30 October 2019
CNEWA visited Our Lady of Mt. Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey, last weekend, helping to spread the word about the work of CNEWA around the world. (photo: CNEWA)
Last weekend, CNEWA paid a visit to Our Lady of Mt. Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey. It was a great opportunity for us to share “the church’s best kept secret” and spread the word about some of the work we’re doing around the world.
We were warmly welcomed by the OLMV administrator, the Rev. David Skobolow, my old friend Deacon Tom Sommero, and hundreds of members of the parish family.
Deacon Greg Kandra preached at four Masses at Our Lady of Mt. Virgin over the weekend. (photo: CNEWA)
I preached and served at four Masses over the weekend, linking CNEWA’s mission to the Gospel reading from St. Luke, about praying to God with humility. So many we serve have taught us about humility — but also about hope, perseverance and unwavering faith. As the reading from Sirach reminded us, “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.” It’s a blessing and a privilege to pray with the poor, and walk with them on their journey.
We’re eager to continue spreading the word about CNEWA, so if you’d like us to visit your parish, please let us know!
For more information, write to us at email@example.com
CNEWA development officer Christopher Kennedy; multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra; OLMV administrator the Rev. David Skobolow; and OLMV Deacon Tom Sommero. (photo: CNEWA)
30 October 2019
Protests have continued in Lebanon, following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The video above explores what happens next. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)
Lebanon: Army begins clearing roads after prime minister’s resignation (Al Jazeera) Security forces in Lebanon began clearing roads hours after the Lebanese army issued a directive urging protesters to vacate major thoroughfares to allow life to return to normal. The army’s statement came on Wednesday, a day after Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation and hours before a scheduled speech by President Michel Aoun…
Pope calls for dialogue, reconciliation over problems in Iraq (CNS) In the wake of deadly protests in Iraq, Pope Francis called on the people and their leaders to take the path of dialogue to find answers to their nation’s problems. At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square on 30 October, the pope said his thoughts were with “beloved Iraq, where protest demonstrations going on this month have caused numerous deaths and injuries…”
How the new Syria took shape (The New York Times) In just a few weeks, the American withdrawal from northern Syria dramatically reordered power in the country after eight years of civil war…
U.S. House passes resolution recognizing Armenia genocide (The New York Times) The House voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to formally recognize the Armenian genocide and denounce it as a matter of American foreign policy, a symbolic vindication for the Armenian diaspora made possible by a new torrent of bipartisan furor at Turkey…
How they discovered the ancient site of a miracle (The Express) The Pool of Siloam was a rock-cut pool on the southern slope located just outside the walls of the Old City to the southwest. Located less than 2,000 feet from Temple Mount, the pool was fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring and was used by pilgrims more than 2,000 years ago.The pool remained in use during the time of Jesus Christ and, according to the Gospel of John, the Messiah led “a man blind from birth” to the pool in order to complete his healing...
29 October 2019
Tags: Iraq Lebanon Jerusalem Armenia
Filipino members of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate harvest olives in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem on 19 October 2019. Catholic nuns, locals and international volunteers gathered to pick olives that will be made into liturgy oil used during the Chrism mass on Maundy Thursday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
29 October 2019
Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia speaks at Georgetown University in Washington on 25 October 2019. The archbishop spoke about the church's role of support during Ukraine's Soviet occupation and its ministry now of helping people find healing and keeping the faith alive while numbers are dwindling.
(photo: CNS/Georgetown University)
Gudziak: Ukrainian Church faces new struggles (CNS) Addressing an audience at Georgetown University on 25 October, the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States said the world news in Washington is as “Ukrainian as it ever has been.” But although he made reference to the current political interest in Ukraine, he also said “no one in Washington would give (the country) the time of day had there not been a July phone conversation,” referring to President Donald Trump’s conversation, now under congressional investigation, with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president…
Vatican pushes to eliminate nuclear weapons (CNS) Expressing concern that arms control treaties are “abrogated and flouted,” the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations called on global leaders to work to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In a series of addresses to two U.N. committees, Archbishop Bernardito Auza said nations must step up to prevent a new nuclear arms race from emerging and work to reduce growing threats to peace…
U.S. military envisions broad defense of Syria’s oilfields (Al Jazeera) The United States will repel any attempt to take Syria’s oilfields away with “overwhelming force” whether the challenger is Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) or forces backed by Russia or Syria, the Pentagon has warned…
Why global warming has left Kerala vulnerable (India Today) The state had never bothered about global warming induced climatic changes, but the consecutive floods in August 2018 and 2019 have prompted a rethink. The 2018 August floods, the worst in about a century, destroyed infrastructure and livelihoods and killed 453 persons. This year too, floods caused by the southwest monsoon have played havoc in the state…
25 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Vatican Ukrainian Catholic Church
Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel stopped by our New York office Friday afternoon for a visit. He’s pictured in the center with (from l-r) the Rev. Abayneh Gebremichael, who leads the Ethiopian Catholic community in Washington; and CNEWA staff members Greg Kandra, Thomas Vargehese, Noel Selegzi, Haimdat Sawh and Christopher Kennedy. (photo: CNEWA)
25 October 2019
Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA
Our CNEWA team will be visiting Our Lady of Mt. Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey, on 26-27 October. (photo: OLMV website)
CNEWA will be on the road Saturday and Sunday. We’re heading to Our Lady of Mount Virgin Parish in Middlesex, New Jersey. I’ll be the guest homilist this weekend, preaching at the Masses — not only proclaiming the Good News, but also sharing the good news about CNEWA’s work in the world.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello! We are eager to answer questions, share copies of our award-winning magazine and introduce more people to “the best kept secret of the Catholic Church.”
