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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
30 January 2015
Greg Kandra

Catholic and Orthodox priests join other ministers for an inaugural ceremony for a church made entirely from ice at Balea Lac resort in the Fagaras mountains of Romania on 29 January.
(photo: CNS/Radu Sigheti, Reuters)

30 January 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis poses with members of the Oriental Orthodox dialogue commission.
(photo: L’Osseervatore Romano/Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis meets with Oriental Orthodox (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday received the participants in a meeting — this week — of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Oriental Orthodox Churches those Orthodox Eastern Christian churches which recognize only the first three ecumenical councils, and rejected the formulae of the Council of Chalcedon, at which certain central Christological doctrines were dogmatically defined, most especially the dual nature — fully divine and fully human, perfectly united though without mixing, blending or alteration — of Christ...

Dozens killed in wave of bombings in Iraq (Daily Mail) The Islamic State jihadist group killed a senior Kurdish commander and five fighters major attack in Iraq’s Kirkuk province today, while bombings elsewhere left a further 27 dead. The assault on areas south and west of the northern city of Kirkuk began at around midnight, sparking fighting with medium and heavy weapons that was still ongoing this morning. Brigadier General Shirko Rauf and five other members of the Kurdish peshmerga forces were killed in clashes and 46 more were wounded, a police officer and a doctor said...

Ukraine battle raging (BBC) Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels are exchanging heavy tank and artillery fire in and around Debaltseve, a strategic town in eastern Ukraine. There are reports — not independently confirmed — that the rebels have seized the nearby town of Vuhlehirsk. Many civilians remain trapped in Debaltseve, while others — including people with shrapnel wounds — have managed to reach the town of Artemivsk. Russian media say shellfire has killed seven people in the city of Donetsk...

India investigating reports of mass “reconversion” of Christians (The Guardian) Reports of a new mass conversion of Christians in India have raised concerns over freedom of worship, days after Barack Obama challenged the country’s record on religious tolerance. Details of the incident are unclear but it was reported that between 50 and 100 Christians from some of the poorest communities in India were “welcomed back” to Hinduism in a “homecoming ceremony” in a remote area in the eastern state of West Bengal on Wednesday...

Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic studies marks 50th anniversary (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, known by its Latin or Italian acronym PISAI, is marking 50 years of its presence in Rome. Originally started in Tunisia by the Society of Missionaries of Africa (M.Afr), or the White Fathers after their white habit, the training centre prepared missionaries with a background of Arabic and Muslim culture. Today, PISAI is a study and research centre whose teaching and scientific activities provide the necessary preparation for an informed theological dialogue with Muslims...

Why Kerala drinks most among Indian states (Business Insider) India is surely living up in since the last couple of years. Increased alcohol consumption is the biggest indicator of this. No prizes for guessing the heaviest of drinkers. Among Indian states, the trend of bottom’s up is the highest in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Overall statistics is a bit alarming too. According to a survey that was compiled and presented recently, Indian population was studied between 2008 and 2012. The World Health Organization warned showing a startling 11% of the people starting from 15 years of age were among moderate to heavy drinkers...

Tags: India Iraq Ukraine Kerala Orthodox

29 January 2015
Greg Kandra

Zabbaleen workers bundle cardboard waste for resale in Egypt. To read more about how the Zabbaleen, or “garbage people” are making a living in Cairo, read “Salvaging Dignity” from the September 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Dana Smillie)

29 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs meet in Bkerke, Lebanon, on 27 January, to address the crises in the Middle East. Pictured from left to right are Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III; Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch; Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Peter; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Catholic patriarchate)

Christian leaders meet in Lebanon, call for end to financing terrorists (CNS) Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs called for an end to financing terrorists and suggested that borders be closed when necessary to prevent their movement. The leaders also appealed for the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, based on a long-standing proposal for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and pleaded for the return of Palestinian refugees to their native lands. Their calls came in a statement released after a meeting on 27 January in Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Church north of Beirut, to address the situation of Christians in the Middle East, especially those displaced from Iraq and Syria. A representative of the Protestant churches of Syria and Lebanon as well as international aid officials also attended…

Oriental Orthodox and Catholics work to conclude joint document (Vatican Radio) Representatives of all the Oriental Orthodox churches are in Rome this week for a meeting of their International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue with the Catholic Church. During the five-day encounter, which began on Monday, participants hope to finalize a joint document on communion and communication in the first five centuries of Christianity…

