25 November 2015
More than half the refugees in Jordan are children.
(photo: Jeffrey Bruno/Vision Vocation Network)
Writer Jennifer Tomshack at the Vision Vocation Network traveled recently to Jordan and had the good fortune to see up close some of the work CNEWA (as it is known in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission) is doing on behalf of refugees.
Take a look:
While the West is increasingly closing its doors to desperate families who are fleeing violence with nowhere to go, there’s simply no denying there are untold numbers of decent people in dire need. I know because I met them. And I met remarkable people doing something about it.
The Pontifical Mission, along with many religious orders and local Catholic and Orthodox parishes, are working to address the crush of needs in Jordan, which has borne the brunt of this humanitarian crisis.
Jordan’s population has risen to more than 11 million from around 8 million in the last two years, largely because of refugees, taxing this poor nation, which lacks oil, and pushing its unemployment rate up to 25 percent. This predominantly Muslim country, a model of stability and religious tolerance in the region, has offered safe haven to refugees of all faiths. “For Jordanians, caring for those in need is a moral duty and part of our national character,” King Abdullah II of Jordan wrote in an op-ed piece in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard. “However, today’s refugee burden is pushing us to the limits of our resources.”
I recently had the unique opportunity to visit Jordan on a media trip. One of my objectives was to bear witness to the suffering of refugees there.
I met the dedicated regional director of the Pontifical Mission, Ra’ed Bahou, the son of refugees himself. I met the women who help run the center, Amabel Sibug and Elisa Estrada, lay Teresians from the Philippines who have given decades of their lives to this place.
I met brave, scared parents. They’re educated, middle-class professionals, just like me. Their talents and ability to contribute to society are squandered while they wait to resume their lives.
Read on for more details about what CNEWA is doing.
Want to help out this holiday season? Visit this page to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of refugees in the Middle East.
25 November 2015
Tags: Refugees CNEWA Middle East Jordan
Under police protection, workers rebuild St. Sebastian Church in Dilshad Garden, New Delhi. In response to a rash of anti-Christian violence, officers have been assigned to guard churches within the city. To learn more, read ‘There Will Be More Martyrs’, from ONE’s Autumn 2015 edition. (photo: Jose Jacob)
25 November 2015
Tags: India Violence against Christians Indian Christians Indian Catholics
A Russian pilot parachutes out of a warplane downed by Turkish forces in northwestern Syrian town of Bayirbucak, near the Turkish border, on 24 November. (photo: Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Second Russian airman shot down by Turkey is alive, says Moscow (The Guardian) The second Russian airman from the jet shot down by the Turkish air force is “alive and well” after the Syrian army undertook a 12-hour special operation to save him, Russian officials say. Both airmen ejected from the plane after it was hit by a Turkish F-16 on Tuesday, but the pilot was killed by fire from the ground, apparently from Syrian Turkmen fighters. Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, speaking on Russian television after his rescue, said his plane had not crossed into Turkish airspace and Turkish jets had not issued any warnings…
ISIS releases ten Assyrian hostages in Syria (AINA) ISIS released ten Assyrians captured on 23 February when it attacked 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur river in the Hassake province. ISIS captured 253 in the initial attack and drove 3,000 Assyrians from their villages. Most have not returned. The hostages, five men and five women, are in good health…
Canada pushes back deadline to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees (Christian Science Monitor) The Canadian government on Tuesday pushed back to the end of February its deadline for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees, in a concession that its original 1 January target was too difficult to meet. Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sworn in this month, made the initial pledge part of his election campaign but a wide array of critics said the goal was unrealistic…
Firsthand account of Assyrian refugees in Iraq (AINA) On the northern edge of Erbil, Iraq, in the region known as Kurdistan, Camp Ain Kawa II serves as the last fragile refuge for Iraq’s shrinking Christian population. At its peak, there were roughly 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, yet through the long years of violence and persecution, Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled to fewer than 700,000…
Syrian patriarch: Western media ‘silent, cowardly and complicit’ with ISIS (AINA) Western media have been “silent, cowardly and complicit” with the persecution of Christians by ISIS, said Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, the head of the Syriac Catholic Church, in a recent interview. “Western democracies have conspired against Syria and produced the destruction of the nation’s infrastructure, the demolition of houses, towns, villages, monuments and archaeological sites,” the patriarch said. “This is the result of a foolish politics and of a conspiracy, under the pretext of bringing democracy to the region…”
Compassion vs. security: What to do with Syrian refugees? (Catholic News Agency) As the U.S. plans to increase its intake of Syrian refugees to 10,000 next year, Americans — including Catholics — are trying to balance national security concerns with compassion for the refugees. Many Americans have expressed deep concerns about extremists infiltrating the resettlement program, especially after 13 November terror attacks in Paris killed 130 and injured several hundred. In the wake of the attacks, U.S. Catholic bishops have asked Americans not to scapegoat all Syrian refugees as possible terrorists and to remember their dire humanitarian plight. “These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women and children who are fleeing for their lives,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, the auxiliary bishop of Seattle…
24 November 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Turkey Russia
Sister Winifred Doherty, a Good Shepherd sister, enjoys lunch with children at
The Good Shepherd school in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
On 1 December, one week from today, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) will participate — for the first time — in a global online event: #Giving Tuesday.
