20 October 2014
Pope Francis leads a consistory at the Vatican on 20 October. Among other things, the meeting of cardinals discussed terrorism in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool)
Pope Francis turned his attention today to the worsening crisis among Christians in the Middle East.
The Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria, are experiencing “terrorism of previously unimaginable proportions” in which the perpetrators seem to have absolutely no regard for the value of human life, Pope Francis said.
“It seems that the awareness of the value of human life has been lost; it seems that the person does not count and can be sacrificed to other interests. And all of this, unfortunately, with the indifference of many,” he said during a special meeting at the Vatican on the Middle East.
The pope met on 20 October with cardinals gathered for an ordinary public consistory to approve the canonization of new saints, and to discuss the current situation in the Middle East.
The pope announced during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family that he would include a discussion on the Middle East at the 20 October consistory in order to let the region’s seven patriarchs, who were taking part in the synod, also attend the proceedings. It was the second such high-level summit the pope convened at the Vatican; the first was a meeting on 2-4 October of the region’s apostolic nuncios and top Vatican officials.
Pope Francis told those gathered that in the wake of the closing of the extraordinary synod that he wanted to focus attention on “another issue that is very close to my heart, that is, the Middle East, and in particular, the situation of Christians in the region.”
“Recent events, especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrisome,” he said.
“We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable proportions. Many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted and have had to leave their homes, in a brutal manner, too.”
“This unjust situation demands, beyond our constant prayers, an adequate response from the part of the international community as well,” he said.
The church is united in its “desire for peace and stability in the Middle East and the desire to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue, reconciliation and political efforts,” he said.
However, “at the same time, we want to offer the Christian communities the most help possible to support their presence in the region,” he said.
As hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee because of increased violence, “We cannot resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians, who for 2,000 years have been professing the name of Jesus.”
The pope said he was certain the day’s meeting would produce “valuable reflections and suggestions to be able to help our brothers and sisters who suffer and also to respond to the tragedy of the decreasing Christian presence in the land where Christianity was born.”
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, was among the seven patriarchs representing the Latin-rite and Eastern Catholic churches at the meeting.
The cardinal said the pope’s concern and calls for coordinated action represent “real moral support, but also real diplomatic support because the Holy See also has its role, its important influence on an international level,” he told Vatican Radio 19 October.
Just as the Vatican has endorsed sanctioned force according to international law in order to stop unjust aggression, Cardinal Rai said, something must be done to stop the violence.
“It is not possible that in the 21st century we have reverted to primitive law, where an organization shows up, uproots you from your home and your land, and says, ‘You are out of here,’ and the international community watches — inert and neutral. It is not possible.”
He said what is really painful is knowing that there are “many countries in the East and West that support these fundamentalist organizations and terrorists for their own interests — political and economic — and support these terrorist organizations with money, with arms and politically.”
When the church says the international community has a responsibility to act and do something to stop the violence, he said they are not pointing to some nameless entity, but rather specifically to “the United Nations, the (U.N.) Security Council and the International Criminal Court” to take on their responsibilities.
“They must act, otherwise where do we go? The United Nations loses its reason to exist. This assembly of nations was created to protect peace and justice in the world, right? However, now it has become a tool in the hands of the great powers. It is impossible to accept that.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, told the 20 October assembly that the United Nations must act “to prevent possible and new genocides and to help the numerous refugees.”
While it is licit to use force within the framework of international law to stop unjust aggression and protect people from persecution, he said it is clear that a complete resolution of the problems in the region cannot be found in “just a military response.”
In his talk, which was a summary of the 2-4 October meeting with Vatican diplomats and officials, the cardinal said the international community also “must go to the root of the problems, recognize past mistakes” and work to promote peace and development in the region.
Experience has shown that “war, instead of dialogue and negotiations, increases suffering,” the cardinal said in his lengthy talk.
Violence only leads to destruction, he said, so the first, most urgent step is for all sides in the Middle East “to lay down their arms and talk.”
To help bring stability to the region, long-lasting and just political solutions must be found for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said. The international community should also improve its relations with Iran to help in the resolution of the crisis in nearby Iraq and Syria, he added.
When it comes to the so-called Islamic State, he said, focus must be on who is supporting them, not just politically but also through “illegal trade of petroleum and the supply of arms and technology.”
Muslim leaders have a responsibility to denounce the religious claims of the Islamic State and “to condemn the killing of others for religious reasons and every kind of discrimination.”
“It is a moral obligation for everyone to say enough to so much suffering and injustice and to begin a new journey” where everyone has a role and rights as citizens in building up their country and its future, he said.
CNEWA is actively engaged in supporting all those suffering in the Middle East. To learn more, read our latest updates from Iraq and Syria. And to support our ongoing programs, visit this link.
20 October 2014
Hindu holy men protest against alleged violence against Hindus in Jammu, India. Leaders of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said Hindus and Christians must work for a “culture of inclusion for a just and peaceful society.” (photo: CNS photo/Jaipal Singh, EPA)
The Vatican has released a message to Hindus for the Feast of Deepavali, which takes place later this week:
Dear Hindu Friends,
- The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue joyfully greets all of you on the festive occasion of Deepavali, celebrated on 23 October this year. May the Transcendent Light illumine your hearts, homes and communities, and may all your celebrations deepen the sense of belonging to one another in your families and neighbourhoods, and so further harmony and happiness, peace and prosperity.
- We wish to reflect with you this year on the theme “Fostering together a culture of ‘inclusion’”. In the face of increasing discrimination, violence and exclusion throughout the world, ‘nurturing a culture of inclusion’ can be rightly seen as one of the most genuine aspirations of people everywhere.
- It is true that globalization has opened many new frontiers and provided fresh opportunities to develop, among other things, better educational and healthcare facilities. It has ushered in a greater awareness of democracy and social justice in the world, and our planet has truly become a ‘global village’ due in large part to modern means of communication and transportation. It can also be said, however, that globalization has not achieved its primary objective of integrating local peoples into the global community. Rather, globalization has contributed significantly to many peoples losing their sociocultural, economic and political identities.
- The negative effects of globalization have also had an impact on religious communities throughout the world since they are intimately related to surrounding cultures. In fact, globalization has contributed to the fragmentation of society and to an increase in relativism and syncretism in religious matters, as well as bringing about a privatization of religion. Religious fundamentalism and ethnic, tribal and sectarian violence in different parts of the world today are largely manifestations of the discontent, uncertainty and insecurity among peoples, particularly the poor and marginalized who have been excluded from the benefits of globalization.
- The negative consequences of globalization, such as widespread materialism and consumerism, moreover, have made people more self-absorbed, power-hungry and indifferent to the rights, needs and sufferings of others. This, in the words of Pope Francis, has led to a “‘globalization of indifference’ which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2014). Such indifference gives rise to a ‘culture of exclusion’ (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Apostolic Movement of the Blind and the Little Mission for the Deaf and Mute, 29 March 2014) in which the poor, marginalized and vulnerable are denied their rights, as well as the opportunities and resources that are available to other members of society. They are treated as insignificant, dispensable, burdensome, unnecessary, to be used and even discarded like objects. In various ways, the exploitation of children and women, the neglect of the elderly, sick, differently-abled, migrants and refugees, and the persecution of minorities are sure indicators of this culture of exclusion.
- Nurturing a culture of inclusion thus becomes a common call and a shared responsibility, which must be urgently undertaken. It is a project involving those who care for the health and survival of the human family here on earth and which needs to be carried out amidst, and in spite of, the forces that perpetuate the culture of exclusion.
- As people grounded in our own respective religious traditions and with shared convictions, may we, Hindus and Christians, join together with followers of other religions and with people of good will to foster a culture of inclusion for a just and peaceful society.
We wish you all a Happy Deepavali!
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
20 October 2014
Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, at the beatification Mass of Blessed Paul VI celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sunday 19 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope: Middle East without Christians is unthinkable (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there...
Australia to deploy forces in Iraq to battle ISIS (BBC) Australia has reached an agreement with Iraq to allow 200 special forces personnel to train local troops to fight against Islamic State militants. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the military would now decide when to deploy the special forces group. The unit has been waiting in United Arab Emirates for a month, amid a legal row between the two sides. Australia is a major contributor to the US-led coalition against Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq...
Amnesty International deplores abuses on both sides in Ukraine (BBC) Human rights group Amnesty International says there is evidence of atrocities committed by both warring sides in eastern Ukraine, but not on the scale reported by Russia. It said “strong evidence” implicated government forces in the killing of four men near rebel-held Donetsk...
Pope Francis beatifies Pope Paul VI (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday celebrated the Closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. During the Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, the Holy Father beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, whom he described as a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle”...
Cardinal sends message of inclusion to Hindus (VIS) “Christians and Hindus: together to foster a culture of inclusion” is the theme of the message addressed to followers of Hinduism by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on the occasion of Deepavali, the festival of lights, to be celebrated on 23 October this year...
17 October 2014
Tags: Syria India Iraq Ukraine Middle East
Laborers crowd into a bus in Ernakulam, India, after a long workday. The region is undergoing dramatic changes, as a result of urban sprawl. Learn more about this in Change Comes to ‘God’s Own Country’ from the July 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
17 October 2014
Civilians and a member of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad make their way through rubble and debris of destroyed buildings 7 October near Damascus.
(photo: CNS/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)
Iraq imposes curfew (AP) The Iraqi government imposed a curfew in the western city of Ramadi on Friday over fears that the Islamic State group might try to advance on the strategically important city. The curfew began at midnight as part of an effort to limit movement in and out of the city as government forces prepared to eliminate pockets of resistance there, said Sabah Karhout, the chairman of the Anbar provincial council. Ramadi, the capital of the vast Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, is located 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad...
Report: ex-Iraqi pilots training Syrians (AP) Former Iraqi air force pilots are training extremists from the Islamic State group to fly three warplanes captured earlier from air bases belonging to the Syrian army, a Syrian activist group said Friday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the planes, seen flying over the Jarrah air base in the eastern countryside of Aleppo province this week, are believed to be of the MiG-21 and MiG-23 variety...
Leaflets announce threats against Ukrainian clergy (RT) Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has been receiving threats, including that of violence against the clergy, as radical nationalist movements try to take over churches and force them under the Kiev Patriarchate...
Pope sends message on World Food Day (VIS) World Food Day, held on 16 October, was instituted in 1979 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in order to raise public awareness and strengthen solidarity in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father sent a message to the director general of the FAO, Jose Graziano da Silva...
Pope to beatify Pope Paul VI on Sunday (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will officially declare Pope Paul VI Blessed on Sunday, 19 October during the closing Mass of the 3rd Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family...
16 October 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine
A Kurdish refugee woman from the Syrian town of Kobani cooks on a fire as her children accompany her in a camp in the Sanliurfa, Turkey. (photo: CNS photo/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
16 October 2014
In the video above, two patriarchs from the Middle East say they believe ISIS has no future
in their region. (video: Rome Reports)
Report: Catholic church in Qaraqosh bombed (Fides) The bombings carried out iby the U.S.-led coalition against posts of the Islamic State have hit and devastated the Church of the Resurrection, near the town of Qaraqosh, inhabited mainly by Christian Syriac Catholics before falling under the control of the jihadists of the IS. The news, reported by Arab sites such as ankawa.com, has been confirmed by local sources to Fides Agency...
Patriarchs call for recognition of Armenian genocide (Fides) The leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church are turning to the whole Christian world and the international community, seeking recognition and condemnation of the crimes committed against Armenians and Syriac Christians in 1915...
Gaza rebuilding faces obstacles (BBC) Winter is coming in Gaza, and the long nights and heavy rains will deepen the misery of thousands of families whose homes were destroyed in the fighting of summer. Newly homeless in a place already peopled with the descendants of refugees from the war that followed Israel’s creation in 1948, their plight is desperate...
Putin set for talks on Ukraine (Christian Science Monitor) With a temporary cease-fire barely holding in eastern Ukraine and winter approaching, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have agreed to hold talks in Italy this week...
Priest charges Christian minorities in India are under serious threat (CNA) With the election of Narendra Modi of the Hindu “Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) as prime minister of India the country’s secular constitution has come under threat, a Catholic priest in India has charged. Father Ajay Kumar Singh, a human rights activist in Kandhamal District in the East Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), warned of the growing influence of radical Hindu forces on the Indian subcontinent...
Boom times for Ethiopian coffee shops (BBC) As Ethiopia’s economy continues to expand strongly, more people — led by young professionals in the capital Addis Ababa — are buying pre-roasted beans, or visiting coffee shops to have their favourite drink made for them. It means boom times for the country’s independent coffee roasters and cafes, who have seen their numbers rise and some are even looking to expand overseas...
15 October 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia
To help Ukraine deal with enormous challenges it is facing, Canada’s Office for Religious Freedom has awarded grants for CNEWA Canada’s projects in the country. The project will involve youth interaction from eastern and western Ukraine. (photo: CNEWA)
Canada’s Office for Religious Freedom has announced funds in the amount of $226,630 for CNEWA Canada’s projects in Ukraine that promote interreligious dialogue and build bridges among youth from various regions and religions of the country. The program will run from November 2014 through November 2015, benefitting more than a thousand Ukrainians.
According to CNEWA Canada’s national director, Carl Hétu, “the program will help enhance the culture of dialogue among the future Ukrainian leaders of the western and eastern regions who are of different cultural and religious backgrounds. One of the goals is to help establish a truly democratic and inclusive society in this Eastern European country that, right now, has to deal with so many enormous challenges.”
Since the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the subsequent outbreak of violence in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, there has been a significant increase of discrimination and violence perpetrated against religious minorities in those areas. Among those targeted are Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Jews, Crimean Tatar Muslims and many others who want to live according to their religious traditions but do not support the separatists. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, Ukrainians of different cultural and religious backgrounds have lived with one another in relative peace and harmony.
Designed by CNEWA in close cooperation with its Ukrainian partners, the program will help develop youth leaders and enhance relations between eastern and western Ukrainians through the promotion of religious freedom and other democratic values. Among the program’s planned activities are short-term student exchanges, summer schools, public panel discussions, and lectures for university students at public universities in four Ukrainian regions, west, south, center and east.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support established in 1926 with a special mission to work for, through and with the Eastern churches and peoples in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Over these years, CNEWA has assisted communities afflicted by poverty and conflict and has promoted sustainable peacebuilding and dialogue.
To support CNEWA’s work in Ukraine, please visit this page, or check out the series of programs supported by our office in Canada.
15 October 2014
Tags: CNEWA Ukraine Canada
Strong coffee sweetened to taste is served in the traditional manner in Lebanon.
(photo: Marilyn Raschka)
In 2002, we took a look at the customs and cuisine of Lebanon — including some traditions surrounding coffee:
Coffee is a household essential. It is served if a visitor has stopped by just to say hello and it is also served following a meal. The serving of coffee signals “time to leave” so gracious hosts delay serving it. And no guest would leave before receiving it.
At weddings, coffee is served sweet, but it is also served unsweetened at funerals to show grief.
When at home, guests are asked how they prefer their coffee — the answers reflect the amount of sugar to be added. For the sake of ease, the Lebanese will often serve a pot of unsweetened coffee and include a tiny sugar bowl on the tray as cups are passed around to the guests. With the last sip, guests will put down their cups and say, which is a very short version of the above proverb.
Excavations in Beirut have unearthed coffee cups that date to the 16th century. The Arabic has been westernized to coffee and the word comes from the Red Sea port of Mocka, in Yemen.
Coffee still plays an important role in trade and business in Lebanon. There is no such thing as a business meeting without coffee being served. The big brew in the little cup accompanies the exchange of pleasantries that kick off the meeting.
In times past, it was considered disrespectful to refuse a cup of coffee. It was like refusing a handshake. There are Lebanese who do not drink coffee, but it is still considered good manners to give an explanation for one’s refusal. There is no decaffeinated Lebanese coffee, so refusing coffee in the evening is acceptable.
Also accompanying coffee drinking is the custom of reading the coffee cup. Turned upside down, the sediment slowly runs down the inside of the cup leaving expressive patterns. Valleys and peaks suggest travel or trouble, other patterns promise money or romance. Readers speak with confidence about these possible events and even the most doubting of Thomases will listen.
Read more about coffee customs in Food for Thought from the September-October 2002 issue of the magazine.
15 October 2014
In the video above, Christians take up arms to protect villages in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley that could come under attack from ISIS or Wahhabi militants. (video: Eretz Zen)
Patriarch: help Iraqi Christians, stop violent rhetoric (Vatican Radio) While issues of everyday concern to families are on the agenda at the extraordinary Synod on the Family, one participant has come to Rome with a very sinister tale to tell. It’s the plight of tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian families who fled for their lives to escape from Islamic State militants. Few think they will ever return home. That’s according to Archbishop Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Syriac Catholic Church who was eager to speak to Vatican Radio outside the Synod hall....
ISIS continues to advance in Iraq, Syria (AFP) Jihadists pushed to seize Syria’s Kobani and an Iraqi town close to Baghdad Wednesday as Washington warned of a long fight against the steadily advancing ISIS. In the town of Kobani on the Turkish border, the jihadists have been holding out in fighting with Kurdish militia despite stepped-up U.S.-led air strikes, and calls have been growing for Turkey to take action. In Iraq, ISIS militants were closing on the town of Amriyat al-Fallujah, one of the last still controlled by the government in the troubled Anbar province and only 35 kilometers (20 miles) from Baghdad...
Dozens injured in protests in Kiev (Vatican Radio) More than a dozen police have been injured and dozens of protesters detained in massive clashes between nationalists and security forces near Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev where deputies voted down proposals to recognize a controversial World War II-era Ukrainian partisan group as national heroes...
Egypt, Israel allow aid supplies into Gaza (Egypt Daily News) Egypt and Israel allowed the transfer of hundreds of tons of supplies to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, at the height of concerted international efforts to rebuild the strip...
Anger as minister says Christian, Muslim dalits should be denied jobs (UCANews.com) Christian and Muslim leaders lashed out Monday after India’s minister for social justice said the government would not be granting job reservation rights to “untouchables” who converted...
Tags: Syria Egypt Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank