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Autumn 2016

God • World • Human Family • Church

CNEWA at 90:

Answering the Call of the East


one COVER STORY

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People, Look East from the editors

FEATURES

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Out of Byzantium The legacy of Constantine by Mark Raczkiewycz

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Hearing the Voice of God in Africa Faith and fervor uplift the Church of Alexandria by Don Duncan

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Deep Roots, Wide Branches Antioch’s church spans Asia by Greg Kandra

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Where It All Began The enduring faith of Jerusalem by Don Duncan

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An Unshakable Faith Lessons in perseverance from Armenia by Gayane Abrahamyan

DEPARTMENTS

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Connections to CNEWA’s world Focus on the world of CNEWA

t On a recent pastoral visit in northern Ethiopia, Msgr. John E. Kozar captured this portrait of a young student. { Father Elias Hanout greets children in front of St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the town of Ezraa, Syria.

OUR WEBSITE onemagazinehome.org OUR BLOG cnewablog.org


OFFICIAL PUBLICATION CATHOLIC NEAR EAST WELFARE ASSOCIATION

Volume 42 NUMBER 3

Help the churches share the gift of kindness The Eastern Churches — Pgs. 6-37 Front: Christians make up the majority of the southern rural village of Qenna, Egypt.

Publisher Msgr. John E. Kozar

Back: A camp in the Ain Kawa suburb of Erbil hosts families, mostly Christian, displaced by the war in Iraq.

Editorial Staff Paul Grillo Deacon Greg Kandra Michael J.L. La Civita Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. J.D. Conor Mauro Timothy McCarthy

Photo Credits Front cover, David Degner; pages 2, 18 (right), 19, 31 (right), 38, 39, John E. Kozar/CNEWA; pages 3 (left), 33, 36-37, Armineh Johannes; pages 3 (right), 34-35, Nazik Armenakyan; pages 4, 18 (left), CNEWA; page 5, Courtesy Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil; page 6, Filippo Monteforte/ AFP/Getty Images; page 8, Father Damien Saraka; page 9, CNS photo/Paul Haring; page 10, Cody Christopulos; page 11, Oleg Grigoryev; page 12, Tivadar Domaniczky; page 13, Molly Corso; pages 14, 16, Petterik Wiggers; pages 15, 27, Don Duncan; page 17, Sean Sprague; page 20, George Kurian; page 21, Courtesy Jesuit Refugee Service; page 23, Peter Lemieux; page 24, Raed Rafei; page 25 (top), Karen Lagerquist; page 25 (bottom), Nancy Wiechec; page 26, Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images; page 28, AGF Srl/ Alamy Stock Photo; page 29, Nader Daoud; pages 30 (left), 37, Ilene Perlman; pages 30-31, Tanya Habjouqa; page 32, Dima Chikvaidze; back cover, Paul Jeffrey. ONE is published quarterly. ISSN: 1552-2016

CNEWA Founded by the Holy Father, CNEWA shares the love of Christ with the churches and peoples of the East. CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern Catholic churches to identify needs and implement reasonable solutions. CNEWA connects you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope. Officers Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Chair and Treasurer Msgr. John E. Kozar, Secretary Editorial Office 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195 1-212-826-1480 www.cnewa.org ©2016 Catholic Near East Welfare Association. All rights reserved. Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.

Give to CNEWA and our mission can go on Please share our web address with family and friends via email, Facebook and Twitter

In the United States: www.cnewa.org In Canada: www.cnewa.ca


connections

to CNEWA’s world

CNEWA Responds in Africa The drought in the Horn of Africa has placed millions of people at risk of starvation and sparked a worldwide call to action — and CNEWA has responded. Following a generous outpouring from donors, CNEWA has rushed funds to our team members on the ground, who are working with local church partners to assess and prioritize the needs and expedite the response. To date, this has included feeding thousands of children and their families during the summer months, supporting 1,000 pregnant women and feeding 700 elderly people. Late in August, a member of the Daughters of St. Anne wrote to thank our donors for the “generous support extended to our needy children. … The food program supports more than 10,000 children.” It “has been so effective in helping the children to remain in school,” she wrote. “We hope you will continue your kind support of our children in our region [as we work] to eradicate illiteracy and shape the moral and spiritual lives of our children.” Visit www.cnewa.org to learn how you can help.

Befriending the Friendless A CNEWA grant of $15,000 has changed the lives of villagers in a tribal hamlet in the northeastern Indian region of Bastar. “If we are not their friends, they have no friends,” wrote Sister Jancy Vattakanal, superior general of the Deen Bandu Samaj Sisters, a SyroMalabar Catholic community working among the villagers of Koppaguda, whom society and government consider “untouchables.” The grant enabled the sisters to provide medicine and health care at the only available hospice in the area. “They are enjoying the moments they have lost,” Sister Jancy wrote to CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, assuring him

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of the community’s prayers and love for all in the CNEWA family supporting their work in India. Gaza Update Two years after the cessation of hostilities in Gaza, “there does not appear to be any major reconstruction of the thousands of homes that were destroyed during the war, nor any real investment in business development,” reports CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, Sami El-Yousef. Yet, there are some signs of promise. The Rosary Sisters School will welcome 900 students in the new academic year, major renovations are underway at the Latin Parish and the YMCA has remained active and busy during the summer months.

“Gaza continues to inspire so many of us,” Mr. El-Yousef wrote. “Our partners are optimistic despite all the odds. … Our job is to learn from them and not to disappoint them.” To Be a Seminarian in Iraq CNEWA continues to support the spiritual formation of priests and sisters as one of its core programs. For the men studying to join the priesthood in Kurdistan, a region in northern Iraq, this reliable support helps sustain them even as danger is within striking distance. One CNEWA donor shared a letter she received from Rody Butrus, a seminarian she supports through our program currently beginning his theological studies at Babel College in Erbil.


OUR WEBSITE onemagazinehome.org OUR BLOG cnewablog.org “I am originally from Alqosh Diocese,” he writes. “I want to share with you some facts about our living situation. “Since 6 August 2014, ISIS has occupied 60 percent of our diocese. At this time, we are very close to ISIS; in fact we are only 18 kilometers [about 11 miles] away. “It’s a very dangerous situation living here, but we are still living our daily lives. We had a very difficult time; we lost many people and our churches were destroyed. They wanted to erase our history, invading our villages and many other things. “We have hardships, and many daily challenges,” he says, but adds, “I am happy with my call. I hope to remain close to people, close to my church, and I hope to be able to give hope to all my families and friends.”

CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, visits Chaldean seminarians in Erbil this past April.

Only on the Web • In an exclusive video, visit the Rev. Sunny Mathew’s Syro-Malankara Catholic parish in Yonkers, New York: www.onemagazinehome.org/ web/malankara. • Read additional insights into the Church of Jerusalem: www.cnewablog.org/ web/elyousef. • Learn more about the efforts to revive the church in Ukraine: www.cnewablog.org/ web/shevchuk. • We have a rich library of material on the Eastern churches available online, as well. You can read in-depth profiles of all these churches at: easternchurches.org.

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• In addition, we have a continuing and everexpanding series on our ONE-TO-ONE blog, “90 Years, 90 Heroes,” profiling men and women who have made a difference in CNEWA’s work over the last nine decades. You can meet these exceptional figures by visiting: www.cnewablog.org/ web/90heroes. • You can also keep up with these other stories on our new Instagram page: www.instagram.com/cnewa1926.

THESE AND MUCH MORE CAN BE FOUND AT CNEWA.ORG FOR DAILY UPDATES, CHECK OUT CNEWA’S BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE AT CNEWABLOG.ORG

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90

years

years

CNEWA FROM THE EDITORS

People, Look East

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his year, as we commemorate the 90th anniversary of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, we are reminded again and again of the word that is literally our middle name: East. Pope Pius XI founded Catholic Near East Welfare Association in 1926 to support the people served by the Eastern churches, especially the Catholic Eastern churches. Month after month, year after year, we have worked side by side with the dedicated laity, priests and religious men and women of these churches. Through a common faith, we have experienced the rich diversity of culture, liturgy and language that makes up our Christian heritage — and we have shared the sufferings and setbacks, the trials and the tears that are so much a part of life in the lands we are privileged to serve.

