23 May 2013
Father Ibrahim Shomali celebrates an outdoor Mass in an olive grove outside the Salesian Monastery in Beit Jala, West Bank, on 18 January. A planned routing of the Israeli separation barrier will isolate the monastery from the people it serves. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
After a decade, West Bank barrier is nearly complete (NPR) Israel’s barrier has been a source of international criticism, United Nations resolutions and legal cases at the International Court of Justice. It has sparked countless confrontations between Palestinians and the Israeli security forces. Israel started constructing the barrier in 2002…
Ecumenical Patriarchate hosts conference on Edict of Milan (Archons.org) On Friday, 17 May 2013, the Ecumenical Patriarchate honored the 1700th anniversary of Emperor Constantine the Great’s “Edict of Milan” by hosting an international and interfaith seminar in collaboration with the Council of European Episcopal Churches. The seminar officially opened with a keynote address by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Over the weekend, the Orthodox churches were represented by His Beatitude Ilia II, catholicos and patriarch of all Georgia, as well as hierarchs from the churches of Albania, Alexandria, Antioch, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Jerusalem, Poland, Romania, Russia and Serbia…
KAICIID holding conference series on ‘The Image of the Other’ (Vatican Radio) The King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, of which the Holy See is a founding observer, is conducting a three-year series of conferences aimed at combatting harmful stereotypes and removing common misconceptions about various world religions…
Georgia: Where does church end and state begin? (Eurasianet) In the aftermath of the 17 May riot in response to a gay-rights march in Tbilisi, public discussion in Tbilisi is focusing on church-state issues, especially the question of whether the Georgian Orthodox Church operates beyond the reach of civil law. With hundreds of years of history behind it and the faith of the overwhelming majority of the country’s 4.4 million residents, the church is a powerful symbol of Georgia’s sovereignty…
Israel to double prayer space at the Western Wall (Washington Post) In a city where three major faiths guard their holy places with quarrelsome zeal and moving a single stone can have deep religious and geopolitical implications, a new proposal to double the area for Jewish prayer along the iconic Western Wall represents dramatic change for a place that does not easily embrace it. Personally tasked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to restore calm to the Old City site, Natan Sharansky is going for a bold remodel. As he imagines it: “One wall for one people”…
22 May 2013
Tags: Israel Interreligious Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Georgian Orthodox Church Separation Barrier
Novices of the Bethany community pray in their chapel near Kottayam, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Yesterday, CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar met with Mother Benjamin, S.I.C., superior of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Sisters of the Imitation of Christ, better known as the Bethany Sisters. In our magazine, we’ve discussed the history and work of these sisters at length:
[T]he Sisters of the Imitation of Christ, commonly called the Bethany Sisters, were founded “to follow Christ in an Indian way.”
Although such a purpose appears progressive, this religious community, which is paired with a community for men, was founded more than 75 years ago by one of the most gifted men of the 20th century church — Mar Ivanios, the first Syro-Malankara Catholic Archbishop of Trivandrum. While less than a century old, Bethany reflects the joys and sorrows borne for nearly 2,000 years by the Indian Church. …
Resistance to the Portuguese, explained Cyril Mar Baselios, O.I.C., the present Syro-Malankara Catholic Archbishop of Trivandrum, culminated in Cochin in 1653 with the historic Coonan Cross Oath.
A kind man whose gentle face hides a formidable intellect, Mar Baselios recounted that all who touched the cross and a long cord attached to it cast their vote to depart from the Latinized church. …
After this great schism of the Indian Church, there were at least four unsuccessful attempts to reestablish full communion between the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of Rome. …
[Newly elevated Bishop Ivanios] challenged the bishops, priests and laity of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church to “bring all the Syrian Christians of Kerala, who formed one church formerly, into true union once again so that the biblical ideal of ‘one fold and one pastor’ may become a reality.”
Several months later, Mar Ivanios received the vows of three women, thus instituting the Bethany Sisters and completing his vision of a monastic community of men and women in the service of renewal. …
On 20 September 1930, Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilos, Bishop of Tiruvalla — along with two Bethany monks and a layman — were received into the Catholic Church. After a prayerful but painful period of reflection, the entire community of Bethany Sisters affirmed their communion with the Church of Rome. The properties on which Bethany was founded, however, were lost; the newly constituted Syro-Malankara Catholic Church began penniless.
