7 May 2019
Children ride with the statue of Our Lady of Carmel and the Christ Child during a procession outside the Church of St. Joseph in Haifa, Israel, on 5 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Israel’s second largest annual Christian gathering became a vehicle to pray for peace as tensions between Israel and Palestinians living in Gaza intensified.
The 5 May observance of the centennial of the Our Lady of Carmel procession saw 10,000 local Christians join festivities that retrace the steps of the return of a statue of Mary from Haifa’s St. Joseph Church to the Discalced Carmelite Stella Maris monastery after the end of World War I.
The statue of Our Lady of Carmel left the hilltop monastery when the Carmelite monks were ordered to evacuate by Turkish soldiers in the war’s early months. The monks and the statue returned to the monastery on the first Sunday after Easter in 1919 in a festive procession, carried out in an act of thanksgiving to Our Lady of Carmel, who Haifa’s Christian residents believed protected the city during the war.
A flower-festooned float, the central piece of the procession, carried a replica of the statue. The scene attracted the attention of non-Christians as well.
This year’s celebration became all the more meaningful as cross-border attacks flared in early May between Gaza and Israel. The violence left four Israelis and 25 Palestinians dead. Many attending the procession prayed for a cessation of the fighting and for peace.
Although a cease-fire was put in place early on 6 May, Palestinian and Israeli politicians vowed that the battle was not over.
“We believe the Virgin Mary can protect everyone regardless of race, sex or religion,” said Marlene, 36, who asked that her last name not be used, as she hitched her 5-year-old daughter on her hip so she could see the float as it passed.
Marlene touched the float with her hand, brought it to her lips and then put her fingers on her daughter’s mouth as well as a symbol of a blessing. “This is a prayer for peace for all,” she said.
Parts of some of the city’s main thoroughfares were closed as the festive procession made its way to the upper city through cafe-lined streets as patrons watched from the comfort of shaded patios. Other people stood at the edge of the road to get a glimpse of the float that was pulled by rope by a dozen people; dozens more offered a hand.
Five children sat on the float, wearing white angel wings. A few looked a bit stunned by the surroundings as their parents walked alongside. Before the procession began, people climbed atop the float to place rosaries around the outstretched hands of the statue.
Leading the procession were Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, papal nuncio to Israel, the Rev. Saverio Cannistra, superior general of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, who came from Rome, and the Rev. Raymond Abdo, the provincial of the order, who traveled from Lebanon.
“I wait for this day the whole year,” said Sausan Musa, 55, of Gush Halav, Israel, as she staked her spot at the back of the float with seven other women. “I believe in the Virgin Mary. I come to pray for my family and for the whole country.”
Azar Chacour, 51, of Haifa, but whose family is among the internally displaced from the village of Biram, Israel, said he had been coming to the procession since he was an infant and now came with his daughter Dareen, 3.
“Jesus taught us to forgive and to pray for peace. Jesus taught us to ask for justice. People here can see Mary and how she is important for all people,” he said.
Samia Ashqar, who came from Nazareth, noted that the three-hour trek to the Carmelite monastery in the upper part of Haifa was not an easy one. She said people came out of devotion and a desire to pray for peace, as they are asked to do by Mary.
“We are sacrificing ourselves, our energy, our time,” she said. “It is to encourage us to continue. One hundred years means we are here, we continue to remember our history and nobody can forget our history here.”
But for some of the young people, such as Rogeh Shihadi, 16, and his Muslim friend May, 15, the procession was a chance to spend time with friends, grab an ice cream cone and share a laugh as they huddled over their cellphones.
“I am Muslim, I am not Christian, but I believe in Mary,” said May, who declined to give her last name. “I’ve been coming here for years. But I enjoy this also, so I can hang out with my friends.”
