17 April 2018
A mother and her children wait to see a doctor at the St. Anthony Dispensary north of Beirut. (photo: Michael J.L. La Civita)
A North American delegation negotiated the steep incline to a clinic draped over the roadway, like an olive tree from a limestone bluff.
“Yesterday we prayed,” said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who the day before attended a Mass with refugees. “Now we work.”
Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the board of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, led a delegation from CNEWA, including Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, and retired Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York. The group who visited health care facilities across the Lebanese capital on 16 April.
Arriving by bus and after a brief climb, the prelates reached St. Anthony Dispensary, north of Beirut. The clinic offers medical services to locals and refugees in the Lebanese capital.
Speaking with Lebanese Christians and displaced Syrian and Iraqi refugees at the dispensary, Cardinal Dolan held several children aloft as the delegation traversed a tight corridor, lined with white plastic chairs in which sat dozens of patients.
The clinic, which is open less than four hours each morning, treats 80 people each day.
Sevan Aziz, originally from Baghdad, visits the clinic regularly for her 82-year-old mother, who has high blood pressure.
“Here it’s better [than other regional clinics] because I know everyone,” Aziz said. “It’s far from home, but my mothers needs someone who understands our needs, and I get that here.”
The dispensary, now in Beirut’s Roueisset neighborhood, was initially founded in 1987 in the Jdeideh el-Metn municipality to serve Lebanese Christians and Shiite Muslims who lived in the area but could not afford medical consultations or the cost of recurring prescriptions. In 2003, more than 400 Iraqi families settled in nearby Roueisset, overwhelming the dispensary with the community’s growing needs. The dispensary received additional support from the Good Shepherd Sisters, who had been working with area children since 1998.
Today the 35 doctors employed by the dispensary work annually with more than 20,000 refugees, many of whom have fled the seven-year civil war in Syria and the recent occupation of the Islamic State in Iraq.
“It’s a very poor community,” said Rita Bishara, program director. “It’s their only hope for primary health support.”
CNEWA funds clinic projects, including the disbursement of chronic medications to more than 600 individuals who require prescriptions that treat Alzheimer’s, asthma, diabetes, hepatitis, epilepsy, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. Clinic officials say without CNEWA support, many patients needing medical services could not otherwise afford the $12 co-pay set by the Ministry of Health.
The dispensary and its tertiary programs take a holistic, human approach to health care, said Sister Antoinette Assad, director of Good Shepherd Sisters.
“Our motto is that religion is for God, the dispensary is for all,” she said.
New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan embraces Good Shepherd Sister Souhaila Bou Samra outside the St. Anthony Dispensary in Beirut. (photo: CNS/Alexandra Talty)
Sarouat Mourtada of Baalbek, Lebanon, sat in a chair cradling her 15-month-old daughter, who was there for a routine medical exam.
“I asked around and they told me it [the clinic] was good, and they offer pediatrics,” Mourtada said. “This is the only clinic” nearby.
Her husband, who did not give his name, said he seeks pediatric care here for his two young children who live in Lebanon. “When I came from Syria, I came directly here.”
The clinic serves a diverse population from more than 10 countries.
“We hear so much about animosity between different faiths, but at these centers, we’ve heard people come together,” Archbishop Miller said. “The aspect of generosity and ability to receive others maybe makes us ashamed of how little we do” in North America.
Retired Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., speaks with Dr. Stephanie Antoun on 16 April outside the Karagheusian Center in Beirut. (photo: CNS/Alexandra Talty)
A side street conceals the Karagheusian Center, off a main thoroughfare in one of the capital’s most densely populated and industrial districts. A waiting room filled with patients momentarily paused as the delegation passed, before the room buzzed again with the action of care.
The center in Bourj Hammoud, a predominantly Armenian neighborhood, is likewise supported by CNEWA and three Armenian churches. The center provides care for more than 3,500 patients each month.
Serop Ohanian, the Lebanon field director of the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corp., said the government cannot provide many services, “so it has empowered organizations to do its job.
“I’m grateful that we have the blessings of the church and the neighborhood churches,” he added.
Mouhammad Hamid, 33, lost his vaccination card when he and his family fled Aleppo, Syria. A nurse helped him fill out a new card, with the help of a picture he’d taken of his card and provided to the nurse through WhatsApp.
A short distant from the center, an Armenian church hosted the CNEWA delegation and more than 50 residents from the community, many of them refugees from the ongoing civil war in Syria, less than a two-hour drive.
“When we came to Lebanon we had so many fears ... our fears were associated with also how to educate our children and how they become appropriate citizens in a different country,” said Zarmine Panoghlian. “Karagheusian offered lessons and teachings on how to get adapted to this new environment.”
She said she hoped the church leaders would visit more often and praised them for their continued support.
“We didn’t know when we came to Lebanon there would be people who welcomed us so openly,” Panoghlian said.
Related: Journey to Lebanon: Cardinal Dolan Arrives in Beirut
17 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Health Care
In the video above, the Armenian Catholic archbishop of Aleppo expresses the hopes of his people to remain in Syria, despite the ongoing crisis in the country. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Inspectors visit Syria chemical attack site (CBS News) A team of international inspectors entered the town near Damascus that was the scene of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria on Tuesday, Syrian state TV reported. They arrived in Douma more than a week after the U.S. government and its allies accused President Bashar al Assad of killing his own people with poison gas in the 7 April attack…
In Iraq, protestors march against missile attacks (NPR) The U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria are having a perhaps unexpected effect in Iraq. Demonstrators gathered yesterday across that country to protest the military action in neighboring Syria…
Indian bishops condemn atrocities committed against women (Vatican News) The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in a statement signed on Sunday by the Secretary General Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas has said that it is hard to be unmoved by what has happened in Kathua, Unnao, or in any part of the nation where women are raped and murdered…
In Jordan, massive refugee influx and inequality raise questions of identity (Haaretz) At noon, sitting with three of Ismail’s friends — Samir, Ratav and Azz-a-Din, all middle to upper class and in their 60’s — at a fabled Labenese restaurant in Amman, we could chat quietly. If a few years ago I would have had to reserve a lunch table, this time it was almost empty. We walked in from the street and were happily welcomed by the bored waiters. That’s how it is throughout Jordan, says Azz-a-Din: “There’s no movement. There’s no money. There’s no spirit. Even people who have money hesitate to spend it. People are worried…”
Holy See: Women are integral to peacekeeping efforts (Vatican News) Women’s voices must be integrated into all aspects of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict operations. That was the message of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York on Monday during a Security Council debate on Women, Peace and Security…
Ethiopia races to save its coffee sector from climate change (Xinhua) Aman Adinew, a veteran of the Ethiopian coffee industry, is facing a new challenge as he endeavors to increase the international market share of his Ethiopian specialty coffee. The new challenge is climate change, which has resulted in delays in ripening of coffee seeds in his two coffee farms in Hambela, Guji zone of Oromia, and Gedeb, Gedeo zone of Southern region, according to the CEO of METAD Agricultural Development P.L.C.…
16 April 2018
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Farming/Agriculture Armenian Catholic Church Climate change
Cardinal Timothy Dolan visits a clinic run by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lebanon. (photo: Archdiocese of New York via Vimeo)
This week, CNEWA’s chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan is making a pastoral visit to Lebanon, accompanied by other bishops and CNEWA staffers from the United States, Canada and the Middle East. He described his upcoming trip last week in his newspaper column:
Remember me, please, as this week I visit Lebanon, a country beautiful naturally and spiritually, a country unique in the tortured Middle East for its religious pluralism, peace — fragile though it may be — and amity among creeds.
We know of their deep spiritual roots because we cherish our Maronite, Melkite, Armenian and Syrian Catholics who live as neighbors with us, and who call Lebanon their country of origin.
As Archbishop of New York, I chair a superb organization called the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), which, for 90 years has generously assisted the ancient Christian minorities, especially in the Middle East.
Lebanon has heroically welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from the horrors in neighboring Syria, and my brother bishops there have invited me to come. I do so gratefully and willingly, to bring your encouragement and assistance as well. I’ll let you know how it went next week when I get back.
Last October, we placed in our cathedral, thanks to a benefactor of Lebanese origin, a chapel to the renowned Maronite Catholic holy man and miracle worker of Lebanon, St. Charbel. Would you ask his intercession for his beloved Lebanon … and whisper to him that I could use his guidance and wisdom while in his home country?
Shortly after he arrived in Lebanon, he celebrated Mass at St. Joseph Church in Beirut. Here is part of that liturgy and his homily:
Late Sunday, he posted the two videos below on his blog, chronicling some of the first day of his trip, including a visit to the shrine of St. Charbel and a chance to see the good work being done by our longtime collaborators in the country, the Good Shepherd Sisters. We hope to keep you updated in a days ahead with what promises to be an inspiring trip!
16 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Sisters
Internally displaced Syrians wait in line for food 15 April at a camp outside Damascus. The United States, France and Britain launched airstrikes 14 April against Syria, with the stated aim to punish President Bashar Assad for an alleged chemical attack against civilians. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)
16 April 2018
The video above shows the aftermath of the airstrikes on Syria that were conducted Saturday. The strikes were condemned by three patriarchs in the region. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
Patriarchs condemn attack on Syria (Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch) “We, the patriarchs: John X, Greek Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and Joseph Absi, Melkite-Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, condemn and denounce the brutal aggression that took place this morning against our precious country Syria by the U.S.A., France and the U.K., under the allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons…”
Pope renews his appeal for peace in Syria (Vatican News) At the Regina Coeli on Sunday, Pope Francis once again appealed for peace in Syria. “I am deeply troubled by the current world situation,” the pope said, “in which, despite the instruments available to the international community, there is still difficulty in agreeing to a common action in favor of peace in Syria and other regions of the world…”
Syrian refugees in Lebanon respond to missile strikes (The Daily Star) In parking garages and informal housing south of Sidon city, Syrian refugees gathered around televisions and mobile phone screens throughout Friday night, waiting for any news of an expected international missile strike on Syria. By Saturday afternoon, these refugees were weighing what the strikes meant to them as Syrians, after the United States, France and Britain struck Syrian targets with more than 100 missiles early in the morning, in a move that threatened to further destabilize their home country — and neighboring Lebanon…
Pope accepts resignation of Ukrainian Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia (Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy) On Monday, 16 April 2018, the Vatican Information Service announced that the Holy Father has accepted the resignation for medical reasons of Most Rev. Stefan Soroka, archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukrainians and metropolitan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in U.S.A. Pope Francis has declared the Archeparchy of Philadelphia as “sede vacante.” Most Rev. Andriy Rabiy has been appointed by Pope Francis as the apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia until the appointment of the new archeparch…
Indian bishop honored (Vatican News) A Catholic bishop serving in a corner of the remote northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, was honored on Friday with the Bharat Gaurav (India Pride) Award in a ceremony in London in recognition for his contribution in the field of education, healthcare, culture, environment and development of the local people. Sanskriti Yuva Sanstha, an NGO with the vision of promoting Indian culture and society, honored Bishop George Palliparambil of Miao Diocese with the Sixth Bharat Gaurav Life Time Achievement Award at the prestigious House of Commons in the British Parliament...
13 April 2018
Tags: Syria Syrian Conflict
To conclude this week, we want to share an interview from 2013 with our president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, in which he reflects on the tremendous impact of religious sisters in the world CNEWA serves. “They are on the front lines,” he said — and this inspiring video illustrates that beautifully.
A conference at the Vatican this week underscored the importance of sisters:
How can the work of women religious in justice, peace and anti-trafficking efforts be more effectively included into policies at government and international level?
That question was at the heart of a seminar on Wednesday organised by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, together with the International Union of Superiors General and Solidarity with South Sudan.
Participants spoke of the work of sisters serving in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, seeking to build peace and to empower other women in some of the most deprived and violent countries and socio-economic contexts.
Sisters working to combat trafficking, prostitution and the insidious cyber porn industry, talked of the need to educate girls and boys, as well as working together with governments and all sectors of society to protect the victims and prosecute the perpetrators.
Other sisters shared dramatic and moving stories of staying alongside those who suffer in wars and conflicts, sometimes being targeted, robbed, raped or even killed themselves.
You can see more examples in the March 2018 edition of ONE — with stories of religious sisters ministering to people in a variety of ways in Jordan, Iraq and Ethiopia.
But check out the video below for an intimate glimpse at these dedicated women.
13 April 2018
Tags: Sisters human trafficking
Bekele Haile, Tigist Zeleke, Zeritu Bulti and Fita Tulu minister to prisoners outside of Addis Ababa. Learn about the way lay ministers are bringing faith and hope to prisoners in Ethiopia in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
13 April 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Catholic
In this image from July, a boy carries his belongings in Mosul, Iraq. Iraqi officials say hundreds of Iraqis who returned to their homes have started going back to Kurdish refugee camps, because their homes are uninhabitable. (photo: CNS/Thaier Al Sudani, Reuters)
Russia warns of ‘dangerous’ escalation over Syria (BBC) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a reported chemical attack in Syria was staged by foreign agents. The U.S. and France have said they have proof it took place, and, alongside the U.K., they are considering launching military retaliation against Syria. Russia, a Syrian ally, has warned the U.S. that air strikes risk a new war…
Finding homes unlivable, some Iraqis return to camps (Voice of America) Hundreds of displaced Iraqis who returned to their homes after the defeat of the Islamic State are now going back to Kurdish refugee camps, due to a lack of services and an impasse in reconstruction, Kurdish and Iraqi officials said. Falah Mustafa Bakir, the Kurdistan region’s foreign relations minister, has announced that about 4,000 displaced civilians mostly from Nineveh province, who went back to their homes after the Iraqi victory over IS last year, have returned to Kurdish refugee camps since January…
Two years on, refugees who flew with the Pope are living the dream (Crux) Since the European refugee crisis broke out in late 2014, more than 500,000 men, women and children have arrived in Italy, most of them on rickety and sometimes lethal boats crossing the Mediterranean, fleeing war, poverty and chronic instability, but others on foot, in vehicles, even on horseback. Only 12, however, can say they flew into il bel paese with the pope…
Indian religious leaders vow to fight hate (UCANews.com) More than 1,500 religious leaders in India concluded a two-day conclave resolving to reach out to the masses with true teachings of their faiths to check increasing religion-based hatred and violence. Representatives of various sects of the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religions and sexual minorities attended the event on 11-12 April in Indore. It was jointly organized by three organizations working for religious harmony…
Dispute over St. Thomas’s visit to Kerala (The Times of India) Another controversy has erupted in the Syro Malabar Church. This time around, the ruckus is over the historical validity of the claim that St. Thomas the apostle had visited Kerala…
12 April 2018
Tags: Syria India Iraq Refugees
Seminarians at St. Thomas the Apostle Seminary in Vadavathoor, a small village in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala, study on campus for an exam. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
While the word “formation” may not be familiar to most Catholic Christians — at least, not as an educational term — it is very familiar to seminarians and members of religious orders. The current edition of ONE is focused (as the cover notes) on the subject of “Forming the Future,” so this is a good opportunity to explore just what that means and how “formation” figures in both the Church and the mission of CNEWA.
Since Vatican II there has been a lot of discussion about the word “formation” — not the concept — questioning whether it is the best expression of what it is trying to convey. For many members of religious orders “formation” seems to imply too much passivity. A young priest or religious just sits back and “gets formed.” Unfortunately that has sometimes been the case, producing people who are often lacking in initiative and openness. In one of his talks, Pope Francis — who, in his many years as a Jesuit, has witnessed both the strengths and weaknesses of religious formation — spoke of formation sometimes creating “little monsters.” I think many of us who spent years in religious life can recall some of the “little monsters” in our past. While the discussion about the appropriateness of the word formation goes on, the concept behind it is accepted by all.
Although CNEWA does not engage in actual formation — we do not staff or run seminaries, novitiates, etc. — we are, nevertheless, deeply involved with it in the areas where we work. This week and next, we will look at two different but related types of formation: the formation of clergy and religious and the formation of lay people. We will also see how CNEWA is involved in both.
When a person enters a seminary or a religious order, there is a long process of formation which extends anywhere from four to ten years. The religious goes through different stages of membership in the community; the seminarian has increasing involvement in the diocese where he will serve. Formation involves personal growth, spiritual discernment and learning. For seminarians and most religious there is a lengthy, multi-year program of academic studies in philosophy and theology with required courses and electives. For most seminarians, this program covers a minimum of four years.
While academic studies are extremely important — a primary principle of pastoral practice is to know what you’re talking about-- they are not the only element. Members of religious communities learn about the “charism” of their order. The “charism” is, among other things, the special spirituality of the community and the special aspect the community brings to the people it serves. Both seminarians and religious have to learn how to live authentically and as adults among the people we are called to serve.
Among other things, the formation of seminarians and religious helps them to deal in a healthy way with celibacy and how one serves credibly and with sensitivity in a community where most believers are not celibates. They learn how to be what St. Paul calls “all things to all people so that they may be saved” (1 Cor 9:22-23).
While the word “formation” may or may not be the most appropriate, the goals it seeks to achieve are extremely important. Formation programs provide the service corps of the Church. They produce clergy and religious who are educated, articulate, pastorally committed and authentic. While clergy and religious are not the only people involved in the Church’s mission (as we shall see next week), they form a critical part.
It should be obvious that formation programs require that local churches and religious communities commit a great deal of resources to them. Somewhat crudely put: good formation programs are not cheap. They requite residences, faculties — people who teach and inspire — and books, to name just a few. In all the regions from southern India to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and northeast Africa, CNEWA helps the local church educate, train, prepare — in a word, form — the leaders of the Church of the future.
It is a long-term investment that literally takes years to bear fruit. However, the future of Christianity depends upon it.
12 April 2018
Tags: Seminarians Vocations (religious)
A statue of the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides stands in a courtyard in Córdoba, Spain, the city where he was born. (photo: Jerzy Kociatkiewicz/Wikimedia Commons)
Sometimes things come into my mind and I have no idea what triggered them. Today is Yom HaShoah, the day remembering the murder of six million Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. For some reason, this day reminded me of the famous “Ladder of Maimonides” or “Ladder of Justice/Righteousness.” Maimonides (1135-1204) was born 800 years before the Holocaust, and so I do not know how or why my brain would have made that connection.
Nevertheless, Maimonides is an example of many things. Living in Moorish Spain, he was part of an extraordinarily open and tolerant society. In what is called convivencia, literally “living together,” Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in mutual respect. Each faith tradition made its unique contribution to the overall good of society.
Moses ben Maymun (in Arabic Musa bin Maymûn, and Greek Maimonides) was born in Córdoba, one of the most important cities in the world in his time. Maimonides is affectionately known as Rambam (from Rabbi Moses Ben Maymun) by Jews to this very day. Like many of the great figures in the Middle Ages, he was a man of many skills. He was a physician, a rabbi and a philosopher.
He engaged in the theological and philosophical discussions of his day. His book, “Guide for the Perplexed,” is an attempt to show that religions — in his case, Judaism — were not merely superstition but were built on reason.
However, it was Maimonides’ famous “Ladder of Justice/Righteousness” (sometimes called the “Eight Levels of Charity”) that came into my head this morning. In eight simple steps, he described how humanity climbs from injustice to justice, toward a greater spirit of charity. It is a model for building a more just and compassionate society. In a world of suffering, injustice, displacement and dehumanizing poverty, people of good will are struggling to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings. CNEWA works in many parts of the world — the Middle East, Africa, India — where these issues seem overwhelming and almost insoluble.
Perhaps today, Yom HaShoah, a moment when we reflect on one of the greatest injustices of modern history, is a fitting time to recall this great Jewish philosopher, as he reminds us what comprises justice and righteousness — and challenges us to better reflect that in our world today.
Maimonides’ “Ladder of Righteousness”:
- The person who gives reluctantly and with regret.
- The person who gives graciously, but less than one should.
- The person who gives what one should, but only after being asked.
- The person who gives before being asked.
- The person who gives without knowing to whom he or she gives, although the recipient knows the identity of the donor.
- The person who gives without making his or her identity known.
- The person who gives without knowing to whom he or she gives. The recipient does not know from whom he or she receives.
- The person who helps another to become self-supporting by a gift or a loan or by finding employment for the recipient.
Tags: Jewish Holocaust