Islamic State bombed historic walls of Nineveh in Iraq (AINA) Jihadists resumed bombings against historic sites in Nineveh and destroyed remains of the ancient wall of Mosul, specialized sources reported today. A historian living in Mosul, the second largest in Iraq, told the publication Shafaq News that militants of the Islamic State destroyed on Tuesday night much of the historic city wall located on Tahrir neighborhood on the left coast of Mosul…

Double suicide attack kills 6, wounds 28 in Baghdad (Al Akhbar) A double suicide attack on a base housing militia groups fighting alongside the government north of Baghdad killed at least six people on Thursday, medical sources said. “The car rammed an army checkpoint protecting access to the base” in Mishahada, a Baghdad hospital official said. The first blast killed at least three people, including a civilian…

Yazidis ask Israel for help (Al Monitor) Desperate Yazidis are reaching out to Israel, asking for understanding and assistance, especially in the military domain for their fight against the Islamic State…

Hezbollah-Israel: No war for now (Al Jazeera) Neither Hezbollah nor Israel are interested in engaging in a full scale war, analysts say. Hezbollah’s attack on Wednesday, the strongest since 2006, was meant to restore the balance of deterrence between the two sides, following Israel’s game-changing move last week when it targeted and killed six Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian commander in Quneitra in Syria’s Golan Heights…

Living among the dead in Gaza (Al Monitor) “We smell the stench of death everywhere and all we see is the burial of the dead. We no longer know the meaning of leisure, as we have abandoned the hope of living.” This is how Abu Raed al Qahwaji described the life of his family, which now lives in a cemetery in central Gaza. Qahwaji, 39, who lives with his wife and four children, said, “We used to live in a small flat in an apartment building in the Shajaia neighborhood in central Gaza City. … However, the building was destroyed in the war and we were left with no other choice but this small hut I set up in the cemetery.” He explained that he could not find any other shelter given his dire situation, poverty and unemployment, while the demand on apartments was increasing following the war that destroyed tens of thousands of houses and apartment buildings…

Jordan demands proof captured pilot is alive as deadline passes (Washington Post) Jordan demanded proof Thursday from the Islamic State that a captured Jordanian pilot is still alive, as a deadline set by the militant group for the kingdom to release a convicted terrorist passed without word on the fate of both sides’ prisoners or any sign of an imminent exchange…

Tags: Iraq Gaza Strip/West Bank Israel Jordan Ecumenism

28 January 2015
Greg Kandra

A nun at the hospital run by the Sisters of the Cross in Deir el Kamar, Lebanon, interacts with a child on 23 January. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, spent some time recently in Lebanon and Jordan and spoke with CNS about what he saw:

Economically strapped Lebanon is now hosting more than 1.5 million refugees — mostly Syrians — putting a strain on the country’s infrastructure and resources for its existing population of around 4 million people.

“So much of our energy is a crisis intervention status, keeping people from starving, from freezing to death with these cold spells, keeping people from getting very sick and even dying from simple maladies and physical problems that can develop into something serious,” said Msgr. John Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

“But because of the uncertainty of the (refugee) crises, we have to look at what will be the next level of assistance .... There’s housing issues, educational issues, longer-term health issues, post-traumatic issues,” he said, adding that counseling is needed for children that have been through “horrible” circumstances.

Msgr. Kozar — joined by Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, and Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec, co-treasurer of the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops — spoke with Catholic News Service at CNEWA's Beirut office about their 19-23 January visit to Lebanon. Before arriving in Lebanon, they visited Jordan; in both countries, they are helping Syrian and Iraqi refugees and the communities that support them.

...The delegation’s itinerary in Lebanon included visiting a school run by the Good Shepherd Sisters for refugee children in Deir al-Ahmar in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border, and meeting refugees in a nearby tent settlement camp. There they experienced firsthand the sisters” witness of God’s love to the mostly Muslim refugee population.

“They just have this radiance of love that’s infectious,” Msgr. Kozar said of the sisters.

Bishop Gendron credited the sisters for the welcoming way the refugees accepted the delegation and invited them into their tents.

“They realized that they are being loved,” he said of the refugees. “And so it opens up all doors.”

Read more.

And to support our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East, please visit this link.

28 January 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro

A Palestinian boy looks down at tents erected next to homes destroyed during last year's 50-day war between Israel and Hamas-led militants in a neighborhood east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 28 January. (photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

People dying in Gaza, unable to pay for home repairs (Vatican Radio) The United Nations says that Palestinian refugees in Gaza are being forced to sleep in the rubble of their homes, which were destroyed during a 50-day conflict last year, and children are dying of hypothermia…

Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah trade fire across border (Washington Post) Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia exchanged deadly barrages Wednesday across a fractious border region monitored by U.N. peacekeepers in fighting that killed at least two Israeli soldiers and one U.N. observer…

Patriarchs of Antioch: To stop the conflict, stop arms trafficking (Fides) The wars that devastate the Middle East will end only when the flow of arms and money to armed factions and terrorist groups by allies and sponsors stops, say the leaders of Eastern churches during a 27 January meeting in Bkerké…

Turkey becomes springboard for Syrians heading to Europe (Der Spiegel) Turkey has become a hub for human traffickers, with freighters picking up Syrians in the port city and smuggling them on to Europe. It’s a lucrative business built on the hardships of others. This network consists of both Syrians and Turks, and person has different responsibilities, serving as only a tiny link at the end of a long chain…

Egypt: Protests marking uprising leave 18 dead (BBC) At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters across Egypt, officials said. Three police cadets were among the dead, and dozens of protesters were also injured, the officials said. The clashes follow the death of an activist in a march in the capital Cairo on Saturday…

Tags: Egypt Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East Israel

26 January 2015
CNEWA staff

An Iraqi refugee family poses for a portrait in their camp in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: Don Duncan)

Jordan and Lebanon have become a temporary refuge for millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees seeking shelter after being forced to flee their homelands. But despite the time that has passed, things are not improving, says Carl Hétu, Canada National Director of Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

After a sobering two weeks in the Middle East, including time spent in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine (Gaza), it is clear to Hétu that the status quo is no longer viable. “There needs to be a new approach to help the millions of innocent lives caught in the middle,” he says. “We need to show more courage and resolve, diplomatically, and more generosity in our efforts.”

The Canadian government recently announced an increase in the number of Syrian refugees it will accept — 10,000 to be exact — and its level of humanitarian assistance for persons affected by the conflict in the region.

“The government has a responsibility to respond in such a way on behalf of Canadians,” adds Hétu. “Of course, 10,000 pales in comparison to the three million or so refugees who have spread throughout the region. Neighboring countries are doing more than their share. For example, Lebanon, a country of 4.4 million has received some 1.8 million refugees and Jordan, a country of 6.4 million people, has received more than one million refugees from Syria and Iraq.”

Hétu is back in Canada to shine light on the struggle those affected are forced to contend with on a daily basis. “One thing is clear,” he says. “Everything has changed for the worse. There’s more human suffering, more despair, more refugees, more killings, more social problems, more economic depression. But despite everything, people still have a sense of hope.”

“In Syria, the ongoing war is starving millions who are fleeing to find a better place. For those who have already fled, the unbearable present and unknown future is almost too much to bear.”

For Iraqi Christians and Yazidis who were pushed out of their ancestral villages under threat of death by radical group ISIS, they escaped with only the shirt on their backs. “They’re happy for the aid they have received so far, but how long can people live in crowded church halls divided only by curtains?”

But despite the devastation, the region is filled with stories of solidarity and hope for the future. In Gaza, for example, a Catholic school and parish took in hundreds of displaced people during the Israel-Gaza conflict — which helped to forge new relationships between the Christians and Muslims of Gaza.

As refugees and displaced wait for diplomatic solutions, their needs for basic supplies remain great. CNEWA appeals to Canadians to continue its generous support so that it can provide churches, religious communities and other groups in and around the region — on the field — in their direct assistance to those afflicted by the conflicts in the region. Canadian visitors can donate to CNEWA by visiting; U.S. visitors can visit

Tags: Middle East Christians

26 January 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis greets members of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Vatican. (photo: ANSA/Vatican Radio via Facebook)

Pope closes Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Christians are called to follow the example of Jesus in encountering, listening and working together with others to spread the message of the Gospel in the modern world. That was Pope Francis’ message to members of all the different Christian Churches gathered in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on Sunday evening to mark the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity...

Pope Francis issues an appeal for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued a heartfelt appeal on Sunday for Ukraine saying, “I am following with deep concern the escalation of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which continues to cause many casualties among the civilian population...

Russian Orthodox head criticizes French magazine’s mockery of Christians (Reuters) The head of Russia’s influential Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said on Sunday cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were “childish” compared to offences it had dished out to Christians. Charlie Hebdo has regularly offended Muslims, Christians and others with its irreverent cartoons. Gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris office of the weekly this month saying they were avenging the Prophet Mohammad, whom the magazine had depicted in cartoons in defiance of a ban in Islam on representing its founder. Kirill, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in a sermon that he opposed both terrorism and giving offence to religious feelings...

Pope: Listening is essential to interreligious dialogue (Vatican Radio) “If it is assumed that we all belong to human nature, prejudices and falsehoods can be overcome and an understanding of the other according to a new perspective can begin.” These were the words said by Pope Francis to the members of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies today. The audience coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Institute’s opening...

Gaza says it will end five-year boycott of Israeli products (Times of Israel). Gaza’s Ministry of Economy announced Monday it will end its 5-year boycott of Israeli products, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported. Many factories and processing facilities, which normally provide Gaza residents with food and other goods, were destroyed in this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, and rebuilding has been slow. Additionally, Israel and Egypt have destroyed many of the tunnels that Hamas uses to illegally import goods into the Gaza Strip, and Egypt has set up a buffer zone to further limit Hamas’s smuggling efforts....

Monks scramble to preserve Iraq’s Christian history (NPR) In an unfinished building in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, displaced Christian children sing a little song about returning to their village. “We’re going back,” they sing, “to our houses, our land, our church.” Right now, they’re living in an open concrete structure. The self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS, took over their home village of Qaraqosh, and the Christians fled in fear, on foot...

Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox

22 January 2015
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Father Paul Wattson, who co-founded the Friars of the Atonement and CNEWA, also launched the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (photo: CNS/courtesy Society of the Atonement, Graymoor)

Once again the time has come for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 January). Started in 1908 as the Octave for Church Unity by Rev. Paul Wattson, an Anglican priest, the Week of Prayer has spread throughout the world.

It’s just one part of Father Paul’s remarkable legacy. He founded an order of Franciscans — the Friars of the Atonement, to which I belong — with the express intent of working for reconciliation and Christian unity. In 1909, the community was accepted into the Roman Catholic Church.

With that, his efforts to work for Christian unity moved to a broader context. The Octave was approved and encouraged for the entire Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XV in 1916. Today, it is observed by Christians of many churches around the world.

Central to Father Paul’s desire for Christian unity was his reading of a verse from chapter 17 of the Gospel of John: “That they all may be one...” From my youth I was aware of the quote from John 17:21 and the role it played in the founding of the Friars of the Atonement. It is a quote that evoked two questions in me. “Who are the ‘all’?” and “be one what?” The “all” is clearly that — everyone who is the Other, the Outsider. And Jesus himself explains the What as he continues the prayer. “One” is that great mystery of love and community; one is the Trinitarian life of the Godhead.

The Other can be not only different but unsettling, frightening, and even threatening. The Other — whether it be Orthodox or Protestant Christians, Jews, Muslims or members of other world religions — can be something we are more comfortable avoiding than engaging. Long before Vatican II challenged the Catholic Church to engage the Other in dialogue, Father Paul Wattson was seeking out other Christians — Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican — to engage them in the mystery of becoming ”one.”

After the Second Vatican Council, 20 years after the death of Father Paul, his initial vision was expanded to include engagement with members of every faith. To be sure, the goals and methods of engaging other Christians are different from those of engaging Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. But true to the vision of Father Paul, no one was to be excluded, ignored or left out. From the very concrete and Christian event of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the inclusiveness of the “all” was taken very seriously.

As the External Affairs Officer at Catholic Near East Welfare Association — which Father Paul also co-founded — I work with Christians of every variety in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Southern India. The schools, hospitals and clinics we support welcome Muslims and members of other religions. Tragically, the Near East has become a dangerous part of the world — not only for Christians, but for all people who oppose violence in the name of religion and the oppression of the Other.

The vision of Father Paul as the founder of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and co-founder of CNEWA finds its expression in his desire to bring things together as one. And his legacy may now get even wider recognition. Recently, the Vatican gave approval to begin the process for the beatification and canonization of Father Paul.

In one of those coincidences that life often provides us, the masthead of CNEWA’s magazine, named ONE, answers the question of my youth “one what?” and intersects with a wider view of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:

One GodWorldHuman FamilyChurch

To read more about Father Paul and his CNEWA connection, check out this profile from The Catholic Register.

22 January 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2006, two students at the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia take a break between classes. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Several years ago, we paid a visit to a remarkable school giving remarkable opportunities to children with special needs:

Three days after she was born, Meseret was struck blind. She spent much of her early childhood locked in her room; her parents did not know what to do with her. But a few years ago, Meseret’s family found out about the Shashemene School for the Blind, run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and decided that Meseret would be happier there than at home.

The school lies within a large, gated compound — a sanctuary in Shashemene, a bustling Ethiopian town of 50,000. It was here that Meseret, now 12, learned Braille. And it was here that she first came to understand that her life, like those of the other 120 blind students enrolled in the school, could be meaningful.

Read more about “Special Attention for Special Needs” in the November 2006 edition of ONE.

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