18 November 2015
In this image from September, a laborer works to rebuild the 160-year old Mardin Protestant Church in Mardin, Turkey, one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Middle East. The first religious service in 60 years was held at the church on Sunday. Read more and see a picture of the completed work here. (photo: Don Duncan)
18 November 2015
Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the bishops’ migration committee, prays during the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore
on 17 November. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
Bishop disturbed by calls to end resettlement of Syrian refugees in U.S. (CNS) The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration said he was disturbed by calls from federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. “These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris,” said Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the migration committee. “They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization...”
Jordan’s King warns of “world war,” condemns ISIS as “savage outlaws of religion” (AFP) Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned Tuesday of a “third world war against humanity,” describing the Islamic State group as “savage outlaws of religion” in the wake of the Paris attacks. During an official visit to Kosovo, Abdullah said both Europe and Islam were under attack from the “scourge” of terrorism that could strike anywhere and at any time. “We are facing a third world war against humanity and this is what brings us all together,” he told a press conference. “This is a war, as I’ve said repeatedly, within Islam,” he said, stressing the high number of Muslim victims of the Islamic State (IS) group...
Holy See: Hate crimes against Christians under-reported (Vatican Radio) The Holy See delegation to the OSCE has made a statement at a meeting on Hate Crimes. “The poor attention given to hate crimes committed against majority communities and the fact that hate crimes motivated by religious bias or prejudice are under-reported and under-recorded...imply that the hate crimes against members of religions and, especially against Christians, are certainly more numerous than those indicated [in annual reports],” said Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the OSCE...
Kerala, largest exporter of clergy, feels shortage (Hindustan Times) Kerala was once the largest exporter of clergy, its priests and nuns the most sought after across the world, but insiders contend the church is now facing difficulties in managing its institutions across the country because of a shortage of hands. Informal estimates suggest there has been a 40% drop in the number of men and women joining religious life in Kerala though the northeastern states and Andhra Pradesh have registered a 30% hike in the enrollment of priests and nuns. Though there is no data on the strength of the clergy in India, church insiders say there are about 40,000 priests and 25,000 nuns across the country. At one time, Kerala accounted for more than 60% of the total...
One of Turkey’s oldest Protestant churches reopens (AINA) The 160-year-old Mardin Protestant Church, one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Middle East located in Artuklu, a district in the southeastern province of Mardin, has reopened following extensive restoration work. The first religious service was held on Sunday in the church which was closed 60 years ago and had been in ruins ever since...
17 November 2015
Tags: Syria India Refugees Jordan Kerala
Byzantine traditions remain strong among Greek Catholics in the former Yugoslavia. Fresco from the church of St. Clement, Ohrid, Macedonia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Yugoslavia, the “land of the Southern Slavs,” was the fruit of an intellectual concept born in Europe in the 19th century. Members of the intelligentsia speculated that a union of the Balkans’ Southern Slavs — Catholic Croats and Slovenes, Muslim Bosniaks and Orthodox Macedonians, Montenegrins and Serbs — would free them from the yoke of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, which had competed for control of the Balkan Peninsula for centuries.
In December 1918, after the collapse of the two empires, an uneasy union was achieved, and the king of Serbia proclaimed its head. The Yugoslav experiment proved defective as rival groups jostled one another for supremacy, particularly after the death in 1980 of its longtime strongman, Josip Tito.
The Yugoslav state collapsed in 1991 and its former constituents turned on one another in a bloodletting that did not abate until the new millennium. Bosniaks, Croats, Kosovar Albanians and Serbs were all complicit in mass murder, ethnic cleansing, rape and other acts of wanton violence.
Lost in the confusion were Yugoslav minorities — Greek Catholics, Jews and Protestants. The Greek Catholics of Yugoslavia were particularly vulnerable; perceived by both Croat and Serb extremists as neither Catholic nor Orthodox, they included six distinct groups: Macedonians and Serbs who accepted papal authority and followed the rites of the Orthodox tradition; Greek Catholic Croats from the village of Žumberak; Greek Catholic Rusyns who left the Carpathians in the 18th century; Ukrainian Greek Catholics who left Galicia at the turn of the 20th century; and Romanian Greek Catholics living in the Serbian province of Vojvodina.
After the Yugoslav kingdom was created in 1918, the Holy See extended the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Križevci, (erected in 1777) to embrace all Yugoslavian Greek Catholics. Since the disintegration of the Southern Slav state, the Holy See has regrouped them into three separate jurisdictions: The Eparchy of Križevci, near the Croatian capital city of Zagreb, includes about 18,260 people living in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2001, the Holy See established an exarchate for Greek Catholics living in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Led by the Latin bishop of Skopje, it includes some 11,300 faithful. In 2003, the Holy See set up an exarchate for Greek Catholics in Serbia and Montenegro and includes about 22,000 members, most of whom are ethnic Rusyns living in the Serbian region of Vojvodina.
Click here to read more.
17 November 2015
Refugees from Afghanistan and Syria arrive in boats on the shores of Lesbos on 5 November 2015 near Skala Sikaminias, Greece. In the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Paris, U.S. bishops have underscored their support for refugees. To show your support for refugees, please visit this giving page. (photo: Etienne De Malglaive/Getty Images)
17 November 2015
In the video above, authorities are tightening security in Rome, following last Friday’s terror attacks in Paris. (video: Rome Reports)
Report: Terror suspect was target of airstrikes on ISIS in Syria (The New York Times) The Belgian man suspected of being the plotter of the Paris terrorist attacks was a target of Western airstrikes on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, as recently as last month, according to a European security official. The man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, a fighter for the Islamic State, is believed to have escaped to Syria after the authorities in January foiled another terrorist plot, which had targeted the eastern Belgian city of Verviers, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details...
U.S. Bishops: Paris violence won’t alter church outreach to refugees (CNS) Church resettlement programs in the United States will continue to aid refugees who are fleeing violence and social ills despite calls that the country’s borders should be closed to anyone but Christians. The church’s response is focused on people in need of food, shelter and safety and not their particular faith, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told reporters on 16 November during a midday break at the bishops’ annual fall general assembly. “We at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities, we are always open to helping families who come into the United States in need of help,” he said at a news conference. “We have that tradition of doing it and we’re going to contribute...”
Deal reached to reopen Gaza border (AP) A senior Palestinian official on Monday said the Palestinian Authority has reached an agreement with Egypt to reopen the Gaza Strip’s main border crossing in an arrangement meant to bypass the territory’s Hamas rulers...
Pope to visit Rome synagogue in January (Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office today announced that, following an invitation from the Chief Rabbi and Jewish Community of Rome, Pope Francis will pay a visit to the Great Synagogue in the afternoon of Sunday 17 January 2016. It will be the third visit by a Pope to the Great Synagogue of Rome, following John Paul II and Benedict XVI...
Vatican Christmas tree to be unveiled early (Vatican Radio) When the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins on 8 December, all eyes will be looking towards Rome. So the Governorate of the Holy See has decided to take advantage of the attention and unveil the St. Peter’s Square Christmas tree on the same day...
16 November 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Jews
The Blue Ridge Mountains near Lynchburg, Virginia. (photo: CNEWA)
Late Sunday night, my colleague Norma Intriago and I returned to New York City after an inspiring trip to Lynchburg, Virginia, where we paid a visit to St. Thomas More Catholic Church.
St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. (photo: CNEWA)
Nestled near the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from the border with North Carolina, Lynchburg is an overwhelmingly Protestant enclave in the South — among other things, it’s home to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University — but the parish family at St. Thomas More is vibrant and enthusiastic and proud of their Catholic identity. They also care passionately about what is happening to Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria — which is why they invited us to come and talk about CNEWA.
The pastor, the Rev. Msgr. Michael McCarron, is a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre; he’s made 15 pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and is getting ready to lead his 16th next spring. He’s also a longtime CNEWA supporter and reader of our magazine, ONE. He and his parish team gave us a warm and enthusiastic welcome. They’ve already raised funds for Christians by selling cookbooks and small decorative ceramic tiles for the Year of Mercy, and they’ve made awareness of the plight of Christians a priority.
I preached at all three Masses — drawing some connections between what has happened in Paris and what is continuing to happen to people in Iraq and Syria — and Norma gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation that told more about the work we do and the mission we've undertaken.
Director of Development Norma Intriago speaks to parishioners. (photo: CNEWA)
The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Karen Birkmeyer proudly shows her support for Christians in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)
Parishioners gather more information from CNEWA after the Masses. (photo: CNEWA)
We thank the good people at St. Thomas More for their hearty welcome and passionate commitment to CNEWA’s work in the Middle East and around the world — and we need to give a special shoutout to Tom Lucente and Sybil Frey, who were our gracious hosts. And the big-hearted, big-voiced Msgr. McCarron made our visit a joy. Thank you!
We hope to come back soon.
Meantime, if you’d like us to visit your parish, drop us a line. We’d love to meet you and spread the word about how you can make a difference in the lives of the people CNEWA serves. Simply contact Norma Intriago at email@example.com.
Msgr. Michael McCarron, Norma Intriago and Deacon Greg Kandra. (photo: CNEWA)
16 November 2015
During a press briefing in Turkey this morning at the close of the G20 Summit, President Obama said it would be “shameful” and “un-American” to only take Christian refugees from the Middle East — and he used remarks by Pope Francis to bolster his case.
You can read the text here.
And you can watch the video below.
16 November 2015
Hanaa Elia and her husband, Georges Habbash, sit in their home in Jdeideh, Lebanon, a year after fleeing the Nineveh Plain. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
In the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE, journalist Raed Rafei looks at the plight of Iraqi Christian refugees in Lebanon. Here, he adds some additional thoughts from his experience reporting the story.
