18 October 2018
Russian Orthodox worshippers pray during a liturgy in 2017 at St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg. (photo: CNS/Anatoly Maltsev, EPA)
Editor’s note: Monday, the Christian world was rocked by the news that the Patriarchate of Moscow, which governs the Orthodox Church of Russia, was breaking its ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
While the history behind this is long and complex, its effects today cannot be ignored or easily dismissed. Millions of Christians around the world could ultimately be affected — especially those in the world of CNEWA.
Here’s a brief Q &A with Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. , in which he addresses some of the questions we had about this break and its significance.
Okay. So the patriarchate in Moscow has announced it is breaking relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. What does that mean?
Initially it means that the Orthodox Church of Russia will no longer pray for the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. It can develop to the point where Russian Orthodox Christians will no longer be able to attend the liturgies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and that Russian Orthodox bishops and priests will not be able to concelebrate liturgies with those Orthodox churches in full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In other words, they are no longer in full communion. It is technically an excommunication.
Why are they doing this?
Because the Ecumenical Patriarch has begun the process which leaves room for a fully autonomous Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The Patriarch of Constantinople, who is considered the “first among equals” in the Orthodox communion of churches, traditionally has the right to do this. The Moscow Patriarchate, however, believes that Ukraine is part of its ecclesiastical territory.
What are the immediate effects of this?
Probably cessation of talks and relations between Moscow and Constantinople.
How does this impact those we serve?
CNEWA works in Ukraine where there are four Christian — three Orthodox and one Catholic — churches. While working primarily with the Catholic Church, CNEWA maintains good relations with the other churches. This will be greatly complicated and hostilities both old and new might surface.
Has this happened before?
Yes, this has happened before. Tragically, schisms remain a seemingly unavoidable part of Christian history. There were schisms after most of the Ecumenical Councils of the first five centuries; there was the schism between the East and West in 1054 and the great schism in the west brought on by the Reformation. Also, there have been schisms in the last two centuries involving other patriarchates, but these were healed eventually.
Why should we care?
A divided and mutually hostile Christianity is contrary to the will of Christ and undermines the ability of the church in preaching the Gospel. It took almost 1500 years to begin to heal the schisms of the first five centuries; discussions to heal the schism of 1054 are sporadic and of very varying success; the divisions of the Reformation, while showing some tractability, are still strong. This could have a lasting impact on any efforts to advance Christian Unity. With this in mind, we should fervently pray — as Jesus did in John’s Gospel — ”that all may be one.”
18 October 2018
Tags: Ecumenism Russian Orthodox Church
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican 18 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Firm in their faith in Jesus and working together, Orthodox and Catholic young people can resist forces trying to remove all traces of faith from society and even could reverse that trend, Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk told the Synod of Bishops.
Speaking to the synod on 18 October as one of the “fraternal delegates” or ecumenical observers at the gathering, Metropolitan Hilarion said that, since the fall of communism, young people have been returning to the Orthodox Church in Russia.
And, he said, “the upbringing of youth in the Christian spirit is a project that we, the Orthodox, are willing to implement together with the Catholics.”
Since 2015, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican have cooperated to promote exchange programs for their seminarians and young clergy. The Orthodox visit the Vatican and the Catholics spend time in Russia, which “helps us to overcome misconceptions, enriches us spiritually and lays the foundation for cooperation between our churches.”
At a time when young people are bombarded by conflicting information about what they should want and what they should strive for, Christian leaders must help young people learn the art of discernment, he said.
“The contemporary mission of the church,” Metropolitan Hilarion said, is “to teach the younger generation to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsehood, the genuine and truly valuable from that which is instant, transient and superficial.”
Young people need the moral values the church teaches, and they need prayer, liturgy and the sacraments, he said. But “the most important and necessary thing that we can offer all generations is Christ crucified and risen.”
“A cultural, psychological and spiritual abyss separates the contemporary young people from Christ, from his spiritual and moral teaching,” Metropolitan Hilarion said. “Our task is to help young people to overcome this abyss, to feel that they need Christ and that he can transform their life and fill it with content, meaning and inspiration.”