We’re hoping to make more visits like this one in the months to come, so if you’d like CNEWA to visit your parish, let us know.
Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you soon!
25 October 2019
In this image from March 2018, a Catholic church destroyed by Islamic State militants in Karamdes, Iraq, is examined by a priest. (photo: CNS/courtesy Archdiocese of Erbil)
Panel examines ways to protect holy sites worldwide (CNS) In light of continued attacks on houses of worship and holy sites around the world, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom held hearing on 23 October at the Capitol to learn ways to deter such attacks. Easy and immediate solutions, though, were elusive…
Turkish and Syria forces reportedly clash in Syria (The New York Times) Turkish forces and Turkish-backed militias appeared to have clashed with the Kurdish-led militia and its new allies, the Syrian government, in northeastern Syria on Thursday, raising the temperature in an already volatile area where multiple players are maneuvering for position after the abrupt pullout of American troops…
Report: Parts of Asia now hotbed of persecution (CNA) While Christians in Iraq and Syria suffer in the aftermath of Islamic State genocide, a new “hot spot” of persecution has emerged in South and East Asia, a recent report finds…
Ethiopian activist calls for calm after 16 killed in clashes (Reuters) Prominent Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohammed called for calm on Thursday amid protests that have killed 16 people and are challenging Nobel Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his political heartland…
Pompeo vows support for new Ukraine church (France24) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed US support for Ukraine’s new independent Orthodox church following its split with Russia in a meeting with its leader, officials said Thursday. Pompeo on Wednesday held a closed-door meeting with Metropolitan Yepifaniy, who was enthroned in February after the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke its three-century relationship with Moscow…
24 October 2019
Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Persecution
Days after the UN observed the International Day of Nonviolence, these Kurdish women and children fled violence this week, seeking safety in a Syrian classroom after Turkey launched the invasion of their homeland. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
On 2 October the UN observed the International Day of Nonviolence. CNEWA works in some of the most violent places of the world. We have served and continue to serve the victims of ISIS, of wars, of religious persecution, ethnic hatred, etc., on a scale that often numbs the spirit. In serving these people, we also serve the cause of nonviolence and peace — and it is worth taking this occasion to look at Christianity’s call to pacifism and how it has impacted our history and our culture.
Christianity and non-violence have had a complicated relationship over 2,000 years. For 300 years, Christians were fairly regularly at the receiving end of the violence of the Roman Empire. The Roman occupation of Palestine, which Jesus experienced firsthand and under whose law and Procurator he was executed, would ultimately destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. With Constantine and the Edict of Milan (313), however, Christianity became a legally tolerated religion in the Empire. Rather quickly it became the official religion of the Empire.
While the New Testament tells of Jesus interacting with soldiers, of John the Baptist telling soldiers to avoid bullying, extortion and to be happy with their pay (Luke 3:14) and of Paul sending greetings “especially to those of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 4:22), the acceptance of Christianity into the Roman Empire brought a major change. Christians went from being a persecuted minority to being civil servants and even emperors. They went from beings victims of power to agents of power.
There is clearly a strong voice for non-violence in the teaching of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus blesses the meek and the peacemakers. Famously Jesus challenges his followers to “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39; Luke 6:29). In recounting the arrest of Jesus, all four Gospels speak of someone striking out with a sword. In Mark 14:47 it is “one of the bystanders;” in Matthew 26:51 “one of those with Jesus;” in Luke 22:49 “those around him;” and in John 18:10 it is Simon Peter. I mention these details because, in an odd reversal of the point of the text, some have used this to indicate that Jesus’ followers were armed; they use it as a justification for Christian violence. In every case, Jesus rejects the use of violence and in Matthew 26:52 he states, “those who take up the sword will be destroyed by the sword.”
