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.
17 May 2013
Tags: Sisters Prayers/Hymns/Saints Art Icons Romania
Students attend class at St. Jean Baptiste De La Salle Catholic School in Addis Ababa. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
As the school year enters graduation season, people around the world celebrate academic achievement and students prepare to embark on a new chapter of their lives.
In the November 2012 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on educational institutions renowned for their high levels of achievement — Ethiopia’s Catholic schools:
By almost every measure, Ethiopia’s Catholic schools offer a first-rate education. The most obvious of indicators, results on the national university entrance exam, offer clear evidence.
On last year’s exam, more than half of the country’s 15 Catholic high schools boasted a 100 percent passing rate. The lowest passing rate among them was a respectable 92.4 percent.
“That means almost all the students succeed to study in university,” says Argaw Fantu, head of the education unit for the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat.
Ethiopia’s Catholic schools enjoy many advantages, not least of which is the collective expertise inherited from the church’s long history of running first-rate schools around the world.
“Take our Christian Brothers,” says Mr. Aregay. “This is a congregation with 350 years of tradition working in 81 countries. Obviously, we inherit all those traditions from such a sophisticated and worldwide congregation working in the educational arena. And that holds true for other congregations — Don Bosco, Salesians, Daughters of Charity and others. That automatically gives us an advantage.”
Follow the link to read more about Ethiopians Making the Grade!
17 May 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Education Catholic Schools
In this video, Al Jazeera's Omar al Saleh reports on a series of bombings that have killed at least 26 people in Kirkuk and Baghdad, among other Iraqi cities. In televised remarks, Nouri al Maliki, Iraqi prime minister, attributed the attacks to “sectarian hatred.” (video: Al Jazeera)
Sectarianism in Iraq stoked by Syrian war (Washington Post) A recent tide of sectarian tensions that erupted into the worst violence seen in Iraq in five years is testing the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, whose ability to contain the crisis could hinge on a conflict raging beyond his control in Syria. The prospect of a regional power shift driven by the bloody civil war next door, where a mostly Sunni rebel movement is struggling to topple the Shiite-dominated regime, has emboldened Iraq’s Sunni minority to challenge its own Shiite government and amplified fears within Maliki’s administration that Iraq may soon be swept up in a spillover war…
Syria begins to break apart under the pressure of war (New York Times) The black flag of jihad flies over much of northern Syria. In the center of the country, pro-government militias and Hezbollah fighters battle those who threaten their communities. In the northeast, the Kurds have effectively carved out an autonomous zone. After more than two years of conflict, Syria is breaking up. A constellation of armed groups battling to advance their own agendas is effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs. As the war expands in scope and brutality, its biggest casualty appears to be the integrity of the Syrian state…
U.N. chief: Hold Syrian peace talks soon (Daily Star Lebanon) A proposed international conference to try to stop Syria’s civil war should be held as soon as possible, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday, but no date has yet been agreed for a meeting that appears to face growing obstacles. A rising death toll, new reports of atrocities by both sides, suspicion that chemical arms may have been used and the absence of prospects for a military solution have all pushed Washington and Moscow to agree to convene the conference. “We should not lose the momentum,” Ban said of the proposal to bring the Syrian government and opposition representatives to the conference table…
In Serbia, patriarch and president meet and urge unity (b92) Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej and President Tomislav Nikolic met on Monday and urged “absolute unity and responsibility … in the search for a solution to the Kosovo and Metohija issue.” Nikolic underscored that the patriarch and himself agreed in everything, adding that it is not easy to decide on behalf of the nation just as it is not easy to decide on behalf of the church. “Still, it is much better when there is unity among those who make decisions on behalf of the people and those who make such decisions on behalf of the church,” the president said…
16 May 2013
Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War United Nations Serbian Orthodox Church Serbia
Parishioners sing a hymn during evening Mass in the Church of Sts. Simeon and Anne in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Did you know there is a group of Catholics in Israel who regularly attend Mass in Hebrew?
