29 May 2019
The United Nations yesterday denounced inaction that has led to more death and destruction in Syria — particularly among civilians. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
Civilians killed in Syria attack (Al Jazeera) More than 20 civilians were killed on Tuesday as the Syrian government continued its relentless bombardment against the last rebel stronghold in the country’s northwest. The latest attacks came as the United Nations denounced world powers for doing nothing to halt the bloodshed and destruction…
Russian Orthodox official compares protests to Romanov executions (The Moscow Times) Recent mass protests against plans to replace a city park in central Russia with an Orthodox cathedral are akin to the execution of the country’s last royal family, the head of Yekaterinburg’s diocese said. Protests erupted in Russia’s fourth-largest city this month after fencing went up around a riverside park ahead of the church’s construction, resulting in arrests and clashes with vigilantes and riot police. Yekaterinburg is also the site of the 1918 shooting by Bolshevik revolutionaries of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and five children. The church canonized them as martyrs in 2000...
Kerala police form anti-terror squad (The Hindu) The Kerala police will form an anti-terrorism squad (ATS) to crack down on extremist activity. The move comes against the backdrop of what the State police perceive as the rising danger of religious fundamentalism, Maoist insurgency and far-right fanaticism in south India…
Indian archbishop calls for action against cow vigilantes (UCANews.com) A fresh attack by so-called cow vigilantes has brought a call by a Catholic archbishop for stringent action to ensure peace in India’s multifaith society. Police in Seoni district of the central state of Madhya Pradesh detained five people on 25 May for assaulting three people including a woman who were suspected of transporting 140 kilograms of beef. The meat has been sent for laboratory verification…
Jerusalem sees rise in secular population (The Jewish Press) The Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research (JIPR) on Wednesday issued its annual report, ahead of Sunday’s Jerusalem Day, showing that Israel’s capital has crossed the 900,000-resident mark, with 62 percent Jews and 32 percent Arabs. Of the Jewish population, 22 percent are secular, which is more than back in 2009…
28 May 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Russian Orthodox Church
Pope Francis places a picture of his parents onto the “Share the Journey” photo mosaic during an audience with delegates attending the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis, at the Vatican on 27 May 2019. At right is Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis. The pope called for charity to be given with heart and soul.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Charity should be given freely and lived humbly with the poor, never letting it become hypocrisy, a slick business or a way to soothe a troubled conscience, Pope Francis said.
“Not only does charity that doesn’t ‘reach the wallet’ end up being fake charity, so does charity that doesn’t involve the heart, soul and our whole being,” he said on 27 May during an audience at the Vatican with delegates attending the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis.
The Vatican-based confederation of more than 160 Catholic national charities was holding its 21st general assembly in Rome, electing new officials, reviewing polices and focusing on the theme, “One Human Family, One Common Home.”
The pope thanked delegates for working to help those “left on the margins” and for building up in the world God’s kingdom where justice, love and peace reign.
He said charity, integral development and ecclesial communion were three key elements in Caritas’ mission.
“Charity is not a sterile service or a simple donation to hand over to put our conscience at ease,” he said.
“Charity is God our Father’s embrace of every person, particularly of the least and those who suffer.”
The church is not a humanitarian organization, the pope said. It is something so much bigger: “In Christ, it is the sign and instrument of God’s love for humanity and for creation.”
The pope urged the Caritas representatives to live out this charity freely, humbly and with a spirit of poverty.
“One cannot live charity without having a personal relationship with the poor — to live with the poor and for the poor” so as to learn from them how charity is sharing.
“It is necessary to always be careful not to fall into the temptation of living a hypocritical or deceptive charity, identified with almsgiving” or fundraising or used as a “sedative” to relieve an uneasy conscience, the pope said.
“This is why one must avoid equating charitable activity with philanthropic strength or with well-planned efficiency or with over-the-top and flamboyant organization,” he said.
Pope Francis told the delegates that of all the ways people could best imitate God, the most desirable virtue is charity.
