11 April 2013
A groom and bride hold hands on their wedding day. (photo: CNS/Jon L. Hendricks)
The Vatican is taking a closer look at the challenges facing couples from different faiths who marry:
Catholics need to know that marrying someone from a different Christian community or, even more so, from a different religion will create extra challenges in their marriage, but church leaders also must learn how to help people in mixed marriages meet those challenges, a Vatican official said.
“We can express a positive judgment only when the conditions are met for a family life where the values and purposes of marriage are respected, and where a common faith in God helps the spouses to weave together an authentic communion of life and love,” said Bishop Jean Laffitte. …
He was commenting, in part, on a research project conducted by the Catholic bishops of Lebanon, which looked at the realities and challenges of marriages between Christians of different traditions and between a Catholic and a Muslim.
In an interview for the family council’s website — www.family.va — Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter, the Maronite patriarch, said Lebanon “is a mixed society: in schools, universities, towns and cities. We all live together,” and, naturally, that has given birth to many mixed marriages.
The study said there are positive experiences of marriages between a Christian and a Muslim in countries like Lebanon, where followers of the two faiths have lived side by side for centuries. The diversity of the country is one of its riches, which is reflected in the number of mixed marriages and strengthened by them as members of the communities grow closer, the study said. However, it also found that different understandings of the family, conjugal life and the roles of men and women can make Catholic-Muslim marriages a challenge.
The cardinal said that in Lebanon, “the judgment about mixed marriages is positive,” because they contribute to peaceful coexistence, including on a social and political level.
However, he also said, “we try not to encourage mixed marriages in order to preserve the faith and traditions” of the various communities, because studies show that often couples handle belonging to different faith communities by one or both of them limiting or eliminating their involvement in the community.
11 April 2013
Tags: Lebanon Unity Interreligious Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Interfaith
Pope Francis greets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a meeting at the Vatican
on 9 April. (photo: CNS/Vincenzo Pinto, pool via Reuters)
Pope meets with UN head, discusses crisis in Syria (CNS) Each recognizing the important role the other plays on the global stage, Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met at the Vatican 9 April, discussing common efforts to promote peace and protect human dignity. “The United Nations and the Holy See share common goals and ideals,” the U.N. secretary-general told the pope as the two sat across from each other at a desk in the papal library. Reporters were ushered out of the room at that point. The two spoke specifically about “situations of conflict and serious humanitarian emergencies, especially in Syria,” but also about the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula and in several African countries “where peace and stability are threatened,” said a statement from the Vatican press office…
Patriarch expresses concern about Christians in Syria (Christian Post) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter expressed concern on the situation of Christians in Syria and the increasing number of displaced Syrians living in Lebanon. During his meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris Tuesday, the patriarch said a large number of Orthodox Christians — about 60 percent of those displaced — had left Syria, and that the solution there must be political. He stressed that President Bashar al Assad is not worse than those who are fighting in Syria…
Kerala Muslim man receives gift of life from Catholic priest (Indian Express) Diagnosed with chronic kidney disease a year-and-a-half ago, 30-year-old Rasad Muhammad’s hope of living had sunk with each passing day as a donor remained elusive. Until last month, when his saviour appeared suddenly — in the form of a Christian priest he had never met before. Father Kidangathazhe Sebastian, 41, will donate one of his kidneys to Rasad so he can live. Preparations are under way, and the transplant surgery is likely to be performed next month…
‘Pacem en Terris’ 50 years later (Vatican Radio) Thursday, 11 April, marks half a century since Blessed John XXIII published his encyclical “Pacem in Terris.” This encyclical, which as the Latin title indicates focuses on peace on earth, called for social and international peace. With this document which can be perceived as Pope John XXIII’s last testament, published as it was only a couple of months before his death, he broke new ground…
10 April 2013
Tags: Kerala United Nations Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Patriarch Kirill
The Soorp Badarak, or Divine Liturgy, is celebrated daily by the Mekhitarist community of Armenian Catholic monks. A seminary is now flourishing in a land that suffered under decades of Communist oppression. Read more about it here. (photo: Onnik Krikorian)
10 April 2013
Tags: Armenia Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist Monasticism
In this video, Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from Ramtha, near the Syria-Jordan border, on the state of refugees. An estimated two-thirds of the 477,000 Syrians who have fled their homeland live outside of the camps set up for them in Jordan. Many are forced to crowd together in abandoned buildings, and all those outside the camps face the added challenges resulting from a smaller allocation of humanitarian aid. (video: Al Jazeera)
Rising cases of lice and scabies among Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Daily Star Lebanon) Lebanon’s Health Ministry said Wednesday cases of scabies and lice have increased among Syrian refugees and urged citizens to take precautionary measures. “The Health Ministry has recorded an increase in the number of scabies and lice cases, as a result of overpopulation and bad personal hygiene in locations where Syrian refugees reside,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry affirmed that these diseases were “not dangerous” and could be treated easily with medication that is available without any cost for citizens…
Chaldean bishop: Aleppo is starving (Fides) “One lives day by day. I have the impression that people are more and more exhausted. They have all become poor and everyone is always looking for something to eat for himself and his family. In the streets of Aleppo you can see the people that run endlessly with bags in their hand, trying to find a bit of bread,” said Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo. Bishop Audo, who is also the president of Caritas Syria, outlined a vivid image of the daily condition of a city that was among the most prosperous and dynamic in the Middle East, and which now appears hopelessly scarred by the civil war. The latest emergency that closely involves the churches in Aleppo is that of hundreds of Christian families forced to flee from the neighborhood of Cheikh Maksoud, conquered in the last days by the anti-Assad militias…
Unexploded devices pose hazard to Gaza children (Al Monitor) The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor mentions that the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories are “contaminated with mines and explosive remnants of war. The precise scope, scale and impact of the contamination is not known, but encompasses minefields, military-training zones and areas of confrontation where many explosive devices are left behind.” The presence of unexploded ordnances (UXOs) continues to pose a high risk to civilians, particularly children, in the Gaza Strip. Following Israel’s 23-day assault on Gaza in 2008-2009, which resulted in more than 1,500 Palestinians killed and over 5,300 injured, the risk of UXOs became significantly higher. A United Nations report released back in August 2009 shows than within only six months of the end of the deadly Israeli assault, 12 civilians were killed in UXO incidents, six of whom were children, and another 24 were injured, including four children. Four years later, such incidents have not ceased. In fact, they have notably increased…
Cardinal Tauran discusses interreligious dialogue (Chicago Tribune) Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has given many lectures, speeches and homilies during his years of Vatican diplomatic service. Tribune religion reporter Manya A. Brachear sat down with him to reflect on this and other matters. “You have to remember,” the cardinal says, “that interreligious dialogue is not dialogue between religions. It’s dialogue between believers. It’s not [merely] a theological, philosophical exercise…”
9 April 2013
Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Refugee Camps Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
In this image from last year, Cardinal and CNEWA Chair Timothy Dolan, wearing the cape of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, prays the rosary on steps of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer/NY Daily News)
The Catholic World Report recently offered a special report on the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem — an ancient charitable order that has close ties to CNEWA:
Almost a thousand years after its founding, an order of crusader knights remains active in the Holy Land. Its mission is not armed battle but the carrying out of the order’s original ideals: personal holiness, evangelization, defense of the weak and charity towards all. Its members also pledge to support the upkeep of the shrines where Christ was born, prayed, mounted his cross and rose from the dead.
Founded soon after the First Crusade, the pontifical Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem currently has some 28,000 clerical, religious and lay members across the globe. While the order’s titles, regalia and ceremonies of investiture come with great honor and dignity (and a rigorous nomination process), membership comes with a lifetime pledge of spiritual and worldly support for the Holy Land. As a result, the order offers countless prayers and millions of dollars annually to build, operate, maintain and expand schools, youth centers, hospitals, seminaries, homes for religious, pre- and post-natal clinics, and the only Catholic institution of higher education in Israel, Bethlehem University.
“Our primary aim is personal sanctification,” stresses Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, grand master of the worldwide order. “I am convinced that with this focus on holiness, the charism [to support the people and shrines of the Holy Land] comes into full bloom.” …
Michael La Civita is a knight commander in the order’s Eastern United States Lieutenancy. For over two decades he has worked for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a North American-based charitable provider that regularly partners with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. La Civita describes the work done in the Holy Land by the order as “mind boggling.”
In speaking of how the order’s local Lieutenancies partner with CNEWA, La Civita said that “whatever problem there is in the Holy Land, there is a lay person or priest or religious to heal, care and nurture people who absolutely need it.”
La Civita is especially pleased with the sponsorship of American seminarians for two-week pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The future priests pray, study Scripture and learn first-hand about the social and economic hardships of Christians and all people in the Middle East.
There’s much more. Read the rest. And you can learn more about the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem by checking out this profile from our magazine.
9 April 2013
Tags: CNEWA Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre
A young student poses for a picture at a Jesuit-run school in Minya, Upper Egypt. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we profiled some ambitious Jesuit-run schools in Egypt:
The Jesuits have a long history of being educators in Minya. On the same campus as the Center for the Handicapped is a primary and preparatory school founded in 1889. The Jesuit Fathers school also receives scholarship grants from CNEWA. The 800-pupil school is run by five Jesuit priests and one brother, two of whom are Egyptians, two are Maltese, one is French and the other is Dutch. Also on staff are a number of Christian and Muslim teachers.
Jesuit Father Joseph Mizi, the school’s director, said the school is one of the best in the district even though it primarily serves the poorer children of the area. Built in the 1880’s, the school was disguised so it would not look like a church. Today, it looks like any other school building, but the spire looks surprisingly like the minaret of a mosque. …
Christians make up about only 6 percent of the population, but with their many outstanding schools they have made a significant impact on the country. The Jesuits, by working with disabled persons and the very poor, are helping the nation’s most underprivileged to shine.
Read more about schools taking children From Dust to Dignity in the November-December 2002 issue of the magazine.
9 April 2013
Tags: Egypt Education Interreligious Catholic education
A man uses a bucket to put out a tear gas canister as Egyptians run inside St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo on 7 April, while police fire tear gas during clashes with Muslims. At least two people died during the clashes outside the cathedral, and more than 80 were injured. (photo: CNS/Asmaa Waguih, Reuters)
Coptic pope criticizes Egyptian president for handling of recent violence (AP) The leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church on Tuesday blasted the country’s Islamist president over his handling of recent deadly sectarian violence, including an attack on the main cathedral in Cairo. The remarks by Pope Tawadros II underscore rising Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt; they were his first direct criticism of President Mohammed Morsi since the patriarch was enthroned in November as the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Christians. He said Morsi had promised him in a telephone conversation to do everything to protect the cathedral, “but in reality he did not”…
Egypt government considering constitutional concessions (Daily Star Lebanon) Egypt’s Islamist-led government has asked independent legal experts to propose amendments to the new constitution, the state news agency MENA said on Tuesday, signaling that it may be heeding concerns of the liberal and leftist opposition. Members of Egypt’s main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, walked out of the drafting of the constitution last year in protest at what they saw as its Islamist slant, and have called for changes to enshrine more freedoms and rights, notably for religious minorities and women…
Maronite patriarch meets French president (Daily Star Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter met with French President Francois Hollande Monday at the Elysee Palace in Paris, the National News Agency reported. The patriarch headed to France Monday as part of an official visit. On Monday, he discussed with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius efforts to form a new cabinet in Lebanon and the issue of inter-Lebanese dialogue…
Bulgaria prays for hope (Vatican Radio) Bulgaria has begun three days of special prayers against suicide and nationwide pessimism after at least seven people set themselves on fire while protesting against poverty and corruption. Worshipers remember five Bulgarians who died and two who remain in critical condition by self-immolation. Bulgaria’s newly-elected Patriarch Neofit appealed to the faithful however not to take their own lives “under any circumstances.” He said: “Bulgarians must not fall victim of hopelessness.” An audio report can be found below the text of the story…
Catholicos Karekin II speaks at Armenian presidential inauguration (hetq) “With prayer and appeals for the radiant life of the homeland on our lips, we greet and extend our Pontifical blessings to you on the occasion of the inauguration of the President of the Republic of Armenia. … Since the reestablishment of independent statehood, our country has overcome terrible difficulties; it has traversed the demanding path of rebuilding and reformation. … On this occasion of the inauguration, we extend our exhortation to our people in the homeland and the diaspora, to implement unified efforts with the authorities of our country, for the sake of our homeland, the vibrancy of our national life and the manifestation of our hopes…”
Serbian Orthodox Church against deal with Kosovo Albanians (Fox News) The influential Serbian Orthodox Church has appealed against a deal with Kosovo Albanians that would pave the way for Serbia’s EU membership. The EU has given Serbia until Tuesday to say whether it would relinquish the control of northern of Kosovo — one of the most difficult issues dividing the former Serbian province — in exchange for the start of Serbia’s EU membership negotiations. Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej said in a letter Saturday addressed to Serbian leaders that they shouldn’t “give up, sell or betray” Kosovo for a “murky” EU membership promise…
8 April 2013
Tags: Egypt Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Serbian Orthodox Church Bulgaria Catholicos Karekin II
Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga presides over the Sunday liturgy at St. Nicholas Church. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
In 2006, we took readers to Uganda, for a glimpse at Africa’s thriving Orthodox faith:
Kampala is a city of clamor. Uganda’s capital, a metropolis of 1.2 million, lies in the rolling highlands surrounding Lake Victoria. The acoustics of the place are such that sounds rise to wash over its green hills like a gentle tide. Climb one of them any Sunday and listen, and up will waft Uganda in all its varied devotion: a muezzin’s call to prayer, an Anglican hymn, the gravelly bark of a born-again preacher — “Ha-lle-luiah!” The Church of St. Nicholas stands atop a hill called Namungoona on the outskirts of Kampala, up a winding dirt road from an open-air evangelical congregation and a Catholic church shaped like a pagoda. St. Nicholas’s is prim and yellow, with a peaked roof and windows of brightly colored stained glass.
On a recent soggy Sunday, worshipers filed inside to the clank of a bell, taking care as they entered to kiss a gold-bound copy of the Gospels that lay on a pedestal near the door. At the front of the church, before icons of Jesus, Mary and the congregation’s patron saint, stood a gray-bearded man bedecked in white vestments and a jeweled crown. He was Jonah Lwanga, Metropolitan of Kampala and All Uganda, and crammed into the rows of wooden pews before him, singing heartily in the local language, Luganda, was one of the most unlikely congregations in a nation renowned for its religious diversity. They were African followers of the Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa. According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But “all Africa,” for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara. Orthodox missionaries sat out the 19th century’s “scramble for Africa,” when European Catholics and Protestants fanned out across the continent to save souls and build colonies. The story of how the Alexandrian Church came to have an affiliate in faraway Uganda, a country with no previous connection to the Orthodox world, is therefore not a tale of white men bearing the message of God to a dark continent. Rather, the Ugandan church traces its roots to two Africans who, rebelling against colonial rule, fled to a religion they felt was pure and politically uncompromised. This makes Uganda’s small community of 60,000 Orthodox Christians nearly unique within their home country. They found their faith on their own.
Read the rest in the March 2006 issue of ONE.
8 April 2013
Tags: Christianity Africa Orthodox Church Orthodox
The above video report illustrates some of the violence that broke out near St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, and shares reactions from leaders and members of the public. (video: Al Jazeera)
One dead, dozens injured in riot after Egyptian Coptic funeral (Sky News) At least one person has died and more than 60 others have been injured in clashes outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo on Sunday, following a funeral for four Christians who were killed in sectarian clashes on Friday. Mourners, who were chanting against the Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, were pelted with stones and bottles as they left the funeral. The Copts inside the church complex responded in kind. Before long, people began throwing fire bombs. Black-clad riot police intervened, firing tear gas at the cathedral, witnesses said, but not before one person had been killed. “I consider all attacks on the church as an attack on me personally,” state television quoted Mr. Morsi as telling the pope…
Coptic Orthodox pope calls for wisdom and restraint (Fides) Following the assault against Copts outside of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II expressed his disapproval of the acts. Extending condolences to the families of Christians killed in recent violence, the patriarch has also also urged the Egyptian people to remain calm and continue to work towards national unity…
Unexpected wonders in Ethiopian rock churches (The Daily Mirror) Ethiopia, rich in culture and diverse natural wonders, is finally beginning to realize its potential as a tourist destination. One major attraction is the northern highlands — the traditional heart of the nation and its Orthodox Christian faith. The jewel in the crown is Lalibela, an incredible labyrinth of 11 monolithic churches, tunnels and catacombs carved out of the red volcanic rock. Many of the churches are freestanding; one is intricately shaped as a cross, while a few are still quite cave-like. Their construction is attributed to King Lalibela who reigned until 1221 and is said to have wanted to create a “New Jerusalem” after the old one was captured by Saladin. But how they were built has been lost in the fog of time…
Indian bishops reaffirm commitment to poor as Year of Faith focus (Fides) “There is an unbreakable bond between our faith and the poor,” the bishops of northeast India — a region troubled by social conflicts and inhabited by tribal people who often lack basic services — wrote in a joint pastoral letter reaffirming their commitment in favor of the poor and marginalized. The bishops of the region’s 15 dioceses met recently to take stock of the situation of the church issue a statement on the Year of Faith, appreciating and echoing the predilection for the poor that Pope Francis expressed at the beginning of his pontificate…
5 April 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Coptic Orthodox Church Ethiopian Christianity Indian Bishops
A street vendor in Beirut sells ka’ak, a bread stuffed with spices. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
Several years ago, we took a bite out of Lebanon — looking at some of the unique foods of the land of cedars:
Although you can list the essential ingredients of Lebanese cooking on the fingers of two hands, the variations and combinations are beyond simple arithmetic. These 10 ingredients are: wheat, olive oil, lemon juice, rice, onions, yogurt, garlic, (sesame seed paste), lentils and chickpeas.
Every vegetable and every fruit has its season. Lebanon’s varied climate guarantees fresh produce all year long while greenhouses coax tomatoes, cucumbers and beans into maturity.
Following harvesting, the local wheat becomes bread, and bread is a daily purchase. During the war, there were many curfews but doctors and bakers were excluded. An increase in the price of bread often triggers civil unrest in the Middle East. Give us this day our daily bread is not only a line from the Lord’s Prayer, it is a cry for action.
Read more “Food for Thought” in the September-October 2002 issue of the magazine.
Tags: Lebanon Beirut