24 March 2014
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church elected Bishop Naum of Stob, left, as the new metropolitan of Rousse. The post has been vacant since the election of Patriarch Neofit, right, in February 2013. (photo: Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit’s first ‘year of change’ (Sofia Globe) It was an eventful and significant year in the history of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church — not only because of the election of a new patriarch, not only because of the sudden and mysterious death of the influential Varna Metropolitan Kiril, but also primarily because the period has seen the emergence of processes and phenomena that will have a lasting impact in the future…
Egypt sentences 529 to death (Washington Post) An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 people to death, in the largest capital punishment case on record in Egypt, judicial authorities said Monday. The alleged supporters of ousted Islamist President Muhammad Morsi were convicted on charges of killing a single police officer, the attempted murder of two others, and attacking a police station in the Nile Valley city of Minya last August. Sixteen others were acquitted. The mass sentencing underscored the severity of an ongoing campaign by Egypt’s military-backed leaders to silence opposition here, eight months after a military coup ousted President Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader…
Pope Tawadros II laments Arab Spring as ‘winter’ (Fides) According to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, the “Arab Spring,” in reality, “was not a spring or even an autumn, it was a winter.” Pope Tawadros rejects any globally positive interpretation regarding the results caused by rebellions and conflicts that have devastated most of the Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Egypt, since the end of 2010…
In show of strength, Hamas supporters flood downtown Gaza (Christian Science Monitor) Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters thronged the streets of downtown Gaza City on Sunday, a show of strength at a time when the Islamic militant group faces its deepest crisis since seizing power seven years ago. Hamas is dealing with a severe financial shortfall, caused by heavy pressure from both Israel and Egypt. But leaders stressed that the group remains opposed to Mideast peace efforts and is ready for battle against Israel at any time…
Russian troops capture Ukraine’s last land base in Crimea (Los Angeles Times) Russian troops stormed and captured the Ukrainian military’s last remaining land base in Crimea on Monday, a Ukrainian official said. “Russian military are in a hurry to claim that there are no longer any Ukraine army bases in the peninsula to prevent the U.N. General Assembly from declaring Crimea a demilitarized zone at its session on Thursday,” said Dmitry Tymchuk, a Ukraine defense expert. “The General Assembly may theoretically demand that both Russia and Ukraine withdraw their troops from the peninsula, but Russia can make an argument that there are no Ukraine troops in Crimea any longer and prevent the issue from being discussed…”
Simferopol Eparchy denies expropriating property of the Kiev Patriarchate (Pravoslavie.ru) The press service of the Eparchy of Simferopol and Crimea have officially denied allegations currently being spread in the press that members of the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, along with armed individuals, are claiming church property of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, in the village of Perevalnoye in Crimea…
21 March 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Crimea Bulgarian Orthodox Church
A woman cries as she holds a boy at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria, on 6 March.
(photo: CNS/ Hosam Katan, Reuters)
Two weeks ago, Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Beirut, spoke to a meeting of Aid to the Church in Need in Kaslik, Lebanon. He described the humanitarian crisis in Syria:
The latest estimates published by the UNHCR show that 6.8 million people in Syria are needy, 5.25 million people internally displaced and an additional 2.2 million seeking refuge in neighboring countries from a conflict that has reportedly killed over 130,000 people.
Some areas face food shortages, and even areas that have been spared large-scale violence like Damascus lack sufficient quantities of gasoline, heating oil and cooking gas. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that by the end of 2014 around 70 percent of the Syrian population will need emergency food help.
Harsh winter weather had made matters worse, and people lack winter clothes, blankets and fuel, with women and children particularly at risk.
In the large city of Aleppo, a battle zone for the past 18 months, the price of bread has climbed in some places more than 15-fold to 250 Syrian pounds ($3.50) a kilo, while it is estimated that half of public hospitals have been damaged by the conflict.
The Syrian displaced families in general and the Christians in particular are facing serious challenges to provide the basic necessities for their children. The need is further inflated when it comes to families who found refuge within their confessional communities and remained unknown — not registered with an international organization whose main activities are concentrated at the large refugee camps.
You can read the full text of his speech here.
And visit this page to learn how you can help our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria.