The charism of Bethany, however, and its spirit of renewal carried Mar Ivanios and his small flock through some difficult times.
To learn more, read Following Christ in an Indian Way.
22 May 2013
Tags: India Sisters Cultural Identity Indian Christians Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Relatives carry the coffin of an Iraqi police officer killed by militants, during a funeral in Najaf, Iraq, 20 May. The patriarch of the Chaldean Church denounced a recent series of car bombings and shootings in Iraqi cities that left at least 54 people dead and dozens more injured. (photo: CNS/Haider Ala, Reuters)
Chaldean patriarch warns surge in violence will divide Iraq (CNS) The patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad denounced a recent series of car bombings and shootings in Iraqi cities that left at least 54 people dead and dozens more injured. Patriarch Louis Raphael told Catholic News Service in a 20 May email that the current violence is between minority Sunni and majority Shiite Muslims, who also run the Iraqi government. Christians are not being directly targeted, he said. “But they are afraid and their exodus continues nevertheless…”
Christians around the world pray for kidnapped Orthodox archbishops (Various) One full month has passed since the kidnapping of Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, archbishops of Aleppo. From America to Amman, from India to the Vatican, — and, of course, in Aleppo itself — Christians join in prayer for the their safety and return…
Syrian Orthodox archbishop speaks on the situation of Christians in Syria (AINA) On Saturday, 18 May, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Eustatius Matta Roham met activists of the newly formed European Christian Relief Organization (ECRO) in Munich, where he came to visit the White Fathers and other Catholic organizations asking for support for the Syriac Christians — such as Assyrean and Chaldean Christians. The archbishop was accompanied by the Syrian Orthodox Bishop Selwanos of Homs, who reported on the tragic situation of the displaced Christians in his city…
Turkey foils alleged attacks on Syrian refugees (Daily Star Lebanon) A Turkish official says authorities have detained six people suspected of plotting attacks against Syrian refugee camps near the Syrian border. Celalettin Lekesiz, the governor for border province of Hatay, said Wednesday the suspects were allegedly planning to bomb camps and kidnap refugees. Some 200,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Turkey…
Archbishop Chullikatt speaks on the scourge of human trafficking (Vatican Radio) “Trafficking in persons constitutes a shameful crime against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights. Those who commit such crimes debase themselves and poison human solidarity,” said Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, in a speech before the U.N…
21 May 2013
Tags: Iraq Refugees Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War human trafficking
CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar pays a visit to the children of St. Anne’s Orphanage in Trichur, India. The children and Carmelite Sisters who run St. Anne receive support from CNEWA.
In the current issue of ONE, Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on the importance of religious sisters:
Sometimes, they are the first evangelizers who share the Good News of Jesus; sometimes they are the mother figure a child has never known; sometimes they are a nurse at a clinic, not only dispensing medicine and bandages, but healthy measures of tender loving care; sometimes they offer a cup of rice to a starving mother and child; sometimes they welcome a refugee. And always, they are present. In the midst of war, famine, insurrection, terrorism, ignorance, abandonment or any form of persecution or oppression, the sisters offer their heroic witness. Make no mistake: They are heroes.
If you want to know how you can help those heroes, visit this page. Your gift today will be doubled with a dollar-for-dollar match, ensuring that the good work of these good women continues!
21 May 2013
Tags: India CNEWA
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople celebrates an Orthodox liturgy for the feast of the Dormition of Mary at the Panagia Soumela Monastery near Trabzon, Turkey, August 15, 2010. Thousands of Orthodox pilgrims from Greece, Russia and Georgia attended the liturgy at the monastery for the first time since 1923. (CNS photo/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
Waiting for Godot, In Turkey (Archons) The memorable play of Irish author and playwright Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot,” has become a metaphor for situations in which people wait for someone unlikely to come, or do not even know what they are expecting. They just keep waiting and waiting.
African Children: Invisible and Deprived of Their Rights (Fides) Half of the African children are “invisible” because they do not appear in any population register. This is what emerged in a statement released on the occasion of the XXI Meeting of the African Union (AU) which has just begun in Addis Ababa.
Ethnic Identity Damages Church’s Catholicity (Fides) The attachment to one’s “Chaldean” ethnic and cultural roots should not become fanatical cult of one’s national identity, if one does not want to obscure the church’s catholicity. This is the key message that the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Sako Raphael I wanted to express in a letter addressed to the clergy of his Church, to share with bishops, priests and religious concerns and hopes on the present moment lived by the church led by him.
