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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
30 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Cardinal John O’Connor prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during a goodwill journey in December 1986 and January 1987. (photo: Chris Sheridan/Catholic New York)

Some fascinating news was revealed today in the pages of Catholic New York, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York:

Cardinal John O’Connor, who as Archbishop of New York cultivated and cherished his strong ties to the Jewish community, was born of a mother who was born Jewish.

It is not known whether he knew that his mother, Dorothy Gumple O’Connor, was born Jewish. She converted to Catholicism before she met and married Thomas O’Connor, the late cardinal’s father. Mary O’Connor Ward, the cardinal’s sister, told CNY in an exclusive interview that her mother never spoke about having belonged to another faith.

The fact that Mrs. O’Connor was Jewish by birth came to light during a genealogical search undertaken by Mrs. Ward at the prompting of one of her daughters, Eileen Ward Christian, who had begun digging into the family’s history. Mrs. Ward said in an interview that when she was growing up she surmised that her mother was a convert, but that the family never discussed the matter.

Asked whether Cardinal O’Connor was aware of his Jewish lineage, she said, “I have no way of knowing that.” But she added, “I just don’t understand, if he knew, why something wouldn’t have come up before. He was so close to the Jewish community.”

Musing about his probable reaction to the news, she said, “I think he would have been very proud of it.” She said that she was very proud when she discovered her Jewish ancestry, and she noted that Cardinal O’Connor often spoke of the Jewish people as “our elder brothers” in faith.

“I don’t think you can be a Catholic and not feel that connection,” Mrs. Ward said.

Cardinal O’Connor apparently felt that connection in ways that, in retrospect, seem prophetic. On May 3, 1987, he watched thousands march down Fifth Avenue protesting the oppression of Soviet Jews. Later he joined the protesters at a rally near the United Nations and told them, “As I stood on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral this morning and watched you stream by, I could only be proud of those who streamed out of Egypt several thousand years ago, winning freedom for themselves and for all of us. They are your ancestors, and they are mine.”

He added, “I am proud to be this day, with you, a Jew.”

In an accompanying essay, Cardinal O’Connor’s sister writes:

My brother revered the Jewish people for their sublime dignity as God’s chosen race. It was the Jewish people who taught mankind what it means to know and trust God, and to be His beloved. He would have considered it the greatest honor to be united with ties of blood to the race that bore our Savior Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother. I see now that my brother’s entire life was shaped by the faith of Jewish people. Whenever he spoke of the Holocaust he did so with tears in his heart. As a priest, during a trip to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, he was pierced to the core. He vowed that he would do whatever he could, until his dying breath, to promote the sacredness of every human life.

He said that the men and women who died at Dachau shaped his adult life. His childhood was shaped by a woman who did not die at Dachau, but could have, had the circumstances of her birth been different. She shaped his heart and warmed his love. She taught him the faith and how to pray to God. He wrote to her before his ordination to the priesthood, “To my Mother, in appreciation of the fact that if her son ever becomes (a) good priest … the credit and the reward will be hers.”

I marvel at God’s mysterious ways.

Read more in the current issue of Catholic New York.

Tags: Catholic Catholic-Jewish relations Christian-Jewish relations Jewish Cardinal John O’Connor

30 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Young Syrian refugees are spotted at a camp in Lebanon. (photo: John E. Kozar)

In the spring edition of ONE, Msgr. John E. Kozar writes about his experience visiting a settlement for refugees in Beirut:

Imagine a child, alone in a foreign land, where everyone is a complete stranger. Imagine that that child has had to flee several times from several areas of conflict or even several countries.

Such is the plight of Armenian children who fled Iraq for refuge in Syria, and now have found a safe haven in Lebanon. How long will this refuge hold out? Where to next? Armenia? When will the horror end? No one knows the answer. And if one looks at history as a guide, the Armenians have had a very sad history, having been routed and chased from their ancient homeland and now in their places of refuge.

We have an expression, “Home is where the heart is.” CNEWA, in partnership with local the churches, reaches out to these innocent children and tries to create some semblance of a safe and secure environment, meeting the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, and going far beyond.

During a recent visit to a large settlement of Armenian Syrian refugees in Beirut, I was very touched to join groups of children tutored by very committed teachers, refugees themselves, as part of a program to keep their minds active in learning and their hearts engaged in an environment of love. And CNEWA, thanks to our benefactors, is there, bringing alive this loving program, which instills both hope and cultural pride.

Read more in the new edition of the magazine, now online.

And to learn how you can help these smallest refugees, instilling “both hope and cultural pride,” visit our Syria giving page.

Tags: Syria Refugees Children

30 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

This March 25 photo shows a hospital at Al Azraq, the new Syrian refugee camp east of Amman, which opened today. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Jordan opens new Syrian refugee camp (The Guardian) The Jordanian government and the U.N. have officially opened a new camp for refugees from the war in Syria, with the potential to become one of the world’s largest refugee camps. Although the first refugees began arriving on Monday — 437 so far — the camp, which currently has shelters for 25,000 and infrastructure for 50,000, has been designed to expand to 130,000 if necessary. The camp is 12 miles west of the town of Azraq in the country’s Zerqa governorate, about 60 miles from the capital Amman. Jordan has 600,000 registered refugees in total. The new camp is designed to take the pressure off Zaatari camp, which itself has a population of 100,000 and has reached capacity…

Syria conflict: Dozens die in explosions in Homs (BBC) At least 37 people have been killed in explosions in the Syrian city of Homs, officials say. The attacks, which involved at least one car bomb, also injured dozens. Earlier, at least 14 people were killed and more than 80 wounded in a mortar attack on a technical institute in central Damascus. The attacks come a day after President Bashar al Assad registered to stand for re-election, defying calls to step down as a way of ending Syria’s civil war…

Ecumenical patriarch restates Orthodox condemnation of nationalism (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “It must be remembered that the Orthodox Church issued a synodical condemnation of nationalism way back in 1872, and has done so in numerous occasions since then. The concept of the nation cannot become a determining factor of church life or an axis of church organization. Whenever an Orthodox church succumbs to nationalist rhetoric and lends support to racial tendencies, it loses sight of the authentic theological principles and gives in to a fallen mindset, totally alien to the core of Orthodoxy,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at a 24 April address in the Netherlands…

On eve of elections, Iraq’s waters become weapons of war (Al Monitor) In Iraq, government and terrorist groups have been using water as a tool in their ongoing conflict. Ironically, Baghdad has been divided in two for several days: One part is suffering from water scarcity, while the other part is flooded. In another development two weeks ago, bomb attacks targeted gas pipelines linked to Tikrit, 100 miles north of Baghdad. This led to heavy contamination of the Tigris River…

India’s first Russian Orthodox church in Delhi (The Times of India) The construction of India’s first Russian Orthodox church will soon begin in the capital, a top Russian diplomat said here. One of the largest of the Orthodox congregations, the Russian Orthodox Church had launched a parish here in 2011 but has so far operated out of the Russian embassy premises. “It will be constructed quite soon, and what is required now are the financial inputs for the project from Moscow,” said Sergey Karmalito, senior counselor at the Russian embassy…

Tags: India Iraq Syrian Civil War Jordan Refugee Camps

29 April 2014
John E. Kozar

I’m delighted to share with you all this video below, offering a look at our spring edition of CNEWA’s award-winning magazine, ONE.

And be sure and check out our special interactive “virtual” version of the magazine online — with all the graphics, photographs and links — right here.

Tags: CNEWA Msgr. John E. Kozar ONE magazine

29 April 2014
Greg Kandra

In this 2010 image, Myven Aihab prepares for winter exams at the Santa Lucia Home in Alexandria. (photo: Holly Pickett)

In the spring edition of ONE, writer Sarah Topol visits an institution in Egypt bringing hope to visually impaired children:

At Santa Lucia, the nurturing environment and commitment to higher learning provides some balance. Named for the fourth-century saint and patron of the blind, St. Lucy — who, according to tradition, was blinded before her martyrdom — the home encourages children to rise above their limitations. They are taught that nothing is beyond their reach, and the children are expected to shine.

“We teach them independence,” says Sister Souad Nohra, the director of the home.

At the home, children who once might have spent their lives in the shadows — helpless or hopeless — are receiving an incalculable gift. Darkness is giving way to light.

Read more about efforts to bring children Out of Darkness in the spring 2014 edition of ONE. To read the story in its full graphical layout, click on the image!

Tags: Egypt Sisters Education Disabilities

29 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

An Iraqi woman living in Jordan casts her ballot at a polling station in a government school in Amman on 27 April. Iraqi Catholic refugees, along with their exiled countrymen, are voting in the first parliamentary polls since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from their nation. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Sectarian strife casts a shadow over Iraqi elections (Al Jazeera) As Iraq heads toward its first national elections since the U.S. military withdrew its forces at the end of 2011, deep-rooted sectarian divisions and bloody violence spilling over from neighboring Syria threaten to upend any fragile gains made over the years since Saddam was routed…

Chaldean patriarch fears for Iraqi Christian presence (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I says he is seriously concerned over the continuing decline of Christian presence in the country: “If measures are not taken soon, in 10 years’ time there will only be a few thousand Christians left in Iraq…”

Syria’s Assyrians threatened by extremists (AINA) The heated situation in the Middle East is burdening Christians in general, and Assyrian Christians in particular — chiefly belonging to the Chaldean Church and the Church of the East — amid growing talk about the danger of yet another wave of displacement. The number of Assyrians in Syria is estimated at 400,000, and they are distributed mainly between Hassake, Qamishli, Malikiyah and Aleppo. Assyrians are less present in Damascus and Sednaya, and 350,000 Assyrians live abroad…

Breathing new life into Lebanon’s ancient art of glassblowing (Christian Science Monitor) Glassblowing, a 2,000-year-old tradition that dates back to the Phoenicians and got its early start in Lebanon, was on the brink of extinction here just six months ago. But thanks to an innovative new recycling project, the country’s last glassblowing family has gotten more work in the past five months than the past five years combined. The craft’s revival is a triumph of cooperation in a country increasingly buffeted by the Syrian war and internal political tensions…

‘A Good Start’: Analyzing Erdogan’s genocide comments (Der Spiegel) Nearly a hundred years after the mass murder of Armenians by Ottoman soldiers, Turkey’s prime minister spoke last week for the first time of the “suffering” of the victims. In an interview, Hayko Bagdat, a 38-year-old Turkish-Armenian journalist, discusses the significance of Erdogan’s statement…

Tags: Iraq Lebanon Iraqi Christians Assyrian Church Democracy

28 April 2014
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

A large crowd is seen as Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 27 April. (photo: CNS/Evandro Inetti)

News networks last weekend were filled with stories about the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. A commonly recurring theme was the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who had come to witness this historic event in St. Peter’s Square. It seemed as if people from all over the world had converged on Rome.

But were they pilgrims or tourists? Anyone who has gone to Rome during the tourist season knows how crowded it can get with souvenir-hunting, camera-toting tourists, even in places like St. Peter’s Basilica.

However, that was not the case last weekend All of the many people interviewed were clear why they had come to Rome: the canonization of two popes. Tourism, if it played any role at all, was clearly secondary to the desire to witness and take part in a ceremony believers found holy. Rome was packed with pilgrims.

In a world of high speed transportation and tourism as a “mega-industry,” pilgrims and pilgrimages may seem quaint and a bit outmoded. Nevertheless, the draw of holy places is strong and ancient, going back thousands of years.

I wrote more about this phenomenon in a web-exclusive essay for the online edition of ONE:

Pilgrimage is deeply rooted in the religious imagination.

The desire to visit places — especially distant ones — that are seen as endowed with transcendence and spiritual power is evidenced in many of the world’s great religions. Since many faiths employ words denoting a journey — “road,” “walking,” “path” — to describe their religious practice, perhaps it is natural for the pilgrimage to provide a metaphor of that greater pilgrimage: the life of the believer. In fact, the notion of pilgrimage is deeply rooted in the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — but in very different ways.

To discover more about the importance of pilgrimage to these three religions, read Pilgrim People in the current online edition of ONE.

Tags: Vatican Pilgrimage/pilgrims Pope Pope John Paul II Saints

28 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Retired Pope Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis before the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 27 April. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope John Paul II Saints

28 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 20 April photo, Catholic Suheir Saliba, left, prays beside her Greek Orthodox sister-in-law, Maha Kamal, during the Easter Divine Liturgy in the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Jifna, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Christian Palestinians reject calls to join Israeli army (Pravmir) Representatives of Orthodox national institutions in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories have rejected the recruitment of Christians in the Israeli army yesterday. At a meeting in Jerusalem the foundations emphasized that the churches, Christian institutions and members of Christian denominations strongly reject service in the Israeli army on the basis of ethical, humanitarian and national considerations…

Christians who fled Syria marking Easter in Chicago area (Chicago Tribune) Easter is bittersweet for refugees. They fear for their loved ones overseas. They worry their mass exodus will diffuse their culture and identity. And they note the paradox in fleeing Syria, a cradle of ancient Christendom, in order to worship freely…

Mayor in eastern Ukraine shot as pro-Russian militants gain ground (Washington Post) The mayor of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, was shot in the back Monday while taking a morning swim and is now in surgery “fighting for his life,” according reports from city council members and Ukrainian media. Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes is known through social media as a flamboyant character who was a staunch supporter and beneficiary of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych…

Vow of freedom of religion goes unkept in Egypt (New York Times) The architects of the military takeover in Egypt promised a new era of tolerance and pluralism when they deposed President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer. Nine months later, though, Egypt’s freethinkers and religious minorities are still waiting for the new leadership to deliver on that promise. Having suppressed Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters, the new military-backed government has fallen back into patterns of sectarianism that have prevailed here for decades. Prosecutors continue to jail Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists on charges of contempt of religion…

Egyptian court sentences 683 people to death (Al Jazeera) An Egyptian judge has sentenced 683 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death, including the group’s supreme guide, Muhammad Badie, and confirmed the death sentences of 37 of 529 alleged supporters previously condemned. Outside the courtroom on Monday, when news of the sentences broke, families of the accused began to scream and several women fainted, falling to the ground. Muhammad Elmessiry, an Amnesty International researcher monitoring the cases, said they “lacked basic fair trial guarantees…”

Ankara sends condolences to Armenians for massacres (AsiaNews) For the first time, the Turkish government has presented its “condolences” to the descendants of the Armenians for the “suffering” of the “difficult period” of the last years of the Ottoman Empire. The message — despite its significance — never uses the term “genocide,” which Turkey absolutely denies…

Tags: Egypt Ukraine Middle East Christians Turkey Palestinians

25 April 2014
Greg Kandra

Nuns from Brazil take photos in front of a large banner of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on 25 April. Pilgrims have begun streaming into Rome for the 27 April canonization of Blesseds John and John Paul at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Tags: Pope John Paul II Saints

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