21 March 2014
“If I preach, first of all I preach to myself, then I preach to the people. … I am doing my best to be a good example,” said Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I in this interview conducted in the summer of 2009, in which he discussed his life, his role as patriarch and more. “I am happy, even though I am now an old man,” he said, “but still, thank God, trying to continue my work for the benefit of the church.” (video: Melthodhaye)
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch passes away (Manorama Online) The head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Mar Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch and all the East, has passed away in a German hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 81. Patriarch Ignatius Zakka was the 122nd reigning Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and All the East. He was enthroned on 14 September, 1980, in St. George’s Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus. A prolific author, he was known for his involvement in ecumenical dialogue. He was an observer at the Second Vatican Council before becoming metropolitan bishop of Mosul…
Emergency in Ethiopia for tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees (Fides) There are between 72,000 and 100,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled to the western Ethiopian region of Gambella, according to estimates by some humanitarian organizations operating in the area. Clashes between government soldiers and rebels loyal to former Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar have forced several hundred thousand internally displaced people and refugees in neighboring countries, primarily Ethiopia, to flee…
Crimea spurs breakaway threats by Bosnian Serbs (World Bulletin) Russia’s seizure of Crimea, which contains an ethnic Russian majority, has again stirred dispute over the principle of sovereignty, last tested when the West supported Kosovo’s secession from Bosnia neighbor Serbia in 2008 over Russian objections. As time goes by another sovereign state could appear on the world map — the Serb Republic. Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik sees Bosnia as “a non-viable state” and describes the Crimean referendum as “an example of respect for the U.N. Charter and the right of people to self-determination…”
Violence rocks Iraq as elections approach (Der Spiegel) With just six weeks to go before parliamentary elections in Iraq, sectarian violence has once again gripped the country. Car bombs have become a regular occurrence and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is under fire. Another war could erupt in the struggle over Kirkuk and oil. The Iraqi legislature can agree on nothing of importance and its lawmakers hate each other…
20 March 2014
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Crimea Syriac Orthodox Church Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pope Francis waves as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican
on 19 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Fortune magazine has just published a list of the 50 greatest leaders in the world — and the Bishop of Rome tops the list:
When a reformer sweeps through an institution more forcefully in just a year than any other in memory — and when that institution is some 2,000 years old and the largest organization on earth — he draws attention, admiration, and wonder. That’s why Pope Francis leads our inaugural list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, and why he was proposed more often by our nominators than any other candidate. Reforming the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, finally beginning to address the child sexual abuse scandal, shaking up the Vatican’s self-absorbed bureaucracy, setting a striking new tone through his personal example of modesty and inclusiveness — this is what a great leader does.
The magazine describes Pope Francis this way:
Just over a year ago, a puff of white smoke announced the new spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world. In the brief time since, Francis has electrified the church and attracted legions of non-Catholic admirers by energetically setting a new direction. He has refused to occupy the palatial papal apartments, has washed the feet of a female Muslim prisoner, is driven around Rome in a Ford Focus, and famously asked “Who am I to judge?” with regard to the church’s view of gay members. He created a group of eight cardinals to advise him on reform, which a church historian calls the “most important step in the history of the church for the past 10 centuries.” Francis recently asked the world to stop the rock-star treatment. He knows that while revolutionary, his actions so far have mostly reflected a new tone and intentions. His hardest work lies ahead. And yet signs of a “Francis effect” abound: In a poll in March, one in four Catholics said they’d increased their charitable giving to the poor this year. Of those, 77% said it was due in part to the Pope.
Visit the Fortune link to see who else made the list.
20 March 2014
Pope Tawadros II celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the monastery of Wadi Natrun, northeast of Cairo, to commemorate the second anniversary of Pope Shenouda III’s passing. (photo: Coptic Orthodox Church)
Egypt’s Coptic pope to visit Moscow (Turkish Press) Preparations are in full swing for an expected visit to Moscow by Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II — his first trip to Russia since taking the helm of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church in 2012, a church source said Wednesday…
Ukraine announces plans to withdraw military personnel from Crimea (Al Jazeera) Hours after a group of armed men supported by Russian forces seized control of the Ukrainian naval headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on Wednesday, Kiev announced plans to evacuate all military personnel from the peninsula, The New York Times reported. Ukrainian national security head Andriy Parubiy announced the move, which effectively concedes loss of the territory to Russia…
Former Lebanese president warns religious diversity dying (Arab Daily News) Amine Gemayel, the former president of Lebanon from 1982 to 1988 and the leader of Lebanon’s Kataeb party, warned this week the Arab world is experiencing a “crisis of religious pluralism” driven by “the rise of religious extremists,” which threatens “any community which does not constitute the majority…”
How the West gas shaped Georgia’s self-image (New Eastern Europe) In the past couple years, Georgia has been Europeanizing: policies, practices and laws have been adjusted to European Union standards to secure an Association Agreement (A.A.), a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (D.C.F.T.A.) and a visa-free regime. However, we can observe the Europeanization not only of Georgia’s policies, but also of its political culture. Although the Georgian and European political cultures still have little in common, the West has become a key point of reference in the debates on Georgian national identity…
Zaatari refugee camp: Now with girl scouts and a Safeway store (NPR) On a sunny afternoon in the dusty, overcrowded Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, a group of Syrian girls recites a familiar scout pledge and hope to change their future. In this desolate place, the troop’s weekly meetings are a time to forget the horrors that forced these girls to flee Syria with their families. This week marks the third anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict, and this unofficial girl scout troop is a sign these girls may spend their childhood in exile and their families are learning to cope with what may be a long-term stay…
19 March 2014
Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Georgia Refugee Camps Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II
A Syrian girl in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp girl paints her vision of a perfect place to live.
