10 July 2013
Women from the village of Manhari weave religious articles in a program supported by the local eparchy. (photo: Sean Sprague)
While much of Egypt is in turmoil, faith somehow endures. Several years ago, writer-photographer Sean Sprague visited a Coptic Christian village in Upper Egypt for a closer look:
“People here,” [Father Matta] asserted as we strolled through the muddy lanes of Manhari, “don’t experience Islamic extremist aggression, but they do feel economically repressed.
“Many families cannot support themselves, although there are some wealthy Coptic families.”
Father Matta’s family, however, is not one of the wealthy ones. Typically, Eastern Catholic married priests in the Middle East must also hold down jobs outside the parish to support the family, thereby reducing the parish burden. The priest’s wife, in addition to rearing a family, must also work.
Father Matta led me on a tour of Manhari’s four-story Catholic Social Services Center. Here, working parents leave their children in a well-run kindergarten. School dropouts improve their reading and writing skills while young women learn to weave tapestries. The center offers additional vocational training in its tailoring workshop. Mothers and their children receive medical care in a mother-child clinic and the center conducts courses in health and hygiene.
“The villagers survive by raising livestock — cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats — and by growing clover for fodder,” Father Matta said. “Fuul, or fava beans, and wheat provide the Egyptian staple diet. They grow in fields around the village,” he added.
…A few miles from Manhari at an Orthodox church, which once served a monastic community, we met a priest revered by all Copts — Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant — Father Yacoub, an old man with a long white beard. Father Matta greeted him with elaborate embraces and kisses. Father Yacoub sat in virtual silence while we drank tea and spoke with his young colleague, Father Bola. His eyes gleamed with obvious pleasure at our visit.
“Relations between Orthodox and Catholic Copts in Manhari are warm,” Father Bola said, taking a sip of his sweetened tea.
“Caritas serves the entire community. Intermarriage is common. So it doesn’t really make much difference which church you are from. We are all from the same cloth.”
Read more on Upper Egypt’s Copts from the July 2002 issue of the magazine.
10 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Catholic Church
Egyptian Copts gather for the funeral procession of Rev. Mina Aboud Sharween, a victim of sectarian violence, on Monday, 8 July 2013. (photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church)
Christians fear the new Egyptian constitution will be equally divisive (Fides) Christian churches in Egypt are expressing concerns over the temporary constitution enacted by decree on Monday by the Egyptian president ad interim, Adly Mansour. The ecclesiastical hierarchy is likely to announce its official position soon. “We are concerned. … The provisions that in the old constitution seemed bad in the eyes of Christians are highlighted in the new text. If we do not speak now, we will not be able to say anything,” says Coptic Catholic Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna of Minya. What worries Christians is in particular is Article 1 of the new constitutional declaration, which refers to Sharia as a basic source of legislation adds that the interpretation of the Sharia law should be in accordance with the body of laws developed in the early centuries of Islam. In this step the content of Article 219 of the previous constitution is retrieved, which at the time was the center of the disputes of Christians, ultimately resulting in the withdrawal of their representatives from the constitutional assembly in protest. In addition, from the provisional Constitution enacted by Mansour, former Article 3 has disappeared, which guaranteed Christians and Jews the opportunity to use their own canonical principles to regulate personal issues and religious aspects of their communities…
Egypt orders arrest of top Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist officials (Washington Post) Egypt’s top prosecutor has ordered the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and nine other top Islamist officials for allegedly instigating violence that led to the killing of more than 50 demonstrators Monday. The arrest warrants for Brotherhood supreme guide Muhammad Badie and the others came a day after interim President Adly Mansour appointed a prime minister and vice president, moves designed to lend an air of normalcy to the country even as indications mounted that the president is little more than a civilian face for military rule. Mansour also has outlined a path to quick elections and a return to democracy after the 3 July coup that overthrew Egypt’s first freely elected president, Muhammad Morsi…