This journey has been a story of perseverance and purpose, one that has left us humbled and enriched. It is the story of sisters caring for the victims of war; of seminarians preparing to serve the people of God; of faithful from all walks of life reaching out to the poorest of the poor, and seeing in one another God’s abundant grace at work. To experience this again and again is to realize there is a larger story unfolding in these churches: It is the story of Easter. It is a story of resurrection and of hope. And it is, of course, as with the Gospel itself, a love story.

In the pages that follow, you will meet some of the men and women who are living this story every day, and doing it with enthusiasm, fervor and zeal. We focus on what we consider the five families of the Eastern churches — No commemoration of our nine decades Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, of service to these faith communities, Visit CNEWA’s series Jerusalem and Armenia — rooted in the which include our sister Orthodox on the Eastern ancient lands where the apostles first churches, would be complete without churches at planted the Gospel. The one church’s honoring them. And in this edition of easternchurches.org. “family tree” is complex and elaborate, ONE, we intend to do just that — with with many entwined branches, and we affection, with joy and with tremendous gratitude. It has been our great privilege to accompany will also help trace this tree’s sometimes meandering these ancient and apostolic churches on their pilgrim roots. journey, a journey that has given us a deeper appreciation for the rich and beautiful mystery of faith The result, we hope, is a portrait of the world we serve that binds us together as members of the one human — and a tribute to those who inhabit it and glorify the one who created it.  family.

t Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople embraces Pope Francis during a liturgy in the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul.

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The Church of Constantinople

Out of Byzantium The legacy of Constantine by Mark Raczkiewycz

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piritual leader of more than four million Ukrainian Greek Catholics worldwide, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk describes his role in familial terms. “My mission is to be a father to them, to assure them the church of Kiev takes care of them — a church that is reestablishing its own existence in the capital of Ukraine, yet is a global church,” he says, sitting in a conference room beside the modernistic, towering Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Greek Catholics comprise nearly 9 percent of Ukraine’s population, about four million people, the majority of whom live in western Ukraine. Yet Ukrainian Greek Catholic parishes also flourish in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the United States; smaller communities may also be found in China and the United Arab Emirates. From 1946 until 1990, those Ukrainian Greek Catholics living

in the “diaspora” tenaciously maintained their faith even as the Soviets had eliminated their church back home. This resolve, this loyalty to uphold their identity, Archbishop Sviatoslav says, helped them to remain true “to their faith and to their Christian traditions.” These traditions are steeped in the Byzantine customs of the ancient church of Constantinople, from which they received the faith when the grand prince of the Rus’, Vladimir of Kiev, accepted Christianity in its Byzantine form and instructed his subjects to be baptized in the year 988. Growing up in the western Soviet Ukrainian region of Lviv, the 46-year-old prelate says, he had not expected to become a priest, let alone a bishop or the head of a church then in hiding. But he discovered his faith in the underground, where hundreds of thousands of people risked their lives on a daily basis to maintain

p Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk has led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church since 2011. t A Greek Catholic priest blesses baskets of bread, cheese, eggs and ham Easter morning in Jakubany, Slovakia.

their Greek Catholic faith in defiance of government suppression. Their hope and strength of will empowered the church to carry on, the major archbishop adds. But he learned the true nature of sacrifice after joining an underground seminary: “I was taught that being a priest means to offer not only bread and wine, not only the blood and body of Christ, but to offer your own blood and your own flesh.” When Ukraine achieved its independence in 1991, about 300 priests surfaced from hiding to serve the needs of a faith community reeling from oppression and

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The Church of Constantinople

t Members of an Old Calendar Greek Orthodox community process with an icon in Astoria, New York. u Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic seminarians prepare for worship in Uzhorod, Ukraine.

poverty. They now number more than 3,000 nationwide, an example of what the archbishop calls an “explosion and resurrection” of the Greek Catholic Church, which has emerged as a pillar of the Ukrainian nation. Despite its deep connection with Ukraine, the church is a Catholic faith community that transcends borders and peoples. Tasked with balancing these regional and global identities, the archbishop often references Pope John Paul II’s call for Catholics to breathe with the “two lungs” of Western and Eastern traditions. “The Catholic Church is a globally rich community with different traditions, different rites,” he says of the 23 Catholic Eastern churches that include some 18 million members. “It’s not only important to have those two lungs — Western and Eastern — but to breathe with them fully.” When Pope Benedict XVI confirmed his election as major archbishop by the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in March 2011, Archbishop Sviatoslav found himself in an

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intermediary role between the Orthodox East and Catholic West. He describes this role as a “special vocation … to witness the unity of the church of Christ.” Catholics, he adds, believe the successor of St. Peter, as a bridge builder, is a visible sign from Christ. Aiding in this vocation is Archbishop Sviatoslav’s relationship with Pope Francis, who as the archbishop of Buenos Aires had mentored him when he was named bishop in Buenos Aires in 2009 — the youngest Catholic bishop in the world, at that time. Yet current circumstances also present grave challenges. The ongoing war in Ukraine’s east has stoked tensions along ethnic, linguistic, national and even religious lines, despite the common heritage the churches of Ukraine and Russia share in Constantinople. “These are very difficult, painful situations,” the archbishop says, adding that to promote his “message of reconciliation,” the Greek Catholic Church regularly holds services to pray for the intentions of all those affected, including “those who consider us their enemies.”

“We have to stop the war. We have to do everything to prevent further escalation of that aggression. We have to stop bloodshed between our nations.” The urgency of this mission has also brought his church closer to other Eastern churches, such as those of Syria and Iraq. “We cooperate and share our thoughts, our experiences — how to serve this new, difficult world, especially in conditions of war,” he says. “We have much in common.” Witness, he stresses, remains a crucial task for Christians. “We’re supposed to express our solidarity with those who suffer, and it’s important to be a voice for those nations who are now under direct aggression.” By the same measure, what is happening in Ukraine, he emphasizes, must not be a “forgotten, silent war.” And solidarity, Archbishop Sviatoslav adds, is but one of the four core values of the church’s social teaching. “Dignity, the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity, this is the common ground of ecumenical social action.” In accordance with his mission, Archbishop Sviatoslav must keep a keen eye fixed on such commonalities all Christians share. “They have the same sins, the same hopes, the same anxieties, but also all have the same need for joy and hope of Christian life.” Mark Raczkiewycz is editor at large for the Kyiv Post in Ukraine. His work has appeared in the The Financial Times, The Irish Times and Jane’s Intelligence, among other places.


The CNEWAConnection

The turmoil in Asia Minor in the early 20th century — the suffering of refugees after World War I and the need to sustain them in their place of refuge, the city of Constantinople — served as the impetus for the creation of Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Ninety years later, CNEWA’s support for the Church of Constantinople continues.

financial,” says one alumnus. “The close cooperation of CNEWA is a genuine gesture of solidarity.”

That solidarity is also expressed directly and personally, just as it was 90 years ago, in helping people left homeless by war and strife. Poverty, civil strife and war dismembered post-Soviet Georgia, compelling CNEWA to assist the churches in their relief and support of that nation’s proud Until the collapse of Communism and the people. Ukraine continues to deal with war and unraveling of the Soviet Union, the Eastern civil and political unrest that has displaced churches of the region — all of which had more than a million. CNEWA, working received the Christian faith in its Byzantine through the local churches, has form from Constantinople’s missionaries for accompanied these people and sought — suffered varying degrees of oppression ways to provide humanitarian and pastoral and persecution. Some, especially the support during a tumultuous time. Greek Catholic communities in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine, were nearly years In addition to providing grants for various destroyed; in Romania and Ukraine, the initiatives, usually through the Caritas churches were driven underground and network, CNEWA has long provided ceased to exist — at least legally. significant support for the academic formation of Orthodox priests and bishops, collaborating with Healthier local economies, and robust support the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of from CNEWA’s Catholic partners in Western Christian Unity. Europe and North America, have enabled CNEWA to focus its attention in support of the men and These initiatives and others continue to link women called to serve these churches as priests, CNEWA to its roots in support of the Church religious and lay leaders, providing key support of Constantinople. They serve to remind us to the Greek Catholic seminaries and houses that, while much has changed over the last of formation of the Carpatho-Rusyn, Hungarian, nine decades, CNEWA’s mandate and mission Romanian and Ukrainian Greek Catholic to serve and accompany the Eastern churches churches. have not. CNEWA has also been a key partner in building To learn how you can help, call: up the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, 1-866-322-4441 (Canada) providing support to educate hundreds of new 1-800-442-6392 (United States) leaders for the country. “The support is more than

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The Church of Constantinople

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erhaps as many as 200,000,000 Christians now scattered throughout the world — from the Greek Catholics of southern Italy to the Ukrainian Orthodox of Canada’s prairies — participate in the life of the Church of Constantinople, the existence of which is tied to the actions of one Roman emperor. Constantine I moved his capital from Rome to Byzantium, a Greek port straddling Europe and Asia, after formally recognizing Christianity in the year 313. On 11 May 330, he solemnly christened his “new Rome” as a Christian capital. The emperor built elaborate churches, including a cathedral dedicated to Christ as Hagia Sophia, “the Wisdom of God,” that served as his personal chapel. These sanctuaries, which dominated Constantinople, or “Constantine’s

city,” took on immense significance for the development of the church. As Christianity grew and embraced converts from different cultures, debate raged regarding the nature of Jesus. While today understood to be largely compatible, these philosophical and theological nuances and variations disrupted the unity of the Roman Empire, which took on a Christian character. In the interests of peace, unity, catholicity in practice and consensus in governance, Constantine and his successors convoked ecumenical (from the Greek, oikoumene, meaning “of the inhabited world”) councils, bringing together bishops and theologians from throughout the empire and beyond. At the first such council, held in Nicaea in 325, the fathers formulated the Christian creed that, with some modifications, is recited to this day in churches worldwide. The council fathers

AT A GLANCE

also recognized the “patriarchal” authority of the bishops of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. But as the city of Constantine increased in size and wealth, so did the prestige of its bishop. In 381, the fathers of the Council of Constantinople conferred primacy in the east to the bishop of Constantinople, stating that “the bishop of Constantinople shall have the prerogative of honor after the bishop of Rome since the city of Constantine is the New Rome.” Even as church and state mingled increasingly throughout the empire (today called “Byzantine”), its reach and power began to decline. Nevertheless, Constantinople continued to lure those who desired to possess or emulate the wealth and beauty of this dazzling cosmopolitan city.

“We express our solidarity with those who suffer.”


The greatest remaining example of the sophisticated culture of the Byzantine capital is the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the rites of the patriarchal church of Constantinople. Though these practices originated in the churches of ancient Palestine and Syria, they matured in Constantinople’s Great Church of the Hagia Sophia, which the Emperor Justinian rebuilt and dedicated in the year 537 with the words, “Solomon, I have surpassed thee!” The Great Church of Constantinople — today a museum in Turkish Istanbul — became a metaphor for heaven. Its domes, vaults, arcades, columns, mosaics and silk hangings, with imperial patronage, evoked the heavenly sanctuary inhabited by God. This “cosmos church for a cosmic liturgy” evolved over the ages, and was adopted and adapted by Christians in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central and Eastern Europe. While the Byzantine Empire finally collapsed in 1453, the Church of Constantinople survived, her reach rivaling even that of “Old Rome.” Today, whether in a remote Greek Catholic parish church in the Carpathians of Romania or in the majesty of the Kremlin’s cathedrals, these Christians who share in the legacy of Constantine celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy as conceived in Constantinople for the glory of God in his creation.  Visit CNEWA’s series on the Eastern churches at easternchurches.org. t A Greek Catholic Basilian sister cares for residents at St. Macrina Home in Máriapócs, Hungary. u Bells call Georgians to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Tblisi, Georgia.

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The Church of Alexandria

Hearing the Voice of God in Africa Faith and fervor uplift the church of Alexandria by Don Duncan

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anal Malek Abdo professes a dynamic experience of faith — faith lived through

deeds. “All of my actions say I am a Christian, that I follow Christ’s way,” she says, sitting in her living room in central Egypt. “From Christianity, I learned how to live by example and to love others through my work.” For thousands of years, ethnic Christians — or Copts — have formed a major constituency of the Church of Alexandria, which in Africa includes a number of other Eastern churches, Catholic and Orthodox. For centuries, relations among these Christian communities have been rocky, even hostile. And while leaders are working together to strengthen the bonds of unity, Catholic Copts in villages say they feel more uneasy with their Orthodox Copt brethren than with their Muslim neighbors. In Izbet

Chokor, a village near the city of El Faiyum some 60 miles southwest of Cairo, one Catholic, Mrs. Abdo, builds bridges to strengthen the two sister churches. The youngest of seven children born to a family in El Faiyum, she began her faith formation in the Orthodox tradition. She attended a Coptic school, and credits her family with instilling both a strong connection to their parish and an active inner life. “What I learned from my parents,” she says, “was to listen for God’s voice everywhere, regardless of where that might be.” This lesson would inform one of the most important decisions in her life when, at age 24, she married her beloved, Ramsis — a Catholic Copt. “We first met at a clinic near my work,” she says. Her future husband had accompanied his sister to have her infant son inoculated. “I was teaching in a school; he was

p Manal Malek Abdo lives in Izbet Chokor, an Egyptian village. t Christians celebrate Meskel, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the Ethiopian Church.

working three doors down from the school.” Some had objected to their marriage, which also led to Manal’s reception into the Catholic Church. Although saddened by the controversy surrounding the marriage, she took comfort in her family’s support. “My father had no problem whatsoever with the marriage and becoming Catholic. He said: ‘Do as you feel.’ We prayed and we looked for a sign that it would all be fine.” Listening for God’s voice and looking for signs would help her through the difficult times that followed her marriage as well, especially when her infant daughter died suddenly.

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The CNEWAConnection

CNEWA’s work for the Church of Alexandria has involved serving the people in the Horn of Africa and Egypt. Our work there has been extensive and far-reaching. It touches on virtually every aspect of life in that corner of the world — from providing food to the formation of community and church leaders.

persecuted on account of their faith or ethnicity, Africans make up a plurality of the displaced throughout the world. For decades, CNEWA has assisted the Church of Alexandria’s many efforts to help these displaced men and women, many of them young people in need of psychosocial, pastoral and educational assistance.

Who develops these aid initiatives? Who places Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, themselves at the service of society to help those CNEWA has rushed assistance to the Horn of who cannot help themselves? Often, it is Africa to feed those most affected by the men and women of faith who, motivated severe drought: infants and school by the Gospel, are compelled to respond. children, pregnant and nursing mothers, for CNEWA is particularly proud of its efforts the elderly and sick. Utilizing the health to foster the formation of these servants stations, kindergartens, schools and of God as priests, religious and lay leaders parishes of the local church, CNEWA is of the Church of Alexandria, Catholic and saving the lives of tens of thousands of years Orthodox. people living in the most remote of drought-affected areas. Throughout Egypt and the Horn of Africa, CNEWA supports vocational centers and university Once scorned and often neglected, children with chaplaincies, seminaries and clergy training special needs have long been of special concern centers, houses of formation and retreat centers. to the church. Men and women of the Church of Alexandria have sought out these extraordinary Reaching the youth is key to building a healthy human beings, freeing them from their prisons of church and society. CNEWA’s support for child neglect and fear. By providing good care, these care initiatives throughout the Church of servants of the church free the parents from the Alexandria is unparalleled — and perhaps our cultural prejudices that once bound them to single largest program in the region. silence. And CNEWA has accompanied them, helping the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross, for The Church of Alexandria has a long and rich example, to teach children at Santa Lucia school history on the African continent — and CNEWA is for the blind in urban Egypt and the Daughters of proud to play a role in helping this church to thrive St. Anne heal boys abandoned on account of in the face of immense challenges. their disability in rural Ethiopia.

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For centuries, Africa has been the epicenter of the migration of peoples — bound as slaves, captured for the sex trade, victimized by war and poverty or

To learn how you can help, call: 1-866-322-4441 (Canada) 1-800-442-6392 (United States)


The Church of Alexandria

t An Ethiopian mother and child suffering from malnutrition are treated at a CNEWA-sponsored clinic run by the Daughters of St. Anne. u Coptic bishop Amba Tadros of Port Said, Egypt, visits a church-run child care facility supported by CNEWA.

“I first had a dream that I would be having a baby and to be ready for pregnancy. Then, before my daughter died, I had another dream telling me that this daughter was not for me,” she says. “This was God talking to me again in dreams and letting me know what to prepare for. These signs helped me to know before the tragedy struck and so to prepare for it in some way.” In this way, she says, her faith helped her to begin to cope with so great a loss. “My relationship to God is like a friendship,” she says, “and he has made many signs, many miracles in my life.” Today, she lives her faith through her work with the parish community of St. Paul in Izbet Chokor, where she is deeply involved with various social and educational services. Through the church’s service center, she administers extra lessons for local students and runs handicrafts workshops for young women. “The work they normally do is cooking and taking care of the house,” she says of the workshop participants. “Now, they are making things with their own hands. They are creating things and that gives them more confidence in themselves.” What’s more, she adds, the women take great pleasure in both learning and practicing technical crafts. The parish offers these services to all members of the community, irrespective of background. “We are doing this without any discrimination with regards to

religion,” she says, adding that “at the service center, there is no Muslim or Christian. We are all the same: Egyptians.” Mrs. Abdo regards this spirit of tolerance and peaceful coexistence as vital. Her own experience of conversion has helped her to encourage interfaith encounter; as a young girl, she says, she had heard negative things about Catholics. “But then, when I went to the Coptic Catholic parish church and listened to the Divine Liturgy, I found it was practically the same.” This discovery led her to realize isolation and separation can lead people to emphasize differences, even when common ground is far greater. “Here in Izbet Chokor, our relations with our Muslim neighbors are very good. You can see peaceful coexistence in very small acts,” she says. “During the Islamic month of fasting, or Ramadan, some Muslims wish us ‘Ramadan Kareem’ (noble Ramadan) and we respond, ‘Allahu Akram’ (God the most noble and generous one), the traditional Islamic response.”

Some, she says, are surprised; all are delighted. “I am very sad when I see what is happening to Christians in the region,” she says of the rise of intolerance in Egypt and elsewhere. “I also pray for the Christians in other countries; I light a candle at every liturgy to pray for them.” Challenges such as these, however, bring Mrs. Abdo back to the importance of faith — of listening for God’s voice, and of acting in accordance. This, she says, gives her strength, even in the darkest hours. “After every bad experience, God gives me the power to overcome it. So, every hardship that comes along, I can overcome it because of my faith — God helps me,” she says. “The bad experiences in my life have made me stronger.” A regular contributor to ONE, Don Duncan has covered the Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The New York Times and Agence France Presse.

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The Church of Alexandria

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hristianity in Africa has apostolic roots. St. Mark the Evangelist brought the Gospel to the Egyptian city of Alexandria — second only to Rome in the ancient Mediterranean world — and established a church there as early as A.D. 42. Though persecuted by the Romans — Mark died a martyr’s death around A.D. 67 — the Church of Alexandria blossomed. The city’s theologians led the raucous debates of the early church regarding the person and nature of Jesus Christ.

AT A GLANCE

Her scholars provided the church with the philosophical footing and theological vocabulary that helped form the body of faith as defined by the ecumenical councils. Christian monasticism began in the arid wilderness outside Alexandria, introducing a form of Christian life that would become the bedrock of the universal church. The Church of Alexandria was not confined to cosmopolitan Alexandria or Egypt alone. Over time it grew to include the entire African continent: The churches of Eritrea and

Ethiopia, for example, are daughter churches with extensive cultural, historical and liturgical ties. As the church grew cultural and linguistic differences, theological nuances and ethnic nationalism divided the Church of Alexandria. Today, the Alexandrian Church includes more than 60 million faithful belonging to the Coptic Catholic, Evangelical and Orthodox churches; the Eritrean and Ethiopian Catholic and Orthodox churches; as well as those Christians of Greek,

Though persecuted, the Church of Alexandria blossomed. … It now includes more than 60 million faithful.

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Kenyan and Ugandan nationality who make up the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Alexandria. Alexandrian Christianity ceased to dominate Egyptian culture and national identity some 600 years after the forces of Islam invaded Egypt and took Alexandria in 641. Yet Coptic Christians, who account for a tenth of all Egyptians, continue to play important roles in the life and development of modern Egypt. Even as the Church of Alexandria declined in the city where it began, its reach in the Horn of Africa inspired an independent Christian kingdom that for some 1,600 years withstood colonialism, whether Arab Muslim or European Christian. Today, the nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia are bolstered by millions of Christians whose faith can be traced directly to Christ via Sts. Mark, Frumentius, Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria. ď Ž Visit CNEWA’s series on the Eastern churches at easternchurches.org

t Ethiopian sisters provide safe and loving educational environments for children with disabilities, such as blindness. zCarved into a mountain near Cairo, the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner serves the Zabbaleen, a population of Christian garbage collectors. u The Ethiopian Catholic bishop of Emdibir celebrates the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral.

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The Church of Antioch

Deep Roots, Wide Branches Antioch’s church spans Asia by Greg Kandra

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or the Rev. Sunny Mathew, leading a Syro-Malankara Catholic parish in the suburbs of New York City involves more than administration — a lot more. His duties do not end at managing a staff, maintaining a building or even scheduling the liturgies for his small flock of about 300 people. To the soft-spoken priest from southern India, the role of pastor also demands a fundamental focus on continuity — on helping to write another chapter in the history of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. “The Malankara Catholic liturgy is basically the Antiochene liturgy,” he says, explaining that the Antiochene liturgy is among the oldest liturgies of the church, dating to the time of the apostle, St. James the Less, for whom the liturgy is named. “And we still keep the purity and originality of that liturgy.” This heritage has buoyed his small parish for decades, as the faithful met in various schools

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around the metropolitan area while trying to find a permanent home. In the spring of 2016, the search ended when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York turned over to the Syro-Malankara Church a parish in Yonkers that had been closed. Father Mathew’s flock now has a real church to call home, reinforcing what the priest calls the Syro-Malankara sense of family. “It is a small church,” the 43-yearold priest says of the worldwide Syro-Malankara community. “We still live like one family. We are almost 500,000 members now. And we all feel like we belong to one family, one church. Our major archbishop knows each priest by name. He knows almost everyone in every parish, where each priest works. This is the kind of family atmosphere we have in our church,” he says. He pauses to measure his words. “‘Small’ has its own beauty,” he explains. “That is the blessedness we enjoy.”

Along with its small size, Father Mathew says his church enjoys a pervasive sense of the sacred. It touches every aspect of life. “Our day-to-day life and the liturgical life and our faith, these are all very much linked together,” he says. “Every aspect of the life of an individual is connected to the liturgy of our church. When a child is born, the priest has to witness the child and the mother. When the child is first brought to the church, the first time, there is a special blessing, a special prayer. When someone starts constructing a house, the first stone, the first work, must be inaugurated by the priest with a prayer.” z Father Sunny Mathew delivers a homily in Most Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, New York. u In Yabroud, Syria, extremist rebels defaced the icons of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady.