(photo: CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)
With the number of Syrian refugees now soaring into the millions, CNS reports on one innovative effort to help the most vulnerable, the children:
As Syria’s civil war hurtles into its fourth year, hopes of returning home soon seem far off for the 2.5 million refugees sheltering in neighboring countries, like Jordan. Syrians are soon expected to overtake Afghans as the largest refugee population in the world, according to the United Nations.
Top U.N. officials warn that the grinding conflict will leave a generation of 5.5 million children — in and outside Syria — physically and emotionally scarred. But American street artist Samantha Robison is working hard to change that.
A native of Washington, D.C., Robison and her team of international artists paint alongside the refugee children, encouraging them to remain strong and positive in Jordan’s Zaatari camp.
Covered in splashes of paint in every color of the rainbow, Robison encourages a 9-year-old Syrian girl named Zeinab to express her future dreams through painting on a recycled tent tarp.
“I am drawing a bird flying in the air. To me, it represents the freedom we want,” the enthusiastic child said as she drew.
Peaceful demonstrations protesting the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted three years ago and were soon met by sniper fire from government troops before bursting into all-out civil war.
Robison said the young Syrian refugees at Zaatari remember the start of the conflict, but now look to the future.
“Yes, commemorate the three years, but also remember where they’ve come from and how much they’ve accomplished,” she said.
“Honor the human dignity and the next generation and the future of Syria. I think is where a lot of the energy needs to be focused,” she added, speaking of the children.
Read the rest.
And to learn how you can help needy children fleeing the war in Syria, visit our giving page.
19 March 2014
Syrian refugees collect food at the Bab al Salam refugee camp in Azaz, near the Syrian-Turkish border on 14 March. Catholic bishops of Syria called for a cease-fire in their country and for the pursuit of the Geneva peace talks to end the crisis. (photo: CNS/Hamid Khatib, Reuters)
Lebanon cannot bear brunt of Syrian refugee crisis alone, U.N. official warns (U.N. News Center) Massive international support is crucial as the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continues to rise and is on track to reaching 1.5 million by the end of this year, a senior United Nations humanitarian official stressed today. “It is imperative that the international community helps bear the brunt of the pressure on Lebanon,” Ross Mountain, the acting U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon, told a news conference in Geneva…
Israel strikes Syria in Golan Heights (Al Jazeera) Israeli warplanes unleashed airstrikes Wednesday against Syrian army targets in response to a roadside bombing in the Golan Heights that wounded four soldiers the day before, the Israeli military said. Tuesday’s roadside bombing and Wednesday’s strikes are the most significant escalation between Israel and Syria since the Syrian conflict began three years ago, though neither country has expressed interest in entering a war…
What has become of Syria’s revolutionaries (Der Spiegel) The Syrian civil war has caused great suffering since the protests against President Bashar Assad began three years ago. We revisit some of those people we have met in our reporting…
Pope grants radio interview, remembers priests close to the poor (Vatican Radio) In a video interview with an Argentinean radio station, Pope Francis called for the adoption of a spirit of poverty and defended priests, who live and work in slums among the poor. The radio station, which broadcasts from the slums of Buenos Aires, projected the video interview on a large screen in the local parish on the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate. This poor neighborhood, located close to the soccer stadium, includes the same slums where Pope Francis, as archbishop, would celebrate the Eucharist, spend time among the poor and assign priests to serve…
Ukrainian government condemns persecution of clerics in Crimea (RISU) On 18 March, the director of the Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, Volodymyr Yushkevych, issued a statement decrying the persecution of clerics in the Crimea. The document calls “to stop the practice of terror and to ensure respect for rights and liberties…”
Pro-Russian forces capture Ukrainian naval base in Crimea without firing a shot (Christian Science Monitor) Pro-Russian forces overran Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Crimea today, ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine a day after Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty paving the way toward annexation. Russian troops and unarmed militiamen stormed the naval headquarters in the port city of Sevastopol, according to Reuters, and raised the Russian flag. No shots were reported fired, and unarmed Ukrainian servicemen were seen leaving the building in civilian clothing an hour later. Ukraine’s government in Kiev, which refuses to recognize Crimea’s annexation, took a firmer tone, vowing today not to withdraw its military from Crimea, according to The Washington Post…
Moscow moves to destabilize eastern Ukraine (Der Spiegel) It’s not only in Crimea where Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing with fire, but also in eastern Ukraine. The majority of the people in the economically powerful region speaks Russian and rejects the new government in Kiev…
18 March 2014
Tags: Syria Ukraine Refugees United Nations Crimea
Rev. Mykola Kvych with his Crimean parishioners blesses Holy Water during the
Feast of Theophany. (photo: kapelanstvo.com.ua)
Over the weekend, the Ukrainian community was shocked to learn about the abduction of a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest by armed men in the Crimea.
