27 October 2015
Orthodox icons seen in Larnaca, Cyprus. (photo: Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images)
By virtue of its dominant Hellenic culture, many consider Cyprus a part of Europe. Yet this eastern Mediterranean island of 1.2 million people — divided into Greek- and Turkish-speaking zones — also figures in the annals of Asian history. Cyprus lies just 45 miles south of Turkey, 63 miles west of Syria and 120 miles northwest of Israel.
The history of Cyprus is riddled with conflict. But one constant factor has maintained the isle’s Hellenic identity into the modern era: the Orthodox Church. This faith community constitutes about 90 percent of the island’s population and has served as a cultural repository and a bastion of faith even as rival Asian and European powers conquered Cyprus.
From its origins in Roman Palestine, Christianity quickly took root among the many Greek-speaking populations of the Roman Empire.
Largely through the evangelical efforts of Sts. Paul and Barnabas, who as described in the Acts of the Apostles first brought the faith to Cyprus, these Greek-speaking Christians formed urban communities that evolved into important Christian centers. Rather than rejecting their Hellenic culture, these churches embraced it, providing philosophical and theological vocabularies that later helped define the teachings of Jesus among the empire’s elite.
Cypriot Christian Orthodox devotees carry a bier depicting Christ’s preparation for burial during a Good Friday procession, at the Ayios Georgios Exorinos Church in the Cypriot Turkish controlled North on 18 April 2014 in Famagusta, Cyprus. (photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images)
The church of Cyprus, while linked to the churches of Antioch and Constantinople, flourished and became largely independent. In 488, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperor, Zeno, confirmed this independence and granted the church’s metropolitan archbishop certain privileges that remain to the present day.
While Cyprus was taken in the seventh century by invading Arab Muslims, for nearly 300 years Cyprus was governed jointly by Byzantine and Muslim Arab governors — an arrangement rare in the history of international law. In 988, however, the Byzantines asserted complete control and Christian life in Byzantine Cyprus flourished. Judging by the sophisticated architecture of the era’s churches and the quality of the art, Cyprus maintained close ties to Constantinople and its workshops.
These ties were ruptured, however, when soldiers of the Third Crusade, led by King Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, suddenly took the island in 1191, imprisoning the Byzantine governor. The Latins reduced the power of the island’s Greek-speaking Orthodox hierarchy, exiled the archbishop and expropriated church property. Resistance was dealt with ruthlessly. Latin Catholic missionaries flooded Cyprus and founded monasteries and reordered Byzantine churches for Latin Catholic use.
When Cyprus fell to the Muslim Ottoman Turks in 1570, the island’s Greek-speaking communities (who were considered neither Catholics by the Latins nor Orthodox by mainland Greek Orthodox clerics) greeted the Turks as deliverers. The sultan of the Ottoman Turks — who had taken Constantinople in 1453 and assumed the mantle of its emperors — banished the Latin hierarchy of Cyprus, recognized its long suffering Orthodox community, reconstituted its hierarchy and appointed the metropolitan archbishop as head of the Greek-speaking community, or millet. This reinforced the role of the Orthodox Church as custodian of Cyprus’s Hellenic culture, warden of the isle’s Byzantine identity and spiritual guardian of its Christians. But charging the Orthodox hierarchy of Cyprus with responsibility for governing its own people proved to be a double-edged sword.
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27 October 2015
In this image from the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE, deaf culinary students enjoy the food they prepared at the Women’s Promotion Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. To learn how churches are helping young women like these to make a better future in a rapidly changing Ethiopia, read “Bright Lights, Big Problems.” (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
27 October 2015
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, signs a document in which leaders of the world’s regional bishops conferences appealed for action on climate change. From left behind the cardinal are Auxiliary Bishop Jean Kockerols of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium; Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia; unidentified priest; Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami; and Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Alberta. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Syrian violence spurs civilian flight from country (The New York Times) A tenuous truce in the Syrian countryside north of the city of Homs was shattered this month when Russian warplanes attacked the village of Ter Ma’aleh, killing at least a dozen people and sending most of the residents into hurried exile. The intensity of the fighting, they say, is fueling increased desperation as a growing number of Syrians are fleeing to neighboring countries and, especially, to Europe. More than 9,000 migrants a day crossed into Greece last week, according to the International Organization for Migration, the most since the beginning of the year. The assault on the village was part of a wider escalation of violence across the country that has displaced tens of thousands of people in just weeks and led relief workers to warn that Syria is facing one of its most serious humanitarian crises of the civil war...
Bishops plead for climate change action (CNS) The presidents of the U.S. and Canadian bishops’ conferences joined leaders of the regional bishops’ conferences of Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania and Europe in signing an appeal for government leaders to reach a “fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement” at a summit in Paris. Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, signed the appeal on 26 October at the beginning of a joint news conference at the Vatican...
Father Jacques Murad speaks of his captivity in Syria (Fides) “Even while being deported, with my hands tied behind my back, I surprisingly found myself repeating again and again: I am going towards freedom. My captivity was like being born again.” This was how Syrian monk and priest the Rev. Jacques Murad, Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian, summarised the spiritual experience during the time he was deprived of his freedom by ISIS jihadists. A period of trial which started on 21 May, when armed men abducted the priest from the Monastery in the outskirts of Qaryatayn together with a co-worker, and ended on 11 October, when Father Jacques regained full freedom...
Chaldean archbishop: Thousands of Christians fleeing Iraq (Christian Today) Thousands of Iraqi Christians are still fleeing their country even though the humanitarian situation for the displaced has improved, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil has told Aid to the Church in Need. Growing numbers of Iraqi Christians forced out of their homes by ISIS are leaving the country as hopes fade that they will be able to return home, he said...
Pope Francis congratulates patriarch on honor (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday sent a message on the occasion of the conferral of an honorary doctorate to Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople. The Honorary Doctorate in the Culture of Unity was granted the Patriarch by the Sophia University Institute “for his service to the unity of the human family...”
Synod drafts declaration on Middle East, Africa, Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The Synod Fathers launched a new appeal for peace and the resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine, asking the international Community to act via diplomatic channels and to engage in dialogue to end the suffering of thousands of people. In the declaration, the Fathers make special reference to families compelled to flee their homes, and give thanks to the countries that have welcomed refugees...
Russian Orthodox official warns eating potato chips is “sinful” (The Moscow Times) Orthodox believers should shun unhealthy foods such as potato chips and products made by corrupt manufacturers because they are sinful, Moscow Patriarchate deputy speaker Roman Bogdasarov was cited as telling the Interfax news agency by the RBC news website on Sunday. “The Church has laid down a strict rule — sin is that which harms human health,” Bogdasarov said. Problematic products include foods containing “various trans fats, alcoholic beverages of poor quality, potato chips, energy [drinks] — everything that negatively affects a person’s health,” he was cited as saying in the report...
26 October 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq India Russian Orthodox
In this image from 2011, Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, visits with staff at the Pontifical Mission Library in Bethlehem. (photo: John E. Kozar)
On Sunday 25 October 2015, the Pontifical Mission Library in Bethlehem celebrated its 45th anniversary on the campus of Bethlehem University. The celebration started with a Eucharistic celebration at the Chapel of the Divine Child where the main celebrant was His Excellency Archbishop Guiseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, assisted by over ten priests. His homily concentrated on the need to have God in our presence in whatever we do, and for each person to find “light” in his/her life, especially amid the violence this land is currently facing. Mass was followed by a formal program where a number of speakers made comments about the history of the library and the great services it is providing to the local community in Bethlehem. Monnitte Monana, the current Teresian director of the library welcomed the guests, and formally opened the celebration by thanking all in attendance. I was privileged to make the opening remarks, emphasizing the three-way cooperation that has made the library such a success. I highlighted the role played by the Teresian Association for being entrusted with the leadership and administration of the library since its inception; thanked Bethlehem University for housing the PM Library in its main library building since 1978; and acknowledged the moral and financial support of CNEWA since those early days. I further highlighted the fact that the library has dramatically expanded its services since those early days and is now more of a community center providing educational and cultural activities for a wide variety of audiences.
The second part of the program included a video presentation narrated by previous and current members of the library. (You can watch the video at this link.) This was followed by short talks about the humble beginnings and history of the library by Brother Joseph Lowenstein, who was the Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University when the initial agreement to host the PM Library was signed back in 1978, as well as by Mellie Brodeth of the Teresian Association who worked in the Library in those early days and is now the director of the Bethlehem University Library. They both spoke eloquently about the importance of people in the life of the library and how it has evolved over the years.
As a way to show the diversified nature of the activities of the library, there was a surprise: a Palestinian folk dance performed by young members of the library who learned this dance as part their activities during the summer camp 2015. This was followed by a ceremony presenting awards to individuals and institutions who made significant contributions to the life of the library over the past 45 years — including, among others, Archbishop Lazzarotto, Br. Joseph Lowenstein, CNEWA, Bethlehem University, the Teresian Association, plus a number of library members. The ceremony concluded with closing remarks by the regional director of the Teresian Association, Dr. Nenita Tenefrancia, who reflected on the mission of the Teresians and how that mission is being lived in Bethlehem through their presence in both the Pontifical Mission and the Bethlehem University Libraries. Their founder Saint Pedro Poveda should be very proud as they fulfill the mission of “transforming society, and promoting human values in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel.” A reception followed in the Institute of Hotel Management served by students of the university.
You can read more about the library here and here.
And to support the ongoing mission of the Pontifical Mission Library, please visit this giving page.
26 October 2015
A neatly kept cemetery surrounds the closed wooden Church of the Dormition in Hunkovce, Slovakia. To read more about Slovakia’s Greet Catholic heritage, and the beautiful wooden churches it has created, check out “Rooted in Wood” from the May 2008 edition of ONE.
(photo: Jacqueline Ruyak)
26 October 2015
A Syrian refugee is seen cooking at Atma, a camp formed by more than 100,000 people under the control of the Free Syrian Army in Idlib, Syria. An outbreak of cholera in the country is raising fears that the disease could spread. (photo: Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Cholera outbreak in Syria sparks fear of “international threat” (The Independent) Cholera has broken out in Syria, with one child having already died after contracting the disease — and the outbreak could constitute an “international threat.” The break-out, which follows one in Iraq, could spread rapidly, according to Dr Ahmad Tarakji, president of the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams), the largest medical NGO still working in Syria. Speaking to The Independent, Dr Tarakji said that Syria’s already crippled medical infrastructure, and the lack of access available to aid agencies, meant the disease could spread quickly, both inside the country and across borders...
Kerry: Israel and Jordan agree on steps to ease tensions in Jerusalem (The New York Times) Seeking to end the latest round of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that Israel and Jordan had agreed to take steps toward defusing tensions at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites, whose fate has been at the center of recent bloodshed...
Ukraine holds local elections (The Wall Street Journal) Ukrainians voted Sunday in local elections that will test support for the country’s pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko, who is under pressure over a deep economic contraction and perceived lack of progress fighting corruption...
Pope addresses Chaldean Synod (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday (26 October) addressed the members of the Synod of the Chaldean Church, reminding them that “the only authority is the authority of service, the only power is the power of the Cross”...
A Muslim perspective on Nostra Aetate (Vatican Radio) Wednesday 28 October marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council declaration, Nostra Aetate, which profoundly reshaped the Catholic Church’s relationship with people of other faiths. Issued in the closing weeks of the Council in 1965, the document for the first time urged Catholics to recognize the truth present in other religions and to work together with other believers for the benefit of all of humanity. During a recent conference at Georgetown University In Washington DC, organised by the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, experts and scholars from other faiths discussed the impact that document has had on their own communities...
Catholic Church condemns dalit burning in India (Vatican Radio) A Catholic Church official in India said the recent burning to death of two dalit children was the latest in a series of atrocities against the former lower-caste group. The church “sternly condemns the sad incident,” Father Z. Devasagayaraj, secretary of the Office for Dalit Development of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said in a statement on 23 October. “It is an inhuman act of which our nation should be ashamed. There have been repeated atrocities against the dalits in different parts of India,” the priest said...
Notre Dame begins regular Byzantine liturgy (Aleteia) The first Byzantine liturgy on Notre Dame’s campus has begun, and once a month, at least in the beginning, those who are from Eastern Christian traditions and those who are just curious will have a chance to participate. Father Anatolios is a newly ordained priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, one of twenty-two Eastern churches in communion with Rome. When his bishop knew that he was going to be moving to South Bend, Indiana, to teach theology, he asked if there could be “a Byzantine Catholic presence on the campus of the most prominent Catholic university in America,” Father Anatolios told the Notre Dame Observer. It’s not that the Byzantine liturgy is unknown on college campuses. There are Orthodox campus ministies, and there’s a Byzantine Catholic Mission at Penn State, with a liturgy offered every Sunday. And near the campus of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, there is a Ukrainian shrine, with divine liturgy offered on Sundays. But Notre Dame seems to be the first Catholic university in the United States where an Eastern liturgy will be celebrated on campus on a regular basis...
23 October 2015
Tags: Syria India Ukraine Muslim Chaldeans
Msgr. Bosco Puthur leads seminarians in prayer before their final exams at St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary in Kerala. To learn more about the formation of priests and religious in India, read “Keeping Up With the Times” in the January 2010 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
23 October 2015
Tents housing displaced Syrians are seen in camp on the southern outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 22 October 22 2015. (photo: Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. debating ways to shield Syrian civilians (The New York Times) The Obama administration is locked in a sharp new debate over whether to deploy American military forces to establish no-fly zones and safe havens in Syria to protect civilians caught in its grinding civil war...
Lebanon says ranking ISIS official captured (The Daily Star) General Security Thursday announced the arrest of what it said was a prominent ISIS leader and other suspected militants who were based in the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh. It said via its Twitter account that the main suspect, who was not identified, was a “legitimate leader” of an ISIS cell plotting to carry out attacks in Lebanon. It did not specify his nationality...
Turkey says new wave of Syrian refugees will head for Europe (Reuters) Turkey is preparing for tens of thousands more refugees from Syria as government forces and Russian warplanes pound opposition-held areas, and officials said many would try illegally to get to Europe. Syrian government troops and their allies, backed by Russian jets, launched an offensive against rebels battling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad south of Aleppo, still home to two million people, a week ago...
Meet the founder of Russia’s Orthodox TV channel (Financial Times) On a sunny afternoon in Moscow, the Russian tycoon Konstantin Malofeev is holding court in the studios of his newly launched television channel Tsargrad TV, dressed in a designer suit, a blue silk handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket. Above him is a makeshift cathedral cupola weighing in at half a tonne. Behind him are 24ft-high windows through which the Kremlin’s red towers are visible, their glass communist stars glistening...
22 October 2015
A Romanian Orthodox priest leads a religious service in Piata Universitatii Square, downtown Bucharest. (photo: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)
The modern southeastern European nation of Romania lies where the Latin, Greek and Slavic cultures collide. Diversity once marked the composition of the people living there. Large communities of Armenians, Germans, Greeks, Hungarians, Jews, Roma, Slavs, Turks and Rumani (ethnic Romanians) lived together — sometimes peacefully, sometimes not. Today, Romania is more homogeneous. About 83 percent of the population of 21 million is ethnic Romanian. Smaller communities of ethnic minorities remain, particularly in the central region of Transylvania.
The Orthodox Church of Romania is the largest religious community in the country — numbering more than 82 percent of the people — and the second-largest Orthodox Church in the world. Unlike other Orthodox churches, the Orthodox Church of Romania functions within a Latin culture and utilizes a Romance language in the celebration of the sacraments — legacies of the country’s Roman past. But Romanian, despite its Latin roots and syntax, includes words from Byzantine Greek and Church Slavonic, reflecting the early Romanians’ relationship with the Byzantines and Bulgarians respectively.
At the end of the 14th century, two Romanian principalities, Wallachia and Moldavia, emerged south and east of the Carpathian Mountains. Though Catholic communities existed in both states, especially among the prosperous German and Hungarian middle class burghers, the Orthodox Church — the faith of the Rumani majority — functioned as an arm of the princely families who governed the states. Monasteries opened and eparchies, erected. By the middle of the 14th century, the ecumenical patriarchate in Constantinople recognized a metropolitan archbishop of Ungro-Wallachia and half a century later a metropolitan archbishop of Moldavia.
Pastor Stefan Anghel celebrates with Romanian Orthodox believers the birth of John the Baptist on 7 January 2014 in Offenbach/Main, Germany. (photo: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)
After the collapse of Byzantium and the Ottoman Turks’ capture of the capital, Constantinople, in 1453, Wallachia and Moldavia became vassal states of the Ottomans. Nevertheless, the Rumani principalities and its Orthodox churches thrived. Formidable monasteries and elaborate churches were constructed and adorned with frescoes — even on the exterior walls — revealing Byzantine, Renaissance and Turkish influences. Monasteries and eparchies established printing houses to publish liturgical books and theological works. Jewelers fashioned gilded reliquaries encrusted with mother of pearl and gems.
Rumani princes, bishops and abbots supported the impoverished ecumenical patriarchate in Ottoman Constantinople, restoring churches and endowing monasteries. Large monastic estates provided regular income to the ecumenical patriarchate and Mount Athos, a Byzantine monastic oasis that remains to this day.
While most of the Orthodox community in Wallachia and Moldavia spoke Rumaneste (Romanian), the church officially used Church Slavonic in the celebration of the sacraments until a local synod approved the use of the Romanian vernacular in 1568. Until 1863, the Orthodox Church used the Cyrillic alphabet to write Romanian liturgical texts, which was also common in civil society.
Despite centuries of challenges — ranging from oppression to collaboration in the modern era — the Orthodox Church of Romania has prospered. Parish life is vibrant; seminaries and monasteries are full; theological studies thrive and interchurch relations, especially with the Catholic Church, advanced significantly. Although immediately after the collapse of their Communist government in 1989 most elements of Romanian society seemed to have suffered posttraumatic stress disorder, the Orthodox Church was well poised to step in and assert leadership. Intellectually, pastorally and spiritually dynamic, it remains the most respected institution in contemporary Romanian society.
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22 October 2015
The Grigorian family gather in their home in Arevik, Armenia. The rich heritage and history of Armenia’s Catholics, with interwoven religions and traditions, is recounted in “A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics” in the January 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)