The Spring issue of ONE offers a profile of this unique community:
By any measure, it may be one of the most distinct cultures in all of Israel. With just 500 active members, including children, Israel’s Hebrew-speaking Catholic community is so small that many Catholics around the world, and most Israelis, do not know of its existence. It endures as a vibrant contradistinction: Catholics celebrating their faith in a country that is overwhelmingly Jewish, worshiping in Hebrew, marking Jewish feasts and traditions, and honoring many local customs. Yet they are undeniably, proudly Catholic.
The community was born in 1955. That year, a group of Catholics in Israel founded a pious association called the Work of St. James to help Hebrew-speaking Catholics live their faith in a Jewish society.
“The church began to realize there were thousands of Catholics in Israel who were not Arabs and not expatriates, who belonged to and integrated into Hebrew-speaking, Jewish Israeli society,” says the Rev. David Neuhaus, Latin patriarchal vicar of Hebrew-speaking Catholics.
Some were married to Jews, while others were from Catholic branches of predominantly Jewish families. A smaller number were Jews who, like Father Neuhaus, had converted to Catholicism.
Regardless of their backgrounds, most “strongly saw themselves as Jewish historically, ethnically and culturally, and at the same time Catholic,” he says.
But between the 1950’s and the 1980’s, the community dwindled dramatically, largely due to emigration and assimilation.While members of the community come from a variety of backgrounds, all find unity in the most familiar form of Catholic worship, the Mass in the Latin rite, celebrated in Hebrew in six communities across Israel. As Father Neuhaus explains, it is the same Mass prayed around the world, but “with minor concessions to the particularity of praying in Hebrew.”
On Sundays, for example, the liturgy begins by lighting two candles representing the Old and New Testaments, signifying “their intimate unity.” The music is inspired by both Christian and Jewish traditions rooted in the region. Readings from the Old Testament, including the Psalms, are heard in their entirety, rather than selected verses, and Jewish feasts and days of commemoration are mentioned.
“Needless to say, praying in Hebrew brings out very forcefully the resonances in the liturgy with the biblical texts, particularly of the Old Testament,” Father Neuhaus says, after celebrating a weekday Mass at the Jerusalem chapel.
Read more about this community in Hebrew Spoken Here.
16 May 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Israel Cultural Identity Catholic
A Free Syrian Army fighter throws an improvised hand grenade toward forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al Assad in Deir al Zor on 15 May. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Syrian opposition forces plunder and destroy ancient monastery (Pravoslavie.ru) Armed extremists fighting on the side of the Syrian opposition have attacked the ancient Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Prophet Elias near the town of Al Qusayr, situated about 12 miles from the Syrian-Lebanese border, reports the ITAR-TASS agency with a reference to the Syrian state news agency. The gunmen stole church vessels, blew up the bell tower and destroyed the chancel and the font, the monastery’s Abbot Gadir Ibrahim reported on Saturday…
Jordanian Christians hold a silent march to pray for kidnapped Syrian bishops (Fides) On Tuesday, 21 May, Christians in Amman will hold a candle-lit silent march to pray for the release of the two bishops of Aleppo, Syriac Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Boulos al Yazigi, who have been in the hands of unknown kidnappers for a month…
Turkey seeks assistance with Syrian refugees (Washington Post) Facing one of the world’s largest refugee crises in decades, Turkish officials are urgently appealing for international financial assistance and calling on wealthy nations, particularly the United States and the countries of Europe, to start accepting large numbers of Syrian refugees. The stance marks a shift for the Turkish government, which had long insisted that Ankara would manage and pay for the refugee crisis on its own as a matter of national pride. But with the cost to Turkey hitting $1.5 billion, an estimated 400,000 refugees in the country and a total of 1 million expected by the end of the year, pressure is building. Turkey is even willing to organize an airlift, Ankara officials said, but no country seems eager to receive the refugees…
