10 November 2015
Orthodox believers hold an icon of Saints Cyril and Methodius during a service in
Mikulcice, Czech Republic. (photo: Vova Pomortzeff/Alamy)
The fortunes of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic and Slovakia mirror those of these Central European states, which once formed a united Czechoslovakia. Both the church and state were born after the collapse of the multiethnic empire of Austria-Hungary in 1918. Both were controlled by Nazi occupiers during World War II and then by the Soviets, who commandeered leadership after the war. Both were revived after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and have since been affected by the dissolution of Czechoslovakia — the so-called Velvet Divorce — in 1993.
Though a relatively young community, and numbering only about 100,000 people, the Orthodox Church in the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia and the independent republic of Slovakia dates back more than a thousand years.
In Europe’s Middle Ages, Latin missionaries worked among the Slavic peoples of the principality of Great Moravia — which covered much of the territory of the contemporary states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These missionaries (most of whom were Germanic) introduced the Latin rites of the Roman church in the ninth century and advocated closer ties with Moravia’s Germanic enemies. To counter these efforts, Moravia’s reigning prince, Rastislav, petitioned the emperor in the great Byzantine city of Constantinople to provide Slav-speaking missionaries to work among the prince’s subjects.
In 862, the emperor sent two Greek brothers, Cyril and Methodius, who devised an alphabet for the Slavonic vernacular, translated Scripture and the liturgies of the church into Slavonic (it remains unclear whether these liturgies were Byzantine or Latin in rite), and transcribed the first Slavic code of civil law. Despite support from the papacy, the brothers’ work generated hostility among the Latin Germanic bishops. They later drove Cyril and Methodius from Moravia, engineered Rastislav’s removal and, in 886, banished their followers.
Greater Moravia collapsed after 893. Its successor state, the Latin Catholic Kingdom of Bohemia, retained its Slavic “Czech” identity despite profound antagonisms and influences from neighboring Germanic principalities — a state of affairs that survived until the decades following World War II.
Orthodox Easter night service in front of the Dormition Church at the Olsany Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic. (photo: Vova Pomortzeff/Alamy)
With the breakup of the Hapsburg realm of Austria-Hungary in 1918, and the birth of the Czechoslovak state, a group of Latin Catholic priests called for the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the Mass, optional clerical celibacy and the reception of the Eucharist under both species. Influenced by the work of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Jan Hus and Martin Luther, these priests eventually formed the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, a national church that grew quickly, especially in the Czech heartland of Bohemia.
While this church retained elements of its Catholic heritage, some priests were sympathetic to the 15th-century Hussite scholar and diplomat, Peter Payne, and his interest in Orthodoxy. Heeding appeals from the Serbian Orthodox patriarchate, one priest, Father Matej Pavlik, was received into the Orthodox Church and consecrated a bishop in 1921.
Taking the name Gorazd, the new bishop erected two eparchies, one in the Bohemian capital of Prague and another in the Slovak town of Mukacevo, the historical center of Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholics. While he was bishop, a large number of these Greek Catholics accepted Orthodoxy after the Holy See imposed restrictions (for example, barring the use of married priests) on their parish communities in North America.
A prolific writer and a zealous pastor, Bishop Gorazd established parishes for all of the diverse ethnic communities that made up the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia, including Bohemian Czechs, Carpatho-Rusyns, Russian exiles, Serbs and Slovaks.
Today, this Orthodox Church is strongest in Slovakia, especially in the Carpatho-Rusyn areas of the northeast near Poland and Ukraine, numbering some 50,000 people. In the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia, the church is weak. This reflects the status of religious identity in the modern Czech Republic — a majority of Czechs identify themselves as atheists. Most Orthodox Christians who fill the churches in both republics are guest workers from Greece, Russia and Ukraine and may include up to 500,000 people.
Click here to read more.
10 November 2015
Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic Bishop Milan Sasik, C.M., looks out the window of his
office in Uzhorod. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)
The Autumn edition of ONE features an online exclusive profile of Bishop Milan Sasik of Ukraine, who describes efforts to revive what had been, during the Soviet era, an underground church:
As Ukraine still struggled with nascent nation building, Bishop Milan encountered a community in a state of “spiritual hunger.”
