22 October 2015
A Romanian Orthodox priest leads a religious service in Piata Universitatii Square, downtown Bucharest. (photo: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)
The modern southeastern European nation of Romania lies where the Latin, Greek and Slavic cultures collide. Diversity once marked the composition of the people living there. Large communities of Armenians, Germans, Greeks, Hungarians, Jews, Roma, Slavs, Turks and Rumani (ethnic Romanians) lived together — sometimes peacefully, sometimes not. Today, Romania is more homogeneous. About 83 percent of the population of 21 million is ethnic Romanian. Smaller communities of ethnic minorities remain, particularly in the central region of Transylvania.
The Orthodox Church of Romania is the largest religious community in the country — numbering more than 82 percent of the people — and the second-largest Orthodox Church in the world. Unlike other Orthodox churches, the Orthodox Church of Romania functions within a Latin culture and utilizes a Romance language in the celebration of the sacraments — legacies of the country’s Roman past. But Romanian, despite its Latin roots and syntax, includes words from Byzantine Greek and Church Slavonic, reflecting the early Romanians’ relationship with the Byzantines and Bulgarians respectively.
At the end of the 14th century, two Romanian principalities, Wallachia and Moldavia, emerged south and east of the Carpathian Mountains. Though Catholic communities existed in both states, especially among the prosperous German and Hungarian middle class burghers, the Orthodox Church — the faith of the Rumani majority — functioned as an arm of the princely families who governed the states. Monasteries opened and eparchies, erected. By the middle of the 14th century, the ecumenical patriarchate in Constantinople recognized a metropolitan archbishop of Ungro-Wallachia and half a century later a metropolitan archbishop of Moldavia.
Pastor Stefan Anghel celebrates with Romanian Orthodox believers the birth of John the Baptist on 7 January 2014 in Offenbach/Main, Germany. (photo: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)
After the collapse of Byzantium and the Ottoman Turks’ capture of the capital, Constantinople, in 1453, Wallachia and Moldavia became vassal states of the Ottomans. Nevertheless, the Rumani principalities and its Orthodox churches thrived. Formidable monasteries and elaborate churches were constructed and adorned with frescoes — even on the exterior walls — revealing Byzantine, Renaissance and Turkish influences. Monasteries and eparchies established printing houses to publish liturgical books and theological works. Jewelers fashioned gilded reliquaries encrusted with mother of pearl and gems.
Rumani princes, bishops and abbots supported the impoverished ecumenical patriarchate in Ottoman Constantinople, restoring churches and endowing monasteries. Large monastic estates provided regular income to the ecumenical patriarchate and Mount Athos, a Byzantine monastic oasis that remains to this day.
While most of the Orthodox community in Wallachia and Moldavia spoke Rumaneste (Romanian), the church officially used Church Slavonic in the celebration of the sacraments until a local synod approved the use of the Romanian vernacular in 1568. Until 1863, the Orthodox Church used the Cyrillic alphabet to write Romanian liturgical texts, which was also common in civil society.
Despite centuries of challenges — ranging from oppression to collaboration in the modern era — the Orthodox Church of Romania has prospered. Parish life is vibrant; seminaries and monasteries are full; theological studies thrive and interchurch relations, especially with the Catholic Church, advanced significantly. Although immediately after the collapse of their Communist government in 1989 most elements of Romanian society seemed to have suffered posttraumatic stress disorder, the Orthodox Church was well poised to step in and assert leadership. Intellectually, pastorally and spiritually dynamic, it remains the most respected institution in contemporary Romanian society.
Click here to read more.
22 October 2015
The Grigorian family gather in their home in Arevik, Armenia. The rich heritage and history of Armenia’s Catholics, with interwoven religions and traditions, is recounted in “A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics” in the January 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
22 October 2015
Smoke rises after the Syrian army bombed the opposition controlled Eastern Ghouta district of Damascus, Syria on 22 October 2015. (photo: Bassam Al-Shami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Civilians under the gun in Syria (Voice of America) Since Russia launched its first round of airstrikes in Syria three weeks ago, reports have emerged that civilians were making up a shockingly large portion of the casualties. A report by a Syrian activist group is lending further weight to that accusation...