7 May 2019
Tags: Israel Mary
Pope Francis accepts gifts from women in traditional dress as he arrives at the international airport in Skopje, North Macedonia, on 7 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope in Macedonia: respect human dignity, diversity (Vatican News) In his first speech on North Macedonian soil on Tuesday, Pope Francis encouraged the West Balkan state in its effort to be a beacon of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration between cultures, religions and peoples. Addressing the nation’s authorities, the diplomatic corps and representatives of civil society at the presidential palace in capital, Skopje, the Pope described the land as a bridge between East and West and a meeting-point for numerous cultural currents. With a Christian presence that dates back to the apostolic times, the country also bears elegant testimonies of its Byzantine and Ottoman past…
Early evacuation in India spares more than a million from deadline cyclone (CNS) A powerful cyclone ripped through eastern India and sideswiped Bangladesh, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 30 deaths. Authorities said the evacuation of 1.2 million people from more than 10,000 villages prior to Cyclone Fani’s landfall on 3 May prevented a larger death toll and minimized injuries, ucanews.com reported…
Jean Vanier dies at 90 (Vatican News) Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, a community which supports people with disabilities, died during the night, aged 90. The community is active all over the world with about 150 centers. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris. Pope Francis was informed of his death and the ad interim director of the Vatican Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said the Pope “prays for him and for the whole L’Arche community.” Jean Vanier had met with Pope Francis in 2014, calling him a man of smiles and encounter…
Why Israel and Gaza keep fighting brief battles (The New York Times) More than two dozen people were killed and homes and businesses destroyed in the weekend’s fighting between Israel and Gaza, but on Monday leaders on both sides declared themselves satisfied with the outcome. The cycle of violence-ceasefire-repeat that keeps verging on all-out war may look like pointless destruction to the outside world. But analysts say it is amply serving the interests of the two main antagonists…
Syrian Kurds reshape region with books and schools (Reuters) A law student who was tortured for carrying a Kurdish book now owns a bookstore. A woman who once secretly huddled with friends at night to learn Kurdish is now a de facto education minister. Kurdish activists who could not protest without risking arrest now have printing presses, festivals and television channels. ”We never imagined this. This was a dream,” said Semira Haj Ali, who co-chairs the education board in the northeast. “Of course, we will not go back to before 2011. We will not turn back…”
6 May 2019
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Balkans
Palestinian men grieve over the body of a little girl they say was killed by a drone strike over the weekend. (image: YouTube/CBS News)
A fragile truce is taking hold in Gaza after days of relentless shelling and cross-border fighting that killed at least 22 and, according to one account, claimed the life of a little girl who was playing outdoors.
CNEWA’s regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, sent us an email this morning:
I called our partners in Gaza this morning. Thank God, none of our community members or the staff at our partner institutions were harmed. Also no damages were sustained by any of our partner institutions.
The cease-fire announced early morning today is holding. None of the parties is interested in escalations. Ramadan started today and Independence Day is on Thursday.
Let’s hope this truce will endure.
We pray for all those who are victims of this violence — and pray this peace will hold.
The video below from CBS News has the latest, as of Monday afternoon:
A fragile cease-fire is taking hold between Gaza and Israel after days of cross-border fighting.
(video: CBS News/YouTube)
6 May 2019
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank
Pope Francis met with Orthodox clergy, spoke with refugees, and gave First Communion to hundreds of children on Sunday during his visit to Bulgaria. Below, a brief video from CNS's Robert Duncan captures some of these encounters.
6 May 2019
Tags: Pope Francis
Pope Francis visits with refugees in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 6 May 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope meets refugees in Bulgaria (CNS) Twelve boys and girls wearing white T-shirts and dark pants sang for Pope Francis at a refugee center on the outskirts of Sofia. Their songs were cheerful and the drawings they gave the pope were chock full of smiles and hearts, but their parents’ letters to Pope Francis contained appeals for help. Ismael Taha Saber, a 42-year-old father of six from Mosul, Iraq, was one of those who wrote to the pope for help finding a permanent home elsewhere after being in Bulgaria for three years…
Dozens killed after plane catches fire in Moscow (Vatican News) Forty-one people, including two children, were killed after a plane caught fire at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, Russia. The Superjet 100 plane, which belongs to Russian National carrier Aeroflot, caught fire shortly after take—off. The crew immediately returned to the airport and made an emergency landing. Those who survived the fire escaped the plane using the evacuation slides. There are differing reports of the incident…
Gaza-Israel violence continues for third day (Vatican News) Palestinian militants have fired more than 450 rockets into Israel, drawing dozens of retaliatory air strikes on targets across the Gaza Strip. There had been a month-long lull in hostilities in the region, before this latest bout of violence. Cross-border attacks have now run into their third day. United Nations mediators, along with Egyptian officials credited with brokering ceasefires in the past, are working to prevent further hostilities. It is unclear if they have made any progress…
U.K. foreign secretary warns about persecution of Christians (AP) Britain’s foreign secretary has warned that governments in many parts of the world have failed to take action to slow the persecution of Christians. Jeremy Hunt said on an official visit to Ethiopia that governments have been “asleep on the watch” as anti-Christian actions spread. Interim findings of a report commissioned by Hunt released Friday suggest that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world with violence against them spreading…
Burqa ban in India sparks controversy (UCANews.com) A Muslim educational group in India has banned women from wearing outfits that cover their faces in its institutions, but not all are happy about the move. The Muslim Education Society (MES) based in the southern state of Kerala issued a circular stating that female teachers and students in its 150 institutions should not wear the burqa, the garment Muslim women use to cover their whole body including the face. ”A dress code that is not acceptable to mainstream society cannot be allowed even if in the name of modernity or religious practice,” MES president P.A. Fazal Gafoor told media on 3 May after his 17 April circular became a media discussion point…
3 May 2019
Tags: India Refugees Russia Orthodox Persecution
Msgr. John Kozar visits the Holy Family Church in Gaza in January 2016. (photo: CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, reflects on some of the places in CNEWA’s world where people are being renewed by a sense of promise and hope in some particularly challenging areas:
Religious men and women were especially courageous and often served as the only lifeline to those in remote or inaccessible areas. Some of these religious were themselves displaced and had lost everything in the floods, but they worked untiringly to serve those in need. The church was at its best, not just in providing material needs, but in sustaining the faith of the survivors and inspiring them to maintain their hope.
Holy Family Parish in the Gaza Strip is a beacon of hope and new life. Shortly after the last conflict between Hamas and Israel, in the midst of much suffering and destruction, Holy Family Parish opened its doors and its hearts to all — to the hungry, to the elderly, to people of every faith tradition. It was an oasis surrounded by a desert of despair and destruction.
The local pastor and his energetic parish team exuded a sense of hope and shared that with the thousands who sought comfort there. I was privileged to visit there and to experience the love that radiated within this small parish. When I celebrated Mass, I could not help but smile when I realized that tradition tells us that the Holy Family stopped here for comfort and refuge on their flight to Egypt. And today this holy place reverences that tradition through the ministry of giving refuge and by hosting so many who suffer and are in need — providing them with an environment of welcome and hope.
Read more in the March 2019 edition of ONE.
3 May 2019
Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank
The strongest cyclone to hit India in decades made landfall Friday. (video: AP/YouTube)
Tropical Cyclone Fani strikes India (CNN) The strongest tropical cyclone to hit India in 20 years made landfall Friday, killing two people and lashing the country’s east coast with ferocious winds and torrential downpours. Tropical Cyclone Fani struck near the city of Puri, in Odisha state, as the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane -- packing sustained winds of 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour). The storm is expected to weaken as it moves north-northeast in the next six hours toward Kolkata, one of India’s most populous cities, and Bangladesh…
Escalation in northern Syria threatens truce (AP) Syrian government forces have kept up an escalation against the last rebel-held enclave in northwestern Syria with a wave of airstrikes that killed several people Friday, activists and state media reported. The increased fighting threatens a cease-fire negotiated by Russia and Turkey, in place since September. The agreement has since been undermined with recurrent cycles of violence…
Houses face demolition in East Jerusalem (AP) Some 60 houses in the grassy quarter, known to its 500 residents as Wad Yasul, are facing demolition by Israeli authorities. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to hear the residents’ appeal against demolition orders, saying the structures were built without required permits in a municipally designated green space…
Pope: Nations stirring up nationalism betray their mission (CNS) Migrants are not a threat to a nation’s culture, traditions and values, Pope Francis said. Every nation is a product of immigration and the integration of diverse peoples, united by specific values, cultures and “healthy traditions,” he said. That is why any nation that “stirs up nationalistic sentiments in its people against other nations or groups of people would betray their mission,” the pope said on 2 May…
Journalists cautiously celebrate press freedom in Ethiopia (Al Jazeera) The Ethiopian government says it is preparing legislation that would impose up to three years in prison for those found to be disseminating hate speech and fake news. Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman at the prime minister’s office, says Ethiopia is trying to ensure accountability comes with renewed press freedom by drafting anti-hate speech legislation. ”Both citizens and government have responsibility to ensure the fabric of Ethiopian society isn’t broken,” she said…