Military Chaplains: Serving God and Mother Russia (RBTH) Recruitment of military chaplains is stepping up a gear, as Vladimir Putin’s government builds on traditional Orthodox values to bolster patriotic feelings in society.
One Syrian Village Breathes Easier (France 24) The advance of regime troops on the rebel stronghold of Qusayr in central Syria has come as a relief for at least one village, mostly-Christian, nestled on the shores of Lake Quttina.
Indian Church Helps Syria (Persecuted Church) Extending a helping hand to their war-hit brethren in Syria, the Jacobite Church in Kerala collect 20 million rupees for the rehabilitation of the affected in that country.
20 May 2013
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, is the subject of a comprehensive interview by Basilian Father Thomas Rosica of Canada’s Catholic television network, Salt+Light.
Taped soon after Msgr. Kozar participated in Pope Benedict’s historic pastoral visit to Lebanon last September — and first aired this weekend — the interview includes vignettes from Msgr. Kozar’s travels, CNEWA’s concerns for the plight of the ancient churches of the East, and an invitation to join CNEWA’s mission to build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope.
20 May 2013
A woman prays in Al Qaa’s Greek Catholic church. Flooded with Syrian Christian refugees, the church is often filled to capacity. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
In the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan writes about Syrian refugees settling in Lebanon. Below, he offers some further reflections.
One of the frustrations for me while living in Lebanon was the reputation the country has in the West. The word “Lebanon” conjures up dark images of war, sectarian tensions, political crises and humanitarian displacement. These are, of course, salient features of Lebanon’s past and present; it is on this image, and the preoccupation with it in the West, that my livelihood as a journalist depended to a large degree.
But the more time I spent as a resident of Lebanon, the more I saw things in the country that are rarely reflected in Western media. I also met with strange disinterest from editors when I pitched ideas that didn’t involve some form of conflict or misery.
Lebanon is unique in the region for many reasons. It is small yet crucial to the balance of power between the West, its Mid-East allies, and “non-aligned” countries like Syria and Iran. It also has the most diverse demographics of the region, which are both a curse and a blessing. There are 17 officially recognized sects sharing governmental power in a slow, halting political system of compromise. But while this particular system of confessional politics entrenches sectarian mentalities, it also keeps a fragile kind of peace. In addition, it makes Lebanon a place to which many people from around the region feel they can flee in times of danger and crisis. Here is the paradox: While Lebanon is often a zone of conflict, it is also a perpetual refuge — now for Syrians, but in the past also for a diverse group including Iraqis, Palestinians and Armenians, among others.
Lebanon is a refuge for the exact same reason that it is also a weak political entity and prone to conflict: It contains a wide and diverse population that is loosely held together in a national pact. This loose configuration can sometimes lead to conflict, but its looseness also means that there are pockets of liberalism and conservatism that coexist; there are spaces where many kinds of people can be — and feel — safe. So while Lebanon is a place where people may run and emigrate from in times of war, it is also a place where many kinds of people can run to. It can be home to all kinds of people. It can be both a heaven and a hell and, in my experience living there, heavenly and hellish experiences tend to coexist in close proximity.
My frustration has been that Western media tends to focus on the hellish aspects only. This is why it was a pleasure to report this story, looking at Lebanon’s most recent incarnation as a refuge — one for Syrian Christians and Muslims. A bishop I interviewed for the story said, with respect to Christians leaving Iraq and Syria, “The Middle East without Christians is not the Middle East.” By the same token, I would say this: The Middle East without a pluralistic, open, welcoming Lebanon is not the Middle East.
Read more about Syrians Crossing the Border into Lebanon in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
20 May 2013
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Unity Interreligious Dialogue
At the Baladna Club in Jericho, a member of the girls’ soccer team practices. (photo: Rich Wiles)
One of the important works of CNEWA is spotlighted in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, which looks at youth centers in Palestine:
The Baladna Club is one of 20 youth centers supported by CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Founded in 1999, the club has 120 members — Christians and Muslims, boys and girls from both public and private schools.
Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, believes support for such programs as Baladna is an innovative effort to make a difference in the lives of Palestinian youths. These programs provide formative opportunities to learn, grow, work together and play together. Life under military occupation can be frustrating and dispiriting for young people; these clubs try to raise spirits, offer a sense of community and purpose, and provide stability and hope. CNEWA also set up the initial training to teach 20 nongovernmental organizations how to write proposals, plan strategically, find resources and, most importantly, think realistically.
Read more about this club and others in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
17 May 2013
Tags: CNEWA Palestine
According to reports, the Turkish government is preparing to build camps to house Syrian Christian refugees in the Syriac Christian heartland near Mardin, home to the fifth-century Deyrulzafaran Monastery. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
Why is Turkey Building a Tent City for Syrian Christians? (AINA) Nowhere in the Islamic world has a refugee camp for the Christians of one country been built across the border in a neighbouring country. Now Turkey is building a camp that will hold between 3 and 30 times the number of Syrian Christians currently taking refuge in the country. Why? Why is Turkey creating a small city to handle a flood of Syrian Christians?
Syria’s Christians left in limbo (Haaretz) Christians in Syria find themselves damned if they support the regime of President Bashar Assad, and equally damned if they join the rebellion. With both the regime and Islamists looking to settle scores, the future looks bleak.
Jerusalem family tattoos pilgrims for centuries (Businessweek) Orthodox Christians visiting the Holy Land often return home with more than just spiritual memories. Many drop by a centuries-old tattoo parlor in Jerusalem’s Old City, inking themselves with a permanent reminder not only of their pilgrimage but also of devotion to their faith.
Build Your Own Country (Fides) The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros, addressed a severe reprimand to Lebanese politicians who fail to reach an agreement to prepare a new electoral law and lead the country out of the serious and dangerous political-institutional paralysis in which it has fallen.
Egyptian Christians targeted with blasphemy charges (Dallas News) Blasphemy charges were not uncommon in Egypt under the now-ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s regime, but there has been a surge in such cases in recent months, according to rights activists. The trend is widely seen as a reflection of the growing power and confidence of Islamists, particularly the ultraconservative Salafis.
17 May 2013
Sister Eliseea sets aside an unfinished icon of the Holy Trinity to begin another one. (photo: Andreea Câmpeanu)
An old friend dropped by the office today: Sister Eliseea Papacioc, a Romanian Orthodox nun and world-renowned iconographer. She’s visiting the United States for a few weeks, stopping in Washington, New York, Florida and Tennessee for exhibitions and talks about her work, and she came to say hello and show us some of her remarkable work.
Last year, we took readers to her Romanian studio, and she explained the prayerful process by which she creates her icons:
“Once I understood that these icons should only be made with never-ending prayer, I realized I could not write them, because I could not pray. And I was a nun,” she admits.
“Your prayer becomes the icon, and the icon becomes prayer again for the one who has it in his home and prays in front of it. It’s all mystery, a real and continuous link to God,” she explains, as she sits in her workroom’s red armchair and sips a cup of tea.
Now, when Sister Eliseea writes, she prays nonstop. She follows a simple daily routine, which begins and ends in prayer. Each morning, she wakes up at dawn and reads from the Psalms. “That’s where I get all my sap, all my spirit,” she says.
Afterward, she writes icons, which she does until the sunset. She often continues into the night, sometimes until as late as 2 or 3 a.m. However, she only uses colored paints in the daylight.
She spent some time today explaining more of the spirituality that informs her work.
“I’m very connected with God when I do this,” she said, “and God is doing everything through my hand. I can’t paint without prayer. This comes from heaven, from the words of God, and if you can’t pray you can’t call yourself an iconographer. The prayer comes in your heart from God. Through this prayer, God gives me this inspiration. It’s like I’m under his protection all the time when I paint, he’s covering me with his wings. I never know how a painting is going to be. I just start a sketch and it just comes to me.”
Sister Eliseea said she’s written hundreds of icons over the course of her life; some can be done in a matter of months, others take years. A large icon of the “Deposition from the Cross” — Jesus being taken from the cross — took three years. It is all a labor of love.
“I’m not a commercial painter,” she said with a shy smile, explaining that she doesn’t keep any of the icons for herself. “I just paint as much as God inspires me. God gives me this gift to give to people, to give away.”
You can see Sister Eliseea presenting a couple of her icons, below — the aforementioned depiction of the Descent from the Cross on the left, and another portraying the Annunciation on the right. Read more about her in A Romanian Renaissance from the January 2012 issue of ONE.
Tags: Sisters Prayers/Hymns/Saints Art Icons Romania