#Giving Tuesday is an annual, 24-hour fundraising campaign, entirely internet-based. It’s a day when CNEWA will celebrate — and encourage — the spirit of giving worldwide. It will bring together individuals, parishes and organizations to do good.
But to make this unique day a success? We need your help.
On #Giving Tuesday, CNEWA will raise funds to ease hunger. Nutrition is a challenge for every initiative we support. In hospitals, mother-and-child clinics, orphanages, schools and Bible camps — and every facility that helps refugees — everyone needs to eat.
#Giving Tuesday will let us help churches and religious sisters provide healthy formula for infants. Lunches for school children. Hot meals for the elderly and sick. As Pope Francis noted, “We are in front of a global scandal, one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist.”
To give on #Giving Tuesday — or even in advance — use your computer, smart phone or tablet. To make donating easy, we’re harnessing the power of CrowdRise. One of America’s most highly-regarded funding web sites, it’s an online giving hub that brings together ordinary people, diverse charities and companies. All to support important causes.
Just go to CNEWA’s special CrowdRise/#Giving Tuesday donor page at: CNEWA Giving Tuesday.
#Giving Tuesday’s potential goes beyond money. I’m certain we’ll build greater public awareness of the small miracles CNEWA donors make possible. It will also introduce us to a diverse new audience. Tomorrow’s CNEWA donors.
Will you help us make the day a success? Playing an advance role is as simple as inviting family, friends, workmates and fellow parishioners — via email, Facebook or Twitter — to spread the word. In the days ahead, I’ll send you details that explain how.
#Giving Tuesday is about spreading compassion, faith and hope at this beautiful time of year. In the spirit of the season, let’s make room at our table for those in need.
Let’s make next Tuesday a day for sharing on behalf of those who struggle.
Meantime, check out the #GivingTuesday video below, which shows some of the work you are making possible in Ethiopia.
24 November 2015
Archbishop Leo, head of the Orthodox Church of Finland, speaks during the opening of an ice church in Juuka, Finland, on 24 January 2015. (photo: Timo Hartikainen/AFP/Getty Images)
Thoughts of Finland conjure up images of fir trees blanketed with snow, crisp cold Arctic air, fresh water lakes, lingonberry preserves and reindeer. Golden icons, clouds of incense, beeswax candles and polyphonic chants do not figure in these musings. Yet, the world of Byzantium exists even in this land of Scandinavian simplicity.
The Orthodox Church of Finland includes an estimated 62,000 Finns, about 1 percent of the population. The church, however, plays a disproportionate role in modern Finland. The Finnish constitution establishes the Orthodox Church as a national church. The government collects taxes for the church while the Orthodox clergy (together with their Evangelical Lutheran peers) preside at affairs of state. In recent decades, the church has been energized by an increase of converts, an influx of Orthodox Greek, Romanian and Russian immigrants and renewed public interest in iconography, Orthodox theology and monastic spirituality.
Firmly rooted in the culture of the Byzantine East, the Orthodox Church of Finland is no stranger to the ethos of the West. Similar to the nation’s dominant Lutheran Church, Orthodox leaders emphasize the frequent reception of the Eucharist, encourage lay leadership and utilize the Gregorian calendar even for the celebration of Easter.
Once tied to the Russian Empire, a nascent Finnish state severed its ties with the abdication of the tsar in 1917, and the turmoil that followed. In 1921, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia granted autonomy to Finland’s Orthodox Christians as well. Despite the protestations of the Moscow patriarchate, the ecumenical patriarchate declared the Orthodox Church of Finland an autonomous church under Constantinople in 1923.
