9 January 2018
In this late-December photo, Syrian children play in the Awde refugee camp, which hosts around 2,500 people in tents and prefabricated homes. (photo: Furkan Guldemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syrian refugees in Lebanon becoming poorer, more vulnerable with time (U.N. News Centre) More than half the war-weary Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living in extreme poverty and borrowing money for food and to pay rent has become commonplace, the United Nations reported Tuesday. This news came with a warning that more of these refugees find themselves dependent on international aid amid an uncertain outlook for humanitarian funding in 2018…
Patriarch of Moscow: Russian intervention in Syria saved Christians from ‘genocide’ (Fides) In a television interview on Rossija channel 1 on Sunday 7 January — on which the Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas — Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All the Russias praised the Russian military for halting the “genocide” of Christians in Syria. The patriarch added that the Russian Orthodox Church plans to take on the task of supporting the reconstruction of Syrian churches, as well as mosques and historical monuments…
Mortar shells strike the Old City of Damascus, damaging Maronite cathedral (Fides) On Monday, 8 January, a mortar shell hit the Bab Tuma neighborhood in the old city of Damascus. The strike damaged a Maronite Greek Catholic cathedral built in 1865, dedicated to Our Lady of the Transfiguration and to St. Anthony…
Jerusalem’s political orphans (Al Monitor) Some 150,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem neighborhoods on the eastern side of the Israeli-built wall snaking in and out of Jerusalem and the West Bank continue to live in a legal and administrative limbo. The political orphans of East Jerusalem are not allowed to be connected to their Palestinian leadership but are also not part of the Israeli political system even though the latter decides, unilaterally, what happens to them…
Three months after Baghdad took control, tensions high in Kirkuk (Al Monitor) The retaking of Kirkuk by the Iraqi army in October has changed the balance of power in the oil-rich town that had been under full control of the Kurds since 2014. The operation was part of Baghdad’s retaliatory measures after the Kurds held an independence referendum that has since been declared illegal…
‘Water war’ escalates between Egypt, Sudan (Al Monitor) On 4 January, Sudan recalled its ambassador from Egypt. Without providing further details, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry stated that Ambassador Kamal al Din Hassan Ali was recalled for consultations. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry is weighing how to “take appropriate action.” This diplomatic spat has unfolded in a complicated context in which numerous issues have fueled tensions in bilateral relations for years...
8 January 2018
Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Jerusalem Russia
Join Father Joshy as he takes us through his busy day as pastor of two parishes in a remote and hilly district of southwestern India. (photo: Don Duncan)
See A Day in the Life of a Priest in Kerala.
5 January 2018
Armenian clergy pray in the Grotto at the Church of the Nativity, the alleged birth place of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. While the Latin Church recently observed Christmas on 25 December, Christians of the Eastern churches look forward to celebrating the holy feast day this weekend. (photo: Musa Al-Shaer/AFP/Getty Images)
5 January 2018
Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches
The reopening ceremony for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of St. Stephen in Istanbul, often referred to as the “iron church,” was held yesterday, 7 January. (photo: Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
‘Iron church’ reopens in Turkey (Fides) The historic Bulgarian church of St. Stephen, overlooking the Golden Horn, is preparing to reopen its doors to the faithful and visitors after extensive restoration work, which kept it closed for seven years. The place of worship will be reopened next 7 January, with a ceremony in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov will also take part. The presence of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and of Orthodox Patriarch of Bulgaria Neofit is also expected at the inauguration. Built by the Bulgarian community in the 19th century, the Sveti Stefan church is also known as the “iron church,” famous for being made of prefabricated cast iron elements…
Palestinians protest Trump’s Jerusalem move (Christian Today) Thousands of Palestinians are protesting in a ‘day of rage’ across the occupied West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of the ancient city as Israel’s capital. Across the Arab and Muslim worlds, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Friday, the Muslim holy day, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and outrage at the U.S. move. American embassies around the world, particularly in Muslim majority countries, were forced to tighten security in the face of protests…
