12 July 2016
Pope Francis talks with Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university, during a private meeting at the Vatican on 23 May. The Vatican and Sunni Islam’s leading institution of higher learning have begun looking for ways to restart formal dialogue.
(photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)
The news today that the Vatican plans to send a high-ranking official to Cairo, in hopes of restarting talks at a leading Sunni Muslim university, is important for a number of reasons.
First, this move marks a possible thaw in relations that had grown frosty. If nothing else, it also signals a symbolic gesture of conciliation and respect toward one of the oldest universities in the world, one which has always been a powerful voice in Sunni Islam.
It also indicates that restoring this relationship is a priority to Pope Francis. Recalling the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate last year, he indicated in his message for the World Day of Peace in January that Nostra Aetate was “emblematic of the new relationship of dialogue, solidarity and accompaniment which the Church sought to awaken within the human family.”
To understand the significance of this move, it helps to understand a little background.
After the Second Vatican Council, the Secretariat for non-Christians, which later become the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, exchanged visits and was engaged in dialogue with al-Azhar University.
However, on 20 January 2011 the Islamic Research Academy of al-Azhar University broke off dialogue with the Vatican. The remarks of Pope Benedict XVI in his address at the University of Regensburg on 12 September 2006 and his call in 2011 for the protection of Coptic Christians who were under attack in Egypt were not well received at al-Azhar.
The address in Regensburg was looked upon as offensive and the call to protect Coptic Christians was seen as interference in the internal affairs of Egypt during a particularly tumultuous time. As a result, contact and dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican were broken off.
But on 23 May 2016, Ahmad el-Tayeb, the Sheikh al-Azhar, made an official visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican. The visit received broad media coverage and Pope Francis’ “dialogue of friendship” was evident.
Now, only a few weeks later, it appears that initial dialogue has born fruit, and it is quickly ripening.
It is a very happy and hopeful event.
12 July 2016
Sister Nabila Saleh serves as principal of the Rosary Sisters School in Gaza, helping children trying to heal from the wounds of war. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Sister Nabila Saleh has been working on behalf of young people for whom war, tragically, is just another way of life: the children of Gaza. The world they are living in was thrown into turmoil during the summer of 2014, when a seven-week-long war left much of the area devastated:
A report published in 2012 by the United Nations notes the Gaza Strip has “one of the youngest populations worldwide,” with about 51 percent of the population under 18 years of age.That same report predicted the Gaza Strip could become virtually unlivable by 2020, according to available trend data for access to food, drinking water, electricity, sanitation infrastructure, health care and schooling. A shortage of clean water alone could create a crisis as early as 2016, due to the accelerating depletion of groundwater wells and inadequate sewage systems.
Additionally, the Palestinian Ministry of Education lists hundreds of schools as damaged, and dozens destroyed entirely. The scope of the devastation is vast.
Against this backdrop, we visited Sister Nabila in 2014:
According to a UNICEF report, about 373,000 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip — or 35 percent of the children there — require psychological intervention after the summer’s war.
...At one of the institutions CNEWA supports, the Rosary Sisters School, the scene looks markedly different than other places. The students are playing, drawing and dancing, expressing and discussing their summer.
Sister Nabila Saleh, the school’s principal, noticed a difference in the students’ behavior when they returned to school. The children were tense, and became more violent with one another on the playground.
“It was obvious the war had a bad impact on the children, and for that reason we decided to dedicate the first week to stress release by playing, drawing, dancing and writing — in cooperation with specialists,” Sister Nabila says.
“Most of the children responded positively during the social activities. Some students profoundly need additional treatment — especially those who lost loved ones, or those whose homes were completely demolished.”
Bit by bit, child by child, Sister Nabila is working to rebuild shattered young lives. Some deep wounds do not heal easily. But as she put it last year:
“I have hope; as long as there is life there is hope, hope to build. This hope fills the hearts of our students. They want to be doctors, lawyers ... All this means that they can build our country.”
To help support that hope in Sister Nabila’s corner of the world, visit this link.
12 July 2016
Students attend class at St. Michael School in Aiga, Ethiopia. CNEWA is helping provide nourishing biscuits so that schoolchildren in drought-ravaged Ethiopia don’t go hungry. See more pictures here. And to help these and other children in northeast Africa, visit this giving page.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
12 July 2016
In this image from 3 July, Iraqis who fled from their villages due to the clashes, go to Dibege Tent Camp in Mosul’s Mahmur district as Mosul rescue operation continues. The United States announced plans to send more troops to Iraq to help retake Mosul.