The Church of Antioch

In this way, the traditions and practices of the faith are carried on. “The whole life is regulated by sacraments,” he emphasizes. “The presence of the church is important. That means the particular way that we live our faith, it can be seen all through the life of the individual.” Certainly, Father Mathew has seen this for himself — and it has had a profound effect on his own life. The youngest of seven children born and reared in a devout Anglican family in Tamil Nadu, India, Father Mathew had long felt the stirrings of a religious vocation. His life took a different turn when he attended a high school run by Carmelite sisters. “The Carmelites influenced me a lot,” he recalls. “That led me to the Malankara Catholic Church. When I

been established. Father Mathew eagerly agreed, and arrived in New York in 2011. Despite the great distance, he remains today deeply connected to the church in his homeland and the difficulties Christians there are facing. “Hindu nationalism is a big challenge,” he says. “The vast majority of Hindus are peaceful people. They respect our religion. In India, almost 80 percent are Hindus, with Christians only 2 or 3 percent. Our bishops try to initiate dialogue with Hindus. Our intention is to make India a better place for everybody.” Another concern, he says, is being able to spread the Gospel to other parts of India. The SyroMalankara Church has jurisdiction to preach all over India, rather than just in the south. And “that is a

u Sister Gracy Paulos, D.D.S., cares for elderly residents of Deivadan Home in the Idukki district of Kerala.

reach out to the youngsters through the parents. Secondly, we have started numerous programs to educate our youth about the uniqueness of our liturgy, our traditions, our calling. “Some of our youngsters feel drawn to big churches with many people, with more facilities we are not able to provide for them,” he says. “Our challenge now is to educate them. They have a unique vocation in the Catholic Church: to live to witness to our liturgy and to be witnesses of what it means to be Malankara Catholic in a different context, outside of India.”

“We witness to the most ancient liturgical and apostolic tradition of the church.” joined the seminary, I knew nothing about the difference between the communities. But I felt drawn to the priesthood. “All the priests I met were very hard workers. Night and day, they used to work for the parish. They felt one with the community. That was what attracted me. It was not an ‘office’ type of priesthood. It was a priesthood that demanded they spend their whole lives for the people, and they did. That attracted me.” After ordination, he traveled to Rome to study canon law. In 2010, after receiving his doctorate, one of his professors asked if he would be interested in relocating to the United States, where a jurisdiction for the Syro-Malankara Church had

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blessing,” Father Mathew says. “It is an opportunity. We can do a lot of work in other parts of India.” Yet, it is work pursued by a relative few — both in India and around the world. “Our parishes are very small,” he emphasizes. “This means our parishes are not financially independent or stable. Some cannot even support a priest.” In fact, to support himself, in addition to running his parish in Yonkers, Father Mathew works as a canon lawyer for the Archdiocese of New York. Despite some of the daunting challenges, he remains optimistic about the future of his flock. “We focus on families,” he says. “Our parents have a good hold on our youngsters and we try to

Father Mathew knows that the next generation will continue the work of those who came before. What germinated some 2,000 years ago in the ancient soil of Antioch has spread to India and is continuing today in places as distinctive as Yonkers, New York. In this way, the Syro-Malankara Church works to write its next chapter — and that of the historical Church of Antioch to which it belongs. “We witness to the most ancient liturgical and apostolic tradition in the church,” he says. “This is our vocation in the Catholic Church.” Greg Kandra is CNEWA’s multimedia editor and serves as a deacon for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.


The CNEWAConnection

Enduring persecution and martyrdom, war and civil strife, the Church of Antioch stands as a testament to the resilience and faith of its people. Across the decades, CNEWA has endeavored to build on that faith, helping her grow and thrive, whether in the Middle East, India or beyond.

Christians who have fled ISIS since 2014. CNEWA has helped provide education, emergency aid and medical assistance to displaced families who have lost everything. Neighboring Lebanon and Jordan have absorbed waves of refugees, as well; to assist them, CNEWA has supported medical and humanitarian care at such institutions as the Italian Hospital in Amman and the Dbayeh Refugee Camp near Beirut.

One critical way we have done this is through the formation of church leaders: priests, religious sisters and lay catechists. Generations of benefactors have nurtured Chaldean and Syriac CNEWA has also actively sought to bring dignity seminarians and religious in Iraq; contributed to and justice to those on the margins, whether in the education of Maronite and Melkite priests and remote villages or big cities. In India, that has sisters in Lebanon and Syria; and fostered meant collaborating with the Syrovocations to the priesthood and religious Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic life among the burgeoning Syro-Malabar for churches to support schools, child care and Syro-Malankara churches in India. initiatives and social service works that uplift the poor — especially the Dalits, the Building the Antiochene Church requires so-called “untouchables” scorned by lay leadership, too, especially in areas much of Indian society. CNEWA has also years where the presence of priests and been able to provide assistance to religious sisters is not permitted, or even numerous facilities that care for children dangerous. CNEWA is there, supporting — from orphanages that give security and catechetical and formation programs for love to the youngest infants, to homes that dedicated men and women eager to serve as provide teenagers with training and skills to try pastoral associates. These and other initiatives and achieve a better life. have helped ensure the Gospel continues to be spread, heard, shared and lived. The challenges these churches face are daunting, but the steadfast devotion of the people — and of And living the Gospel is key to one of our oldest the innumerable lay and religious workers who mandates: the care of displaced and broken serve them — continues to inspire. CNEWA is families. This has been a cornerstone of our privileged to accompany these churches on their mission from the very beginning 90 years ago — pilgrim journey. and it continues today, most prominently and dramatically in Iraqi Kurdistan. There CNEWA, To learn how you can help, call: working through local congregations and 1-866-322-4441 (Canada) churches, is helping care for the spiritual, physical 1-800-442-6392 (United States) and humanitarian needs of tens of thousands of

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The Church of Antioch

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he ancient Romans considered the city of Antioch the center of the East. Today a provincial city of 150,000 people in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, Roman Antioch was the capital of the province of Syria and, at its height in the first century A.D., home to more than 500,000 people. Inhabited by a panoply of peoples, Roman Antioch was culturally and linguistically Greek, the predominant culture of the GrecoRoman era. Those who lived in the province’s rural interior, however, spoke Syriac, a dialect of the Aramaic spoken by Jesus. Sophisticated, Roman Antioch proved to be fertile ground for new ideas, philosophies and faiths, such as the teachings of Jesus. Many of these new ideas faded, but Christianity took root and flourished. According to the Acts of the Apostles, believers fleeing the persecution of the Jewish authorities brought the Gospel to Antioch. These disciples worked among

AT A GLANCE

Jews and Gentiles and built up a community of believers. Sts. Paul and Barnabas nurtured it before St. Peter settled there, around the year A.D. 44, directing the life of the church for seven years until he left for Rome. Over time, this community achieved an identity. Again, according to Acts, “It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” And the Church of Antioch boomed. For the next 500 years, the Antiochene Church fostered bishop martyrs, anchorites, poets, scholars and theologians, all of whom contributed to a lively and diverse church. And while all were passionate about their faith, few agreed with one another. As the Church of Antioch prospered, its bishops assumed leadership among the bishops of all the East, who increasingly referred to the Antiochene prelates as “patriarchs,” a title of honor once reserved in the Old Testament for Abraham, the 12 sons of Jacob and King David. Increasingly, Antioch’s

patriarchs governed a church that stretched from Syria, beyond the eastern frontiers of the Roman Empire into Iraq, Persia and India. But the unity of the Church of Antioch crumbled as cultural, linguistic and theological nuances increasingly took on political associations. Presently, more than 14 million people, belonging to 10 distinct churches, form the Church of Antioch. These include the Church of the East, whose missionaries once founded monasteries in China and Japan; the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Antioch; the Indian and Syriac Orthodox churches; and the Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite, Syriac and the Syro-Malabar and SyroMalankara Catholic churches. And while these churches claim unique histories, rites and traditions, all proudly stem from Antioch and share in that church’s legacy.  Visit CNEWA’s series on the Eastern churches at easternchurches.org

{ A Syriac monk holds the traditional Syriac communion bread, which is divided into 12 sections representing the apostles. t Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena teach displaced children in Erbil, Iraq. u The Holy Family Chaldean Catholic Mission celebrates the Divine Liturgy in a Roman Catholic church in Phoenix, Arizona.

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“Our day-to-day life and the liturgical life and our faith, these are all very much linked together.”

