6 April 2016
The shrine holding the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
(photo: Gali Tibbon/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
The New York Times today posted this look at a developing story in Jerusalem: growing concerns about a possible collapse of the structure surrounding the tomb of Jesus:
It was a typical day at the shrine around what many believe is the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem’s Old City. A Greek Orthodox choir sang inside a room facing the baroque structure. But the voices were drowned out when chanting Armenian priests and monks circling the shrine raised theirs.
“Sometimes they punch each other,” Farah Atallah, a church guard wearing a fez, observed with a shrug.
Mr. Atallah is a seasoned witness to the rivalries among the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic communities that jealously share — and sometimes spar over — what they consider Christianity’s holiest site, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Amid the rivalry, the unsteady 206-year-old structure, held together by a 69-year-old iron cage that honors the keystone of Christianity, the tomb from which Christians believe Jesus was resurrected, is an uncomfortable, often embarrassing symbol of Christian divisions, which have periodically erupted into tensions. In 2008, monks and priests brawled near the shrine, throwing punches and pulling one another’s hair.
But in recent weeks, scaffolding has gone up a few feet from the shrine in the gloomy shadows of the Arches of the Virgin, the first step in a rare agreement by the various Christian communities to save the dilapidated shrine, also called the Aedicule, from falling down.
The 22 March agreement calls for a $3.4 million renovation to begin next month, after Orthodox Easter celebrations. Each religious group will contribute one-third of the costs, and a Greek bank contributed 50,000 euros, or $57,000, for the scaffolding, in return for having its name emblazoned across the machinery.
The idea is to peel away hundreds of years of the shrine’s history, clean it and put it back together. Simple enough, but delayed for decades because of the complicated, centuries-old rules and minute traditions — called the status quo — that define the way Jerusalem’s holy sites are governed, in which the very act of repairing something can imply ownership.
“One of the serious issues in the church is that the status quo takes place over every other consideration, and it's not a good thing,” said Athanasius Macora, a Franciscan friar. “Unity is more important than a turf war.”
Read on for more.
For additional information on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its history, check out Christianity’s Holiest Shrine from the Fall 1987 edition of our magazine. And read A Church Transformed to learn about CNEWA’s involvement in the restoration of the building’s dome.
6 April 2016
Father Theodore Krepp displays Mary Yasenchak’s mold for making communion bread. Byzantine Catholics in northeastern Pennsylvania are maintaining their traditions, even as their numbers dwindle and demographics change. Read more in After the Boom in the March-April 2004 edition of the magazine. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
6 April 2016
In the video above, the Vatican confirms that Pope Francis will visit refugees from Syria and Iraq on the Greek island of Lesbos next week. (video: Rome Reports)
Greece confirms: Pope will visit refugees later this month (Reuters) Pope Francis is to visit Greece on 14-15 April, a Greek government official said on Tuesday, getting a first-hand look at the front line of Europe’s migrant crisis and thousands of refugees fleeing conflict. The Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church, said in a statement it wanted the pontiff to visit Lesbos, the Aegean island where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have arrived in the past year. Confirming the visit, a Greek government official said Francis would be accompanied to Lesbos by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians...
Relics of saint recovered in Syria (CNS) The relics of Syrian St. Elian, which originally were thought to have been destroyed by members of the so-called Islamic State militia, have been found amid the rubble of the desecrated Mar Elian Church in Qaryatain, Syria. The sanctuary was bulldozed in August 2015, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Father Jacques Mourad, the prior of the Syriac Catholic monastic community, was kidnapped three months earlier when the terrorists initially raided the church...
Archeologists discover ancient Christian church in Gaza (AP) Palestinian tourism officials say construction workers in the Gaza Strip have discovered what they believe to be a Christian religious site from the Byzantine era. Heyam al-Bitar, research director for the Hamas-run Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, said on Tuesday that the discovery included remnants of marble Corinthian pillars, foundations and crowns, some of them with a Greek cross. She says the ruins likely belong to a church-like structure that existed in what is now Gaza City. She says they date back to the sixth century, and are characteristic of the era of Emperor Justinian...
Cardinal Dolan traveling to Iraq with CNEWA (NCR) New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, is traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan this week, according to a press release from the organization...
First Syrian refugee family headed to U.S. (AP) The first Syrian family to move to the U.S. under its speeded-up “surge” resettlement operation has left Jordan for the United States. Ahmad al-Abboud, his wife and five children, left on Wednesday for Kansas City in Missouri...
Syriac Orthodox Church calls arrest “insulting” (Fides) The Syriac Orthodox Church considers the way the Palestinian police arrested Metropolitan Swerios Malki Murad, Patriarchal Vicar of the Holy Land “insulting.” Such police custody — which took place on Saturday evening, 2 April and lasted a few hours — is “a humiliation for all the faithful of the Syriac Orthodox Church throughout the world.” This is what the statement issued by the General Secretariat of the Syriac Orthodox Holy Synod reads...