Attacks against Indian Christians during the Christmas season (Fides) Christian communities in India suffered at least 23 attacks for religious reasons during the Christmas period, which have instilled a feeling of fear and have hurt the faithful. Protestant Christian Pastor Prabhu Kumar told Fides: “Never in my memory have we experienced the intolerance we are experiencing now…”
Chaldean patriarch: Christmas celebrations in Iraq give hope (AsiaNews) Millions of people took to the streets in Baghdad, Mosul, Najaf and Basra to celebrate. For the first time in three and a half years, faithful celebrated in a former ISIS stronghold. The leader of the Chaldean church extended thanks to young Muslim volunteers, who helped to clean and decorate the Church of St. Paul in Mosul in advance of the celebration…
Egypt’s Coptic Christians to consecrate huge new cathedral (Christian Today) Egypt’s Coptic Christians, under pressure from repeated attacks by Islamist extremists, are to celebrate the opening of a new cathedral tomorrow. Largely funded by the Egyptian government, the new Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ is located in the country’s new administrative capital, a new city being constructed east of Cairo, which is expected one day to accommodate around seven million people…
4 January 2018
Tags: Iraq Egypt Palestine Turkey Indian Christians
A mosaic depicting the adoration of the Magi in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo dates to the sixth century. (photo: CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images)
The feast of the Epiphany, also known at the feast of the Three Kings and Twelfth Night, officially brings the Christmas season to a close this weekend — but in many of the places CNEWA serves, particularly those with deep Orthodox and Byzantine roots, it is just as grand a feast as Christmas, with distinct traditions and celebrations.
The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek ἐπιφαίνω
(epi-phaino), which means “to shine forth, manifest, reveal.” The feast celebrates the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem, which is recounted only in the Gospel of Matthew — and even there, with very little detail. Despite the traditions that have grown up around the feast, Matthew does not tell us who these visitors are, where they came from other than “from the East,” or even how many there were. Christian tradition has “filled in the blanks” for 2,000 years and has had as many as 14 visitors, coming from all over Asia and Africa (which is not “from the East”) and even given them different names. Ultimately in the West, Christians settled on the number three because of the number of gifts. San Apolinare Nuovo, a sixth-century church in Ravenna, Italy, has a magnificent mosaic of three Magi, named Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar, indicating that the tradition was beginning to solidify at least in the West just a few hundred years after the time of Christ.
For Matthew, who is writing primarily for Jewish converts to Christianity, it is important to stress the universal mission of the Messiah born in Bethlehem. Regardless of how many there were or where they came from, it is absolutely clear that the Magi are Gentiles. In Matthew’s Gospel the Gentiles are among the first to recognize Jesus. For Matthew the visit of the exotic strangers is truly an epiphany in that the true person and mission of Jesus “shines forth” and reveals itself. Jesus is not merely the hoped for Messiah who has come to save the Jews, but he is also the “shining forth,” the revelation of God’s Son to the entire world, Jew and Gentile alike.
Many local traditions have grown up around the feast of the Epiphany. In many Latin countries, the visit of the Three Kings is celebrated with parades and gift giving. In German villages, there is often a procession through the town. The pastor, accompanied by three children dressed as “Magi,” goes through the town blessing the homes. As each home is blessed, the letters C M B and the year are written in chalk over the main door of the house. The letters C M B stand not only for Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar but also for Christus Mansionen Benedicat — “may Christ bless the house.”
Liturgically since very ancient times, the Epiphany and the end of the Advent-Christmas season was seen as part of a series of epiphanies. The Gospel readings at the eucharistic celebration immediately following the feast of the Epiphany have traditionally dealt with the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and the Marriage Feast at Cana.
The Gospel accounts of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan are found in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and each recounts a voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be the “Beloved Son.” In all the Gospel accounts, including John, a voice from heaven and the descent of the Spirit in the form of a dove form an epiphany, a revelation of who Jesus is and what his mission is.
The Wedding at Cana appears only in the Gospel of John (2:1-12) and is also an epiphany. At the end of the account of Jesus turning the water into wine, the evangelist comments: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee and manifested (ἐφανέρωσεν from φαίνω, “to shine forth, manifest”) his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
In sum, this period after Christmas is a time of light and revelation — and, really, three epiphanies.
The first epiphany is what we traditionally refer to as “the Epiphany” and is the shining forth of Jesus as a “light of revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). The second epiphany at the Jordan reveals Jesus as the Beloved Son of the Father and the third and last epiphany of the season is the revelation of Jesus as the worker of might deeds and miracles at Cana.
Thus by the end of the Christmas season the Church through the liturgy not only proclaims that Christ was born in Bethlehem, but also teaches who he is and what his mission is.
4 January 2018
Tags: Christianity Christian
In Egypt, the wrist of a Daughter of Charity bears the traditional tattoo a Christian receives shortly after birth — a mark of faith to the world. Read about how Charity’s Daughters are revealing their faith in other ways and serving the Christians of Egypt in the December 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
4 January 2018
Tags: Egypt Copts Egypt's Christians Coptic
A man prepares tea for customers on a cold morning on 2 January in New Delhi, India. Catholic bishops in the country have called on people to “preserve brotherhood, peace and harmony” in the new year. (photo: CNS/Rajat Gupta/EPA)
Indian bishops urge peace, harmony in 2018 (Vatican Radio) Catholic bishops of India are calling on the people of the country to “preserve the traditional brotherhood, peace and harmony” of the nation against what they described as an unacceptable “terrorism” of “false nationalism”. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (C.B.C.I.) has issued a press release on the occasion of the new year saying the bishops are “praying for the nation, political and spiritual leaders, and for every Indian, that 2018 may be a year of peace and harmony, of love and fraternity, of inclusive and integral development for all peoples…”
UN: more than half of Iraq’s displaced have returned home (Arab News) More than half of Iraqis displaced by recent conflicts to other parts of the country have now returned to their homes, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration said on Thursday. At the end of December, more than 3.2 million displaced Iraqis had gone home while 2.6 million still lived away from home, the IOM said…
Syria prepares for return of refugees from Lebanon (Xinhua) Syria’s Minister of Reconciliation Ali Haidar said Wednesday that Syria is preparing for the return of refugees from Lebanon, according to state news agency SANA…
It’s still Christmas in Armenia (Smithsonian) The new year marks the end of the holiday season in the United States, but elsewhere it is just getting started; in Armenia, first comes the new year, then comes Christmas. New Year’s Eve kicks off two weeks of holidays during which Armenians celebrate Christ’s Nativity, his baptism and the Epiphany. From 31 December to 13 January, Armenian families visit family and friends, exchange gifts, and come together to drink and feast…
3 January 2018
Tags: Syria India Iraq Armenia
The Rev. Petro Chudyk celebrates the Divine Liturgy in his church in Tarashcha, Ukraine.
(photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
Journalist Mark Raczkiewycz offers a revealing glimpse at the struggling but growing church in Ukraine in the December 2017 edition of ONE. Here, he explains some of the burdens placed on the local priests.
The only way to describe what I saw on three reporting trips within the central Ukrainian Kiev Eparchy is selfless commitment.
Priests at these nascent, under-served parishes live under the same conditions as the parishioners. The parishes often have to go without a proper prayer space, such as a chapel; also usually lacking is recreational space for activities such as catechism classes or tea and coffee after the liturgies.
Priests usually are based in impoverished communities that often cannot afford to donate enough money to cover basic needs for the liturgies: candles, charcoal, bread, and wine.
As a result, clergymen often draw on their own resourcefulness and creativity to service these communities. It is often trial and error. They must exercise wisdom and patience to explain the church, it customs, holidays and prayers. Again, it is often done on a rudimentary level; 70 years of oppressive Communist rule drained much of the spirituality and religious knowledge from the people.
To a certain extent these communities resemble those of the early Christians in the first few centuries of the Church. They pray wherever they can find space and draw on their own strength to build communities.
Parish priests get some administrative support from the curia. They attend networking events where experience and ideas are exchanged among priests to see what works in different communities.
Charity groups such as Caritas and CNEWA help out as well.
For example, CNEWA donated a $15,000 portable wooden chapel to a parish community in Tarashcha, a district town 80 miles south of the nation’s capital of Kiev.
In December, the Catholic charity Caritas provides gifts to needy children on St. Nicholas Day. Priests look for benevolent sponsors to send parishioners to retreats in the Carpathian Mountains in the western part of the country.
And the curia tries to buy at least four properties a year for its clergyman so that they don’t have to rent living or prayer space.
Still, despite a seminary school having opened in 2010, the Kiev Eparchy can’t keep up with demand. As I write this, 10 communities were awaiting a parish priest.
The Eparchy witnessed a surge of parishioner interest in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church during the so-called Revolution of Dignity in 2014 that ousted a corrupt, Moscow-friendly president. The church was one of the first institutions to provide shelter, food and pastoral care to the freezing protesters that winter.
These tumultuous events spurred people to find answers to deep questions about their faith, their future and the country’s survival. They often turn to the church for guidance and solace.
The result is truly an inspiration.
I saw parish priests meet these challenges with an amazing sense of dignity — albeit under adverse conditions. And the people are eager to be a part of it all.
As one priest told me: “Parishes want to help. The church for Greek Catholic believers has a wider meaning than just to come, pray and leave. They want to build a community around a church.”
For an intimates look at the church in Ukraine, watch the short video below. And read more about Planting Seeds, Nurturing Faith in the current edition of our magazine.
3 January 2018
CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar just returned from spending Christmas in Bethlehem — and shared the above photograph, from a vespers service on Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator for the Latin Patriarchate, presided. Msgr. Kozar is shown standing, third from the right.
(photo: Nadim Asfour/CTS, courtesy the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
3 January 2018
A clergyman reacts to the news of an attack on the Coptic Orthodox Church of Mar Mina in Helwan, Egypt, near Cairo. Bishop Joseph C. Bambera has called for prayers for “our Coptic brethren who are enduring martyrdom for the sake of Christ.” (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)
Palestinians condemn Trump threat as ‘blackmail’ (BBC) Palestinian officials have dismissed as “blackmail” Donald Trump’s threat to cut U.S. aid over what he called their unwillingness to negotiate with Israel. A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas insisted Jerusalem was “not for sale” — a reference to Mr Trump’s recognition of the city as the capital of Israel...
Nations look to Holy See for leadership on migration and refugees (Vatican Radio) In this year’s message for 1 January World Day of Peace, Pope Francis focused on migrants and refugees, highlighting the reasons why so many people are on the move and what our response should be. The Rev. Michael Czerny is undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees office at the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development. He talks about the importance of the 2018 Peace Day message — the first one to focus on this key area of international concern...
Bishop Bambera urges prayers for peace after attack on Coptic Christians (CNS) In the wake of a gunman’s attack on a Coptic Orthodox church and a Christian-owned shop near Cairo on 29 December, killing at least 12 people, a U.S. bishop urged Catholics to “pray for peace in Egypt and the Middle East and for all victims of religious and political hatred.” “I especially ask Catholics to renew their support, love and prayers for our Coptic brethren who are enduring martyrdom for the sake of Christ,” said Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs...
W.H.O.: Gaza’s health system close to collapse (The Guardian) Hospitals in Gaza will face an almost total power blackout by the end of February unless funding is secured to keep emergency generators running, the World Health Organization has warned...
Kerala preserving DNA of storm victims (The Hindu) The Kerala government has started preserving the DNA samples of those killed in Cyclone Ockhi as samples of only 42 out of 76 bodies recovered so far have matched with those of their families. An official said that 144 people were still missing and preserving the DNA samples would help the government in extending financial benefits and compensation to the family members as there were chances of the money being cornered by touts and middlemen...