11 March 2013
In this image from last December, a blind man walks past cars and buildings damaged in fighting in the old city of Aleppo, Syria. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)
Few civilian areas remain untouched by Syrian war (Reuters) Few civilian areas in Syria remain untouched by the country’s two-year civil war and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced internally, according to the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria. Over the past two months, there has been a dramatic erosion of areas inside Syria where civilians are able to live unaffected by the violence and destruction caused by the conflict,” the panel told the Human Rights Council in Geneva today, according to an advance copy of its presentation. In its latest report, the commission said the collapse of Syria’s economy has crippled citizens’ access to basic economic and social rights...
UN: Syrian refugees top one million (Vatican Radio) The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says number of Syrians who have fled the conflict to other countries has now reached the one million mark. The agency says about half of the refugees are children, the majority under the age of eleven...
Timetable announced for conclave (VIS) During the course of the briefing for journalists on Saturday in the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, outlined a timetable for the ceremonies and proceedings on the first days of the upcoming Conclave...
Egyptian Christian reportedly dies in Libyan custody (Associated Press) An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official says a man suspected of trying to spread Christianity in Libya has died in prison there. The diplomat says Ezzat Atallah, who suffered from diabetes and heart ailments, likely died of natural causes. He spoke anonymously Sunday in line with regulations. Atallah was among five Evangelical Christian Egyptians detained in Libya for allegedly proselytizing in the predominantly Muslim nation...
8 March 2013
Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Pope Benedict XVI Libya
Workers cover the floor of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel on 8 March in preparation for the papal conclave. Cardinal electors assembled in Rome will begin voting for the next pope on 12 March. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
It was announced today that cardinals will begin the process to elect the pope next Tuesday:
Cardinal electors assembled in Rome will begin voting for the next pope on 12 March.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, announced the date for the start of the election, known as a conclave, in a message to reporters on 8 March.
The first session of voting inside the Sistine Chapel will begin in the afternoon, following a morning Mass “Pro eligendo Summo Pontifice” (“for the election of the supreme pontiff”) in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Rules governing papal elections state that a conclave must start between 15 and 20 days after the Holy See falls vacant; but shortly before his resignation on 28 February, Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree allowing cardinal to move up the start date if they choose.
The College of Cardinals decided the date on the fifth day of its pre-conclave meetings, after waiting for the 115 cardinals eligible and expected to vote. The last to arrive in Rome was Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, who joined the others on 7 March.
At the morning session on 8 March, before announcing the scheduled vote, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, told the assembly that with the changes made by Pope Benedict, the cardinals would not have to debate on whether they were authorized to begin the conclave before 15 March, Father Lombardi said.
8 March 2013
Tags: Vatican Pope Papacy Rome
Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit was elected and enthroned on Sunday, 24 February 2013, following the death of Patriarch Maxim on 6 November. (photo: Russian Orthodox Church)
Bulgarian Orthodox patriarch urges against further protester suicides (Sofia Globe) Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit has called on protesters not to go to the extreme of committing suicide, an appeal made after three cases of self-immolation in the country in recent weeks. The death of Plamen Goranov, who died several days after setting himself on fire outside the Varna municipal offices after calling on mayor Kiril Yordanov to resign, was at the forefront of national attention and prompted the Cabinet to declare a day of national mourning on 6 March. The church leader said that the suicide was tragic, and whatever the motives and goals, they were in contradiction with Christian morality…
Cardinal Timothy Dolan shares a glimpse of the cardinals’ activities (Archdiocese of NY) “We cardinals sure are praying a lot. Every day we each begin with the most effective prayer of all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In our sessions we pray from the Divine Office, begin each meeting with the ancient prayer to the third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Veni Sancte Spiritus, and we break at lunch with the beautiful words of the Angelus. Wednesday, we cardinals made a Holy Hour of adoration before Jesus, really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica. We’re praying a lot; and, from what I hear, so are you. Thanks! … We spend most of our time discussing issues such as preaching; teaching the faith; celebrating the seven sacraments; inviting back those believers who have left; serving the sick and poor…”
Cardinals to vote on conclave date tonight (VIS) “The eighth General Congregation that will meet this evening will vote on the date to begin the conclave,” announced Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. “It is likely,” he clarified, “that the Conclave will begin early next week: perhaps Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. It definitely will not be tomorrow or Sunday. Tomorrow a General Congregation will only take place in the morning and on Sunday it is expected that the cardinals will visit their titular churches in the city to pray. They are under no obligation to do so, but it is likely that they will”…
Concerns over Islamic extremism bringing Eastern Christian churches closer (Al Monitor) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter last month conducted a four-day visit to Moscow on the invitation of Patriarch Kirill I. The meeting is significant and constitutes an advanced step taken by the Maronite leader to bring Eastern churches of various doctrines into closer cooperation. The Kremlin and the Vatican have both expressed support for such endeavors seeking to protect the Christian minorities in the East, whose survival is being challenged by the dominance of Islamic forces over the Arab Spring movements. An inside source says the patriarchs discussed several topics related to preserving and fortifying the Christian presence in the Middle East — and the Maronite patriarchal edifice in Lebanon represents a strategic fulcrum in this regard. Lebanon is a rallying point for Christian presence in the region…
A mother inspires the fight for Palestinian rights (Al Monitor) On 8 March every year, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements for International Women’s Day. In the spirit of the day, lawyer-activist Shireen Issawi writes about how her mother inspired her and her brother, Samer Issawi, who has been on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison for some 222 days, to fight for Palestinian independence…
7 March 2013
Tags: Vatican Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Palestinians Patriarch Kirill Papacy
In Ohrid, Macedonia, a priest takes to the streets, blessing the faithful with holy water. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2004, writer Sean Sprague visited a corner of Macedonia to report on the thriving faith of the Orthodox:
Although Macedonia became a republic within the newly created Yugoslav federation, which also included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, the Communist government of Josip Broz Tito encouraged Macedonian nationalists and the independence of the Church of Ohrid — if only to irritate Greek ambitions in the area.