Women deacons in the Armenian Apostolic Church: a history (Armenian Weekly) Women deacons, an ordained ministry, have served the Armenian Apostolic Church for centuries. In some instances, the mission of the Armenian deaconesses was educating, caring for orphans and the elderly, assisting the indigent, comforting the bereaved, and addressing women’s issues. They served in convents and cathedrals, and the general population. Their vestments are exactly like those of nuns or sisters, except that on their forehead they have a cross; their stole hangs from over the right shoulder. The woman deacon served on the altar, as did her male counterpart, and the bishop did not limit her liturgical service to convent churches only…
St. Andrew’s Cross to be delivered to Belarus (Belarus Telegraph Agency) The cross on which the Apostle Andrew the First-Called was crucified will be delivered to Minsk. By decision of the Holy Synod of the Belarusian Exarchate, the relic will be on display in the Apostle Andrew Church and the Church of All Saints in Minsk from 29 July to 2 August, BelTA learned from the Minsk Eparchy of the Belarusian Orthodox Church. This relic is ordinarily kept at an Orthodox church in Patras, Greece, in Peloponnese. The cross will be brought to St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Minsk. “The event is meant to remind us that the spiritual life of the three nations has the same roots — the blessing St. Andrew gave in the first century and the christening in Kiev in 988,” said an official statement from the Belarusian Orthodox Church…
Regional upheaval prompts Israeli Arab Christians form new political party (The Times of Israel) Christian Arab citizens of Israel are forming a new political party. The party’s Hebrew name — B’nei Brit Hahadasha — means “Sons of the New Testament,” although the word “allies” is hidden in the title as well. The effort is part of a growing assertiveness on the part of Christian Arabs in the wake of the Arab Spring, as they increasingly sound calls for an identity distinct from Israel’s broader Arab society, which is around 90 percent Muslim. According to its Facebook page, the party’s platform includes full integration of Christians in all fields, peace with a democratic Palestinian state and all of Israel’s neighbors, increased tourism and trade, and the return of Israelis who have left the country…
9 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Israel Saints Egypt's Christians Women Religious in Europe
In this image from 2009, a Palestinian woman prays on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine, also has significance to Jews and Christians. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Muslims around the world are marking the beginning of Ramadan. Two years ago, Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., CNEWA’s external affairs officer, wrote about what this month means and how it is observed:
Ramadan is the most important event of the year for Muslims. There are five pillars of Islam: the šahada, or creed that there is one and only God and Muhammad is his messenger; salat, or the five daily prayers;zakat, or almsgiving; sawm, or fasting during Ramadan; and hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr, the feast ending it, have become increasingly visible in Europe and North America in the past two decades. Immigration has increased the number of Muslims in the West and more and more people are becoming aware of the monthlong fast and celebration.
In places where Muslims represent a religious minority, recognition of Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr increasingly symbolizes a degree of social acceptance by the majority. In the United States, for instance, the postal service issues a postage stamp for Eid ul Fitr every year. And more and more often, shops sell greeting cards for the holiday, and many non—Muslims now send or give them to their Muslim friends and neighbors.
During the 28 days of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The fast begins at dawn when one can distinguish a white thread from a black one (Quran 2:188) and ends when the sun has set below the horizon. The fast is absolute n that nothing enters the body. Thus, fasting excludes not only eating food but also drinking fluids, smoking and sexual activity.
Since the month of Ramadan moves “backward” through the solar year, it occurs at some point in every season of the year in any given location. In the summer in both northern and southern latitudes, days can be quite long and the fast can go on for more than 15 hours. If 15 hours without food is difficult, 15 hours in the summer without water is even more so.
In many places in the Muslim world, the end of the day’s fast is announced by a cannon shot or some other major public announcement after the sun sets, informing people they may now engage in iftar, or the breaking of the fast. Muslims often first eat a date to break the fast, as did Muhammad. The nightly meals during Ramadan are often quite festive and families gather and enjoy specially prepared dishes.
Read more from the September 2011 issue of ONE.
9 July 2013
Tags: Muslim Islam Ramadan
In this 9 December photo, Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Kiril of Varna and Veliki Preslav celebrates the Divine Liturgy at Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church (The Church of Seven Saints) in Sofia. (photo: The Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Bulgarian bishop found drowned, foul play suspected (France24) A powerful and controversial Bulgarian Orthodox Church metropolitan was found dead on a Black Sea beach on Tuesday. Metropolitan Kiril was initially thought to have died from drowning but Bulgarian state radio, citing police and prosecutors, said the 59-year-old’s death appears suspicious. An autopsy was being carried out to determine the cause of death, which happened in the city of Varna, the diocese the bishop represented. Kiril was one of the best-known members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church…
Praying: the Catholic and the Muslim way (Vatican Radio) Jesuit Professor Father Felix Körner is a scholar engaged in dialogue with Muslim theologians in an effort to build bridges between Christians and Muslims and to improve mutual understanding. To mark the beginning of Ramadan, Veronica Scarisbrick speaks to Professor Körner, who currently teaches interreligious theology at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome…
Crisis conditions spur provisional Egyptian government to action (AsiaNews) Continuing protests and 51 deaths since Monday, 8 July, have pushed Adly Mansour, interim Egyptian president, to advance the date of the election. Within seven months, the country will return to the polls. The official date remains to be announced within the next few weeks, during which time the members of the new parliament will attempt to improve the nation’s constitution…
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood rejects timetable (Al Jazeera) The Muslim Brotherhood party has rejected the transition timetable set out by the military-backed interim president. Essam al Erian, a senior Brotherhood figure and deputy head of its Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejected the transition timetable on Tuesday, saying it takes the country “back to zero.” On his Facebook page, al Erian wrote that “the people created their constitution with their votes,” referring to the constitution that Islamists pushed to finalization and then was passed in a national referendum during former President Mohamed Morsi’s year in office…
Wounded dying for lack of medicine in Syria’s Homs, activists say (Daily Star Lebanon) People wounded in fighting between rebels and regime troops in the central Syrian city of Homs are dying for lack of medical equipment, activists said on Tuesday. “The army’s continuous bombardment over the past 11 days has made the critical humanitarian situation in rebel areas of Homs even worse,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “An unknown number of rebels and civilians wounded in recent days are dying from their injuries, because there is no medical equipment to treat them,” he added…
8 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Catholic-Muslim relations Bulgarian Orthodox Church Democracy
Pope Francis carries a pastoral staff carved from the wood of a shipwrecked boat as he celebrates Mass in Lampedusa, Italy on 8 July. The pope said he decided to visit the small island 70 miles from Tunisia after seeing newspaper headlines in June describing the drowning of African immigrants at sea. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In a powerful and historic trip that focused world attention on the plight of immigrants, Pope Francis traveled to an island off Italy to celebrate Mass. It was a visit rich with symbolism. CNS has details:
Before saying a word publicly, Pope Francis made the sign of the cross and tossed a wreath of white and yellow flowers into the Mediterranean Sea in memory of the estimated 20,000 African immigrants who have died in the past 25 years trying to reach a new life in Europe.
Just a few hours before Pope Francis arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa 8 July, the Italian coast guard accompanied another boat carrying immigrants to the island’s port.
The 165 immigrants, one of whom said they were originally from Mali, had spent two days at sea making the crossing from North Africa; the immigrants were accompanied to a government reception center, a locked facility where 112 people — half under the age of 18 — already were being housed. Most will be repatriated, although a few may receive refugee status.
In his homily at an outdoor Mass, Pope Francis said he decided to visit Lampedusa, a small island with a population of 6,000 and just 70 miles from Tunisia, after seeing newspaper headlines in June describing the drowning of immigrants at sea.
“Those boats, instead of being a means of hope, were a means of death,” he said.
Wearing purple vestments, like those used during Lent, and using the prayers from the Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins, Pope Francis said the deaths of the immigrants are “like a thorn in the heart,” which spurred him to offer public prayers for them, but also to try to awaken people’s consciences. …
The Mass was filled with reminders that Lampedusa is now synonymous with dangerous attempts to reach Europe: the altar was built over a small boat; the pastoral staff the pope used was carved from wood recycled from a shipwrecked boat; the lectern was made from old wood as well and had a ship’s wheel mounted on the front; and even the chalice — although lined with silver — was carved from the wood of a wrecked boat.
“Who among us has wept” for the immigrants, for the dangers they faced and for the thousands who died at sea, the pope asked. “The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep.”
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this,” Pope Francis said.
