11 March 2014
In this image from 2011, Father Shnork Kasparian, right, is honored on the 50th anniversary of his ordination by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian in St. Louis, Missouri.
(photo: The Armenian Reporter)
Robert Pape serves as major gifts officer in CNEWA’s New York offices.
On 3 March, the CNEWA family lost a most loyal friend and steadfast supporter. Very Rev. Father Shnork Kasparian, a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church, passed peacefully into eternal life.
Father Kasparian was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in May 1929. He graduated with the London Chamber of Commerce diploma from the British School. In 1959, he graduated from St. James Seminary in Jerusalem, and was ordained a deacon.
Father Kasparian spoke nine languages. In 1961, he was ordained a celibate priest in Cairo by Archbishop Mampre Siroonian, primate of Egypt. In 1962, he was assigned pastoral duties in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and was elevated to the rank of Vartabed by Archbishop Papken Abadian. In 1963, he was appointed Vicar General of Brazil and Uruguay.
In 1969, he was invited by his Holiness Vazken I, Catholicos of all Armenians, and was assigned as dean of the seminary in Etchmiadzin. In 1979, he was invited by the patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Shnork Kaloostian, as his personal assistant and representative in foreign and ecumenical activities. In 1974, he was elevated to Dzayrakooyn Vartabed.
Father Kasparian served as pastor in Milwaukee, Worcester and Belleville, IL; and Providence, RI. He has also served in Canada.
On 15 December 2010, Father Kasparian was assigned as the visiting pastor of Holy Virgin Mary and Shoghagat Church of Belleville. It was in Belleville where I first met Father Shnork. CNEWA was partnering with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and Caritas Armenia for the building of a civic center to care for children with special needs in Gyumri, Armenia. Father and I spent a cold February day at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. We walked the entire grounds of the shrine. We stopped to talk. We stopped to pray. We stopped to laugh. I wanted to stop and go someplace warm!
I came away from that first meeting knowing that I had met a man of true faith. Although I wasn’t particularly familiar with Armenian Apostolic traditions, I realized the message of East and West is the same. We must look out and care for our sisters and brothers in need.
Father Kasparian’s support of that civic center was vital in getting the project started. In the years to come, countless children with special needs will be cared for and caregivers who have been properly trained because of the prayers and support of this good man.
That initial meeting led to numerous phone calls; we had each other’s cell phone numbers on speed dial. Inspirational emails were exchanged—mostly from him to me. I did have the chance to go back to Belleville and attend Sunday services. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to hear Father Shnork preach. It is an experience I shall always remember.
I will miss my friend. I know he is with our Lord. I pray he keeps an eye out for me until we meet again.
11 March 2014
Last Sunday was Sunday of Orthodoxy for the Orthodox Church of America. Clergy and faithful gathered at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, MN for Pan-Orthodox Vespers. Read more about the history and spiritualty behind this feast at this link. (photo: OCA/Facebook)
11 March 2014
Mother Plagia Sayyaf of Mar Thecla monastery in Maaloula, Syria, left, who along with at least 11 other nuns was freed after three months, attends a prayer service at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Damascus on 10 March. Islamist rebels claim ed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria's ancient town of Maaloula.
(photo: CNS/Khaled al-Hariri, Reuters)
Syria claims it freed 25 prisoners in exchange for nuns ( Al Jazeera) Syria freed only 25 prisoners, not 150 as had been reported, in exchange for a group of kidnapped nuns, the country’s information minister Omran al-Zoubi has said. The statement came despite mediators and the opposition saying 150 female detainees had been freed in exchange for the nuns, who were kidnapped from the town of Maalula by rebels fighters last year. “The number of people released in exchange for the Maalula nuns is not more than 25 people, whose hands had not been stained by the blood of the Syrian people,” state news agency SANA quoted Zoubi as saying. “Everything that has been said on this issue is not accurate and has been exaggerated...”