(photo: Hemn Huseyin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. deploying more troops to Iraq to retake Mosul from ISIS (The New York Times) President Obama will send 560 more troops to Iraq to help retake Mosul, the largest city still controlled by the Islamic State, a deployment intended to capitalize on recent battlefield gains that also illustrates the obstacles that Mr. Obama has faced in trying to wind down America’s wars. The additional troops are the latest escalation of the American military role in Iraq by Mr. Obama, who withdrew the last American soldiers from Iraq at the end of 2011...
Group works to save Syria’s ancient sites from destruction (Al Jazeera) A group of scholars, historians and activists have been working to protect and preserve the rich cultural heritage of war-torn Syria. The members of the initiative, a joint effort by people on the ground and an organisation called “The Day After — Heritage Protection initiative (HPI)” have been carrying out the dangerous work in places such as the Ma’ara mosaic museum, in Idlib province’s Maarat al Numan. They use sandbags in a bid to shield Roman and Byzantine era mosaics, some of which are 600-years-old, from bombs and shrapnel...
Ethiopian Jews on life in Israel: ‘It was always my dream to come to Jerusalem’ (The Washington Post) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic trip to East Africa last week was aimed at boosting relations. But his last stop, in Ethiopia, held special meaning for many of the 135,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin who live in Israel today. Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to visit the East African country. Formal ties were established between the two states in 1992...
Vatican sends official to Cairo, hopes to restart dialogue with Sunnis at university (CNS) The Vatican and Sunni Islam’s leading institution of higher learning have begun looking for ways to restart formal dialogue. Acting on Pope Francis’ expressed desire, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was sending a top-level official to Cairo to visit al-Azhar University, the council said in a written press release 12 July...
India aims to plant a record 50 million trees (Vatican Radio) Hundreds of thousands of people in India’s most populous state are jostling for space as they attempt to plant 50 million trees over the next 24 hours in hopes of setting a world record...
Russian Orthodox priest attempts to fly around the world in a balloon (International Business Times) Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov is attempting to fly around the world in a hot air ballon in record time. Lifting off from The Northam Aero Club, western Australia on 12 July, the 64-year-old Orthodox priest was given a warm send off by his wife and children, who watched him depart at sunrise. The Aero Club was used by American aviator Steve Fossett on his 4th solo attempt to fly around the world in a balloon. It took Fossett 13 and a half days — a time that Konyukhov hopes to beat...
11 July 2016
Two men from the Franciscan Oriental Seminary in Giza, Egypt, took perpetual vows in February and are scheduled to be ordained priests in August. (photo: CNEWA)
We recently got some encouraging news from Cairo, Egypt, where two seminaries CNEWA is helping support are continuing to produce new priests.
At the Franciscan Oriental Seminary in Giza, two men took perpetual vows in February. Brothers Ashraf (Augustino) Hanna Gayed and Ra’afat (Charbel) Kamel Wehish were also ordained to the diaconate in May, and are scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood next month.
The school boasts a total of 14 seminarians. During the summer break, some of the men will be going on a mission to the north of Sudan, Morocco and Kenya; others will visit the elderly and sick to provide medical and social services. Three of the men will travel to Italy to study Italian and Franciscan spirituality.
Meanwhile, in Ma’adi, at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Seminary, two men were ordained to the priesthood in June.
St. Leo has 32 seminarians in Egypt, and two other men studying in Rome.
During the summer months, the men are being kept busy. Two seminarians are traveling to Poland this month for World Youth Day, and others will be involved in parishes for pastoral work. Two men are headed to Rome to continue their novitiate year.
If you’d like to help CNEWA support these and other seminarians in Egypt, visit this giving page. Please keep these men in your prayers!
11 July 2016
Nuns light candles on 11 July for victims of a suicide car bomb attack at a shopping area
in Baghdad. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Saad, Reuters)
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, on the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, called for tolerance and forgiveness to fight extremism, hatred and terrorism.
Speaking at a prayer service 7 July in the Karrada section of Baghdad for the victims of the 3 July bombing that killed more than 290 people and wounded 200, the patriarch emphasized that “there is a spiritual, moral, and patriotic side for our prayer.”
“In such a tragedy, we are joining millions of Muslims in praying for the affected families, that God may have mercy on the victims and bless the wounded with a speedy recovery,” Patriarch Sako said.
“We express our shock, sadness and solidarity with Iraqis and strongly condemn these cruel acts that affected innocent people, stole the happiness of preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and converted it to a national mourning,” he said.
The patriarch said terrorism had nothing to do with religion, “but may be linked to political games that allow killing of Muslims, Christians, Mandaeans and Yezidis as ‘infidels,’” the patriarch said.
He added that “everyone should understand that killing innocent people leads to hell rather than to heaven.”
“Our prayers this evening will help us learn lessons from this tragedy and find effective and permanent solutions,” he said. “If the government was coherent and politicians worked as one team, ISIS wouldn’t be able to commit these crimes; tamper with the country’s security and stability, killing thousands of innocent people; displace millions; and destroy the Iraqi national fabric and peaceful co-existence.”
11 July 2016
A man carries an injured girl after an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 8 July. Rebel fighters have launched an assault on some districts of the city. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)
Syrian rebels launch attack in Aleppo (BBC) Syrian rebel fighters have launched an assault on government-held districts of Aleppo, after troops cut their only route into the divided northern city. The rebel operation began at dawn on several fronts, with hundreds of shells being fired at western areas. State media said eight people were killed and dozens hurt by the barrage...
Report details life of Syrians under al-Qaeda affiliate (Al Monitor) Amnesty International released on 5 July a groundbreaking account of the “reality of life” for Syrians living in Idlib and Aleppo under the rule of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate, and other armed groups, including those backed by US regional allies...
Vatican outlines pope’s upcoming trip to Georgia, Azerbaijan (Associated Press) The Vatican says Pope Francis will meet with Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders during his 30 September-2 October trip to the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan, adding a strong interreligious dimension to an already politically delicate trip. The Vatican on Monday released the itinerary for the Caucasus trip, which was originally planned as an extension of Francis’ recent visit to Armenia but was split up...
Report: Child labor surging in Iraq (Reuters) More than half a million Iraqi children are estimated to be at work rather than at school as violence and displacement hurt the income of millions of families, according to UNICEF. The number of children currently working, more than 575,000 has doubled since 1990, the year when Iraq attacked Kuwait, setting off a chain of events that led to the 2003 US-led invasion and the sectarian strife that continues to this day...
CNEWA food program keeping girls in Ethiopia’s classrooms (Catholic Register) Most of the more than 10 million Ethiopians now dependent on direct food handouts will survive the country’s worst drought in 60 years, but how they survive will depend on the generosity of Catholics abroad. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association has launched a cash appeal to help feed students at Catholic schools and youth in parish summer programs. The food aid will keep students in school and help secure their futures once the drought is over...
Russian Orthodox monastery may open in Washington, D.C. (Sputnik) The first Russian Orthodox monastery could be opened in the US capital of Washington D.C. or in its vicinity, Metropolitan Jonah, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), told Sputnik. “In the area, not necessarily in D.C.... It will be Russian tradition, of course, you know, the services will also be in English, as well as in [Church] Slavonic... [The monastery] has a very specific outreach [program] to educate people about Orthodoxy and Russian culture and Russian spiritual culture,” Metropolitan Jonah said, answering a question about his plans to establish a monastery in Washington D.C....
American journalist Greg Burke appointed to succeed retiring Vatican spokesman Lombardi (Vatican Radio) The Rev. Federico Lombardi S.J. is stepping down after ten years as Director of the Holy See’s Press Office. Father Lombardi, who also served as Director of Programs and later, Director General of Vatican Radio from 1991 to February 2016, will be replaced by 56 year old American journalist Greg Burke, currently Vice Director of the Vatican Press Office. Father Lombardi, who turns 74 in August, was also Director General of Vatican television (CTV) from November 2005-January 2013...
8 July 2016
Four boys in Lebanon enjoy ka’ak, a sesame-seed-encrusted bread stuffed with spices. To learn more about the history and traditions of bread in Lebanon, check out Food for Thought from the September 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
8 July 2016
In the video above, the Armenian archbishop of Aleppo says that Syria has been deeply wounded by war, with many of the victims being children. (video: Rome Reports)
Syrian civilians killed in air strike (AFP) At least 22 civilians including a child were killed in air strikes on an Al-Qaeda-held town in northwest Syria on Friday, a monitoring group said. Dozens of people were also wounded in the strikes on Darkush, near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, updating an earlier casualty toll. “The toll of the attack is now 22 people, including a child and seven women,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman...
Dozens killed in ISIS attack on Shia shrine in Iraq (Al Jazeera) At least 30 people have been killed in an ISIS suicide bomb, gun and mortar attack on a Shia shrine north of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, officials said. The incident comes just days after the worst bombing in the country since the US-led invasion of 2003, which was also claimed by ISIL. That attack, in a bustling Baghdad street packed with shoppers, killed 292 people, according to the health ministry...