While some Orthodox parishes could be found scattered throughout the new country, the center of the Orthodox Church of Finland remained in its eastern province of Karelia.
The Winter War (1939-40) between Finland and the Soviet Union, and the subsequent Soviet annexation of Karelia, however, soon changed that. About 90 percent of the parishes and properties of the church were lost, including its historic seminary and monasteries in Lake Ladoga. Rather than submit to Soviet oppression, Orthodox Karelian families, monks, priests, seminarians and sisters fled for the security of central Finland.
The Finnish government quickly resettled the refugees. Throughout the 1950’s, new parishes were founded, churches built, a seminary set up and eparchies erected. Monks reestablished the historic Valamo monastery in central Finland and, shortly thereafter, a convent for women religious was built nearby. Today, the centers receive hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and visitors each year and host an ever-growing number of academic workshops and spiritual retreats. Icon conservation studios also flourish.
In 1988, the Orthodox Church of Finland closed its independent seminary and moved its students to the state-run University of Joensuu, where an Orthodox theological faculty was established. Cantors, catechists and seminarians live in a separate residence near the campus, where they focus on liturgy and spirituality and study with other students at the university, which also offers degree programs for seminarians in the Lutheran tradition.
While the Orthodox Church of Finland includes some 150 churches and chapels scattered across Finland, its influence reaches far beyond Scandinavia. Orthodox Finns support the apostolic endeavors of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in Kenya and Uganda. They participate in international ecumenical forums with the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. And they have partnered with their Russian colleagues, providing moral support and financial assistance to reconstitute the original Valamo Monastery in Russian Karelia.
Though small, the Orthodox Church of Finland is unique in the Orthodox world, fusing in a creative way the contributions of Orthodox and non-Orthodox clergy and laity — regardless of gender — and in fostering ecumenism in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
Click here to read more.
24 November 2015
In this image from September, donated shoes await child refugees from Syria arriving in Hungary. Hundreds of faith leaders have called for compassion in addressing the world refugee crisis. Read more here. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
24 November 2015
The civil war in Syria is forcing Christians to leave their country. In the video above, the archbishop of Aleppo explains how violence and hopelessness are driving people out every day.
(video: Rome Reports)
Turkey has “all but closed its borders” to Syrian refugees (Al Jazeera) Turkey has “all but closed its borders” to Syrian refugees, many of whom say they have been beaten, detained and expelled by Turkish border guards while trying to escape the devastating civil war that has sent millions fleeing Syria, nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday. The U.N. refugee agency says Turkey has registered more than 2 million Syrians as refugees since the conflict began nearly five years ago...
Turks down Russian warplane in Syria (Vatican Radio) Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday one of its fighter jets was downed in Syria after coming under fire from the ground. The Turkish military said it shot down a plane after it was repeatedly warned about violating Turkish airspace...
Faith leaders say refugees require compassion, acceptance (CNS) A Boston cardinal and the Maryland Catholic Conference were among hundreds of faith leaders who called for compassion in addressing the world refugee crisis and stressed the importance of developing a national immigration policy based on humanitarian need. Acknowledging that the times are “dangerous” and that “enhanced security procedures are needed,” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley in a statement on 19 November cautioned that in developing an immigration policy, “decisions concerning the specific measure taken require careful deliberation”...
Russia to halt gas supplies to Ukraine (Reuters) Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Moscow would cut gas supplies to Ukraine on Tuesday or Wednesday because Kiev had not paid up front for more gas and might also halt coal supplies to Ukraine in retaliation for a power blackout of Crimea. Alexander Novak, in comments to Vesti FM radio station, was speaking as Russian-annexed Crimea continued to rely on emergency generators to meet its basic power needs after unknown saboteurs blew up electricity pylons supplying the peninsula with electricity over the weekend...
Airlines cancel flights in wake of Egypt plane crash (BBC) Two airlines have cancelled all flights between the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and the UK until January. British Airways has cancelled flights up to and including 14 January while Easyjet has suspended flights until at least 6 January. Easyjet said the move was made to provide some certainty to passengers travelling over the Christmas period. BA said the decision was made following discussions with the government about the situation in Sharm el-Sheikh. Monarch, Thomson and Thomas Cook have cancelled flights until dates in December...