In the centuries after Constantine, Christianity worked out an accommodation with the coercive power of the state. That accommodation alternated between strong support and criticism. After having enjoying the (sometimes deleterious) benefits of the support and protection of the Roman Empire, Christians faced a major crisis with the fall of the empire. How were they to react? Augustine of Hippo wrote The City of God in an attempt to deal with the question of whether God was abandoning Christians with the fall of the empire. It is also important to note that historians also trace the beginning of an articulated Christian theory of the just war to Augustine. The stress was now on the defense of Christianity.
By the Middle Ages, the just war theory was central to sometimes rather questionable Christian military endeavors, such as the Crusades (against not only Muslims but Jews and Christians such as the Orthodox and Albigensians who were considered heretics), various papal wars against Italian city states, etc.
Non-violence, however, while never really front and center in Catholic teaching in the Middle Ages, was also never totally absent.
Medieval laws — such as the Peace of God and the Truce of God — tried to limit violence. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) started his career as a knight enthusiastically engaged in glorious military endeavors against neighboring Italian cities. After his conversion, he was opposed to all wars, even to the point of visiting Sultan Malik al-Kamil on the battle field of Damietta during the Fifth Crusade. Some Franciscan scholars believe that Francis tried (successfully) to obtain an indulgence for visiting the Church of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi as a protest against war. Indulgences were very popular in the early Middle Ages and were attached to the different Crusades as a motivation for Christians to join the fight. Some scholars believe that Francis was offering his contemporaries a non-violent way to obtain an indulgence.
During the time of the Reformation, some of the Reformers, especially but not exclusively in the Anabaptist Tradition, once again brought the non-violent teachings of Jesus to the forefront. The Society of Friends (Quakers), Mennonites, Bruderhof and others stressed and stil stress non-violence and pacifism as an essential part of the Christian witness.
In recent decades, the popes have put increasing stress on the importance of peace and non-violence. Pacem in Terris, the 1963 encyclical of Pope John XXIII was the first of a still-ongoing series of encyclicals, papal statements, addresses to the UN General Assembly, etc., on the importance of peace and of achieving a just peace through non-violent means.
Catholic attempts to promote peace and non-violence have not been limited to papal announcements. It has been reflected in the piety of the church. In 2007 Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943), an Austrian layman, was beatified as a martyr by Pope Benedict XVI. A conscientious objector, he was executed by the Nazis in 1943 and vilified by his contemporaries and countrymen for years before his beatification. The cause for the beatification and canonization of Dorothy Day (1897-1980), a famous New York pacifist, has now begun. On a practical level, Catholic organizations such as Pax Christi, the Community of Sant’ Egidio and others work and advocate for peace and non-violence. Pax Christi, founded in France in 1945, works in 50 countries and at the UN to achieve justice and an end to violence. In recent years, it has developed a section specifically to promote Catholic non-violence.
The people we at CNEWA serve know — tragically first-hand — that violence not only solves nothing, but like the mythical Hydra, it only generates more violence in an unending cycle. The words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, ”blessed are the peacemakers,” challenge us today as they challenged the first Christians 20 centuries ago.
With great Catholic Christian heroes throughout the centuries, we too hope, pray and work for a world truly blessed with peace, a world without violence.
24 October 2019
Tags: Middle East Christianity
In this image from January, Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta, Pope Francis and the Rev. Tim Macquiban, minister of Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo Methodist Church, leave an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Working for Christian unity and engaging in formal theological dialogues to promote it obviously raises questions about what the nature and mission of the church is.
In a project that took two decades of work by Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal theologians, the World Council of Churches in 2013 published a document summarizing the points of greatest consensus.
In late October, the Vatican gave the WCC its formal response to the document, which was called “The Church: Towards a Common Vision.”
The response, coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and posted on its website, included input from Catholic theologians from around the world, bishops’ conferences and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
What is meant by “church” is a key ecumenical question as Christians work and pray for the unity Jesus wanted his followers to have, the Catholic response said.
Or, as the WCC document said, “agreement on ecclesiology has long been identified as the most elemental theological objective in the quest for Christian unity.”
In the Creed, Christians profess a belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” yet they differ on what Christ intended for his church, how it should be governed and how it should minister in the world.
“From a Catholic perspective,” the Vatican said, “the term ‘church’ applies to the Catholic Church in communion with the bishop of Rome. It also applies to churches which are not in visible communion with the Catholic Church but have preserved the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, remaining true particular churches. Other Christian communities which have not preserved the valid episcopacy and Eucharist are called ‘ecclesial communities’“ in official Catholic documents.
The Vatican said of the WCC document, “While it presents a remarkable degree of common thinking on a wide range of important issues, it does not claim to have reached full consensus, the full agreement on all issues which is necessary in order to achieve full visible unity among the churches.”
