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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
28 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

In this image from 2006, Msgr. Robert L. Stern meets in his office with Bishop Abune Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.I., of Asmara in Eritrea. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Where do I begin? “Think small,” Deacon Greg, our multimedia editor, suggested. “Don’t overthink this.”

I laughed. The subject of this 90/90 is not a wall flower, nor is he just an average Joe. He’s a man who hired me, formed me professionally, transformed a sleepy organization into a thoughtful instrument of the church, and buried my father. He’s a man who can’t think small, and no doubt thinks through everything. Most importantly, he’s a good and kind priest who understands that to understand the other, one must place him or herself in that person’s shoes — and listen.

Reared in the Bronx, son of an Irish Catholic mother and a Jewish father, Bob Stern wanted to be a physicist, and he enrolled in Amherst College to do just that. But, he could not ignore a gnawing call to serve the Lord and his church as a priest. Eventually, he entered St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y., studied canon law in Rome and assisted as a young priest during Vatican II. It was there, as the fathers of the council sought to take on the challenges of the world by engaging in dialogue with it, that the young priest internalized this renewal of the church known as aggiornamento, and made it his own.

It is a process he has instituted in all of his services to the church, from his 25-plus years in parish and community renewal in the African-American and Hispanic apostolates to his 26 years in leadership of CNEWA. For Msgr. Stern, this call for aggiornamento is a process not just for the sake of process, but one to help the church open the way to the Lord.

“We take for granted freedom of religion and respect for conscience,” he wrote in CNEWA’s magazine in September 1990, soon after visiting the U.S.S.R. “Pluralism is our way of life.” He continued: “We speak...of the servant church that is a sacrament or sign of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human family.

“When we ask the Catholic churches of the Soviet Union what help they need, we may be thinking of the buildings, equipment and tools we’re used to; they may be more concerned for vestments, prayer books and rosaries. Our pastoral goal may be how best to support all believers, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant; theirs may be the repossession of their confiscated churches and the defense of their rights.

“The challenge of their future is aggiornamento, to be caught up in the great renewal of the church launched by the Vatican Council,” he concluded.

“Their challenge is to transform their heroic faith of resistance into the faith that plunges into the open, unknown future with the same confidence in the Lord who promises, ‘I am with you always, until the end of the age.’ ”

Thank you Msgr. Stern for your service to the church and the world, especially in waking us up to see all that unites rather than what divides us.

28 February 2017
Greg Kandra

A displaced Iraqi girl holds a lamb in a safe area in Mosul on 28 February. Iraqi troops were engaged in difficult fighting with ISIS forces in northern Iraq in an effort to reclaim land held by the militant group. (photo: CNS/Alaa Al-Marjani, Reuters)

28 February 2017
Greg Kandra

Several Melkite bishops boycotted the bishops’ synod last June, demanding the resignation of Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, pictured at the Vatican in 2015. The Melkite synod will resume later this year. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Reconciliation marks Melkite synod (CNS) The Melkite Catholic Church resumed its Synod of Bishops after nearly an eight-month interruption. The bishops thanked “the divine redeemer for the spirit of reconciliation and renewed commitment to walk together in partnership to restore peace in the church” in a statement released at the conclusion of the three-day meeting on 23 February at the patriarchate in Rebweh, Lebanon...

Iraq army seizes key Mosul bridge (CNN) The Iraqi army says it has recaptured a bridge across the Tigris River in west Mosul, where fierce battles are ongoing to oust ISIS from its last bastion in Iraq...

Pope: Catholics and Anglicans are brothers and sisters in Christ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday visited the Anglican Parish of All Saints in Rome. Speaking at the Church the Pope said, “today, with gratitude to God, we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism. As friends and pilgrims we wish to walk the path together, to follow our Lord Jesus Christ together...”