When you see a man in his mid-thirties, a father of four children, crying, you cannot but have a twinge in the stomach. Sarmad, like all the refugees I interviewed for my story on Christian minorities who fled their towns in Iraq and Syria because of invasions by extreme Islamist militias, feels completely hopeless. After a year in Lebanon barely surviving, relying on charity from his Catholic Assyrian Church and philanthropists, he is at the edge of a breakdown. It is very harsh to witness people in limbo, especially ones who are responsible for their families. Many told me they are unable to picture the future unless they are granted asylum in a western country, a chance that only a small percentage of refugees here will eventually have. In Lebanon, refugees lead a very difficult life in the absence of stable jobs and social and medical public care.
I remember vividly the look in Sarmad’s eyes when I asked him if he would go back to Iraq. It was a very bitter gaze. He said, “Iraq! I hate my parents for being born there.” His honest answer made me very uncomfortable. It’s only when people are in their most desperate moment that they renounce their origins this way. But I could not blame him. What the refugees I’ve met told me is that they had witnessed a carefully studied plan not only to drive them out of lands they had lived in for centuries but also to wipe out their entire heritage. These refugees, who are very proud that they speak the language of Christ and practice ancient Christian rites, seem nevertheless hopeless that they could ever go back and rebuild their homes and towns. The sense of betrayal from their Muslim neighbors is strong. Many showed me, on their mobile phones, videos and images of ancient churches and convents purposely damaged and desecrated by fundamentalists. These were the churches where they held all their happy and sad ceremonies. I was particularly touched by the story of a father who told me how blessings from a saint in a shrine in his hometown in Syria cured his ill son.
Despite all the desperate stories I heard, I was moved by the unity I witnessed at a Sunday liturgy for exiled Catholic Assyrians. The church, which is rented for a couple of hours every Sunday to absorb newcomers, was packed with hundreds of people praying with their children. Even after having lost everything they had built throughout their lives, they were, at least, grateful they were now alive and safe. Afterward, the scene was very cheerful in the front yard of the church, with children playing and adults chitchatting.
I felt a real sense of solidarity in a community thriving and still standing; a bruised community, yes, but one that has not given up just yet.
Below is a video produced by Raed Rafei, showing the life of one refugee family in Lebanon:
16 November 2015
In Paris on 16 November, a man weeps as people gather to observe a minute of silence at the Place de la Republique in memory of the victims of last Friday’s terror attacks.
(photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
16 November 2015
Women hold roses as Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris celebrates a Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15 November to pray for those killed in terrorist attacks.
(photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis sends condolences to France (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, assuring victims, their families and emergency personnel that he is united with them in prayer. Signed by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the telegram condemns this and all acts of violence, and asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity...
Pope says nothing can justify terrorist attacks (CNS) Using God’s name to try to justify violence and murder is “blasphemy,” Pope Francis said 15 November, speaking about the terrorist attacks on Paris. “Such barbarity leaves us dismayed, and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events,” the pope said after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square...
Text of initial Vatican statement on Paris attacks (CNS) Here in the Vatican we are following the terrible news from Paris. We are shocked by this new manifestation of maddening, terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way together with the Pope and all those who love peace...
Muslims condemn terror attacks in Paris (USA Today) Muslims worldwide on Saturday strongly condemned the terrorist attacks by the Islamic State that killed at least 127 people in Paris. Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body that represents more than 500 organizations including mosques, schools and charities, described the killings as “horrific and abhorrent.” “My thoughts and prayers for the families of those killed and injured and for the people of France, our neighbours,” he said in a statement. “This attack is being claimed by the group calling themselves ‘Islamic State’. There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith...”
Archbishop: Religions must work together against hate (Vatican Radio) The President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy is needed even more after the terrorist attacks in Paris. In an interview with the Italian magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, Archbishop Fisichella said all three monotheistic religions agree that God is merciful. “It is one more reason to work together — and to help each other in this task — to explain to the world that religions do not exist to be imprisoned by hate, but they are to spread compassion, and to work against fear as a way of life in all nations,” he said...
Israel approves entry of thousands of Ethiopians with Jewish lineage (Deutsche Welle) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday his government had given the green light to a proposal allowing more than 9,000 Ethiopians to settle in Israel. “Today we have taken an important decision, to bring to Israel within the next five years the last of the communities with links to Israel waiting in Addis Ababa and Gonder,” Netanyahu said in a statement. The Ethiopians in question, the last members of a group known as Falash Mura, claim Jewish ancestry even though they themselves are Christians, having converted in the 18th and 19th centuries. For this reason, they are not eligible for Israeli citizenship...
Christians get a Bible reading month in India (New India Express) Drawing inspiration from ‘Ramayana Masam’ during the Malayalam month of Karkatakam, the Catholic Church in Kerala is planning to observe December as ‘Bible Reading Month’, coinciding with the Christmas fast. It is an initiative of the Bible Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC). According to KCBC, the plan is to observe Bible Reading Month every “December to highlight the theme ‘word become flesh’. As the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated in December, the month is appropriate. The faithful await Christmas with prayers and fasting. Reading the Bible will enrich prayers,” said KCBC deputy secretary the Rev. Varghese Vallikkattu...