The text, however, does show common agreement on “significant ecclesiological doctrines,” the Vatican said. Further theological dialogue is needed and, especially, study of the WCC document by Christians of all denominations.
Of fundamental importance, the Vatican said, is the document’s affirmation that “certain aspects of church life are to be considered as determined by God’s will,” although the WCC did not find enough consensus yet to affirm that “the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyter and deacon” is one of those aspects. The Catholic Church, of course, believes it is.
Still, the Vatican said, the document “traces ordained ministry to the Lord’s choice of the Twelve” and, in that way, “promotes the view that certain aspects of the church’s order were willed and instituted by Christ himself.”
The Vatican praised the WCC document for recognizing that “the three essential elements of communion concern faith, worship and ministry or service” and for acknowledging that both Scripture and tradition are necessary sources for determining what “church” means.
While the document uncovers “greater common ground in ecclesiology” than many people would have imagined possible, the Vatican noted that it did not treat the papacy or the role and ministry of the pope, the successor of St. Peter.
Other “unresolved concerns include who may be baptized, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the relation of the Eucharist to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and churches who do not practice baptism or Eucharist,” the Vatican said.
Many modern developments within the Catholic Church, like a growing understanding of the church as a communion given life by the Trinity and an increasing emphasis on the need for “synodality,” also are recognized by other Christian communities and present in the WCC document, the Vatican response said.
“The most fundamental convergence is found in the affirmation that unity among Christians is vital for fulfilling the church’s mission of proclaiming the good news of reconciliation in the Lord and that this is a biblical mandate,” the response said.
The WCC also asked churches and Christian communities to look at areas in their lives that may need “renewal” in the light of the agreed principles and the commitment to Christian unity.
“The Catholic Church,” the Vatican said, “commits itself to respond to the call to grow in holiness,” to continue the process of renewal begun at the Second Vatican Council, “to being the church of the poor and for the poor,” to continue developing its “current practice of synodality,” and to strengthening laypeople in their role as missionary disciples.
While it is “painful,” the response said, the Catholic Church insists its members cannot celebrate the Eucharist with members of other churches. However, it said, “we will renew our commitment to do together whatever we can do together, even in the context of the liturgy.”
Those possibilities, the Vatican said, include the rite of washing the feet, the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday and celebrating prayer vigils and liturgies of the Word for major feasts such as Christmas, Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
24 October 2019
Turkey has halted his military offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria after reaching a deal with Russia. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
Trump declares victory in Syria as Russian troops move in (The Washington Post) President Trump said Wednesday that a “permanent” cease-fire had been established in northeastern Syria, declaring a major diplomatic victory for his administration even as Russian forces began moving into territory once controlled by the United States and its Syrian Kurdish allies…
Ancient Byzantine church found near Jerusalem (Asharq Al-Awsat) Archaeologists have unearthed a 1,500-year-old Byzantine church in West Jerusalem. The church with stunning mosaics and glass windows was discovered ahead of building a new neighborhood in the town of Beit Shemesh…
Ruthenian women’s community established as monastery in Ohio (CNA) The Ruthenian Bishop of Parma last month erected Christ the Bridegroom Monastery as a female monastery sui iuris of eparchial right. The decision was made “in light of the present circumstances and the spiritual needs of the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom, and for the good of the people of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma for the Ruthenians.” Bishop Milan Lach’s decree was given on 27 September. As a sui iuris monastery of eparchial right, the community does not depend on another monastery, it is governed by its own typicon (rule of life), and it was erected by its bishop…
Lebanon protests unite sects in demanding new government (The New York Times) Drawing as much as a quarter of the country’s four million people to the streets, Lebanon’s seven-day-old antigovernment revolt has outlasted government pushback, the beginnings of a sectarian backlash and bad weather. The largest and most diverse protests since the country’s independence, they are also the most ambitious: Fueled at first by fury over economic conditions and corruption, the crowds now demand nothing less than a new political system…
Protests in Ethiopia threaten to mar image of Nobel-winning leader (The New York Times) Protests against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia erupted on Wednesday, threatening to taint the aura around his newly won Nobel Peace Prize, after a prominent critic accused the police of attempting to orchestrate an attack on him…
Kerala building homes that are flood-resistant (Ecowatch.com) he southern India state of Kerala, having lost almost a million homes in two disastrous floods in 2018 and 2019, is trying to adapt to climate change by building homes for the poor that are flood-resistant. In two years, one-sixth of the state’s 35 million population was affected by the floods, and 1.4 million of those had to abandon their homes. Many flimsy houses were destroyed and are being rebuilt from scratch…
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Jerusalem Ruthenians