10 May 2019
The video above explains some of the preparations and practices surrounding Ramadan in Jerusalem. The Vatican has issued a message for Ramadan, urging universal fraternity between Christians and Muslims. (video: 24News/YouTube)
Muslims gather in Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers (AP) Crowds of worshippers have gathered at a Jerusalem holy site the first Friday prayers of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. Israeli police said more than 135,000 worshippers prayed at al-Aqsa mosque in the sacred compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount…
Vatican message for Ramadan urges universal fraternity (Vatican News) The Vatican is calling on Christians and Muslims worldwide to promote human fraternity and harmonious existence by building bridges of friendship and promoting a culture of dialogue where violence is rejected and the human person is respected. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) made the invitation in a message to wish Muslims worldwide a peaceful and fruitful celebration of Ramadan…
Lebanon won’t survive with refugees, says Aoun (Middle East Monitor) Lebanon would never survive if half a million Palestinian refugees and 1.6 million Syrian refugees remained in the country, the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, said yesterday. Aoun remarks came during a meeting held at the presidential palace in the Lebanese capital of Beirut with a delegation from the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), headed by its secretary general Souraya Bechealany. Aoun called on the MECC to help the Lebanese government resolve the Syrians refugees’ issue “by persuading Western countries to accept the refugees return to their countries as soon as possible…”
Sources: only a toddler left after airstrike in Syria (BBC) Dozens of people have reportedly been killed after government and Russian air strikes were stepped up in north-western Syria. Two-year-old Khadija al-Hamdan was pulled out of the rubble in Idlib after one such assault. She was the only member of her immediate family to survive…
Pope sends cardinal to Lesbos as refugees continue to arrive (CNS) Three years after Pope Francis visited Lesbos and took 12 refugees back to Rome with him, Cardinal Krajewski returned to the Greek island on 8 May to check on the situation for the pope, to make contact with government officials and to distribute more than $100,000 to Caritas Hellas and to projects the Greek Catholic charity is supporting…
9 May 2019
Tags: Syria Refugees Jerusalem Muslim Ramadan
In this image from 2017, a man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an ISIS-controlled part of Mosul toward Iraqi special forces soldiers. (photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)
This week, the United Nations has a rather unusual observance, marking the Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation across two days, on 8 and 9 May.
On the surface, this commemoration does not look all that different from any number of days on which countries and peoples remember events of the past and the sacrifices made by their citizens in times of conflict. The UN Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation is, however, quite different. It was inaugurated by an act of the General Assembly on 22 November 2004. Recognizing that many countries had days that commemorated the victory of the Allies in World War II, the UN wanted to do something different: it wanted to remember everyone who died in World War II.
World War II had the highest casualties of any conflict in history. Although exact figures are difficult to come by, it is estimated that between 70 and 85 million human beings lost their lives. That alone makes World War II also the greatest human catastrophe in history.
By initiating this Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation, the UN is attempting to accomplish at least two things: first, to remember the horrors of war; and secondly, to work for reconciliation. The General Assembly document is clear. The horrors of World War II were the impetus for the founding of the UN. The very raison d’être of the UN was and remains to prevent war. In the UN Charter member nations are called to “make every effort to settle all disputes by peaceful means.” The bedrock on which the UN was founded was the horror of war. For the UN and its member states, war is never a solution, is never a good thing.
While the remembrances and memorials which most countries observe—we have Memorial Day later this month—are proper and good, the UN is making an important point. The horrors of World War II are fading in most people’s memory. The vast majority of the inhabitants of this planet were born long after the end of that war. With the fading of the memory of the horror of war often comes a fading of the commitment to avoid war at all costs. For far too many people, war is something that happens on a video screen or in another country. It is something the other people do in other places than our own. The idea of New York, London, Paris, Rome, etc. being leveled like Berlin in 1944 simply does not enter into the imagination of most people. We are shocked by natural disasters, but do not seem to realize that war is far worse and far more destructive than any natural disaster.