Russian Orthodox’s Metropolitan Hilarion meets with Pope Francis (Moscow Patriarchate) On 21 October 2015, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the DECR chairman, met with Pope Francis at the “Domus Sanctae Marthae” hotel in Vatican. Pope Francis thanked Metropolitan Hilarion for greetings he brought to the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church and conveyed his best wishes to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Discussed were topics on the agenda of bilateral relations of the Roman Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as the situation in the Middle East, where Christians have been persecuted by the terrorist groups...
Russian Orthodox priest ordained in China (USA Today) In the latest sign of warming ties between Moscow and Beijing, the Russian Orthodox Church ordained its first Chinese priest in 60 years, with the blessing of China’s atheist, Communist rulers. The rare move in the politically sensitive area of religion, which is tightly regulated in China, underscores how the two nations have moved closer at a time when each faces growing friction with the United States...
Dialogue between religions offers new challenges (Vatican Radio) The Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Msgr. Indunil Janakaratne Kodithuwakku, has given a lecture at a conference at the Confucius Institute at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan...
21 October 2015
Children line up at the St. Charles Orphanage near Beirut, Lebanon, where Sister Josephine Haddad and seven other sisters care for orphans who would otherwise live on the street.
(photo: Sarah Hunter)
Name: Sister Josephine Haddad
Order: Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul
Facility: Saint Charles Orphanage
Location: Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Near the center of Beirut, Lebanon, there’s a busy place where nurturing has been a way of life for years. It’s called Saint Charles Orphanage. And back in 1948, it opened its doors to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable residents: children who were poor, alone and had nowhere else to go.
Over the decades, Saint Charles’ mission has expanded. Sister Josephine Haddad and seven fellow sisters — along with seven staff members — still care for young orphans who would otherwise live on the street. But they now reserve part of their time for adults who arrive seeking help.
“We help children from age 5 until 17 years-old,” Sister Josephine explains. “And we serve free lunch for poor adults and elderly three times weekly.”
In addition to their orphanage and lunch program, the sisters run a boarding school for girls. As Sister Josephine says, “The girls come from very poor families and their living conditions are very severe. We provide them with education, nourishment, and what they need most: affection and love.”
She’s especially proud of a girl named Marwa who — along with her parents — knocked on Saint Charles’ door in 2004. “Her parents are deaf, unable to communicate,” Sister Josephine explains. “So she took the initiative to explain to us what they wanted. Marwa was very clever and responsible. And she was never ashamed of her parents’ handicap.”
Marwa spent four years at Saint Charles “and was always one of the best students in her class. Today she is in her last year in university, studying sign language, so she can help children suffering from deafness. She is still visiting us once or twice every week in order to assist the sisters in the afternoon.”
Sister Josephine admits that many children arrive with emotional issues due to extreme hardship or abuse. It’s why hiring a staff psychologist is at the top of her list — and why Saint Charles Orphanage desperately needs your financial support.
For now, she and her fellow sisters continue to accomplish a great deal with very little. And she takes comfort in knowing they’re making a difference. “Seeing the little children happy, smiling, having all their needs met,” she says, describing what makes the hard work worthwhile. “Seeing them playing, studying, sharing... this is my joy.”
Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.
To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here. Also, for a limited time, you can make your gift go twice as far. A generous benefactor is matching every donation to support the sisters between now and 1 November, All Saints’ Day. Learn more about this great gift here.
21 October 2015
Migrants from Syria warm themselves by a fire on 11 October as they wait to be registered outside a camp near Lesbos, Greece. Thousands of displaced Syrians who have been unable to leave their war-torn country now face a harsh winter. Help CNEWA and the Vatican to help them survive the cold. Visit this page to learn how. (photo: CNS/Yannis Kolesidis, EPA)
21 October 2015
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, on 21 October 2015.
