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Winter, 2016
Volume 42, Number 4
  
30 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Palestinian students study on the campus of Bethlehem University in the West Bank on 13 September 2012. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Students discuss Bethlehem University (Vatican Radio) The only Catholic University in the West Bank is in Bethlehem. Veronica Scarisbrick recently visited the students there together with a delegation of bishops from Europe and North America, known as the 13th annual Holy Land Coordination. Founded following Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Holy Land in 1964, the university is supported by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and organizations like CNEWA, and run by the De La Salle Brothers. It is open to students of all faiths. And as Ms. Scarisbrick discovered, Christian students there are a minority. The embedded audio file contains her conversation with three students, one of whom is Muslim, as they highlight the bonds of friendship and understanding that develop amongst themselves, as well as their shared desire to live in the Holy Land despite their struggles…

Armenian Catholic archbishop: Syrians face ‘daily horror’ (Fides) “The effect of the condition in which we have been living for more than a year is that we are now addicted to horror everyday.” This is how the Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati of Aleppo describes the devastating situation experienced by the inhabitants of the Syrian metropolis, where yesterday dozens of corpses of young victims were found. “There is always new news of massacres, there is the constant noise of bombing, one lives in a state of tension and fear day and night and there is a struggle to survive in a daily life in which there is not even water to drink and fuel to heat homes. As we are overwhelmed by all this,” the Archbishop explained, “there is almost no time to become aware of the terrible things in which we are immersed. The massacre at [Aleppo] University a few days ago, where we lost poor Sister Rima, already seems a distant thing”…

Syria’s Aleppo University tries to carry on after mystery blasts (L.A. Times) Before the first explosion, Laila and fellow architecture students at Aleppo University in Syria had gathered by chance in a stairwell, which shielded them from flying glass and shrapnel. In an instant, the less fortunate lay dead and injured amid the scattered debris. A second blast a few minutes later hit a dormitory across the street, causing more casualties. The twin explosions two weeks ago that killed more than 80 people and wounded 150 also left Laila determined to return to the university as exams and normal class schedules resumed Tuesday for the first time since the blasts. “If we don’t continue attending classes, we will become a backward country,” said Laila, 22, who used her Red Crescent training to aid victims at the chaotic scene. The blasts, apparently caused by a pair of missiles, were among the deadliest and most stunning of Syria’s almost two-year civil conflict, spurring global revulsion at a frontal assault against one of the nation’s leading educational institutions…

Egypt shudders, with leadership nowhere in sight (Christian Science Monitor) “The continuation of this struggle between the different political forces ... could lead to the collapse of the state.” Those were the words of Egyptian Army chief Abdel Fatah al Sissi to military academy students, in a speech posted online today. When the Egyptian military warns of state collapse, it’s time to start worrying. Though a coup is unlikely, that’s always a subtext when senior officers start talking about those incompetent civilian politicians failing to safeguard the very state itself. And it’s worrying enough that he might even believe it. But the fact is that Egypt is now at yet another dangerously chaotic, polarized point, with at least 50 people dead from four days of clashes in Cairo and the main cities of the economically vital Canal Zone under a state of emergency, with soldiers on the streets. The formation of a national consensus about the future from the elections of the past two years? It never happened. Instead, Egypt today has a Muslim Brotherhood president and a Constitution bitterly opposed by the opposition…

CNEWA aiding refugees in Jordan (Vatican Radio) CNEWA is calling on the international community to help Amman meet the growing needs of Syrian refugees flooding over the border into Jordan. CNEWA regional director Ra’ed Bahou told Vatican Radio that some 300,000 Syrian refugees are in Jordan now but, given the current economic crisis, the government is unable to cover the costs alone. “The situation of refugees coming from Syria is ... they are in a very desperate situation,” says Bahou. “We have 300,000 Syrian people in Jordan. 60,000 in a camp called Zaatari camp, the majority are Muslims in these camps. The conditions in these camps are very difficult.” Rigid temperatures and beating rain has made much of this winter miserable for the refugees, huddled around stoves in makeshift tents - causing serious health and safety concerns. A small Catholic aid agency, CNEWA provides what help it can to the refugees, including distributing food, clothing and sanitary supplies; offering education, counselling and catechesis. Embedded at the bottom is an extended interview with Mr. Bahou…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Armenian Catholic Church Multiculturalism Bethlehem University

29 January 2013
Greg Kandra




CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, visited Rome earlier this month, and a few high-profile media outlets covered some presentations involving our work.

First, Rome Reports interviewed Msgr. Kozar. The video is below:



Catholic News Service also spoke with Msgr. Kozar, who emphasized that preserving the church’s diversity is a matter of faith, not nostalgia:



Finally, EWTN’s Rome bureau chief Joan Lewis was on hand, too:

I’ve been out for much of the day at a variety of meetings, including one late afternoon gathering for a small group of journalists at the Rome offices of CNEWA — the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. It was a fascinating roundtable presentation and discussion with New York-based Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA president, and CNEWA’s three Middle East regional directors. Joining Msgr. Kozar were Ra’ed Bahou from Amman, Jordan; Issam Bishara from Beirut; and Sami El-Yousef from Jerusalem.

Also in attendance were Archbishop Terence Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada, who heads CNEWA in that country, and Carl Hétu, who spearheads CNEWA’s work in Canada. You’ll be hearing more about CNEWA’s amazing work in future columns and interviews for Vatican Insider. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is Chair of the Board of CNEWA.

Wednesday, Msgr. Kozar addressed over 100 prominent Italians about the needs of Eastern Christians, especially those of the Middle East, at the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Rome. He spoke in the presence of the Order’s Grand Master, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien and co-host, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches.

Msgr. Kozar highlighted the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy but noted the “thousands of volunteers came from far and wide to assist the victims of this horrific storm to help people rebuild.”

He then said, “almost every day, in an area of the world called the Middle East, people face forces far greater than the destruction of a hurricane: they face the storms of conflict, hostility, hatred, poverty, injustice and religious and political persecution. At times, there is little hope of survival, let alone the opportunity to rebuild and to live in peace with hope.

“The Catholic Church in this part of the world,” said the CNEWA president, “especially its family of Eastern churches, is small in number, but deeply rooted in the history, culture and fabric of society in the Middle East. It is the presence of the church that offers the poor, the oppressed and the victims of the daily storms of life a sign of hope, where otherwise there would be only flight, fear and despair.

Visit EWTN’s website for more.



Tags: CNEWA Middle East CNEWA Canada Media CNEWA Pontifical Mission

29 January 2013
Greg Kandra




An Ethiopian boy stands outside the Mevaseret immigrant absorption center near Jerusalem. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

A few years ago, we took a look at a particularly interesting demographic in the Holy Land: Jews who had moved to Israel from Ethiopia:

“Everything was difficult,” said Bat-El Ananey, a 28-year-old attorney, as she recalled her family’s culture shock when they first arrived in Israel from the African nation of Ethiopia.

“We came from a place with no toilets, no electricity, no telephones or television. I remember fetching drinking water from the river,” she continued. “And we had never seen white Jews before!”

Ms. Ananey and her family are among the 110,000 Ethiopian Jews, known as the Beta Israel, or House of Israel, who today call Israel home. For thousands of years, the Beta Israel lived in obscurity in northwestern Ethiopia, where they observed a form of Judaism that predates the rabbinical form practiced by most Jews since the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, Ethiopia’s great famine in 1984 and the West’s response ended their relative isolation and irrevocably altered their fortunes.

Read more about Challenges For A Land of Immigrants in the November 2008 issue of ONE.



Tags: Ethiopia Israel Immigration Ethiopian Jews

29 January 2013
Greg Kandra




In this October 2011 photo, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter speaks to reporters at CNEWA’s office in New York. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Someone familiar to all of us at CNEWA will be preparing the Way of the Cross, which is prayed in Rome’s Coliseum on Good Friday: Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch. (The VIS announcement is here.)

In 2011, before he was named a cardinal, the patriarch paid us a visit here in New York. The visit attracted lots of media attention at the time.

More recently, the cardinal played a critical role in Pope Benedict’s historic trip to Lebanon.

The cardinal joins a long and storied list of contributors to this particular devotion. Last year, for the first time, a married couple, Danilo and Anna Maria Zanzucchi, composed the meditations. In 2005, the meditations and prayers were written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Below is a video report, from Rome Reports:



Tags: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Prayers/Hymns/Saints Rome Maronite Catholic

29 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Patriarch Emmanuel III of Baghdad attends Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this 14 March 2012 file photo. The 85-year-old prelate recently resigned for health reasons. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Chaldean leaders gather for election of new patriarch (Vatican Radio) The Synod of the Chaldean Catholic Church has convened in Rome to elect a new patriarch of Babylon. The 15 bishops of the Chaldean synod are meeting under the direction of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. After a spiritual retreat on Monday, 28 January, they will precede to discussing the future of the Chaldean Church, which is centered in Iraq, and the election of a successor for Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, who resigned in December at the age of 85. Tuesday will see the first round of debate and discussion on the current situation of the Chaldean Church in the patriarchal territory and wider Diaspora. Wednesday will see the first elections take place according to the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches…

March of solidarity for the hostages in Mesopotamia (Fides) Christians, Muslims, Kurds, nongovernmental organizations, public officials, churches leaders and leaders of mosques all assembled for a march of solidarity with victims of kidnappings. The 24 January initiative was held in Hassake, in eastern Syria, where the civilian population has faced considerable hardship and suffering. In the region a precarious balance between the opposing forces (including Islamist militias), the Kurdish forces, the Syrian army is lived, fighting each other. The population pays the price that took to the streets — more than three thousand were present — with banners and slogans to demand “a future of peace and hope for Mesopotamia.” The participants, who gave birth to the “Association of solidarity with the families of those kidnapped,” marched from the headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Church to the city’s Palace of Justice, expressing their suffering and their demands. A memorandum was presented to the Public Prosecutor, asking him to carry out his tasks and asking the local government to provide protection to the innocent citizens…

Syria crisis: ‘Bodies of executed men’ found in Aleppo (BBC) The bodies of dozens of young men, all apparently summarily executed, have been found in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, rebels and activists say. At least 65 bodies were found on the banks of the Quwaiq River in the western district of Bustan al Qasr, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported. Most had their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds to the head. A captain in the rebel Free Syrian Army said some of those who had been killed were just teenagers. Few had means of identification. People were gathering at the bank to see if they could find their missing relatives, A.F.P. reported. “My brother disappeared weeks ago when he was crossing [through] the regime-held zone, and we don’t know where he is or what has become of him,” said Mohammed Abdul Aziz…

Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitan enthroned (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.) His Eminence Metropolitan Antony was enthroned on 26 January 2013 as the fourth metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America during a magnificent and traditional ceremony at St. Andrew the First Called Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Spring, MD. The Enthronement services were attended by more than 500 faithful and about 70 clergymen of the Metropolia and many visitors from across the country from various Orthodox and Catholic jurisdictions…

Orthodox Church in America enthrones metropolitan of All America and Canada (O.C.A.) On Sunday, 27 January 2013, His Beatitude Tikhon, archbishop of Washington, metropolitan of All America and Canada, was enthroned at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C. In attendance at the Enthronement were members of the Orthodox Church in America’s Holy Synod of Bishops and guests representing several Orthodox churches in North America and abroad. Metropolitan Tikhon was elected O.C.A. primate at the 17th All-American Council held in Parma, OH on Tuesday, 13 November 2012…

Israel gave birth control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent (The Independent) Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent. The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically. One of the Ethiopian women is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Israel Chaldean Church Patriarchs Orthodox

28 January 2013
Douglas May, M.M.




In this 1998 image, seminarians at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Seminary in Cairo gather
for prayer. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)


Father Douglas May grew up in a small town near Buffalo, New York, but now serves as a Maryknoll missionary in Cairo.

When an American, Latin rite Catholic priest finds himself living and working with Eastern Catholics among Muslims and Orthodox Christians, he is bombarded with emotions from awe and puzzlement to déjà vu and arrogance.

As a seminarian at Maryknoll 33 years ago, I found dogma, church history and liturgy boring as academic subjects. Since my first direct encounter with the Coptic and several other Eastern Catholic churches in Egypt 30 years ago, what I found boring on paper has been anything but boring in real life. As an “outsider,” there is so much richness to experience, history to fathom, wisdom to ponder, controversy to understand and a global church vision to offer.

The Coptic Church traces its history to ancient Alexandria and St. Mark the Evangelist. Egypt is the land of many prophets and church fathers. The monastic movement was founded in Egypt by two great monks, Anthony and Pachomius. Theologies and heresies battled here, causing schisms in the church that exist in some form even to this day.

One of the first schisms in Christian history regarded the essence of Jesus: Was he “true God and true Man?” The bishops of Rome and Alexandria parted ways after an ecumenical council in 451 offered a solution; which the church of Egypt largely resisted. What little remained of the Catholic Church in Egypt after that time was Greek-speaking and of the Byzantine tradition. And this disappeared after the Great Schism of 1054. Near the end of the 18th century, the Catholic Church tried to reestablish itself, but little happened until a group of Orthodox Copts entered the Catholic Church and formed a Coptic Catholic rite, which was later recognized by the Egyptian government in 1900. The first Coptic Catholic seminary was opened in that same year.

Since the seventh century, Islam in Egypt has grown — slowly — at the expense of the church. Egyptian churches struggled to preserve their identities while being tempted to “ghettoize” themselves.

Working with Eastern and Latin Catholics in Egypt, combined with having Muslim friends, has put me in a unique position. First, I felt like a “space invader” intruding into the many subcultures of Egypt as an unwelcome outsider. Now, I feel more like a “bee” buzzing from one subculture to the next, picking up “pollen” from one and leaving a little bit of it on another as well as on myself.

I find myself challenging some of what I encounter and being challenged by much more. In many ways, the reforms of Vatican II have just started to work their way into the Eastern churches. Vatican II was originally perceived as a Latin rite council that had little to say to the Eastern churches. Only in the last decade or two have the Eastern churches really had to deal with the social and ecclesial issues that the Western church has had to deal with for the last five decades.

For a decade, I often struggled with the clericalism and the rigidity of the formation-education style at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Seminary. There was a sense that the Coptic Catholic Church must live in the shadows of Islam, Orthodoxy and Latin Catholicism. When John Paul II came to Egypt in 2000, my friend, Amir, ran up to me after Mass all excited, saying: “This is the first time in my life that I have been proud to be Christian and Catholic at the same time!”

John Paul’s visit gave Egyptian Catholics a sense of global identity they had never experienced.

The Eastern Catholic churches of Egypt are beginning to emerge from these shadows. They are ready to offer their contributions to the world. A former Syriac Catholic bishop of Cairo and professor at the Coptic Catholic Seminary was, until recently, the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches in Rome. As a former patriarch, Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud’s outreach to his Orthodox counterpart was cited by some observer’s for his selection to the post by Pope John Paul II in 2001. They would often refer to themselves as “brother patriarchs” and “co-patriarchs,” which is seldom heard in Eastern church circles.

The former Armenian Catholic bishop in Cairo has been the Armenian Catholic patriarch for well over a decade, and he is following the lead of his Syriac Catholic colleague. The former Coptic Catholic Patriarch Cardinal Antonius Naguib (who resigned earlier this year for reasons of health), has encouraged the renewal of the Coptic tradition, maintaining for example the Eastern Christian tradition of a married and a celibate clergy; in the Eastern churches, celibacy is seen as part of a “monastic call” that does not always aid a diocesan priest in living a pastoral life of service.

Seminarians studying at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Seminary.
( photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)


My challenge in Egypt, since the January Revolution began last year, is to encourage seminarians, priests and bishops to step out into the perilous world of social justice concerns. In Egypt, there are long-held traditions of religious and sexual discrimination in society along with denying the laity an active role in church affairs.

Acknowledging first the faults of my own country and church, I urge local church leaders to speak out and act on these issues. For example, 13 years ago I helped Bishop Ibrahim Sedrak, the former rector of the seminary, attend the Vatican II Institute renewal program in Menlo Park, California. It was a rewarding experience, and one I hope will help him in his new role as patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church.

During my ten years at the Coptic Catholic seminary, I would introduce social justice issues into all of my teaching and get the seminarians to view Egyptian issues in a more global and ecumenical context. I often exposed “blind spots” of injustice that may have been only visible to me as an “outsider,” and they often confronted me with my own personal, national and ecclesial blind spots.

I tried to bring Muslim, foreign and female friends to the seminary so that the seminarians could view my interactions. In my homilies at both the seminary and expatriate parishes where I still help out, I habitually insert justice and peace issues that seem to relate to the readings.

Over the years, I have drawn pictures of an Egyptian church building having all its doors and windows bricked up for fear of the outside world. Now, the Coptic and Eastern Catholic churches of the Egypt need to knock down these protective barriers and be new witnesses to what they can offer at home and be bold witnesses in what they can offer to the world.

It is an exciting adventure to be part of the process of a church risking its security and taking its place in the global Catholic community. Egypt’s Eastern Catholic churches are very much part of the mosaic that forms the Catholic Church.



Tags: Egypt Coptic Christians

28 January 2013
Greg Kandra




Ukrainian Bishop Peter Stasiuk celebrates the Divine Liturgy on Epiphany in Melbourne, Australia.
(photo: Sean Sprague)


Anyone who thinks Australia is just kangaroos and koala bears should check out Sean Sprague’s profile of the continent’s diverse religions from 2007:

Once Europeans gained a foothold on the continent, the native population, estimated at about 350,000 at the time of settlement, began its precipitous decline, due mainly to infectious diseases. Open land, a gold rush and the building of railroads generated an immigration boom — not limited to Europeans — in the mid-19th century. But reactionary, anti-Asian discriminatory practices soon generated laws restricting the settlement of Australia to northern Europeans alone. This “White Australia Policy,” enacted nationally in 1901, controlled immigration for more than four decades, until reforms in the second half of the 20th century all but eliminated its effectiveness.

In 1975, the Australian government passed the Racial Discrimination Act, which ended these racially based immigration policies. Subsequently, the country has seen an influx of non-European immigrants. In addition, the indigenous population has rebounded.

Among these recent arrivals have been Eastern Christians — Armenians and Assyrians; Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite Greek and Ukrainian Greek Catholics; and Coptic, Greek, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Syriac Orthodox — whose small but vibrant communities are developing a multicultural Australia. To learn more, I visited three.

Over a lunch of New Zealand mussels, kangaroo steaks and a bottle of local cabernet sauvignon, Bishop Peter Stasiuk, who prepared the meal with relish, spoke about his small but growing community of Ukrainian Greek Catholics. “Our liturgy attracts many outsiders, and several hundred have crossed over to join us, especially people wanting to become clergy.”

The Canadian-born bishop is responsible for 34,000 souls scattered throughout Australia and New Zealand. Most Ukrainian Greek Catholics, however, live in Melbourne and Sydney.

“There are 1.5 million Latin [Roman] Catholics in Melbourne, and many of our people attend their churches if they are closer to where they live.”

This back-and-forth is representative of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic experience in Australia, Bishop Peter said, an experience not unlike that of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in North America.

Read more about Diversity Down Under in the May 2007 issue of ONE.



Tags: Armenia Eastern Churches Greek Catholic Church Coptic Australia

28 January 2013
Greg Kandra




A Syrian boy stands in front of his family’s refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on 25 January. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

Al Quaeda-linked group claims responsibility for Syria blast (AP) An al-Qaeda-linked group fighting alongside Syrian rebels claimed responsibility Monday for a suicide car bombing that reportedly killed dozens of President Bashar Assad’s loyalists last week. Islamic militants have been the most organized fighters battling government troops in the 22-month-old conflict in which more than 60,000 people have been killed. Their growing prominence has fueled fears that Muslim radicals may try to hijack the revolt, and has contributed to the West’s hesitance to equip the opposition with sophisticated weapons...

Special collection in Lebanon for Syrian refugees (Fides) On Sunday, 27 January in convents, shrines and nearly 1,000 parishes of the Maronite Church, funds were collected for the activities supported by Caritas Lebanon in favor of Syrian refugees who have found precarious refuge in the Lebanese territory. The special day of solidarity was called by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, with an appeal to all members of the Church led by him...

Russian government wants to amend bill on “religious feeling” (Vatican Radio) The Russian government has asked parliament to amend a bill that would set jail terms for “offending religious feeling.” The measure was proposed by lawmakers after last year’s Pussy Riot protest at a Moscow cathedral. Critics have said it may harm Jews, Muslims and others outside the Russian Orthodox Church. But one of the lawmakers who sponsored the bill, said a phrase seen to favour the Russian Orthodox Church would be removed and the legislation would protect all religions operating legally in Russia...

Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem discusses Day of Prayer for Peace in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the leader of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, says Christians of all denominations in Jerusalem are united in prayer, solidarity and communion during the week of Christian Unity and are grateful for the concern of fellow Christians around the world. Calling Jerusalem the “Mother Church” with a “world dimension,” Patriarch Fouad Twal says “the unique way to be grateful is to do our best to fulfil this mission (well because) the Church in the Holy Land (can constitute) a bridge between all the others...”

Ukrainian eparch reflects on the New Evangelization (Vatican Radio) The Catholic university contributes toward the New Evangelization when, in addition to offering quality education, it prays together, fosters the beauty of the liturgy and reaches out to the marginalized, said the new eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in France...

Kerala court rules filmmakers will be charged with defamation (Eurasiareview.com) The makers of a comedy about two petty criminals who dress up as Catholic priests will be charged with defamation, a Kerala court ruled yesterday. Two actors, along with the director, the producer and the screenwriter of the local hit movie ”Romans,” which was released last week, are all named in the suit, brought by a Catholic youth leader in the Kottayam district of the state. “The movie has hurt the sentiments of the faithful,” said petitioner Boban T. Thekkel. “There is a limit to freedom of expression. I can’t tolerate such things...”

Toronto plans World Interfaith Harmony Week (Catholic Register) World Interfaith Harmony Week is coming to Toronto for the first time. The United Nations Initiative, which originated in 2010 and is meant to promote peace, love, tolerance and understanding among followers of all religions, will begin on 1 February at various Toronto locations. The theme for Toronto will be looking for ways to work together. “It’s an important thing, not only for Catholics, but for all Christians to be exposed to and to become more aware of the importance of other religions in the world,” said Fr. Damian MacPherson, director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs for the archdiocese of Toronto. “In the absence of not knowing, generally suspicion arises...”



Tags: Syria Ukraine Jerusalem Russia Greek Catholic Church

25 January 2013
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




Pope Benedict XVI received the leaders from several Oriental Orthodox Churches on the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to discuss the progress of talks between them to reach full communion. Click the video to watch. (video: Rome Reports)

With the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity drawing to a close today, and Pope Benedict XVI meeting with members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches, we asked our external affairs officer Father Elias Mallon to explore a few interesting facts about the Roman Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox.

  1. The Oriental Orthodox churches are six ancient churches that differ from the various Orthodox churches in the Byzantine tradition, such as the Greek, Romanian, Russian and Ukrainian, etc. They are: the Armenian Apostolic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eritrean Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Syriac Orthodox Church and the Indian Orthodox Church, which is split into two groups, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church. Many of these churches have Catholic counterparts in full communion with Rome: the Armenian, Coptic, Ge’ez, Syriac and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches are much smaller than their Orthodox counterparts and share their liturgical rites, traditions and many of the same disciplines.

  2. These Orthodox churches are very ancient. The Coptic church traces its beginnings to St. Mark the Evangelist. The Syriac churches of the Antiochene tradition trace their roots to St. Peter. The Armenian church prides itself on being the oldest national church as Christianity became the state religion of Armenia in 301, though it traces its roots to Sts. Bartholomew and Thaddeus.

  3. These churches are not in communion with the Catholic Church and the Byzantine Orthodox churches. The split between the Oriental Orthodox churches and the rest of Christianity is traditionally dated to the Council of Chalcedon (451). This council’s formulation of the relationship of the humanity of Jesus to his divinity was not acceptable to the Oriental Orthodox church for various reasons. Modern theological and historical research among the Catholic, Byzantine Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches has come to the conclusion that the differences that have existed for almost 15 centuries are cultural and linguistic, and need not necessarily be church dividing.

  4. Relations between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches have improved dramatically since Vatican II. The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue has — often against great odds, such as the arrest of Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church by the Egyptian authorities from 1981-1985 — made considerable progress, resulting among other things with the official Statement of Christological Agreement that was signed 12 February 1988, overcoming one of the major obstacles to unity between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox churches. Some ecclesialogical issues remain, but the commission continues to study the issues and to attempt to resolve them.

  5. CNEWA works where all these churches originated and maintain large communities — Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Iraq and Syria — and has developed an outstanding rapport with its leaders. CNEWA exercises the dialogue of charity in its many forms of assistance, from priestly formation in Ethiopia, refurbishing Syriac churches in the Middle East to humanitarian assistance in Armenia.



Tags: Eastern Christianity Orthodox Church Eastern Churches Orthodox Oriental Orthodox

25 January 2013
Greg Kandra




Father Mezo hears confessions at Protection of the Virgin Mary Church in Nyírascéd, Hungary. (photo: Balazs Gardi)

In 2006, ONE reported on Greek Catholics holding on to their faith and their traditions in a village in rural Hungary:

Wherever he goes in the Hungarian village of Nyírascád, Father György Mezo is greeted with the traditional “Dícsoség Jézus Krísztusnak,” or “Glory to Jesus Christ.” Most of the residents are Greek Catholics, and Father Mezo has headed the village’s Greek Catholic parish, Protection of the Virgin Mary, for 15 years. Life is not easy in this village in northeastern Hungary, near the Romanian border. The birthrate is down. Couples used to have five or more children, but providing for a family that size has not been possible for the last 50 years or so. Even now, in this post-Communist era of the European Union, forestry, the main occupation of most villagers, is not the industry it once was. Most couples have one child these days. And jobs are scarce too. Many villagers work in nearby cities or, if they are well educated, they go to Budapest.

But as the world changes around them, the villagers of Nyírascád hold on to their traditions, which is why Father Mezo is held in such high regard.

“People have preserved the traditional rites, both liturgical and legal,” said Gyula Katona, Nyírascád’s mayor since 1973. He said the village was an exception to most of Hungary, where Communist rule and the enticements of the modern, secular world had combined to dilute the faith. Even under Communist rule, “catechism remained in the schools because the villagers wanted it there.”

“Processions were held each year, at Easter and on the feastday of the church,” he continued. “In other villages they held processions juston the church grounds, but here they paraded through the streets. From Good Friday to Easter morning, the holy tomb is always guarded by young men, as is traditional. We could do all this because tradition is very strong here.”

Read more about Holding on in Hungary from the May 2006 issue of ONE.



Tags: Eastern Europe Hungary Greek Catholic Church





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