The UN Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation echoes what popes have been teaching for decades. Pope John XXIII published Pacem in terris (“Peace on Earth”) on 11 April 1963. Who can forget the impassioned plea of Pope Paul VI in his address to the UN General Assembly on 4 October 1965: “No more war, war never again!”? Since then, every pope has denounced war and called for just and peaceful solutions to the world’s conflicts. One cannot say their voices have been heard. Can it be because we have forgotten the horrors of war?
CNEWA works in places where people do not have to be reminded of the horrors of war. They experience it in their cities (Mosul, Raqqa and others), in their villages, their churches and their very bodies. As so many today play endless war games on cell phones and videos, the UN Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation reminds us that war is not a game. War is never as far away as we think. War is the worst of all possible solutions. The UN knows this; popes and the Catholic Church know this, and have consistently condemned war as a solution to anything.
Are we aware of this and do we agree?
9 May 2019
Tags: Iraq United Nations
Marian devotion is especially widespread and popular during the month of May. In this photo from 2008, people attending a retreat in Purakkad, Kerala, pray at a shrine devoted to Mary.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
9 May 2019
Tags: India Mary
Pope Francis prays in front of a candle in memory of victims of sexual abuse as he visits St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin in August of 2018. Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope issues new norms for mandatory reporting of abuse (CNS) Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse. The new juridical instrument is meant to help bishops and religious leaders around the world clearly understand their duties and church law, underlining how they are ultimately responsible for proper governance and protecting those entrusted to their care. For this reason, the new document establishes a clearer set of universal procedures for reporting suspected abuse, carrying out initial investigations and protecting victims and whistleblowers…
Indian Christians seek better security at churches (UCANews.com) Christian leaders in India have intensified their call to make churches safer after police arrested a man and accused him of having links to Islamic terror groups and planning to attack religious places in Kerala state…
Iraq’s Christians grapple with new threat from Iran-backed militias (National Catholic Register) After surviving the genocidal campaign of Islamic State militants, Iraq’s Christians are facing new challenges as they attempt to rebuild their lives in their ancestral homeland…
Government forces capture village in Syria (Al Jazeera) Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have pushed their way into a northwest rebel-held enclave, clashing with armed groups and capturing a strategically located village in Hama province, widening an offensive that had previously involved mainly aerial bombings and shelling…
Calls for reform over India’s ’vanishing girls’ (UCANews.com) Indians’ preference for male children has created a skewed gender ratio but the trend could be reversed with social change and government determination to implement laws, say rights activists. About 100 medical doctors, activists and lawyers attended a national consultation in New Delhi on 2 May with the theme “Vanishing girls: Revisiting Civil Society Response Against Sex Selection…”
8 May 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Iraqi Christians
People move through debris on a road last week, after Cyclone Fani hit Puri, India. The storm tore through India's eastern coast, lashing beaches with rain and winds gusting to 127 miles per hour and affecting weather as far away as Mount Everest. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
8 May 2019
In this image from 2015, a red sun is seen over a dinghy overcrowded with Syrian refugees drifting in the Aegean sea between Turkey and Greece after its motor broke down off the Greek island of Kos. The United States has slashed the number of refugees it will admit to the country, with Syrians being the most affected. (photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)
U.S. has slashed its refugee intake; Syrians are most affected (The Washington Post) Under the Trump administration, the number of refugees allowed into the United States has fallen to its lowest level since the resettlement program began in 1980. And few groups have been as affected as Syrians, who have been fleeing a brutal civil war that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead since it began in 2011…
Solidarity of India’s Catholic Church and Islamic organization for victims in Sri Lanka (Vatican News) The Catholic Church of India and a leading Islamic organization of the country have issued a joint statement vehemently condemning the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka. They also plan to send an inter-faith delegation as a gesture of their condolence and solidarity with the victims…
Pope Francis pays tribute to Jean Vanier (Vatican News) ”I want to express my gratitude for his testimony” Pope Francis told journalists aboard the papal flight from Skopje to Rome, as he recalled Jean Vanier who died on Tuesday. As he prepared for the questions put to him during the usual inflight press conference upon his return from an apostolic visit abroad, the Pope’s priority was to pay his heartfelt tribute to the man whom, he said, was able to read and interpret the Christian gaze on “the mystery of death, of the cross, of suffering”, on “the mystery of those who are discarded by the world…”
Church-run training changes lives for young Indians (UCANews.com) Since September 2017, the Jan Vikas Center also aided unemployed urban youths trapped by circumstances such as drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies and various forms of abuse. With support from the Don Bosco congregation, under its flagship Don Bosco Tech program, the center trains people aged 18 to 35 in computer, electrical, sewing machine, driving, carpentry and other skills…
A cathedral for Russia’s armed forces rises (Radio Free Europe) The Main Cathedral of Russian Armed Forces, set to become Russia’s third-tallest Orthodox cathedral, is rising in a wooded clearing overlooking the highway on the grounds of Patriot Park, a military-themed recreation and expo complex opened by the Defense Ministry in 2016. When it’s unveiled one year from now — on 9 May 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II — it will be the set piece of an ostentatious memorial complex merging Russia’s Orthodox tradition with the most sanctified episode of the country’s past: the Soviet Union’s victory over invading Nazi forces in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War…
7 May 2019
Tags: Syria India Refugees Muslim
Jean Vanier helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over the past half century. (photo: CNS /Abramorama)
A man whom many had dubbed a “living saint” has died.
Jean Vanier, 90, founder of L’Arche communities and co-founder of Faith and Light, died on 7 May. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris.
Vanier was the author of some 30 books, a member of the Order of Canada, winner of the Templeton Prize and member of France’s Legion of Honor, but he was perhaps best known as a kind of village elder to the world.
Vanier permanently changed the fate of intellectually disabled people everywhere by demonstrating how the care of a community could open lives to meaning, joy, hope and trust -- not just the lives of the disabled, but the lives also of those who live with them and care for them.
“Jean Vanier’s legacy lives on. His life and work changed the world for the better and touched the lives of more people than we will ever know,” L’Arche Canada spokesperson John Guido said in a prepared statement.
Over the past year, Vanier gradually entered into the sort of frailty and weakness natural to his age, before entering palliative care in France in April.
In a visit to Chicago in 2006 to accept the Catholic Theological Union’s Blessed are the Peacemakers Award, Vanier said he had noticed that people who have mental disabilities often have great faith, but they never speak of “Christ” or “the Lord.”
“They always talk about Jesus,” Vanier said. “It’s a personal relationship.”
In L’Arche communities, the disabled residents are seen as the “core members,” and treated as individuals, with respect and love, and nondisabled and disabled residents alike learn to live together.
“Our danger is to see what is broken in a person, what is negative, and not to see the person,” said Vanier. “It’s not just a question of believing in God, but of believing in human beings, believing in ourselves, and seeing people as God sees them.”
That means not relating to them from a sense of power, even if that power comes from generosity.
“Generosity is something that is good,” Vanier said. “When we have more wealth, resources and time, we want to succor those in need, and that’s good. But behind generosity is a notion of power. Generosity must flow into an encounter. We must meet people. It’s not a question of doing for, but of listening to their stories.”
CNEWA has supported the efforts of Vanier’s mission at L’Arche for many years, at various places around the world.
In 1990, for example, we reported on Hope Kindled in Bethany, at a L’Arche community, and described Vanier’s guiding philosphy:
In this international federation of Communities, stretching from Burkina Faso to Brazil, handicapped people and those who help them work and share their lives together.
According to its charter, the members of L’Arche also believe that “a person who is wounded in the capacity for autonomy and in the mind is capable of great love which the spirit of God can call forth, and we believe that God loves each one in a special way because of this very poverty.”
Unfortunately, many of the handicapped are rejected, without work, without homes or are shut up in psychiatric hospitals. In addition to providing care, L’Arche seeks to develop in society “a greater sense of justice and brotherly concern toward all.”
For L’Arche assistants, living and working with the handicapped is a lesson in love, an experience from which they have as much to gain as the needy they help. According to Jean Vanier, “We discover the immense joy God wants for us by meeting Jesus in the poorest, the weakest and the most broken.”
That mandate remains close to the heart of all of us at CNEWA, wherever we find ourselves seeking to serve those in need and give to them light, dignity and hope.
We lift up our prayers today for all those who were touched by Jean Vanier’s remarkable legacy, and we pray in gratitude for the great gift he gave to so many, including to us.
May his memory be eternal.
The Way to the Ark
Helping Cairo’s Handicapped
A New Home With a New Family
7 May 2019
Tags: India Egypt Mental health/ mental illness
Children ride with the statue of Our Lady of Carmel and the Christ Child during a procession outside the Church of St. Joseph in Haifa, Israel, on 5 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Israel’s second largest annual Christian gathering became a vehicle to pray for peace as tensions between Israel and Palestinians living in Gaza intensified.
The 5 May observance of the centennial of the Our Lady of Carmel procession saw 10,000 local Christians join festivities that retrace the steps of the return of a statue of Mary from Haifa’s St. Joseph Church to the Discalced Carmelite Stella Maris monastery after the end of World War I.
The statue of Our Lady of Carmel left the hilltop monastery when the Carmelite monks were ordered to evacuate by Turkish soldiers in the war’s early months. The monks and the statue returned to the monastery on the first Sunday after Easter in 1919 in a festive procession, carried out in an act of thanksgiving to Our Lady of Carmel, who Haifa’s Christian residents believed protected the city during the war.
A flower-festooned float, the central piece of the procession, carried a replica of the statue. The scene attracted the attention of non-Christians as well.
This year’s celebration became all the more meaningful as cross-border attacks flared in early May between Gaza and Israel. The violence left four Israelis and 25 Palestinians dead. Many attending the procession prayed for a cessation of the fighting and for peace.
Although a cease-fire was put in place early on 6 May, Palestinian and Israeli politicians vowed that the battle was not over.
“We believe the Virgin Mary can protect everyone regardless of race, sex or religion,” said Marlene, 36, who asked that her last name not be used, as she hitched her 5-year-old daughter on her hip so she could see the float as it passed.
Marlene touched the float with her hand, brought it to her lips and then put her fingers on her daughter’s mouth as well as a symbol of a blessing. “This is a prayer for peace for all,” she said.
Parts of some of the city’s main thoroughfares were closed as the festive procession made its way to the upper city through cafe-lined streets as patrons watched from the comfort of shaded patios. Other people stood at the edge of the road to get a glimpse of the float that was pulled by rope by a dozen people; dozens more offered a hand.
Five children sat on the float, wearing white angel wings. A few looked a bit stunned by the surroundings as their parents walked alongside. Before the procession began, people climbed atop the float to place rosaries around the outstretched hands of the statue.
Leading the procession were Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, papal nuncio to Israel, the Rev. Saverio Cannistra, superior general of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, who came from Rome, and the Rev. Raymond Abdo, the provincial of the order, who traveled from Lebanon.
“I wait for this day the whole year,” said Sausan Musa, 55, of Gush Halav, Israel, as she staked her spot at the back of the float with seven other women. “I believe in the Virgin Mary. I come to pray for my family and for the whole country.”
Azar Chacour, 51, of Haifa, but whose family is among the internally displaced from the village of Biram, Israel, said he had been coming to the procession since he was an infant and now came with his daughter Dareen, 3.
“Jesus taught us to forgive and to pray for peace. Jesus taught us to ask for justice. People here can see Mary and how she is important for all people,” he said.
Samia Ashqar, who came from Nazareth, noted that the three-hour trek to the Carmelite monastery in the upper part of Haifa was not an easy one. She said people came out of devotion and a desire to pray for peace, as they are asked to do by Mary.
“We are sacrificing ourselves, our energy, our time,” she said. “It is to encourage us to continue. One hundred years means we are here, we continue to remember our history and nobody can forget our history here.”
But for some of the young people, such as Rogeh Shihadi, 16, and his Muslim friend May, 15, the procession was a chance to spend time with friends, grab an ice cream cone and share a laugh as they huddled over their cellphones.
“I am Muslim, I am not Christian, but I believe in Mary,” said May, who declined to give her last name. “I’ve been coming here for years. But I enjoy this also, so I can hang out with my friends.”
7 May 2019
Tags: Israel Mary
Pope Francis accepts gifts from women in traditional dress as he arrives at the international airport in Skopje, North Macedonia, on 7 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope in Macedonia: respect human dignity, diversity (Vatican News) In his first speech on North Macedonian soil on Tuesday, Pope Francis encouraged the West Balkan state in its effort to be a beacon of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration between cultures, religions and peoples. Addressing the nation’s authorities, the diplomatic corps and representatives of civil society at the presidential palace in capital, Skopje, the Pope described the land as a bridge between East and West and a meeting-point for numerous cultural currents. With a Christian presence that dates back to the apostolic times, the country also bears elegant testimonies of its Byzantine and Ottoman past…
Early evacuation in India spares more than a million from deadline cyclone (CNS) A powerful cyclone ripped through eastern India and sideswiped Bangladesh, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 30 deaths. Authorities said the evacuation of 1.2 million people from more than 10,000 villages prior to Cyclone Fani’s landfall on 3 May prevented a larger death toll and minimized injuries, ucanews.com reported…
Jean Vanier dies at 90 (Vatican News) Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, a community which supports people with disabilities, died during the night, aged 90. The community is active all over the world with about 150 centers. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris. Pope Francis was informed of his death and the ad interim director of the Vatican Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said the Pope “prays for him and for the whole L’Arche community.” Jean Vanier had met with Pope Francis in 2014, calling him a man of smiles and encounter…
Why Israel and Gaza keep fighting brief battles (The New York Times) More than two dozen people were killed and homes and businesses destroyed in the weekend’s fighting between Israel and Gaza, but on Monday leaders on both sides declared themselves satisfied with the outcome. The cycle of violence-ceasefire-repeat that keeps verging on all-out war may look like pointless destruction to the outside world. But analysts say it is amply serving the interests of the two main antagonists…
Syrian Kurds reshape region with books and schools (Reuters) A law student who was tortured for carrying a Kurdish book now owns a bookstore. A woman who once secretly huddled with friends at night to learn Kurdish is now a de facto education minister. Kurdish activists who could not protest without risking arrest now have printing presses, festivals and television channels. ”We never imagined this. This was a dream,” said Semira Haj Ali, who co-chairs the education board in the northeast. “Of course, we will not go back to before 2011. We will not turn back…”
6 May 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Balkans
Palestinian men grieve over the body of a little girl they say was killed by a drone strike over the weekend. (image: YouTube/CBS News)
A fragile truce is taking hold in Gaza after days of relentless shelling and cross-border fighting that killed at least 22 and, according to one account, claimed the life of a little girl who was playing outdoors.
CNEWA’s regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, sent us an email this morning:
I called our partners in Gaza this morning. Thank God, none of our community members or the staff at our partner institutions were harmed. Also no damages were sustained by any of our partner institutions.
The cease-fire announced early morning today is holding. None of the parties is interested in escalations. Ramadan started today and Independence Day is on Thursday.
Let’s hope this truce will endure.
We pray for all those who are victims of this violence — and pray this peace will hold.
The video below from CBS News has the latest, as of Monday afternoon:
A fragile cease-fire is taking hold between Gaza and Israel after days of cross-border fighting.
(video: CBS News/YouTube)
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank