has been confiscated by the Turkish military authorities for security purposes, along with other churches in the historic center of the city...
56 hours with the Russian army in Syria (The Washington Post) Last weekend, I received a call from the Russian Foreign Ministry offering a spot on a three-day press tour with the Russian army to Syria, exact dates and destinations TBD. There was also a special warning for American journalists coming aboard. Write poorly about us, an official said, and “this will be your first and last trip...”
Closed Roman Catholic church in New York becomes Malankara Catholic church (The Journal News) A Yonkers Roman Catholic church shuttered last year in a parish consolidation will celebrate its rebirth Saturday as an Eastern Rite congregation. The Rev. Sunny Mathew, 43, the new congregation’s pastor, said the move to Yonkers realizes a longtime dream for his parishioners, who began their congregation in 1984 in New York City. Most Holy Trinity Church at 18 Trinity Plaza will be occupied by St. Mary’s Malankara Catholic Church, an Indian congregation that for 17 years worshiped in the chapel at Salesian High School in New Rochelle...
Is the era of great famine over? (The New York Times) The worst drought in three decades has left almost 20 million Ethiopians — one-fifth of the population — desperately short of food. And yet the country’s mortality rate isn’t expected to increase: In other words, Ethiopians aren’t starving to death. I’ve studied famine and humanitarian relief for more than 30 years, and I wasn’t prepared for what I saw during a visit to Ethiopia last month...
New York Episcopal church welcomes flock of destroyed Serbian Orthodox cathedral (The New York Times) As Desa Boskovic stepped into the shadow of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in Manhattan on Sunday afternoon, her mind grew clouded with memory. It was there that she sought refuge as an immigrant from Serbia in 1973, hopeful for some sense of familiarity in this alien city. Its grand gothic arches have welcomed her every Sunday since, framing her family as they observed baptisms, weddings and funerals. Now she wept as she beheld the scorched skeleton of the cathedral that a week earlier had gone up in flames, generations of devotion reduced to rubble...
6 May 2016
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), recently spent a week, 6-12 April 2016, in Iraqi Kurdistan on a pastoral visit to that region’s displaced Christian families. National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Gallagher was a part of this small delegation that included fellow CNEWA board member, Bishop William Murphy of the diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, head of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
Check out the interview below. And be sure to check out other reports on this journey, led by CNEWA’s President John E. Kozar, right here.
6 May 2016
A man attends a Catholic liturgy in a displaced-persons camp in Ainkawa, Iraq, last month.
(photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Paul Jeffrey was one of several journalists who accompanied CNEWA chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan on his pastoral visit to Iraq last month. On the CNS blog today, he offers this little slice of life inside a camp for displaced Iraqis:
When a colleague and I arrived at the Ashti camp for internally displaced families on the outskirts of Ainkawa last month, we asked for the “abouna,” the Arabic word for father, or priest. We were looking for Rogationist Father Jalal Yako, but he wasn’t in his small caravan, the modular container-like building that has become ubiquitous among the displaced in northern Iraq.
In response to my one-word query, people pointed down a crowded passageway. We headed that direction, occasionally querying, “Abouna?” Everyone kept pointing us on, all the way to the toilets. There stood the priest, with several construction workers, remodeling some troubled toilets.
I’m not sure whether Father Yako’s seminary education prepared him for this, but today he’s the de facto mayor of a village of 250 families, about a thousand people. Toilets are just one of his challenges.
When tens of thousands of people fled from the Islamic State’s sweep through Mosul and Qaraqosh in 2014, they came to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they found physical safety. But since they weren’t refugees (they had crossed no international border), they weren’t eligible for assistance from international agencies. Neither the government in far-off Baghdad nor authorities in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan offered much help. It was the church that walked with them as they fled from Islamic State, and the church that struggled to find them food and shelter in exile. Twenty-one months later, the church remains the principal manager of aid. Providing spiritual care goes hand in hand with providing water, sanitation and electricity.
In the blog post, Father Yako offers this assessment:
“As a community, we have survived because of their solidarity, the solidarity of churches, friends, and humanitarian organizations. They have contributed a lot, perhaps because they have felt part of our people’s journey. We have resolved many problems here thanks to their help. We have many friends.”
Read more and see additional pictures here.
6 May 2016
In the video above, a Russian orchestra performs for troops and journalists in an ancient Roman amphitheater in Palmyra, Syria. (video: CNN/YouTube)
Air strike on refugee camp could be a war crime (BBC) An air strike on a Syrian refugee camp that reportedly killed at least 28 people could amount to a war crime, a senior UN official has told the BBC. Stephen O’Brien, the UN humanitarian affairs chief, called for an inquiry into the attack on the Kamouna camp in the northern Idlib province. Syrian or Russian forces are suspected. Syria’s military denied involvement in the strike on a rebel-held area...
Russian symphony performs in Palmyra, Syria (The New York Times) Russia has made its mark on Syria with the crash of bombs and the thud of artillery. On Thursday the Russians added gentler sounds: live classical music echoing through an ancient stone theater and into the eerie, empty desert. Extending its soft power into the Syrian conflict, Russia deployed a symphony orchestra led by one of its best-known conductors, Valery Gergiev, and the cellist Sergei P. Roldugin, an old and — according to the Panama Papers documents leaked last month — very wealthy friend of President Vladimir V. Putin. Their performance space was Palmyra, the city of ruins left by Roman and other ancient civilizations and ruined further by the depredations of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL...
Israel bombs Hamas in worst violence since war in 2014 (The Telegraph) Israel carried out air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Friday during the most serious escalation of hostilities since the last war against Hamas in 2014. The target of the air raids was “Hamas terror infrastructure”, according to an Israeli military statement. The strikes appear to have taken place in Beit Lahia, a suburb of Gaza City, and the southern town of Khuzaa. Both areas suffered severe damage during the 50-day war in July-August 2014...
Jordan’s prince discusses recent meeting at Vatican (Vatican Radio) “Citizenship is a question of pluralism, a question of recognizing the identity of the other on the basis of respect:” That’s what Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal has told Vatican Radio following an interfaith meeting in the Vatican on the theme “Shared values in Social and Political Life”...
Facing an ugly truth about Christian persecution (Crux) According to watchdog groups, there are 200 million Christians today living under the threat of physical violence, arrest, torture, imprisonment and death. In light of that epidemic, there’s a burning need to raise consciousness about the threats Christians face. At the same time, it’s also important to be scrupulously honest about the nature of those threats, so that fair-minded people don’t come to see this as a PR effort, or an exercise in wedge politics, rather than a genuine human rights calamity. In that spirit of candor, here’s an ugly truth to confront: There are occasions when Christians meet the enemy, and it’s us...
Vatican council: Christians and Buddhists should work together for the environment (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has sent a message to the Buddhists of the world to mark the Feast of Vesakh, which commemorates the his birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha...
4 May 2016
Russia has a long and venerable tradition when it comes to Orthodox bell ringing. It’s a tradition that fell silent during the Soviet era, but has now jubilantly returned.
Returning with it: an increased demand for bell ringers.
The video below, from National Geographic, gives us a sample, along with a little background.