On Saturday, 15 March, a group of militants kidnapped Rev. Mykola Kvych from his parish church, Assumption of the Virgin Mary, in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Besides providing pastoral care to the local Ukrainian Greek Catholic population, Father Kvych has also been ministering as a chaplain at the Ukrainian navy base. After several hours of interrogation and torture, the priest was released. However, his kidnappers reportedly warned him that if he continues his ministry, he will be tried and punished severely.
Two other Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests — Rev. Ihor Havryliv and Rev. Bogdan Kostecki — have also reportedly been approached and threatened by radicals because of their pastoral work. But reports indicate priests have been resisting intimidation tactics. Catholic News Agency reported on Sunday:
Priests in Crimea of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has received numerous oral and written threats in recent weeks, as military tensions have escalated on the peninsula; several were warned to leave Crimea, yet have remained with their flock.
“Our priests and bishops have been very close to the people,” said Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Vladimir-Le-Grand of Paris, according to Vatican Radio. “We’ve been inspired by the example of Our Lord (who) went a long distance from fellowship with the Father to incarnate himself and be in our reality.”
The church’s priests in Crimea have been inspired by Pope Francis, “who said a pastor needs to have the smell of his sheep. And our pastors have been with the people, and they’re today with the people enduring this occupation in the Crimea,” Bishop Gudziak noted.
“Every abduction is a terrible event for everybody involved,” the bishop stated, emphasizing that “it’s a gross violation of human rights and God-given human dignity.”
Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom, Andrew Bennett, has expressed concern over the situation, stating, “On behalf of all Canadians who value freedom of religion and adherence to the rule of law, we call for an end to such practices of intimidation and for those responsible to be brought to justice.”
To help the Ukrainian Catholic Church in its peacebuilding mission in Ukraine, please visit this page.
18 March 2014
A Ukrainian woman in Malaga, Spain, cries during a 16 March protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine. Pope Francis met privately at the Vatican with the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church on 17 March, the day after pro-Russian voters on the Crimean peninsula voted to secede from Ukraine in a referendum the United States and European Union called illegal. (photo: CNS/Jon Nazca, Reuters)
18 March 2014
Istafanos Youssif, a university student from the port city of Suez, Egypt, stands inside the damaged Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Suez on 28 February. The church was among dozens of Christian properties that came under attack last August in the predominantly Muslim country. (photo: CNS/James Martone)
Egypt’s human rights situation is going from ugly to uglier (Christian Science Monitor) The severe abuses meted out to Egyptian citizens are gradually crushing any hopes of a pluralistic, truly democratic society. Jails teem with some 16,000 political activists; torture in detention centers and police stations reported to be growing more prevalent, not less so; and the taboo broken last August when the military attacked a Muslim Brotherhood protest camp at Rabaa al Adawey square. The group has since been outlawed. And while it’s true that the group’s supporters are bearing the brunt of the crackdown, it goes much wider…
A priest braces for the conquest of Crimea (Time) Archbishop Kliment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate began evacuating the holy icons from his church about two weeks ago, as soon as he realized that the region of Crimea, where he serves as the leader of his faith community, would soon fall to the Russians. He wasn’t so much afraid of looting or arson from the Russian soldiers occupying his region of Ukraine, although that concerned him too. He was preparing for nothing less than the nullification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Under Russian rule, “we will simply be liquidated,” he says. “Our church is an enemy to the order that Russia would impose here, and our churches would be either looted or in the best case forced to close…”
Russia moves to annex Crimea with Putin decree (Vatican Radio) Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognized Crimea as an independent state and says approving the region’s entry into the Russian Federation makes sense. He informed Russia’s parliament shortly after the European Union and the United States announced sanctions against dozens of officials from Russia and Ukraine who they blame for Russia’s military incursion into Crimea…
Scores killed and scores injured in Iraq attacks (AINA) Heavily armed militants attacked the home of a militiaman north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing and decapitating his wife and two sons and killing another person in a brutal assault before dawn. In the Baghdad area on Sunday, meanwhile, a bombing and two shootings killed three people, security and medical officials said. The latest bloodshed came a day after five car bombs were set off in commercial areas of the Iraqi capital, killing 15 people and wounding more than 50 others…
Tags: Iraq Egypt Ukraine Russia Crimea