Catholic officials call release of nuns an answer to prayers (CNS) The release of at least 12 Greek Orthodox nuns who were abducted in Syria in December was an answer to prayers, said regional Catholic officials. Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said 10 March that he felt “a wave of joy” along with “thousands and thousands” of other people when he heard the nuns had been freed a day earlier. Islamist rebels claimed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria’s ancient town of Maaloula, where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken. Two Orthodox bishops and three priests, including an Armenian Catholic and Italian Jesuit, also have been abducted in Syria and remain missing...
Ukraine’s ousted leader urges resistance to new government (The New York Times) As Russia tightened its grip on Crimea, Ukraine’s ousted president appealed on Tuesday to the country’s military units to refuse to follow the orders of the new interim authorities, declaring that he remained commander in chief and would return to the country as soon as conditions permitted. Appearing in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don for the first time since the scale of Russia’s intervention in Crimea became evident, the ousted leader, Viktor F. Yanukovych, denounced the West for rushing to recognize and to provide financial assistance to a government he said was a junta...
Orthodox to hold a pan-Orthodox synod in 2016 (Catholic World News) The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will preside over a pan-Orthodox council in 2016, according to a statement from the patriarchate. The decision to hold a pan-Orthodox council — officially called the “Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church” — was announced at the conclusion of a meeting of all the heads of the Eastern Orthodox churches. During the meeting, the leaders also discussed the situation in Syria and Ukraine...
Communists and Catholics forge alliance in India (UCANews.com) The Communist party in Kerala has thrown its support behind five Christian candidates in the southern Indian state, a traditionally Christian stronghold, in the country’s forthcoming national elections. The move highlights a bridging of the divide between communists and Christians in the state, as well as a growing disaffection between Christians and the ruling Congress party, particularly over the issue of the government’s plans to protect the Western Ghats, a hilly region that runs through Kerala. Christians, who comprise less than 20 percent of the state’s 30 million population, have been politically decisive in some pockets of the state’s electorate and are traditionally strong backers of the Congress party...
10 March 2014
Pope Francis arrives for a weeklong Lenten retreat with senior members of the Roman Curia in Ariccia, near Rome, on 9 March (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis is taking a break as Lent begins. Vatican Radio reports:
Pope Francis is in the hillside town of Ariccia just south of Rome for a week-long Lenten retreat with members of the Curia. The Pope left the Vatican Sunday afternoon by bus — just a few hours after reciting the Angelus prayer with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.
Breaking from a long-held tradition of holding them in the Vatican, Pope Francis decided to organize this year’s annual retreat from 9-14 March at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat and conference center in Ariccia. The small medieval town is not far from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. And, in choosing to get away from the Vatican and the daily pressures of curia work and duties, Pope Francis is telling us silence and prayer can have a transforming power in one’s life and relationships with others.
In an interview last week in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis said annual retreats should be given more importance and “everyone has a right to spend five days in silence and meditation.” And, speaking to a group of spiritual directors in audience in the Vatican, the Pope said those who go on an “authentic” retreat “experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships.”
Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, pastor of a parish in the center of Rome, is preaching for the Pope and curia officials this week. A respected spiritual director of priests and seminarians, Msgr. De Donatis is reflecting on the theme of “the purification of the heart” in his mediations throughout the week.
Read more about the retreat at the Vatican Radio website.
10 March 2014
A boy cries as he stands amid rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo on 6 March.
(photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)
Kidnapped Syrian nuns freed (The New York Times) Syrian insurgents released 13 nuns and three attendants who disappeared three months ago from their monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Lebanese and Syrian officials said early Monday, ending a drama in which rebels said they were protecting the women from government shelling and Syrian officials said they were abducted in an act of intimidation against Christians. The handoff was infused with suspense until the last moment. Officials said Sunday afternoon that the nuns had crossed the mountainous border to Arsal, a pro-rebel town in Lebanon, to be handed off to Lebanese officials and driven to Syria...
Russia condemns “lawlessness” in Ukraine (CNN) Russia accused far-right groups Monday of “conniving” with the new authorities in Ukraine, as pro-Moscow forces consolidated their hold on their neighbor’s Black Sea peninsula. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned “lawlessness” in eastern Ukraine and accused the West of being silent over violence and detentions taking place against Russian citizens, such as one incident last week when it said masked gunmen fired on and injured peaceful protesters...
Bishop of Aleppo writes: “We Christians live in fear” (The Telegraph) Today, the first Sunday of Lent, will see churches crowded across the globe. But here in Syria, where St Paul found his faith, many churches stand empty, targets for bombardment and desecration. Aleppo, where I have been bishop for 25 years, is devastated. We have become accustomed to the daily dose of death and destruction, but living in such uncertainty and fear exhausts the body and the mind...
Catholicism growing in heart of Muslim world (The Boston Globe) Many Americans have heard or read reports about an exodus of Christians out of the Middle East, and in terms of the indigenous Arab Christian population that’s all too real. Christians now make up only 5 percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent a century ago. In places like Iraq, whole Christian communities are on the brink of extinction. Yet the Arabian Peninsula today is also, improbably, seeing one of the most dramatic Catholic growth rates anywhere in the world. The expansion is being driven not by Arab converts, but by foreign ex-pats whom the region increasingly relies on for manual labor and domestic service...
Pope and World Council of Churches discuss opportunities for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, have discussed “new opportunities for Christian unity today”, focused on working together for peace, justice and environmental protection. At a meeting in the Vatican on Friday, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the path of “full and visible communion” among Christians of different denominations. They also talked about peace in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula, about economic justice and about an upcoming summit of religious leaders to press for urgent action on climate change...
A visit to Kerala: they don’t call it “God’s own country” for nothing (The Washington Post) As grandiose slogans go, Kerala has one of the best: “God’s Own Country,” they call it, an assertion of divine provenance that’s loudly proclaimed on countless signposts and bumper stickers across the state. In most corners of the planet, such a boast would sound unbearably self-satisfied, tourist-oriented branding at its tritest. But here in this prosperous state on the southwest coast of India, it doesn’t sound smug so much as sincere, precise even. “Rest your eyes on our natural splendor,” it seems to say, “and believe...”
7 March 2014
In this 2011 photo, a girl prays in Santa Maria Church in the Christian village of Deir Azra in the Minya region of Egypt. Coptic women in Egypt are subject to discrimination and legal restrictions on personal and religious freedom. To learn more, read Spotlight: Coptic Women, from the September 2011 issue of ONE. (photo: Holly Pickett)
7 March 2014
Tags: Egypt Copts Women (rights/issues) Egypt's Christians Coptic
In this October photograph, stuffed animals sit atop the coffins of children, lined up alongside coffins of other African migrants who drowned trying to reach Italian shores in Lampedusa, Italy. (photo: CNS/Antonio Parrinello, Reuters)
Eritrea: A humanitarian emergency (Vatican Radio) Vatican Radio held a conference on Thursday, sponsored by the International Organization for Migration, on the plight of Eritreans forced to flee their country. Since 2004 over 200,000 Eritreans — more than 3 percent of the 5.6 million people in the nation — have fled to border camps in Eastern Sudan and also Israel. Thousands have also tried to escape to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean on low-quality or improvised boats, many dying on the journey…
Georgian Orthodox Church committed to securing Georgian E.U. membership (Eurasia Review) Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said during a meeting with visiting European Union official that the church “will do everything” to help Georgia become a member state. The patriarch remarked that “incorrect information is disseminated in some countries,” suggesting the church seeks to hinder this process, but dismissed such claims as perhaps being financially motivated…
Iraqi atheists demand recognition, guarantee of their rights (Al Monitor) Atheism might seem a surprising phenomenon in a country such as Iraq, where the degree of interest in religion is very high. Yet there are many in the nation who identify themselves as atheists and who demand that their rights be safeguarded in accordance with U.N. resolutions that guarantee freedom of belief. Surveys have indicated the existence of a growing agnostic movement in the country, which continues to expand at a remarkable pace. Atheism has deep historical roots in Iraq, typically as an elitist phenomenon restricted to intellectuals and scholars, but has in recent times expanded in scope to cross many social boundaries…
The role of the churches in the Ukrainian revolution (ABC News) The churches are playing a decisive role in the Ukrainian revolution. This is apparent from the prominence in Maidan Square of dozens of priests and pastors from different religious confessions who have been there every day for three months, offering to gather ecumenically with the faithful in prayer…
6 March 2014
Tags: Iraq Ukraine Eastern Churches Eritrea Georgian Orthodox Church
A Gaza City woman works a sewing machine in a dressmaking class hosted by the the Near East Council of Churches with support from CNEWA. To learn more about the kinds of vocational training the N.E.C.C. promotes and conducts in Gaza, read Behind the Blockade, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Eman Mohammed)
6 March 2014
Tags: CNEWA Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Education Church
In this photo from 2009, two years before Syria’s civil war, youth in Aleppo participate in a basketball competition hosted by an organization that uses sports to bridge sectarian lines. (photo: Spencer Osberg)
Syrian army to impose blockade in Aleppo (Al Monitor) The Syrian army is launching attacks on Aleppo and its surroundings to try to isolate armed militants, in light of a visit by a Baath delegation to the city. The army has recently intensified its raids on the city’s eastern neighborhoods that are under the grip of the militants, thus leading to the displacement of most citizens to the northern suburbs…
Ukraine: Crimean parliament moves to secede (Al Jazeera) The parliament of Crimea, a, majority-Russian peninsula in Ukraine currently under Russian occupation, has unanimously voted in favor of joining the Russia federation and moved a public referendum on the matter up to 16 March, decisions which the new government in Kiev called illegitimate and illegal…
Ukrainian Orthodox bishop urges Putin to withdraw from Ukraine (RISU) The head of the Lviv Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, Bishop Filaret, sent Vladimir Putin a request to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. “My message may seem rude, but today we can no longer speak streamlined phrases, it’s time to act in accordance with the Gospel: ‘But let your “yes” be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.” Anything more than this is from the evil one.’ … There are no grounds for Russian soldiers to control the socio-political or any other situations in our country. Peace and a sustainable solution to Ukraine’s crisis are most important for us today,” he said…
One goal in hand, Kiev’s demonstrators vow to stay ‘until the end’ (New York Times) Those who stood up to Ukraine’s ousted authorities trust neither their interim government nor Russia, and many intend to remain in place at least through elections in late spring. Only then will they decide if they are satisfied enough to leave their fighting positions in the capital’s central square…
U.N. envoy cuts short visit to Crimea under threat of armed men (Christian Science Monitor) A special U.N. envoy cut short his mission in Crimea on Wednesday after being threatened by 10-15 armed men and ordered to leave the region, where Ukraine and Russia are locked in a tense standoff, U.N. officials said…
Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate creates commission for dialogue (RISU) The Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate welcomed the decision of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate to enter into dialogue. In this regard, the former expressed its readiness, “on a canonical basis,” to “restore the unity and establish a national status for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine…”
Trial of Al Jazeera reporters resumes in Egypt (BBC) The trial of Al Jazeera journalists accused of joining or aiding a terrorist group has resumed in Egypt. One asked the judge to free him on bail so he could receive medical treatment. In all, 20 people — including former BBC correspondent Peter Greste — are on trial, 12 of them in absentia. Al Jazeera says only nine of the defendants are among its employees…
5 March 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Syrian Civil War Russia Crimea
After fleeing the war in Syria, the Azar family now lives in the village of Al Qaa in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, sharing a one-bedroom home with two other families. To learn more about Syrian refugees in Lebanon, read Crossing the Border, from the Spring 2013 issue of ONE. To view the article with full magazine graphics, click the image. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War War