Baghdad market attacks in north kill 17 (Daily Star Lebanon) At least 17 people were killed by bombs in markets in Baghdad and attacks in northern Iraq on Thursday, police said, adding to a surge of sectarian-tinged violence in the past four weeks. Attacks on Sunni and Shiite mosques, security forces and tribal leaders have mushroomed since security forces raided a Sunni protest camp near Kirkuk a month ago, igniting clashes and fuelling worries of a slide back into all-out sectarian war. Iraq has grown more volatile as the civil war in neighbouring Syria strains fragile relations between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Tensions are now at their highest point since the last United States troops pulled out at the end of 2011…
At a Jerusalem parlor, centuries of pilgrim tattoos (The Times of Israel) 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. The same Jerusalem family has been tattooing pilgrims with Crosses and other religious symbols for hundreds of years, testament to the importance of the ancient ritual. While Catholics can get a written certificate of their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Orthodox Christians opt for a tattoo, a permanent reminder of their visit…
15 May 2013
Tags: Iraq Refugees Syrian Civil War Jerusalem Refugee Camps
In this picture, taken last August, a Comboni nun watches over newborns at the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
With the crisis in Syria growing worse by the day, one beacon of hope remains the CNEWA-supported Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. Recently, Asia News profiled the hospital and the Comboni sisters who run it:
The war in Syria and the overcrowding in refugee camps are forcing more people to seek “salvation” in the Jordanian desert hundreds of miles from the capital Amman and the Syrian border. Interviewed by AsiaNews, Sister Adele Fumagalli, a Comboni religious in the Italian Hospital, describes the tragedy of those who are trying to escape from the horrors of war and the refugee camps. Every day the hospital opens its doors to dozens of pregnant women, orphaned children, young fathers whose dying wives have entrusted their children to them. “In the evening and in the morning,” says Sister Adele, “when we are in the chapel, our first thoughts go to those who have crossed the desert to escape in the night … we base our service on charity and we welcome these people who are struggling in silence.”
The nun confesses that the people in the refugee camps are experiencing a dramatic situation of great urgency and insecurity. According to the religious, refugees in Jordan are about 10 percent of the population and this will force the Hashemite kingdom to open new camps, but the resources of the small state may not be enough, which in less than a year has welcomed more than 500,000 Syrians. The population is beginning to demand other solutions and in recent weeks there have been numerous protests in various cities in the country. For humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations, water supply, sanitation, education, medical care will no longer be guaranteed in a few months. To survive, many have fled to Amman. Says Sister Adele: “On the road leading to the capital there are many Syrian children, that were separated from their families during the trip. They are completely left to themselves. To survive they sell cigarettes, tea, or beg passers-by.”
There are currently over 30,000 Syrians who have settled in the province of Kerak. In January, there were about 10,000. Most are people who have not found a place in the Zarqa refugee camp, in the north of the country, others come directly from Syria. The lucky ones live in small homes for rent. Up to three families with several children live in a single apartment. Sometimes they also bring the elderly or sick people with them. …
Founded in 1939, the Italian Hospital of Kerak is the only equipped clinic in the region and has about 40 beds. It is supported by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), the special Vatican agency for aid to Catholic Churches and the peoples of the Middle East. To address the emergency in Syria the structure along with Caritas and UNHCR has established a program of assistance and shelter for the needy and the sick.
”Other local organizations ask for our cooperation,” explains Sister Adele Fumagalli. “Our hospital remains the reference point for the southern part of Jordan. Our service continues with the support of the Church and of our generous benefactors.“
There’s much more at the link.
To learn how to help Syrian refugees, visit our Emergency: Syria page.
15 May 2013
Tags: CNEWA Jordan Health Care Italian Hospital Comboni Sisters
In an unprecedented event on 12 May 2013, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Beijing before a gathering of over 500 Orthodox Christians.
