21 August 2019
A statue of Our Lady of Consolation is surrounded by pilgrims during a candlelight procession and vigil Mass outside the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio on 14 August 2019. (photo: CNS/Katie Rutter)
With its one stoplight and surrounding cornfields, the small Ohio village of Carey seems an unlikely travel destination. Yet, once a year, an estimated 5,000 visitors swell the town population to more than double.
For nine days, climaxing on the evening of 14 August, scores of charter buses drop off pilgrims, most of whom are Iraqi Christians. Hundreds of families fill a five-acre plot with tents, recreational vehicles, Middle Eastern food and music.
“We feel that we’re like in our old village back home. Like when I walk around I know a lot of people,” said Khalid Markos, who is now a resident of Sterling Heights, Michigan, but was born in Alanish, Iraq.
His family, like most of the pilgrims, fled from war and persecution in their home country. Now exiled refugees, they have found consolation by celebrating their faith and traditions at the aptly named Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey.
“We love our faith a lot and as you may know, we left our country because we didn’t want to deny our faith,” Conventual Franciscan Friar Raad Eshoo told Catholic News Service, “and it’s sad that we see a lot of people here and in Iraq there are few Christians, Chaldean Christians.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church, based in Iraq, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome. Chaldean Catholics trace their faith back to the second century and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
In recent decades, however, war and terrorism has caused hundreds of thousands of these Christians to flee their homeland.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce estimates that 160,000 Chaldeans now reside in the Detroit metropolitan area.
“My mother says, ‘Even if someone paid me a million dollars, I wouldn’t go back,’” said Martha Yousif, niece of Markos, whose parents fled Iraq in 1997.
“You can’t guarantee (you will) come back safe,” she related.
“Many things I faced -- bombing. In front of my clinic, even,” said Syrian Orthodox Christian Nawar Awbawyvalsheikh, a physician and native of Mosul, Iraq.
“Terrorists. They came to our building to kill us and American soldiers saved us,” she recalled.
These exiled Christians began traveling two hours from Detroit to the Carey shrine about two decades ago. Many were drawn by stories of miraculous healings, others by a devotion to Mary. All are reliving an Iraqi tradition of visiting shrines and holy sites for pious practices and celebration.
“We have a lot of feasts we call them ‘shera,’ (with) a lot of people camping, music, dancing, food, and we end it with Mass and procession,” said Friar Raad, who was born in Mosul.
“When I’m here, I feel like home,” he said.
The nine days of celebration in Carey are marked by a constant line for confessions, regular blessings by clergy and several Masses daily, often in Aramaic.
At dusk on 14 August, the pilgrims carried candles and processed with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation from the basilica to an open field, called Shrine Park. There Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo presided over an outdoor Mass for the vigil of the feast of the Assumption.
“It breathes a lot of new life into me and I think the friars that come here love to do this,” said the Rev. Father Thomas Merrill, a Conventual Franciscan, the shrine’s rector. He was joined by dozens of fellow Conventual Franciscans to help care for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims.
“The people are so hungry for anything that is faith-based and so hungry to practice their Catholic faith and receive the sacraments,” Father Thomas said.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation was established in 1875 by a priest from Luxembourg and has welcomed regular waves of pilgrims, often immigrants.
The lower church contains three display cases full of crutches and mementos left by those healed or those who want to thank Our Lady of Consolation for a favor received.
“(The Chaldean people have) suffered a lot. They go through a lot of problems. God and the Virgin Mary saved them to come over here and live peacefully,” Markos told CNS.
“Anytime you’re in need of something, you ask for it, she always (provides), especially here,” said Rafa Kattoula, whose family has made a pilgrimage to the shrine for over 40 years.
Expressing gratitude for Mary’s intercession, Kattoula concluded: “We’ve asked and we come and we receive from her.”
Watch a video of the procession below.
Thousands of Iraqi Chaldean Catholics and other pilgrims converge on the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, for a vigil and procession to honor Mary.
(video: Katie Rutter/CNS/YouTube)
20 August 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians Chaldeans
An Indian family tries to salvage what is left of their home, as floodwaters sweep through Kerala. The country is continuing to be battered by heavy rains, causing severe flooding and landslides.(photo: CNEWA)
19 August 2019
Tags: India Kerala
Father Al Khoury celebrates the liturgy at Our Lady of Paradise Cathedral in São Paulo, Brazil — home to the largest Melkite Greek Catholic community in the world. Read about this Paradise in Brazil in the July 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Izan Petterle)
16 August 2019
Tags: Melkite Greek Catholic Church Melkite
CNEWA has long partnered with Caritas Georgia to help those in need in Georgia. In this image, Caritas Georgia provides jars of soup for neighbors to bring to bedridden friends. Learn more about how a Human Touch Offers Pensioners Respite in the July-August 2003 edition of our magazine. (photo: Dima Chikvaidze)
14 August 2019
Tags: Georgia Caring for the Elderly Caritas
This popular icon depicts the Dormition of Mary, when she "fell asleep" and entered eternal life.
(photo: St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, 13th century / Wikipedia)
15 August marks an important solemnity on the Catholic calendar: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It honors the moment when — in the words of Pope Pius XII — “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
In Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches, this feast is known as the Dormition of Mary — her ”falling asleep” — and is commemorated on the same date:
The origin of the feast of the Dormition or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary [Theotokos] is closely connected with her public veneration since the beginning of the fourth century. It developed from the early celebration of Christmas in which the Theotokos, the Mother of God our Savior, played an important role. The solemn proclamation of Mary as “the Theotokos” at the Council of Ephesus (431) greatly enhanced her public veneration as the “Mother of God.” This is evidenced by the fact that a few years later her divine maternity was celebrated in Jerusalem as the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, on August 15. (cf. Armenian Lectionary, 434 A.D.)
A popular icon (shown above) depicts Mary asleep, surrounded by the apostles, with Jesus in heaven holding a baby in his arms — representing Mary beginning a new life.
It is common in some Byzantine parishes to bless flowers on this feast, including roses, the Lily of the Valley (sometimes called ”Mary’s Tears) and the Columbine —also known as ”Mary’s Shoes,” since one legend holds that wherever Mary walked on her way to visit Elizabeth, these flowers bloomed.
13 August 2019
Tags: Byzantine Catholic Church Mary
More than 100 young adults from Damascus, Syria, pose on 9 August, after arriving at the Liqaa Conference Center near Beirut. Meeting under the theme, "To You I Say Rise," more than 900 Melkite Catholic young people from the Middle East gathered in Lebanon for the first conference especially for them.(photo: CNS/Doreen Abi Raad)
Full of zeal for their faith, 920 Melkite Catholic young adults from the Middle East gathered in Lebanon for the first conference especially for them.
Meeting under the theme, “To You I Say Rise,” the participants, ages 18-35, came from the Palestinian territories, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon for the 9-13 August event, hosted by the Melkite Catholic Patriarchate.
Edward Nazarian, 22, a student in medical devices engineering from Aleppo, Syria, said the conference restored hope for young people, particularly those from Syria.
“After going through so many years of war, we fell into despair. We are here to renew that hope, that confidence and faith,” he told Catholic News Service.
The Rev. Kamil Melhem, spiritual director for young adults, told the group at the opening that the conference would “be the first spark that will illuminate the paths of our faltering lives in the East.” The main venue was the Liqaa (“gathering”) Conference Center, located in a valley beneath the Melkite Patriarchate in Rabweh, 12 miles north of Beirut.
The event combined prayer, educational workshops -- including communication and social media -- and presentations related to the Melkite Catholic identity. Participants also visited holy sites of Lebanon, including Harissa, Our Lady of Lebanon, the tomb of St. Charbel and the biblical coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon in South Lebanon.
Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi told participants in his opening address, “You came carrying a variety of flags, but one banner unites you, the banner of Jesus Christ.”
He continued, “There are many voices and noises in your life, attracting you, disputing you ... tiring you, but today the voice of Jesus is calling each of you.”
Patriarch Absi advised the young adults: “Open up to each other and communicate. Show each other your dreams and aspirations, and share your fears and concerns. Unite, because you are the power that can create a new Pentecost.”
Emphasizing that young people are precious to the church, Patriarch Absi told them: “Thank God you are here. You have heard the voice of Jesus Christ who says, ‘Rise!’“
“It’s great to see the unity of the church,” said Nadine Zayat, 24, a recent graduate in sociology from Cairo.
“Even though we’re from different countries and different backgrounds, we’re all united in Jesus; this is why it’s so special. It’s great to meet new people, have fun and encourage and support each other to continue our message in our countries. I’m hoping more people get to know Jesus.”
Even though it is forbidden in Egypt to preach in the streets, she said, Christians “are a witness by the way we act.”
At a break time, Father Youssef Achaia of Cairo led an impromptu chorus singing “Immaculate Mary”; the circle they formed grew wider as more conference participants joined in.
“The youth, when they come together are very strong,” Father Achaia told Catholic News Service. “They can do a lot.”
As Christians living among Muslims in the Middle East, he said, “we have to be a light. We’re taking this light from Jesus, and we reflect it, first in our self, and then onto the others.”
For 32-year-old Khaldoon Al Haddad, who works at the Central Bank in Amman, Jordan, the gathering was a chance to exchange and share ideas. He told CNS one of the biggest challenges of working with a youth group in his parish is to engage teens, amid all their activities and the “noise of the world.”
“I hope to come back (to Jordan) with new ideas, new ways and methods to bring youth back to the church,” he said.
During lunchtime the first day, horns bellowed from three buses signaling the arrival of 110 young adults from Damascus, Syria, after more than 10 hours of travel. The journey, under normal circumstances, should not exceed three hours. However, because of their large number, procedures at the border crossing between the two countries caused their delay.
Emerging from the buses, the Syrians’ weariness transformed into exuberance at the celebratory welcome. A group of Jordanians played traditional bagpipes and thundering drums. There was cheering, clapping and waving of Syrian flags. Young adults joined arms for the step-and-stomp traditional dabke dance.
Dina Fares, 26, an English teacher from Damascus, told CNS: “We are so tired. But we are so excited to be here. ... We’re here to say, ‘There are Christians in Syria. We’re still here (in Syria), and we’re not going anywhere.’“
Inside the venue, Patriarch Absi posed for selfies and group photos with the newcomers from his native Damascus.
Elsewhere, Natalie Abou Sada, a 21-year-old graphic designer, was one of 11 young adults from the Palestinian territories.
“I’m very proud to represent my country. From here to Palestine, I want to bring back a message of peace and love. Peace is most important,” she told CNS. “We always pray for a better life.”
12 August 2019
Tags: Lebanon Melkite
In this file photo, Cardinal Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, celebrates a liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Lay people for the first time joined clergy during the first two days of the weeklong Chaldean Catholic synod in northern Iraq. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The Chaldean Catholic Church concluded a weeklong synod in Ainkawa, a Christian enclave in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, in which laity from the church’s various dioceses in the Middle East and the diaspora also participated for the first time.
The synod, held 4-10 August at the invitation of Cardinal Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, brought together church leaders and parishioners from Iraq, the United States, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Canada, Australia and Europe to discuss issues vital for the church’s future in Iraq and worldwide.
Cardinal Sako said it was important to engage the views of the laity and to “support the participation of people in the life of the church” at such a critical moment in the church’s history. “The lay faithful, men and women, are members and partners of our church because of their faith and their common priesthood,” he said.
He said it was essential to “take advantage of their (laity’s) charisma” in the service of the church during what he described as a time of great difficulty in Iraq and Syria for thousands of Iraqi Christians who were forced to abandon their ancestral communities, including in Mosul and the Ninevah Plain.
“It is a good opportunity for us to study the complicated situation of our Chaldean Church in Iraq and diaspora, including the struggle with displacement, killing and destruction as well as current fears and concerns about the future,” Cardinal Sako told attendees.
“In such difficult circumstances, our faith should lead us to plant hope, joy and peace in the hearts of those we serve; respect them and create a friendly relationship with them, otherwise, we won’t grow up, improve and be trusted, but rather lose our credibility. Therefore, we should walk in the path of ‘evangelical conversion’ with all its aspects,” Cardinal Sako said.
Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service by phone that the participation of the laity during two days of the synod was “a good experience.”
“We hope it is a good start for other future involvement. The first steps are new and open the possibility to other perspectives for the future,” he said of the 16 laypersons who attended.
The contingent included four lay women. Among them was Sister Maryam Yalda Shabo, superior of the Chaldean Sisters, Daughters of Mary Immaculate Conception, representing the patriarchal orders in Iraq.
Archbishop Mirkis said discussions centered on “liturgy, prayers, and the translation of the languages used in the diaspora for liturgy.”
Bishops also will be appointed for important towns in the predominately Kurdish areas of northern Iraq that are experiencing growth, in part because of the displacement of Christians.
“We need a bishop for Zakho because the diocese there is growing. We will split the dioceses in the Kurdish region. Amadiya and Duhok will become a diocese, while Zakho will become another,” Archbishop Mirkis explained.
In January, Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa of Mosul, Iraq was the first prelate installed since Christians were expelled from the city by Islamic State forces in 2014.
“He is doing his utmost to help Christians, but we know that the situation is very difficult to encourage people to return because many things, including universities, (schools, hospitals, and various infrastructure) are waiting to return,” Archbishop Mirkis said.
In a final statement, synod participants pledged “continued support to the displaced to help them return, build their homes and provide a source for their livelihoods.”
Other recommendations included: the Chaldean Church taking up its key role as a mediator with other Christians and various segments of Iraq’s mosaic social fabric; establishing a Chaldean Unified Fund to support joint projects and aid emergencies; organizing a Chaldean youth conference in Spring 2020 to address faith, marriage, and vocation; ongoing training to detect abuse; and preparing for a Chaldean Laity Conference in 2022.
Maronite Archbishop Joseph Soueif of Cipro, Cyprus, set the tone for the synod proceedings by leading a retreat during the assembly’s first two days.
As the conference opened, Cardinal Sako remarked on the challenges facing the Chaldean Catholic Church in a letter to Pope Francis.
“We can say that it has always been the ‘Church of the Martyrs.’ Even our Muslim brothers suffer for their life every day, and hope that in the shared pain, paths of hope for a better future can be opened,” he wrote.
He later told synod participants that “we pray also for our church, in particular, for the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq at this turning point in our history, for his presence and encouragement are what we need now.”
9 August 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians Chaldean Church Iraqi
A mother holds her newborn in the maternity ward of the Tiramayr Narek Hospital in Armenia. Read about the life and times of families in the remote corners of northern Armenia in the March 2009 edition of ONE. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
8 August 2019
Houry Kulkutchyan, a refugee from Syria now living in Armenia, makes soap from scratch in her home. Read more about how Syrians are starting over in a place where Hope Takes Root in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
7 August 2019
Tags: Syria Refugees Armenia
Msgr. John Kozar visits a seminary of the Order of Discalced Carmelites at Cotton Hill, Trivandrum, in Kerala. In the current edition of ONE, Msgr. Kozar reflects on vocations — and the many forms they take, among both religious and lay people. Read more in the July 2019 edition of the magazine. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
Tags: India Vocations (religious)