Its shepherds, 128 priests, had been placed in Soviet prisons and sent to exile in Siberia, and 20 would never return alive. Some 40 churches had been destroyed by the Communist government, and 273 more were transferred to the Orthodox Church of Russia — the only church the Soviets had authorized, which operated under the strict control of the Kremlin.
In 1991, when Ukraine gained independence, the eparchy initially regained only 117 churches and four monasteries from Moscow. Of the more than 500 eparchial institutional buildings that were nationalized, the eparchy was left with 60.
As a result, Bishop Milan initially had nowhere to live.
“I joked that I would live in the cathedral tower, or in the crypt or even in the sacristy.”
The priority was clear: The bishop initiated numerous brick-and-mortar projects — most importantly, a seminary to meet the demand of the newly resurgent faithful.
Read more of the profile here.
And in the Autumn edition of ONE, learn more about the seminarians being formed in Ukraine, helping the church come “Out From Underground.”
10 November 2015
Forces of the Syrian opposition launch missiles targeting Hemeimeem military airport in Latakia, Syria, on 10 November 2015. (photo: Ali Hafavi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Blasts strike Syrian city (Reuters) At least 23 people were killed and 40 wounded in two explosions in the Syrian city of Latakia on Tuesday, a monitoring group said, in one of the bloodiest attacks on President Bashar al-Assad’s coastal stronghold. The blasts hit two separate areas of the city, one from rocket fire and the other either from a rocket or a planted explosive device, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. With many of the wounded in serious condition, the death toll was expected to rise, said the Observatory, which monitors the war using sources on the ground...
Canadians brace for surge of Syrian refugees (CBC) Refugee resettlement agencies across Canada are working overtime to develop plans for integrating an unprecedented surge of refugees, without knowing how soon they’ll arrive or whether their agencies’ budgets will increase to meet the costs...
A Christian safe zone in Iraq? (Al-Monitor) Christian activists are making the unlikely gamble as their yearslong exodus from Syria and Iraq has turned into an outright stampede under the Islamic State (ISIS). They’re launching a lobbying blitz to get the United States to label their plight a genocide — and create pressure for the subsequent creation of a Christian safe haven in Iraq. “We are forming a lobby team and trying to raise some money to hire [a] very respected diplomat so we can get more countries involved in this issue,” said Loay Mikhael, head of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council...
Ethiopia appeals for help to feed thousands (AP) An Ethiopian official says the country’s more than 730,000 refugees could go hungry if $55 million in food aid is not raised by the end of the year. Ayalew Awoke, deputy director of refugee affairs, said Monday that a $20 million donation by the U.S. will be used up by the end of December and he warned of “a major crisis” unless aid comes in...
Russian Orthodox church to offer “pure” Wi-Fi (The Guardian) The Russian Orthodox Church has said it will offer free “Orthodox internet” Wi-Ficleansed of immoral content near churches and in public places around Moscow. Orthodox priest Roman Bogdasarov, who heads the Russian Inter-religious Council, told Izvestia newspaper that the internet contains many threats to users, including recruitment materials for Christian sects and Islamic State, pornography and “distorted versions of history”...
9 November 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Russian Orthodox
Rev. Paul Watson, S.A. (1863-1940). (photo: Graymoor Archives)
On 22 September 2015, in a moment rich with significance for CNEWA and for Christian unity, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York — and CNEWA’s chair — formally opened the cause for canonization of the Rev. Paul Wattson, S.A., (1863-1940), CNEWA’s co-founder. Father Paul will now be formally known as “Servant of God,” and further investigation can begin into his life and work. Once his heroic virtues are established, he may be declared “Venerable”; evidence of one miracle attributed to him can result in beatification; a second miracle may lead eventually to the pope declaring him, formally, a saint.
For Father Paul, this is the latest milestone in a long journey of faith that has left an enduring imprint on Christianity around the world. It’s a journey that began, in fact, in the Episcopal Church. Long before he helped launch CNEWA, Father Paul was an Episcopal priest, a co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and a champion of Christian unity and helping the poor.
