Current Issue
Spring, 2017
Volume 43, Number 1
3 April 2013
Greg Kandra

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt speaks at an interfaith prayer service at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn on 2 April. (photo: CNEWA)

Last night, dozens of lay people and clergy — including CNEWA’s Msgr. John E. Kozar — gathered at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn for an interfaith service dedicated to praying for peace in the Middle East, especially Syria.

Representatives of several faith traditions were there: Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants. The diversity was impressive and inspiring; a Druze cleric led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer, and the service ended with “Immaculate Mary” sung in Arabic. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt (shown above), the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, spoke eloquently of the urgent need for peace, and quoted both Pope Emeritus Benedict and his successor Pope Francis.

Among the prayers from the service was this, adapted from Maronite Evening Prayer:

O Lord, the night and the day are yours; you uphold the light and the sun. Through your power you direct the sequence of the seasons. You have brought the day to its close and called forth the night. Be for us that great day that never ends. In the evening, let your light shine in our hearts, and in the darkness of the night, enlighten us with the knowledge of your truth. And so, through all the days of our lives, we shall praise you, O God. To you be glory and may your mercy rest upon us, now and forever.


To learn more about the Maronite Church, click here.

Tags: Syrian Civil War Unity Middle East Peace Process Prayers/Hymns/Saints Maronite

3 April 2013
Greg Kandra

A man holds an injured child who had just been pulled out from under rubble at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 March. (photo: CNS/Ziad Rev, Reuters)

Israel issues warning to Palestine and Syria (Al Jazeera) Israel’s defense minister warned Palestinian fighters that the Israeli military will respond to any attacks in its territory, after a rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel and an attack from Syria. Moshe Yaalon said on Wednesday that the military will not hold back if attacked and will not allow its civilians or armed forces to come under fire “in any form”. “We shall not allow in any form the establishment of a routine of sporadic firing on our civilians or on our forces,” said Yaalon…

Report: Syria conflict drawing hundreds of jihadists from Europe (The Guardian) Hundreds of Europeans have travelled to Syria since the start of the civil war to fight against the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, the most comprehensive study of European foreign fighters to date has found…

Russian Orthodox leaders hope Anglicans will not allow female bishops, same-sex marriage (Interfax) The Moscow Patriarchate expects Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to adhere to the norms of Christian morals and the church system. “We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties coexist in it. However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's department for external relations, said during a meeting between Welby and representatives of the Orthodox churches who attended his enthronement…

Kerala is India’s divorce capital (Deccan Chronicle) Two decades ago, the state had a very modest divorce rate. But now, with the state capital being ranked the divorce capital of the country, and Kerala having the highest divorce rate in the country, family courts are flooded with divorce petitions. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, which came into force in 2006, has given women a legitimate ground for divorce they did not have before. But, like any law, it can be misused. According to Rakhi Ravikumar, a counsel who specializes in divorce petitions, a court will offer interim relief now only when it is convinced that the domestic violence plea is genuine…

Tags: India Syrian Civil War Kerala Israeli-Palestinian conflict Russian Orthodox Church

2 April 2013
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis visits the excavated necropolis below St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 1 April. The necropolis is where St. Peter’s tomb has been venerated since early Christian times and where the first church dedicated to him was built. The tomb is two levels below the main altar of the modern basilica. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Yesterday, Pope Francis became the first pope to tour what is believed to be the burial site of St. Peter. CNS reports:

Kneeling before the tomb of St. Peter, Pope Francis repeated the three professions of faith the Gospels report the apostle making: “Lord, you are the Christ, the son of the living God,” “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” and “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, said Pope Francis made the three professions on 1 April while kneeling on the marble floor of the Clementine Chapel, facing a grill that allows visitors to see the back of what is believed to be St. Peter’s tomb.

“It was moving for us to hear the pope, who took these words of Peter and made them live again, because today it is his mission to continue the mission Jesus entrusted to Peter,” the cardinal told Vatican Radio.

Cardinal Comastri accompanied Pope Francis on a late-afternoon tour of the excavated necropolis where St. Peter is buried. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Pope Francis was the first pope to tour the site, walking the path between mostly second-century burial vaults to the tomb.

Read more at the CNS link.

Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Saints

2 April 2013
Greg Kandra

The Russian military's Orthodox chapel can be deployed wherever soldiers may be stationed. (photo: Russian Airborne Force)

Now, an unorthodox kind of church for Orthodox soldiers.

From the Guardian:

The Russian military unveiled an unlikely new weapon in its arsenal this month — an army of parachuting priests. The unit of chaplains, who have joined the Russian Airborne Force to train in parachute jumping and vehicle assembly, will operate out of flatpack churches that can be airlifted in to wherever soldiers may be stationed.

The church could be mistaken for a standard-issue army cabin, taking the form of a khaki-colored shed on wheels, were it not for the cladding of gilded icons and the majestic onion dome spire sprouting from its rooftop. The mobile prayer room has also been fitted with a “life-sustaining module”, which includes a diesel power source, an air-conditioning unit and a fridge, reported Russia Today.

The chapel is flown in as a kit of parts, delivered via the kind of airborne platform usually used to carry armored vehicles and other heavy military equipment, and is then assembled on the ground. Within, the gilded interior incorporates crucifixes, bells and icons, as well as a mini theatre — which can be extended sideways with additional wings, thus forming the cross-shaped plan of an Orthodox church.

The initiative has not gone without controversy in the Russian government, where debate rages over the cost of rearmament and rising military spending.

While the Russian army insists this is the first ever flying chapel in the world, Orthodox Christianity is not the first to bring mobile worship to the battlefield. The Israeli Defense Force launched a mobile synagogue initiative in 2011 to allow troops to pray more comfortably as they operate the Iron Dome anti-missile system in southern Israel. The UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (UKAWIS) has provided such mobile synagogues — which contain an ark, reader’s platform and washbasin — as “a source of spiritual sustenance [for the soldiers] as they carry the weight of Israel’s security on their shoulders”.

Read more.

Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church Priests Church

2 April 2013
Greg Kandra

The video above from CNS shows highlights of Pope Francis celebrating his first Holy Week and Easter. You can read more about the pope’s Easter message, the traditional “urbi et orbi,”
at this link.

In Easter messages, church leaders call for peace in Syria (CNS) In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East highlighted the need for an end to the war in Syria, now entering its third year. Cardinal and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter appealed “to the disputants in Syria, who are so intent in demolishing the homes of peaceful citizens, [the country’s] institutions and history, and the killing of dozens of innocent people a day … we appeal to them to put away their arms and refuse the money given to them from the outside world, whose interest is only to demolish Syria and other Arab countries…”

Report: March deadliest month in Syrian war (CNN) The brutal civil war in Syria claimed more than 6,000 lives in March alone — making it the deadliest month since the conflict began a little more than two years ago, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday. The group said 6,005 people were killed in Syria last month. That’s more than all the deaths that occurred in the first nine months of the war. “This will become the new normal, and the death toll figures will continue to rise,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the observatory.

Priest from Kerala killed in Bangalor (New Indian Express) A 62-year-old rector was found murdered inside St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary, located next to a church early Monday. The police said the assailants escaped with some valuables after striking the rector’s head with a blunt weapon before strangling him. The victim, Father K. J. Thomas, a native of Kerala, had been staying at the seminary for the past five years. He was the managerial as well as spiritual head of the church and used to train priests…

Hope for a unified Easter (Catholic Register) When Catholics sat down to Easter dinner on 31 March, Orthodox Christians still had most of Lent ahead of them as they wait for Easter Sunday on 5 May. Why would Christians be so divided about something as fundamental as Easter, the one day that stands at the heart of the faith? Getting all Christians to celebrate Easter together would be a major step forward in ecumenical relations, said Father Damian MacPherson, the archdiocese of Toronto’s ecumenical and interfaith affairs director…

