31 January 2012
In this image from 2005, a recovering alcoholic attends a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in Kerala with his daughter. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
From India today comes word that Catholic leaders are considering taking a hard line against drinking, to battle a worsening problem:
Church leaders in Kerala today declared war on liquor consumption, maintaining that alcohol abuse is the root-cause behind many broken families in the southern Indian state.
The Church is planning to list drinking as a cardinal sin that should be confessed, said Father T. James Antony, secretary of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council’s (K.C.B.C.) Temperance Commission.
The commission is drafting a proposal in this regard for the council which should be finalized by June, he said.
People in Kerala are said to be the biggest drinkers in India, drinking three times the national average.
A recent study by the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre revealed that alcohol dependency is even spreading among children aged 10-15.
“Alcoholism is a social menace which is destabilizing families and claiming thousands of lives every year,” Father Antony said.
We reported on Kerala's problem of addiction and the people struggling to recover in 2005:
Each year, the state consumes 2.2 gallons of liquor per capita, about three times the national rate, according to India’s Outlook magazine.
“In Kerala, people tend to start drinking once they are 18 years old, which is the legal age for being able to purchase liquor,” said Father Titus Kattuparambil, a Syro-Malabar priest of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda and assistant director of Navachaithanya.
“Among the bad cases, you’ll see people who earn about three dollars a day, and they’ll blow two dollars of that on alcohol.”
Both national and local governments have acknowledged the problem of alcoholism, and alcohol advertising is illegal. Kerala’s state government also funds several detoxification centers at public hospitals. But at the same time, Father Titus pointed out, the government in Kerala – as in other Indian states – draws revenue from liquor taxes and therefore has a fiscal disincentive to curb alcohol consumption.
For more, continue reading One Day At a Time in Kerala. For further information on the K.C.B.C. Temperance Council, click here.
31 January 2012
Tags: India Kerala Indian Bishops Alcoholism Substance Abuse
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Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, wearing the cape of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, prays the rosary on steps of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer/NY Daily News)
Just days before he is scheduled to become a cardinal in Rome, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York is making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. From the New York Daily News:
Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s swing through Israel took him Monday to one of the most sacred sites in Christianity, the place where Jesus was crucified and buried.
New York’s Catholic leader, a cardinal-designate, bowed his head in prayer and held rosary beads at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Dolan and his entourage also worshiped at Gethsemane Garden Center, where Jesus prayed the night before he was nailed to the cross...
...Dolan, who is in the Holy Land ahead of his trip to Rome to be made cardinal, also visited the Western Wall, one of the holiest spots in Judaism. He’ll be back at the church Tuesday for Mass before heading to Bethlehem.
“One benefit of being the Archbishop of New York is that you become friends with the Jewish community — they have been exceptionally good to us,” he said.
Catholic News Service caught up with him at one stop:
“Just to be here ... at a pivotal moment in your life, a time of transition, (that) you would turn to the Lord in prayer and reflection, this is good,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center during a brief meeting with a group of Catholic journalists from the United States also visiting Israel.
In the picture shown above, the Cardinal-designate, who also serves as the chairman of CNEWA, is wearing the distinctive cape of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. We profiled the order and its colorful history in our magazine in 1995:
At the end of the 11th century Pope Urban II, who had proclaimed and enforced the “Truce of God” and the “Peace of God” to limit warfare in Europe, turned his attention to the Holy Land. The Seljuk Turks, who by this time had conquered most of the Middle East, harassed the Christians traveling there as pilgrims. Dismayed by these actions, the Pope proclaimed a crusade to regain access and control of the holy places. In 1099, Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Brabant (which is located in modern Belgium), leading a mixed force of noblemen, knights and peasants, conquered Jerusalem.
In an effort to secure the safety of the Holy Sepulchre, the shrine marking the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Godfrey established a religious order of knights to protect the holy places and provide security for pilgrims. In 1113, Pope Pascal II approved the rules and constitutions of the order, which had adopted the Rule of St. Augustine.
Following the collapse of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1189, the knights were exiled to Europe. In exile, their standards of chivalry were directed toward charitable works: some served in hospitals while others cared for the poor and society’s outcasts. As a recognized religious order it survived until the end of the 15th century.
In 1847, Pope Pius IX restored the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, after a hiatus of some 400 years, and he reactivated the order with a mandate to practice “the virtue of charity [by] supporting and aiding the church and the Catholic Religion in the Holy Land.”
The order continues its invaluable work to this day. You can read more here. And Msgr. Robert Stern offered his own perspective on the order in 1996 here.
30 January 2012
Tags: CNEWA Holy Land Jerusalem Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
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Sister Cincy Joseph, MSJ, a Medical Sister of St. Joseph, visits with Daisy Choorakattu, a cancer patient in the pain and palliative care center at St. George’s Hospital. Daisy and her family have been forced to sell their home to pay for her treatment, a last resort option for Kerala’s poor. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Countless cancer patients around the world seek solace and intercession from a special patron, the seventh-century abbess St. Aldegonde (sometimes called Aldegunais), whose feast is 30 January. Aldegonde herself reportedly died from cancer at the age of 54.
Today, those battling this disease find a more earthly kind of help from modern-day religious, like the Medical Sisters of St. Joseph working in Kerala. These sisters work to provide care and comfort, often under difficult circumstances. We told their story in the September 2011 issue of ONE:
With limited resources, the sisters do what they can. These days, the hospital mostly cares for terminally ill cancer patients.
Sister Cincy enters one such patient’s room. She walks to the bed and takes the woman’s hand, checking her vitals. The woman, Daisy John, hardly notices. She is in her final hours. Around the bed stand Mr. John, the couple’s son and extended family members. The room is itself spartan: no sophisticated medical equipment, just an assortment of basic medical supplies. Sister Cincy visits with the family briefly and then exits the room.
“After their treatment elsewhere — chemotherapy and radiation — they suffer a great deal of pain,” Sister Cincy explains. “We give them free accommodations and medication. We try to help relieve their suffering.”
You can read more at this link. And visit this page to learn some of the ways you can help support the work of the church in India.
27 January 2012
Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty
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A demonstrator holds up a crucifix and a Quran during a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday. Scores of Egyptian youth protesters marking the one-year anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak bedded down in Tahrir Square and pledged to stay put until the ruling military council hands power to civilians. (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters)
Yesterday, thousands of protesters filled Tahrir Square to mark the one-year anniversary of the uprising that led to the ouster of Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. What took place in Egypt last year seemed to echo similar protests throughout the Middle East, part of a wider movement that came to be known as the “Arab Spring.”
In the July 2011 issue of ONE, John L. Esposito, Ph.D., a professor of international affairs and of Islamic studies, wrote about the Arab Spring uprising and delved into the question, “Is Islam Compatible With Deomcracy?”:
The relationship of Islam and democracy remains central to the development of the Middle East and the Muslim world in the 21st century. As U.S. President Barack Obama stated in his Cairo speech: “All people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”
Check out this video from our September 2011 issue, in which journalist Sarah Topol talks about how it felt to be a reporter in Tahrir Square during last year’s uprising.
26 January 2012
Tags: Middle East Egypt Africa Arab Spring
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Monks process toward Abuna Garima Monastery, near Adwa, Ethiopia, to celebrate the visit of Patriarch Paulos, who was once a monk at the monastery. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE Michael La Civita wrote about how Ethiopia honors Mary, with a celebration that takes place annually on 30 November:
Not far from Ethiopia’s disputed border with Eritrea lies the sleepy town of Aksum (population, 41,000). Though not a common tourist destination, Aksum holds its place as an important heritage site. It is littered with archaeological ruins, including the steles for which it is famous. Once the capital of a prosperous empire that stretched from eastern Africa to Arabia, Aksum controlled the East-West trade routes linking India and Rome. Its emperors were among the first to embrace Christianity, using it to forge a distinct culture and nation from a bewildering number of ethnic and linguistic groups.
Each year, on 30 November, Aksum is aroused from its sleep. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians, wrapped in their white pilgrimage attire, or gabis, converge on Aksum to celebrate one of Ethiopia’s holiest days, Mariam Zion, or Mary of Zion. They focus their attention on a modest shrine that is actually part of a cluster of churches all dedicated to her. Surrounded by a simple iron fence, and guarded by a solitary monk who alone has access to its contents, the chapel houses Ethiopia’s greatest treasure, the Ark of the Covenant.
To learn more about this tradition, read Ethiopia Celebrates Mary.
25 January 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Monastery Aksum
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Pope Benedict XVI, seated next to Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, applauds during a concert at the Vatican 20 May 2010. The concert was a gift from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Also pictured is Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at right. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Today ends the 104th observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a week that has a rich history and a special connection to my own life.
It was begun in 1908 as the Chair of Unity Octave by Rev. Paul Wattson, an Anglican priest who would later become a Roman Catholic. Paul Wattson and Sister Laurana White — founders of my religious order, the Society of the Atonement — were disturbed by the divisions among Christians and were inspired by a vision of Christian unity. So they launched this eight-day period of prayer from 18-25 January, and it’s now grown into a worldwide observance. Pope Benedict XV in 1917 extended the observance to the entire Roman Catholic Church.
A sense of the importance of Christian unity grew among Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox during the first half of the 20th century. For the average Roman Catholic, the Second Vatican Council (1963-65) committed Catholics to work and pray for the unity of Christ’s followers.
What began as a small observance among Roman Catholics has been transformed into a truly ecumenical undertaking. Every year, a commission comprised of members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches (Geneva) meets to set the theme for the next year’s observance. The theme for this year has been We Will All Be Changed by the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
Pope Benedict XVI referred to this special week during his General Audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. Describing Jesus’s priestly prayer at the Last Supper, the pope said, “He asks the Father to consecrate his disciples, setting them apart and sending them forth to continue his mission in the world. Christ also implores the gift of unity for all those who will believe in him through the preaching of the Apostles. His priestly prayer can thus be seen as instituting the Church, the community of the disciples who, through faith in him, are made one and share in his saving mission.”
For the past eight days, Christians have been praying for unity and working together to overcome centuries of mistrust. In a world of increasing division, xenophobia and tribalism, the observance of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives witness to the prayer of Christ “that all may be one” (John 17:21).
25 January 2012
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A man stands amid debris inside Holy Family Syriac Catholic Church in central Kirkuk, Iraq, north of Baghdad, 2 August 2011. A car bomb and two unexploded bombs targeted three churches in northern Iraq in coordinated attacks that wounded more than 20 people in the ethnically and religiously mixed city. (photo: CNS /Ako Rasheed, Reuters)
A couple weeks ago, Pope Benedict XVI turned his attention to the subject of religious freedom. In his annual “State of the World” address, he told a group of diplomats: “In many countries, Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life. In other countries, they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes.”
This prompted John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter to take a closer look at the subject of “anti-Christian persecution.” Specifically, he took on five “myths,” including one that is especially widespread: “It’s all about Islam.”
As Allen writes:
Simply identifying anti-Christian persecution with Islam is misleading. There are compelling examples of collaboration between Christians and Muslims in many parts of the world, which is the basis for Pope Benedict XVI’s vision of an “Alliance of Civilizations.” (One of the major political parties in the Philippines, for instance, is the “Christian Muslim Democrats.”) It also should not be forgotten that the most numerous victims of Muslim extremism are, in fact, other Muslims.
Moreover, radical Islam is hardly the only source of anti-Christian animus. Christians suffer from a slew of other forces, including:
- Ultra-nationalism (as in Turkey, where extreme nationalists tend to be a greater threat than Islamists)
- Totalitarian states, especially of the Communist variety (China, North Korea)
- Hindu radicalism (Anti-Christian aggression has become routine in some regions of India. This week, Hindu radicals armed with sticks and iron bars attacked 20 Pentecostal Christians in a private home near Bangalore, an assault that left the pastor missing a finger on his left hand. When Christians reported similar assaults two weeks ago, a member of the state’s official Commission for Minorities, which is under the control of a nationalist Hindu party, shrugged it off: “If you really knew the teachings of Jesus, Christians should not be complaining,” he reportedly said.)
- Buddhist radicalism (as in Sri Lanka, where, contrary to stereotypes of Buddhist tolerance, mobs led by Buddhist monks attacked Christian churches and other targets across the country in 2009)
- Corporate interests (as in Brazil’s Amazon region, where Christian activists have been killed for protesting injustices by agri-business conglomerates)
- Organized crime, narco-traffickers, and petty thugs (For instance, the 1993 murder of Mexican Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, shot 14 times at the Guadalajara airport by gunmen linked to a drug cartel, or the assassination in the same year of Italian Fr. Giuseppe Puglisi, a bitter critic of the Sicilian mafia.)
- State-imposed security policies (as in Israel, where checkpoints, visa requirements and other restrictions divide Christian families between East Jerusalem and the West Bank and make it virtually impossible for Christians in one location to worship in the other)
- Even, believe it or not, Christian radicalism
If that last entry seems counter-intuitive, consider what happened this past September in the village of San Rafael Tlanalapan, in the Mexican state of Puebla. Seventy local Protestants were forced to flee after a band of traditionalist Catholics issued a chilling ultimatum: Leave immediately or be “crucified or lynched.”
The point is that extremism and intolerance of whatever stripe, not Islam, is the threat.
There are four other “myths” Allen explores — and you might be surprised at what he concludes. Check it out.
24 January 2012
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Middle East Interreligious Catholic Islam
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A young student at the Ephpheta Institute responds to hearing a new sound through an external hearing device. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Today is the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, the patron of journalists and writers. He is said to have developed a sign language to teach a deaf man about God, and is therefore the patron saint of the deaf as well. Since 1971 the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem has provided hearing-impaired youth with an education and the confidence to participate in their communities.
Last month, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited the Holy Land, making a stop at the Ephpheta Institute, where he took this photo. He described this moment as “a wonderful level of affirmation when a sound is recognized.”
To learn more about the history of Ephpheta, read The Miracle of Ephpheta from the January 1996 issue of the magazine. To learn how you can help support the work there visit our website.
24 January 2012
Tags: CNEWA Education Bethlehem Disabilities
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Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd after praying the Angelus from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, 22 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Following its custom, the Vatican released the pope’s annual message for World Communications Day today — the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers and journalists.
This year, Pope Benedict XVI chose to focus on an important aspect of communication that he says is "often overlooked": silence.
By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence — indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.
The process of communication nowadays is largely fuelled by questions in search of answers. Search engines and social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers. In our time, the internet is becoming ever more a forum for questions and answers — indeed, people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware. If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive. Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, however, many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer and permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.
Read the whole message, “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization,” at the Holy See’s news website.
World Communications Day is celebrated on the Sunday before Pentecost, which this year will be 20 May. It’s the only worldwide celebration called for by the Second Vatican Council. You can find out more about it here.
23 January 2012
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican
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In this photo from 2004, Jacqueline Ruyak visits a parish in eastern Pennsylvania while reporting for ONE magazine. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Planning stories for our magazine has been one of my favorite activities since I joined CNEWA in 1989. The magazine has a broad mandate: to educate our audience (chiefly Roman Catholics in the West) about the churches, cultures, histories and peoples of the East. As a result, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many interesting people, authorities and journalists, whose interests extend from canon law to the arts.
Since 1993, Jacqueline Ruyak has graced our pages with stories gathered from obscure communities in Central Europe. I’ll never forget her first letter (years before email), sent from her remote home in northern Japan. She introduced herself and her interest in the people and the folk art of Central Europe, and would I be interested in discussing some story ideas from her next visit to Slovakia. It was handwritten, and dashed off as if in great haste, which would become her sign off on all correspondence that followed: “In haste, Jacqueline.” She intrigued me, and our first meeting — over copious cups of hot green tea — resembled what would become a fruitful and fun 20-year partnership.
No matter how inaccessible the village, or misunderstood the subject, Jacqueline was eager to take it on. She wrote about Hungary’s Greek Catholic gypsies (or Roma), and profiled the first Roma seminarian. She toured Slovakia’s Greek Catholic wooden churches, documenting a lost art and culture. She met with makers of Easter eggs — pysanky in Ukraine and kraslice in Slovakia — bakers and wire artisans, or tinkers. A vegetarian, she nevertheless wrote (and ate) about pork specialties as well as Ruthenian Lenten food specialties, providing recipes and anecdotes from a few kitchens in eastern Pennsylvania and eastern Slovakia. She profiled Greek Catholic village life and devotions, documenting a way of life that as we speak is disappearing.
Last week, our team here learned of the death of Jacqueline. She had left Japan some years ago and moved back to her eastern Pennsylvania homestead, where she died at the age of 65. Her death has left a hole in our hearts and in our pages: Who will run off to Kingston for that Rusyn nut roll recipe? Who will dash off to Hungary to profile that Serbian bishop? Who will spend all those hours with the village babushka, learning the secrets of pysanky or rolling out peroghi dough?
Jacqueline Ruyak was a unique gem, and she left us “in haste.” Requiescat in Pace.
Jacqueline, right, reports for ONE magazine in 2004. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
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