3 September 2015
The faithful celebrate the liturgy at the Church of St. Nicholas in Kampala, Uganda.
(photo: Tugela Ridley)
African Christianity has apostolic roots. St. Mark the Evangelist brought the Gospel to the Egyptian city of Alexandria — second only to Rome in the ancient world — and established a church there as early as A.D. 42.
Though sporadically persecuted by the Romans — Mark died a martyr’s death around A.D. 67 — the Alexandrian church blossomed. It provided the universal church with the philosophical foundation and theological vocabulary responsible for its explosive expansion, introduced variants of monastic life and peopled the Christendom with some of its greatest saints and scholars.
The Alexandrian church was not confined to cosmopolitan Alexandria. Its bishops, who still hold the title of “pope and patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa,” had jurisdiction throughout the African continent: the churches of Eritrea and Ethiopia, for example, are daughter churches.
But as the Egyptian church grew, cultural and linguistic differences — especially between the Copts and Greeks — divided the church. Rival parties struggled to secure the papal see of Alexandria. Finally, in 567, the Byzantine emperor recognized two claimants: the Copt, to whom the vast majority of Egypt’s Christians owed allegiance, and the Melkite (from the Syriac, meaning of the king), who led the Greek-speaking minority.
People approach St. George Orthodox Church in Cairo. (photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)
Scholars believe that by the eve of the Muslim Arab invasion in 641, Alexandrian Christians included up to 18 million Copts and some 200,000 Melkites, mostly Greek-speaking bureaucrats, merchants and soldiers. Both churches used the distinctive rites of the Alexandrian church. The Copts, however, adapted these liturgies for monastic use, which survive to this day. Eventually, the Greek-speaking church replaced these ancient rites with those from the Byzantine capital of Constantinople.
After the Arab Muslim occupation of northern Africa, Egypt’s Greek-speaking Christians suffered for their loyalty to Byzantium. Their numbers declined. Until the middle of the 19th century, most of the Greek Orthodox men who held the title of pope and patriarch of Alexandria lived in Constantinople and were appointed by the ecumenical patriarch.
Yet in the 19th century, the situation changed as Orthodox Christians from Greece, Lebanon and Syria began to settle in cities throughout the African continent. There, they built churches as their communities grew in size and wealth. The port city of Alexandria drew tens of thousands of Orthodox emigrants, particularly as Egypt won a form of autonomy from Great Britain. By the 20th century, the British estimated that nearly 200,000 Greeks lived in Egypt. Flush with assets, the Greek Orthodox popes and patriarchs of Alexandria gained considerable influence in Egypt and beyond.
Until the middle of the 20th century, Orthodoxy’s reach throughout “All Africa” ended at the Sahara. The story of how it penetrated the continent, to Kenya and Uganda in particular, is not the familiar one of European missionaries and colonizers. Rather, it began as a spontaneous movement by African Christians seeking a form of Christianity untainted by European colonization with roots in the early church.
To learn more about this African church, click here.
3 September 2015
Pope Francis meets with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin in the Vatican.
(photo: Vatican Radio/AP)
Pope meets with Israel’s president (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin in the Vatican on Thursday (3 September) and held talks that focused on the situation in the Middle East and bilateral relations...
Vatican: Promote the rights of Christians in the Middle East (Vatican Radio) Promote the rights of Christian citizens of the Middle East, and bring an end to persecution. This was the message the Rev. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.I., the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, brought to the “Interreligious Meeting on Supporting Citizenship Rights and Peaceful Coexistence: Challenges, Practices and Open Questions” which took place in Athens on 2-3 September...
Family of Syrian boy who drowned were trying to reach Canada (The Guardian) The family of a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was washed up on a beach in Turkey were making a final, desperate attempt to flee to relatives in Canada even though their asylum application had been rejected, according to reports. Syria was already at war when Aylan Kurdi was born. He died with his five-year-old brother, Galip, and mother, Rehan. Their father, Abdullah, survived...
Ukraine weighs autonomy for parts of East (The New York Times) KIEV, Ukraine — A loud, angry and violent protest this week over a parliamentary measure to grant a greater degree of self-rule to Ukraine’s secessionist eastern districts overlooked one little-recognized fact: To a great extent, the rebel areas have already achieved an autonomy surpassing that envisioned in the measure. But that, paradoxically, could be a positive development, some analysts say, and a necessary first step to ending the fighting, which has cost more than 6,500 lives and has driven Ukraine’s economy close to collapse...
Church supports Indians on nationwide strike (CNS) The Catholic Church in India supported some 150 million workers on a nationwide strike that shut down factories, banks, traffic and government offices across India on 2 September. Workers across India are upset about labor policies of the government that they say are detrimental to the welfare of workers, said Bishop Oswald Lewis of Jaipur, head of the Indian bishops’ labor office. “The church is in solidarity with striking workers because we are concerned about their welfare,” the bishop told ucanews.com, adding that all Catholic forums in the country are supporting the strike...
Coptic patriarch calls for better use of Nile waters (Fides) An invitation to encourage the rational use of the waters of Egypt was made yesterday to all Egyptians by Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The call to rationalize the exploitation of water resources of the longest river in the world was highlighted by the Patriarch in his homily during the liturgy celebrated in the church of the Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius, in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis...
2 September 2015
In Canada, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village near Edmonton recreates the life of settlers in the region. To learn how Ukrainians are passing on their heritage in Canada, check out “Holding on Through the Generations” in the November 2005 edition of ONE. (photo: Richard McGuire)
2 September 2015
In the video above, Pope Francis marks the anniversary of the end of World War II on Wednesday with a renewed condemnation of war and a call for a halt to arms trafficking and persecution of minorities. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope issues heartfelt appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) At a time when people are experiencing trouble and conflict in many countries, Pope Francis at the end of his General Audience on Wednesday made a heartfelt appeal for peace. Recalling the end of Second World War in the Far East, the Holy Father prayed that the world would never again have to experience the horrors of “such tragedies”...
Christian schools in Israel continue protest (Fides) Initiatives to support Christian schools in Israel continue. Instead of re-opening to students at the beginning of the new school year, a strike has begun against the political choices of the Jewish State deemed discriminatory. In Nazareth, in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation, a crowded demonstration of solidarity took place yesterday afternoon, 1 September...
EU set to continue sanctions to put pressure on Moscow (The Wall Street Journal) The European Union is set to roll over until 15 March sanctions targeted against almost 200 Russian and Ukrainian-separatist individuals and firms to maintain pressure on Moscow to fully implement the Minsk ceasefire terms by the end of the year, diplomats said...
Russia puts troops in Syria (The Daily Beast) As if Moscow weren’t satisfied with the game in Ukraine, the last month has seen a flurry of reports about its ever-expanding military involvement in Syria. One report has even alleged that Russian pilots are gearing up to fly missions alongside the Syrian air force, dropping bombs not just on ISIS but on anti-Assad rebels who may or may not be aligned with the United States or its regional allies...
Archbishop Marini named to head Eastern Catholic liturgical commission (Byzcath.org) Pope Francis has reconstituted the Congregation for the Eastern Churches’ Special Commission for the Liturgy and has named Archbishop Piero Marini as its president. The commission, founded in 1931, approves Eastern-rite liturgical books. Archbishop Marini, 73, served as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations from 1987 to 2007 and is president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses...
1 September 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Israel Russia
Syriac Catholics, most of them Iraqi refugees, receive communion at a Divine Liturgy in a makeshift church in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
As with most Christian communities of the Middle East, the Syriac Catholic Church has suffered severely as the region’s stability has deteriorated in the last 100 years or so. During Iraq’s civil war (2006-2007), thousands fled the violence in Baghdad and Mosul, where they had once enjoyed relative prosperity. The displaced found security in their remote ancestral villages near ancient Nineveh.
Now, these once proud centers of the church — the source of many of its vocations to the priesthood and religious life — have been lost, too, as Islamic extremists invaded the Nineveh Plain in August 2014, displacing more than 100,000 Christians, as well as Yazidis and other minorities. Civil war in Syria has uprooted thousands more, while economic stagnation and political uncertainty in Egypt and Lebanon have encouraged some Syriac Catholic families to emigrate to the West.
A small church, numbering about 207,000 people worldwide, the Syriac Catholic Church somehow endures, despite the repeated conflicts and cycles of persecution in the last 120 years.
Together with the much larger Syriac Orthodox Church (which numbers some 4.2 million people, including 3.7 million in India), the Syriac Catholic Church shares in the heritage of the Syrian city of Antioch, the political and socioeconomic center of the eastern Mediterranean in the ancient world. Though inhabited by a diverse population — Greeks and Macedonians, Romans and Jews, Syrians and Nabateans — Antioch was culturally Hellenic and its lingua franca, Greek. But those who lived in Syria’s rural interior spoke Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic nurtured in the city of Edessa.
Parishioners pray at Our Lady of Deliverance Church in central Baghdad on 7 November 2010. Just a week earlier, 46 worshipers were massacred during the celebration of the Liturgy. (photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
In the seventh century, Syriac Christians generally welcomed the invading Muslim Arabs, who accepted them as “People of the Book.” Syriac Christianity flourished. Poets composed hymns that simplified complex ideas. Scholars translated ancient Greek texts and wrote biblical commentaries. Monks explored grammar, medicine, philosophy, rhetoric and science. Theologians and poets continued the tradition of creating liturgies, borrowing elements from the Byzantine and other traditions.
Arab Muslim leaders employed Syriac scholars, who were largely responsible for the Arab world’s familiarity with ancient Greek astronomy, chemistry, mathematics and philosophy — disciplines that eventually reached Europe via Arab Sicily and Spain.
In the 18th century, a renewed Catholic presence in the Middle East, bolstered by the presence of French and Italian missionaries, formed a Catholic community within the Syriac Orthodox Church. The growth of this new church ended, however, as the long and painful decline of the Ottoman Turkish Empire coincided with the rise of European colonial ambitions. Suspicious of collusion, the Ottomans murdered more than 25,000 Syriac Christians between 1895 and 1896.
During World War I, the Christian subjects of the Ottoman sultan were caught between two opposing cultures — their Sunni Muslim superiors and the Allied “Christian” powers of Great Britain, France and Russia, which encouraged separatist movements. The consequences were grave. Hundreds of thousands were killed, including some 50,000 Syriac Catholics and six of the church’s bishops. Survivors, including the patriarch, sought refuge in cities, especially Beirut, which remains the seat of the Syriac Catholic patriarchate.
Click here for a full account from the pages of ONE magazine.
1 September 2015
In this image from Ethiopia, farmers in the northern Tigray region have constructed retaining walls to protect the soil from erosion. Pope Francis has designated the first day of September as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Learn how you can help those struggling to care for the earth and for each other in Ethiopia at this link. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
1 September 2015
Migrants and refugees protest at the Keleti railway station in Budapest on 1 September 2015. Keleti, the biggest Hungarian railway station was closed today as police evacuated people trying to get on trains bound for Germany. (photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)
Hungary shuts down largest train terminal to halt refugees (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of angry refugees demonstrated outside Budapest’s shuttered Eastern Railway Terminus on Tuesday, demanding that they be allowed to travel on to Germany, as a migration crisis put the European Union’s rules under unprecedented strain. Hungarian authorities closed the train station altogether, then reopened it but barred entry to the refugees. About 100 police wearing helmets and wielding batons guarded the station. Dozens of refugees who were inside were forced out...
Christian schools stage strikes in Israel (Fides) Christian schools in Israel will begin a number of strikes as of today, 1 September, just when the new school year begins in the country. Through the extreme measure of suspension of all school activities, they intend to protest against the policies of the Jewish State against them, considered “discriminatory.” This was reported by official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, reconstructing the reasons and the various steps of the dispute that has long seen Christian schools and Israeli policies in contrast...
Russian Orthodox spokesman calls on faithful to replace political elite (The Moscow Times) A Russian Orthodox Church spokesman has called for Russia’s faithful to replace the current “tired, corrupt and cynical” political elite with devout leadership, news site Lenta.ru news portal reported on Sunday. “Today, [the faithful] need to take the place of tired, corrupt, cynical elites, to exercise their civil action at the level of a village, a city, a region, of the country as a whole and of the whole world,” church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin was quoted as saying...
Israeli-Canadian woman who went to fight ISIS returns to iraq for charity work (The Jerusalem Post) An Israeli-Canadian woman who went to Kurdistan last year to join the fight against ISIS and spent years in jail in the US for her part in a multi-million dollar scam, has returned to Iraq with a group that works to free children and women taken captive by the Islamic State, the Jerusalem Post learned Monday...
Harvest festival gains prominence in Kerala churches (UCANews.com) For Christians, the traditional Onam harvest festival in the southern Indian state of Kerala has become more than just a celebration of culture. Church entrances are elaborately designed with floral carpets. Christian schools declare holidays for at least three days and parishes organize special lunches and competitions during this season. Some parishes also organize a special liturgy on the day. In Kerala, Onam is traditionally celebrated with special plays, joyful competitions and good food. Boat races and dances make the season special. Men, disguised as tigers, dance on the streets to the accompaniment of drums...
Ethiopia’s secret Jews see small gains in tolerance (Al Jazeera) Jews have a quiet but central presence in Ethiopia’s history. Their origins are disputed, but it is believed they arrived less than 3,000 years ago, around the time King Menelik I, the son of the queen of Sheba and King Solomon, traveled from Israel to the Horn of Africa. In Ethiopia, particularly in poorer rural areas outside the capital, Addis Ababa, their marginalization is a product of widespread belief that they are agents of evil. Common superstitions are that Jews shoot fire from their eyes, use Christian corpses to make their pottery and turn into hyenas at night. Al Jazeera spoke to more than a dozen Jewish Ethiopians, researchers and historians who described these lingering beliefs as well as occasional violence in the Amhara and Tigray regions where they have been historically concentrated...
31 August 2015
Tags: Syria Refugees Ethiopia Israel Russian Orthodox
In this image from 2007, a teacher leads a class at the Holy Trinity College in Addis Ababa.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
With many heading back to school these days, some of those returning to the classroom are seminarians. In 2007, we looked at how one college in Ethiopia is preparing the next generation of priests:
The college hosts both full-time and part-time students (there are currently about 400 enrolled) and offers a bachelor’s degree in theology, a diploma of theology and a certificate in church management and administration. There are courses also found in secular institutions — foreign languages, statistics, philosophy and sociology — as well as classes in theology, liturgy and other areas of religious studies.
Many of the students have been educated previously in government schools. “From first to twelfth grade, I went to government schools,” said Mulugetta Dabi, a fifth-year student in his final year at Holy Trinity. By the time he was in sixth grade, he knew he wanted to be a priest in his hometown of Nazret, so he came to Holy Trinity.
In contrast, Sisay Wgayehu came to Holy Trinity only after his attempts to enroll at secular universities, including an Australian college, failed. “But once I came here, I was happy. When Addis Ababa University [later] offered me a spot, I turned them down.”
When they graduate, most students scatter across the country, often serving parishes in small villages. A few stay on and teach at Holy Trinity. The new generation of students will not only enliven the church at home, but will also help forge ties abroad, Mr. Dabi said.
Read more about Ethiopians moving “Into the Future” in the November 2007 edition of ONE.
31 August 2015
This image from 2014 shows carvings on a wall in the courtyard of the sanctury of Baal in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra. Reports indicate ISIS damaged part of these world-renowned ruins over the weekend. (photo: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)
Temple of Baal in Palmyra damaged by ISIS (The New York Times) Islamic State militants in Syria have damaged the Temple of Baal, one of the most important structures in the ancient city of Palmyra, their second attack on the world-renowned ruins in a week, according to local activists and residents...
Pope Francis issues appeal for persecuted Christians, migrants (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued a twofold appeal on Sunday: for persecuted Christians and for all persons forced to flee their homes in search of a peaceful and secure existence in foreign lands...
Islamic-Christian summit in Lebanon postponed (Fides) The Islamic-Christian summit scheduled for today, Monday, 31 August, to be held at the Maronite patriarchal see in Bkerké, has been postponed until a later date. This was reported by Lebanese official agencies, adding that, however, even today meetings continued with political representatives and Christian members at the patriarchal see in Bkerké...
Martyred Syrian bishop beatified (Catholic Herald) Bishop Michael Melki, a Syrian Catholic cleric martyred during the Assyrian Genocide of 1915 for refusing to convert to Islam, has been beatified. The bishop was beheaded by the Ottomans during the Sayfo — putting to the sword” — of Assyrians in 1915, a tragedy in which at least 250,000 Syriac-speaking Christians were murdered, alongside one million Armenians...
Kiev protest blast wounds 100 police (BBC) One hundred policemen protecting Ukraine’s parliament were wounded, 10 seriously, after MPs gave initial backing to reforms for more autonomy in the rebel-held east, officials say. As police were pelted with fire crackers and petrol bombs, an explosion was heard in front of parliament...
Russia probes smashing of “Mephistopheles” figure (AFP) Russia has launched a probe after a century-old figure of Mephistopheles was ripped down in Saint Petersburg, with Orthodox activists claiming responsibility amid fears of an increasing intolerance in the country. Police said on Friday they had found smashed fragments of the figure in rubbish sacks after it disappeared from the facade of a historic building in the centre of the northwestern city on Monday...
28 August 2015
Father Jos Kandathikudy greets some of his flock at St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
in the Bronx. (photo: Maria Bastone)
Several years ago, we took readers to a church in New York City where Catholics from India were quietly working to maintain their identity and their traditions:
Standing at the entrance of St. Thomas — a large neo-Gothic building — is a cheerful man. Children wave to him on their way into catechism classes. Men, in slacks and dress shirts, and women, some dressed no differently from American women and many others wearing silk, satin and chiffon saris, greet him with smiles and handshakes. “Good morning, Father. How are you?” they ask.
Father Jos Kandathikudy and the people greeting him made all the contributions that transformed the unused St. Valentine’s Roman Catholic Church into St. Thomas Church. The church was donated to the community by the Archbishop of New York, Edward Cardinal Egan.
In the eight years since his superiors in Kerala asked him to organize Syro-Malabar communities in the eastern U.S., Father Kandathikudy has established 21 missions. St. Thomas was founded as a parish last year and is the headquarters for Syro-Malabar Catholics in the New York area.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is the largest Eastern Church in India with 3.75 million followers. The newly established St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Chicago, headed by Bishop Jacob Angadiath, shepherds some 113,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in parishes, missions and schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
When Father Kandathikudy began his pastoral work in the United States, most of the Syro-Malabar Catholics he encountered “had no identity,” he said. “There was no one to tell them, ‘Keep up your identity.’ ”
Read more about “New World Children of St. Thomas” in the May-June 2003 edition of the magazine.