This is why it is “scandalous” to see people working in charitable organizations become bureaucrats, executives or businessmen, he said. “They speak a lot about charity, but they live in luxury” or wasteful extravagance or else “they organize forums on charity and unnecessarily waste a lot of money.”
“That is why I would like to reemphasize that charity is not an idea or a pious sentiment,” but it is a real encounter with Christ, and it is wanting to live with the heart of God, the pope said.
28 May 2019
In this image from 2017, people walk inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. A new agreement between three churches will begin a multi-million dollar renovation of the foundations and flooring of the structure. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Churches strike deal to restore Jerusalem site (AP) The three churches in charge of Jerusalem’s holiest Christian site say they have reached an agreement to begin a multi-million dollar renovation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Leaders of the Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian churches issued a statement Monday announcing the project to restore the foundations and flooring of the church, where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, entombed and resurrected…
Pope releases message on migrants, refugees (Vatican News) Pope Francis released his message on Monday for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be commemorated on 29 September. As the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section announced in March, the theme is “It is not just about migrants”…
Pope names new head of Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Vatican News) Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot succeeds the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who died in July 2018, as the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He has been serving as Secretary of the Vatican dicastery…
Catholic bishops lament setbacks for peace in Holy Land (CNA)Peace, mutual equality, and respect must be the foundation of progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations, despite continued setbacks, the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land said last week. Continuing difficulties in Palestine and Israel have caused many people to question “whether international diplomacy and the peace process were ever actually based on justice and good will,” the ordinaries said in a 20 May message...
Kerala on alert over ISIS warning (Economic Times) Kerala Coastal Police have been placed on alert after intelligence inputs about ISIS affiliates setting off towards Lakshadweep and Minicoy Island from Sri Lanka, police sources said on Sunday. According to highly-placed sources aware of the matter, as many as 15 ISIS affiliates have set-off in a white boat from Sri Lanka towards Indian islands of Lakshadweep and Minicoy….
24 May 2019
Tags: India Pope Francis Jerusalem Migrants Holy Sepulchre
Pope Francis talks with Archbishop Stefan of Skopje, spiritual head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, at the Vatican on 24 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Andrew Medichini, pool via Reuters)
24 May 2019
In this image from 2017, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, celebrates a memorial liturgy for victims of ISIS at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. In a speech in London this week, the archbishop said Christians in Iraq are close to extinction.
(photo: CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
Archbishop: Iraq’s Christians close to extinction (BBC) The Archbishop of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, has accused Britain’s Christian leaders of failing to do enough in defense of the vanishing Christian community in Iraq. In an impassioned address in London, the Archbishop Bashar Warda said Iraq’s Christians now faced extinction after 1,400 years of persecution…
The impossible future of Christians in the Middle East (The Atlantic) The precarious state of Christianity in Iraq is tragic on its own terms. The world may soon witness the permanent displacement of an ancient religion, and an ancient people. Those indigenous to this area share more than faith: They call themselves Suraye and claim a connection to the ancient peoples who inhabited this land long before the birth of Christ. But the fate of Christianity in places like the Nineveh Plain has a geopolitical significance as well…
Pope invites new ambassadors to support most vulnerable (Vatican News) Pope Francis accepted the Credential Letters presented by nine new Ambassadors to the Holy See on Thursday. The nations they represent include Thailand, New Zealand, Guinea, Ethiopia, Norway, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Luxembourg, and Mozambique. In an address to mark the occasion, Pope Francis recognized the variety of positive contributions these States make to world’s common good. He also said all have “a high responsibility to protect the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters…”
Unease among India’s minorities after Modi’s win (UCANews.com) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power for a second five-year term on 23 May in an election fought largely on the plank of Hindu nationalism…
23 May 2019
Tags: India Pope Francis Iraqi Christians Persecution
In this image from 2017, Pope Francis at the Vatican addresses participants at an encounter marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The death penalty is "contrary to the Gospel," the pope said in his speech — echoing sentiments long expressed by Amnesty International. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
In CNEWA’s world, human rights are a constant concern. Freedom of religion, minority and women’s rights are constantly being challenged, if not violated, in one way or another throughout the world where we work and, indeed, the world in general.
