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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
26 October 2012
Mariya Tytarenko

The choir is an important part of the community at the Armenian cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)

While reporting on an Armenian Apostolic congregation rebuilding church and community in Ukraine, ONE contributor Mariya Tytarenko got to know many colorful characters. Below, she profiles one woman from the community.

When I called Laura Arzumanian and asked her to talk about the Armenian community in Lviv and her life, she gladly agreed. We met at her friend Mykola Kocharian’s restaurant Krakivska Brama (The Krakow Gate), located about 30 yards to the right of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Lviv. It was not easy to refuse Mykola’s kind and compelling offer to have a traditional Armenian dinner during our interview, but we agreed to have a cup of coffee instead. Armenians, in general, are a very hospitable people — a careless refusal may even offend.

Sixty-five-year-old Laura was wearing heavy jewelry and glasses attached to a chain set with stones. While she was taking off her scarf, a brooch fell down and she said nonchalantly: “Oh, never mind; it happens all the time.”

Laura and her then-9-year-old son David came to Ukraine in 1995 after a long journey that started in Yerevan, Armenia, and took them through Moscow, Minsk and Moscow again before ending in Lviv. “We left Yerevan, since it was under blockade,” she recalled. “There was no light, no water and, sometimes, no hope, even though we weren’t poor.”

“Mom, Lviv is so beautiful, isn’t it?” Her son had asked when they saw the city for the first time. Before buying their own dwelling, they rented an apartment for eight years — by which time Laura realized that, despite her own desire to move to Prague, her son would never leave the city.

As newcomers, they found their neighbors very helpful. “I was lucky with my neighbors,” she said. “Not only did they help me with the Ukrainian language, but they also introduced me to the Armenian community in Lviv.” Laura learned a great deal of Ukrainian from watching movies — she would write down new words and learn them after her neighbors translated them. As a former director of a school and a historian, learning had always been a major part of her life.

After half a year, Laura was still not acquainted with any Armenians in the city. It was during Easter when her Ukrainian neighbors, who had now become her best friends, gave her the idea to go to the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. She took their advice. There, she finally met the Armenian community. “I didn’t expect there would be so many highly respected people: professors, bankers, and our wonderful bishop, Father Natan Ohanesian!”

After that Laura became an active part of the Armenian community, sent her son to Sunday school, and started her own business. She remembered many vivid and funny stories from that time. For example, when Pope John Paul II visited the church in June 2001, behind her all-white outfit, she had been holding a dirty rag; a few minutes before the Pope’s visit, she saw that part of the floor was dirty, so she quickly wiped it up herself.

Laura tries to live according to an old Armenian proverb: “Do good and throw it into the water”; when the good evaporates, it will fall from the sky on all people.

Laura and her son, who is now a dentist, have obtained Ukrainian citizenship. Ukraine is their new homeland, although they speak Armenian at home and maintain Armenian traditions. “Our Armenian church is our guiding light,” Laura concluded. “With faith and their traditions, Armenians will preserve their identity wherever they are.”

Tags: Ukraine Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Eastern Europe Lviv

26 October 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, right, smiles after a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican, October 26, 2012. Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong is second from left. (photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

This week’s announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will create six new cardinals next month — including two with ties to CNEWA — reminded us of a few other cardinals connected to our work.

Here are five:

  • Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, is a trustee for CNEWA India. Our efforts in southwestern India, the Syro-Malabar Catholic heartland, would be for naught were it not for the close partnership forged with this dynamic prelate.
  • Cardinal Thomas C. Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, is a member of the board of directors for CNEWA Canada and an invaluable partner for our efforts there. He has rallied his parishes to support Iraqi refugees, from providing material assistance to sponsoring families seeking refuge in Canada.
  • Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, serves as chair and treasurer of CNEWA. For decades — as priest, bishop and archbishop — he has championed our work. As chair, he leads us with enthusiasm and emboldens us to do more for the Eastern churches.
  • Cardinal William H. Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore, has been much more than a trustee of CNEWA. His tireless advocacy for unity and mutual understanding, especially between Catholics and Jews, Muslims and Orthodox Christians, has inspired us in our own witness.
  • Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, is our primary collaborator in the Holy See, and we maintain a special relationship with the congregation he leads. He is also a staunch advocate of CNEWA’s activities for, through and with the Eastern churches.

Tags: India CNEWA Pope Benedict XVI Canada

26 October 2012
Annie Grunow

A man tosses seeds in the market of Qaraqosh. (photo: Safin Hamed/Metrography)

In the November 2011 issue of ONE, Namo Abdulla filled us in on the new lives that Iraqi’s persecuted Christians are making in northern Kurdish regions. As reported in the pages of ONE:

Since 2003, Iraqi Christians have found unlikely allies among their Kurdish compatriots. As tens of thousands of Christians flooded Kurdistan in search of refuge, local residents and Kurdish authorities have for the most part warmly welcomed them. A number of Christians also hold important offices in Kurdistan’s government. And among Iraqi leaders from other ethnic and religious communities, only Kurds have ever indicated support for a semiautonomous Christian region.

“Kurds and Christians are on the same side,” says Mr. Hakari. “Relations between Christians and Kurds have improved as much as the distance between the sky and earth.”

To read more about how Christians are adapting to life in Kurdistan, click here.

Tags: Iraqi Christians Christian

26 October 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this May 2009 image, the Al Tawhid mosque is seen from the roof of St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in the Soulimanya neighborhood of Aleppo. (photo: Spencer Osberg)

Bomb explodes during funeral. (Fides) A bomb exploded this morning during the funeral for Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, the Orthodox priest who was kidnapped and found dead yesterday in Damascus. According to local sources of Fides, the explosion killed two civilians and some soldiers.

Update from Aleppo. (Fides) “For a long time the Christians of Aleppo have been living in neighborhoods close to each other. ... These areas are currently under the control of the regular Syrian army, while neighboring areas are occupied by the opposition army. That is why our neighborhoods are daily objects of bombings and shootings by snipers among the rebels.”

CNEWA plans event in Rome. (Vatican Radio) Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is organizing an event in Rome in January 2013 to raise awareness among Italian Catholics about the church’s many different Eastern traditions.

Pass the cheese, please. (The New York Times) Artush Mkrtchyan, 55, an engineer, art critic and activist from the Armenian town of Gyumri has made cheese the medium of contact and cooperation with the neighboring Turkish town of Kars.

In Greece, the poor are not alone. (The New York Times) Life in Greece has been turned on its head since the debt crisis took hold. But in few areas has the change been more striking than in health care.

Tags: Syria Armenia Greece Aleppo

25 October 2012
Annie Grunow

Two generations in western Ukraine work together to harvest one of fall's most beloved crops. (photo: Petro Didula)

As reported by Mariya Tytarenko in the March 2011 issue of ONE, the villages of Ukraine dwindle in population as younger generations move away to find opportunities elsewhere:

In Yakymiv, 25 houses languish, abandoned to the elements by their owners who have either moved away or died. Of the 100 or so occupied houses, about 10 are home to young families. The elderly, mostly widows or widowers, live in the rest.

While the region boasts a nursing home, only two women from the village council reside there.

“If those seniors had relatives, they would not have been sent there,” explains Ms. Batyiovska.

As council president, she oversees the process by which elderly residents enter the nursing home. The individual must consent and the council must provide a written intervention. In general, the elderly in rural Ukraine prefer to stay in their homes, even when they receive little or no family support.

Eighty-one-year-old Natalya Palykh-Tomkiv is one such widow. In 1996, her husband, Yosyp, died. And, in 2006, she lost her daughter. She now lives alone in the family home, ambling about her vegetable garden and shuffling to church as often as she can. Most days, the radio keeps her company, which she listens to full blast all day long. She also stays in touch with her granddaughter, named Natalya after her, who teaches English in Lviv. The two speak to each other regularly, and Mrs. Palykh-Tomkiv always keeps her mobile phone close at hand.

To read more about Ukraine’s villages, check out the article here.

Tags: Ukraine Village life Caring for the Elderly

25 October 2012
Greg Kandra

Children play soccer amid destroyed buildings in the streets of Homs, Syria, 23 October. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)

Envoy announces temporary cease-fire in Syria during Muslim holiday (New York Times) Lakhdar Brahimi, the envoy trying to broker a peace deal in Syria, on Wednesday announced a seemingly unlikely cease-fire between the two sides to mark a major Muslim holiday: Eid al Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice. The United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed his effort...

Kidnapped Greek Orthodox priest found dead near Damascus (Fides) The body of the Greek Orthodox priest Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, pastor of the church of St. Elias in Qatana, was found today in the Jaramana neighborhood, north of Damascus — not far from the place where he was kidnapped on 19 October…

Cardinal-designate on Syria, Lebanon and freedom of conscience (Vatican Radio) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Lebanon is one of six church leaders to be made cardinal in the November consistory. Tracey McClure caught up with the cardinal-elect at the end of Wednesday’s session of the Synod for the New Evangelization. In a wide-ranging interview, the patriarch speaks of the announcement that a papal delegation will be sent to Syria in coming days. The discussion also turns to the tension in Lebanon following last week’s assassination of a high ranking security official in a Beirut bombing that killed 3 people and wounded more than 80 others…

India’s new cardinal comes from a church that “does a lot for evangelization” (Fides) Joy, congratulations and hope are expressed by the Indian cardinals for the appointment of His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, who will be elevated to cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in the consistory to be held on 24 November…

Cossacks, Russian Orthodox leaders demand ban on Halloween celebrations (RIA Novosti) Cossacks and Russian Orthodox Church leaders in South Russia’s Stavropol Territory demanded on Thursday cancellation of Halloween celebrations organized by a local city administration. Authorities of the resort city of Pyatigorsk announced they would organize a “Halloween party” at a city square to give young people an opportunity to learn the history and traditions of the holiday…

Pilgrimage to Rome for the Year of Faith (VIS) Three thousand knights and ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem — a tenth of its total membership — will make a pilgrimage to Rome in 2013 for the Year of Faith. The event, which is due to take place from 13 to 15 September, will coincide with the general assembly of the order and will conclude with a celebration of the Eucharist presided by the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Basilica…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Russia Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Priests Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

24 October 2012
Greg Kandra

Syrian children who fled the violence in Homs, Syria, sit outside a tent in the hillside town of Arsal, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

The refugee crisis in Syria continues to grow. This week, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, Issam Bishara, filed a report that helps explain the impact of this crisis:

As of 30 September 2012, the United Nations has estimated that 300,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, while a further 1.5 million Syrians have fled their homes to find refuge in other towns and districts within Syria.

Accordingly, Christians have taken the same course to save their lives, but none of the Christian displaced families have fled to a refugee camp either in Turkey or in Jordan. Some of them have found temporary havens among families and communities, both within Syria and Lebanon, with whom they have cross-border connections and shared histories. However, as the host families’ ability to host becomes strained and refugees can no longer afford even the most basic rents, they will become more visible as a refugee population in need of immediate aid.

Read the full report here.

Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Refugee Camps

24 October 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

On 7 August 2012, CNEWA President John Kozar, left, met with Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on his visit to our New York office. Today, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the major archbishop will become a cardinal in November. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Surprising a crowd of some 20,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI today announced the creation of six new cardinals, including two with whom CNEWA works closely.

Cardinal-designate Patriarch Bechara Peter guides more than 3.2 million Maronite Catholics, more than half of whom live outside the church’s traditional center in Lebanon. For decades, the patriarch has been a close advisor, friend and partner of CNEWA, forging partnerships and promoting projects and plans to benefit all Lebanese, Christians and non-Christians alike.

Cardinal-designate Baselios Mar Cleemis leads some 430,000 Syro-Malankara Catholics from his see in southwestern India. A tireless advocate for the poor, Mar Cleemis witnesses the love of Christ through acts of compassion, charity and simple piety.

“We do that,” he said during a visit to our offices in August, “through education, through health care, through caring for those with H.I.V. and leprosy. It has to do with human dignity. I am proud and happy of how our people give witness with how they live.”

Both cardinals lead an Eastern Catholic church of the Syriac tradition — neither Greek nor Latin — both of which are rooted in the earliest Jewish-Christian traditions of the church.

Many years!

Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Kerala Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

24 October 2012
Greg Kandra

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, left, walks with Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, at the patriarchal seat of the Maronite Catholic Church in Bkerke, Lebanon, on 13 September. (photo: CNS/courtesy of Maronite Patriarchate)

Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch, Syro-Malankara archbishop among six new cardinals (Catholic News Service) Pope Benedict XVI surprised pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on 24 October by announcing he would create six new cardinals, including 63-year-old U.S. Archbishop James M. Harvey, prefect of the papal household. The pope said the consistory to create the new cardinals, who come from six countries, would take place on 24 November, the feast of Christ the King. It will be the smallest group of cardinals created since the 1977 consistory when Pope Benedict XVI, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, received his red hat from Pope Paul VI along with three other churchmen. The new cardinals also will include: Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, 72; Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68; Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, 70; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55...

Archbishop Shevchuck addresses Synod of Bishops (Vatican Radio) Finding new ways to preach the Gospel, especially in lands that have already received it, and to cultures that have been penetrated and formed by it, is one of the central points of focus for the fathers of the XIII Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This is a special and particular concern for the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Galicia, who, at 42 years of age, is also the youngest of the synod fathers…

Russian Orthodox Church concerned about persecution of Christians in Syria (Voice of Russia) The Russian Orthodox Church is concerned about persecution of Christians in Syria and other Arab countries which suffered a rapid regime change. This statement was made by the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion, speaking Tuesday at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly committee…

Orthodox bishops in America release pastoral letter marking anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation ( On Tuesday, 23 October 2012, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America released a pastoral letter marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Expressing concern for human trafficking and related issues today, the members of the Holy Synod note that, “as the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation draws near, Orthodox Christians in the United States understand that our freedom in Christ compels us to come closer to the world that we are to serve, protect, heal and transfigure. The Church cannot ignore God’s world — God’s creation. She cannot ignore God’s people, especially those deprived of their freedom…”

Planning underway for Egyptian Catholic TV network (Fides) Its name will be “Salam,” which in Arabic means “peace.” It will see the light of day within 2013, but the planning phase has already begun. It will be the first Egyptian Catholic television network…

Tags: Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Egypt's Christians

23 October 2012
Greg Kandra

The image above shows some of the girls of St. Anne’s Orphanage in Trichur, India. St. Anne’s Charitable Institute, founded by Father John Kizhakudem about 85 years ago, is administered today by the Nirmala Dasi Sisters. Read more about their work in The Orphans of Trichur from the May-June 2000 issue of the magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Tags: India Orphans/Orphanages

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