7 September 2018
An icon of the Blessed Mother and the infant Jesus is seen as pilgrims walk in a procession to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church on 26 August. (photo: CNS/ Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness)
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, seems an unlikely place for a pilgrimage.
Located on a lonely tree-filled hilltop, above a famous but mostly abandoned town, this church built in 1911 could have been forgotten. Instead, with its three onion-shaped domes, it stands as a testament to faith in tough times and places.
Centralia’s claim to fame isn’t the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but the fire burning in a network of mines underneath the town since 1962. That fire eventually sent poisonous gases into homes and businesses.
As a result, most residents moved out using money from a federal relocation program. Hundreds of buildings were demolished. Today, less than a dozen people live in Centralia, often called a ghost town.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church is the only church left of the seven once here. Among them was St. Ignatius Catholic Church, where Masses were celebrated just a year after the Diocese of Harrisburg was established in 1868. Once home to 3,000 members, a parochial school, convent and cemetery, St. Ignatius was directly affected by the fire in the early 1980s. The last Mass celebrated there was on 25 June 1995. St. Ignatius Church was razed in November 1997. Today, its cemetery is the only standing reminder of the once flourishing parish.
Still, people of faith continue to be drawn to the church on the hill and hundreds traveled there 26 August for the third annual Marian pilgrimage.
“We’re located on the side of a mountain, a place conducive to meditation and prayer,” said the Rev. Michael Hutsko, an archpriest who is pastor of the church. The church was declared a Ukrainian Catholic pilgrimage site in 2015.
Pilgrims came from Pennsylvania and nearby states for the day of prayer led by four bishops with three Catholic traditions: Ukrainian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic.
“It’s a time to place your heart, soul and mind in the hands of our Savior and ask him to heal all of us, bring us peace and strengthen our faith,” Father Hutsko said.
The day of prayer included a Divine Liturgy with responses sung by the choir of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, a living rosary and a procession to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” which is a service asking for the mother of God’s intercession.
Pilgrims sang the traditional Akathist hymn to Mary, the mother of God.
In his homily, Bishop Andriy Rabiy, apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, thanked the pilgrims for journeying to this holy mountain, where “you can feel something special, the presence of God.” He was accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the archeparchy.
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Latin-rite Diocese of Harrisburg urged the pilgrims to “take time and meditate on each prayer at each bead” when praying the rosary.
At the prayer service, Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey, talked about forgiveness and “fresh beginnings.” When he had needed to forgive, he was given the strength to do so, he said. “I prayed in front of the icon of Mary and asked her to pray for someone. After a while, it worked. God softened the hardness of my heart.”
Assumption’s parishioners know all about challenges. Most lost their family homes due to the mine fires. They also worried about losing their church.
While they were relocating, there was talk about demolishing Assumption. That plan was dropped after a survey done under the church indicated that it was built on solid rock, not coal.
Although the vast majority of Assumption’s parishioners moved out of Centralia, 50 of them still faithfully attend Divine Liturgy every Sunday morning, Father Hutsko said.
“We have members whose families belonged to this church for generations,” he said. “We also have new members. We’re a prayerful church where faith is expressed in an open and real way.”
Joanne Panko, who relocated to nearby Numidia, is the third generation of her family to belong to Assumption. She is raising her children in that church too.
“My grandparents went to Assumption,” she said. “My parents were married there. I was baptized and married there. My parents were buried from there. My three children were baptized there. It’s a big part of my life.”
