Current Issue
Spring, 2017
Volume 43, Number 1
10 December 2015
Greg Kandra

People gather on 20 November outside the Washington State capitol in Olympia to urge the United States’ acceptance of Syrian refugees. (photo: CNS/David Ryder, Reuters)

25 Christian hostages freed in Syria (Fides) On Wednesday, 9 December the jihadists affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State released other 25 Assyrian Christians, who were part of the large group of hostages kidnapped by them on 23 February, when the jihadi militias had unleashed an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the valley of the river Khabur, in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassake. According to reports from local sources, and re-launched by the Assyrian International News Agengy , the group of hostages freed includes men, boys and two children under ten years of age, who after their release reached the town of Tel Tamar...

Faith leaders, senators say U.S. must not “pause” refugee resettlement (CNS) A coalition of religious leaders joined three U.S. senators on Capitol Hill 8 December to say “enough is enough” to those who want to bar Muslim refugees from Syria and other Middle East trouble spots from the U.S. after terrorist attacks in Paris and Southern California...

First planes of Syrian refugees set to arrive in Canada (Reuters) The first two government flights carrying Syrian refugees to Canada will arrive this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday. His immigration minister noted with pride that Canada’s welcoming attitude contrasts with the wary stance of many in the United States. The first flight will arrive in Toronto on Thursday evening and another will land in Montreal on Saturday, Trudeau said in Parliament. The planes, both military aircraft, will carry a total of 300 Syrian refugees...

Orthodox rabbis urge partnership between Christians and Jews (The Jewish Press) A group of Orthodox Jewish rabbis are advocating for increased partnership between Christians and Jews. More than 25 Orthodox rabbis from Israel, the United States and Europe released the statement titled “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians” on the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) website...

Vatican issues new document on Christian-Jewish dialogue (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews has released a new document exploring the unresolved theological questions at the heart of Christian-Jewish dialogue. The new document, entitled ‘The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable’, marks the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking declaration ‘Nostra Aetate’...

Archbishop: “The pope has profoundly marked the Muslim community” (Fides) “The Pope came as a pilgrim to invite us to peace. Now we must become pilgrims of peace in our own country”, says Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, explaining his gesture to walk the Muslims’ PK5 neighborhood, after tensions in recent days due to the exclusion of former President Francois Bozize’s candidacy in the presidential elections...

9 December 2015
Melodie Gabriel

University students camp outside at Ryerson University in Toronto to raise awareness about refugees. (photo: Nansy Khanano/KnanoArt)

We want to highlight the amazing efforts of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada. This group is making a difference to help Iraqi and Syrian refugees — and doing it in a very dramatic and thought-provoking way.

From 16-19 November, in an event dubbed “Life of a Mesopotamian Refugee,” students in the greater Toronto area camped in tents for three nights on different university campuses. These young people wanted to raise awareness and be in solidarity with refugees from their homelands. They also collected donations, which will go towards CNEWA Canada’s efforts to assist refugees.

This student initiative was featured in a video on CityNews television in Toronto. It was also in newspapers, including an article in the Catholic Register.

You can still give to this fundraiser. Learn more by visiting their webpage here. You can also give today to Syrian refugees through CNEWA.

9 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis presents a rose at an icon of Mary and the child Jesus — known as “Doors of Mercy” — as he begins his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 9 December.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis requested the ancient Ukrainian icon “Doors of Mercy” to be brought to the Vatican for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Vatican Radio has details:

This icon, which combines both Western and Eastern traditions, is particularly symbolic and encourages all Christians to unity and peace for the sake of charity.

The Icon was met at the airport by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See, Tatyana Izhevska; and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See, Piotr Nowina-Konopka; and representatives from the Vatican.

The image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, which dates from the seventeenth century, comes from the cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Polish city of Jaroslaw. The icon, which takes its name from the Byzantine Lenten liturgical text, “Open the Doors of Mercy to me, O Mother of God.” is considered miraculous and was given a crown by St. John Paul II in 1996.

A copy of of the icon is also found in the Argentinian church belonging to Pope Francis’ former spiritual director, Ukrainian Catholic priest Father Stephan Chmil, who was later made a bishop.

9 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, greets people after celebrating Mass on 7 December at Our Lady of the Annunciation Cathedral in Tartus, Syria. He urged Syrian Christians to hold onto their faith amid the country’s conflict, now in its fifth year.
(photo: CNS/Mychel Akl for Bkerke, Maronite patriarchate)

Syrian rebels begin leaving Homs (AFP) Hundreds of Syrian rebels and civilians began evacuating the last opposition-held district in the central city of Homs Wednesday under a local ceasefire deal reached with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The deal agreed at the start December, a rare agreement between the regime and rebel forces, will leave the city once dubbed the “capital” of Syria’s revolution fully under government control. Some 2,000 rebels and their families will abandon the Waer district in Homs to travel to other opposition-held areas, after years of siege and heavy shelling...

Lebanese cardinal visits Syria, urges Christians to hold on to their faith (CNS) Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, visiting Syria, urged Christians to hold onto their faith. “Withstand with your faith and values, hold on to your unity. God doesn’t accept injustice, and our God is the God of peace and justice,” he said from the courtyard of Our Lady of the Sea on 7 December in the Syrian coastal town of Tartus. The governor of the coastal town declared a public holiday in honor of the visit of the cardinal, who is patriarch of Maronite Catholics...

Syrian refugees settling across U.S. despite resistance (CBS News) In at least two states where governors had demanded no Syrian refugees be allowed to settle, families from that war-torn country have begun arriving, despite the resistance. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis also said Tuesday it has brought a Syrian refugee family into the state despite Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s request that it not do so. Archbishop Joseph Tobin said the family arrived safely in Indianapolis Monday night...

Report: Ethiopian drought leaves “10 million without food” (BBC) Ethiopia’s government has increased to 10.1 million the estimated number of people who desperately need food aid because of a drought. More than half of them are children, Save the Children says. The drought, blamed on the El Nino weather phenomenon caused by Pacific Ocean warming, was the worst in 50 years, the charity added...

Bartholomew sends a gift to Pope Francis (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis today received a gift from the Orthodox leader, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st to recall the signing of a Joint Declaration between their predecessors exactly 50 years ago. On 7 December 1965, on the eve of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, lifted the mutual excommunications which had been imposed following the great schism of 1054...

Ukrainian icon “Doors of Mercy” brought to Vatican for Jubilee (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis requested the ancient Ukrainian icon “Doors of Mercy” to be brought to the Vatican for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This icon, which combines both Western and Eastern traditions, is particularly symbolic and encourages all Christians to unity and peace for the sake of charity...

Tags: Syria Pope Francis Lebanon Refugees Ethiopia

7 December 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

At the Greek Catholic Church of the Dormition in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, a couple hold candles during their wedding ceremony. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Self-determination as a basic human right for nations and peoples to pursue their cultural, economic, political or social destinies is of recent origin. Rooted in Europe’s 18th-century Age of Enlightenment and nurtured in the Romanticism of 19th century Europe, self-determination brought about conflicting results when realized in the last century. Self-determination has destroyed empires and built nations, advanced nationalism and patriotism and furthered extremism and ethnic cleansing.

What does the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church have to do with the right of self-determination?

In the 19th century, a sense of “self” emerged among the assorted peoples of Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, despite centuries of suppression and forced assimilation. Strategically located at Europe’s frontier with Asia, the Balkans had for millennia lured settlers seeking access to and control of the peninsula’s ports and trade routes.

Bulgarian Orthodox Christians, descendants of a central Asian tribe that migrated to the Balkans in the seventh century and intermarried with the Slav population, were just one of the Balkan peoples inspired by calls of self-determination and independence. As with their neighbors, Bulgarians longed to wrest control of their homeland from their Ottoman Turkish Muslim masters.

The Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church runs the Annunciation Center in Sofia, which provides care for people with severe mental and physical disabilities. (photo: Sean Sprague)

This 19th-century Bulgarian search for self-determination — not unlike the quest of Boris I, Bulgaria’s first Christian leader — led an influential circle of Orthodox monks to explore full communion with the church of Rome in order to secure privileges and traditions, obtain aid and further their national aspirations.

In 1861, an elderly archimandrite, Joseph Sokolsky, led a delegation of Bulgarian Orthodox activists to Rome, where they were received by Pope Pius IX. The pontiff ordained Sokolsky bishop, naming him archbishop for Bulgari an Catholics of the Byzantine rite. Although clearly associated with the Bulgarian nationalist cause, the archbishop was recognized in his new capacity by the Ottoman government — largely to undermine the powerful Greek-dominated ecumenical patriarchate.

This Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church grew rapidly and within a decade more than 60,000 Bulgarian Orthodox Christians embraced it. To stem the tide, the Russian tsar (who protected the interests of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman world) pressured the Ottoman government to recognize an autonomous Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was created in 1870. Though the ecumenical patriarch declared this church schismatic, it commandeered the nascent Bulgarian Greek Catholic movement. By the end of the 19th century, three quarters of those Bulgarians who joined the Greek Catholic community returned to Orthodoxy. Those who remained lived in the environs of Constantinople or in a few isolated villages in what are now modern Greece and Macedonia.

Click here to read more.

7 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Young members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church rest during a traditional celebration. To learn more about this ancient branch of Christianity, read our profile in the May 2010
edition of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)

7 December 2015
Greg Kandra

In the video above, officials describe efforts to tighten security in Rome ahead of the Holy Year, which begins on Tuesday 8 December. (video: Reuters)

Rome on alert as Jubilee approaches (The New York Times) On a recent morning on St. Peter’s Square, alongside the bustling priests and nuns, would-be tour guides and vendors hawking cheap umbrellas, military police officers stood guard with submachine guns. But that is just the beginning. On Tuesday — the start of what Pope Francis has declared a holy year, or Jubilee of Mercy, that is expected to draw millions of visitors — anyone entering the square will be subjected to airport-style screening, including metal detectors and X-ray machines. Pilgrims and tourists take note: Expect long lines...

Egypt reports jihadist threats to Coptic monasteries (Fides) In the last hours, according to Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides, jihadist threats were directed in particular against the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of al Baramos, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The threats have been accompanied by information about the location and structure of the monastery, already subjected to considerable protection measures by the Egyptian police...

Poll shows Americans favor sending ground troops to Iraq, Syria (The Boston Globe) A poll released Sunday said that a majority of Americans should send ground troops to Iraq and/or Syria to combat the Islamic State group. The CNN/ORC poll, released shortly before President Obama’s Oval Office speech, showed that 53 percent of Americans favored using ground troops to combat the Islamic State. It’s the first time that a majority has favored such an action in an CNN poll, the network said...

Knesset to host first-ever Reform-Conservative Hanukkah event (Haaretz) A first-of-its-kind Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony that will include representatives of the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel will be held at the Knesset this week. The ceremony, to be held Tuesday afternoon in one of the main halls of the parliament, is the initiative of MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), head of the Knesset lobby for pluralism and civil equality. Among the candle-lighters will be men, women, religious and secular activists, as well as Ethiopian Jewish clergy. The event is meant to coincide with International Human Rights day, which falls this week...

Gaza selling perfumes in bottles shaped like daggers (The Jerusalem Post) The latest perfume trend in Gaza is a new scent being sold in a bottle shaped like a dagger, the Palestinian symbol of resistance in the latest wave of terror to strike Israel in recent months, according to reports by Alkahleej, a United Arab Emirates based media site...

Russian Orthodox priests pose with cats for calendar (Australia Broadcasting Company) In a rare venture into popular culture, bearded Russian Orthodox priests have posed as models for a glossy 2016 calendar — cuddling their pet cats. The calendar put together by an Orthodox news website sees 12 smiling priests in dark robes relaxing with their cats — sitting side-by-side on the sofa, or having the pet sprawled on their chest or draped round their shoulder...

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox

4 December 2015
Greg Kandra

The bells of Holy Cross Cathedral call together Uzhorod’s Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic community. Read more about the church coming “Out From Underground” in the Autumn
edition of ONE. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)

4 December 2015
Greg Kandra

People gather in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on 3 December 2015 to demonstrate against the deployment of German armed forces to fight against ISIS in Syria. Germany’s parliament Friday voted to send military support to Syria.
(photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

Mass graves discovered in Iraq (AP) The U.N. human rights office in Iraq said on Friday that it has received reports of 16 mass graves discovered near the town of Sinjar after it was liberated from the Islamic State group last month. The reports were the latest among many instances of mass graves being uncovered in territory wrested from IS militants in Iraq and Syria — thousands of people have been killed in summary and extrajudicial killings by the Sunni militants and the graves have been a dark testimony to the group’s brutality...

Germany approves military action against ISIS (BBC) Germany’s parliament has voted to send military support to the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. MPs approved the plan for a German non-combat role by 445 votes to 146. Tornado jets — for reconnaissance — a naval frigate and 1,200 soldiers will be sent to the region. The vote comes after a French request following last month’s Paris attacks. Ministers believe Germany is now an IS target too...

Egypt reopens Gaza border (AP) Egypt has reopened its border with the Gaza Strip in both directions for the first time in months. Thousands of Palestinians lined up Thursday at the Rafah crossing in hopes of leaving the isolated enclave. Gaza’s borders are largely sealed by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. It’s unclear if the two-day opening is tied to an agreement the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank reached with Egypt last month to reopen the border crossing...

Friend of Syria’s Assad could become next Lebanese president (Fides) The vacant Lebanese presidency could be filled by Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian politician, a childhood friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad...

In a first, Kerala church offers Mass in Hindi for migrant workers (The Times of India) The famed St Antony’s church at Kaloor here has started offering Sunday prayers in Hindi, to cater to the spiritual needs of Christians among the migrant workforce. Ernakulam is home to migrant labourers and this is for the first time that a church is offering regular holy Mass in Hindi in the city limits. The Mass in Hindi will be offered every Sunday at 3 pm...

3 December 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Parishioners from the Mon Valley of Pittsburgh light candles at Homestead’s
Church of St. Nicholas. (photo: Lisa Kyle)

An Eastern Slavic people akin to Belarussians, Russians and Ukrainians, the Rusyns — whose homeland lies south of the Carpathian Mountains in the heart of central Europe — have always lived under the governance of another people. They toiled the soil, kept livestock or cut timber, usually as serfs or tenant laborers of their Hungarian, German or Polish masters, landholders who eagerly imposed their identity on their subjects.

An estimated 200,000 Rusyns immigrated to the United States, beginning in the late 19th century, settling in the industrialized areas of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia and Indiana. Lured by employment agents of the mines and mills, they quarried coal and forged steel, enriching their employers while building a nation. And though working conditions were wretched, many Rusyn immigrants, once married, believed they lacked nothing except a church in which they could worship God in keeping with the traditions of their forebears.

The desire of Rusyn-Americans to maintain their Eastern Christian faith, or stara vira (old faith), and the privileges and rites associated with it, would eventually split the community. Yet this resolve would also hinder its assimilation. The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, an eparchy (diocese) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, echoes this Rusyn-American fidelity to faith and forebears.

Father Matthias blesses the congregation with incense at Sts. Cyril and Methodios Church in Mercer, Pennsylvania. (photo: Lisa Kyle)

Concerned for the erosion of their traditions and identity, after decades of conflict with Roman Catholic ordinaries in the United States, an assembly of priests and laity, led by Father Orestes Chornock (1883-1977), met in Pittsburgh in November 1937. After repealing the union with the bishop of Rome that bound their ancestral church of Mukačevo to Rome made nearly 300 years earlier, the assembly elected Father Chornock bishop.

Fearing further loss of identity should they enter the Russian Orthodox Church, the group established itself as an eparchy, petitioned the ecumenical patriarch based in Constantinople, Benjamin I, to receive it into the Orthodox Church and requested Father Chornock’s ordination to the episcopacy. Nearly a year later, in September, the ecumenical patriarch consecrated Father Chornock bishop and formally erected the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Eparchy as a diocese of the ecumenical patriarchate.

Soon after, Bishop Orestes set up a seminary in New York City, but he eventually moved it to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where in 1950 the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was founded. Johnstown remains the seat of the eparchy.

Of the estimated 75 parishes and missions that make up the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church (numbering some 50,000 people), nearly half are located in Pennsylvania. Most of the remaining parishes are scattered throughout the rest of the Rust Belt. The churches of these parishes, many of them simple structures garnished with onion domes and three-bar crosses, stand as relics of a bygone age when Slavs carved coal from the earth or fueled furnaces that belched soot and fashioned steel.

Following waves of north-to-south migration, which has emptied once-thriving communities throughout the Northeast, the now deceased Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos (elected in 1985) erected parishes and missions in Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia. While Rusyn-Americans make up the majority of these communities, they are not ethnically homogeneous.

Read a full account of the churches development here.

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