26 September 2013
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter I has expressed disappointment with the international response to the Syrian crisis, saying that only the pope has made a solid statement against war. He believes that the profitable weapons trade explains the silence of most countries. (video: Rome Reports)
Maronite patriarch helps pope with Mass, thanks him for peace call (Daily Star Lebanon) The Maronite patriarch of Antioch assisted Pope Francis during a Mass Wednesday at the Vatican and thanked the pontiff for his recent calls for peace in the Middle East. A cardinal of the Catholic Church, Patriarch Bechara Peter was accompanied by a number of Maronite bishops and heads of monastic orders during the morning ceremony, according to the National News Agency. At the conclusion of the Mass, the patriarch thanked Francis for his efforts to promote peace in the region, and also spoke about the dispersion of Maronites throughout the world…
Chaldean patriarch speaks out against emigration (Daily Star Lebanon) The Chaldean patriarch arrived in Lebanon for a rare visit Thursday and urged Christians to not leave their homeland. Patriarch Louis Raphael of Babylon made the comments at Rafik Hariri International Airport, before heading to the Beirut suburb of Hazmieh for the holding of religious services. “Christians, wherever they are, should not emigrate, because this is considered a withdrawal from the scene and a loss of identity,” he said. “In countries of emigration, they are refugees and emigres, but here, they have an identity, a role and a history…”
Daily suicide bombings keep Iraqis in state of shock (Al Monitor) As suicide bombings become a daily occurrence, Iraqis contemplate their lives. Ali Wajih, a young Iraqi poet, told Al Monitor, “I’m no longer intimidated by death. … I talk about death and laugh with my friends. Haven’t I told you that death has become trivial?” Some Iraqi intellectuals criticize media outlets for disregarding the human aspects of the victims of bombings and acts of violence, simply counting them on a daily basis and following up on the government’s reactions and stated measures. This picture has become a daily routine in Iraq. Iraqis go about their lives expecting a car bomb to explode next to them at any time. They say goodbye to their families in the morning, and deep down inside they do not rule out the idea that this could be their final goodbye.…
Largest Syrian rebel groups form Islamic alliance (Washington Post) American hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s fractious rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed opposition coalition and announced the formation of a new alliance dedicated to creating an Islamic state. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group, which will further complicate fledgling U.S. efforts to provide lethal aid to “moderate” rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Others include the Tawheed Brigade, the biggest Free Syrian Army unit in the northern city of Aleppo; Liwa al Islam, the largest rebel group in the capital, Damascus; and Ahrar al Sham, the most successful nationwide franchise of mostly Syrian Salafist fighters. Collectively, the new front, which does not yet have a formal name but has been dubbed by its members the “Islamist Alliance,” claims to represent 75 percent of the rebels fighting to topple Assad…
In Kerala, ancient murals draw visitors (The Hindu) The murals in St. Mary’s Soonoro Church in Angamaly — a Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church — with its Biblical themes rendered in vibrant colors, continue to draw keen visitors. Though churches across Kerala have had a longstanding tradition of murals, the ones at Angamaly are particularly noted for their antiquity and the way they have weathered these years. The original church on this site is believed to have been consecrated in 409, though the present church was built in the 16th century… [Click to learn more about Jacobites or the larger Indian Orthodox Church to which they belong.]
25 September 2013
Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
In this image from last month, people walk around a destroyed Protestant church in Mallawi, Egypt. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in August were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
During his audience today, Pope Francis issued a call for Christian unity, and a plea to pray for those who are suffering:
The pope asked people to reflect upon whether they live out this unity or are they uninterested — preferring to be closed off from others, isolated within their own community, group of friends or nation.
“It’s sad to see a ‘privatized’ church because of egoism and this lack of faith,” he said.
It’s especially sad when there are so many fellow Christians in the world who are suffering or being persecuted because of their faith, he said.
“Am I indifferent or is it like someone in the family is suffering?” he asked.
He asked everyone to be honest with themselves and respond in their hearts: “How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted” and for those who are in difficulty for professing and defending the faith?
“It’s important to look beyond one’s own fence, to feel oneself as church, one family of God,” he said.