UN: Some 70 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in poverty (Haaretz) More Syrian refugees in the Middle East are falling into debt and facing poverty, partly as a result of exhausting their savings with shortages of essential aid worsening their plight, UN agencies and local governments said on Tuesday. Some 70 percent of refugees in Lebanon are living below the poverty line, compared with 50 percent in 2014, according to the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan mid-year review, carried out by UN agencies, local governments and aid groups...
Interfaith Ramadan dinner builds bonds in Canada (Catholic Register) During Ramadan, Muslims across the globe share the Iftar meal each evening. Iftar allows Muslims to physically replenish the body’s energy after fasting from dawn until dusk and to mentally reflect on the beauty and sacrifice of their faith. This year, this combination of sustenance and contemplation was opened to Torontonians of all faiths as part of the Intercultural Ramadan Friendship Dinner series...
7 July 2016
Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle was the founder of “The Catholic Near East Welfare Association,” which in 1926 merged with the Catholic Union to become what we now know as CNEWA.
No salute to the heroes of CNEWA would be complete without paying tribute to one of its earliest champions, Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle, a colorful character in his own right, and a passionate advocate for the poor and suffering of the Near East.
In 1924, Msgr. Barry-Doyle founded “The Catholic Near East Welfare Association,” one of the American associations working to assist Russia and the Near East in the aftermath of World War I. Pope Pius XI combined it with a similar group, the Catholic Union, in 1926 to form what we now know as CNEWA.
As Michael J.L. La Civita wrote several years ago:
We know very little about the life of Barry-Doyle. The biographical data that exists can be found in a few newspaper clippings and letters housed in the Association’s archives at Graymoor. These morsels of information, recorded by the monsignor himself, are often erratic. It is evident, at least, that Barry-Doyle was an adventurer and a romantic, a dashing military officer and pious priest.
Barry-Doyle was born in 1878 in County Wexford, Ireland. Two family relations of the Irish-born priest figured prominently in his life: Commodore John Barry, the father of the United States Navy, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. To honor his American ancestor, the monsignor hyphenated “Barry” to his family name.
Ordained in 1900, he left his parish in the middle of the night during Passiontide — why, records do not show. He turned up in England several years later as rector of a Yorkshire parish, then left to serve as an army chaplain during World War I.
According to Barry-Doyle, he was on every front of the war from France to the Gaza campaign in Palestine. He was also listed as killed, and while the Armistice was signed, he “hovered between life and death” in an English hospital. By 1922, the much-decorated priest had been recognized by the pope and the Russian Jewish community for his refugee work in Constantinople.
He went on to gain fame as a public speaker and fundraiser:
Barry-Doyle began a speaking tour that he described as “more in the form of an entertainment than a lecture.” Barry-Doyle’s “Call of the East” packed movie and opera houses up and down the east coast. On 16 April 1924, the “famous World War chaplain” filled Carnegie Hall. An excerpt illustrates its dynamism:
Here [Smyrna, Turkey] misery and want stalked the streets in the skin and bones of thousands of refugee children...I have seen their little bodies lying in the Thracian wayside where they had died of hunger and typhus...I have seen the children on the streets of Constantinople and Athens eating the heads of fish thrown out from houses...I have seen the death carts roll through the streets, piled high with bodies of little boys and girls, who were taken to be buried in one common grave outside the city, without a mother’s tears, nor flowers, nor any of the symbols of mourning, nor any mark to show their final resting place.
Though maudlin and theatrical for modern tastes, “The Call of the East” was very effective. Americans craved European news in the wake of the Great War and they responded generously.
The “Children’s Crusader,” as Barry-Doyle was now called, raised more than $4,000 from his first audience, the prestigious Converts’ League in New York. In Indianapolis, the Knights of Columbus pledged more than $5,000.
He traveled the world with missionary zeal. A newspaper account of his travels in Australia from 1927 quotes this passionate appeal for funds to feed the hungry:
“Bread, bread, bread…the real call of the East is a call for sympathy, help and bread.”
The report concluded:
Monsignor Barry-Doyle is not only an eloquent pleader for orphan children, but he is much more — he is an eloquent pleader for religious tolerance and for the brotherhood of man in the proper sense of the word. It is but true to say that for over an hour he held his great audience fascinated by the power of his eloquence, and by his great font of practical and natural wisdom, saturated here and there with acute and heartfelt emotion.
Learn how you can continue his mission here.