(photo: Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Assad flies to Moscow to thank Putin for air strikes (Vatican Radio) On Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew into Moscow for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which the two men discussed their joint military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria. In his first foreign trip since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Assad’s visit came three weeks after Russia launched a campaign of air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria. Assad personally thanked Putin for his military support, emphasizing just how major a part Russia is playing in the Middle East...
Holy See denies report that pope has brain tumor (VIS) The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., issued the following statement this morning: “The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the Pope is carrying out his very intense activity in an totally normal way”...
Olive harvest has begun in Gethsemane (Fides) The olive harvest in the garden of Gestsemani began on Saturday 17 October and will last at least one week. As usual, even this year the Franciscan friars, guardian of the Sacred Garden where Jesus prayed on Holy Thursday, invited the people of Jerusalem and volunteers from every part of the world to spend a few hours or an entire day to olive picking...
Fact-checking Israel’s statement to the UN Security Council (PalestineUN.org) On 16 October 2015, Israeli Ambassador Roet addressed the UN Security Council in an emergency session on the escalating situation in Israel and Palestine. Below are his statements followed by facts disproving the statements...
Thousands fleeing Eritrea in migrant crisis (The Wall Street Journal) On a cool March evening soon after his 16th birthday, Binyam Abraham waited until his mother and young siblings were sleeping and slipped away to begin the long trek toward Eritrea’s southern border. With his father trapped in open-ended military service that would soon snare him, too, Binyam walked for 19 hours without food or water to reach Ethiopia. He made a choice 5,000 of his countrymen make each month, by a United Nations estimate: to flee Eritrea and brave the world’s deadliest migrant trail, across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to Europe...
20 October 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Palestine Russia Eritrea
A Bulgarian Orthodox priest holds a vestment as he waits for Patriarch Neofit at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia on 11 April 2015. (photo: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images)
Geography has helped shape the history of the peoples of the Balkans. This peninsula in the Mediterranean lies at the crossroads of the ancient Greek and Latin civilizations of southern Europe, a juncture where Orthodoxy and Catholicism mingle, where Islam meets Christianity, where Asia and Europe collide. For millennia, these Balkan encounters have sparked major cultural and political movements. Bulgarian Orthodoxy, despite centuries of setbacks, is one such example.
Closely aligned with the fate of the nation and its peoples, the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria has endured significant difficulties for much of its history, which dates to the baptism of Tsar Boris I in the year 864. These challenges have included the rise and fall of independent states, schisms, Ottoman domination and Greek oppression. Just in the last century, the church has sustained three regional and two world wars; abdications, assassinations, executions and rigged elections; isolation from the rest of the Orthodox world; 45 years of Communist control; and internal discord and schism. Dramatic demographic decline — Bulgaria has lost 14 percent of its population in the last two decades and, in some years, the number of abortions exceeds live births — has taken its toll on the church’s role and effectiveness in the 21st century.
Men dance in the icy winter waters of the Tundzha river in the town of Kalofer as part of the Epiphany Day celebrations on 6 January 2015. (photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)
While today some 82 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.3 million people identify themselves as Orthodox, most do not follow the rites of the church. Some observers believe up to half of the population is agnostic or atheistic. Bulgarian Orthodoxy, they contend, has become an ethnic or cultural symbol.
A general council, held in July 1997, attempted to address the role of the church in post-Communist Bulgaria. Under the guidance of its patriarch, the council called on the government to allow it to develop freely and publicly, utilizing mass media, catechesis in state schools and the restoration of chaplaincies in the armed forces, prisons and hospitals. The council also addressed the urgent need for the spiritual renewal of the Orthodox faithful and focused on the development of formation and catechetical programs. But the resurrection of the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria — unlike the Orthodox revival in Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine — remains arduous.
Click here to read more.