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The Church of Jerusalem

Where It All Began

The lasting faith of Jerusalem by Don Duncan

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or those born in Jerusalem, birth certificates shed light on the complexities that have come to define this holiest of cities. Sami El-Yousef’s grandfather was born in the Christian Quarter of the Old City in 1890; his birth certificate reflected the Turkish Ottoman rule of the time. The British Mandate in Palestine authorized the birth certificate for Mr. El-Yousef’s father, born in the same neighborhood in 1921. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan issued Mr. El-Yousef’s birth certificate when he was born in 1960. And when he and his wife Irene had their four children, all born in the Christian Quarter, the state of Israel issued their respective birth certificates. Regardless of the tremendous changes, instability and violence marking the last century in the Holy Land, the El-Yousef family emphasizes what has remained constant: their Christian identity. Governing authorities may come

and go — as have those who make up the Church of Jerusalem that includes modern Israel, Jordan and Palestine — but the “mother church” remains unbroken. The gravity of history, conveyed in books, buildings and birth certificates, weighs heavily on the Christians of Jerusalem, who maintain an uninterrupted connection with the birthplace of the faith. As they grow, learn, pursue their goals and rear their families in the Holy Land, many contemplate how to live their Christian faith as part of this church. For Sami El-Yousef, his career has become an expression of this. For 24 years, he served as finance director at Bethlehem University, which is sponsored by the Holy See. CNEWA then invited him to serve as its regional director for Palestine and Israel. In this capacity, he has interacted with “people in every corner of Palestine and Israel” so as to help this endeavor of the

p Sami El-Yousef is a native of the Old City of Jerusalem. t As the sun sets on Holy Saturday, Christians celebrate Easter with Holy Fire, a tradition dating to the fourth century, in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Holy See, known locally as CNEWAPontifical Mission, to assess and serve the needs of those most vulnerable. “It has really been the best seven years of my life,” he says. “All of a sudden, you get that sense of worth, of who you are as a Christian, of your contributions to society and of how critical and important the Christian presence is in a conflict zone.” This Christian presence is both great and small. Although Christians make up a mere 1.2 percent of the Palestinian population, and 2 percent of the Israeli population, this “minority” — religious and lay — administers some 45 percent of

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The Church of Jerusalem

t Christians pray at the Stone of the Anointing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. u At the Italian Hospital in Amman, Dominican Sisters of the Presentation of Mary provide care to refugees and low-income families.

Jerusalem is the cradle of the land we call “Holy.” the educational, health care and social service institutions in the region. And even as this Christian population grows more diverse, with Christian migrants from Africa and Asia settling in Israel, religious vocations are in decline, making lay leadership much more common. “Religious vocations are on the decline generally. So, given the reduction in people entering religious life, we no longer have the leadership of religious to administer the many social service institutions of the church,” says Mr. El-Yousef. “This is a challenge the Church of Jerusalem has to adapt to as it moves forward,” he says. “How do we ensure that the charism of these institutions remains strong? What does it mean to be a Christian institution? Does it mean there are merely statutes on campus, a crucifix in every hospital ward, or is it more about the values that govern the institution?” This challenge, he maintains, is best handled through proper recruitment and formation to ensure that lay leaders and staff fully understand and embrace the

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charism of the religious congregations that founded these apostolates of service. Yet emphasizing one’s identity — even, or perhaps especially, in an institutional context — can be a sensational thing in an increasingly polarized setting such as Jerusalem. The city of 880,000 people includes some 370,000 Palestinian Muslims, 500,000 Israeli Jews and a small pocket of about 10,000 Palestinian Christians, 60 percent of whom live inside the Old City. While numerically marginal, this group plays a critical role in times of tension, advocating “for the values of tolerance, coexistence and the respect for human dignity,” Mr. ElYousef says. “No matter what happens, you don’t hear Christians calling for revenge. … This places a huge burden on our shoulders, but it’s something many of us understand and accept. Those who find it too burdensome tend to pack up and go, and this is why we’ve seen waves of Christian emigration from here — especially after conflicts.”

The pattern of this emigration, however, has grown more pronounced in recent years. For example, in Bethlehem, the population was 80 percent Christian 80 years ago. Today, Christians make up a mere 18 percent of residents of the town where Jesus was born. In the face of precipitous population decline, Christians have banded together, attaching less and less importance to the divisions between the Church of Jerusalem’s constituent communities. “Historically speaking, the various churches that constitute the Church of Jerusalem possess institutions and properties, and each church is still protective about its own interests,” Mr. El-Yousef says. “On the level of the people, however, you see those divisions less and less. Fifty years ago, it was clear which church you belonged to: Greek Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Syriac Catholic, etc. As Christians continue to emigrate, and as the numbers continue to dwindle, those divisions no longer have the same meaning. “Now, you’re Christian, period.”


The CNEWAConnection

In supporting the Church of Jerusalem, CNEWA is humbled to be of service to the people of God living in the very cradle of the land we call “Holy.” It is, however, a region facing profound challenges — scarred by war, traumatized by terror, and unsettled by the displacement of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. Thankfully, due to generations of generous benefactors, CNEWA offers stability and hope, which are otherwise often in short supply.

hearing- and visually impaired children, and offered counseling to support their families. And although the church in Gaza is tiny, numbering just 1,500 Christians or so, their impact is large. Through the generosity of our donors, we have supported Gaza’s Christians to help provide health care, counseling and support to so many innocent Gazan families in desperate need. Beyond the considerable material and educational needs of the people served by the Church of Jerusalem, CNEWA has been there to help meet the spiritual needs of the faithful. Programs have included support for parish life activities, from catechetical programs for the youth to the formation of community leaders, as well as counseling for refugee children and support of pastoral initiatives of the Hebrew-speaking church.

Working through our offices in Jerusalem for and Amman, which are known locally as CNEWA-Pontifical Mission, we have supported Christian-run hospitals, clinics, orphanages, schools and social service years programs, partnering with communities of women religious, such as the Comboni Missionaries, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the Rosary Sisters and the In ways large and small, CNEWA offers Sisters of St. Dorothy, as well as local parishes opportunity and a better future to people at every and eparchies. phase of life — from expectant women in urgent need of care for their babies, to children hungry These efforts have reached wave after wave of for education, to families trying to start over after displaced peoples and migrants, from Palestinian war, to the elderly in need of tender attention and refugees after 1949 to the Asians and Africans support. We are there. seeking refuge in Israel and the Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing to Jordan today. To learn how you can help, call: 1-866-322-4441 (Canada) In Gaza, long a prison of grinding poverty, we 1-800-442-6392 (United States) have supported efforts of the local church to teach

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The Church of Jerusalem

AT A GLANCE

C

hristians celebrate Jerusalem as the birthplace of the church, revering it as the place of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. From the earliest days, Christians have called Jerusalem Hagia Polis, Greek for the “Holy City.” (Greek was the language of the New Testament and of the early church.) The Apostle James, “the brother of the Lord,” guided the Church of Jerusalem after Pentecost, and was stoned to death about eight years before the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple in the year 70. After his death, 15 bishops “of the circumcision” guided the mother church until the Romans nearly annihilated the Jews and leveled what remained of Jerusalem in the year 135. The mother church carried on in the region, keeping alive the memory, deeds and words of Jesus. The oldest complete form of the Eucharist to have survived, known as the Liturgy of St. James, developed during this period and is

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today used on specific feast days by the churches of the Byzantine and Syriac traditions. While the smallest of the ancient patriarchal churches — in 451, the fathers of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon recognized Jerusalem as a patriarchate, according its bishop a special status after Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch — the Church of Jerusalem’s reach has been extensive. Its early rites and traditions influenced those developed by the church of Antioch, from which emanated the Armenian, Byzantine, Chaldean and Syriac traditions. Centuries of instability and economic malaise, exacerbated by the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, have eroded the Church of Jerusalem, especially the once-dominant Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Jerusalem. Whereas Christians once led civic, cultural and intellectual life in the region, today their influence is limited, even in the traditional centers of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth and Ramallah.

At the moment, the Church of Jerusalem includes about 400,000 people — Arabs primarily — scattered throughout the Holy City, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula. The vast majority of these Christians once belonged to the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Jerusalem, which now accounts for fewer than 130,000 people. The Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which shares the same rites and traditions as the patriarchal church of Jerusalem and is in full communion with Rome, now includes about the same number of people. The rest belong to other faith communities, especially those typically associated with the West: the Latin Catholic Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Anglican and Lutheran communities. While the revival of parish life in Romania, Russia and Ukraine — and the resurgence of pilgrims (and in Israel, immigrants) from those churches — has bolstered the Church of Jerusalem, heightening its profile, the ultimate fate of this ancient community depends on a

just political resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. Jerusalem lies at the heart of a dispute many observers believe to be at the root of the clash between the Arab Muslim and Western worlds.  Visit CNEWA’s series on the Eastern churches at easternchurches.org.

t Melkite Greek Catholics celebrate an early morning Divine Liturgy at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Shefa-‘Amr, Israel. p A Bedouin is ordained to the diaconate in Jordan. z An icon is written directly on the concrete of the Israeli separation wall near the Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint in Bethlehem.

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The Church of Armenia

An Unshakable Faith Lessons in perseverance from Armenia by Gayane Abrahamyan

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ister Arousiag Sajonian emanates a patience and kindness some associate with a bygone era — a time before the series of disasters that, for Armenians, have characterized the modern era. “Sometimes it seems we are tilting at windmills,” she says, referencing the valiant but vain fight of Don Quixote against his imaginary enemies in the great 17th-century Spanish novel. “When I first came to Armenia, it was a disastrous social situation; there was no bread, no water, no electricity. But people were helping each other; there was still hope.” However, she continues, these shared values, including people’s faith in one another, have eroded.

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“We teach our children the real and true values, and they often get confused, because they see one thing at home and something else at school. Struggling in conditions of such contradictions is extremely difficult.” Recently, French President François Hollande awarded the Armenian Catholic sister of the Immaculate Conception with his country’s Order of Merit in appreciation of her humanitarian activities. The French ambassador to Armenia, in presenting the award, lauded the faith she has demonstrated through her tireless service. “Sister Arousiag for me embodies two principles: First, it is faith in God,” said Ambassador JeanFrançois Charpentier. “It is faith that

gives strength and energy to Sister Arousiag and makes her worthy of admiration. The second principle is faith in the human being, which is evidenced by everything that she has done in Gyumri. A human being is at the center of her activities — it is children, the poor, the elderly, it is educating and providing specialties to the young people so that they can find their place in life.” The struggle for faith holds a central place in Sister Arousiag’s life and work. Although born and reared in Syria, her Christian faith forms the principal ground of her Armenian identity, which she has carried all over the world — from her youth in Syria and Lebanon to the United States, where she cofounded a school in Philadelphia. Her greatest mission has been to return to her ancestral homeland of Armenia. There, the people of the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion — in the year 301 A.D. — had begun to view ancient churches as museums rather than as places of prayer. In 1990, after a long wait, Sister Arousiag received permission from the Soviet authorities to come to Armenia during one of the country’s most difficult times. The devastating earthquake of December 1988 had claimed more than 25,000 lives and left as many as a million people homeless. That earthquake was soon followed by another: the unraveling of the Soviet Union and the emergence of an independent Armenia in 1991. War with neighboring Azerbaijan, economic collapse and an energy crisis, however, aggravated the poverty of z Sister Arousiag Sajonian heads the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Gyumri. u Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin I blesses the Holy Myron, or anointing oil, in 1996.


the tiny republic, especially in the earthquake-devastated northwest. To this day, Sister Arousiag remembers the victims’ eyes. “There was hardly a family that wouldn’t have a loss. I remember a 20-member family where only a 76-year-old grandfather and his 5-year-old grandson survived; all the others were buried under the ruins of their home. The old man would always ask me why he needed to live and what the point of his life was.” “There were so many ‘whys’ that I myself got entangled in those questions. Children and adults were going through awful depression, all wore black, painted everything in black, everything was black, there was no bright spot in their lives,” adds the sister.

In a time of overwhelming need, their faith in the Gospel has helped them to restore life’s many colors. “Children were the most vulnerable in those days; many had lost their parents, many were hungry. The most immediate task was to change their lives, their environment — to educate them and give them a hope to live.” First based in several northern Armenian villages, the sisters helped revive parishes long suppressed by the Soviets, teaching children and providing comfort and counsel to their parents. In 1996, Sister Arousiag founded the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center, which to this day provides a home to dozens of parentless children. Two years earlier, the sisters founded Our Lady of

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The Church of Armenia

tu Children help one another at the Our Lady of Armenia Education Center in Tashir, Armenia.

Armenia Summer Camp, where every year more than 800 children from different regions of Armenia spend three weeks in a completely different environment to play, study, rest, learn and develop positive attitudes toward life. In order to ensure the continuity of education, Sister Arousiag also led in the creation of the Youth Development Center, a vocational school in Gyumri, and a day care center for the elderly. “Working with orphans and abandoned children is challenging,” Sister Arousiag says. “They try to understand why they have found themselves in this status, often looking for their share of guilt inside themselves. “I often hear children say that not I, no one, could ever understand them. “Perhaps they are right; we won’t understand them. It is here that faith again comes to my aid — I explain to them that perhaps only they can help and be useful to others who find themselves in a similar situation, and that this is their mission.”

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Sister Arousiag believes the tools religious faith provides are the best — perhaps the only — means to tackle these contemporary challenges. “Things have changed over years. It was difficult when we had in our center children orphaned by the earthquake or war. But they had a different mentality then, as they knew they had been loved once. But now it is more difficult because most of our children are abandoned orphans,” she explains. “Their protest is against the whole world, and here we often become helpless, and it is only faith that helps us also to help these children.” In this way, she maintains, faith can transform lives — just as it transformed her own. “Every morning, at 5 a.m., my mother took me to the Badarak [the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church], then I studied at the school of the sisters. I felt pain every time my mother told me about the suppression of religion in Soviet Armenia.” This, she says, “opened a new door” and gave her a mission.

“I thought I’d go there and restore the faith that we have had for centuries.” But being a believer in Armenia means an endless bout — a battle against desperate social conditions and the legacies of the Soviets: atheism, deteriorating values and intolerance. Faith in the Gospel helps to overcome the problems, but the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception often feel alone in this struggle. “We do see some positive changes in the children whom we educate. We see their kindness, their love for one another,” she says. “Sisters show them another way.” But the sisters do not stop there; they seek to help parents and families, and the communities in which they live and work. It is an effort to overcome social ills through broader unity. “There is no division for us,” she says of her community of Armenian Catholic sisters, who also work closely with the preeminent church of all Armenians, the Armenian Apostolic Church, particularly in assisting children in their catechism to receive the sacraments. “Our faith never divides. Every day, every hour we live, we must strengthen our faith; every hour we must feel that God created us all with love and that he loves us, and we must pass that love to each other,” Sister Arousiag says, wearing an almost childlike smile of kindness, albeit tempered by the wisdom of experience. “This is the guide for life … and, ultimately, this is the only salvation and impulse for happiness all over the world.” Gayane Abrahamyan’s reporting has appeared in The Atlantic, EurasiaNet and ArmeniaNow.


The CNEWAConnection

Karagheusian Foundation in providing pediatric In the last 100 years, the Church of Armenia has care, clinical and dental services and social faced daunting trials. Everything from war, assistance activities, such as counseling and persecution, natural disasters — even genocide tutoring for high-risk children. — has visited the Armenian people, the first to accept the Gospel as a nation. But even Forging strong relationships with the as survivors of the genocide flocked to leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church safe havens, their cries moved Catholics has been a notable objective of CNEWA, in North America to help. In 1926, Pope particularly since the collapse of the Pius XI founded Catholic Near East for Soviet Union and the confusion that has Welfare Association to be the Catholic taken root in the Caucasus. Despair vehicle to do just that. Responding to and poverty have devastated parish CNEWA’s “Call of the East,” Catholics communities in rural Armenia and Georgia, gave generously, enabling the Holy See years where families have been torn apart as to assist the local churches’ efforts to husbands and fathers leave for work feed, clothe and heal throughout the elsewhere, never to return. “Near East.”

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Among such sanctuaries is Anjar, a village in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley founded by survivors of the genocide. CNEWA has deep roots there, supporting the varied works of the Armenian churches — especially child care programs. Much of this support was directed through a powerful advocate at the time: Cardinal Gregory Peter XV Agagianian, the former patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church and later the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches of the Holy See.

CNEWA is honored to support the efforts of the Armenian Catholic Ordinariate, the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, and the charities of the Catholic bishops of Armenia and Georgia, Caritas Armenia and Caritas Georgia, respectively, in their efforts to build up the family, especially those most vulnerable: children, the elderly, and those with special needs. The Armenian Catholic Church is small in size, but its reach is extensive, and benefits all.

Anjar continues to house refugees, now sheltering Armenians fleeing civil war in Syria. And CNEWA is there, supporting the nurturing efforts of the

To learn how you can help, call: 1-866-322-4441 (Canada) 1-800-442-6392 (United States)

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The Church of Armenia

T

he Armenians, whose ancient homeland now encompasses parts of Asia Minor, the Caucasus and northwestern Iran, have endured for more than 3,000 years. Squeezed between Asia and Europe, Armenians have outlived more powerful neighbors, who repeatedly and relentlessly sought to subjugate and even obliterate them. How have the Armenians survived? Most historians would credit the role of the Armenian Church — Apostolic and Catholic. This unique faith community has influenced all aspects of Armenian society, language and culture since the adoption of Christianity as the religion of the state in the year 301. The events surrounding the baptism of the Armenian king, Tiridates III, by St. Gregory the Illuminator are well known. What remains obscure,

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AT A GLANCE

Armenian Christianity charted its own course. however, is the origin of Armenian Christianity. There are a few clues: Ancient tradition credits the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as the source of the Christian faith in Armenia. And ancient Armenia’s familiarity with Syriac and Greek Christian customs — before the era of St. Gregory — point to Armenia’s links to the ancient churches of the eastern Mediterranean. Regardless of origin, Armenian Christianity prospered, charting its own course as it navigated the troubled waters of neighboring Byzantium and Persia. Independence did not, however, require the Armenians to sever commercial or cultural relationships with the

Christian Byzantines, the Muslim world or the Catholic West. For centuries, trade flourished. Byzantine emperors and Muslim leaders employed Armenian scribes, most of whom were monks. Armenians engineered defense systems and designed churches, such as the Great Church of the Church of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia. And Armenian princesses married into European ruling families. Even after the Ottoman Turks supplanted the Byzantines, capturing Constantinople in 1453, the Armenian Church thrived well into the modern era. Armenian catholicoi, patriarchs and bishops guided their eparchies, founded


monasteries and endowed churches with precious manuscripts and bejeweled sacred objects. The rise of national movements throughout 19th-century Europe, and the decline of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, exposed the vulnerability of the empire’s Christian minorities, especially its Armenians. By 1923, some 1.5 million Armenian Christians perished in what many today call the Armenian Genocide. Those who survived, perhaps a quarter of a million people, fled to Lebanon and Syria. The Armenian Christian diaspora today numbers seven million people. And while scattered across the globe, all turn to modern Armenia’s Holy Etchmiadzin, the center of the church where according to tradition Jesus descended from heaven and struck with a golden hammer the site of the deaths of two virgin martyrs, Gayane and Hripsime. Holy Etchmiadzin “is the heart of the Armenian nation,” wrote the 19th-century Armenian poet, Berj Proshian. “Enter inside, kiss the point of descent and you will have kissed the entire expelled nation, dispersed throughout the universe.”  Visit CNEWA’s series on the Eastern churches at easternchurches.org.

t Parishioners, holding rosaries, attend a liturgy in the Catholic village of Azadan, Armenia. z Youth attend Our Lady of Armenia Summer Camp in Tzakhkatzor, the valley of flowers. u Young members of Jerusalem’s Armenian community socialize in the courtyard of the Cathedral of St. James.

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focus

on the world of CNEWA

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recently made a pastoral visit to India with CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. As I sorted through the photographs, the images that my camera highlighted revealed to me the importance of CNEWA’s ministry of accompaniment to the Catholic Eastern churches — and, at the same time, the honor and privilege entrusted to our CNEWA family in walking with them.

faithful to our Lord. And we are privileged to witness their daily professions of faith. The little children radiate in their smiles how a loving Jesus brings joy to their hearts. With a simple signing of the cross, singing of a spiritual

These Eastern churches are ancient and apostolic; they are challenged by poverty, hatred, oppression, persecution and “smallness,” but they are unique in their individual character and identity. Rather than dictate to these individual churches how they might be more like “us,” CNEWA proudly walks with them to uplift them and fortify them in proclaiming their faith and their traditions. More than anything else, each is a church full of faith, sometimes in a very heroic sense. Helping them maintain this faith is the single greatest act of accompaniment we can offer. Despite overwhelming odds, they endure and remain

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hymn, kissing an icon, or preparing to receive the Body of Christ in Communion, these little ones lovingly embrace their faith and invite our continuing expressions of support. They bring us honor as we walk with them.

People who are hungry or who have no shelter find comfort in the church. Although displaced and forced to flee from their home, they still have another “home” — the church. CNEWA reaches out to help nourish them, to bring them basic health care, to provide temporary housing — in short, to remind them they are not alone. While we assist them in their needs, they remind us that we are all members of God’s family. Our prayers for them are infinitely redounded by remembrance of us in their prayers. Liturgically, the Eastern churches we serve are very unique. Their liturgical expressions in word and in action allow us to step back in admiration and to appreciate their history and culture. Probably most impressive to me personally is the dignity each church tradition gives to their respective liturgical practices. Whether in an open field, in a tent, in a beautifully adorned church sanctuary — wherever they gather for the Eucharist — it is a holy place and the fullness of our faith is celebrated at the altar. Almost all of the seminarians of these Eastern churches are


supported by our good-will offerings, as are men and women religious in their novitiate years. These young people represent the future of these churches and make their commitments to serve in the midst of war, oppression, persecution and poverty — what many would consider a losing proposition. But CNEWA accompanies them as they continue to say “yes” to the will of God and the call of his son. What a humble example of service for each of us! Our CNEWA family also supports education and faith formation. All the values that Jesus himself has taught us are lived out in the educational and catechetical programs we support. Some of my most vivid, most humbling experiences have included visiting with children who benefit from

Catholic education or faith formation and seeing their interaction with one another, especially with children who do not share their faith tradition. Children who otherwise would be sworn enemies find new study pals in this Christian environment. Despite their “smallness,” some of these Eastern churches are dynamic in their missionary outreach. Here in North America, and throughout the world, many dioceses have missionaries from the two Eastern churches in India — what Cardinal Dolan calls the “new Ireland.” As we continue to walk with them in their homeland, they bless us with their missionary zeal. These are just a few of the many pastoral and humanitarian avenues of accompaniment that CNEWA undertakes.

Please give thanks to God for the honor entrusted to our CNEWA family in walking with these Catholic Eastern churches. Your prayers and generous donations have sustained our efforts for these past 90 years. In humility we acknowledge that through our good works, we have helped to sustain many people in their faith, despite terrible odds. But all the credit goes to Almighty God. Thank you, God, for the gift of faith and the honor you bestow on us. Please, God, continue to bless Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Msgr. John E. Kozar z Syro-Malabar faithful celebrate the conclusion of a spiritual retreat in the Archeparchy of Changanacherry. t Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, celebrates the Divine Liturgy in Trivandrum. x Msgr. John E. Kozar visits an orphanage run by the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in India.

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CNEWA a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195 • 1-212-826-1480 • cnewa@cnewa.org 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9 • 1-866-322-4441 • www.cnewa.ca

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One Magazine Autumn 2016  
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