2 August 2016
Displaced Iraqis gather 16 July at a refugee camp near Mosul, Iraq.
(photo: CNS/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)
Security tops the list of what Christians of Iraq and Syria want before they’ll consider returning to areas they fled when the Islamic State and other extremist groups took over.
They also want help with displacement difficulties, justice for past offenses, self-governance, ethnic militias, and the right to ultimately choose to move permanently to Europe, the United States or beyond, said representatives of Christians and other minority ethnic groups. The minority representatives spoke at an all-day conference at Jesuit-run Georgetown University 28 June. The following day, the same group met at the U.S. State Department with representatives of more than 20 countries involved in supporting a post-Islamic State scenario in Iraq and Syria.
“The important thing ... is the security and the confidence that a family, a father, a wife, a child a daughter ... can be safe in their own home,” said Bishop Awa Royel of the Assyrian Church of the East.
Bishop Royel and other members of indigenous Iraqi Christian groups told Catholic News Service at the Georgetown conference that up to 70 percent of Iraq's Christians had fled their native country since U.S.-led forces toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, and that, due to the Islamic State takeover of northern Iraq in 2014, close to 150,000 Christians from those areas had either escaped to nearby Kurdish-controlled areas or to neighboring nations.
“Security is important, long-term security, against ISIS and against any other group that could come up in the future,” Bishop Royel said, suggesting one way to achieve that was through international protection and a “constant line of dialogue” among northern Iraq’s various ethnic groups, to prevent the weakening of society, which the bishop said had facilitated the Islamic State takeover.
“When there are suspicions and when there are mistrusts, you have each religion going into their own little corner. Leaders of various religions present in Iraq ... have to meet regularly, not to discus theology, but just to share what the communities are going through,” he said.
Other Iraqi Christian participants at the conference concurred with Bishop Royel that their communities would be looking for increased security in the regions they had inhabited before fleeing Islamic State, which claims to have established a caliphate across parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Christians insisted this could only be achieved it they were given full administrative control of historically Christian cities and towns and if local Christian militias were reinforced in those areas.
Both “empowering (Christians) to take administrative control of their areas” and “training Christian youth to protect their areas” must be achieved for displaced Christians to feel safe enough to return home after Islamic State has been defeated, said Syriac Catholic Father Behnam Benoka of Iraq.
Father Benoka pointed out that since the time of Saddam, there were efforts on the part of the Iraqi state to populate historically Christian areas with other religious groups, and he called for demographic justice and for such historically Christian lands to be restored.
In March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minority groups in Syria and Iraq.
“Unfortunately, months later, ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to target and terrorize their victims through rape, enslavement and murder, while religious and cultural sites are systematically looted and destroyed,” read a statement by Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project, which hosted the conference, “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities Under the Islamic State.”
Bishop Royel, Father Benoka and the other Christian representatives to the conference's different panels told CNS that, in addition to their concerns regarding safety of the future, they were worried about the immediate welfare of tens of thousands of Christians now living in camps, containers, and in other desperate situations, in areas where they had fled inside Iraq and Syria, or in neighboring countries.
They called on Western governments to speed up the asylum process for minorities who wanted to leave until peace was restored, or for good.
“As a minority ... you pay the biggest price,” said panelist Bassam Ishak, a member of Syria’s Christian minority who estimated that well over a million of his co-religionists had been displaced due to the violence of ongoing civil war, Islamic State, and other extremist groups back home.
“We need a political resolution ... that takes into account the Syrian diversity and seeks to build a pluralistic Syria. Then (Christians) may have a future, and we may even have some ... who return,” Ishak said.
Concerns of the conference’s Christian panelists’ mirrored for the most part those of the region’s various other minority groups.
Conference panelist Rajab Assi Kareem, speaking on behalf of Iraq’s tiny Kakai minority, said Islamic State had destroyed the group’s places of worship and that it was up to “the United Nations to ensure the peace” needed to prevent it or similar extremist groups from ever coming to power again.
Murad Ismael, one of the conference’s several panelists representing Iraq’s Yezidi minority, called on the international community to “put some parameters for the minorities to maintain their homeland and to ensure a future.”
Yezidis wanted international protection and restitution, especially in light of the recent raping, kidnapping and massacres the community had endured at the hands of Islamic State in Iraq, said Ismael.
“Otherwise,” he said, “the best thing will be to open doors ... and to permit mass exodus.”