Exploring Christianity’s Ethiopian roots ( Christianity reportedly arrived in North Africa in the latter part of first century A.D. or the early part of the second, while “the adoption of Christianity in Ethiopia dates to the fourth-century,” according to findings by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Bible also documents the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch as the early church was forming. Likewise, Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta mentions Christians in Nubia (an area that covers present-day northern Sudan and southern Egypt) in his 14th century travelogue. But when Europeans penetrated Sub-Saharan Africa in the 16th Century, ultimately mining the region for Africans to enslave, the historical narrative shifts which is perhaps why many associate the religion most with Europeans to this day…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Indian Catholics Ethiopian Christianity

28 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

The Jewish feast of Passover began on 25 March, and will continue until 2 April. Coinciding with this is the holiest day of the Christian calendar, Easter, which will be celebrated on Sunday, 31 March.

In the video below, CNEWA’s external affairs officer, Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., discusses the significance of these two holidays and their proximity to one another:

Tags: Christianity Easter Judaism

28 March 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from Holy Week in 2009, Christians in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem pray at the Stone of Unction, the place where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial. (photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)

Tags: Middle East Jerusalem Easter Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre

28 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Markian Surmach sells pysanky — traditionally decorated chicken or goose eggs, rich with symbolism — at his Ukrainian shop in New York City. Scholars agree that the art form originated at least 2,000 years ago. To learn more about pysanky, read The Colors of Easter, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Ancient Ukrainian tradition transforms eggs into masterpieces (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Steeped in ancient symbolism and decorated in hot wax, pysanky (pronounced pie-sun-key) is a colorful folk art tradition in Ukraine that harkens back to pagan times. These days, the ancient tradition is celebrated at Easter, when Ukrainian churches and community groups gather to decorate eggs in intricate, painstaking detail. Decorating eggs is more than just a pastime for those who lived in Ukraine when it was under the control of the Soviet Union, from 1922 to 1991. For them, it’s a symbol of expressive freedom…

Self-absorption is root of evils within church, said pope (CNS) Evils within the church are caused by a self-centeredness and “theological narcissism” that forget to share Christ with people outside of the church, Pope Francis said in the days before his election. “When the church is self-referential, inadvertently, she believes she has her own light,” he said in a summary of a speech he gave to the College of Cardinals before the start of the conclave that ended in his election. When the church ceases to be “the mysterium lunae,” that is, to depend on Christ for receiving and reflecting his — not its own — light, the church then “gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness, which according to [Jesuit Cardinal Henri-Marie] De Lubac, is the worst evil that can befall the church,” said then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio…

Syrian bishop: Outsiders are killing Syrians, destroying churches (Russia Today) “A person who has no homeland is nothing,” says Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop Luke, an Arab born in Syria. Metropolitan Luke is speaking Arabic, using the usual Muslim expressions, such as “insha’Allah,” which means “God willing,” or the standard greeting of “as-salam alaykum.” The metropolitan notes: “Our culture implies no intolerance towards Islam. It’s the basic principle of our relations. We call Muslims our cousins.” This solidarity finds an expression in the season; it is the Orthodox Lent — the time to offer the most sincere prayers of absolution. “Now that Lent has begun we say prayers every day. We are under attack, all of the Syrian people. These people say they act with Syrian people’s best interests at heart, but it’s not true. We are the Syrian people, and they have been sent to our country from the outside…”

Syrian official: 10 killed in university attack (Daily Star Lebanon) A Syrian government official says 10 people have been killed and 20 wounded in a mortar attack against Damascus University. The official says the mortar rounds struck the university’s architecture department in the central Baramkeh district on Thursday. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements…

Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Syrian Civil War Cultural Identity Easter

27 March 2013
Greg Kandra

A child prays during liturgy in Santhithadam, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Several years ago, we paid a visit to a valley in Kerala where some enterprising families had established a small community of Christians:

Santhithadam means “Valley of Peace” in Malayalam, the language of Kerala.

Located at the end of a nearly impassable dirt road, Santhithadam is indeed a peaceful valley hidden away in one of the most remote corners of Kerala, in southwest India. While much of Kerala is overcrowded, its many people competing for limited farmland, Santhithadam is an exception.

Not far from the border with Tamil Nadu and set on the high Attapaddy plateau, the area was thinly populated by scattered tribes for centuries. Then, about 30 years ago, 76 families settled in Santhithadam from the crowded south, including 40 Syro-Malabar Catholic families from Kottayam, Kerala’s Christian heartland.

The families who settled in Santhithadam were like pioneers arriving at a new frontier. These economic migrants had given up their former lives, knowing there would be no turning back. What tiny plots of land they had owned in Kottayam were sold and replaced in Santhithadam with larger plots, ripe for development and cultivation. But at the time, many of these hard-working people did not know what they were facing.

Read more about Kerala’s Brave New Frontier in the July 2003 issue of the magazine.

Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Farming/Agriculture

27 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 16 September 2012 photo, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Damascus, Syria, attends Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on the waterfront in Beirut. At left is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Melkite leader urges pope to help end Syria bloodshed (Daily Star Lebanon) Melkite Patriarch Gregory III called on newly elected Pope Francis to help end the two-year-old violence in neighboring Syria. “We warmly urge him [Pope Francis] — as we know the love he has for the Levant — and urge world countries and all the officials to work to stop the bloodshed in Syria,” Laham said in his Easter Resurrection message. “Enough pain. Enough tragedies. Enough violence, terrorism, weapons and fundamentalism. Enough trading in human lives, their dignity, livelihood, security, integrity and stability,” Laham said…

Ecumenical meeting in Iraq discusses pressing issues for community (Fides) On Tuesday, 26 March, leaders and representatives of the churches and Christian communities in Iraq gathered at the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad to discuss the present condition of Middle East Christians and to deal jointly with the emergencies and difficulties that threaten Iraqi Christians. The meeting, convened by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, included senior representatives of the Armenian Apostolic, Assyrean of the East, Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Syriac Orthodox churches. Ecumenism and fraternal dialogue of communion with all Christians is a priority for the Chaldean patriarch, who had said after his election: “Unfortunately one hears some who say: I am more Armenian than Christian, more Assyrian than Christian, more Chaldean than Christian. A tribal mentality persists here and there…”

Pope: Holy week challenges us to step outside ourselves (Vatican Radio) Linked is an English summary of Pope Francis’ first general audience. (An English translation of the Holy Father’s complete catechesis will be available soon.) “Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered,” the pope said…

Indian Christians protest against working on Easter (Fides) Some government departments have told their employees to stay open on 29-31 March, which for Christians are Good Friday through Easter. Christians in India have called for Christian workers to be granted a work break because these are “the most important days of the year for the Christian faith.” Some Catholic nongovernmental organizations, such as the Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum, sent a memorandum to the prime minister and the minister of finance expressing “deep shock” and recalling the existence of a circular that provides for “the closure of business tax offices on Saturday and Sunday”…

Syria’s Shiites offer different picture of war (L.A. Times) Each evening, Ali Jamal and other men in this border town grab their Kalashnikov assault rifles, jump on their motorbikes and ride across the irrigation canal into Syria to protect their homes. The enemies are Sunni rebel “terrorists,” he says, who target Jamal and his neighbors because they are Shiite Muslims. “Imagine, these people used to be our neighbors,” said the 40-year-old farmer, perplexed by the transformation. “Now they want to kidnap and kill us.” The predominant narrative of the Syrian war is that of a tyrannical government largely run by members of a Shiite sect, the Alawites, brutalizing a people yearning for freedom. However, in the largely Shiite towns and villages of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, people who have fled Syria tell a different story. They speak of an “ethnic cleansing” campaign carried out by rebels intent on creating an Islamic state run by Syria’s Sunni majority…

Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Chaldean Church Indian Christians Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch

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