Canadian diocese will reimburse money for Syrian refugees lost in gambling (Catholic Register) The Diocese of Hamilton is picking up the pieces after a Chaldean Catholic priest admitted to gambling away $500,000 of donations meant for refugees. The diocese has vowed to make sure no refugees are turned away due to the loss of funds...
5 April 2016
A pharmacist distributes medicine to displaced Iraqis in Kurdistan from the back of a
CNEWA-supported mobile clinic. (photo: Raed Rafei)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, will be traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan this week on a pastoral visit to that region’s displaced Christian families. The purpose of the pastoral visit is fourfold:
- Demonstrate solidarity with the families — many of whom are Christian — displaced when ISIS swept through northern Iraq in summer 2014. The delegation will visit displaced families taking refuge in camps and villages; stop at schools, nurseries and clinics serving their needs; and pray together in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
- Show gratitude and solidarity with the caregivers — the priests, sisters and laity who, although displaced as well, have responded in meeting the needs of those expelled by ISIS. The pastoral visit will highlight the efforts of the religious sisters and parish priests who have partnered with CNEWA in setting up schools, nurseries and clinics.
- Demonstrate solidarity with and support for the leadership of the local church. The delegation will spend time with the patriarchs and bishops of the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
- Assert the Christian commitment to support all those wounded by ISIS: Christian, Muslim and Yazidi.
Cardinal Dolan’s pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan initiates year-long observances in commemoration of CNEWA’s 90th anniversary. Traveling with the cardinal will be CNEWA board member Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre; CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar; and the Executive Director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan.
The cardinal also spoke about his trip this week in an interview with Crux in Rome:
CNEWA has a renowned track record of helping the suffering Church, particularly in the Middle East. I’m proud of CNEWA. Every other year, I try to go on a trip with them, so I’ve been to Jordan, Lebanon, the Holy Land, and I now I want to go to Kurdistan.
What can Catholics do to help persecuted Christians in Iraq and other countries? Is donating to CNEWA a way of getting involved?
CNEWA does stand out because of its geographical precision and because of its nine-decade track record of bringing relief to troubled areas. So yeah, CNEWA would be one excellent way of showing solidarity.
To learn more about what CNEWA is doing in Iraqi Kurdistan, check out the Spring 2016 edition of ONE and our story about a busy mobile clinic serving displaced Iraqis.
And as the cardinal suggested, to “show solidarity” and support the work of CNEWA on behalf of Christians in Iraq, visit this link.
5 April 2016
Al Lagan speaks with a Capuchin priest during his visit to Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Some of CNEWA’s biggest heroes are our donors, and one of the most devoted was Alfred A. Lagan — known to everyone as just “Al” — who supported our work for decades and even went overseas, to see for himself the work his generosity made possible. He died in 2013, at the age of 77.
Al came from humble roots, as his obituary noted:
The son of an Irish immigrant who owned a tavern in the Bronx, NY, Al’s career began by cleaning the tavern and saving pennies left on the floor. At the age of 16, his own father’s untimely death meant an early end to childhood years. Al graduated from Iona College in 1956 at the age of 20, and joined the Navy, where he was part of the Explosive Underwater Ordinance Disposal team, or also known as a “frogman.”
He went on to become a philanthropist and business leader in Boston. But throughout his life, education remained a top priority.
Norma Intriago, now CNEWA’s development director, remembered:
Catholic education, to him, was the best way to tackle the issue of poverty — to give someone the opportunity of education, to arm them with knowledge and good values so that they can build a better life. I think Al felt very blessed as someone who had gone to college, got a master’s degree and started his own investment firm. He felt like his success wasn’t his to keep. It didn’t belong to him — it was God’s blessing. So it was his turn to share that opportunity with others. He was a true altruist. He really, truly, selflessly rendered of himself to others in need.
Following a trip to Ethiopia, Al wrote about his impressions of that country:
Poverty is visible everywhere in Ethiopia. Children often approached us and asked for money. One night, I saw a woman and her baby sleeping against a wall near our hotel. She wasn’t resting for a moment. She and her child were living on the street — they had nowhere else to go.
But what Norma Intriago recalled most was Al Lagan’s spirit:
The trip was a rough one. At one point, we were staying in pretty poor accommodations. The electricity went out. We went a couple of days without showering. You can imagine how that affects your mood. But Al’s mood never changed! Whether he was starved, unwashed, whatever, he just shrugged his shoulders. Because he knew the trip wasn’t about his comfort. It was about something bigger than him. It was about the children and their eager faces. It was about the sisters who ran the institutions and their resourcefulness. That was what the trip was about. These kids had nothing, and it was about making sure they have a chance. I think Al taught me quite a lot about living the Gospel.