2 August 2016
A civilian carries a victim of an attack on the Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria,
on 31 July 2016. (photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Rescuers say toxic gas dropped on Syrian town (Reuters) A Syrian rescue service operating in rebel-held territory said on Tuesday a helicopter dropped containers of toxic gas overnight on a town close to where a Russian military helicopter was shot down hours earlier. The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) accused President Bashar al Assad of being behind the attack. Assad has denied previous accusations of using chemical weapons...
Aleppo explained by the numbers (CNN) Some neighborhoods in Aleppo have been under fire for more than 80 consecutive days, leaving 6,000 people either dead or injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UK-based monitoring group said rebel-held areas in the city’s east have faced sustained attack by regime artillery and airstrikes, while rebel and Islamic factions have shelled regime-controlled areas in western neighborhoods...
Muslims and Christians in French town pray old bonds survive priest’s murder (The New York Times) In the wake of Father Hamel’s murder, Muslim and Christian communities around France came together over the weekend to show solidarity by attending each other’s religious services, in churches and mosques alike. But the services in Rouen, and in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a nearby suburb where Father Hamel was killed, took on a special resonance...
Turkey orders arrest of doctors in post-coup crackdown (Middle East Eye) Turkey has issued arrest warrants for 100 staff, including doctors, at the main military hospital in Ankara as part of the investigation into last month’s failed coup, local media reported. Police were searching the Gulhane Military Medical Academy hospital in the capital, private NTV television reported. It was not immediately clear if any suspects had been arrested...
Shrine in India elevated to basilica (Vatican Radio) St. Lawrence Shrine at Attur, Karkala, the Diocese of Udupi, has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica on Monday, 1 August 2016, making it the second Minor Basilica in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka and the 22nd Basilica in the country...
Ancient Russian icon comes to Canada (Globalnews.ca) Saskatoon’s St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church greeted the Kursk-Root Icon Wednesday — an item believers say is capable of miraculous healing. The gold and jewel-laden image depicts the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. The icon has been viewed by millions, according to Father Florin Soane with the church. “In a visible way, we can say, the Mother of God, the Mother of Church, is coming to us,” Soane said...
1 August 2016
World Youth Day pilgrims hold candles during a 30 July prayer vigil with Pope Francis at the Field of Mercy in Krakow, Poland. Palestinians and Israeli pilgrims shared the same sector of the Field of Mercy and had a chance to meet and talk. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
At least for a few minutes at World Youth Day, the physical barriers between Palestinian and Israeli communities were nonexistent.
A group of Palestinian Catholics and a contingent of Hebrew-speaking Catholics from Israel found themselves in the same sector at the Field of Mercy for the closing programs of World Youth Day.
The two groups talked for a short time after arriving on the open fields the afternoon of 30 July, members of both delegations said. The time together was cordial and offered a chance to meet people of the same faith living in neighboring communities who might not meet under ordinary circumstances.
“We can’t really meet each other in our country,” said Danielle Maman, 22, of Jerusalem, one of the Israeli Catholics. “We can’t talk face-to-face because there are walls and checkpoints.”
“We’re all Christians. We always try for peace,” said Asil Zarek, 17, of Beer Sheva, Israel.
Pilgrims in both groups said they were not sure how to overcome the political barriers that exist across the two communities, but they thought their faith could be a bridge.
“We should all, as Palestinians and Christians, be one together,” said Michael Abusada, 26, a Palestinian living in Jerusalem. “All of us can bring home peace, love and the mercy of Jesus.”
The theme of mercy ran throughout the six days of World Youth Day. Many participants, some of whom arrived as early as 10 a.m. for the evening vigil, reflected on their experiences in Poland, the new friends they made and the messages of mercy the emanated throughout liturgies and catechetical sessions of the festivities.
French-speaking pilgrims from Quebec said that on their trek from Krakow, more than four miles away, they thought about the people they met and how similar they all were.
“It’s all about meeting people,” said Benjamin LeCroix, a member of Assumption Parish in Saint-Georges, Quebec. “We all chose to be here. It’s not like a school trip where some people don’t want to be part of it. Everyone here wants to be a part of this great heaven.”
Seeing so many people sharing the Catholic faith impressed Andria Saenz, 20, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Laredo, Texas. She said being at World Youth Day also was about being on a pilgrimage to better understand her faith and the people of the world.