7 September 2018
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
A new mosquito-borne tropical illness is now threatening victims of the flooding in Kerala. The video above shows more of the aftermath and recovery efforts in the Indian state. (video: Firstpost/YouTube)
Russia warns U.S. of pending attack on Syria (CNN) Russia has warned the US military twice in the last week that its forces, along with Syrian regime units, are prepared to attack in an area where dozens of US troops are located, according to several US defense officials. Russia claims that there are militants in the area protected by US troops…
New disease threat faces Kerala flood victims (Times of India) Even as the health department is trying to curb the spread of leptospirosis, the state is now facing a new health threat in the form of dengue — a mosquito-borne tropical disease. Health minister KK Shailaja said an alert has been issued for dengue in the wake of increasing cases being reported in the state. Mosquito menace has risen in Kerala due to stagnant water after floods…
Back to school, but not for all of Syria’s children (AP) Standing in line in the courtyard of their school in the capital Damascus, scores of Syrian girls in pink and blue uniforms saluted the flag and sang the country’s national anthem. A few miles away in a suburb, children played in the courtyard of a rehabilitated school, where shattered windows were replaced but charred walls and pockmarks from bullets remained on the building facades. With fewer areas in active combat in Syria, more children are going back to school this year, the Syrian government said, putting the number at 4 million…
Russian Orthodox Church wants to build an ’Orthodox Vatican’ outside Moscow (BBC) The Russian Orthodox Church hopes to erect an “Orthodox Vatican” in Sergiyev Posad, just outside Moscow, that would require the demolition of several downtown buildings, according to the BBC Russian Service. Journalists learned about plans for an “open-air temple” at the walls of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius with a platform stage that would allow the church to hold outdoor liturgies…
Indian bishop seeks federal help for fraught Christians (UCANews.com) Indian Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas has personally asked federal Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh to intervene over the mistreatment of Christians and their organizations in eastern Jharkhand state. Bishop Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, met Singh at his New Delhi office on 3 September. The minister was briefed about difficulties being faced by the Christian minority…
Children in Jordan refugee camp at risk of becoming ’lost generation’ (The Independent) Despite their courage and ambitions, these children may not be able to fulfill their potential. They risk becoming part of Syria’s lost generation: children who have been stripped of the chance to develop into the adults they could have been because of the war…
6 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Jordan Russian Orthodox Church
A sister greets a young friend at the St. Rachel Center in Jerusalem, which primarily serves those in the migrant population. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Last week, we looked at “charity” as it is understood and practiced in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We saw that care for the weak, the poor and the suffering was central to each of these faiths, although each approached it in a slightly different way. This week, we are looking at how CNEWA embodies Christian charity as it responds to the command of Jesus to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
The command to love one another is not an abstract one for Christians. Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus manifests love by showing compassion to those around him. When in Matthew’s Gospel John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus to ask if he is the “one to come,” Jesus responds by saying “the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are healed and the poor hear the good news of the Gospel” (Matthew 11:4ff.). Jesus sees his identity and mission as coming to those who are burdened under sickness, poverty, oppression and sin. Caring for the poor and the outcast is not, therefore, merely a side event to being a follower of Jesus, nor is it a theoretical obligation. It is central to salvation.
In Matthew’s Gospel, salvation or damnation are presented as dependent not on orthodoxy, not on liturgical practice, but on how one treated the poor. In this Gospel narrative, whether one enters eternal life or punishment depends entirely on whether or not one fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, took in the stranger and visited the imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-36).
For over 90 years, CNEWA has taken that teaching to heart, making Christian love visible by caring for the poor. It is a love that extends far and wide. Recognizing the challenge of Jesus, “if you love only those who love you, what thanks can you expect” (Luke 6:31), the cover of CNEWA’s publication ONE even proclaims that we serve the one “God, one world, one human family and one church.” Originally working in the Middle East, CNEWA’s mission has expanded to also serve those in need in northeast Africa, Central Europe, the Caucuses and India.
The reach is extensive. CNEWA partners with the Eastern Catholic Churches to support hospitals and clinics, to educate children as well as church and community leaders, to care for the handicapped and the outcast. For the past several years, CNEWA has been intensely involved with the plight of refugees in the Middle East—a situation that has been described as the largest humanitarian crisis since World War I.
Although it partners with the Eastern Catholic Churches, CNEWA serves all in need. Serving “the one human family,” CNEWA tries to embody the love of Christ, love which is for all and not just a few. When one of the sisters working in one of CNEWA’s programs was asked if she was caring for Christians, she responded, “I do not help them because they are Christian, but because I am.”
This is the all-embracing love of Christ in action.
Philanthropy is part of all the great religious traditions of the world, and each carries it out differently. The “Golden Rule” of “do to the other as you would have others do to you” exists in every religion. As we have tried to show, love—unconditional and universal love, even of enemies—is a central and unique characteristic of Christianity.
CNEWA tries to make that love visible and effective in the world in which we work.
6 September 2018
Armenian Catholics in the southern Georgian village of Djulgha gather for the Divine Liturgy. To learn more about the Armenian Catholic Church, read our profile from the September 2008 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
6 September 2018
Tags: Armenia Georgia Armenian Catholic Church
Kerala continues to battle the aftermath of the devastating floods that hit last month. The video above shows some of the recent recovery efforts. (video: Indian Express/YouTube)
Report: As many as 700,000 could be displaced by attack on Syria’s Idlib province (The Guardian) Aid agencies fear that as many as 700,000 people could be displaced within a day of a Russian-led bombardment of Syria’s Idlib province as momentum towards an expected attack on the last large rebel enclave continues to gather pace. A three-way summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran to be held in Tehran on Friday has been described by Ankara as a “last chance to avoid a massacre” in north-western Syria, where up to 3 million people live in a densely packed corner of the country…
Syrian refugees embark on organized return from Lebanon (The Daily Star) Hundreds of Syrian families gathered at pickup points across Lebanon Tuesday morning to return to their home country, the state-run National News Agency reported. In the latest refugee return to be organized by Lebanon’s General Security in cooperation with the Syrian government, hundreds of Syrian families boarded buses in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli…
‘Farmers have lost everything’ in Kerala flooding (Gulf News) what makes the case of Munroe Island special is that it is, like most of Kuttanad in Alappuzha, is a land lying below the sea level. There is not much hope for such a place in case of a deluge and the farmers here are still counting the losses, hoping for financial support from the government to restart their lives. ”Farmers in this village have lost everything.” says Binu Karunakaran, President of Munroe Island Panchayath (Village Council)…
Religious leaders voice support for religion-based personal laws (UCANews.com) Religious leaders have backed a recommendation by the Law Commission of India that the federal government should not proceed with a move to replace religion-based personal laws with a uniform code. The government’s efforts to have a single code to govern marriage, divorce and inheritance for all Indians, regardless of their religion, “is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage,” the commission said in its latest report…
Meeet Jesuit Byzantine Bishop Milan Lach (America Magazine) Bishop Milan Lach, S.J., is the fifth Byzantine Catholic ordinary of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma, covering several Midwestern U.S. states. Enthroned as bishop on 30 June at his cathedral in Ohio, the 44-year-old Jesuit (an ethnic Ruthenian from Slovakia) is now the youngest Catholic bishop to head a territorial diocese in North America…
Horseback riding and a cause to hope in Gaza (Al Jazeera) For more than 10 years, the headlines coming out of Gaza have been relentlessly grim: three wars, a worsening humanitarian crisis, and political division — all playing out under the restrictive Israeli siege. But there are pockets of normal life where people, especially children can escape the chaos. All around the world, this is a sport that carries connotations of elitism and wealth but in Gaza, the contrast between show jumping and the realities of life for so many is particularly stark…
5 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank
In this file photo, Pope Francis greets Enzio Bianchi, founder of the Bose monastic community. The pope sent greetings to him and other participants in the Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality taking place this week at Bose in Italy. (photo: Vatican Media)
Pope Francis has sent a warm message to those taking part in the International Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality, promoted jointly by the Community of Bose and the Orthodox Churches. The theme of this year’s conference is “Discernment and the Christian Life.”
From Vatican News:
The message came in a telegram sent on the Pope’s behalf by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, and addressed to Enzo Bianchi, the founder of the Bose community.
Cardinal Parolin wrote that Pope Francis encourages those taking part in the conference to reflect on “the authentic discernment presented by St Paul as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” This discernment, he says, requires a person to “train oneself in the patience of God and of His times, which are not our own.”
The telegram also expressed Pope Francis’ hopes “that the days of fraternal engagement might be able to advance the search for the criteria of the necessary personal and communitarian discernment to reach the knowledge and the will of God, in which resides all the fullness of life.”
The International Ecumenical Conference is taking place at the Monastery of Bose in Italy, from 5-8 September.
5 September 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Orthodox
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, speaks during a special prayer service for peace in the Holy Land in May. He has just announced a series of internal reforms in an effort to increase financial transparency. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Airstrikes in Syria raise concerns of new offensive (The New York Times) Syrian and Russian warplanes carried out dozens of airstrikes on Syria’s last rebel-held province on Tuesday, apparently ignoring a warning from President Trump and raising concerns that a large offensive against the densely populated area had begun…
Governor to open India meeting on rebuilding Kerala (The Times of India) A day-long conclave on rebuilding Kerala will be held here on Wednesday as part of the India for Kerala campaign. Governor Justice P. Sathasivam will formally inaugurate the conclave …
Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarchate introduces reforms (La Croix) After launching a review of its finances and management, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has announced the first series of internal reforms. More than two years after his appointment as apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in 2016, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM remains convinced of the need for the reforms that he launched in an effort to increase transparency…
For first time in 20 years, an Ethiopian commercial ship has docked in Eritrea (Reuters) An Ethiopian commercial ship docked in an Eritrean port for the first time in two decades on Wednesday, state-affiliated media said, in a concrete sign of a stunning rapprochement between the neighbors and former foes…
Orthodox Church split fuels Russia-Ukraine tension (BBC) Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko says top clerics in the Orthodox Church are now ready to grant independence to the Kiev Church, defying Moscow. If the Constantinople Patriarch, Bartholomew, grants Kiev autocephaly (independence) he will be recognizing its split with the Moscow Patriarchate…
4 September 2018
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Jerusalem Russian Orthodox Church Eritrea
An overhead view taken with a drone in early June shows the clock tower of the rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria. Pope Francis appealed for peace and dialogue as the Syrian government and its allies prepare to launch strikes against the Idlib province.
(photo: CNS /Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)
Pope Francis appealed for peace and dialogue as the Syrian government and its allies prepare to launch strikes against the last major rebel stronghold in Idlib province in the country’s northwest.
Speaking to hundreds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address on 2 September, the pope warned that “the winds of war continue to blow” in the already war-weary country.
An attack against the Syrian province’s nearly 3 million people, he said, would cause “a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“I renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community and to all the actors involved to make use of the instruments of diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations, in compliance with international humanitarian law and to safeguard the lives of civilians,” the pope said.
Several world leaders had expressed concern over the looming attack and the possible use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces.
Syrian army warplanes allegedly flew over and bombed the eastern town of Douma, 15 miles north of Damascus, in a suspected chemical-weapon attack 7 April. Despite the accounts of witnesses, the Syrian government denied involvement in the attack.
The pope’s appeal echoed the sentiments of the United Nations and the United States, who have expressed similar concerns and fears that Syria, led by President Bashir al-Assad, would use chemical weapons against innocent civilians.
Antonio Guterres, U.N. secretary-general, urged Syria and its allies, which include Russia, Turkey and Iran, “to exercise restraint and to prioritize the protection of civilians.”
“The secretary-general is deeply concerned about the growing risks of a humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full-scale military operation in Idlib province in Syria. The secretary-general once again reaffirms that any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable,” a U.N. statement said on 29 August.
On the same day Pope Francis made his appeal, U.S. President Donald Trump warned President al-Assad to “not recklessly attack Idlib province” and said Syria and its allies would be “making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!” President Trump tweeted.
4 September 2018
Tags: Syria Pope Francis
Many homes and businesses have been wiped out from the catastrophic flooding in Kerala, and recovery efforts are ongoing. (photo: CNEWA)
Over the weekend, we received an extensive report from Syro-Malabar Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, of the Archdiocese of Trichur, describing in great detail what his people have been facing in flood-ravaged Kerala:
Many bridges collapsed and houses were sunk or destroyed due to heavy water flow. The flood affected some churches also to the extent that we could not celebrate Mass even till today (30 August).
Most of our parish halls, schools and some presbyteries became relief camps. Auxiliary Bishop Tony Neelankavil and myself personally visited several relief camps. I am happy to report that priests, sisters, seminarians, lay church leaders and especially our youth were in the forefront in the rescue work and relief activities. People, irrespective of caste and creed, are helping us. Many parishes and religious houses distributed relief kits with food, clothes, cleaning materials and other essentials. Under the leadership of the Archdiocesan team, more than 5,000 family relief kits (each kit costing about Rs. 4000) were distributed to the neediest families.
The Archbishop’s house in Trichur became a store house of food and other essentials where many volunteers including Rev. Sisters, youth and seminarians were working day and night preparing and dispatching family kits. We are happy to report that some dioceses like Tellicherry, Ramanathapuram and some voluntary organizations sent in trucks materials for family kits with great generosity.
CNEWA, you will recall, has rushed emergency aid to those affected by this crisis. But the story is far from over:
The aftermath is very grave. Although schools opened on 29 August, many are still in relief camps, since their houses were destroyed or seriously damaged. Many cannot enter into their houses because of mud. Many have also lost their livelihood. As snakes and venomous reptiles have inhabited the houses during the flood, people are in a panic. The greatest challenge for us is to provide facilities for people as they go back to their own houses and rebuild. The government, NGOs and the church are preparing short-term and long-term plans for rehabilitation with the help of the local and international agencies.
A persistent threat right now is illness. CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, writes that many residents are battling the risk of leptospirosis, or rat fever:
The recent excessive rainfall and uncontrolled release of water from various dams in Kerala virtually paralyzed and flooded the state; the people had no option but to struggle through the water-logged areas and pump out the contaminated water at their house. Animals—rats, cattle, dogs, pigs, and many birds and reptiles—carry the infectious bacteria. These animals for hours and days in the flood before they died, which ended up contaminating the water.
There are high risks of infection from leptospirosis, especially to those involved in the rescue operations, along with agricultural workers, shop workers, sewer workers, daily wage workers and many survivors of this disaster.
The health department of the government of Kerala is making all efforts to raise awareness and offer vaccinations throughout the flood-affected areas. But, still more and more people are being admitted to hospitals daily with fever and symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Latin rite Archbishop of Verapoly, Joseph Kalathiparambil, has decided to raise funds by putting his car up for sale. Local news reports explain that proceeds from the sale of the car — a Toyota Innova Crysta — will be used to construct houses for flood victims.
Finally, we can’t overlook the exceptional faith and perseverance of the people. Archbishop Andrews Thazhath concluded his report on this dire situation with a note of prayerful hope:
God has His plans for us. Therefore, even in the worst of calamities, we have hope, since God is faithful and we trust in His Providence. “We know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom.8:28) With the help of God and with the support of all people of good will, we hope and pray that we will be able to rebuild Kerala, “God’s Own Country.”
To help our brothers and sisters in need in India, please visit this page. And please remember them all in your prayers! Thank you.
4 September 2018
Tags: India Kerala
As Kerala recovers from last month's historic flooding, residents are now battling another hazard: rat fever. (photo: CNEWA)
Kerala battles rat fever in wake of flooding (BBC) The flood-hit south Indian state of Kerala has declared a health alert after dozens of people died of leptospirosis or rat fever in the last two days. The government has asked everyone who came into contact with flood waters to take medication as a precautionary measure to avoid an epidemic. Health officials in the state said there was no immediate cause for alarm and the situation was under control…
Greek Orthodox priests will be allowed to remarry (Greek Reporter) The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to allow a second marriage for Greek Orthodox priests in the event that they are widowed or abandoned by their wife, religious news website Romfea.gr says…
Final offensive in Syria may come at a horrific cost (The New York Times) On land, Syria’s government is mustering thousands of conscripts to bolster its depleted forces. At sea, a Russian naval flotilla is just offshore, ready to intervene with formidable firepower. In Idlib Province, millions of civilians are dreading what comes next. The warring sides in Syria’s long and merciless civil war are preparing for another brutal offensive, and this one may be the last. Where Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies see a chance to crush the remaining opposition, Western leaders warn of a humanitarian calamity in Idlib, where an estimated three million civilians live…
Indian leader assures help for Christians (The Times of India) Union home minister Rajnath Singh assured all help and assistance to Christians during a meeting with secretary general of the Catholic Conference of India, the CBCI stated…
Jerusalem prepares for Rosh Hashanah (The Jerusalem Post) A photographic journey through the city as it gears up for 5779…
Tags: India Kerala Orthodox Rosh Hashana