The Society of the Atonement, consisting of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, was founded in the Episcopal Church in 1898. In 1909 the entire community sought and received communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Significantly, Father Paul and his community did not leave the Episcopal Church motivated by anger or rejection; rather he saw his “journey to Rome” as the logical continuation of his commitment to the unity of all Christians. This passion for unity manifested itself his preaching and writings. But even more importantly, this commitment led him to found the annual Chair of Unity Octave, eight days of prayer for Christian Unity from 18-25 January. This observance, which started at Graymoor, Garrison, New York, was recommended to the universal Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XV. The Church Unity Octave over the decades evolved into the Week of Prayer of Christian Unity, which is now observed by Christians throughout the world.
In a world in which the ecumenical movement was just beginning and did not enjoy wide acceptance, the attitude of Father Paul toward non-Latin rite and non-Catholic churches was unique. In the early 20th century, the Catholic Church in the United States had recently experienced the loss of a quarter million Eastern Catholics because of the insensitivity of Latin Catholics to the legitimate practices of the Eastern Catholic churches. The attitude towards those Eastern Catholics who remained was often one of ignorance and distrust. Relations between Catholics and Protestants were hardly better.
Father Paul regarded other churches not as heretics and enemies, competitors or targets for proselytization, but as friends and fellow travelers on the road to the unity Christ wished for his church. He saw it as his task to be the Lamp that helped them on this journey.
His attitude toward other churches and his concern for the poor brought Father Paul in increasing contact with the Christians of the Middle East and India. After World War I, the situation of Christians in the Middle East was dire. Genocide was the order of the day for Christians in the lands of the Middle East. Millions of Armenians and hundreds of thousands of Christians from other Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches were either slaughtered or driven out of their homes as refugees.
Father Paul and the Rev. George Calvassy (later a bishop) of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church sought a way to alleviate the sufferings of all Christians in the Middle East. Their attempts took many different routes, some of them dead ends, but their efforts along with others resulted ultimately in the founding of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) in 1926. Pope Pius XI formally recognized CNEWA as a pontifical organization and placed it under the direction of the archbishop of New York.
The Eastern Churches — Catholic and Orthodox — were dear to the heart of Father Paul. Many bishops from these churches visited Father Paul at Graymoor to ask his help and express their gratitude for any assistance they received.
Father Paul died on 8 February 1940. His pioneering work for Christian unity today might be considered ahead of its time, and even prophetic. He did not live to see the Second Vatican Council and its decree on Christian Unity; he did not see the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity become a world-wide event promulgated by both the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. But his prayers, vision and passion laid the groundwork for vastly improved relations between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and helped CNEWA become a significant force for humanitarian and pastoral aid in a Middle East — a troubled land that is once again in our own day a place of genocide and exile.
CNEWA is proud that one of its founders is now continuing his journey — this time on the road to sainthood.
You can read more about Father Paul in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE.
9 November 2015
Three young men work on a site for the new light rail in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The country’s landscape is becoming more urbanized, and that is creating new challenges for both the people and the churches. Read more in “Bright Lights, Big Problems” in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE.
(photo: Petterik Wiggers)
9 November 2015
A refugee family from Mosul rests in their home, a hut at the Bahirka Tent City in Erbil, Iraq,
29 October 2015. (photo: Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.N. prepares for refugee exodus in Iraq (Voice of America) The United Nations is expecting huge numbers of civilians to flee when Iraqi forces mount an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants. It is not clear when Iraqi forces will be ready to attack the northern city. The much anticipated counter-offensive has been repeatedly postponed because Iraqi forces are unprepared and bogged down in battle elsewhere...
Confirmation of attack on Russian jet could strengthen Putin’s resolve (The New York Times) The main bell in St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg tolled 224 times on Sunday, once for each victim of the destruction of a Russian charter flight in Egypt a week ago. Although President Vladimir V. Putin and his aides at first indignantly dismissed suspicions of a terrorist act, the Kremlin has since then clearly come to grips with the idea that a bomb was probably involved in the crash: Late Friday it suspended all travel by Russians to Egypt, and initiated an emergency airlift that by Sunday had repatriated 11,000 Russians, by government count. Should an attack be confirmed — and particularly if the Islamic State’s claim that it bombed the plane in revenge for Russia’s intervention in Syria turns out to be true — analysts and other experts expect that it will only strengthen Mr. Putin’s resolve to become more deeply involved in the Middle East...
Dialogue council sends message to Hindus (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has sent a Message to all people professing the Hindu religion, who are preparing to celebrate the festival of Deepavali (Diwali). The theme of the Message this year is our common duty to care for creation and work to build and develop an authentic “human ecology”...
Eritreans risk deadly odyssey to reach Europe (Al Jazeera) In addition to armed groups from Sudan to Sinai who seek to abduct them for ransom, and a treacherous Mediterranean Sea crossing that has killed more than 3,000 people this year, Eritreans now face a new peril — Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also knows as ISIS) gunmen who have caught and executed scores of African Christian refugees as they crossed Libya...
Oldest Ukrainian Catholic parish in the U.S. getting a makeover (ByzCath.org) Usually there isn’t scaffolding in the middle of the pews at this church in Shenandoah, but St. Michael’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is getting some needed repairs. For years, the domes at the church have been leaking and the lighting wasn’t energy efficient but that“s changing. “We had to start first with our roof and our domes because that’s where most of the water leakage was coming from,” explained Msgr. Myron Grabowsky...
6 November 2015
Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic seminarians in Urzhorod, Ukraine, take time in between study and prayer for some gardening and fun. A new generation of seminarians is helping breathe new life into the seminary and the Greek Catholic Church. Read more in “Out From Underground” in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)
5 November 2015
Parishioners process for the feast of the Virgin Mary in Kondolpoga, northern Russia.
(photo: George Martin)
Almost 25 years since the unraveling of the Soviet Union, the concerns that once plagued its Communist leaders — apathy, corruption, crime, cynicism, depopulation and underemployment, as well as the deterioration of industry — continue to scourge its political and spiritual heirs.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, having consolidated his hold on Russia’s central government, has enlisted the assistance of the Orthodox Church to address some of these issues. This alliance of church and state — which except for a violent gap of some 70 years dates to the origins of the Russian state — has been cemented as Russian patriotism surges in defiance of sanctions imposed by the West for Putin’s involvement in Ukraine. So intimate is this link between state and church, it is difficult to determine which came first.
Russians, Belarussians, Rusyns and Ukrainians claim descent from the Eastern Slavs of Central Europe and the Varangians of Scandinavia. Collectively known as the Rus’, these peoples intermarried and, from their center in Kiev (now the capital of Ukraine) on the banks of the Dnieper River, they asserted control of the trade routes from the Baltic to the Black seas, establishing Kievan Rus’ as a regional force by the ninth century.
A Russian Orthodox believer marks Epiphany by bathing in the icy water of Saint Petersburg’s Neva River. (photo: Alexander Koryakov/Kommersant/Getty Images)
The rapid development of Byzantine Christianity among the Rus’ — which Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev pursued with vigor throughout his reign — coincided with the rise of the Kievan state. Vladimir and his successors consolidated their authority and augmented their dominion. They built important churches; promulgated the first code of law of the Eastern Slavs; supported monasticism, theological learning and the arts. Using Bulgaria’s church as a model, Yaroslav the Wise (978-1054) achieved some independence from Constantinople for the church of Kiev, overseeing the installation of a metropolitan archbishop in 1037.
Eventually, Rus’ natives dominated the episcopacy, whose sees were centered in various regional centers governed by the family of the grand prince, such as Chernigov, Novgorod and Smolensk.
Very little remains from this period. The Mongols, a nomadic people from central Asia, swept through the dominions of the Rus’ in the early 13th century, burning and sacking its cities, including Kiev. They killed much of the population and enslaved most of the rest.
The Mongol invasions merely accelerated the demise of Kievan Rus’, which began to disintegrate when the family of the grand prince challenged his authority. Without a communications network, rival cities — Novgorod, Vladimir and Suzdal in the northeast, Polotsk and Smolensk in the northwest, Halych in the southwest and even nearby Chernigov — grew more autonomous, fracturing the unity of Kievan Rus’, making it susceptible to invasion and subjugation. For over two centuries these communities lived as vassals under the Mongols.
With the decline of princes, church leaders quickly filled their roles, patronizing the building of churches and monasteries far removed from the centers of Mongol power. The Rus’ of Kiev sought refuge in the north, migrating in succession to Rostov, Suzdal and, finally, Vladimir. The effective leader of all the Rus’, the metropolitan archbishop of Kiev, left the devastated city for Vladimir in 1300. Eventually, Rostov, Suzdal and Vladimir all fell under the influence of Moscow, a minor principality led by ambitious princes. Just eight years after the move to Vladimir, the metropolitan archbishop of Kiev-Vladimir moved his court to the city of Moscow. Bolstered by a “golden ring” of fortified monasteries and towns, Moscow grew wealthy.
Click here to read more about church and state in Moscow, and the forging of a modern Russian alliance.
5 November 2015
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church Eastern Churches
A construction worker examines the remaining damage to St. Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden, New Delhi. To learn more about the trend of vandalization and violence against the church of India, read ‘There Will Be More Martyrs,’ from the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Jose Jacob)
5 November 2015
Tags: India Violence against Christians Indian Christians Indian Catholics
Refugee and migrant children, living in a field on the Greek island of Lesbos, wait to register with refugee services on 4 November. (photo: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)
Greek island struggles to provide medical care to refugees (Al Jazeera) Tragedy has struck the island of Lesbos, in the eastern Aegean Sea, repeatedly in the past year, and October was the worst month yet. Lesbos received 125,000 refugees, double the number in August. It saw dozens of shipwrecks, with at least 35 people killed on 28 October alone. Despite the worsening weather, people keep on coming — about 6,000 per day. Overwhelmed, Lesbos now faces serious gaps in emergency medical care…
U.N. calls for access to vulnerable communities in eastern Ukraine (U.N. News Center) The United Nations humanitarian chief today concluded a three-day visit to Ukraine, calling for sustained and unimpeded access to the vulnerable communities caught in the middle of the crisis and who urgently need humanitarian aid…
Christians demonstrate in Erbil against law on conversion of minors (Fides) On Wednesday, hundreds of people belonging to the non-Islamic components of Iraqi society demonstrated in front of United Nations representatives in Erbil to protest against the law that allows the automatic change of children to the Islamic religion when one of the parents convert to Islam. The demonstration saw the participation of various political and civil society organizations and groups of Christians, Yazidis and Mandaeans…
Children’s photo exhibit brings plight of Syrian refugees to Washington (Al Monitor) UNICEF and a Lebanese nongovernmental organization are putting on an exhibit of photos taken by some 500 children between the ages of 7 and 12 in more than 200 informal settlements throughout Lebanon. For this project, the shots were taken in 2013 and 2014 by disposable cameras made available by UNICEF and ZAKIRA (“memory” in Arabic) in an effort to empower the children and help them overcome the trauma of war…
Moscow calls for agreement on opposition groups in Syria (AINA) “[The] U.S.-led coalition’s intervention in Syria lacks legitimacy since it is an action against democratically elected president and government; United States sought in Syria to lead a war of attrition and destroying Syrian infrastructure,” said a Russian spokesperson. Moscow now states it has arranged “working coordination groups” with “opposition representatives” aimed toward bolstering the fight against ISIS…
Egyptian naval fire kills Gaza fisherman, says official (Daily Star Lebanon) An Egyptian naval patrol shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman and wounded another Thursday off the coast near the border between Gaza and Egypt, a Gaza health ministry spokesman said. The victim was identified as Faris Meqdad, 18, ministry spokesman Ashraf al Qudra said. Egyptian forces have previously opened fire on Gazans they accused of crossing the maritime border between Egypt and the Palestinian enclave…
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Greece