Indian Christians struggle for political relevance (UCANews.com) or a long time, Indian Christian leaders depended on others for their political meal, without bothering to know the recipes. But theories of political cooking are fast changing in India, and they are hurriedly looking for some easy-to-learn recipes. A new recipe was successfully tested in the cardamom-growing hills of southern Kerala in November, when village elections were conducted there. What occurred in this small village of Christians could have great lessons for their people across India in their attempt for political assertion...
23 November 2015
Tags: Syria India Ukraine Turkey Russia
Pope Francis poses with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a meeting at the Vatican
on 20 November. (photo: CNS/Alessandra Tarantino, pool via Reuters)
On Friday, Pope Francis met with Ukraine’s president. Some details, from CNS:
Although the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists continues, Pope Francis and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko still share hope that a political solution still can be found, the Vatican said.
Welcoming Poroshenko to the Vatican on November 20, the pope greeted him in Ukrainian. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, explained that at the age of 11, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio learned a few phrases of Ukrainian when he served as an altar boy for a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Buenos Aires.
Pope Francis and Poroshenko spoke privately for more than 20 minutes. The Vatican said that their conversation was “dedicated principally to matters connected with the situation of conflict in the country.”
“In this respect, the hope was shared that, with the commitment of all the interested parties, political solutions may be favored, starting with the full implementation of the Minsk Accords,” a cease-fire agreement signed in September 2014, the statement said.
Additionally, the two expressed their concerns regarding the difficulties in providing humanitarian relief, healthcare in areas of the country where the fighting continues.
The Ukrainian president gave the pope a glass sculpture of an angel, which represented “a messenger of God who brings peace to every home and reminds us of such principal values of life as God’s blessing, family, labor and peaceful skies overhead.”
Poroshenko told the pope he hoped “that with this you will remember Ukraine.”
23 November 2015
In this image from last May, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, center, celebrates Mass for displaced Iraqis in Erbil, Iraq. In a new interview, the patriarch says Western nations have betrayed Christians in the Middle East. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Syriac Patriarch: the West has betrayed Mideast Christians (CNS) The head of the Syriac Catholic Church has accused Western governments of betraying Christians in the Middle East and said it was “a big lie” to suggest Islamic State could be defeated with airstrikes. In an 18 November interview with Le Messager, an online Catholic magazine in Egypt, Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, “all Eastern patriarchs, myself included, have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning: Be careful, the situation in Syria is not like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya — it’s much more complex, and conflict here will create only chaos and civil war...
Syrian refugees cling to a haven in Michigan (The New York Times) Presidential candidates and elected officials around the country have suggested closing mosques, collecting Syrian refugees already in the country or creating a registry for Muslims. Sentiments like those are especially jarring in Michigan, which has one of the largest and most vibrant Arab-American populations in the country and a vocal group of advocates for bringing more Syrian refugees to the United States. In the Detroit suburbs, refugees have traded a harrowing war in the Middle East for cold winters, strip malls and neatly arranged subdivisions, with houses as uniform as Monopoly pieces...
Cardinal: Public is “very blasé” about horrors Christians are facing in the Holy Land (CNS) When Cardinal Edwin O’Brien was named grandmaster of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in 2011, he found himself embroiled in a war a world away from the jungles of Vietnam where he ministered to dying troops as a young priest. “The forces that are at work now are intent on eradicating the Christian civilisation, nothing less,” said the 76-year-old US cardinal, who was in Sydney in October to reach out to the order’s 600 Australian members. Christians in the Holy Land face “daily horrors,” while “our public is very blase about the whole thing,” Cardinal O’Brien said...
Pope meets with Ukrainian president (CNS) Although the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists continues, Pope Francis and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko still share hope that a political solution still can be found, the Vatican said. Welcoming Poroshenko to the Vatican on 20 November, the pope greeted him in Ukrainian. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, explained that at the age of 11, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio learned a few phrases of Ukrainian when he served as an altar boy for a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Buenos Aires...
Patriarch Gregorios III: Praying on Lebanese Independence Day (ByzCath.org) I offer my congratulations for Independence Day and say to the Lebanese people, I’m going to pray for love, solidarity, harmony, sincerity, honesty, unity and union: this is the salvation of Lebanon!...
Lombardi expresses “utmost confidence” in security ahead of the Jubilee (Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said on Monday he has “utmost confidence” in the Italian authorities to ensure the safety of Rome and St. Peter’s Square during the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy. “On the part of the Vatican, there was not a specific demand to increase security measures during the Jubilee,” Father Lombardi said. “It depends on the Italian authorities, and how they rate the situation...”