20 October 2015
Margaret Injak, 63, a Catholic resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, prays on 18 October
in St. Saviour’s Parish near her home. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
As tensions mount and violence increases in Jerusalem, Christians are turning to prayer:
“We are very tired,” said Margaret Injak, 63, who lives near the third station of the cross along the Via Dolorosa. “We are very afraid of the police, we are afraid of the Israelis, we are afraid of the Muslims. I am for peace; I want peace for all the world, just peace.”
Christians have been staying mainly in the Christian Quarter of the Old City as yet another wave of violence plays itself out between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, she said, and parents have been keeping a closer eye on their children.
Most of the attacks have been carried out by young Palestinians, some as young as 13, and what started in Jerusalem has spread to other Israeli cities. Fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians continues in the West Bank and along the border with Gaza. The clashes between the two left at least 44 Palestinians and seven Israelis dead since the beginning of October.
St. Saviour is in the Christian Quarter, but not far from where, earlier in the month, stabbings took place on a part of the Via Dolorosa that is in the Muslim Quarter.
Over a number of decades, several Muslim Quarter properties have been bought by Jews, including a religious seminary and a long unused house purchased by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It is also along this portion of the Via Dolorosa that Jews walk through from the main Damascus Gate to reach the Western Wall.
The armed Israeli border policemen standing guard at the fourth and fifth station of the cross, where a metal detector has been placed, are meant to prevent further attacks.
Since the tensions began, Frieda Michail, 53, said she no longer lets her children go out and takes them and picks them up from school herself.
“We tell our children that politics is not for us, to leave it for the big people. If you want to live in peace you have to take care of your children. I tell them we are the brothers of Muslims and we are the brothers of Jews,” said her husband, William, 54. “I tell my children to be safe; to be good. I think there is only one God, for Muslims, Christians and Jews. If one of us has a problem, there are problems for all of us. I say it is not right these kids killing each other. It is sad for everybody.”
Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said that as he made his way into the church accompanied by several children preparing their readings for the mid-morning family Mass, it was more important than ever to remain strong in faith.
“We keep our children safe by teaching them their faith, sending them to Catholic school and giving them a good example,” he told CNS.
In the church, religious try to keep a warm atmosphere for the children, teaching them about the Catholic faith and providing them with a safe gathering place. But recently the children have been very tense and anxious, said Gustavo Ramirez, a Salesian seminarian from Mexico who has been in Jerusalem for two years and who has been helping in catechism classes.
“We try to talk and smile and calm them by the way we do our work,” he said. “For me, it is sacrilegious that these things are happening in the Holy Land, but at the same time, upon reflection, the Via Dolorosa is the symbol of Christ’s suffering, and these people are experiencing that suffering now. It is the suffering of both people.”
Though the streets are less crowded than normal and hotels have reported cancellations, groups of pilgrims from Taiwan, Poland, India and Spain still walk the Via Dolorosa, or Way of the Cross, stopping at the stations and taking the presence of the border police in stride, with some pausing to snap pictures with the obliging young men and women in uniform.
“I know that violence is inherent to this place,” said Luis Vernajo, 66, a pilgrim from Madrid on his fourth visit to the Holy Land. “It is very complicated for a person to face that hate, but the desire to be here is so strong that you put that to the side. This place deserves for us to come here. Since the Psalm of David there has been a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, and we all have to try and contribute to this. We all have to pray for a better peace of Jerusalem.”
Franciscan Brother Mark McPherson, an American originally from Los Angeles who has been in the Holy Land for three years, said he tries to make his presence on the Via Dolorosa a positive influence. He chats amiably equally with the Muslim shopkeepers as well as the Israeli soldiers.
“I try to be warm and friendly to everybody, also to the soldiers,” he said, noting a shopkeeper had just chastised him for taking a picture with some soldiers, calling them “killers.” “They are also probably scared, they are also young kids. You can't assume they are killers.”
Near the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, at the fourth station, a young Jewish Orthodox mother, wearing a long skirt and a blue turban wrapped around her hair, walked down the street with her baby strapped to her chest in a baby carrier. Three armed private security guards towered over her as they accompanied her along the street. Shortly after, a border policeman called over a young Palestinian man to stand by the wall and frisked him for possible concealed weapons.
Heading down toward the Muslim quarter from the Christian Quarter, Jack Hliemat, 17, made the sign of the cross as he passed Saint Saviour and hurried to pick up breakfast for his family before they went to Mass.
“My parents tell me to be careful when I go out, but I am not afraid because I don’t do anything wrong,” he said.
Not far from the spot where a few week earlier an Israeli family was stabbed, killing the father and injuring the mother, Samir Asm, 56, reads a newspaper in front of the T-shirt shop he has run for 35 years. A blue T-shirt emblazoned with the word “peace” in Hebrew, Arabic and English hangs on display next to him.
“We like peace and we should help each other,” he said. “Even if we don’t have peace, I will sell my (peace) T-shirts.”
20 October 2015
The video above, broadcast on Russian state TV, reportedly shows drone footage of Syria’s
front lines. (video: YouTube)
Russian TV releases drone footage claiming to show scenes from Syrian battlefront (Vox) Most of us will never see Syria’s front lines. But on Monday, Russian state TV released a brief clip showing what it claims is HD footage of fighting there, taken by a drone camera hovering overhead...
Quiet in Ukraine offers hope for peace (The New York Times) Once Russian warplanes started bombing targets in Syria on 30 September, the world’s attention shifted away from Ukraine, a development that in the view of some analysts may have been part of the Kremlin’s calculations all along. Whether this was the intention of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, it is certainly true that the tenuous cease-fire in eastern Ukraine and the tense negotiations underway in Minsk, Belarus, to find a political solution are no longer in the news, not in Russia and not in the West...
Praying and hoping for peace in Jerusalem’s Old City (CNS) Following a week that included Palestinians stabbing Israelis, bloody clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces, and despair rising on both sides, the parishioners of St. Saviour Church in the Old City of Jerusalem came to Mass on 19 October to pray, mainly for peace. “We are very tired,” said Margaret Injak, 63, who lives near the third station of the cross along the Via Dolorosa. “We are very afraid of the police, we are afraid of the Israelis, we are afraid of the Muslims. I am for peace; I want peace for all the world, just peace...”
Courage, strength needed for peace in Holy Land, says Pope (CNS) There is a need for great courage and strength in order to reject hatred and to carry out acts of peace in the Holy Land, Pope Francis said. Before reciting the Angelus on 18 October, the pope expressed his concern for the increase in violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The clashes between the two left at least seven Israelis and 44 Palestinians dead since the beginning of October. “I am following with great concern the situation of high tension and violence that afflicts the Holy Land,” the pope said...
Meet the man trying to save Gaza’s antiquities (Al Monitor) Perched on the roof of a house in Al-Shati camp, west of Gaza City, is a small room with a tin roof and plastic windows. Palestinian sculptor Nafez Abed uses the room as a studio, where visitors are dazzled by the artifacts and sculptures, some of which his hands shaped dozens of years ago...
Catholics vs. Muslims in Rome’s first interfaith cricket match (Vatican Radio) Sporting history was made in Rome at the weekend as an all-Muslim cricket team played against St Peter’s Cricket Club, comprised of Catholic seminarians in training for the priesthood. The St Peter’s XI was launched in 2013 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture, with ecumenical and interfaith relations as an important part of the club’s mission. The Mount Cricket Club from Yorkshire in the north of England was founded back in the 1970s by children of Asian immigrant families and is today involved in both charitable initiatives and wider community integration...
19 October 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia
Iraqi refugee children study English together at a community center run by CNEWA in Amman, Jordan. To offer relief to the displaced people of the Middle East, click here. For a limited time, all donations will be matched — click here to learn more. (photo: CNEWA)
Tags: Iraq Refugees Jordan Iraqi Refugees Amman