But throughout history and even today, people within the church have not always lived this unity, he said.
“Sometimes misunderstandings, conflicts, tensions and divisions crop up that harm [unity], and so the church doesn’t have the face we would want, it doesn’t demonstrate love and what God wants.”
“And if we look at the divisions that still exist among Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, we feel the hard work [needed] to make this unity fully visible.”
The world today needs unity, he said: “We need reconciliation, communion, and the church is the home of communion.”
Read the rest on CNS.
And, to learn how you can help Middle East Christians, visit this page.
25 September 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Violence against Christians Christian Unity Egypt's Christians
Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia speaks at the opening ceremony of the Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church on 24 September. (photo: Catholicosate of Cilicia)
Synod of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church commences (The Armenian Church) On 24 September in Etchmiadzin, Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians and Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia presided over the opening of the Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Present at the meeting were 62 archbishops and bishops from the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan attended the opening ceremony…
Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo details the Syrian disaster (Fides) In a note sent to Fides Agency, Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart, metropolitan of Aleppo of the Greek Catholics, has compiled a great deal quantitative data to lend an understanding of the scale of the disaster. According to the metropolitan archbishop, in Aleppo alone, “1,400 factories and shops were looted, demolished or burned, while across the country more than 2,000 schools have been devastated or put out of use…”
NGO documents violence against Copts (Daily News Egypt) The destruction of 30 houses of worship and over 60 Christian shops, homes and cars made August 2013 the “fiercest violent scene throughout Egypt’s contemporary history,” according to a new report by the Egyptian Centre for Public Policy Studies. The report found a systematic and organized surge in violence against Coptic Christians — mostly in Upper Egypt — since the 14 August dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa al Adaweya and Nahda Square…
Maspero Coptic group proposes amendments to Egyptian constitution (Ahram Online) The Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic youth movement, met on Wednesday with the 50-member committee charged with amending the constitution, to propose several amendments to the charter. According to union member Bishoy Tamry, the group proposed amendments to articles related to religious rights and issues. The activist told Ahram Online that the group “is against any religious article including Article 2,” which states “Islam is the main source of legislation.” The group also proposes that an article is included that states Egypt is a “civil state…”
Egyptian minister postpones dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood (Washington Post) An Egyptian minister said Tuesday that the government would “postpone” the court-ordered dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency. The statement comes after an obscure court issued a sweeping but legally questionable decision Monday to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and all related organizations and activities, which appears to grant the military-backed government expansive legal authority to go after the group’s finances and other assets and essentially criminalizes its political and social service work…
Interview with Patriarch Twal: Christians ‘go against the current’ (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) “We’re going against the current. It is a constant effort, but it requires the search for truth.” Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, was in Amman for a meeting between the leaders and representatives of the churches of the East, convened by the king of Jordan to reflect on the challenges that Arab Christians face today and which are a matter of grave concern for King Abdullah II. “The major urgency now is to set straight the religious discourse of so many imams who, from within their mosques, preach violence against non-Muslims…”
24 September 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Armenian Apostolic Church Patriarch Fouad Twal
A Bulgarian couple hold candles during their marriage ceremony at the Church of the Assumption in Sofia. For more on the Byzantine Catholics of Bulgaria, and how they are upholding their heritage, read Bearers of a Proud Legacy from the September 2004 issue of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
24 September 2013
Tags: ONE magazine Bulgaria Byzantine Catholic Church
In the midst of all the disturbing news from the Middle East, there is some wonderful news from Kiev, Ukraine.
After more than a decade of construction, the Holy Resurrection Cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was consecrated on 18 August 2013. This cathedral has become the main shrine for more than five million Ukrainian Greek Catholics throughout the world.
The festive ceremonies around cathedral’s consecration were also linked to the celebration of 1025th anniversary of the baptism of the Ukrainian people. The event brought to Ukraine’s capital more than 20,000 guests and pilgrims from all over the world. From the CNEWA family, Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, and Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, attended the ceremonies.