20 November 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Pope Francis Ukraine
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, celebrates the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia on 15 November. At right is Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia. (photo: CNS/Sarah Webb)
In 2009, the Rev. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, a priest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was named a bishop and sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, as an auxiliary bishop and administrator of the Eparchy of Santa Maria.
At that time he was just 38, the youngest Catholic bishop in the world.
Just two years later, despite his youth, his brother bishops meeting for a five-day synod in Lviv elected him major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, the head of the entire Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The election was ratified by Pope Benedict XVI.
During his brief administration in Buenos Aires, his mentor was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then the archbishop of Buenos Aires, now Pope Francis. The two became friends.
“I think Pope Francis has deep religious spirituality,” Archbishop Shevchuk observed during a 13-15 November visit to Philadelphia. “His special gift is to discern and appreciate each gift from the Holy Spirit, and he was an outstanding father and adviser to me, he introduced me to the council of bishops in Argentina and helped me with my orientation.”
More recently he served on the preparatory commission for the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family and this October’s world Synod of Bishops on the family. He recalls the first time meeting the now-Pope Francis while he was there. He started to talk to the pontiff in Italian.
“He said to me, ‘Did you forget your Spanish?’ so we talked in Spanish,” Archbishop Shevchuk told CatholicPhilly.com, the news site of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
While in Philadelphia, Archbishop Shevchuk celebrated Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on 15 November. He blessed new mosaics honoring Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska, foundress of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate and Major Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who died in a Soviet prison in 1944. In July, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing his heroic virtues and declaring him venerable.
The primary reason for Archbishop Shevchuk’s visit to the U.S. was to participate in the unveiling in Washington of the Holodomor-Forced Famine Monument, which honors the memory of millions of Ukrainians who starved to death in 1932-33 during forced collectivization instigated by the Stalin regime.
“We call it genocide,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “In Ukrainian territory alone according to studies at least 5 million were killed.”
On 7 November, he blessed the monument, which was authorized by Congress in 2006.
Ukraine, which was ruled mostly by Russia and other neighboring countries for centuries, regained full independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union but relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine deteriorated with the annexation of Crimea by Russia and incursions in other nearby Ukrainian territory in 2014.
“The desire of the Ukrainian nation is not to move back to the Soviet Union but forward to democracy to autonomy,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “Right now there is a fragile cease-fire but we are concerned about re-escalation.”
While in Washington, the Catholic archbishop and other Ukrainian religious leaders representing the Orthodox, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim and evangelical Christian faiths, among others, held a news conference 9 November calling on President Barack Obama and Congress to greatly increase the level of humanitarian aid for those suffering in the midst of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, especially as winter approaches.
In a nation of 45 million, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic population is about 4.5 million with an additional 2.5 million members abroad. “We are the largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world,” the archbishop said.
Although most other believers are Orthodox Christians along with Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities, “Our (All-Ukrainian) Council of the Churches and Religious Organizations is our most powerful NGO, representing 85 percent of the people” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “The council enables us not only to listen to each other but to solve our problems. We not only coexist, we cooperate.”
To be part of the Ukrainian nation, one does not have to be ethnically Ukrainian, Archbishop Shevchuk explained, pointing to the large number of Poles, Jews, Russians and other nationalities, with a large part of the army being Russian speakers. “We are a free people, a country with European values and respect for human dignity, which lays the foundation to the nation.”
Just as Ukraine is multi-ethnic, so too is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which during communist rule was essentially an underground church, according to Archbishop Shevchuk.
“We are a global church,” he said “We are in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Western Europe, Siberia and even China. We pray in different languages. We are open to sharing our Eastern Catholic traditions, our spirituality, our liturgy with all.”
Although Ukrainian Greek Catholics are a minority both in the country of their origin and around the world, including the United States, the aim is always communion not conformity.
“We always learn to think as a minority, but our authority goes beyond being a small community,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “We learn how to overcome our limits, to be flexible, to present our treasures in a practical way so that people will appreciate them.”
In his visit to the United States and the various Ukrainian Greek Catholic communities, Archbishop Shevchuk most desired to bring attention to the current situation in Ukraine. “We do need the help of the international community, not only to stop a war but to help those who have been injured by war,” he said. “I especially want to thank all Catholics in America who participate in the collection for Eastern churches. Right now, that is vital.”
Tags: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk