20 June 2016
The Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches and their delegations participate in the opening session of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church at the Orthodox Academy of Crete.
(photo: Polish Orthodox Church/Jaroslaw Charkiewicz/HolyCouncil.org)
Pope Francis prays for work of pan-Orthodox council (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday urged Catholics to pray for the Orthodox leaders from around the world who are holding their ‘Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church’ on the Greek island of Crete...
Synod opens (oca.org) According to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Press Office for the Holy and Great Council, several Council events will be available to the public via live streaming...
Pope appeals for solidarity ahead of World Refugee Day (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for solidarity with refugees as he noted that Monday marks the annual United Nations World Refugee Day. The Pope recalled that the theme for this year’s event is ‘We stand together #With Refugees’ and with all those forced to flee their lands. Refugees, he insisted, are people like everyone else, who have been deprived by war of their homes, their jobs, their parents and their friends...
Cardinal begins trip to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, is on a six day official visit to Ukraine where he will meet with both Church and state officials...
Kerala leader condemns attack on Patriarch in Syria (Economic Times) Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today condemned the attack on Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, head of the Syrian Orthodox church, who had a narrow escape when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a function attended by the religious leader in Syria...
New York’s Cardinal Dolan in Iraq: Embracing the displaced Iraqi Christians (National Catholic Reporter) Shortly after his arrival to Erbil, Iraq, on 8 April 2016, Cardinal Timothy Dolan met at the hotel with the three American journalists, including this writer, for a brief conversation. He was clear what the goals of his visit were: To show solidarity with the displaced Iraqi Christian and Yazidi families; to express gratitude to the workers, volunteers and caregivers serving the displaced; and to support the local church and to demonstrate solidarity with it...
17 June 2016
If you thought you’d logged on to the wrong site, think again.
We’re pleased this morning to unveil a new look for our familiar website — brighter, cleaner, easier to navigate. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed by now, the enhancements also include freshening up the look of our blog, One-to-One.
Among other things, the design incorporates on the home page a new element that links directly to our video archive. It also features a link to ONE, our award-winning magazine and, of course, the popular blog you’re reading right now.
Pope Francis spoke of the power and importance of social media in his message for World Communications Day earlier this year:
Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal... I pray that this Jubilee Year, lived in mercy, “may open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; and that it may eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and
drive out every form of violence and discrimination” (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). The internet can help us to be better citizens. Access to digital networks entails a responsibility for our neighbor whom we do not see but who is nonetheless real and has a dignity which must be respected. The internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing.
Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as “closeness.” The encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.
That captures perfectly what we at CNEWA have embraced as a cornerstone of our mission, the “fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.” That idea gave birth to the very name of our magazine, ONE — and, in turn, to the blog you are reading right now. We hope our new design serves to make communication easier and helps foster the closeness and communion of which the Holy Father speaks.
So, take a few moments and look around. We’ll continue to make enhancements and improvements in the months ahead, so come back and visit often!
17 June 2016
Leaders of Orthodox churches gather at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Chania on the Greek island of Crete 17 June. Orthodox patriarchs and primates were meeting to consider a draft message for the 19-26 June Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church in Chania. The council is intended to be the first meeting of all the Orthodox churches in more than a millennium. From left are: Archbishop Sawa of Warsaw and all of Poland; Archbishop Chrysostomos of Nova Justiniana and all of Cyprus; Patriarch Irinej of Serbia; Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople; Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem; Patriarch Daniel of Romania; Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all of Greece; Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres, and all of Albania; Archbishop Rastislav of Presov, metropolitan of the Czech lands and Slovakia. Read more about the planned synod here.
(photo: CNS/Sean Hawkey, handout)
A historic gathering in Greece is due to begin on Sunday — but not without a few complications.
From the Associated Press:
Orthodox Christian leaders meeting for a historic council aimed at promoting unity made a last-minute appeal Friday to the Russian Orthodox Church and three others to attend the gathering, the first such meeting in more than a millennium.
A spokesman for Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said the leaders of 10 out of the 14 Orthodox churches that were supposed to convene on the Greek island of Crete will seek to resolve the issues that made the four churches decide not to attend.
“It will proceed but they want their brothers with them and (now) make a plea even at the 11th hour” for them to attend, said the Rev. John Chryssavgis.
He said the church leaders met earlier on Friday and would later in the day send an official request for the other churches to attend. “They will try hard to get their brothers to attend,” Chryssavgis said, adding that the leaders will reach out and ask the others: “How can we address your problems?”
17 June 2016
In this image from April, Pope Francis is followed by Syrian refugees as he disembarks from this flight from the Greek island of Lesbos at Ciampino airport in Rome. The pope concluded his one-day visit to Greece by bringing 12 Syrian refugees to Italy aboard his flight. Today, the Vatican announced that nine more refugees from the island had been brought to Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Nine more Syrian refugees brought to Rome (Vatican Radio) A group of nine Syrian refugees, including two Christians, arrived in Rome on Thursday from the Kara Tepe refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, following the visit of Pope Francis to the island on 16 April, when he accompanied three families of refugees back to Rome...
Cardinal Parolin embarks on visit to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, is on a six day official visit to Ukraine where he will meet with both Church and state officials. On Friday morning he celebrated Holy Mass at the Cathedral church of St. Alexander in Kiev and delivered a homily on the theme of the gospel warning “not to store up treasures on earth...”
Vatican message: Christianity and Islam both believe in a merciful God (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has delivered a message to the Muslim world on the occasion of the month of Ramadan. In the message, Cardinal Tauran extends best wishes for a spiritually rewarding fast, supported by good deeds. Making a pilgrimage to obtain God’s pardon for both for the living and the dead, he says, is truly a salient practice among believers...
Orthodox council: Greek Foreign Minister gives dinner for patriarchs (Vatican Radio) Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias hosted a dinner for the Primates of the Orthodox Church who are presently in Crete ahead of the official opening of the Holy and Great Council of the heads of all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, scheduled to take place from Sunday until the end of the month...
The “immovable ladder” of Jerusalem (The Irish Catholic) Over the years, the various communities have found it virtually impossible to agree on renovations [at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre], with each side jealously guarding their prerogative. The most potent symbol of this is the so-called ‘immovable ladder’ perched on the façade of the church leading up to a window. First placed there in the 18th century, the ladder is referred to as immovable due to an understanding that none of the six Churches may move, rearrange, or alter any property without the consent of the other five...
16 June 2016
Sister Lilly Chirayath, C.H.F., joined by the children at her “House of Hope,” enjoys a visit from CNEWA’s Msgr. John E. Kozar in 2012. (photo: CNEWA)
Some of CNEWA’s greatest heroes are heralds of hope.
That would include Sister Lilly Chirayath, C.H.F., who runs the Holy Family Asha Niwas in New Delhi, otherwise known as the “House of Hope”:
“Our main mission is taking care of our orphanage,” Sister Lilly explains. “It’s where we help neglected and unwanted street girls 4 to 18 years of age.”
More than 25,000 families live in the slums of southwest New Delhi, where even menial work is hard to find. Many people turn to petty crime or worse. And for the homeless girls the sisters have taken in, the orphanage has been a place that has literally saved their lives.
“These girls had been wandering around railway stations, markets and streets,” Sister Lilly points out. “Some lost their parents or are abandoned. Others have been ill-treated by their drunken fathers. They were exploited by antisocial elements. Many are undernourished, both mentally and physically.”
The sisters help them in many ways — from providing shelter, food and clothing to ensuring each girl receives an education. As Sister Lilly says, “We believe they should have vocational training, health care, counseling and guidance.”
On her orphanage’s website, Sister Lilly explains even more about the hope that animates her mission:
Jesus said, “When you do something for the least of my brethren, you do it for me.”
Children are the loveliest creation of God. They are so innocent, so unblemished, so lovely, and so marvelous. They deserve everything best in the world. They deserve love, they deserve to be happy and they deserve to be well taken care of. God entrusts them to us, elders.
But what do we see in the world? For me, a child being treated cruelly is the most painful thing in the world. The most terrible poverty is loneliness and feeling of being unwanted.
Love the children; care for the children, help the children to grow up happily, and the world will be beautiful.
When one is happy, he/she spreads that happiness to others, to the society, to the whole world. So fill the hearts of children with love and make them fully active, creative and enthusiastic.
It is something Sister Lilly and her sisters happily do with boundless compassion, tenderness and joy.
16 June 2016
Muslim scholars and religious leaders gather in Erbil earlier this month to discuss how to deal with the situation in the Middle East. (photo: PRIO.org)
The tragic situation in the Middle East has challenged Muslim thinkers and religious leaders to analyze the almost total breakdown of civil society, sectarian violence on a historically unprecedented scale and widespread human suffering the region has not seen for centuries.
What can be done?
In recent months, two gatherings of Muslims scholars have attempted to deal with the situation and to offer possible solutions. A very important conference took place earlier this month in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. It was held 2-4 June 2016 under the co-sponsorship of the Hikmah Center for Dialogue and Cooperation (Najaf, Iraq), the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) (Norway) and the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME) (Washington, DC). As such, it was the second major recent attempt by Muslim scholars to deal with the situation in the Middle East.
The first attempt was a meeting of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. It took place in Marrakesh, Morocco, 25-27 January 2016. It was attended by Muslims from 120 Muslim majority countries from around the world. The Marrakesh conference dealt with the topic on a global scale and generally speaking from a Sunni perspective. The Marrakesh Declaration uses as its point of departure the so-called Constitution of Medina, which is an agreement the Prophet Muhammad made with the citizens of Medina delineating their rights and obligations when he came from Mecca and took over leadership of Medina. The Marrakesh Declaration challenges Muslim majority countries to: “develop a jurisprudence of the concept of ‘citizenship’ which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in the Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global change.”
The Erbil Declaration, however, is different in significant ways.First, it deals specifically with the situation in Iraq. Secondly, the document has been influenced by Shi’ite thought through the co-sponsorship of the Hikmah Center for Dialogue and Cooperation and also the CSIME. The presence of PRIO provides an non-Muslim perspective. The first thing that one notices is that the Erbil Declaration relies less on traditional Islamic categories and more on contemporary political theory. This is by no means to imply that the Erbil Declaration is a break with traditional Islamic thinking but rather that it is a contribution to its development.
Several very important concepts form the framework of the Erbil Declaration: citizenship, civil society and government, which is “responsive to all its citizens equally and regardless of their religious or ethnic identities.”
Dr. Ahmad Iravani, the president of CSIME, delivered a paper at the forum entitled “Inclusive Citizenship amid Cultural and Religious Diversity.” In the paper Dr. Iravani makes several important points. First, he states that “power-sharing through both direct electoral participation and civil society involvement is an absolutely integral part of building a social and political trust.” Religion is seen as having played and continuing to play an important — though not exclusive — role in civil society. Iravani notes that “...civil society engagement should be utilized to promote social harmony and religious pluralism within Iraq and demand a government that is responsive to all citizens....”
Recognizing that the notion of citizenship cannot simply be translated from a Western context into Iraq, Iravani notes: “Building a harmonious social compact that includes all Iraqi citizens is achievable perhaps only through the notion of citizenship. Although a modern concept...without it [citizenship], and given the diversity and recent conflicts and insecurity in Iraq, it would be very difficult to build a harmonious social order based on trust and mutual state-society responsibility.”
The Erbil Declaration then makes concrete applications of these principles:
- That the solution for Iraq is to enhance the status of citizenship, so all have equal rights and duties under the rule of law.
- That the well-ordered state should protect and guarantee for all Iraqis the fundamental freedoms of belief and expression.
- That authentic reconciliation should be promoted among the Iraqi people ensure the enhancement of mutual trust.
- That religious, educational, and media institutions should actively support inclusive citizenship, co-existence, and respect for others.
- That religious leaders should educate their congregations to respect our humanity and to reject all forms of extremism, hatred, and the use of terror.
- That after completely liberating the land of Iraq from Daesh, the Iraqi government should implement procedures for the establishment of peace and to prevent negative consequences from arising, such as cycles of revenge and sectarianism.
- That cultural institutions, civil society organizations, and universities should channel their energies towards the eradication of everything that would be detrimental to citizenship.
- That the capacities of young people should be given much attention, and support should be given to activities that ensure them with a life in dignity and an education that protects them from extremism.
- That the role of women as half of society should be reflected in their status as citizens, and they should have a substantive role in the development of society.
Given the situation in Iraq and elsewhere, the principles of the Erbil Declaration provide a clear, practical and contemporary framework for rebuilding societies that have been destroyed. Although specifically proposed for Iraq, the principles can be far more widely applied.
You can download the full text of the Erbil Declaration here.
16 June 2016
Women clean and sort coffee beans in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, showing the painstaking human effort that goes into creating Ethiopia’s prized coffees. Learn more in Brewed to Perfection in the November 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
16 June 2016
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople delivers a blessing during a 2014 Divine Liturgy attended by Pope Francis in the patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul. The patriarch is urging Orthodox leaders to attend a historic meeting in Crete set to begin Sunday.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Patriarch Bartholomew urges leaders to attend pan-Orthodox meeting (CNS) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople called on his brother patriarchs and primates of the Orthodox churches to honor their commitments and join him for the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. Four of the churches — the Antiochian, Bulgarian, Georgian and Russian Orthodox — announced they would not attend the gathering scheduled for 19-26 June on the Greek island of Crete...
Iraqi militants attack fleeing civilians, displaying Christian symbols (Fides) In recent days, pictures have been circulating in the media and in social networks, showing some militiamen operating in paramilitary groups who participate in operations displaying crosses, effigies of Jesus and other Christian symbols.The Chaldean Patriarchate issued a statement to express the condemnation of such acts, and to reiterate that the perpetrators cannot claim any relationship with Christianity...
Pope thanks ROACO for support of Eastern Churches (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with members of the ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches) Assembly which raises funds for Christians in the Eastern-rite Churches. Among those taking part in the meeting were the papal representatives from Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and Jordan, as well as the new Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton...
Russia wants “long-term ceasefire” in Aleppo, Syria (BBC) Russia has called for a long-term ceasefire in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, hours after declaring a two-day pause in the fighting there. The Russian defense ministry said the “regime of calm,” which went into effect at midnight, was an effort to stabilize the situation in Aleppo...
Israel plans concrete wall along Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Israel’s defense establishment plans to build a concrete wall that goes tens of yards underground as well as above ground along the Gaza Strip border. The plan, revealed on Thursday on the front page of the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, will cost an estimated $568 million, less than previously estimated, according to the report. A wall that stretches underground is believed necessary to combat the proliferation of attack tunnels running under the border between Gaza and Israel...
15 June 2016
The title of the 1970 film, “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came,” has recently morphed into the question “what if they called a Great and Holy Synod and nobody came?”
Since 1961, there has been talk among the 14 autocephalous (or independent) Orthodox churches, comprising some 300 million people, about the possibility and necessity of a meeting — a Pan-Orthodox Council or, more formally, a Great and Holy Synod. The obstacles to convening a synod of the Orthodox churches have been many and sometimes great. But, finally, after decades of negotiating and tumultuous change in the lands of most of these churches, a synod was planned for June 2016. The original venue was scheduled to be in Istanbul, the seat of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, but that was unacceptable to the patriarch of Moscow of the Orthodox Church of Russia. Instead, the synod is to take place in Crete from 19 to 26 June.
The idea of a synod of all the Orthodox churches began in 1961 with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. While the ecumenical patriarch is recognized as the “first among equals” in the Orthodox communion of churches, he has no authority over those churches that are fully independent. Consequently, issues of leadership surface, raised especially by those Orthodox churches backed by powerful civil governments.
While synods of bishops generally govern each of the independent Orthodox churches, meeting at least annually, the Orthodox world has little experience with general councils: Occasional synods and councils, with varying degrees of participation and canonical recognition among the churches, stretch back to Nicaea in the year 787, when the last of the universally recognized ecumenical councils was convoked by the emperor of the Romans.
The proposed Great and Holy Synod has been compared in the media — especially in the West — with the Catholic Church’s Vatican II. In actuality nothing could be further from the truth. Should the synod take place, each of the 14 churches will be a full and equal member — there is no emperor or pope to convene and preside. And no single individual will approve the decrees of the synod; they are accepted or rejected by unanimous consensus.
A gathering of Orthodox leaders — a Synaxis of Prelates — met in January 2016 and set six issues on the synodal agenda: ecumenism, marriage, fasting, autonomy of churches, the diaspora and mission. But there is little unanimity on any of the topics. Ecumenism is a major issue of contention. Some Orthodox churches do not consider any other Christian body to be a valid church. These churches do not recognize the baptism or other sacraments of other Christians. Marriage between an Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christian, even if the non-Orthodox individual is a baptized Christian, is forbidden. Other Orthodox churches are more open in their acceptance. At present there is clearly no consensus.
Deep theological issues, however, are not the only obstacles to the synod. There are conflicts among several of the Orthodox churches. Almost all of the objections can and are articulated in theological terms, making dialogue and compromise more difficult.
At present, five of the 14 autocephalous churches — Antioch, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia — have indicated they will not attend. The patriarch of Antioch has broken communion with the patriarch of Jerusalem, who has appointed a bishop in Qatar, traditionally the territory of the patriarch of Antioch. Thus the Orthodox Church of Antioch, one of the first patriarchates and the third most in importance, will not participate in the synod. The Orthodox Church of Bulgaria has decided not to attend the synod because, among other things, it was not happy with the seating arrangements.
For an outsider this is a tragedy. The world has changed since Athenagoras first proposed a pan-Orthodox synod. One of the greatest strengths of Orthodoxy has been its ability to enculturate and adapt to the culture where it lives. While that is still of great value in the homelands of Orthodoxy, it proves an anomaly in the diaspora. More and more Orthodox Christians are living in the “New World,” which is culturally, linguistically and philosophically very different from the homelands of these churches. Almost every Orthodox Church is represented, for example, in North America. Very often they have little to do with other Orthodox churches in their area — despite being in full communion. As they lose contact with the ancient homeland, they run the risk of becoming ghettoized in the new world, isolated from the home church and also isolated from each other.
It is an open question whether the Great and Holy Synod will take place and, if it does, whether it will have any impact on Orthodoxy in particular and Christianity in general. It is not an open question whether the Great and Holy Synod is necessary. It is very necessary if Orthodoxy is to remain an integral part of the modern, globalized world.
15 June 2016
Tags: Ecumenism Christian Unity Orthodox
Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez sits in the “cathedra,” or bishop’s chair, alongside Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, during his 11 June ordination Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul. You can read more about the new bishop’s life and background from the Vatican announcement of his appointment here.
(photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)