Thus, an observance next week — which is fairly unheralded — is important for CNEWA and all people who are concerned with human rights. On Tuesday 28 May, the world observes Amnesty International Day. Most people have heard about Amnesty International and it is probably the largest and most active non-governmental human rights advocacy group in the world.
Amnesty, as it is commonly known, was founded in London in 1961 by Peter Benenson who had read about two students in Portugal who had been imprisoned for making a toast to freedom—something that did not sit well with the government of Antonio Salazar, Portugal’s dictator. Benenson and Eric Baker of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) published an article entitled “The Forgotten Prisoners” in The Observer in May of 1961 and Amnesty International was born.
From the outset, Amnesty has seen itself as advocate for the human rights enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Amnesty has been a particularly effective advocate for “prisoners of conscience,” i.e. those who are imprisoned for their faith or political beliefs. In 1977, Amnesty was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Long before it became an important point of discussion, Amnesty opposed capital punishment, which is considered the ultimate violation of human rights. Dictatorships and authoritarian governments often used capital punishment as a way of permanently silencing their opponents. In far too many places in the world, people the government finds unacceptable are executed without even having had a trial. Amnesty is constantly calling out countries for extrajudicial executions. Opposed in principle to capital punishment, Amnesty is always alert for situations in which people are not even granted a fair trial before they are killed.
The developing social teaching of the Catholic Church under the last three popes — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis — has evolved to a point where the Catholic Church’s position of capital punishment is similar to that of Amnesty. On 11 October 2017 Pope Francis declared the death penalty to be “contrary to the Gospel.” He added that, “However grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person.” The following year, he revised the catechism to reflect that teaching. Using a slightly different theological hermeneutic, the pope closely approached the position of Amnesty.
After 50 years — and with over 7 million supporters —Amnesty International may very well be the largest and best- known human advocacy group in the world. However, its work is far from done. All over the world there remain prisoners of conscience and authoritarian governments who still find ways to kill people they find dangerous or inconvenient.
Amnesty Day may not be an observance of which many people are aware. However, for those working for peace and justice — not only in CNEWA’s world but in the entire world — it is a very important day.
Attention must be paid.
23 May 2019
Tags: Pope Francis United Nations
Sister Emebet Mamo runs the Guder Catholic School in Ethiopia and lovingly looks after the children in her care. (photo: Chris Kennedy/CNEWA)
On a visit last week to Ethiopia, my colleague Haimdat Sawh and I had a chance to spend a morning with the students of Guder Catholic School, about eighty miles due west of Addis Ababa. Lovingly overseen by the Daughters of St. Anne, the school hosts 843 students in grades K-8. As the school’s director, Sister Emebet Mamo, explains, “What makes our school different is that we teach moral education — our students come to us to learn and grow morally.”
The school is held in great regard in the surrounding area, and graduates have gone on to be pilots, lawyers and doctors. One alumnus, who recently returned to speak at the school, is now an engineer for NASA.