“I’ve never been out of Laredo, and I wanted to see what people were talking about,” she told Catholic News Service. “Poland is not the first place I thought of seeing. But the people and land are beautiful. I have a different perspective.”
It also was the first significant journey for Jacqueline Ndecky, 32, of Guinea-Bissau, and the 14 others in her group. She said seeing so many people focused on the life of Christ was gratifying.
“The message is there is no limit to Jesus,” she said. “He is the same to people in Asia, Africa, everywhere.”
A small group from the Diocese of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was resting while waiting for the pope to arrive. Efrain Torres, one of 38 in the contingent, had been at previous World Youth Day celebrations, but never as a leader of a group, like this year. He said he was eager to hear what Pope Francis had to say.
“This is the presence and experience of the living Christ,” he said. “We’re waiting for the vicar of Christ, who invites us to go out to the marginalized. We want to know what God wants to tell us through our vicar and take it home in our hearts to share.”
Sister Catherine Holum, 36, an American Franciscan Sister of the Renewal ministering in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, was smiling as she talked with four other sisters from her order and three pilgrims from the archdiocese.
Sister Catherine described the week as a joy to experience. She also had been involved as an emcee at a catechetical session earlier in the week, keeping 150 young people engaged in the conversation through prayer, song and enthusiasm.
“This is where you meet the word, share the Lord, have a great encounter and make new friends. It’s a very beautiful thing,” she said.
“It’s not about ourselves, but what we do with our brothers and sisters. We’re a tool of our brother Jesus. Having heard about the mercy of God this week, we are called to be merciful ourselves. It’s a beautiful thing.”
1 August 2016
In the video above, Muslims attend Mass in France in a show of solidarity and sympathy following the brutal murder of a French priest by two men claiming fidelity to ISIS.
Muslims attend Mass in show of solidarity (AP) Muslims in France and Italy flocked to Mass on Sunday, a gesture of interfaith solidarity following a drumbeat of jihadi attacks that threatens to deepen religious divisions across Europe. From the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few miles from where 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was killed Tuesday by two Muslim fanatics, to Paris’ iconic Notre Dame, where the rector of the Mosque of Paris invoked a papal benediction in Latin, many churchgoers were cheered by the Muslims in their midst. Interviewed outside the cathedral in Rouen, Jacqueline Prevot called it “a magnificent gesture.” “Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass,” she said. “I find this very heartwarming...”
Pope Francis: it is not right to equate Islam with violence (CNS) An economy that focuses on the God of money, not human beings, is the foundation of terrorism, Pope Francis said. Speaking to journalists aboard his return flight from Krakow, Poland, 31 July, the pope also stressed that violence exists in all religions, including Catholicism, and it cannot be pinned to one single religion. “I do not like to speak of Islamic violence because everyday when I look through the papers, I see violence here in Italy,” the pope told reporters. “And they are baptized Catholics. There are violent Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, I also have to speak of Catholic violence,” he added...
Christians paying a price in Turkey (The Express) Turkey, which once boasted two million Christians, has barely 120,000 now, fewer even than Iran. But what shocked people most about July 15’s attacks was how much hatred still remains after almost 10 years. Though it is nominally a secular republic there can be little doubt that the government and Turkey’s 117,000 Sunni imams work together...
Russian helicopter shot down in Syria, killing 5 (AP) A Russian transport helicopter was shot down in opposition rebel territory in northern Syria on Monday and all five crew and officers onboard were killed, the Kremlin said, in the deadliest single incident for the Russian military since its involvement in Syria’s civil war...
Europe losing track of child refugees from Middle East (The Wall Street Journal) European governments are losing track of significant numbers of children who have entered the continent without their parents as refugees from war-torn areas in the Middle East and beyond...
More churches in India push for shroud burial instead of caskets (The Times of India) Space constraint is forcing churches in Mumbai to opt for green solutions for disposing of the dead. In the last six months, the St Blaise Church, Amboli, has had at least 15 shroud burials (body wrapped in cloth and lowered into the grave). The coffin was not used by families voluntarily. Father Franklin Mathias, parish priest, said space constraint, the environmental benefits and economics of a burial without a coffin prompted them to encourage shroud burial. He said the success of such burials depends entirely on the parishioners...
29 July 2016
Children greet CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, on his pastoral visit to an Ain Kawa camp for displaced Iraqis. See more memorable images from his trip in the Summer 2016
edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
29 July 2016
Syrian army soldiers patrol area on the outskirts of Aleppo on 28 July. (photo: AFP/Getty images)
Airstrikes kill dozens in Syria (AP) U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeting a village in northern Syria held by Islamic State killed 28 civilians, including seven children, Syrian activists said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition aircraft struck the village of Al-Ghandour on Thursday night...
Trapped, under attack in Aleppo (Doctors Without Borders) The siege on east Aleppo has left an estimated 250,000 people trapped and struggling to survive, with the only road into non-government held areas cut off. Now the population, and crucially the war-wounded and seriously ill, have no way out, while vital food and medical supplies cannot get in. This siege has added more to the already woeful numbers of people living in besieged areas in Syria...
Turkey targets media in crackdown (Time) In recent days the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued orders shutting down 131 media organizations, and issued arrest warrants for at least 89 journalists and other media personnel over alleged ties to the coup plot...
Copts look to new law to end religious discrimination (AFP) Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian minority, have long struggled to obtain official permission to build churches. They are now hoping a new law on building houses of worship — both mosques and churches — will curb discrimination against them...
Patriarch calls political paralysis in Lebanon “shameful” (Fides) “It is shameful that the Lebanese people should have to wait for years while other countries in the region choose who shall be the new President of their country/” This is how Maronite Patriarch Boutros Bechara Rai stigmatized yet again the institutional paralysis and cross vetoes between the national political forces and foreign interference which for more than two years has prevented the election of a new head of state for Lebanon, an institutional post which Lebanon’s complex system reserves for a Maronite Christian...
New app connects Russian Orthodox Church with believers (BBC) The Russian Orthodox Church is to launch a new messaging app in order to help priests to keep in touch with believers. It’s being made by the same designers behind the Church’s dedicated social network, Elitsy, which was launched in 2014. The app, which is currently in development, will “satisfy the needs of the faithful for interaction and continuous contact between parishioners and the Church,” according to Elitsy’s press service, cited by Tass news agency. It adds that the app has the blessing of the Church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill...
28 July 2016
Sister Imre serves residents at the St. Macrina Home in Máriapócs, Hungary.
(photo: Tivadar Domaniczky)
Sister Imre Ágota is one of several tireless sisters who have worked to restore the faith in Hungary after the collapse of Communism:
In 1991, 14 surviving Basilian sisters — including Imre Ágota, now mother superior — returned to their monastery in Máriapócs. Today, only 7 remain, and of these only 4 are active.
The community, like other Hungarian Greek Catholic religious communities, has had difficulties recruiting novices. Several women have tried community life, but each one soon left. The sisters hope and pray for more novices, but if none enters, the simple passing of time will accomplish what 40 years of Communist anti-religious policy could not.
In recent years, Hungary’s declining birthrate and aging population have strained the economy, which is still recovering from the transition from a controlled to a free market system. With this in mind, the sisters have devoted themselves to caring for their peers — the elderly — who are poorly served by the state system.
Once they restored their monastery, the sisters went straight to work. In 1992, they bought a building behind the monastery and opened St. Macrina Nursing Home, a 25-room room facility for elderly women.
Despite challenges and setbacks, the sisters have remained hopeful.
“I’m a teacher,” Sister Imre Ágota said, “not an economist.” But, she continued, “we are optimistic because we have always received donations. Slowly, slowly money comes in and things get done.”
“I am retired,” Sister Imre Ágota laughed, describing her typical day of work and prayer, which begins at 5 a.m. and ends as late as 11 p.m.
“It’s just that as mother superior, I’m now busier than I’ve ever been.”
Still, she is already thinking about another project: returning to teaching. “My heart beats for it,” she said.
That tireless spirit of hope renews so many who live and work in CNEWA’s world — and it’s one reason why Sister Imre is a CNEWA hero.
28 July 2016
The Rev. Daniel Lenz leads a prayer for the newly inaugurated Omaha Byzantine Catholic Community in Omaha, Nebraska on 26 June. Father Lenz is biritual, meaning he was ordained for the Latin rite but is permitted to celebrate Byzantine liturgies as well.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Omaha Byzantine Catholic Community)
The Omaha Byzantine Catholic Community in Nebraska seems off to a good start with two baptisms since its official inauguration as an outreach of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma this past spring.
The new Eastern Catholic community is the result of a grass-roots effort begun about 18 months ago by Catholic layman Matthew Willkom.
Within this short time, the Omaha community went from having monthly prayer services on a weeknight to finding a biritual priest who currently celebrates Sunday Divine Liturgy with them once monthly. About 60 people are associated with the community, though about 20 people attend regularly.
The 36-year-old radio producer moved to Omaha with his wife and three children four years ago from Minneapolis, where he first encountered the Byzantine Catholic Church. Though a Latin Catholic, Willkom became a regular at the Byzantine parish there and, after living in Omaha for more than two years without a Byzantine liturgy, decided to start a Byzantine community.
“I was missing (the Byzantine liturgy) so much, I felt like something should be done,” he told Horizons, the eparchy’s newspaper.
For a year, the community prayed on a weeknight at a Ukrainian parish on Omaha’s east side. The pastor agreed they could pray in English with Ruthenian chant. Now-retired Bishop John M. Kudrick of Parma had lent the fledgling group support in the form of liturgical books, as well as guidance from Father Bryan Eyman, the eparchy’s director of missions and outreach.
However, in January, the community found a new location — the monastery of the Poor Clare sisters on Omaha’s west side — where biritual Benedictine Father Daniel Lenz currently celebrates Divine Liturgy one Sunday per month. “Biritual” means he was ordained for the Latin rite but is permitted to celebrate Byzantine liturgies as well.
People come from all over Omaha and from the Lincoln, Nebraska, area, which is about 40 miles away, said Willkom.
Father Eyman visited the Omaha community 24 April. After celebrating Divine Liturgy for about 60 people and inaugurating the outreach, he spoke to them about the steps in becoming a canonical mission.
The most important steps are developing commitment and stability in numbers and attendance, and getting finances in order, he said.
Eventually, members hope to establish a mission on Omaha’s west side, which is currently experiencing significant demographic growth, with young families moving into the middle- to upper-class suburb from the inner city, said Willkom.
“But we’re not there yet,” he said. The “next step is incorporating locally so we can start to collect donations and provide for the liturgical needs of the community.”
He said there are currently no canonical Ruthenians residing in Omaha, but the recent news that a Byzantine Catholic couple from St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish in Munster, Indiana, intends to join the outreach once they move to Omaha this summer is encouraging, he added.
Their presence “will provide some stability and connection with the larger liturgical and spiritual life of the eparchy,” Willkom said.
The outreach also is working to establish weekly Byzantine services by the fall. Omaha’s Latin-rite Catholic archbishop gave one of his deacons permission to receive the necessary formation to lead the outreach in a Typika service — known as a Communion service in the Latin Church — on the Sundays when the priest is not available.
Willkom said the whole process has been “a journey of discovery.”
“We’re all very new to this,” he said. “The bottom line is that we’re looking for encouragement from the eparchy, and Father Bryan’s visit certainly symbolizes that.
“We’re also looking to focus on evangelization, on showing the mercy of God to each other, that same mercy we repeatedly proclaim and beg for ourselves in the Divine Liturgy,” he said.
The outreach is open to serving all Byzantines, he said. To date, they have reached out to Melkite Catholic refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq, who continue to make their way to the Omaha-Lincoln area.
28 July 2016
Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Krakow, Poland, 27 July. The pope is attending World Youth Day in Krakow. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope erects new eparchy in Great Britain (Vatican Radio) The Holy Father on Thursday, has erected the Eparchy of Great Britain of the Syro-Malabar Church based in Preston and has appointed the Rev. Joseph (Benny Mathew) Srampickal, a member of the clergy of the Eparchy of Palai, until now Vice-Rector of the Collegio De Propaganda Fide in Rome, as the first bishop of the Eparchy...
Pope Francis: ‘The world is at war’ (CNS) The world, not religion, is waging a war in pieces, Pope Francis said. While it “is not at as organic” as past world wars, “it is organized and it is war,” the pope told journalists 27 July on his flight to Krakow. “Someone may think that I am speaking about a war of religions. No, all religions want peace. Others want war,” the pope said. He spoke one day after the murder of a priest during Mass in a Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. Two men, armed with knives, entered the church during Mass. The attackers murdered 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, slitting his throat...
Patriarch: displaced Iraqi Catholics losing hope (Crux) The displaced Syriac Catholics of the Iraqi areas of Nineveh and Mosul are fast losing hope that they will ever return home, according to their spiritual leader, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan. Some 100,000 Iraqi Christians were forced to flee to the Kurdistan region in the north in the summer of 2014, where they are languishing in expectation of a return that never comes. In an interview with Crux, the Patriarch — spiritual shepherd to some 200,000 Syriac Catholics worldwide — shared something of the despair of his people at what they regard as the foot-dragging of the western nations...
Russia to open ‘exit corridors’ from Aleppo (BBC) Corridors are to open to allow unarmed rebels and civilians to leave besieged areas of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Russia — Syria’s key ally — has said. Three routes would be opened and a fourth for armed rebels, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said. Syria’s president has also offered an amnesty for rebels laying down arms and surrendering within three months...
Kerala church allows cremation for priests (The Times of India) Across the country, and particularly in Mumbai, the Christian community has been clamoring for more burial grounds. Over the past three years, large morchas were led through civic wards from Goregaon to Dahisar where there is a vast population of Catholics. Now this nationwide shortage of space for burial has prompted the Mar Thoma Church which is headquartered in Kerala to allow cremation for its clergymen. Earlier, laypersons alone could opt for cremation after securing written permission from their bishop. Now that privilege has been extended to priests as well...
Could Gaza become a tourism hub? (The Guardian) Somehow, elements of another Gaza have survived what has been — literally and metaphorically — its darkest decade: stylish, civilised, worthy of a history stretching back five millennia. While few other cities have been more fought over or occupied — by the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Byzantines, Abbasids, Crusaders, Mamluks, Turks, British, Egypt again and Israel — there have also been long periods when Gaza was a centre of culture and learning, as well as a flourishing port and trading center...
27 July 2016
Bishop John S. Pazak, center, is the new head of the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Eparchy of Phoenix. He was enthroned 20 July during a Divine Liturgy at St. Helen Roman Catholic Church in Glendale, Arizona. (photo: CNS/courtesy Kathleen Slonka, Eparchy of Phoenix)
The American West welcomed a new bishop from the East last week. From CNS:
In a liturgy packed with rich symbolism and ancient tradition, the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Eparchy of Phoenix celebrated the enthronement of Bishop John S. Pazak as its fifth bishop.
Archbishop William C. Skurla of the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, and a former bishop of the Phoenix-based eparchy, prayed the words of enthronement over the new bishop during a Divine Liturgy that took place at St. Helen Catholic Church in Glendale 20 July.
The Byzantine Catholic Church is one of the Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome.
Bishop Pazak, who spent the past 15 years as the bishop of the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Eparchy in Toronto, processed to the front of the church followed by Archbishop Skurla and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. Bishops and clergy from across the country — including Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, who head, respectively, the Latin-rite dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson — also attended along with Catholics from throughout the eparchy.
“I am truly pleased to be with you today,” Archbishop Pierre said after reading the 7 May proclamation appointing Bishop Pazak. “I know that you join with me in offering to him not only our heartfelt congratulations, but also the assurance of our prayerful support as he takes on the very important responsibilities of chief shepherd of this community of faith.”
“Receive this pastoral staff with which you are to watch over Christ’s flock that has been entrusted to your care,” Archbishop Skurla prayed at the enthronement.
The congregation responded with cries of “Axios! Axios!” — Greek words meaning “he is worthy.” Throughout the liturgy, almost entirely chanted, there were echoing refrains of “Lord have mercy” and “God grant him many years.” Archbishop Skurla then escorted Bishop Pazak to the throne, officially taking the reins of the eparchy.
In his homily, the new bishop conveyed a message of mercy:
Society must learn to respect “every single human being who is made in the image and likeness of God” and Christians must act with mercy, he said. “Our world needs the witness of Christ’s unconditional mercy that we proclaim so often in our liturgy. Divine mercy must illuminate our minds, and more importantly, our hearts and our life’s journey.”
[Phoenix] Bishop Olmsted said he was touched by the Byzantine liturgy. “They have different traditions, different prayers, but it’s the same Eucharist, the same sacred Scriptures, the same love for Christ.”
The Scriptures and liturgy come alive for Latin-rite Catholics who attend a Byzantine liturgy, he said, and “I trust they do the same when they come to our sacred liturgies. We help one another grow in an even deeper love for Christ.”
In the Winter 2015 edition of ONE, writer Joyce Coronel and photographer Nancy Wiechec offered a fascinating glimpse into another Church of the East flourishing in the American southwest, the Chaldean Church. Check it out.