The Archdiocese of Ohrid was restored in 1958. Nine years later on the 200th anniversary of its dissolution and despite opposition from the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church proclaimed itself autocephalous.
“We are now a free church and a free people,” exclaimed Father Eftim Betinski, a parish priest from St. George Church. “Now that we have independence, people feel free to visit churches, participate in public ceremonies and make old traditions a part of their lives again.”
When Macedonia was a part of Yugoslavia, people were free to worship, but the Communist government discouraged public religious activities.
“We have an annual tradition where the bishop throws a cross into the lake on 19 January, symbolizing the baptism of Christ. Men dive into the frigid water to retrieve the cross and the one who finds it keeps it for 40 days and receives small donations from people,” Father Betinski said. “The practice used to be forbidden, but now it is allowed.”
The Macedonian Orthodox Church — now under the leadership of Stefan, Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia — is clearly growing.
Read more about the Macedonian Orthodox in Answering the Macedonian Question from the July 2004 issue of ONE.
7 March 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Eastern Europe Communism/Communist Macedonia Macedonian Orthodox Church
In this 20 October 2011 photo, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter listens to a reporter’s question during a news conference at CNEWA’s New York headquarters, with CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar seated nearby. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Cardinal and patriarch discusses conclave from a Middle Eastern perspective (Vatican Insider) He was one of the last to land in Rome but he got to work immediately alongside the other cardinals. Yesterday, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch, Cardinal Bechara Peter, handed cardinals a dossier on the situation of Christians in the Middle East: “The universal church and the next pope must never forget that Christianity has its origins in the Middle East. And they should keep in mind what is happening to Christian communities in the Middle East. This is a priority that cannot be ignored,” the Lebanese cardinal told Vatican Insider in an exclusive interview…
Maronite patriarch selected as cardinal assistant (Daily Star Lebanon) Cardinal and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter has been very busy; aside from advocating for Middle East Christians to the rest of the cardinals in Rome for the conclave (see above) and actively and vigorously pursuing ecumenical relations (see yesterday), now he has been selected as a cardinal assistant, one of the three charged with helping the Cardinal Camerlengo Tarcisio Bertone manage the day-to-day operations of the Vatican…
No conclave date, but cardinals develop ‘profile’ of new pope (CNS) Although the world’s cardinals have not set a date to begin the conclave to elect a new pope, they have begun discussing “the profile” required of the next pope to meet the needs of the church, the Vatican spokesman says. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, like everyone in the hall for the cardinals’ meetings, has taken an oath of secrecy, although he is allowed to give the press an idea of the broad themes discussed. During the 6 March session, he said, 18 cardinals spoke and the principal themes were: “The church in the world today and the needs for the new evangelization; the Holy See, the Roman Curia and their relationship with the bishops; the expectations for and a profile of the future pope that result from these expectations of the world and the needs for the good governing of the church”…
Syrian rebels claim U.N. observers were rescued, not kidnapped (Washington Post) A Syrian rebel group that once claimed it had abducted a group of about 20 United Nations observers in the Golan Heights announced Thursday that it had in fact rescued them from fighting in the area and called on the U.N. to send a security convoy to pick them up. The announcement by the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade was posted on the same Facebook page that was used to publicize the abduction Wednesday. A video in which the kidnappers warned that the observers would not be released until Syrian President Bashar al Assad withdrew troops from the area had been deleted. “With God’s help we managed to secure a group of U.N. members working in the border town of Jamleh after they were victims of the criminal shelling of Assad’s gangs,” the statement said. “We request from the United Nations to send us a security convoy so that we can deliver them to the organization. … We have nothing to do with any of the old statements before this one”…
Upcoming Egyptian elections cancelled (Turkish Weekly) The Egyptian Administrative Court on Wednesday cancelled President Mohammad Morsi’s four-stage elections planned for 21 April. The Court said the Egyptian Constitutional Court’s demand for changes in the elections laws were not implemented. Political experts expect the Egyptian Administrative Court’s decision to increase tension in the country…
6 March 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Vatican Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Papacy
Patriarch Louis Raphael I stands with his crosier after being enthroned as the new head of the Chaldean Church at St. Joseph Chaldean Church in Baghdad on 6 March. For more on the Chaldean Catholic Church, check out this overview or our more-recent profile in ONE. (photo: CNS/Saad Shalash, Reuters)
6 March 2013
Tags: Chaldean Church Patriarchs Eastern Catholic Churches
In this 28 February photo, U.S. Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Sean P. O’Malley of Boston leave the Pontifical North American College in Rome on their way to a final meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. In the lead-up to the conclave, U.S. cardinals have canceled their popular daily press briefings. (photo: CNS/Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)
American cardinals cancel press briefings ahead of conclave (CBS News) The U.S. cardinals in Rome for the conclave to elect the next pope canceled their popular daily press briefings Wednesday after some details of the secret proceedings under way ahead of the election were purportedly leaked to Italian newspapers. The Vatican denies it had exerted any pressure on the American cardinals to keep quiet. But the Vatican spokesman, the Father Federico Lombardi, made clear that the Holy See considered this week’s pre-conclave meetings, in which cardinals are discussing the problems of the church, to be secret and part of a solemn process to choose a pope. “The college as a whole has decided to maintain a line of an increasing degree of reserve,” he said…
Maronite patriarch says ecumenical summit ahead (Fides) “We are preparing a meeting of all Orthodox and Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East, to promote unity among Christians and deal with the problems and suffering that we share in this difficult moment in history,” said Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Antioch, currently in Rome for the conclave. Patriarch Bechara Peter has been laying the groundwork for such ecumenical activities for some time: In early November, he had attended the enthronement of the new Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II; more recently, he was the only patriarch present at the enthronement of the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch, held in Damascus on 10 February; and shortly before arriving in Rome for the conclave, the Maronite patriarch had been in meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Though ecumenism is often an ideal professed and studied, Patriarch Bechara Peter seeks something more: “We are talking about concrete ecumenism, without much talking. It is ecumenism that many baptized are already living in their daily lives.”
Chaldean Church enthrones new patriarch (The Province) Iraq’s Chaldean Church enthroned a new patriarch during a ceremonial mass Wednesday that was held amid tight security in Baghdad. The mass at St. Joseph Chaldean Church in downtown Baghdad marked the final step as Patriarch Louis Raphael I, 64, replaced Emmanuel III Delly, who recently retired. The former archbishop of Kirkuk was elected patriarch last month, and Pope Benedict XVI approved the election shortly afterward. Ordained in 1974, Patriarch Louis Raphael earned two doctorates in Rome and Paris in the 1980s and then returned to Iraq. He has written books on church fathers. He speaks Arabic, Chaldean, English, French and Italian. During Wednesday’s ceremony, the new patriarch urged Christians not to emigrate from Iraq, and pledged to foster interfaith dialogue and understanding…
Orthodox Church in Syria provides aid to conflict victims (Ekklesia) The Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, based in Damascus, has delivered around 75,000 humanitarian aid kits to an estimated 280,045 individuals in Syria amidst its ongoing conflict. According to recent reports issued by the United Nations, more than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria, while nearly a million have been displaced due to the armed conflict. The DERD has been distributing food and non-food essentials to the affected people around Damascus. It has been providing assistance in the areas of housing, health, nutrition, education and psychological support…
Ancient Palestinian village threatened by Israeli settlements (Al-Monitor) Less than ten miles outside the northern West Bank city of Nablus lies a sleepy town with an ancient and little-known history embedded in its ancient temple, tower and columns. Sebastia, according to Christian tradition, is where the body of John the Baptist was found, and during the Crusades, a cathedral was built over his tomb. Years later, Muslims returning to the area under the rule of Salah al Din transformed the cathedral into a mosque. The town also contains Roman, Herodian, medieval and Byzantine relics and ruins, which, peppered among the olive groves, makes it an ideal destination for Palestinian visitors and tourists alike. But according to residents, the town is becoming increasingly threatened by the nearby settlement of Shavei Shomron, whose residents are constantly uprooting olive trees and, more recently, pumping their sewage waste onto the Palestinian fields their settlement overlooks…
5 March 2013
Tags: Vatican Israeli-Palestinian conflict Chaldean Church Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
The stovepipe that carries the smoke from burning conclave ballots and documents is seen in the Sistine Chapel after it was made ready for the 2005 conclave. Both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have remarked on the inspiration of Michelangelo’s frescos during the deliberations and rituals of the conclave. Reports indicate that the Sistine Chapel will be closed to the public after Tuesday, to prepare for the conclave. (photo: CNS)
Amid building anticipation for the beginning of the conclave, those cardinals who participated in the 2005 conclave recount their experiences. CNS reports:
Less than half of the 117 cardinals eligible to vote for a successor to Pope Benedict XVI were in the 2005 conclave that elected him.
Two of those that were — Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa and South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier — described the scene as being one of deep prayer and trembling.
Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga told Catholic News Service that, during the conclave, the cardinals spend most of their time in the Sistine Chapel, even though they cast ballots only four times a day.
The time in the chapel includes prayer, writing names on ballots and counting them. But when casting each vote, each cardinal must stand and publicly swear, in Latin, that he is voting according to his conscience. With 115 cardinal-electors expected, that will take time.
“In front of the crucifix and in front of the ’Final Judgment’ painting, we say, ’I call Jesus as a witness, and he will judge me that I have elected according to my conscience,’ so you can imagine … why it takes so long. And in the meantime, when everybody is casting their votes, we are praying, so it is like a big cenacle of prayer.”
“This is beautiful,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said. “This is the most loving experience, how an election should be. I wish all the elections in the world could be like that: in an atmosphere of prayer.” …
U.S. Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, who celebrated his 80th birthday last July and is ineligible to enter this conclave, told CNS, “The conclave is basically an extended liturgy,” with prayer punctuating every moment of the day, including the voting.
Read the rest here.
5 March 2013
Tags: Vatican Catholic Church Papacy Catholicism
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter, patriarch of the Maronite Church, and Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, arrive for a general congregation meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican on 5 March. The world’s cardinals are meeting for several days in advance of the conclave to elect the new pope. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
General congregations: five more cardinal electors swear oath (Vatican Radio) On Monday evening, the College of Cardinals gathered in the New Synod Hall for the second general congregation in preparation for conclave. With the addition of five more cardinal electors swearing the oath before the college, only eight cardinals have yet to arrive in Rome. The five new arrivals came from far and wide: from Lebanon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter; from Germany, Cardinal Woelki of Berlin and Cardinal Meissner of Cologne; from the Czech Republic, Cardinal Duka of Prague; and from Senegal, Cardinal Sarr of Dakar…
Conflict widens as Syrian soldiers massacred in Iraq (New York Times) More than 40 Syrian soldiers who had sought temporary safety in Iraq from rebel fighters along the border were killed on Monday in an attack by unidentified gunmen as the Iraqi military was transporting the soldiers back to Syria in a bus convoy, the Iraqi government said. At least seven Iraqis were also reported killed in the attack, which appeared to be the most serious spillover of violence into Iraq since the Syrian conflict began two years ago. The attack threatens to inflame the sectarian tensions that already divide Iraq, where a Sunni minority sympathizes with Syria’s overwhelmingly Sunni opposition…
Relief agencies struggle as Syrian refugee population nears 1 million (Washington Post) As a mass Syrian emigration spills into neighboring countries, relief organizations acknowledge that they can hardly keep up. The exodus is accelerating so quickly that the tally of need will almost certainly hit a grim milestone this week, when the number of Syrian refugees who have registered with the United Nations — or are on months-long waiting lists to do so — is expected to hit 1 million. Aid officials say Syrians fleeing violence are stepping into a growing humanitarian catastrophe, either in overcrowded camps with little to offer or, even more frequently, in urban areas that struggle to support them and where the welcome has worn thin. The crisis is compounded by a growing funding gap, which U.N. agencies say is forcing cutbacks on basic supplies and shelter…
Ethiopia: the first Christian nation? (International Business Times) For centuries, historians have widely accepted the argument that Armenia was the first Christian nation. This important claim has become a source of national pride for Armenians and has remained virtually undisputed for centuries — until now. A new book presents evidence that Ethiopia may have been the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion, drawing upon coinage and public records dating back most of two thousand years…
4 March 2013
Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Syrian Civil War Vatican Ethiopian Christianity
Avery Kemp, the daughter of a staff member, cozies up to centenarian Rebecca Rowe during a celebration of those 100 years or older at the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence in Washington. (photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec)
Bob Pape is Director of Major Gifts for CNEWA.
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