23 May 2019
Early reports say India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is poised to win a landslide victory in the country's elections. (video: BBC/YouTube)
Modi poised for victory in India (CNN) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was poised for a landslide victory in the country’s general elections, early results showed on Thursday, defying expectations of even his own party to win a second term in office. Modi thanked Indians for “the faith placed” in his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), tweeting that it “gives us strength to work even harder to fulfill people’s aspirations…”
Vatican publishes a ’milestone’ for promoting interreligious dialogue (Vatican News) The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) have launched a joint document to encourage Churches and Christian organizations to reflect on the structural roots that have led to the disruption of world peace…
Jerusalem prepares for thousands of Muslim visitors for Ramadan (The Jerusalem Post) The Israel Police have completed preparations for the third Friday of Ramadan in Jerusalem. Tens of thousands are expected for Friday services for the Islamic holy month. “The Israel Police will act decisively against anyone who tries to disrupt the peace,” the police spokesperson’s office announced…
Caste-driven honor killings haunt India (UCANews.com) In the last three years, more than 300 cases have been reported, according to government statistics. The practice has its roots in the caste system followed in Hinduism, the religion of 80 percent of Indian people. The caste system considers those outside the four castes — priests, warriors, traders and farmers — to be outcasts. They are socially excluded because even their presence is considered polluting. The socially and economically poor are considered untouchable because of their menial work such as clearing night soil (human excrement) and removing dead animals…
Ethiopia farmers fight drought with cows (Reuters) After farmer Manza Bulacho’s crops were wiped out in a drought that devastated parts of Ethiopia in 2017, the father of 10 hoped a cow could keep him going. Bulacho, 42, who lives near the city of Arba Minch in southern Ethiopia, joined a program that helped him borrow money to purchase a dairy cow and get it insured…
No Ramadan ceasefire in northern India (UCANews.com) Ramadan 2019 has been deadly in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir compared to last year’s when the government announced a unilateral truce. The conflict-ridden region has witnessed six major encounters during the first 15 days of this year’s Ramadan, killing 12 Islamist militants, two army personnel and a civilian…
Grooms face crushing debt in Gaza (AP) Wedding lenders have filled an important need in Gaza’s conservative society, where young men and women are typically expected to marry in their late teens or early 20s. Facing a nearly 60% unemployment rate, many young Gazan men have been forced to put off their dreams of marriage because they cannot afford it…
22 May 2019
Tags: India Ethiopia Interreligious Ramadan
A member of the the Missionaries of Charity arrives to cast her vote at a polling station during the final phase of general elections in Kolkata, India, last week. Election results are due to be announced Thursday. (photo: CNS/Rupak De Chowdhuri, Reuters)
22 May 2019
In this image from 2017, Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II attend an ecumenical prayer service in Cairo. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Tawadros: ‘Egypt’s church is not a political party’ (Middle East Monitor) Egypt’s churches distinguish between their national and political roles, the country’s Coptic pope, Tawadros II, said.”Politicians have their own speciality, which I didn’t study,” Tawadros told ME Sat. “All Copts are Egyptians, including myself. Our [Christian] role is to participate in our homeland’s prosperity, practice our rights as Egyptians,” the pope pointed out, adding that politics were being participated through “legal political parties.” “Egypt’s church is not a political party,” he stressed…
U.S. says Assad may be using chemical weapons in Syria again (The New York Times) The State Department said on Tuesday that the Syrian government might be renewing its use of chemical weapons, citing a suspected chlorine attack in northwest Syria, and maintaining that any use of such weapons would lead the United States and its allies to “respond quickly and appropriately…”
How a religious controversy may be shaping India’s election (The New York Times) Our correspondent, Jeffrey Gettleman, traveled to the south Indian state of Kerala, to see how Modi’s party, the B.J.P., is expanding its reach. Kerala is a progressive state, with large communities of Christians and Muslims, and the highest literacy rate in India. It’s one of the least likely places for Hindu nationalist politics to succeed. In fact, Modi’s party has never won a single seat in Parliament from Kerala. Now, that may be changing…
India’s disappearing Jewish community (UCANews.com) Jews arrived in the ancient port town of Kochi some 800 years ago. With just three Jews left in Mattancherry — all of whom are aged more than 80 — Jewish life in Synagogue Lane is destined to disappear…
Foreign spouses of West Bank residents in state of limbo (CNS) What was meant to be one of the happiest of occasions for the Zoughbi family became a nightmare because of Israeli policy on family reunification for foreign spouses of Palestinians…
Tags: Syria India Egypt Kerala