19 April 2016
Msgr. Thomas J. McMahon, left, served simultaneously as the first head of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and secretary general of CNEWA. In the image above, he is visiting a refugee camp in Gaza. (photo: CNEWA archives)
One figure who had a great impact on CNEWA — and who played a critical role in our growth and evolution — was Monsignor Thomas J. McMahon. As our online history notes:
From 1943 to 1955, Monsignor Thomas J. McMahon, National Secretary of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, directed the Association through a period that witnessed the horrors of World War II, the division of Europe, the creation of the State of Israel and the ensuing Palestinian refugee crisis.
...A priest of the Archdiocese of New York, Msgr. McMahon was appointed assistant national secretary to Msgr. Bryan McEntegart in June 1943. In August 1943, Msgr. McEntegart was selected as Bishop of Ogdensburg, N.Y., and McMahon succeeded him as national secretary.
Five turbulent years later, one act by the United Nations on 29 November 1947 would have a significant impact on Catholic Near East Welfare Association and its erstwhile national secretary — the partition of Palestine.
After this partition, which created the State of Israel, McMahon traveled to the Holy Land under the instructions of Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The monsignor intended to study the situation created by the establishment of Israel and the subsequent Arab rejection of the partition. Refugees swarmed the new state’s neighbors and Pope Pius XII was anxious about this new group of exiles. Palestine was the Holy Land, the “hometown” of Christianity. The pontiff was concerned about the status of the holy places; Muslim caliphs had brokered a delicate balance of power among the rival Christian groups in the Middle Ages. Would this change? Also, many of these new refugees were Christian Arabs. What would happen to the indigenous Christian communities in the land of Jesus’ birth?
Recommendations for action were sought by the Holy See — Rome valued the insight and judgment of McMahon, and his analysis and opinions were accepted and followed.
One of McMahon’s recommendations was to create a pontifical organization that would coordinate the church’s diverse efforts in the region on behalf of the Palestinian refugees.
In April 1949, the Holy See announced the creation of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Msgr. Thomas McMahon was named its president while retaining the position of national secretary of the Association, hence the development of the unique “sister” relationship between Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Pontifical Mission. To date, the secretary general of the Association has always been the president of the Pontifical Mission as well.
A man of great compassion and vision, Msgr. McMahon was deeply moved by the suffering of all people. He once noted: “Misery did not discriminate among its victims in Palestine. Neither does the Pontifical Mission for Palestine.”
When Msgr. McMahon died in 1956, at the young age of 47, a cardinal who knew him wrote, “He literally was on fire for the cause of Christ.”
In CNEWA’s ongoing mission to serve the poorest and most vulnerable, Msgr. McMahon’s flame continues to burn.
19 April 2016
A man stands in front his damaged house after shelling last month in the Ukrainian town of Makeevka. (photo: CNS/Alexander Ermochenko, EPA)
Pope Francis is calling for a special collection in Europe for Ukraine:
Pope Francis’ pleas for humanitarian aid for Ukraine is bringing needed attention to a forgotten war, said Ukrainian Catholic leaders.
The 2-year-old war has caused thousands of deaths and forced more than 1 million people to seek refuge abroad, the pope said.
After Mass on 3 April, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis asked that Catholic parishes throughout Europe take up a special collection 24 April as a sign of closeness and solidarity with people suffering because of the war in Eastern Ukraine.
He prayed that the collection also “could help, without further delay, promote peace and respect for the law in that harshly tried land.”
Ukrainian Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris, head of external church relations for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said the three things needed most are “to pray for peace and justice in Ukraine, to stay informed regarding the true situation in this ancient European land and to show your solidarity.”
In a statement sent to the media on 14 April, Bishop Gudziak said that after two years of war, there are “1.7 million internally displaced people and a million refugees in neighboring countries. Half a million do not have basic food and hundreds of thousands do not have access to safe drinking water.”
In March 2014, Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, and about a month later, fighting began along Ukraine’s eastern border. Russian-speaking separatists with support from the Russian government and its troops have been battling Ukrainian forces.
Jesuit Father David Nazar, rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and former superior of the Jesuits in Ukraine, said 13 April, “There is a great human need that’s been lost in the media,” which is no longer covering the war.
Read more about the crisis in Ukraine here. In the Spring edition of ONE, discover how the only Catholic university in Ukraine is making a powerful difference in the country.
And to support CNEWA’s efforts to help Ukraine, please visit this giving page.
19 April 2016
Syrian refugees Ramy and Suhila and their children, Khodus, Rashid and Abdul Mejid, relax in Rome on 18 April. The family were among 12 Syrian refugees Pope Francis brought to Rome with him from a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Syrian refugees thank pope for safety (CNS) After less than 48 hours in Rome, “dream” is the word used most often by the six Syrian adults Pope Francis brought back to Italy with him from a refugee camp in Greece. By 18 April, the couples — who asked to be identified by only their first names, Hasan and Nour, Ramy and Suhila, Osama and Wafa — and their six children had spent more than three hours doing paperwork with Italian immigration officials and had enrolled in Italian language classes...
UN agency praises pope’s solidarity with refugees (Vatican Radio) The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed the solidarity of Pope Francis with the world’s refugees and migrants when he visited them in the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday, and offered a home to three Syrian families bringing them along with him to Rome...
U.S. pledges more troops to Iraq (U.S. News & World Report) America’s drumbeat back to war in Iraq grew stronger Monday, with the announcement the White House has approved raising the number of U.S. troops deployed there to more than 4,000. The U.S. will also deploy attack helicopters, rocket-powered artillery and hundreds of millions of dollars more to support Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State group...
Demonstration remembers kidnapped bishops (Fides) Today, Tuesday, 19 April, militants of associations and Lebanese organizations find themselves in the municipal office of Sin el Fil, an eastern suburb of the Lebanese capital, to remember the story of the two Metropolitan Bishops of Aleppo — Syro Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Boulos Yazigi — of whom we have had no certain news since their kidnapping, which occurred on 22 April 2013...
Israel still struggling to bring back tourists after 2014 war (The Globes) The average hotel occupancy rate in March was 58 percent, according to a publication by the Israel Hotel Association. The Hotel Association compared the March 2016 figures with those from March 2015 and March 2014, four months before the beginning of the incoming tourism crisis caused by Operation Protective Edge. The figures show that while the crisis has eased slightly, in comparison with 2015, there are still Israeli cities in which hotel occupancy is 50 percent or less, including Jerusalem, Tiberias, Netanya, and Nazareth...
18 April 2016
In this image from 2006, a woman in Watertown, MA is shown making sfeeha, an Armenian meat pie. To learn how to make this delicacy and read about this thriving immigrant community, check out A Taste of Little Armenia in the July 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
18 April 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew show solidarity with migrants and refugees during a meeting on the island of Lesbos on 16 April. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope visits Lesbos, returns to Rome with 12 Syrian refugees (CNS) Pope Francis’ five-hour visit to Greece ended with him offering safe passage to Italy to 12 Syrian Muslims, half under the age of 18. The Vatican had kept secret the pope’s plan to invite the members of three Syrian families to fly back to Rome with him on 16 April. Rumors began swirling in the Greek media a couple hours before the flight took off, but it was confirmed by the Vatican only as the 12 were boarding the papal plane...
Pope, Orthodox leaders listen to cries of refugees, urge help (CNS) Although their speeches were punctuated with policy appeals, Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders focused their visit to the island of Lesbos on the faces, stories and drawings of refugees. Pope Francis, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece spent more time 16 April greeting the refugees individually than they did giving speeches...
Pope, patriarch sign joint declaration on refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, released a joint declaration during their visit to the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday. The three leaders signed the joint declaration at the end of their visit to the Moria refugee camp. The declaration calls on the international community to respond with generosity and compassion to the tragedy of forced migration, calling it a ‘crisis of humanity’...
Jordan calls ambassador from Iran (AP) Jordan says it is recalling its ambassador to Iran for consultations, suggesting the decision is linked to continued tensions between Tehran and Jordan ally Saudi Arabia. Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said on Monday that Jordan took the step because of what he described as Iranian interference in the “internal affairs of neighboring countries, especially Gulf countries...”
Israeli troops report uncovering tunnel leading from Gaza (BBC) Israel’s military says it has uncovered and “neutralised” a tunnel extending from the Gaza Strip several hundred metres inside Israeli territory. A statement said the tunnel had been constructed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas "in order to infiltrate Israel and execute terror attacks...”
Gripped by drought, Ethiopia drills for water (AFP) In the town of Wukro, surrounded by the rocky, arid mountains of the northern Tigray region, the government is investing longer-term efforts to ensure a supply of fresh water that will go far beyond the immediate needs of aid...
Christian, Muslim population growing in India (Indian Express) Christian and Muslim tribals remain one of the fastest growing demographic groups according to figures released by the Census department this week...
15 April 2016
Serop Ohanian, from the Karagheusian Center in Lebanon, paid a visit to CNEWA’s New York offices on 14 April. (photo: CNEWA)
Thursday afternoon, we welcomed to our New York offices someone who has been a partner with CNEWA in Lebanon for several years: Serop Ohanian, Field Director for the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation, an Armenian center for child welfare.
He was featured prominently in a 2013 story in ONE magazine, on Syrian Armenians seeking refuge in Lebanon:
In this image from 2014, Serop Ohanian, right, visits an educational program for Armenian Syrian refugee children at the Karagheusian Center in Bourj Hammoud in Beirut. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave, has seen its capacity stretched to bursting since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011...
...Plagued as they are by exile and upheaval, the Armenians’ shared experience of violence and displacement makes for a less precarious displacement today.
“There is a very strong relationship between the Syrian Armenians and the Lebanese Armenians,” says Serop Ohanian, Lebanon field director at the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Cooperation, an Armenian organization for child welfare.
“It’s normal for us in a crisis to say: ‘Let’s go live with our relatives in Beirut and if they don’t have an apartment, they will know someone through the church who will. We will manage somehow.’ ”
Helping them manage is a host of organizations, including CNEWA, church aid groups such as Caritas as well as international agencies and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Karagheusian Center has had to extend its operating hours by four hours per day, take on four new staffers and reduce the summer holiday from one month to two weeks to meet the demand for its services.
Since then, he told us yesterday, the needs and demands have only grown. The clinic in Bourj Hammoud was originally seeing about 500 patients a month; that number has skyrocketed to 5,000. About 3,000 of those, he told us, are Syrian refugees. A facility that once had three doctors now has extended hours with seven.
Serop described a litany of concerns his center is trying to address — including chronic health problems among the refugees (high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory problems are paramount); stress and anxiety among children; and a rising rate of dropouts from high school. Through it all, his organization is doing an exceptional job under difficult circumstances. Lebanon, like so many places in the Middle East, has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees. But the Karagheusian Center is providing some sense of stability and urgently needed care.
CNEWA is proud and privileged to work with them in this important mission. (You can read more about the Karagheusian association’s work here.) And check out A Refuge in Lebanon to discover how Syrians and Armenians are struggling to rebuild their lives in Lebanon.
Meantime, to support our work helping refugees in Lebanon, please visit this page to learn what you can do.
Members of CNEWA’s development team were among those who welcomed Serop Ohanian
to our offices. (photo: CNEWA)
15 April 2016
In this image from 2008, the Rev. Jose Thottakkara visits the home of some parishioners in Kerala, India. Read more about his growing ministry in A Priest with Global Reach in the
May 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
15 April 2016
In the video above, the Vatican offers more details about the pope’s upcoming humanitarian visit to Lesbos to meet with refugees. (video: Rome Reports)
Cost of rebuilding Syria could approach $180 billion (RT) Rebuilding war-ravaged Syria may be as much as $180 billion, according to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. “Once hostilities end, many Syrian refugees will unlikely return unless schools and health clinics are rebuilt,” said Kim at a news conference at the start of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings, Thursday. Due to the plunge in oil prices, Kim expressed concern about who would fund the rebuilding of the basic Syrian infrastructure...
Vatican: Pope’s trip to Lesbos is humanitarian, not political (CNS) In a “humanitarian and ecumenical gesture,” not a political one, Pope Francis is to join Orthodox leaders in personally meeting with hundreds of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, the Vatican spokesman said. Releasing the detailed schedule for the pope’s trip on 16 April to Lesbos, Greece, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope and the Orthodox leaders wanted to draw attention to “a situation in which many people are suffering” and where a “solution worthy of the human person” still must be found...
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem: Israel behaves as a theocratic state (Fides) Israel, “although it proclaims itself a secular and democratic state, it is really behaving more and more like a denominational Jewish military regime.” This is how the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, defined the current modus operandi of the Jewish state...
Chaldean Church establishes committee to monitor Christian property ownership (Fides) The Chaldean Patriarchate has announced the creation of an hoc committee to monitor sales and transfers of property ownership — houses and land — belonging to Christian citizens in Baghdad...
Peace activists call on church to update teaching (Vatican Radio) “We believe that there is no ‘just war.’ Those words are at the heart of a statement published on Thursday at the conclusion of an international conference looking at changes in church practice and teaching on non-violence and peacemaking. Organized jointly by the Catholic peace network, Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Council, the three-day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from conflict zones around the world...
14 April 2016
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan embraces Dominican Sister Marie Therese in Ain Kawa, Iraq, on 9 April. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
Update: Earlier today, the cardinal discussed his trip to Iraq in a televised interview. Click here to watch.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of CNEWA, writes about his trip to Iraq in the latest edition of Catholic New York:
I first returned from a visit to Kurdistan, an autonomous region within the nation of Iraq. Why did I go? Well, for one, because my brother bishops there invited me to come. Two, because the Christian community there is family, a family in a lot of trouble, with much adversity, and to visit them is a very good thing.
They have asked, “Does anyone know of our plight? Have people forgotten us!” I wanted to visit them and answer, “yes” and “no.”
You know of their sorrows. ISIS has as their mission to exterminate the ancient tiny Christian minority, who have been there since the time of the apostles, long before Islam. There, Christian communities are small in size, but big in faith, tradition, worship, education, and charity.
They only want to be left in peace, in their villages, to raise their families and practice their religion. Fanatics have slaughtered them, and driven them from their homes.
Now they are called IDPs — “internally displaced persons.” They walked days from their homes in Mosul and their villages in the Plains of Nineveh, to sanctuary in Erbil and Dohuk, two major cities in Kurdistan, where they have been welcomed heroically.
One renowned agency that is helping the local Church care for them is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), headquartered here in New York. Bishop William Murphy and I are board members. Along with Monsignor John Kozar, the president, we went to visit these affected people in Kurdistan.
Were we saddened by what we saw? You bet we were! Brave people, tens of thousands, given hours to flee their homes (or have their throats slit, or convert to Islam). They knew there were Catholics and Orthodox Christians relatively safe in Kurdistan, so they walked the two-day journey there, carrying their babies, a few sacks of possessions, propping up their elders, accompanied by their priests and religious sisters.
To see their tears, their anguish, their situation, and to hear their plea over and over, “We just want to go home!” saddened us for sure.
But we were also deeply moved by our visit. The Christians in Kurdistan, often in partnership with Islamic neighbors, have welcomed them. They have camps for them, with food, medical care, clothing, blankets, and schools. Priests, nuns, and devoted lay leaders have embraced them. This charity inspired us.
As did their faith.
Read the complete column at this link. And you can also read it in Spanish here.
14 April 2016
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
The Dominican Sisters arrive for a liturgy at the Syriac Catholic Al Bishara Church at Aishty 1 Camp for internally displaced Christians in Ain Kawa, Iraq. Sister Maria Hanna, second from right, is the superior. (photo: NCR/Tom Gallagher)
Tom Gallagher, one of the journalists accompanying CNEWA Chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan to Iraq this week, interviewed several sisters who were displaced when ISIS invaded their home of Qaraqosh. He posted their dramatic account of their flight to Erbil in this morning’s online edition of NCR.
After the shelling on the five or six Christina villages, people fled, and now Christians in Qaraqosh were leaving for Erbil and other areas.
Sr. Maria Hanna, the Dominican’s superior, spoke by phone to Mosul’s Syrian-Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche. He assured the sisters that the Kurds were going to protect them, not to be afraid, not to panic and that, “Whatever you hear, don’t believe it.” Mouche had been assured in meetings with the Kurdish leaders that the Peshmerga were going to protect them.
In the early hours of August 6, 2014, after morning Mass, Qaraqosh received three shellings that killed two children and one young woman. Within three hours of the killings, the whole community of Qaraqosh left town-- except the sisters
That evening they had dinner and evening prayer. Sister Maria then gathered them and said, “Well it looks like a dangerous situation and I will leave to your choice if you want to go to Ankawa, to Erbil. You can do it. Some of us will stay, but if you want to go, you may.” None of the sisters left.
Around 9 p.m., they received a call from a brother of one of the sisters who used to work with the Peshmerga and he warned his sister, and all the sisters, that it was too dangerous to stay, that the Peshmerga have already have left and withdrawn their troops. “You should leave at this moment,” her brother said.
Sister Maria immediately called Archbishop Mouche and told him that she had news from a trusted source about the urgency to leave and asked the archbishop what he thought. “I’m sitting here with my priests in the garden and everything is beautiful and there is nothing to fear,” Mouche said. “I have information from political sources that there is nothing to fear.”
Fifteen minutes later, the sisters received another call from the same brother. “Leave at this moment. You are in great danger,” he said.
At 10:30 p.m. Sister Maria gathered all the sisters again, as Qaraqosh was in chaos. The phones were not working anymore, so they couldn’t contact Archbishop Mouche. The sisters decided to leave.
Sister Maria started gathering the sisters, including some Franciscan sisters, who didn’t have any means of transportation. Other Dominican sisters were on vacation or visiting families, some were in other villages.
By 11 p.m. the sisters went to their rooms to pack small bags of whatever they would need for two days because there was no place in the van for big suitcases. They thought they would be back after a few days’ time.
Before midnight, they went to the church and prayed in front of the Eucharist. She left one Host at the church and she prayed, “Lord please protect this house and this village.”
Thirty-five sisters, four families and two orphans squeezed themselves into two vans and two small cars and left Qaraqosh.
They came upon other Christians walking, some on donkeys and some on bicycles. “It was a river of people, thousands of people walking slowly out of Qaraqosh,” said Sister Maria.
Read it all.
And read more about Sister Maria Hanna, who was featured Tuesday as part of our “90 Years, 90 Heroes” series.
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees