26 September 2018
Lebanon's Our Lady of Kaftoun (Deir Saydet Kaftoun) Monastery in Kaftoun is pictured in this 2013 photo. Now the land of the cedars is accessible virtually, via a free app in English -- called Holy Lebanon -- aimed at promoting religious tourism. (photo: CNS /courtesy Nour Farra Haddad)
From its high majestic mountains, picturesque villages and coastal towns to its bustling cities, Lebanon is rich in breathtaking scenery, cultural diversity and religious sites.
Now the land of the cedars mentioned in the Bible 96 times is accessible virtually, via a free app in English -- called Holy Lebanon -- aimed at promoting religious tourism.
“Even if you can’t come to Lebanon to visit, you can download the app and have an idea about different religious sites around the country,” Nour Farra Haddad, developer of the Holy Lebanon app, told Catholic News Service.
“Holy Lebanon,” introduced in June, was followed in July with an announcement from the Vatican that it will authorize official pilgrimage visits to Lebanon in 2019.
The multifaith app features 300 religious sites, representative of all of Lebanon’s 18 religious traditions, including Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim. The sites include churches, monasteries, convents, shrines and sanctuaries as well as mosques, many dating back centuries ago.
“It is just a beginning,” Farra Haddad said, noting that more sites will be added to the Holy Lebanon app in the future.
While the app took two years to develop, it is based on Farra Haddad’s 10 years of research as a religious anthropologist.
Lebanon, about two-thirds the size of Connecticut, is visibly steeped in religion.
“This is something that really surprises people: We have about 6,000 religious sites all around Lebanon,” Farra Haddad said, although she notes that no formal comprehensive survey of the exact number of sites has been compiled.
“Because Lebanon is considered an Arab country, sometimes people assume it’s a Muslim country only or that it’s related to the Islamic world, but Christianity was born in this area,” Farra Haddad said.
“I think people who have a curiosity about the Holy Land forget that South Lebanon is a part of the Holy Land where Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary walked,” Farra Haddad said, referring to Sidon and Tyre. “There is no doubt about that.”
In Lebanon, Christians account for approximately 40 percent of the population.
The country’s president is a Maronite Catholic, and half of the country’s 128 parliamentary seats are reserved for Christians.
Lebanon has approximately 900 religious sites dedicated to Mary, according to the app. That’s not counting informal shrines, thousands of which dot the country near buildings and roadsides.
Aside from the sites of Lebanon’s native saints -- Charbel, Rafka and Hardini -- which are visited by Christians and Muslims, St. George is the most popular saint, with 350 Christian sites and about 20 Muslim sites.
Western saints -- including Sts. Francis of Assisi, Rita, Bernadette of Lourdes and Therese of Lisieux -- also hold a special place in believers’ hearts, and churches and sanctuaries dedicated to them can be found throughout Lebanon.
By far the most popular pilgrimage site is the Our Lady of Lebanon shrine and basilica -- Harissa -- perched high above the Mediterranean Sea. Each year more the shrine receives than 2 million pilgrims, Muslims and Christians alike, as Mary is venerated by Muslims, and a full chapter is devoted to her in the Quran.
“It’s very important to let people around the world know that there are Christians in Lebanon,” the Rev. Khalil Alwan, vice rector of Harissa, told CNS.
Maronite Father Alwan said it is fitting that Muslim sites are included in the app.
“In Lebanon, Christians and Muslims coexist. This is the mission of Lebanon. That’s what John Paul II said,” he emphasized, referring to the saint’s quote: “Lebanon is more than a country. It is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West.”
“Lebanon is a holy land for Muslims and Christians,” Father Alwan added.
The Holy Lebanon app also happens to coincide with Harissa’s yearlong commemoration of the Marian shrine’s jubilee, 110 years since the shrine was inaugurated in 1908. Until 4 August 2019, pilgrims to the Marian shrine can receive an indulgence offered by the Vatican.
Farra Haddad pointed out that the Holy Lebanon app was designed for friendly navigation. “It’s not complicated, and the menu is easy,” she said, adding that elderly people have told her the app is simple to use.
From anywhere in the world, the Holy Lebanon app can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play.
Navigating between the six sections of the app, users can access historical details about each of the 300 religious sites; background about the saint or holy figure; details about Christian and Muslim rituals; a calendar of feast days and celebrations; suggested itineraries for tours; and lodging possibilities at monasteries and convents.
26 September 2018
In the video above, the Rev. Nawras Sammour, who runs the Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria and Iraq, speaks of his hopes for his homeland as it seeks to recover from a long and brutal civil war. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
Jordan king vows to protect Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian character (The Jerusalem Post) Jordan will thwart any attempts to change Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian character, King Abdullah II told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. He made an impassioned plea for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the 2002 Arab League initiative and warned against a one-state solution to the conflict…
Priest vows Syria will recover (Rome Reports) The Rev. Nawras Sammour runs the Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria and Iraq. Until recently, their main task was to deal with emergencies. However, now they are promoting projects to rebuild the region and be able to start again…
Syria minister vows Idlib will be recovered (Reuters) The Syrian state will recover Idlib through war or peaceful means, a minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday, pointing to the government’s determination to defeat rebels there despite a Russian-Turkish deal that halted an expected army offensive…
World Bank warns Gaza’s economy ’collapsing’ (The Independent) Gaza’s economy is in “free fall” and half the population is living under the poverty line, the World Bank has warned, citing a decade-long blockade by Israel and crippling cuts to funding and aid. The devastating report, released on Tuesday, said the finances of the 25-mile long besieged strip were “collapsing”, liquidity had dried up, and plunging aid flows were no longer able to stimulate growth…
Inside a safe house for Ethiopian women (Pacific Standard) Off one of central Addis Ababa’s many bustling streets—past the vendors selling local fruits and vegetables and the young men shining the shoes of the wealthy—is a secret, self-enclosed village. In that village, women and girls, some as young as 11, have found a refuge. They have given birth to babies conceived from rape and fled bride abduction, early marriage, and other abuses. They have come from across Ethiopia to heal from horrors. Some humanitarian workers suspect increased rates of gender-based violence might be linked to the country’s current drought, its worst in decades…
25 September 2018
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan
French Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Tarbes and Lourdes, in blue vestment, holds a candle during a vigil with Arab clergy, including retired Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem, second from left, and retired Auxiliary Bishop Salim Sayegh of Jerusalem, at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Naour, Jordan. (photo: CNS/Osama Toubasi, courtesy abouna.org)
Mary makes people grow in Christ and “shows us the way to permanent communion with the church,” the bishop of Lourdes, France, told Catholic clergy and faithful gathered in this town with a grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes.
“The Virgin Mary always leads us to Christ and makes our way to the kingdom of God. The Virgin Mary paves the way for us to the Lord, as if she also says that she is not always the focus of our attention, for she said in Cana ...: ‘Do whatever He tells you to do,’“ Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Tarbes and Lourdes told people gathered at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Naour on 21 September.
The bishop noted that when Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in France in 1858: “Bernadette was afraid of the apparition. She tried to make the sign of the cross, but she could not. Yet, after the Virgin Mary herself made the sign of the cross, Bernadette was able to do so, as if (Mary) were telling Bernadette: ‘Fear not, Christ is present in our midst. I was sent by the Holy Trinity.’
“The second thing that the Virgin Mary did during the apparition is that she did not speak and remained silent while smiling. Sometimes silence between two people is more expressive than talking. It indicates profound trust,” he said.
“The Virgin Mary respected this silent step toward Bernadette, and just made a smile,” he said. “Imagine this smile. It expressed a lot of confidence. The smile was the open door that paved the way for a new relationship. When we smile, everything becomes possible, and it becomes a sign of mental and emotional openness. When the Virgin Mary smiled, she revealed life in the kingdom of God and the life of grace toward God.”
Bishop Brouwet reminded people that St. Bernadette was “poor and sick ... illiterate and was not familiar with Christian education.”
Despite St. Bernadette’s weakness, he said, Mary “showed respect for her and viewed her as a very important person.” Mary does this to everyone, he added.
Among those present for the bishop’s homily were Bishop William Shomali, Latin patriarchal vicar for Jordan; retired Jerusalem Patriarch Fouad Twal; retired Auxiliary Bishop Salim Sayegh of Jerusalem; and Msgr. Mauro Lalli, first counselor for apostolic nunciature in Amman, Jordan.
Priests and deacons from the Latin, Melkite, Maronite and Chaldean Catholic churches as well as nuns from various congregations also attended the accompanying Mass.
25 September 2018
Tags: Jordan Mary
A donor sent us this note and shared his story. (photo: CNEWA)
Recently, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received a letter from one of our donors. You don’t get letters like this every day.
The author wrote from a prison in the United States, where he receives our magazine, ONE. He scribbled a few sentences on lined notebook paper:
Enclosed is $25 to help out your ministry. Glad I can help a little. Enclosed is my testimony.
Attached was a single sheet of paper titled “Journey of Faith.” Msgr. Kozar was so moved, he wanted to share some of this man’s witness with you. It reads, in part:
When I was 14 years old, I already was asking myself what is the meaning and purpose of life? Why are we here on earth? God wasn’t a part of my life at 14. I spent my first 5 years of school going to a Catholic parochial school and attending Catholic Mass, but I never connected with God. I couldn’t make heads or tails of my life at 14 and it bothered me. Eventually, I drifted to a group of kids in my San Francisco Marina neighborhood who were dealing with the same identity crisis. They were juvenile delinquents and I became one. I stole cars to joy ride, shoplifted, burglarized businesses, cut school, ran away from home and got into alcohol and drugs. I became a criminal going to jail. Eventually, I went for a big score that went sour and ended up with a life sentence in Florida.
…Once I was back in prison, finding myself stripped of everything, I was forced to reflect. In the depths of my abjection, God gave me the grace to recall his goodness. I acknowledged my sins, repented and asked for his forgiveness. God forgave me. Today I’m reconciled with God, myself and the Catholic Church. Since then I’ve been living a sacramental life of weekly Mass, weekly communion, frequent confession, daily prayer and scripture readings...
…Being at peace with God has a future. This world is passing away. Many people sadly believe this world is all there is to life, that this is our final destiny. They’re wrong. Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds true happiness. St. Augustine said it so well. “For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
If you have been away from God and the Church, come back. Jesus is waiting for you. No matter what you have done, God forgives all sin. God is a very merciful and forgiving God.
We remain forever grateful to donors like this man — people who give what they can, however they can, to help those who have even less. These quiet acts of love are bringing hope and dignity to those who are otherwise forgotten.
As Msgr. Kozar writes so poignantly in the upcoming edition of ONE:
Many of the good works supported by CNEWA reach out to all and proudly proclaim that God loves all his children. There is no “pecking order” with our God—we are all embraced by his love. We do not exclude and only offer help to “our own”—Jesus makes it clear that we love all.
All of our CNEWA family thank you for your support—and, better yet, they promise to remember you in their prayers. God bless you.
God bless all our donors who give so generously and share so selflessly!
25 September 2018
In this image from 2017, Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, attend an ecumenical prayer service in Cairo. Tawadros told a gathering in New Jersey yesterday that conditions for Copts in Egypt have improved. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Thousands arrested in Ethiopia following ethnic violence (New York Times) The Ethiopian government has arrested thousands of people around the capital, Addis Ababa, over the last week and sent many of them to military camps for “rehabilitation,” the authorities said on Monday, as the government sought to respond to mounting criticism from Ethiopians who say it has done little as ethnic violence has flared…
Official: 50,000 Syrians returned home from Lebanon this year (Reuters) Fifty thousand Syrians have returned home from Lebanon so far in 2018 and the number could reach 200,000 in a year’s time if it continues at this rate, a top Lebanese official said on Tuesday…
India’s manual scavengers pay price of neglect (UCANews.com) India’s lax policies and social neglect have been blamed for the increasing deaths of Dalit workers engaged in manually cleaning sewers and septic tanks. Eleven manual scavengers have died this month — five of them on Sept. 9 in a single incident in capital New Delhi as they were cleaning a sewage treatment tank. ”It is ironic that the government is projecting the issue as some isolated incidents” when so many die each year, said Bezwada Wilson, who is working to end manual scavenging…
Tawadros: Egypt society has changed for the better (Egypt Independent) Pope of Alexandria’s Coptic Orthodox Church Tawadros II visited Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Jersey City, US on Monday, leading a liturgy for thousands of Copts. During his visit, Pope Tawadros II praised Copts’ current conditions in Egypt, stating that society has changed for the better. He pointed out that Coptic members in the House of Representatives have increased to 39 members in 2015, compared to only one or two before 2011…
Coptic Christians nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (Coptic Orphans/PR Newswire) Coptic Christians have been nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for their refusal to retaliate against deadly and ongoing persecution from governments and terrorist groups in Egypt and elsewhere. The Copts, who are the indigenous people of Egypt and number as many as 20 million around the world, have been the victims of centuries of violence and oppression for practicing their Christian faith, chiefly in Egypt…
24 September 2018
Tags: Syria Egypt Ethiopia Refugees Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
In this image from 2016, Abraham George, an Ethiopian Catholic, carries the cross during the Sunday Divine Liturgy in Bahir Dar. Priests, bishops, religious and lay people from Ethiopia, Eritrea and other East Africa countries are planning a Synod of Bishops, set to take place next month at the Vatican. (photo: James Jeffrey)
Due to its impact on young Catholics in Africa, fundamentalism will be a topic that bishops from East Africa prioritize in their talks with other delegates during the synod’s intervention sessions.
More than 300 delegates, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, sisters and laypeople are expected to attend the 3-28 October Synod of Bishops, which will meet at the Vatican to discuss “young people, faith and vocational discernment.”
Bishops from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa also will take to the synod topics such as young people as protagonists, the training of spiritual directors and holistic formation in Catholic schools and universities.
Known by its acronym AMECEA, the group includes the bishops’ conferences of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, Djibouti and Somalia.
Maryknoll Rev. Joseph Healey, a facilitator at AMECEA’s preparatory meeting on the synod, said young Catholics in Africa want their peers to run their small Christian communities.
“A survey we have carried out in the AMECEA region and beyond in Africa has shown that our young people ... are no longer comfortable” in small Christian communities run by adult Catholics, he told Catholic News Service on 17 September. “They are today calling for the formation of their own [communities].”
Father Emmanuel Chimombo of Malawi, AMECEA pastoral coordinator, told CNS on 18 September that the 12 bishops at the Nairobi meeting also discussed integral education and formation in Catholic institutions, the digital world and its impact on young people, and situations of war, violence and young migrants.
The meeting also addressed uncertainty, hope, fear and unemployment, enjoyment of the liturgy and the vocational status of single persons with no particular consecration, he said.
The bishops considered these and other topics after they had deliberated extensively on the synod’s “instrumentum laboris” (“working document”), Father Chimombo said.
Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, Ethiopian Catholic Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, Archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye of Lilongwe, Malawi, and Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri, Kenya, are among the delegates from the East African region who will attend the synod.
The AMECEA meeting took place with financial support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
24 September 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Eritrea
There have been growing concerns about the horrendous humanitarian toll that might follow a Syrian offensive in Idlib. The video above chronicles a Syrian returning to his homeland and describing his concerns for the future. (video: BBC/YouTube)
Turkey announces plans for ’safe zones’ in northern Syria (AP) Turkey said Sunday it would take steps to create “safe zones” across northern Syria, including in areas held by Syrian Kurdish fighters who are allied with the United States but who Ankara views as terrorists. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in New York ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, vowed to clear the region of the Kurdish fighters, who Turkey says are linked to the long-running insurgency in its restive southeast…
Boat carrying Syrian refugees sinks off Lebanon (Reuters) A boat with 39 Syrian refugees aboard sank off the coast of Lebanon as it sailed illegally for Cyprus on Saturday and most were rescued by the Lebanese army but a five-year-old boy drowned, security sources said. They said it appeared to be the first time in almost a year that a group of refugees had tried to get to Europe by boat from Lebanon, where Syrian refugees account for roughly a quarter of the population…
Kerala on alert for more heavy rains (Business Standard) Kerala, the state where the devastating rains, floods and landslides have taken a toll of thousands of people, is expected to receive heavy rainfalls on 25 September, said the state government. The State Disaster Management Authority has instructed district authorities to be on alert and directed them to take necessary precautions…
Mumbai pilgrimage to Marian shrine emphasizes importance of parents (Crux) Parents pass on their virtues, values, principles and understanding of life flow to their children, a bishop told pilgrims in India. Auxiliary Bishop John Rodrigues of the Archdiocese of Bombay was speaking at a students’ pilgrimage to Mount Mary’s Basilica in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai…
Nobel laureate dedicates U.N. World Peace Day to Eritrea and Ethiopia (AfricaNews.com) Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Peace laureate said on Friday that the 2018 edition of World Peace Day had to be dedicated to Ethiopia and Eritrea. She said in a tweet that the two countries deserved credit “for putting their political differences aside and daring to invite peace back into their midst…”
Thousands of Christians celebrate Sukkot in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) During Sukkot, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) hosts thousands of Christians from more than 100 countries. The holiday draws some 5,000 Christians to Jerusalem each year. Not only is the event a spiritual boost in which people come to express their love for Israel’s eternal capital, it also gives an economic boost, injecting $15-20 million into Israel’s economy each year…
21 September 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Jerusalem Jews
Pope Francis greets participants in a Vatican conference on battling xenophobia and racism.
(photo: Vatican Media)
Thursday, Pope Francis imparted a message of inclusion and tolerance for human rights, and warned against the rise of racism around the world:
Pope Francis warned that attitudes that many thought were a thing of the past — such as racism — are on the rise again and can lead to intolerant and discriminating behavior and policies and he urged politicians to avoid exploiting fear against those seeking refuge and better lives in our countries.
He was addressing participants at a just-ended Rome-based conference “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration” at the Vatican on Thursday.
“We are living in times in which feelings that many thought had passed are taking new life and spreading,” Pope Francis said to the over 200 participants of an international conference on “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of World Migrations.”
In his message that marked the conclusion of the event promoted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development, by the World Council of Churches and by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, the Pope reflected on how, in our globalized world, there appears to be an upsurge of ”feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity and, as such, considered not sufficiently worthy of being fully part of society’s life.”
Such sentiments, he warned, “all too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion.”
21 September 2018
Tags: Ecumenism Migrants Dialogue
Over the last several weeks, thousands of Ethiopians have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed by interethnic violence. CNEWA has rushed emergency aid to help them recover.
In August we reported on the crisis facing thousands of people in Ethiopia, who were forced to flee interethnic violence. Many found shelter and sanctuary in a Catholic parish. Yesterday, our regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, sent us this update:
Last week, I met with Matewos Dangiso [the social development director of the Hawassa Vicariate, the Catholic jurisdiction where much of this violence in south central Ethiopia has taken place] to get an update on the current status of the displaced people in Gedeo and West Guji. He also gave me an overview of the Catholic Church’s efforts to help these people.
Currently, most of the displaced have returned to their home areas. The government and international humanitarian agencies have played the main role in this process. Since their displacement occurred at the beginning of the school year, officials urged families to return in order for their children to resume classes in their home areas — despite not having anything to return to.
The return of people to their homes has not been a smooth process. It was very difficult to distribute emergency food and non-food items. The area is poverty stricken, so those not displaced also tried to obtain emergency support — further complicating an already challenging process.
The returnees are now sheltered in seven districts in Gedeo and West Guji. They are without clothing, shelter, tools — in short, they are penniless — which is making serious demands on the church and aid agencies in their efforts to help. In addition to providing food and water, aid efforts include the provision of non-food essentials, such as cooking utensils, blankets, hygienic and medical items.
There is also reconstruction underway— building shelters, rebuilding schools, then furnishing them and providing basic farm needs so that people can try and make a living. At the same time, efforts are underway to support the peace-building process.
The government is developing a coordinated year-long plan that will require substantial funding. The Catholic Church is designated to serve in three shelter areas: Gedeb and Kochore in Gedeo for people displaced from West Guji and Garba, and in West Guji for people displaced from Gedeo area.These areas are where the church — with funding from CNEWA —previously served people through schools and health facilities. There are efforts underway to determine how many people are still in need, but the number is expected to total about 4,500 individuals.
CNEWA was among the first organizations to rush emergency aid, as well as Caritas Austria and Caritas Bolzana-Italy, which enabled the vicariate to purchase food items, medicines, hygienic supplies and household utensils to distribute to those affected.
Catholic Relief Services has also gotten involved and recently provided $25,000 for reconstruction work. Caritas Austria has also contributed additional €50,000.00 for the same purpose.
As we noted in our news roundup yesterday, this crisis is far from over. To help those in need in Ethiopia during this challenging and dangerous time, please visit this page. Thank you!
21 September 2018
The video above shows the devastation from Kerala's flooding, and the recovery efforts so far. (video: TNIE/YouTube)
Syria blames Israel for killing Russians (Newsweek) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said Israel was responsible for a recent incident in which his armed forces accidentally downed an allied Russian aircraft while defending against an Israeli aerial assault…
Study says rare confluence of events led to flooding in Kerala (The Hindu) A combination of four factors led to extreme flooding across Kerala in 2018, a study says. The four factors are: above normal seasonal (May-August) rainfall, extreme rainfall events occurring almost across the State during the season, over 90 percent reservoir storage even before the onset of extreme rainfall events, and finally, the unprecedented extreme rainfall in the catchment area of major reservoirs in the State…
Pope: those exploiting foreigners for profit will pay on Judgment Day (CNS) No one can remain indifferent to the way minority groups are increasingly the object of so much fear, scorn and hatred, Pope Francis said. And he warned those who profit from exploiting foreigners or people in precarious situations and those who contribute to today’s new forms of slavery that one day they will have to answer to God for the choices they have made, he said on 20 September…
UN observes Peace Day (NDTV) The global community is celebrating the International Day of Peace today. The day is observed on 21 September every year. The International Day of Peace was first celebrated in 1982. It is recognized by United Nations. It has been declared by the United Nations General Assembly a day “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples…”
Tags: Syria India United Nations