(photo: The Russian Orthodox Church)
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is presently engaged in a visit of historic proportions. On 10 May, the Russian Orthodox Church head arrived in China. Vatican Insider reports:
The overture to Patriarch Kirill’s official visit to China marked an important moment in relations between China and the Orthodox Church. Yesterday, in the Great Hall of the People, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church had the privilege of meeting Chinese President, Xi Jinping. “You are the first patriarch of Moscow and the first supreme religious leader from Russia to visit our country,” Xi told Kirill, presenting this unprecedented event as a “clear sign of the strength and high level of relations between China and Russia.” Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that during their conversation, Kirill emphasised the “special relationship that has blossomed between Russia and China in recent years.”
Such a visit can include a great many milestones. Among them is the first Divine Liturgy celebrated by a Russian Orthodox Patriarch in China. According to the Voice of Russia:
More than 500 Orthodox believers attended the liturgy held in the Russian embassy, among them Russians living and working in China and the so-called Albazins — descendants of Russian Cossacks who settled in Beijing in the late 18th century.
His Holiness reminded the worshipers that the Russian Orthodox Church in China is more than three centuries old. …
Russian Ambassador to Beijing Andrei Denisov believes that the visit to China by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will open up new opportunities for the local Orthodox community.
For more details and photographs, visit the site of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations.
15 May 2013
Tags: Unity Russian Orthodox Church Orthodox Dialogue Patriarch Kirill
In this 2010 photo, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej arrives to celebrate a liturgy in Belgrade, Serbia, following his election. (photo: /Ivan Milutinovic, Reuters)
Serbian Orthodox Church likely to back government on Kosovo deal (Eurasia Review) At its forthcoming annual congress, the Serbian Orthodox Church is expected to discuss the EU-brokered deal with Kosovo and support the government on the issue, experts believe. Serbian Orthodox Church leaders will decide the religious body’s stance on Kosovo this month at the annual session of its governing body, the Holy Synod, predicted Zivica Tucic, an expert on religion in Serbia. “The Church will try to find an acceptable solution for the Kosovo issue,” Tucic told BIRN. Tucic said that one of the signs suggesting that the church would back the government on the issue was the reaction of church leader Patriarch Irinej to the criticism of the deal from some bishops…
Human Rights Watch alleges rebel atrocities in Syria (Los Angeles Times) Gruesome video footage purportedly showing a Syrian rebel commander mutilating the corpse of a dead soldier while shouting sectarian insults has drawn condemnation from Human Rights Watch and focused renewed attention on battlefield atrocities in Syria. The video appears to be further dramatic evidence of how Syria’s more than two-year civil war may be disintegrating into a sectarian bloodbath…
Israeli police attack Coptic Orthodox bishop in Jerusalem (Ahram Online) Israeli newspaper Maariv published a video clip on Monday showing an attack by Israeli police on Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anthasius of Ramallah in Jerusalem during Easter celebrations last week. In an interview with the newspaper, Anthasius said that Israeli police had attacked him in the street after he had tried to pass through an Israeli military checkpoint. In the video, the 84-year-old bishop can be seen being attacked by policemen. “They treated me like a dog,” the bishop told the Israeli newspaper. Israeli police subsequently issued a formal apology to both Egypt and Bishop Anthasius for last week’s incident…
Officials say Iraq bombings kill 10, wound 21 (Daily Star Lebanon) Bombings in Iraq, including two car bombs in the northern city of Kirkuk, killed 10 people and wounded 21 others on Wednesday, security and medical officials said. The first bombing in Kirkuk was the deadliest of the attacks, killing eight people and wounding eight, while a second car bomb exploded nearby, wounding seven more, officials said. Violence in Iraq has fallen from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common, killing more than 200 people in each of the first four months of this year…
Return to Iqrit: the rebirth of a Palestinian village (The Guardian) On a breezy hilltop in sight of the Lebanese border, a village last populated 65 years ago is being reclaimed from the dead for the living. Vegetables and herbs have been planted amid the rubble; a couple of donkeys graze on spring grass; traditional food is cooked and eaten in a makeshift structure next to the Church of Our Lady, where mass is celebrated for up to 200 worshippers on the first Saturday of every month. This is Iqrit, a Palestinian Christian village in northern Galilee, whose inhabitants left in the bitter war that followed the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948, and who have never been permitted to return to their land and razed homes. But in recent months, a group of young men, grandsons of Iqrit’s original residents, have moved back in an attempt to reclaim and rebuild the village…
14 May 2013
Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Palestine Coptic Orthodox Church Serbian Orthodox Church
Life in Gaza weighs heavily on children, and often one sees this reflected in their eyes. CNEWA-sponsored psychosocial activities at NECC kindergartens in Gaza City provide an opportunity for children to unload their pent-up frustration. (photo: CNEWA-PMP)
Sami El-Yousef is CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel. He paid a visit to Gaza in late April. Below is an excerpt from his report on that visit. The full report can be read here.
It was a pleasure to return to Gaza to check on our various projects there and, more importantly, to show solidarity with the people and to affirm they are not forgotten.
On a rather positive note, there are no longer long lines at gas stations, as the supply of fuel is steadier. We did not hear many complaints about the shortages of basic food or medical supplies or building materials. Other aspects of life seem unchanged. The electric company still provides about 10 hours a day of electricity, while noisy, inefficient, polluting makeshift diesel generators offer power the rest of the day to homes and institutions.
On the other hand, there are still travel restrictions that neither Israel nor Egypt has eased; most of the population continues to complain about the “prison-like” environment in which they continue to live. On the political end of things, few in Gaza believe that the much-talked-about “reconciliation efforts” between Hamas and Fatah are leading to anything meaningful. They remain very skeptical about any such discussions. Most feel that neither party is ready for real reconciliation and that it will not happen anytime soon. There is also a deep distrust between Israel and Hamas and a sense that both sides may be planning the next offensive. Many believe it is only a matter of time and that the civilians will again pay a hefty price. Let’s hope I picked up the wrong signals, and that peace will prevail. Keep Gaza and its people in your prayers, especially the small, brave Christian community.
Though recent measures are not specifically directed against the Christian community, it is this community with its relatively liberal orientation that is directly affected. Here are a few measures and incidents that will illustrate the general mood:
The Hamas government recently put into practice the “education law” that forces the segregation of boys and girls in all educational institutions starting at the fourth grade level (age 9 and beyond). It further mandates that female teachers should not teach boys and vice versa.
As far as trade is concerned, Hamas has also mandated that in clothing shops, it is illegal for men to sell women’s clothes and for women to sell men’s clothes, again segregating the sexes.
Male teenagers who have long hair or wear fashionable clothes are now arrested, reportedly beaten, forcibly shaved and sent back on the street with stern warnings to abide by “decent” appearance.
Students who attend the public school system are subjected to weekly classes in fundamentalist Islamic indoctrination, with students being drilled and raised with no tolerance toanything that is not Islamic — a truly sad dimension of life in Gaza under Hamas, and certainly not an environment based on respect, human rights, tolerance and acceptance of the other.
For more, read the entire report on the trip to Gaza here.
14 May 2013
Tags: CNEWA Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Israeli-Palestinian conflict CNEWA Pontifical Mission
In New York, Cardinal Cleemis Mar Baselios, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church, visits with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and CNEWA's chair. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Today, the Vatican announced this coming Sunday, 19 May, Cardinal Cleemis Mar Baselios, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, will take possession of his titular church in Rome, St. Gregory VII al Gelsomino.
The announcement came as the cardinal is paying a visit to North America. Yesterday he met in New York with CNEWA chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan and several other church leaders, including CNEWA president John E. Kozar, who snapped these pictures.
Since his arrival, the Syro-Malankara Church head has met with numerous church leaders, including Cardinal Dolan, center, and Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Tags: Vatican United States Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan