Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
30 November 2012
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

With Gaza very much in the news this week, we thought it would be helpful to look at some of the region’s remarkable history — and share a few little-known facts. So here are five things to know:

  1. The area now known as the Gaza Strip got its name from the ancient city of Gaza. Gaza has been on the stage of world history for almost 4,000 years. The area of what is now the Gaza Strip was the site of several Egyptian fortresses from the end of the Early Bronze Age (3000-2100 B.C.) through the Middle Bronze Age (2100-1550 B.C.).

  2. The city of Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament and once in the New. Gaza was one of the five Philistine cities that Judah was unable to conquer (Judges 1:18). It was the city where Samson was held captive after having been betrayed by Delilah. It was in Gaza that Samson caused a temple to collapse, killing himself and his Philistine captors (Judges 16:21-51).

  3. The present Gaza Strip consists of 139 square miles (360 square kilometers) and is slightly more than twice the size of Washington, D.C.

  4. The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with 1,710,257 people as of July 2012. According to UN statistics, 43.8 percent of the population is under 14 years of age; half of the population is under 18 years old and unemployment is above 40 percent. The vast majority of the population is Muslim; only about 3,000 Christians live there today.

  5. The Pontifical Mission for Palestine, CNEWA’s operating agency in the region, is working with the local church in Gaza to provide on-the-job-training to young people and jobs for women who have graduated from school. Our Jerusalem-based staff are also working to help educate handicapped children in Gaza. Last summer, we shared here some of the work being done by CNEWA to help meet the health needs of the people. You can help the families of Gaza now. Click here to learn more.

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Israel Holy Land

30 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Pope Benedict XVI embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during a private audience at the Vatican in 2008. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Both the Latin and Orthodox churches celebrate the feast of St. Andrew today, 30 November. As Michael La Civita noted last year:

On this feast, the successor of St. Peter sends a delegation to the Turkish city of Istanbul — the former imperial city of Constantinople — where they honor the memory of Peter’s brother with the ecumenical patriarch, who according to tradition is the successor of St. Andrew.

The image above captures the fraternal closeness of the successor of St. Peter and the successor of St. Andrew.

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Turkey Orthodox

30 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks during his first televised address after the election this past summer. (photo: CNS via Reuters)

Christians excluded as Islamists back Egypt’s constitution (Associated Press via NBC News) Islamists approved a draft constitution for Egypt early Friday without the participation of liberal and Christian members, seeking to pre-empt a court ruling that could dissolve their panel with a rushed, marathon vote that further inflames the conflict between the opposition and President Mohammed Morsi. The vote by the constituent assembly advanced a charter with an Islamist bent that rights experts say could give Muslim clerics oversight over legislation and bring restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights and other liberties...

Holy See welcomes decision of UN to grant observer status to Palestine (Vatican Radio) The General Assembly has given majority approval to the Resolution by which Palestine has become a non-member Observer State of the United Nations. The Holy See has released a communique welcoming the move...

Patriarch Fouad Twal on UN move: “I am grateful and happy” (Fides) The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Msgr. Fouad Twal, expressed his joy to Fides Agency for the step taken yesterday in New York, where the UN General Assembly approved the recognition of Palestine as a non-member State observer. “It is a joy that I share with all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, and that soon I will express on behalf of our Christian communities to President Abu Mazen, as soon as he gets back”, said Patriarch Twal...

Court convicts 12 for anti-Christian violence in India (Fides) A court of first instance in Orissa sentenced to six years in jail 12 persons guilty of violence against Christian communities, during the campaign of indiscriminate violence which occurred in the district of Kandhamal (Orissa) in 2008...

Toronto’s Arab Knights call on Catholics to support Holy Land (Catholic Register) Toronto’s Arab Knights of Columbus are calling on Catholics to help support Christian students in Jerusalem today to ensure the future of Christianity in the Middle East for years to come. Hikmat Dandan, Grand Knight of Toronto’s Jesus The King Arab Christian Council, began this project two years ago when Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey of Jerusalem addressed members of Jesus The King Melkite Catholic Church. The archbishop spoke “about the problems that Christians were facing in the Holy Land,” said Dandan. “And then he spoke about the school and how parents are not able to cope with the cost of the students”...

Tags: India Egypt Jerusalem Palestine

29 November 2012
Greg Kandra

While reporting on the restoration of a Russian cathedral in Moscow in 2003, journalist Sean Sprague encountered this local entrepreneur, preparing to sell apples. Read more about the impact of the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer in our July/August 2003 issue. (photo: Sean Sprague).

Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church Eastern Churches Eastern Europe

29 November 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro

A demonstrator smothers a tear gas canister in a puddle of water during 25 November protests in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo. Hundreds were injured in protests following Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's claim to new powers that shield his decisions from judicial review. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Egypt’s courts will not be ‘blackmailed’ (L.A. Times) Egypt’s highest court has indicated it will soon rule on whether to dissolve the constitutional assembly, which has been boycotted by liberals and non-Muslims because of its preference for Shari’a, or Islamic law. Anticipating this, the assembly announced it was rushing to deliver a final draft of the new constitution to President Morsi on Thursday, days before the court is expected to make its decision. The rapid-paced maneuvering between the court and Morsi spoke to a dramatic test of wills over which side would shape the charter and the nation’s political future…

Indian archbishop reports ‘boom of vocations’ in the Year of the Faith (Fides) “The new vocations… are an injection of hope for the local Church. And from the people who live the Year of Faith with enthusiasm, joy, confidence in the future,” said Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. Additionally, Father Faustine Lucas Lobo, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in India, who went to Kandhamal in past weeks, confirms to Fides: “Catholics and vocations to the priesthood and religious life are growing, thanks to the work of the Church,” and the local faithful are “filled with missionary zeal”…

Maronite patriarch reaffirms need for Christian-Muslim dialogue (EWTN) Now also a cardinal, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter says he feels more responsible for improving Muslim and Christian dialogue in the Middle East. The church leader said he feels “the great responsibility to move forward in building communion with Muslims and Christians in a very divided and conflictive Middle East.” One of the six cardinals Pope Benedict XVI created on 24 November, Patriarch Bechara Peter is the only one representing Arab Christians in the Vatican…

Extremist Hungarian politician claims Jews are a ‘security risk’ (Der Spiegel) During a Monday evening debate over Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Márton Gyöngyösi, deputy parliamentary floor leader for the Jobbik party, demanded that “all Jews living in Hungary be registered” and that “Jews, particularly those in parliament and the government, be evaluated for the potential danger they pose to Hungary.” In a comment directed at Zsolt Németh, a state secretary in the Foreign Ministry, he said: “I think you owe Hungary such a compilation”…

Catholicos seeks peace with Jacobites (The Asian Age) Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church on Sunday extended an olive branch to the Jacobite faction in the church, saying, “There is no reason for those having the same faith and liturgy to stay apart.” Addressing a mammoth gathering of the faithful at the centenary celebrations of the catholicate, the pontiff said: “I am all for unity in the Malankara Church. I don’t know why it’s still a far cry, and who all are blocking it”…

Hamas leader revives talk of reunion with P.L.O. (New York Times) On the eve of the United Nations vote on whether to declare the Palestinian Authority a nonmember state, the leader of Hamas revived a long-percolating proposal for his militant party to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, the group that, with Israel, signed the Oslo Accord, which Hamas has long derided. Speaking at an academic conference here by video link from his new base in Doha, Qatar, the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, called on Wednesday for the politically divided Palestinians to unite through new P.L.O. elections that would rebuild the organization “on a correct basis that includes all Palestinian forces.”

Tags: Egypt Palestine Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Indian Bishops Hungary

28 November 2012
Greg Kandra

In this 2011 image, Msgr. John Kozar captured a lovely moment at Our Lady of Peace Center outside Amman, Jordan, just before Christmas. The center offers programs for mentally and physically handicapped youths. When Msgr. Kozar visited, the people at the center were enjoying a Christmas show and visit from Santa Claus. Curious? Read more about the
2011 Journey to the Holy Land. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)

Tags: Jordan Health Care Msgr. John E. Kozar Amman Mental health/ mental illness

28 November 2012
Greg Kandra

A damaged church is seen after shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad in Daria, near Damascus on 26 November. (photo: CNS/Fadi al Derani, Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)

Car bombs kill dozens in Damascus (Reuters) Two car bombs exploded in an attack that killed at least 34 people on Wednesday in a district of the Syrian capital loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The explosions struck the eastern neighborhood of Jaramana, home to many of Syria’s Druze minority as well as Christians who have fled violence elsewhere, ripping through nearby shops and bringing debris crashing down on cars…

Russian Orthodox Church offers to send relief to Syria (Interfax) The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed willingness to send humanitarian relief to Christians in conflict-ridden Syria. “I believe that we must support the initiative to send humanitarian aid to Syrian Christians who are suffering and have lost their homes, primarily by sending them medications and bandages. The Russian Church stands ready to join this project,” the head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, said at a meeting of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society on Wednesday…

Photo essay: Coptic Christians grapple with fear and faith (Mother Jones) With Egypt aspiring to democracy but still in political tumult, much is at stake for its minority populations, including Coptic Christians. They are estimated to number more than eight million, making them the country’s largest religious minority group. Increasingly they have become a target for extremists. Since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, acts of aggression and violence, in addition to long-running discrimination and neglect, have instilled fear in the Coptic community regarding their prospects for a peaceful existence.

Ukrainians in Canada gather to remember millions killed by famine (Windsor Star) For a local history teacher, the “sadistic” events of Holodomor, kept silent for decades, are not only important to remember, but important to teach others. “Forcing innocent people to starve, there is no justification for that,” Andrew Stebelsky, a Herman high school history teacher, said Sunday during a ceremony held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the man-made famine. The Holodomor — meaning death by starvation — led to about seven million deaths of mostly rural Ukrainians through the policies of Joseph Stalin’s communist regime in 1932-33…

Tags: Egypt Ukraine Syrian Civil War Russian Orthodox Church Egypt's Christians

27 November 2012
Greg Kandra

Catholic News Service has been charting the 50th anniversary of Vatican II on a special website, and yesterday noted the following event from 1962:

The 27th general meeting of the ecumenical council saw the end of discussion on communications media and the start of debate on proposals for achieving a reconciliation between the Church and separated Eastern Christians.

The unity proposal noted that the Church does not want to leave “anything untried for achieving unity,” but said that it does not wish to gain unity “to the detriment of any truth.”

A lot has happened since then. CNS interviewed two key figures, who described the efforts at reconciliation over the last half century as “remarkable.” You can watch the video below:

Tags: Vatican Unity Ecumenism Christian Unity

27 November 2012
Greg Kandra

The Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours in Trichur, India, is decorated in colorful lights on 25 November for the annual feast marking the consecration of the church. The Syro-Malabar minor basilica is located in the southern Indian state of Kerala. For more on the Syro-Malabar church, check out our profile in the January 2007 issue of ONE. You can also read Msgr. John Kozar’s recent exhortation to the Church, “Into the Deep.” (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)

Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Indian Catholics

27 November 2012
Greg Kandra

A demonstrator prepares to throw a smoking tear gas canister back at police during protests in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo on 25 November. Several hundred people were injured in protests following Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s claim to new powers that shield his decisions from judicial review. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Meeting between patriarch and Egyptian Catholic leaders postponed (Fides) New Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II announced that a meeting with a qualified Egyptian delegation of the Catholic churches would be postponed until 11 December. A reason for the postponement is due to the tension that reigns throughout Egypt — especially in the capital, after the constitutional decrees with which President Morsi has expanded his powers have sparked violent protests against the government and also the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Cluster bomb reportedly kills children in Syrian playground (Vatican Radio) Activists in Syria say a government jet has dropped a cluster bomb on a playground, leaving ten children dead. Video posted online showed children’s bodies on the ground with their mothers grieving over them. Opposition activists said that the children were killed when a MiG fighter bombed a playground in the village of Deir al Asafir, east of Damascus…

Canada’s Syro-Malankara Catholics proud of new cardinal (Catholic Register) Canada’s Syro-Malankara Catholic community may be modest in size but its members are reacting with immense pride to the elevation of its first cardinal. Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, the head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, was to be among eight prelates elevated to cardinal by Pope Benedict on 24 November. He is the first cardinal ever selected from the India-based Syro-Malankara Church. For the 250-member Syro-Malankara congregation of Toronto, the unexpected honor is cause for celebration…

Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Coptic Orthodox Church Egypt's Christians

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