2 May 2019
Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Migrants
In this 2013 photo, people take an evening stroll down a street in Jerusalem’s Armenian quarter. You can read more about Armenian Christians in Jerusalem in ONE magazine’s Winter 2014 feature, ‘Living Here Is Complicated’ (photo: Ilene Perlman)
2 May 2019
Tags: Jerusalem Cultural Identity Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
Cyclone Fani, at peak intensity, looms over the central western Bay of Bengal, near the eastern coast of India, on 2 May 2019. (photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, ‘Aqua’ satellite, via Wikimedia)
India evacuates nearly 1 million as powerful Cyclone Fani bears down (AccuWeather) Officials in India mobilized a massive evacuation effort on Thursday as the country braced for landfall from a potentially devastating Cyclone Fani. Nearly a million people are being evacuated ahead of the cyclone’s looming strike on the eastern India coastline as the week ends. One government official said the evacuation effort is the largest in the nation’s history…
Indian Christians seek better security at churches (UCAN India) Christian leaders in India have intensified their call to make churches safer after police arrested a man and accused him of having links to Islamic terror groups and planning to attack religious places in Kerala state…
India turning to midwives to reduce maternal mortality (Der Spiegel) In India, the second-most populous country in the world, giving birth isn’t just a fight for new life; it can also be a struggle for dignity and self-determination. For a country that has been striving to improve its maternal health indicators, India has greatly underestimated midwifery, lagging behind countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, both of which have invested in creating a professional cadre of midwives. That, though, is now changing…
Qatar brings Gaza beaches back to life (Al Monitor) The Gaza Electricity Distribution Co., in cooperation with Gaza Strip municipalities, completed on 18 April a Qatar-funded project designed to connect wastewater treatment plants to new power lines with the objective of supplying the plants with uninterrupted power around the clock…
What to expect from Pope Francis’ trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia (America magazine) Pope Francis will visit Bulgaria and North Macedonia from 5-7 May — two majority Orthodox countries with very small Catholic populations that are facing high unemployment, poverty and tensions over immigration. He goes as a messenger of peace to support these emerging countries on a visit that has a strong ecumenical dimension…
1 May 2019
Tags: India Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Bulgaria
Sri Lanka is praying for calm after the Easter terror attacks on churches, and experts warn that more churches in the region may be under threat from ISIS. (video: CBC/YouTube)
Experts: Threat to churches in Asia growing in wake of Sri Lanka attacks (CNS) The grisly Sri Lankan bombings are a reminder that Asia -- not the Middle East -- is the region most afflicted by terrorist violence. The prognosis comes as the so-called Islamic State has splintered and gone back underground following the defeat of its caliphates in Iraq and Syria as well as the continued operation of other terrorist groups linked to al-Qaida in the region…
Report: Iran targeting religious minorities (Voice of America) A U.S. government body that monitors global religious freedom says conditions in Iran worsened last year, with escalated government targeting of non-Shi’ite Muslims and minority Baha’is and Christians. In its annual report published Monday, the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said Iran merits designation as one of 16 countries of particular concern based on conditions in 2018…
Latest round of Indian elections marred by violence (AP) The fourth phase of India’s staggered national election Monday was marred by multiple clashes that injured at least seven people and led to security forces firing warning shots outside one polling station…
The poor benefit from Delhi walkathon (UCANews.com) Last year was the walkathon’s first effort, and it proved to be a success, said Father John Britto, Chetanalaya director. The priest said someone participating in the walkathon usually walked the last part of their journey to work. “The money saved from walking would become the donation,” he said. Last year the program collected around 70,000 rupees which allowed them to fund nine physically challenged people plus two elderly people start small businesses similar to Kumar’s. The achievements of that program inspired participants to continue the walkathon this Lent, Father Britto said…
Waste from Kerala affecting residents elsewhere (The Times of India) Waste from neighboring Kerala continues to haunt residents of Mysuru…
Syria’s lost heritage stands about among broken minarets (Reuters) The sorry state of Aleppo’s Old City, a labyrinthine World Heritage Site and a battlefield from 2012-16, is obvious from a glance across the skyline at its shell-beaten minarets. They look down on an area that suffered massive damage in a conflict that brought down the medieval covered souk, smashed mosque domes and burnt churches. The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO in December said 10 percent of Aleppo’s historic buildings were destroyed and more than half the buildings they assessed showed severe to moderate damage…
Tags: Syria India Persecution Iran