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Winter, 2015
Volume 41, Number 4
  
7 December 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




At the Greek Catholic Church of the Dormition in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, a couple hold candles during their wedding ceremony. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Self-determination as a basic human right for nations and peoples to pursue their cultural, economic, political or social destinies is of recent origin. Rooted in Europe’s 18th-century Age of Enlightenment and nurtured in the Romanticism of 19th century Europe, self-determination brought about conflicting results when realized in the last century. Self-determination has destroyed empires and built nations, advanced nationalism and patriotism and furthered extremism and ethnic cleansing.

What does the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church have to do with the right of self-determination?

In the 19th century, a sense of “self” emerged among the assorted peoples of Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, despite centuries of suppression and forced assimilation. Strategically located at Europe’s frontier with Asia, the Balkans had for millennia lured settlers seeking access to and control of the peninsula’s ports and trade routes.

Bulgarian Orthodox Christians, descendants of a central Asian tribe that migrated to the Balkans in the seventh century and intermarried with the Slav population, were just one of the Balkan peoples inspired by calls of self-determination and independence. As with their neighbors, Bulgarians longed to wrest control of their homeland from their Ottoman Turkish Muslim masters.


The Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church runs the Annunciation Center in Sofia, which provides care for people with severe mental and physical disabilities. (photo: Sean Sprague)

This 19th-century Bulgarian search for self-determination — not unlike the quest of Boris I, Bulgaria’s first Christian leader — led an influential circle of Orthodox monks to explore full communion with the church of Rome in order to secure privileges and traditions, obtain aid and further their national aspirations.

In 1861, an elderly archimandrite, Joseph Sokolsky, led a delegation of Bulgarian Orthodox activists to Rome, where they were received by Pope Pius IX. The pontiff ordained Sokolsky bishop, naming him archbishop for Bulgari an Catholics of the Byzantine rite. Although clearly associated with the Bulgarian nationalist cause, the archbishop was recognized in his new capacity by the Ottoman government — largely to undermine the powerful Greek-dominated ecumenical patriarchate.

This Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church grew rapidly and within a decade more than 60,000 Bulgarian Orthodox Christians embraced it. To stem the tide, the Russian tsar (who protected the interests of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman world) pressured the Ottoman government to recognize an autonomous Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was created in 1870. Though the ecumenical patriarch declared this church schismatic, it commandeered the nascent Bulgarian Greek Catholic movement. By the end of the 19th century, three quarters of those Bulgarians who joined the Greek Catholic community returned to Orthodoxy. Those who remained lived in the environs of Constantinople or in a few isolated villages in what are now modern Greece and Macedonia.

Click here to read more.



7 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Young members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church rest during a traditional celebration. To learn more about this ancient branch of Christianity, read our profile in the May 2010
edition of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)




7 December 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, officials describe efforts to tighten security in Rome ahead of the Holy Year, which begins on Tuesday 8 December. (video: Reuters)

Rome on alert as Jubilee approaches (The New York Times) On a recent morning on St. Peter’s Square, alongside the bustling priests and nuns, would-be tour guides and vendors hawking cheap umbrellas, military police officers stood guard with submachine guns. But that is just the beginning. On Tuesday — the start of what Pope Francis has declared a holy year, or Jubilee of Mercy, that is expected to draw millions of visitors — anyone entering the square will be subjected to airport-style screening, including metal detectors and X-ray machines. Pilgrims and tourists take note: Expect long lines...

Egypt reports jihadist threats to Coptic monasteries (Fides) In the last hours, according to Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides, jihadist threats were directed in particular against the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of al Baramos, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The threats have been accompanied by information about the location and structure of the monastery, already subjected to considerable protection measures by the Egyptian police...

Poll shows Americans favor sending ground troops to Iraq, Syria (The Boston Globe) A poll released Sunday said that a majority of Americans should send ground troops to Iraq and/or Syria to combat the Islamic State group. The CNN/ORC poll, released shortly before President Obama’s Oval Office speech, showed that 53 percent of Americans favored using ground troops to combat the Islamic State. It’s the first time that a majority has favored such an action in an CNN poll, the network said...

Knesset to host first-ever Reform-Conservative Hanukkah event (Haaretz) A first-of-its-kind Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony that will include representatives of the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel will be held at the Knesset this week. The ceremony, to be held Tuesday afternoon in one of the main halls of the parliament, is the initiative of MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), head of the Knesset lobby for pluralism and civil equality. Among the candle-lighters will be men, women, religious and secular activists, as well as Ethiopian Jewish clergy. The event is meant to coincide with International Human Rights day, which falls this week...

Gaza selling perfumes in bottles shaped like daggers (The Jerusalem Post) The latest perfume trend in Gaza is a new scent being sold in a bottle shaped like a dagger, the Palestinian symbol of resistance in the latest wave of terror to strike Israel in recent months, according to reports by Alkahleej, a United Arab Emirates based media site...

Russian Orthodox priests pose with cats for calendar (Australia Broadcasting Company) In a rare venture into popular culture, bearded Russian Orthodox priests have posed as models for a glossy 2016 calendar — cuddling their pet cats. The calendar put together by an Orthodox news website sees 12 smiling priests in dark robes relaxing with their cats — sitting side-by-side on the sofa, or having the pet sprawled on their chest or draped round their shoulder...



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox

4 December 2015
Greg Kandra




The bells of Holy Cross Cathedral call together Uzhorod’s Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic community. Read more about the church coming “Out From Underground” in the Autumn
edition of ONE. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)




4 December 2015
Greg Kandra




People gather in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on 3 December 2015 to demonstrate against the deployment of German armed forces to fight against ISIS in Syria. Germany’s parliament Friday voted to send military support to Syria.
(photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)


Mass graves discovered in Iraq (AP) The U.N. human rights office in Iraq said on Friday that it has received reports of 16 mass graves discovered near the town of Sinjar after it was liberated from the Islamic State group last month. The reports were the latest among many instances of mass graves being uncovered in territory wrested from IS militants in Iraq and Syria — thousands of people have been killed in summary and extrajudicial killings by the Sunni militants and the graves have been a dark testimony to the group’s brutality...

Germany approves military action against ISIS (BBC) Germany’s parliament has voted to send military support to the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. MPs approved the plan for a German non-combat role by 445 votes to 146. Tornado jets — for reconnaissance — a naval frigate and 1,200 soldiers will be sent to the region. The vote comes after a French request following last month’s Paris attacks. Ministers believe Germany is now an IS target too...

Egypt reopens Gaza border (AP) Egypt has reopened its border with the Gaza Strip in both directions for the first time in months. Thousands of Palestinians lined up Thursday at the Rafah crossing in hopes of leaving the isolated enclave. Gaza’s borders are largely sealed by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. It’s unclear if the two-day opening is tied to an agreement the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank reached with Egypt last month to reopen the border crossing...

Friend of Syria’s Assad could become next Lebanese president (Fides) The vacant Lebanese presidency could be filled by Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian politician, a childhood friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad...

In a first, Kerala church offers Mass in Hindi for migrant workers (The Times of India) The famed St Antony’s church at Kaloor here has started offering Sunday prayers in Hindi, to cater to the spiritual needs of Christians among the migrant workforce. Ernakulam is home to migrant labourers and this is for the first time that a church is offering regular holy Mass in Hindi in the city limits. The Mass in Hindi will be offered every Sunday at 3 pm...



3 December 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




Parishioners from the Mon Valley of Pittsburgh light candles at Homestead’s
Church of St. Nicholas. (photo: Lisa Kyle)


An Eastern Slavic people akin to Belarussians, Russians and Ukrainians, the Rusyns — whose homeland lies south of the Carpathian Mountains in the heart of central Europe — have always lived under the governance of another people. They toiled the soil, kept livestock or cut timber, usually as serfs or tenant laborers of their Hungarian, German or Polish masters, landholders who eagerly imposed their identity on their subjects.

An estimated 200,000 Rusyns immigrated to the United States, beginning in the late 19th century, settling in the industrialized areas of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia and Indiana. Lured by employment agents of the mines and mills, they quarried coal and forged steel, enriching their employers while building a nation. And though working conditions were wretched, many Rusyn immigrants, once married, believed they lacked nothing except a church in which they could worship God in keeping with the traditions of their forebears.

The desire of Rusyn-Americans to maintain their Eastern Christian faith, or stara vira (old faith), and the privileges and rites associated with it, would eventually split the community. Yet this resolve would also hinder its assimilation. The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, an eparchy (diocese) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, echoes this Rusyn-American fidelity to faith and forebears.


Father Matthias blesses the congregation with incense at Sts. Cyril and Methodios Church in Mercer, Pennsylvania. (photo: Lisa Kyle)

Concerned for the erosion of their traditions and identity, after decades of conflict with Roman Catholic ordinaries in the United States, an assembly of priests and laity, led by Father Orestes Chornock (1883-1977), met in Pittsburgh in November 1937. After repealing the union with the bishop of Rome that bound their ancestral church of Mukačevo to Rome made nearly 300 years earlier, the assembly elected Father Chornock bishop.

Fearing further loss of identity should they enter the Russian Orthodox Church, the group established itself as an eparchy, petitioned the ecumenical patriarch based in Constantinople, Benjamin I, to receive it into the Orthodox Church and requested Father Chornock’s ordination to the episcopacy. Nearly a year later, in September, the ecumenical patriarch consecrated Father Chornock bishop and formally erected the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Eparchy as a diocese of the ecumenical patriarchate.

Soon after, Bishop Orestes set up a seminary in New York City, but he eventually moved it to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where in 1950 the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was founded. Johnstown remains the seat of the eparchy.

Of the estimated 75 parishes and missions that make up the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church (numbering some 50,000 people), nearly half are located in Pennsylvania. Most of the remaining parishes are scattered throughout the rest of the Rust Belt. The churches of these parishes, many of them simple structures garnished with onion domes and three-bar crosses, stand as relics of a bygone age when Slavs carved coal from the earth or fueled furnaces that belched soot and fashioned steel.

Following waves of north-to-south migration, which has emptied once-thriving communities throughout the Northeast, the now deceased Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos (elected in 1985) erected parishes and missions in Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia. While Rusyn-Americans make up the majority of these communities, they are not ethnically homogeneous.

Read a full account of the churches development here.



3 December 2015
Greg Kandra




The Alslivi children — who moved from Mosul, Iraq, to Sweden — brave a harsh winter’s day to do some grocery shopping. To learn more about Iraqi refugees in Sweden, read “A Nordic Refuge No More” in the May 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Magnus Aronson)



3 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Indian residents carry children as they walk through floodwaters in Chennai on 3 December 2015. More than 40,000 people have been rescued in recent days after record rains lashed the coastal state, worsening weeks of flooding that has killed more than 270 people.
(photo: STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)


British jets strike ISIS targets in Syria (Vatican Radio) British fighter jets based in Cyprus have carried out the first UK air strikes on targets belonging to the so-called Islamic State in Syria. Britain had already been involved in attacks against the Islamist group in Iraq...

Caritas India rushes emergency aid to flood-ravaged Tamil Nadu (Vatican Radio) Caritas India, the aid agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, has dispatched some 2.5 million rupees as emergency fund to Tamil Nadu, a southern Indian state battered by the century’s worst floods. Amrit Sangma, Caritas India communication officer, told Matters India on 2 December that they will provide food, wash kits and clothes to affected people with the support of its four local partners. Hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded in Tamil Nadu following incessant rains for the past two days. Meteorological Department in the state has predicted heavy rains in the coming four days. More than 270 have been killed in flood and rain related incidents, local newspapers report...

Anguish, shock in Muslim community after San Bernardino shootings (The Los Angeles Times) When Mahmoud Tarifi learned the name of a suspect in Wednesday’s San Bernardino shooting, his heart sank. He said he knew the man may have been Muslim. Tarifi, a leader at the Islamic Center of Claremont, was not alone. After officials announced that a man named Syed Farook was a suspect, members of the faith’s community shared their sense of grief and concern. Tarifi said American Muslims are accustomed to being targeted and scapegoated whenever violent Islamic extremists commit attacks. “Every Muslim worries about being victimized,” he said. “It’s how we felt after 9/11 and after the Paris attacks”...

In Iraq, new Catholic University to open next week (Fides) 8 December is the date chosen for the opening of a new Catholic University, Erbil Campus, CUE in Iraq. The Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil has warmly invited everyone to take part in the inauguration of this important centre of studies. In a statement sent also to Fides, people are encouraged to be part of “a path of education which will lead many to a future of prosperity and peace”...

Radio Maria to begin broadcasting in Arabic (Fides) Radio Maria, an Italian Catholic radio station established in 1982 at Arcellasco d’Erba which today broadcasts in more than 50 countries and in as many languages, will begin programmes in Arabic via web on 8 December to mark the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the opening day of the Holy Year of Divine Mercy...

Caritas seeks to raise awareness about “hidden war” in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Civil war in Ukraine has left some 3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Caritas Internationalis is working to raise awareness about what is increasingly becoming a “hidden war”...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Muslim Islam

2 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Although the Feast of St. Nicholas doesn’t come until 6 December, the saint made an early appearance at the pope’s General Audience on Wednesday. Wolfgang Georg Kimmig-Liebe of Germany, dressed as St. Nicholas, stands among the crowd before Pope Francis arrives for his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 2 December.
(photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)




2 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Hatice Akdal, a Syrian refugee woman, sits on the floor in a room in Reyhanli district of Hatay, southern Turkey, on 1 December 2015. Many Syrians had to leave their homes after the recent Russian airstrikes. (photo: Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russia claims it has proof Turkey involved in ISIS oil trade (Reuters) Russia’s defense ministry said on Wednesday it had proof that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family were benefiting from the illegal smuggling of oil from Islamic State-held territory in Syria and Iraq. Moscow and Ankara have been locked in a war of words since last week when a Turkish air force jet shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border, the most serious incident between Russia and a NATO state in half a century...

U.K. Parliament to vote on bombing ISIS in Syria (CNN) After the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, France asked its allies to bump up their military offensive against ISIS. Now Britain and Germany will decide whether they will. The parliaments of both countries are debating their leaders’ requests for greater military commitment against the terror group. And the measures are expected to be approved...

As many as 50,000 refugees, most from Syria, may enter Canada (The Globe and Mail) As many as 50,000 refugees — at least 70 per cent from Syria — could arrive in Canada by the end of next year, Immigration Minister John McCallum says, adding the federal government is anxious to prevent a backlash from Canadians against this massive influx of newcomers. This rate of intake would be the greatest since 1979-1980 when 60,000 Indochinese boat people found a new home in Canada...

Coptic Church denies claims of normalization with Israel (Middle East Monitor) Egypt’s Coptic Church has refused claims of normalising ties with Israel and affirmed that Pope Tawadros II did not meet with any Israeli officials during his brief visit to Jerusalem, according to a statement released today. Anadolu news agency reported that Tawadros II travelled to Jerusalem in order to pay tribute to Jerusalem Archbishop Anba Abraham who died last Wednesday. The statement said that the Coptic Pope arranged his entrance to Jerusalem with the Palestinian Authority without obtaining an Israeli visa...

Children find calm, order inside Gaza’s only ballet school (Reuters) The group of girls, ponytailed and dressed in pink, stretched their arms out to the sides and pivoted onto their toes, trying desperately to hold still. Eagle-eyed, the instructor surveyed Gaza’s latest crop of would-be ballerinas. Fifty girls aged five to eight are now enrolled in the ballet school at the Al-Qattan Center for Children in Gaza, making it one of the most popular classes the arts institute runs, under the watchful eye of a Ukrainian teacher. Amid the chaos and destruction that has shattered Gaza so often over the past five years, with repeated wars between Israel and Hamas, the school is a haven of calm and order, one many parents are eager for their children to enjoy...



Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia Turkey Coptic





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