Here is Msgr. Kozar’s impression:
The consecration of the cathedral was a graphic sign to the faithful in Ukraine and beyond that the faith shared in baptism can flourish, even in the worst of times. And the amazing encounter for me was that these brave and courageous people filled with faith do not complain about their great sufferings nor do they look for sympathy. Rather, they celebrate their joy of rising with Christ and proclaiming him to all.
The consecration of the cathedral was an event of high importance because it marked the revival and resurrection of the church that had been forced out of central and eastern parts of Ukraine four centuries ago and was later brutally repressed by the U.S.S.R.’s Communist regime from 1945 to 1989.
In the 20th century, the church produced hundreds of martyrs, 25 of whom were beatified by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ukraine in 2001. One of them, Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky, is buried in Winnipeg, Canada.
After two decades of independence, Ukraine still remains among the poorest countries in Europe. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has reestablished its parishes in western Ukraine, now has two main focuses: organization of its communities in central and eastern Ukraine and responding to the enormous social challenges faced by its people by implementing various social development and humanitarian initiatives.
Holy Resurrection Cathedral is functional now but far from finished. Funds are still needed to complete the interior and the surrounding complex, in which many of the church ministries will be based. To learn more about how you can help the Ukrainian church and its many ministries, please click here. To help fund the completion of Holy Resurrection Cathedral, use one of the following links: CNEWA or CNEWA Canada.
24 September 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church CNEWA Canada Ukrainian Catholic Church
In this 2012 photo, Syrian refugee Ferian, who fled to Lebanon to escape the conflict that claimed the lives of her three brothers, sits in an informal refugee camp in Al Four at the foot of the mountains on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)
Pope: ‘Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity’ (AsiaNews) The reality of migration, which in our time has reached unprecedented proportions, “needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner,” because “migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity” and “can not be reduced to mere economic growth, development, achieved, often without looking at the weakest and most defenseless.” The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner…
Egyptian NGO, Copts urge against guaranteed electoral quotas (Fides) The Egyptian Center for Development Studies and Human Rights — an NGO close to the Coptic Orthodox Church — has asked that the forthcoming elections be celebrated by putting aside the quota system of seats reserved for Christians. According to the organization, the practice of reserving seats in parliament to some social groups defined on the basis of religion contradicts the principle of equality among citizens that must be guaranteed by the new constitution, on which 50 members of a Constitutional Commission have been working since 8 September. Even Bishop of Minya of the Catholic Copts Botros Fahim Awad Hanna reported to Fides Agency his opposition to the system of quotas, which in his opinion “favors the division of the Country on sectarian basis…”
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is banned, and crackdown could broaden (Washington Post) An Egyptian court on Monday banned the Muslim Brotherhood and its vast social services network in what could be a devastating blow to the Islamist organization, which swept Mohamed Morsi to the presidency just last year and has fiercely resisted the military coup that ousted him in July. The far-reaching ruling appears to apply to any group remotely associated with the world’s oldest Islamist movement, granting temporary legal cover to the military-backed government of General Abdel Fatah al Sisi to broaden a crackdown that has already left the Brotherhood battered…
Nuns, orphans trapped in Syria’s Maaloula (France24) Nearly 40 nuns and orphans are trapped inside a convent in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula, where regime troops are battling rebel forces, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said Tuesday. The famed town, where residents still speak Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is thought to have spoken, has been the scene of clashes since earlier this month. “The Mar Takla convent is living through painful days because it is in the middle of the zone where fire is being exchanged, which makes getting supplies difficult and dangerous,” the Damascus-based Patriarchate said in a statement…
Iraq clashes, attacks kill 25 (Daily Star Lebanon) Fighting between security forces and militants killed 25 people in Iraq on Tuesday, as the U.N. warned that sectarian attacks threaten to force more Iraqis from their homes. Violence in Iraq has reached a level this year not seen since 2008, when the country was emerging from a brutal sectarian conflict…
23 September 2013
Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War
Pope Francis wears a hard hat he received from a miner during a Mass outside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia, on 22 September.
(photo: CNS /L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
During a visit to Sardinia Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of the plight of the poor:
Visiting an Italian region especially hard hit by the European economic crisis, Pope Francis blamed high unemployment on globalization driven by greed and said those who give charitable aid to the poor must treat their beneficiaries with dignity.
“We want a just system, a system that lets all of us get ahead,” the pope said on 22 Sept., in his first address during a full day on the Italian island of Sardinia. “We don’t want this globalized economic system that does us so much harm. At its center there should be man and woman, as God wants, and not money.”
Sardinia has an overall unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent, rising to nearly 50 percent among young adults.
Before speaking to a crowd of about 20,000 near the Cagliari city port, Pope Francis heard a series of speeches in greeting, including one from an unemployed father of three, who spoke of how joblessness “wears you out to the depths of your soul.”
In response, the pope discarded his prepared remarks and told his audience what he said “comes to me in my heart seeing you in this moment.”
Pope Francis recalled the struggles of his immigrant Italian father in 1930s Argentina.
“They lost everything. There was no work,” he said. “I was not born yet, but I heard them speak about this suffering at home. I know this well. But I must tell you: courage.”
The pope said he knew that his preaching alone would mean little to those in difficulty.
“I must do everything I can so that this word ‘courage’ is not a pretty fleeting word, not only the smile of (a) cordial church employee,” he said. “I want this courage to come out from inside and push me to do all I can as a pastor, as a man. We must all face this historic challenge with solidarity and intelligence.”
23 September 2013
Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria,
on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
U.S. faces tough challenges bringing aid to Syria (Associated Press) As the Syrian crisis rages and debate heats up over Syria’s chemical weapons, U.S. officials are fighting a quieter battle: The delivery of nearly $1.3 billion in assistance in a war zone so chaotic that ambulances are used for target practice and aid is halted by armed men at random checkpoints...
Syria’s tragedy, up close (Catholic Register) While diplomats shuffle between Geneva, Moscow and Washington, their plans to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control are having no impact on the war of attrition Syrians are fighting with rifles, rocket propelled grenades, tanks and bombing raids. As the violence that’s killed more than 100,000 Syrians wears on, Turkey is seeing more and more of the human toll in the form of refugees and wounded fighters....
Egypt bans Muslim Brotherhood (Associated Press) An Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and ordered its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. Egypt state TV said the court issued its ruling on Monday...
Thousands of Christians travel to Israel for Sukkot (JNS.org) More than 5,000 Christian pilgrims from 100 countries will descend on Israel this week as part of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s (ICEJ) Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) celebration. The festival begins 20 Sept. at the Oasis Hotel in Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea and will continue for the reminder of Sukkot at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. The weeklong celebration is expected to generate more than $16 million in revenue, and is the largest annual tourist event to Israel. “We are thrilled that thousands of Christians from all over the world will be arriving in Jerusalem this week to take part in our annual Feast gathering, despite the recent tensions in the region over the Syrian conflict,” Dr. Jürgen Bühler, the ICEJ’s executive director, said in a statement. “Their visit to Jerusalem is a timely message of solidarity with the people of Israel....”
Pope Francis: social communications is for bringing others to Christ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Pope Francis said the goal of the Church for its communications efforts is “to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts and their hopes.” The Holy Father said we must examine if the communications of the Church are helping others to meet Christ...
In India, Kerala weddings go from spartan to splashy (Times of India) The caparisoned elephant at the entrance is the first shock. Then, you walk straight into Nala and Damayanti, the star-crossed couple from Mahabharata, in full Kathakali regalia waiting to usher you into the hall. This is after you have been welcomed by a percussion ensemble, and watched Mohiniyattam and Kathakali tableaux go by. At a big Christian wedding in the same city, the bride has decided to be Cinderella. She is dropped off by a pumpkin chariot in a white gown and gloves and various other Disney type props. Even Muslim nikaahs have been spiced up with ‘sufi nites.’ There used to be an old joke about Malayali weddings in Delhi. A friend of the groom, freezing in the January cold, steps out of the temple for a quick smoke before the rituals begin. He returns five minutes later — to find the wedding over. Stories like this are now history...
20 September 2013
In this image from July, Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio De Janeiro. The pontiff addressed a group of recovering drug addicts, offering them a message of compassion and hope. (photo:CNS/L’Osservatore Romano).
Pope Francis made big news yesterday, with the publication of a remarkable interview described by CNS:
In a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with one of his Jesuit confreres, Pope Francis spoke with characteristic frankness about the perils of overemphasizing Catholic teaching on sexual and medical ethics; the reasons for his deliberate and consultative governing style; and his highest priority for the church today.
The pope’s remarks appeared in an interview with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Italian journal La Civilta Cattolica. The interview, conducted in August, was the basis for a 12,000-word article published Sept. 19 in the U.S. magazine America, and simultaneously in other Jesuit publications in other languages.
According to the editor of America, Jesuit Father Matt Malone, Pope Francis personally reviewed the article and approved its publication.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” the pope said in the interview, noting that he had been “reprimanded” for failing to speak often about those topics. “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent,” the pope added. “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
“Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things,” he said. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.
“The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
The pope reaffirmed one of his major themes: the need for mercy rather than judgment when approaching sin.
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It needs nearness, proximity,” he said.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you,” the pope said.
“The confessional is not a torture chamber,” he said, “but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.
“Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ’security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things,” Pope Francis said. “In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.”
You can read the exclusive interview in its entirety at America magazine.
20 September 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Church Catholicism
In this image from one year ago, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, right, pays a visit to the CNEWA office in New York. (photo: CNEWA)
Patriarch Twal urges equal citizenship for Christians, prayers for world peace (Vatican Radio) Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal is calling on the faithful and all people of good will to continue to pray for world peace. The Patriarch, who is in Rome for a meeting of the Latin Bishops’ Conference for the Arab Region, told Tracey McClure that the universal day for prayer for peace in Syria and the Mideast called by Pope Francis last September 7th succeeded in its goal, at least temporarily. “It really worked; we must admit that. And we must thank God really. … That doesn’t mean that we must stop…”
Mortar shells against the Melkite Archbishopric of Aleppo (Fides) Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clément of Aleppo reports that “two mortar shells damaged the seat of our Greek Catholic archbishopric.” Thankfully, because of the late hour of the incident, no one was hurt. The archbishop says: “The city is strangled and the situation is worsening day by day. As citizens we feel trapped, and do not know what our fate will be. We have a short supply of goods or prices are very high, people have problems concerning their daily subsistence. … Yet we Christians in Syria have a mission: that of dialogue, peace and reconciliation — to keep a light of faith, hope and charity. And we want to live up to this mission…”
Syrian government says war has reached stalemate (The Guardian) The Syrian conflict has reached a stalemate and President Bashar al Assad’s government will call for a ceasefire at a long-delayed conference in Geneva on the state’s future, the country’s deputy prime minister has said in an interview with the Guardian. Qadri Jamil said that neither side was strong enough to win the conflict, which has lasted two years and caused the death of more than 100,000 people. Jamil, who is in charge of country’s finances, also said that the Syrian economy had suffered catastrophic losses. If accepted by the armed opposition, a ceasefire would have to be kept “under international observation”, which could be provided by monitors or United Nations peacekeepers — as long as they came from neutral or friendly countries, he said…
Deadly blasts hit Iraq mosque (Al Jazeera) Two explosions inside a Sunni mosque north of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, have killed least 16 people, officials said. The bombs were hidden inside air conditioners, the same tactic used in a deadly bombing on a Sunni mosque in Baquba last Friday that killed 33 people. Iraq’s delicate sectarian balance has come under growing strain from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where mainly Sunni rebels are fighting to overthrow President Bashar al Assad, a leader backed by Shia Iran…
Delga Islamists threaten Christians (AsiaNews) The Copts of Delga, in upper Egypt, are still suffering the Islamists’ persecution despite the presence of the army and police. Witnesses say that “the Muslim Brotherhood are going door to door to Christian homes in front of police, demanding their silence” on pain of death. Interviewed by Mina Thabet, founder of the Maspero Youth Union, a witness explained: “The Islamists are forcing people to sign documents that state they have not been subjected to any attack by extremists. If they do not sign, the Muslim Brotherhood will destroy their homes once the army leaves the city…”
Tags: Iraq Egypt Syrian Civil War Melkite Greek Catholic Church Patriarch Fouad Twal