CNEWA is able to do its work because of countless heroes like Al Lagan, whose spirit continues to inspire us.
5 April 2016
Volunteer Jancy Kuthoor greets (from left to right) Sister Leema Rose, Sister Sigi Kavalamackal and Sister Jolly Moolakodan outside their home in Dharavi, India. The Nirmala Dasi Sisters operate homes, clinics and centers serving in the poorest slums of India. Read more about them in ‘Slumdog’ Sisters in the July 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
5 April 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis offers his prayer intention for April, asking for prayers for small farmers around the world. (video: Rome Reports)
Orthodox Church says it would welcome papal visit to Lesbos (Vatican Radio) A statement from the Holy Synod, or ruling body of the Orthodox Church in Athens, said the Pope had expressed a desire to visit one of the islands in order to draw attention to the humanitarian problems of the migrants, as well as the need for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in the wider Mediterranean region...”
Pope’s prayer intentions focus on small farmers (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ video for April’s prayer intentions focuses on the plight of the small farmer. The Pope Video is a global initiative developed by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) to assist in the dissemination of the Holy Father’s monthly intentions related to the challenges the humanity faces...
Life for Turkey’s Syrian refugees (The Independent) As the first wave of refugees is deported from Greece to Turkey, human rights advocates have raised concerns about the country’s suitability as a destination for asylum-seekers. Turkey is home to over 2.5 million Syrian refugees, but its refugee camps can only house around 200,000. Images of the shelter provided to refugees upon their immediate return from Greece appear to show hundreds of people sleeping under one roof in cramped conditions...
Iraq’s food business booming, despite war (AP) Iraqi businessman Zaid Nazo has always been sure of his nation’s deep passion for food and wasn’t afraid to dream big when he transformed his small Baghdad coffee shop in 1999 into a casual dining and takeaway restaurant. Today, the 41-year-old father of two has opened four branches and his chain is one of the most popular in Iraq. The food business is booming. There are 40 percent more restaurants in Baghdad today than there were in 2013 — when security and economic conditions in the country were much better — according to Shakir al-Zamili, the chairman of Baghdad Investment Commission...
Ukraine conflict sparks hunger crisis (The New York Times) The two-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine has left about 1.5 million people hungry, including nearly 300,000 in need of immediate help, the World Food Program, the main anti-hunger humanitarian agency of the United Nations, said on Monday...
Connecticut governor to receive “Profile in Courage” award for welcoming Syrian refugees (The Wall Street Journal) The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced Monday it had awarded Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy the 2016 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his stance on accepting Syrian refugees in the state. “I’m deeply honored and moved by this experience to join other public servants who have been so recognized over the years,” Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday...
A jewel in Syria where “ruins have been ruined” by ISIS (The New York Times) Where Palmyra’s impressive Temple of Bel once stood, only a single stone archway was left to frame a rectangle of blue sky above the arid desert about 160 miles northeast of Damascus, the capital. I traveled to Palmyra on Saturday with members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia allied with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, to see what remained of the archaeological treasures of Palmyra...
Vatican creates new internet communications office (Vatican Radio) At the invitation of the Secretariat, of State of the Holy See, the Secretariat for Communications has established a Bureau called “DotCatholic” with the purpose of utilizing a generic Internet domain name (.catholic) of the first level, in order to share the teachings, the message and the values of the Catholic Church with the broader global community in Cyberspace...
Sprawling mural pays tribute to Cairo’s garbage collectors (The New York Times) The intricate mural took shape over the past few weeks, little noticed at first, spreading across a harried quarter of Cairo where Egypt’s garbage collectors live, amid overflowing bundles of this overcrowded city’s trash. By the time the painting was finished two weeks ago, it stretched across more than 50 buildings, making it the largest public work of art here anyone can recall. The mural, a circle of orange, white and blue in Arabic calligraphy, quotes a third-century Coptic Christian bishop who said, “If one wants to see the light of the sun, he must wipe his eyes...”
4 April 2016
Shepherds in the Afar region hike along a road. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the Spring edition of ONE, writer James Jeffrey reports on Ethiopia battling its worst drought in decades. Here, he offers his own reflections on hunger — and gets a small taste of what countless Ethiopians confront every day:
Perhaps it was all the talk about food — or lack of it — but after an early start (and an early breakfast) on the first day of visiting schools and clinics, by midday I was feeling distinctly peckish.
And there was another problem. We were rapidly falling behind schedule, with me asking never-ending questions, Petterik the photographer trying to fulfil his mission, and it being slow going over the rugged Tigray landscape. Lunchtime came and went — with nothing eaten.
By mid-afternoon, I began to feel somewhat fractious. After leaving the home of 13-year-old student Rahel Zewde — who certainly hadn’t eaten lunch either — we bumped into 80-year-old Berhe Kahsay. With a USAID baseball cap on his head, a white shawl around his shoulders, and a walking stick in a hand, he invited us to his home — for coffee, crucially.
Now I’ve learned how quality Ethiopian coffee is close to as good as a meal in itself. And after the raw green beans were roasted over a charcoal brazier, ground in a mortar and pestle, and brewed, I saw out of the corner of my eye a young girl bringing a tray of freshly made bread. My heart rate increased notably.
I just managed to restrain myself from taking the largest chunk. What resulted might as well have been a banquet — coffee and bread never tasted so good or nourishing.
Eventually I managed to remember why I was there, and, turning to the drought, asked whether it had knocked the faith of this Christian people.
“Always we believe in God, we may even get rain today, we expect from Him good things for the future,” Mr. Berhe said. “This kind of drought is due to the climate, and it’s becoming worse due to climate change. We hope God will bless us instead with positive change.”
The following day’s trip to the neighboring eastern province of Afar resulted in the same routine: an early start and breakfast, a long bumpy drive, visits and interviews as the clock raced on — and lunchtime come and gone, accompanied by my unsated belly.
Added to which, I noticed with gnawing anxiety that not even a tin shack of a café appeared to exist in the surrounding barren environment. Then, it seemed an angel spoke.
“Time for lunch.”
The words, though, came from our more earthbound guide, Daniel Zigta, with the Ethiopian Catholic Church Adigrat Diocesan Catholic Secretariat. In one hand, he carried a bag of bread rolls, while one of the group of locals also accompanying us clasped a metal pot, the size of a large bowl.
As we set down on the rocky ground, squatting on haunches, the lid was removed to reveal locally made dark, yellow-brown viscous honey. Next Daniel and his fellow Ethiopians tore off chunks of bread to scoop up dollops of honey, motioning for Petterik and me to do the same; it didn’t take long for us to respond.
That sort of meal doesn’t take long to pack away, and soon we were soon back in the truck heading to our next appointment.
Re-energised after my Afar-style lunch, I was more than ready to get back to my notetaking, and once the sun started to lower, bathing the landscape in a mellowing golden hue, my increased spirits were sustained all the way back into Tigray and to the hotel.
It’s remarkable what a simple full stomach does for morale — and frightening how quickly an empty one takes effect.
To learn more about how drought and hunger are affecting the people of Ethiopia, read When Rain Fails in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE.
4 April 2016
Greek Catholic women say a prayer in the Hungarian village of Nyírascád. To learn how Greek Catholics are maintaining the traditions, read Holding on in Hungary in the May 2006
edition of ONE. (photo: Balazs Gardi)
4 April 2016
Tags: Eastern Europe Hungary Greek Catholic Church
In this image from February, employees prepare a convoy of four trucks transporting warm clothes and shoes to Ukraine, at the initiative of the French Red Cross in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, eastern France. Pope Francis over the weekend appealed for more aid for the people of Ukraine.
(photo: AFP/Jean-Philippe Ksiaek/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope appeals for peace, aid to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for peace in Ukraine and highlighted the tragedy of “all those who thirst for reconciliation and peace.” Speaking on Sunday during the Regina Caeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square the Pope said he is thinking in particular of the many who are suffering the effects of violence here in Europe...
Cor Unum to distribute funds to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the papal charitable office, will be organizing the distribution of funds raised in response to Pope Francis” appeal for aid to the people of Ukraine...
In Istanbul, bookstore helps anchor Syrian refugees (AP) A rustic, three story-Arabic bookstore in old Istanbul has become an anchor for many Syrians who have stayed put in Turkey but crave a taste of home. The founder and owner of Pages, Samer al-Kadri, a refugee himself, says the store strives to be a bridge between Syrians, Turks and the myriad of foreigners who visit the city...
At least 29 killed in wave of suicide bombings in Iraq (The New York Times) Militants unleashed a wave of suicide attacks across Iraq on Monday, killing at least 29 people and wounding dozens, officials said...
Drought in Ethiopia could mean record food imports (The Weekly Times) A devastating drought in Ethiopia triggered by the El Nino weather pattern could double the nation’s wheat imports, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The African nation is in the middle of its worst drought in 50 years, which has left almost 400,000 people facing severe malnutrition...
Temporary freedom for Christian in India seeds hope (Crux) One of seven Christians convicted in 2008 for allegedly killing a Hindu holy man in the Indian state of Odisha, a charge that triggered a bout of anti-Christian violence that left 100 dead and 50,000 homeless, walked out of prison on March 31 accompanied by family members. It’s widely believed among India’s Christian community that the 2008 convictions were unjust, a way of distracting attention away from the failure of Odisha authorities in tandem with militant Hindu movements to protect the Christian minority...