Supreme News

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 2, 2017 / 10:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Knights of Columbus on Tuesday announced it will raise and donate $2 million to re-settle Iraqi Christian families displaced by the Islamic State in their home town of Karemlesh on the Nineveh Plain. “The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said in his Aug. 1 remarks announcing the $2 million project. “Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq,” he said. In order for Iraq to have such a future, he said Christians must be treated as “free and equal citizens” and not suffer the “religious apartheid” of previous years. Anderson addressed the 135th annual convention of the Knights of Columbus held in St. Louis, Mo. Aug.1-3. 90 bishops and 12 cardinals were present, along with Knights councils from all over the world. The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic men’s organization founded, in Anderson’s words, to “strengthen the faith of Catholic men” and “protect their families.” Over 1.9 million are members of the organization, founded in 1882 by Venerable Fr. Michael J. McGivney. The four pillars of the organization are charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. An international aid organization as well, the Knights’ Christian Refugee Relief Fund has provided over $13 million in aid to persecuted Christians since 2014, mostly in Iraq and Syria. In 2014, forces of the Islamic State overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq, killing or displacing many Christian families. The group has since been forced back, losing much of its territory, including the Nineveh Plain where many Christians lived. Around 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003, but that number has fallen to below an estimated 250,000. The situation for Iraqi Christians is so dire, Anderson said, that “without substantial assistance” in the next two months, many of them might leave Iraq for good. Christians have lived in the area for centuries, tracing their communities back to almost the beginning of Christianity. Some speak Aramaic, the language Jesus would have spoken, and various ancient shrines existed in the region, including the tomb of the prophet Jonah which was destroyed by Islamic State. “These Christian communities are a priceless treasure for the Church and for humanity,” Anderson said on Tuesday. He called the Knights’ drive to raise money for them a “concrete step” to aid the beleaguered Christians. The amount of $2 million would also match the donation of the government of Hungary, which has helped resettle around 1,000 families in the Iraqi village of Telskuf. The Knights will partner with the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil to help rebuild Karemlesh, which is just 18 miles east of Mosul. Anderson said that while the town was controlled by Islamic State, homes were vandalized or destroyed and churches were desecrated. “We will give them and many others hope for the future,” he said. The Knights will also partner with the U.S. bishops' conference to sponsor a national day of prayer and a “week of awareness” for persecuted Christians, starting Nov. 26. Those wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the project for Karemlesh can do so at www.ChristiansAtRisk.org, or by phone at 1-800-694-5713. 100 percent of the donations will go to the project. In his annual address, Anderson noted other work the Knights had accomplished, including more than $177 million in donations and over 75 million volunteer hours. Local Knights councils had responded to various disasters and tragedies, including providing drinking water and sandbags to families in Louisiana after over 60,000 homes had been flooded by record rainfall, Anderson said. The Knights provided more than $100,000 in emergency relief after Hurricane Matthew caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage in the Caribbean and the United States. The Knights also worked to provide for the spiritual life of families, he said, as the family which Fr. McGivney grew up in “was a true domestic Church.” He said that Knights councils had organized pilgrimages in various dioceses for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and had introduced a spiritual program for men based on a pastoral letter by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, “Into the Breach.” Knights had also organized “Warriors to Lourdes” pilgrimages, taking wounded veteran soldiers to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes for healing. Anderson called the Knights to stand against the “polite persecution” of secular society, quoting Pope Francis. St. Louis, Mo., Aug 3, 2017 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The classic ceremonial hats and capes of Fourth Degree members of the Knights of Columbus that you may have seen at Mass or at parish events will now be getting a major alteration. “This fraternal year, we make another historic change. The Board of Directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the Fourth Degree uniform,” Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson announced on Tuesday at the Knights’ 135th annual international convention in St. Louis, Mo. The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic men’s organization with over 1.9 million members worldwide. The organization promotes four virtues of fraternity, unity, charity, and solidarity among its members. The Fourth Degree uniform is worn by those who have reached the highest levels of the Knights of Columbus, at least 18 years of age and having been a Third Degree member in good standing. Each degree is associated with one of the four virtues of the Knights, with patriotism being associated with the Fourth Degree. Members of the Fourth Degree serve in honor guards for liturgical processions or in color guards at ceremonial events, hence the distinctive nature of their uniform. The uniform of the Fourth Degree has changed throughout the history of the Knights, as previous versions included a top hat and a tuxedo with tails. However, it has remained relatively the same since 1940 – a plumed chapeau which can be worn with plumes of different recognized colors, a tuxedo, a cape, and a ceremonial sword. Now, however, the Knights will be leaving behind the classic uniform for a “modernized” version, a blue blazer with the Fourth Degree emblem and dark gray slacks, a blue Fourth Degree tie, and a beret. Vice supreme masters processed into Mass on Tuesday at the convention wearing the new uniform. Anderson then officially announced the change while delivering the annual report of the Supreme Knight. The board of directors for the Knights decided for the change, Anderson said, to “modernize” the dress uniform that is typically worn at ceremonial or solemn events. “On a limited basis, assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for color corps at public events and for honor guards in liturgical processions,” Anderson said on Tuesday. “However, the preferred dress for the Fourth Degree – including color corps and honor guards – is now the new uniform of jacket and beret.” St. Louis, Mo., Aug 4, 2017 / 02:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The urgency of the problems facing displaced Iraqi Christians has driven a new campaign by the Knights of Columbus to resettle an entire village in their homes, says a spokesman for the Knights. The roughly 200,000 Christians still in Iraq – down from 1.5 million in 2003 – “are increasingly feeling a sense of hopelessness over the situation,” Andrew Walther, vice president of communications for the Knights of Columbus, told CNA on Thursday. Even with Islamic State swept out of most of Iraq, many Christian families who lived in Mosul or on the nearby Nineveh Plain are not yet able to return to their homes, three years after being displaced by the group. With their lives as internally displaced persons surpassing the three-year mark, “it was made very clear that if there weren’t concrete steps that showed people that moving home was possible in the next 30 to 60 days, there was a very good chance that many of them would just leave for other countries in the region, for wherever they could go,” Walther said. The Knights of Columbus announced this week that it was beginning a $2 million drive to raise and donate money to resettle an entire village of families in Karemlesh, a town on the Nineveh Plain 18 miles outside Mosul. Most of the families are Chaldean or Syriac Christians, with some Shabak families, Walther said. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced the drive during his annual remarks on Tuesday at the 135th annual international convention of the Knights of Columbus. The group is an international Catholic men’s organization with over 1.9 million members in councils all over the world. “Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq,” Anderson said on Tuesday announcing the drive. 100 percent of the funds raised would go to help Christians rebuild their homes. The Islamic State swept through large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, giving families of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities an ultimatum – convert to Islam, die, or leave. “When ISIS took the town, everybody fled,” Walther said, and militants began their campaign of cultural genocide: burning homes, desecrating parishes, destroying Christian symbols, and even digging up the body of a local priest to desecrate his grave. “They wanted not just to erase the Christians from the town, they wanted to erase whatever was reminiscent of Christianity from the town as well,” Walther said. Many Christians fled eastward to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where around 70,000 Christians were living in and around the city of Erbil, dependent upon aid groups for their basic needs. Since 2014, the Knights have already provided over $13 million in aid to Christians in Iraq and Syria who have suffered persecution, most notably at the hands of Islamic State. The Knights also helped produce a report for the U.S. State Department, which requested it, detailing the violence and forced displacement inflicted upon Christians in Syria and Iraq. The report helped lead to the State Department declaring in March of 2016 that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State has since been forced back from much of the territory it gained, including the Nineveh Plain and Mosul. “With the departure of ISIS as a meaningful military force, you have a lot of new opportunities, in terms of rebuilding and resettling, that you didn’t have six months ago, three months ago,” Walther said. Now, however, many Christians have still not been able to return to their homes, which were vandalized, damaged, or destroyed by Islamic State militants. Their future is in question as they are currently living as displaced persons in Kurdistan. The situation is so bleak that local Church leaders are saying that if something is not done to remedy the problem, Christians could leave Iraq for good. If that is the case, it would be an ideological victory for Islamic State, whose “program was the de-Christianization of Iraq, the total obliteration of any religious minorities,” Walther said. Furthermore, with Christians gone, it could further destabilize Iraq by helping eliminate religious pluralism. “Christians are an enormous example of forgiveness, and they’ve been praised by imams in Iraq, by television commentators in Egypt, for this capacity of forgiveness,” Walther said. And if the Christians have no more roots in the land where they have lived for centuries, a priceless cultural vestige could be gone as well. The government of Hungary has already given $2 million to move around 1,000 families back to the town of Telskuf, Walther said, providing a working example that such a plan can be successful. “We have a proof of concept, we know this can work, and we know that if it worked in Telskuf, there’s no reason that it wouldn’t work in a town also in Nineveh that is also predominately Christian that also has its population in Erbil,” he said. The money would go to provide materials for Christians to repair their homes from the destruction that Islamic State inflicted. “The families are actually putting their own lives back together with a little bit of assistance,” Walther said. “The idea is to make these houses habitable.” And although a goal of $2 million is lofty, it is entirely within reach if parishes and communities all over the world pitch in, Walther said. “An individual can do this,” he said. “A prayer group can do this. 20 people put in $100, you can send somebody home. This is one of those things where people can do a concrete, tangible action that is a meaningful step in saving Christianity in the Middle East.” “It’s a model that can allow Christianity to be transplanted back to where it was,” Walther said. “It’s an early step, but it’s an important step if Christianity is going to survive in Iraq.” Donations to the project can be made at www.christiansatrisk.org or via phone at 1-800-694-5713. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law, the Knights said. Submitted By: Chris Romero, Chancellor


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