18 October 2018
Tags: Ecumenism Russian Orthodox
Ukraine's parliament on Thursday 18 October voted to hand over St. Andrew's Church in Kiev to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (photo: Creative Commons/Wikipedia)
Syria says it will re-open borders with Iraq soon (The Independent) Syria will reopen its borders with Iraq ”soon”, the country’s representative to the United Nations has said. Earlier this week the government of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, received a major boost as the country’s commercial gateway with Jordan and a crossing to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights were reopened…
Ukraine votes to hand landmark Kiev church to Constantinople (AFP) Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted to hand over a landmark Kiev church to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate after it agreed to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. The move is seen as a step towards the Constantinople Patriarchate granting independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church despite protests from Russia. Ukraine’s parliament voted 237 votes to 30 to allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate to use Kiev’s landmark Saint Andrew’s Church “for worship, religious rites (and) ceremonies…”
Syrian refugees in Lebanon weigh risk of returning (The New Arab) The past few months have seen a growing number of refugees in Lebanon returning to Syria, leading Russian envoys to claim that government-controlled areas are now safe for returnees. In July the Syrian regime made its first formal appeal for the return of refugees, opening reception centers to monitor return: a move many interpreted as a bid to regain international legitimacy. However, according to UNHCR, conditions are not yet ready for the return of refugees to Syria, especially while the siege on rebel-held Idlib continues. Even in regions where armed clashes and bombing have reduced, imprisonment, forced conscription, and a lack of basic primary services make safe return for Syrians premature…
Young migrants bring vitality, need support, synod members say (CNS) Helping young migrants hold fast to their cultural and religious identity, especially in situations where they are a minority, was a recurring topic at the Synod of Bishops. Blessed Sacrament Father Robert Stark, director of the Office for Social Ministry for the Diocese of Honolulu and regional coordinator for the Vatican’s Migrant and Refugees Section, offered synod members very practical advice for assisting young people on the move…
17 October 2018
Tags: Syria Ukraine Migrants Russian Orthodox
Students gather outside Sacred Heart Balanagar Hostel for Boys, near Cochin.
(photo: Meenakshi Soman)
In the current edition of ONE magazine, Anubha George writes of how the church is continuing to care for children in India, despite some significant changes in the country. She offers some additional impressions of those she met below.
I still think about my visits to orphanages in Kerala. It was about a month ago that the photographer and I set on our journey to see how a change in Indian law has affected Christian institutions that have taken in children who have either lost both parents or are from single parent families. This new law, the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 has brought big changes in how orphanages in India are run. It wants institutions to have a lot more staff than they previously had, and there is a restriction on foreign aid, among other things.
We chose three orphanages to visit. Well, we shouldn’t call them “orphanages” any more. All three places have had to change their status. They are now boarding places or hostels for boys and girls. Kerala has a big number of places that helped look after children. They are all pretty much missionary-run, and mostly Christian. I understand the concerns of the Indian government: there have been reports of child trafficking in India. Children have gone missing without a trace.
But what we saw were stories of success. Girls and boys who wouldn’t have otherwise stood a chance in life have gone on to do good for the society. Some have become nurses. I remember meeting this group of girls, their faces happy and shiny, singing for us. They all came from families that are broken—where the parents aren’t together, where the mother or father has left to set up another family. Their parents are daily wage workers; no one has steady income. Where they live, the houses are so close together that it’s all considered one big place to live— where men from neighboring houses come and go as they please. Abuse of girls is common. Safety is the biggest concern. It is in this context that these institutions are a necessity.
I remember in particular the story of one girl. She was three when her father attacked her mother, as the little girl stood watching. Her mother had, perhaps, been unfaithful. Her father then butchered the body into pieces and tried to burn it. The neighbors reported him to the police and he was arrested. But the girl, who is now seven years old, remembers it all. The headmistress of the nursery she used to attend brought her to an orphanage. Here, she at least has some kind of normal life. A life of routine and love; of prayer and belief; of safety and security, where she doesn’t have to wonder where the next meal will come from or when is the next time she will have a bath.
Then there was a boy, Abin. His parents have left him and his older brother in Kerala while they live in Delhi, hundreds of miles away. Actually, we never quite figured out what his parents do. I don’t think he knows why he is there at all. All he remembers is a promise: that he will go back to be with mom and dad when Christmas comes. When that Christmas will come, no one knows.
But for now, at least, he has other boys, who play and smile with him, to be there every Christmas until then.
Read more in ‘Our Doors Are Open’ in the September 2018 edition of ONE.
17 October 2018
Tags: India ONE magazine Orphans/Orphanages
Palestinian Christians and members of the scouts gather outside the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Bethlehem. Learn more about how they are Defining ’Christian’ in Palestine in the September 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Samar Hazboun)
17 October 2018
Pope Francis greets the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in the Vatican on 16 October 2018.
(photo: Vatican Media)
At Synod: Young Catholics of India need inspiring priests (Vatican News) Young Catholics of India are like the fragile and sinful men and women disciples of Jesus yearning for His living water. These young people are urging the Church leadership to be an authentic inspiration on living the faith and to provide them opportunities and spaces to build communities and experience the Church’s mission. The call was made by Percival Holt, a young lay Indian, who on Tuesday addressed the ongoing world Synod of Bishops currently taking place in the Vatican…
Pope receives Grand Imam (Vatican News) Pope Francis received the Grand Imam of the prestigious Muslim al-Azhar Mosque of Egypt, Prof. Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyib, in a private visit, Tuesday afternoon, at the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, the Holy See’s Press Office said in a brief note. The two spiritual leaders have met a few times before, most importantly when the Pope visited Egypt, 28-29 April 2017, on the invitation of the Grand Imam…
War threatens deep divisions in Orthodox Church (CNN) while the Christian population in mostly-Muslim Turkey has dwindled to just a few thousand over the last century, the world’s Orthodox Christians call Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew “first among equals,” and many view him as the spiritual and symbolic leader of their faith. Loosely put, Bartholomew is the Orthodox equivalent of the Pope, though the Catholic Church has a stricter hierarchical structure than its eastern counterpart. ”This is something historic that I think will result in a schism,” says Rev. Alexander Laschuk, a Ukrainian Catholic priest who teaches canon law at the University of Toronto. ”The question is -- is this something short or something that will last centuries?”…
Syria approves UN aid delivery to camp at Jordanian border (GulfNews.com) The Syrian government gave approval for the UN to deliver aid next week to thousands of civilians stranded near a US garrison on the Jordanian-Syrian border, aid workers and camp officials said on Wednesday…
Bethlehem mayor to Netanyahu: stop using Christians to ‘whitewash’ occupation (Haaretz) Bethlehem Mayor Anton Salman strongly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, calling on the premier to stop “using Christians as a tool to whitewash the occupation.” Salman was responding to comments made by Netanyahu on Sunday at the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, a gathering of Christian journalists from around the world…
Can new media revive Christian publishing in India? (La Croix) At a time when the publishing industry has an overarching influence over many aspects of human life, the pressing question is, Has the Indian Church kept pace with the development and progress of the industry? The answer is yes, to a degree, but there is much more is to be done if the Church is to make a big impact on mainstream publications…
16 October 2018
Tags: Syria Egypt Islam Russian Orthodox
Paul VI meets with leaders of the CNEWA/Pontifical Mission family at the Vatican, including Cardinal Francis Spellman, chair of CNEWA, and Archbishop Joseph Ryan, then-president of CNEWA.
(photo: CNEWA archives)
On Sunday, 14 October, Pope Francis canonized seven saints — including Pope Paul VI, who was the bishop of Rome from 1963 until his death in 1978. The man who is now St. Paul VI was long a champion of our work around the world — beginning in the 1940’s.