India’s home minister honors Catholic priest (Vatican Radio) India’s home minister has honoured a Catholic priest on the occasion of Arunachal Pradesh’s 31st statehood day. Salesian Father Cyriac Pulinthanathumalayil of Dimapur province received a state award Gold Medal for Excellence in Youth work from home minister Minister Rajanath Signh at a function on 20 February in the state capital of Itanagar...

Living history in Ethiopia (Huffington Post) The chanting of the two boys sitting under the tree reminded me of my Bar Mitzvah class over 60 years ago. The language was different — Amharic, not Hebrew — as was the religion — Ethiopian Orthodox, not Jewish — and the boys bore little resemblance to the pudgy, pasty pre-adolescent friends of my youth, but the sounds were eerily similar...

How the Oscars put Syria in the spotlight (The Washington Post) Sitting 7,000 miles from the fuss and frills of Sunday’s Academy Awards, it was Raed Saleh, dressed in a simple T-shirt, who delivered one of the most powerful messages of the night. In a short acceptance speech — posted online after a documentary about his Syrian White Helmets rescue force won an Oscar — the former electrical equipment salesman appealed to governments around the world “to stop the bloodshed of the Syrian people...”

27 February 2017
Greg Kandra

Debora Stonitsch organized CNEWA’s trip to the L.A. Religious Education Congress, which was held in Anaheim from 24 to 26 February. (photo: Greg Kandra)

As I write, our CNEWA team is headed home from Anaheim, after three whirlwind days at the legendary Los Angeles Religious Education Congress — the largest annual gathering of Catholics in the United States. An estimated 40,000 people attend this extravaganza every year.

The LA Religious Ed Congress takes place inside the Anaheim Convention Center in California (photo: Greg Kandra)

For the first time, CNEWA was invited to appear as an exhibitor, hosting a booth — along with some 250 other organizations — in the massive exhibit hall in the Anaheim Convention Center. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

CNEWA’s multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra had a chance to say hello to an old friend, Father Brian Escobedo, who hosted CNEWA for a parish visit last fall. (photo: Greg Kandra)

Debora Stonitsch of CNEWA’s development office answered questions and introduced attendees to the work CNEWA is doing around the world. (photo: Greg Kandra)

Many of those we met hadn’t heard of CNEWA — and a few were a little confused about the Catholic Eastern churches. We were happy to answer questions, pass out copies of our magazine and offer information about our work and those we serve — as our display proclaimed, “Accompanying the Eastern Catholic Churches.”

The Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., shared his expertise on Islam and the Arab world. (photo: Greg Kandra)

There was great interest in our work among persecuted minorities in Iraq — and a lot of people who stopped by our booth took home small pins depicting “ن” (the Arabic letter “N”), recalling the way ISIS branded the homes of Christians for persecution.

These pins attracted a lot of attention to our visit, and many people took home several for friends. (photo: Greg Kandra)

It was a rewarding weekend in so many ways, and I know Father Elias, Debora Stonitsch and I all look forward to making a return visit next year.

If you couldn’t make it to Anaheim, we’d be happy to visit your corner of the country to share our story at your parish or diocesan event. Just drop a line to our development director Norma Intriago:

Tags: CNEWA Education United States

27 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

(photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

A Coptic Orthodox priest comforts a Christian woman who has taken refuge at the Evangelical church in the Suez city of Ismailiya on 25 February. Hundreds of Coptic Christians have fled Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed Christians in the restive province, church officials said.

To learn more about Egypt’s Christians and Muslims finding common ground, visit the current edition of CNEWA’s ONE magazine.

27 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

An Egyptian woman comforts an elderly Coptic Christian lady who weeps upon arriving to take refuge at the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya on 25 February 2017. Dozens of Coptic Christians have left Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed three Christians in the restive province, church officials said. (photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt’s Coptic Christians flee Sinai after killings (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority have fled the Sinai Peninsula to Ismailia, about 70 miles northeast of the capital Cairo, following a series of killings by a local armed group...

Salafists condemn the 7 targeted killings of Copts in North Sinai (Agenzia Fides) The spokesman of Al Nur, the ultra-conservative Salafi Party, have publicly expressed its condemnation of targeted killings against Coptic Christians that took place in northern Sinai, stressing that they “go against the teachings of Islam”...

‘It is not without a tear ... that I leave Jerusalem’ ( Bishop William Shomali addresses the Jordanian faithful and calls to mind the main challenges that lie ahead...

Armenian Catholicos convenes a summit to solve dilemma in Constantinople (Agenzia Fides) Patriarch Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, convened at the Patriarchal See of Echmiadzin, in Yerevan, some of the protagonists of the dispute in place with regards to the next election of the Armenian Apostolic patriarch of Constantinople, in an attempt to resolve the situation...

24 February 2017
Greg Kandra

(photo: CNEWA)

CNEWA is participating in the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California — billed as the largest gathering of Catholics in North America.

Join our external affairs officer, Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., development associate Debora Stonitsch, and me today through Sunday at booth #780.

Stop by and say hello!

24 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita

Christian pilgrims visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan, which marks the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus. (photo: CNEWA)

Tourism of the Hashemite Kingdom focuses on ‘Christian places’ (Fides) - Biblical religious tourism and especially national “Christian heritage” are increasingly at the center of the Jordanian government strategies to encourage the flow of foreign visitors to the Hashemite Kingdom...

Another Coptic Christian found dead in northern Sinai (Fides) A 40-year-old Coptic Christian was found dead with a gunshot to the neck, in the Egyptian town of Al Arish, capital of Northern Sinai, on Thursday, 23 February...

Pope Francis to rabbis: Torah manifests God’s paternal love (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received his long-time friend from his native Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on Thursday, along with a delegation of Jewish leaders involved in the preparation of a new edition of the Torah. The annotated, illustrated edition is already being hailed as an achievement in both the literary and visual arts...

Vatican, Al Azhar ask world to help stop religious extremism, terrorism (CNS) The Vatican and Al Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s leading institution of higher learning, called for the world’s governments, organizations and leaders to cooperate with each other in countering extremist and violent groups, noting that such groups “have negatively impacted stability and peaceful coexistence among peoples...”

Iraqi Christians erect large cross in area liberated from ISIS (CNA/EWTN News) After years of darkness, hope has returned to Telekuf-Tesqopa. Located just 17 miles from Mosul, the village is rebuilding after being liberated from ISIS. As a visible sign of the rebuilding, a giant cross was erected on a hill, marking the victory of the Christian faith against the darkness of the jihadists...

Christians and Muslims on a peace march in Iraq (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has launched a ‘Peace March’ on Palm Sunday “open to Christians and Muslims,” which “will set off from Erbil and end in Alqosh” in the Nineveh Plain. People will be “on foot for one day” calling for an end to violence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East...

23 February 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2015, people pray March 15 during the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. CNEWA will be participating in the congress this weekend, for the first time.
(photo: CNS/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

This weekend, CNEWA heads west: for the first time. We’ll be hosting a booth at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California — billed as the largest gathering of Roman Catholics in the United States.

While most of the attendees are from California and the western U.S., the annual event attracts an estimated 40,000 people from as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia. The congress features speakers, liturgies, workshops and over 200 exhibitors — including this year, CNEWA.

Among other things, it’s a great opportunity to just get out and meet folks — and help introduce people to CNEWA and our work around the world.

We will be at the congress from Friday through Sunday, at booth #780. I’ll be there, along with our development associate Debora Stonitsch and our external affairs officer, Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Stop by and say hello!

23 February 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

A priest prepares a censer with the help of young parishioners. Learn more about efforts to form the future leaders of Ethiopia’s sacramental Christian communities in Ethiopia’s Sleeping Giant, featured in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: James Jeffrey)

Tags: Ethiopia Children

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