8 July 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Immigration Italy
A protester calling for the removal of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds up a copy of the Quran and a cross during a rally at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 5 July. Egypt’s Catholic leaders welcomed the ouster of the Islamist president and pledged to help “rebuild democracy” under army rule. (photo: CNS/Khaled Abdullah, Reuters)
Churches welcome Morsi’s ousting (The Tablet) The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, has praised the campaign that ousted the country’s elected president and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, on Thursday evening. Pope Tawadros, the leader of the largest religious minority in Egypt, said that Egyptian people had recovered their “stolen revolution” — a reference to how the Arab Spring of 2011 had led to an increasingly hardline Islamist government. Morsi was officially deposed from office at 7 p.m. local time on Thursday following a week of protests at his rule and the intervention of the Egyptian military…
Egypt security forces kill dozens of pro-Morsi protesters (Los Angeles Times) Soldiers and security forces opened fire on an encampment of anti-military protesters outside the barricades at the Republican Guard headquarters. “We were praying, and … we were surprised by gun fire and tear gas all around us,” said Mahmoud Mohamed, a lawyer who was shot in the arm. “We had women and children with us. … They didn’t give us a chance to retreat.” It is not clear what led to the onslaught that killed at least 42 people and injured hundreds. A military statement said a “terrorist group” attempted to storm the Republican Guard facility, killing one soldier and wounding 40…
Jesuit’s appeal for peace during Ramadan (Fides) “The holy month of Ramadan is a time of penance and conversion to God and is a time to ask our brothers and sisters’ forgiveness. We ask the grace of repentance for everyone. We ask it while claiming respect for law and justice,” said Jesuit Father Paolo dall’Oglio in an appeal to the end the war in Syria and sectarian conflicts in other Middle Eastern countries — conflicts that exist from Pakistan to Lebanon, “as well as those of ideological confessional nature that are taking place from Egypt to Morocco, costing enormous losses and disfiguring the face of Islam…”
Leaders should serve the people, says Bulgarian patriarch (Independent Balkan News Agency) Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit says that God puts people in positions of leadership not to satisfy their personal ambitions and goals but to be their servant. Neofit, elected patriarch in February 2013 at the time of the earlier protests that were mobilized around cost-of-living issues, was speaking against a background of continuing anti-government protests. While standing back from taking sides, the patriarch earlier issued a message to the current protesters in which he extended his blessing to them. “When one is empowered to make decisions that affect many people, one must be very careful and responsible, especially humbled by the consciousness of his human weakness and imperfection,” Patriarch Neofit said…
Czechs mark Sts. Cyril and Methodius anniversary (Prague Daily Monitor) Almost 80,000 pilgrims, including President Milos Zeman, visited the Days of Good Will People celebrations of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Sts. Cyril and Methodius as missionaries in Great Moravia Friday, festival secretary Josef Korenek has said. Some 60,000 people attended a liturgy for pilgrims on Friday, Korenek added. Bishops from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia along with 11 foreign bishops, among others from Germany, Russia and Ukraine, took part in the event. St. Cyril or Constantine (827-869) and St. Methodius (825-885), “the apostles of the Slavs,” were two Greek brothers from Thessalonica. As missionaries they spread Christianity, but they also translated biblical and liturgical text into the comprehensible, old Slavonic language. They invented a scripture for this purpose, called Glagolitic, that was later transformed into Cyrillic that it is still in use in the Orthodox Church…
3 July 2013
Our pilgrims gather at the Jordan River. (photo: CNEWA)
On 29 June, the C.W.L. and CNEWA pilgrimage group headed to the Jordan River, where according to Scripture John the Baptist baptized Jesus with water “in Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” (John 1:28)
Since our pilgrimage took us only to Israel and Palestine, we stayed on the west bank of the river, across from the Jordanian park Pope John Paul II had inaugurated in the year 2000. As with most of the Holy Sites we visited, the Israeli site marking Jesus’ baptism has its own history. Unlike most, it is an Israeli National Park and is not cared for by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land or the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic patriarchates.
The site has been open for only two years. Since the conclusion of the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel took control of the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, the entire border has been a military zone with fences, mines and soldiers.
Thankfully, we were privileged to drive to the site — well below sea level — under a scorching sun without any problems. Father Geoffrey Kerslake led us in prayer as we renewed our baptismal vows, and afterward invited us to take a dip in the river. It was an emotional experience as we then headed for the desert, the same desert where Jesus retreated for 40 days.
3 July 2013
Tags: Palestine Israel Holy Land Jordan Pilgrimage/pilgrims
A little boy plays at the Infant Welfare Center. (photo: CNEWA)
Velma’s Dream brought together women from all over Canada to support the tremendous efforts of women in the Holy Land — efforts like the Infant Welfare Center in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel.
The Infant Welfare Center helps children with learning disabilities throughout Jerusalem. Unfortunately, many families are unaware of the special needs of their children, and attempt to integrate them in local schools. The Infant Welfare Center founded a school for remedial education to address these needs.
In addition to helping local children, the center runs classes and lectures for mothers. They offer courses in parenting, nutrition, mental health and even yoga!
The women and men behind the Infant Welfare Center welcomed the Catholic Women’s League, and brought them face to face with the children and mothers they help. What a joyous experience it was for the C.W.L. women!
3 July 2013
Tags: Children Holy Land Education Jerusalem Disabilities
Students relax on the grounds of Bethlehem University. (photo: Steve Sabella)
Yesterday, I was privileged to meet with an unusual group of “ambassadors” at the United Nations Church Center. These “ambassadors” consisted of eight students and (very recent) graduates of Bethlehem University in Palestine. (CNEWA was one of Bethlehem University’s cofounders and Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, serves on the university’s International Board of Regents.) The young Palestinians — male and female, Christian and Muslim — were working mostly in the field of business and economics. They came from different parts of Palestine. Two of them were from Hebron/Khalil, a town that has seen a great deal of conflict between Palestinians and Israeli settlers. These were students who had to overcome incredible obstacles to study and graduate. Nevertheless, their enthusiasm and energy were palpable.
While in New York, the contingent was meeting with a variety of ambassadors and United Nations agencies. Sponsored by, among others, Caritas Internationalis, CNEWA and Catholic Charities, they also met with members of the U.N. Israel/Palestine Working Group, whose members include not only Catholics but also Lutherans, Presbyterians and Mennonites. They also visited Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.
After several days of meetings in New York, the group will break up and individual members will spend the summer in different places around the United States, including Washington, D.C., Seattle and Tucson. They’ll have a chance to experience life in the United States — and give folks in the United States a chance to meet firsthand some Palestinians. Almost all of the students spoke of an “image” that Americans have of Palestinians that does not correspond to the reality. They expressed the desire that their stay in the United States would help Americans to realize that Palestinians are not terrorists or radical extremists.
Seeing their idealism and their youth certainly made me believe that these “ambassadors” can make a real difference in helping Americans better understand Palestinians. And, once they return to their homeland, perhaps they may help Palestinians better understand Americans.
3 July 2013
Tags: Palestine United States United Nations Palestinians Bethlehem University
Father Geoffrey Kerslake from the Ottawa diocese concelebrates Mass with Father Elias Odeh, parish priest in Reineh. (photo: CNEWA)
On our journey to the Holy Land, we wanted to meet the “living stones,” the Christians ministering to people in this land. On Sunday, 23 June, we went to Mass in the Latin parish of Reineh, a small village beside Nazareth in Israel. That turned out to be a special day for several reasons. First, it was Pentecost Sunday (since Easter in this part of the world follows the Julian, rather than Gregorian, calendar). Also, the parish priest, Rev. Elias Odeh, was marking the 43rd anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. But it was another detail that may be most memorable: many in our party had a chance for the first time to attend a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in Arabic.
For many in North America, this may be stunning news. ‘Aren’t Arabs all Muslims?’ some might ask. How is it possible that Arabs are also Catholics? Let’s not forget that Christianity was present in the Holy Land some 600 years before Muhammad, and many Arabs had converted long before. Today, even though they are in small numbers, these Arab Christians are proud of their heritage and their faith.
Rev. Geoffrey Kerslake, who accompanied us on the pilgrimage, concelebrated Mass with Father Odeh. Afterward, our group was invited to join the parishioners for coffee and cake in a warm and friendly setting. We were surprised to see how many spoke English very well!
[Editor’s note: we interviewed Father Odeh as part of our coverage of the Year for Priests. Check out what he had to say here.]
Members of CNEWA and the Catholic Women’s League of Canada take to the pews in a Latin Catholic church in Reineh. (photo: CNEWA)
Tags: CNEWA Israel Holy Land Holy Land Christians CNEWA Canada