During World War II, then-Msgr. Giovanni Batttista Montini, who served Pope Pius XII, organized and directed the Holy See’s relief efforts for refugees. At a November 1948 meeting in the Vatican — during which the idea of a papal mission specifically for displaced persons in Palestine was discussed — it was Msgr. Montini who penciled in the name of the head of CNEWA, then Msgr. Thomas J. McMahon, to lead such an effort. Thus was born the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, which Pius XII entrusted to CNEWA as its operating agency in the Middle East.
Years later, as Pope Paul VI showed an even deeper commitment to the work of CNEWA. To begin with, he announced plans to open his pontificate with a historic trip to the Holy Land:
In December 1963, during the council [Vatican II], Paul VI announced his intention to begin his pontificate with a “pilgrimage of prayer and penance” to the Holy Land:
“We will bring to the Holy Sepulchre and to the Grotto of the Nativity the desires of individuals, of families, of nations; above all, the aspirations, the anxieties, the sufferings of the sick, the poor, the disinherited, the afflicted, of refugees, of those who suffer, those who weep, those who hunger and thirst for justice.”
He made the trip in January 1964:
Fired with the Gospel message of hope, the pope met with heads of state and religious leaders in the Holy Land. These visits culminated with his embrace in Jerusalem of Orthodoxy’s spiritual leader, Patriarch Athenagoras I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Before departing the Holy Land, Pope Paul VI assured [CNEWA’s Secretary and President of the Pontifical Mission] Msgr. Joseph Ryan, who accompanied the pontiff, of the Holy See’s commitment to the refugees and encouraged Ryan to further the Pontifical Mission’s efforts with Palestinians.
Paul VI’s pilgrimage resulted in social rehabilitation and development projects that, with support from the Pontifical Mission, changed the lives of many: Bethlehem University; Ephpheta Institute for hearing-impaired children; Tantur Ecumenical Institute; and Notre Dame of Jerusalem Pilgrimage Center. These diverse initiatives testified to the pope’s belief in the church as an instrument of reconciliation and hope.
At the Mount of Olives, Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras I lift the mutual excommunications dividing the Catholic and Orthodox churches, in January 1964.
(photo: CNEWA archives)
The following year, Pope Paul VI issued the groundbreaking document, Nostra Aetate, a declaration on the relation of the church to non-Christian religions, which noted not only Christianity’s historic connection to Jews, but also its respect for Muslims:
The church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself; merciful and all-powerful, the creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even his inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
In the years that followed, he never lost his concern with and affection for the peoples of the Middle East:
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Mission, Pope Paul VI wrote to [CNEWA’s] Msgr. John G. Nolan … : ”The work of the Mission for Palestine has been one of the clearest signs of the Holy See’s concern for the welfare of the Palestinians, who are particularly dear to us because they are people of the Holy Land, because they include followers of Christ, and because they have been and are still being so tragically tried. We express again our heartfelt sharing in their sufferings and our support for their legitimate aspirations.” (16 July 1974)
Also in 1974, the Holy Father noted in Nobis in Animo that the Holy Land “is also a country in which, besides the Shrines and Holy Places, a Church — a community of believers in Christ — lives and works. Were their presence to cease, the Shrines would be without the warmth of the living witness and the Christian Holy Places of Jerusalem and the Holy Land would become like museums.”
Cardinal Jacques Martin, a co-worker of then Msgr. Montini for many years in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, in speaking of Pope Paul VI, noted, “The thing that most struck those who were close to him was that he gave himself entirely to the service of the church, without second thoughts, without holding back any of his time or energy. At one a.m. the light was often still burning in his office. He was a man consumed by his work, a man who gave himself entirely.”
We remain deeply grateful for the love and passion he brought to his papacy — and which he shared so selflessly with the suffering peoples in the Holy Land, a place now so fraught with division, hardship and violence. So many of those we serve need his prayerful intercession now, more than ever.
Pope Paul VI prays at the River Jordan during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964.
(photo: CNEWA archives)
With humble gratitude and boundless hope, we join our voices to so many others around the world this day to pray for his accompaniment, his prophetic vision, and his courage. May his spirit help us to help others, and may his prayers guide us on our way.
”St. Paul VI, pray for us!”
16 October 2018
Tags: CNEWA Pope CNEWA Pontifical Mission
Children gather for a meal at the Mariam Tsion School in Saesa, Ethiopia. Discover how CNEWA carries out its mission of Remembering the Forgotten in the September 2018 edition of ONE magazine. (photo: John E. Kozar)
16 October 2018
In a dramatic move, the Russian Orthodox Church has broken its ties with Constantinople, creating a schism. (video: AFP/YouTube)
Russian Orthodox Church breaks ties with Constantinople (AP) The Russian Orthodox Church decided Monday to sever ties with the leader of the worldwide Orthodox community after his decision to grant Ukrainian clerics independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Hilarion said the Russian church’s Holy Synod resolved to “break the Eucharistic communion” with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople…
Iraqi delegate at Synod says young people need a ‘fast response’ (Vatican News) Mr. Safa al Abbia is a 26-year-old Chaldean Catholic dentist from Iraq. He was invited to the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment currently underway in Rome. His plea to the bishops is that the universal Church helps young people in Iraq who are being persecuted for their faith. He explained that the main challenge for youth in Iraq is “peace and stability and their right to live in dignity…”
Syria’s key border crossings to re-open (AP) President Bashar Assad’s government received a major boost Monday as Syria’s commercial gateway with Jordan and a crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights manned by U.N. peacekeepers were reopened years after the war disrupted their operations…
Hindu group in India seeks to shut down schools belonging to religious minorities (UCANews.com) Muslim and Christian leaders in India see danger in a pro-Hindu group’s demand that the government revoke a policy allowing minority groups to own and manage educational institutions in the country. A report released on 10 October by the Center for Policy Analysis, a think tank of hard-line Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, stated that allowing religious minority groups to have institutions for their own people was tantamount to “compartmentalization” that works against the unity of India…
In Ethiopia’s new cabinet, half the ministers are women (Washington Post) Ethiopia’s reformist prime minister announced Tuesday a new cabinet that is half female, in an unprecedented push for gender parity in Africa’s second-most-populous nation…
15 October 2018
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Russian Orthodox Church
Chamsa Hadaya stands surrounded by family members. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
The new edition of ONE magazine features A Letter from Iraq, in which Chamsa Marzina Hadaya describes her family’s efforts to start over after fleeing ISIS and then returning home:
Right after we fled Qaraqosh, we used some of our savings and spent a few days in a cheap motel. We then rented a small apartment for a few months, but we ran out of funds as our stay lengthened from weeks to months to years. We had to quit the apartment and find another place provided by the church that was a prefabricated room in the camp of Ain Kawa — near the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. We stayed there for more than 15 months.
Life was unbearable during our stay in the camp. We had no income and we were completely dependent on charity for every single need. We experienced real destitution and we felt weak, humiliated and alone — strangers in a strange land. Nothing but our faith gave us real support: We felt God’s presence in our daily life, and this gave us hope and determination to hang on for a better life.
I cried. I prayed to God and asked him for his help to preserve our dignity — and God heard me! One of the organizations working in the same camp where I lived offered me a job in the kindergarten, and with this income I was able to help support my husband and family.
I have to admit that, spiritually, I have passed through some difficult times. I questioned God many times, wondering, “How is it possible that he has abandoned us?” But after all those moments of fear, I have finally surrendered my life and my fate to God.
My mother taught me how to live my faith, how to face crises and adapt to change. She taught me how to synchronize my hands and my mind to achieve my goals. Thanks to the image of my mother and her encouraging whispers that have accompanied and guided me in such difficult times, my hope in God has become so strong that now I live it in every single detail of my life. And now, again, I take this opportunity and this experience to pass it on to my children.
Read more in the September 2018 edition of ONE.
Tags: Iraq ISIS