24 October 2019
In this image from January, Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta, Pope Francis and the Rev. Tim Macquiban, minister of Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo Methodist Church, leave an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Working for Christian unity and engaging in formal theological dialogues to promote it obviously raises questions about what the nature and mission of the church is.
In a project that took two decades of work by Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal theologians, the World Council of Churches in 2013 published a document summarizing the points of greatest consensus.
In late October, the Vatican gave the WCC its formal response to the document, which was called “The Church: Towards a Common Vision.”
The response, coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and posted on its website, included input from Catholic theologians from around the world, bishops’ conferences and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
What is meant by “church” is a key ecumenical question as Christians work and pray for the unity Jesus wanted his followers to have, the Catholic response said.
Or, as the WCC document said, “agreement on ecclesiology has long been identified as the most elemental theological objective in the quest for Christian unity.”
In the Creed, Christians profess a belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” yet they differ on what Christ intended for his church, how it should be governed and how it should minister in the world.
“From a Catholic perspective,” the Vatican said, “the term ‘church’ applies to the Catholic Church in communion with the bishop of Rome. It also applies to churches which are not in visible communion with the Catholic Church but have preserved the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, remaining true particular churches. Other Christian communities which have not preserved the valid episcopacy and Eucharist are called ‘ecclesial communities’“ in official Catholic documents.
The Vatican said of the WCC document, “While it presents a remarkable degree of common thinking on a wide range of important issues, it does not claim to have reached full consensus, the full agreement on all issues which is necessary in order to achieve full visible unity among the churches.”
The text, however, does show common agreement on “significant ecclesiological doctrines,” the Vatican said. Further theological dialogue is needed and, especially, study of the WCC document by Christians of all denominations.
Of fundamental importance, the Vatican said, is the document’s affirmation that “certain aspects of church life are to be considered as determined by God’s will,” although the WCC did not find enough consensus yet to affirm that “the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyter and deacon” is one of those aspects. The Catholic Church, of course, believes it is.
Still, the Vatican said, the document “traces ordained ministry to the Lord’s choice of the Twelve” and, in that way, “promotes the view that certain aspects of the church’s order were willed and instituted by Christ himself.”
The Vatican praised the WCC document for recognizing that “the three essential elements of communion concern faith, worship and ministry or service” and for acknowledging that both Scripture and tradition are necessary sources for determining what “church” means.
While the document uncovers “greater common ground in ecclesiology” than many people would have imagined possible, the Vatican noted that it did not treat the papacy or the role and ministry of the pope, the successor of St. Peter.
Other “unresolved concerns include who may be baptized, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the relation of the Eucharist to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and churches who do not practice baptism or Eucharist,” the Vatican said.
Many modern developments within the Catholic Church, like a growing understanding of the church as a communion given life by the Trinity and an increasing emphasis on the need for “synodality,” also are recognized by other Christian communities and present in the WCC document, the Vatican response said.
“The most fundamental convergence is found in the affirmation that unity among Christians is vital for fulfilling the church’s mission of proclaiming the good news of reconciliation in the Lord and that this is a biblical mandate,” the response said.
The WCC also asked churches and Christian communities to look at areas in their lives that may need “renewal” in the light of the agreed principles and the commitment to Christian unity.
“The Catholic Church,” the Vatican said, “commits itself to respond to the call to grow in holiness,” to continue the process of renewal begun at the Second Vatican Council, “to being the church of the poor and for the poor,” to continue developing its “current practice of synodality,” and to strengthening laypeople in their role as missionary disciples.
While it is “painful,” the response said, the Catholic Church insists its members cannot celebrate the Eucharist with members of other churches. However, it said, “we will renew our commitment to do together whatever we can do together, even in the context of the liturgy.”
Those possibilities, the Vatican said, include the rite of washing the feet, the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday and celebrating prayer vigils and liturgies of the Word for major feasts such as Christmas, Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
24 October 2019
Turkey has halted his military offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria after reaching a deal with Russia. (video: CBS News/YouTube)
Trump declares victory in Syria as Russian troops move in (The Washington Post) President Trump said Wednesday that a “permanent” cease-fire had been established in northeastern Syria, declaring a major diplomatic victory for his administration even as Russian forces began moving into territory once controlled by the United States and its Syrian Kurdish allies…
Ancient Byzantine church found near Jerusalem (Asharq Al-Awsat) Archaeologists have unearthed a 1,500-year-old Byzantine church in West Jerusalem. The church with stunning mosaics and glass windows was discovered ahead of building a new neighborhood in the town of Beit Shemesh…
Ruthenian women’s community established as monastery in Ohio (CNA) The Ruthenian Bishop of Parma last month erected Christ the Bridegroom Monastery as a female monastery sui iuris of eparchial right. The decision was made “in light of the present circumstances and the spiritual needs of the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom, and for the good of the people of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma for the Ruthenians.” Bishop Milan Lach’s decree was given on 27 September. As a sui iuris monastery of eparchial right, the community does not depend on another monastery, it is governed by its own typicon (rule of life), and it was erected by its bishop…
Lebanon protests unite sects in demanding new government (The New York Times) Drawing as much as a quarter of the country’s four million people to the streets, Lebanon’s seven-day-old antigovernment revolt has outlasted government pushback, the beginnings of a sectarian backlash and bad weather. The largest and most diverse protests since the country’s independence, they are also the most ambitious: Fueled at first by fury over economic conditions and corruption, the crowds now demand nothing less than a new political system…
Protests in Ethiopia threaten to mar image of Nobel-winning leader (The New York Times) Protests against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia erupted on Wednesday, threatening to taint the aura around his newly won Nobel Peace Prize, after a prominent critic accused the police of attempting to orchestrate an attack on him…
Kerala building homes that are flood-resistant (Ecowatch.com) he southern India state of Kerala, having lost almost a million homes in two disastrous floods in 2018 and 2019, is trying to adapt to climate change by building homes for the poor that are flood-resistant. In two years, one-sixth of the state’s 35 million population was affected by the floods, and 1.4 million of those had to abandon their homes. Many flimsy houses were destroyed and are being rebuilt from scratch…
23 October 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Jerusalem Ruthenians
CNEWA’s president Msgr. John Kozar met with members of the Filipino community in Tel Aviv during a pastoral visit to Israel in December 2017. Read Msgr. Kozar’s reflections on how the church creates a sense of family in the current edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
23 October 2019
Tags: CNEWA Migrants Msgr. John E. Kozar
Flooding in parts of Kerala this month has been extreme. (video: CNEWA)
The video above shows the main city road (M.G. Road) of Ernakulam in Kerala, India — seriously flooded, due to heavy rain on Monday.
The flooding here is becoming worse every year due to climate change. It is still raining heavily as I write. From June to September, Kerala gets a monsoon, which makes up around 70 percent of the total average rainfall; the remaining 30 percent comes from another monsoon, which hits from October to December. However, the distribution pattern is causing the frequent floods.
We have been experiencing torrential rains for the last two years. Experts say climate change is having its worst impact on Kerala, because it is tucked between the Western Ghats on one side and the sea on the other.
Life in Ernakulam came to a standstill on Monday as the rains turned major roads into rivers. The streets were waterlogged. Residents were shocked as they were unable to get out of their houses, the water streaming into their homes.
The weather forecast predicts more rains in the coming days; people were told to take precautions to remain safe. More than 2,100 people have been evacuated to nine relief camps in the district.
Residents say the lack of proper maintenance of the roads and canals could also be contributing to the flooding, which affected shops and residents all along M.G. Road, Banerji Road and many other side roads in the city.
Please keep us in your prayers!
23 October 2019
Displaced Kurds stuck at a border near Derik, Syria, wait to try to cross into Iraq on 21 October 2019. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Syrians fleeing to Iraq (CNS) Humanitarians expressed concern over the situation of Syrian civilians displaced by the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria. They say that as the cease-fire there is about to expire, they are seeing increasing numbers of refugees fleeing into Iraq while others are trapped inside the country. ”In the last 24 hours alone, 1,736 Syrians crossed into Iraq, the highest number to cross in one day since the beginning of Turkey’s military operation,” said Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council, in a statement made available to Catholic News Service…
Msgr. Peter Vaccari tapped to lead CNEWA (CNEWA) Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Chair and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission for Palestine, has announced the Holy See has approved the nomination and election of Msgr. Peter Vaccari to succeed Msgr. John E. Kozar as president of CNEWA/PMP. Msgr. Vaccari will initiate the process of transition as vice president on 1 January 2020. At a date yet to be determined, but in the near future, Msgr. Kozar will retire and concurrently Msgr. Vaccari will assume his responsibilities as president of CNEWA/PMP…
Ethiopia protestors burn Nobel winner Abiy Ahmed’s book (BBC) Protesters in eastern Ethiopia have burnt copies of a new book by prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed in a show of solidarity with an opposition media activist. Jawar Mohammed had said the government was removing security from his home in the capital, which officials denied. This triggered protests outside his compound and elsewhere in the country…
Russian Orthodox TV plans reality show set at monastery (Radio Free Europe) A TV channel affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church is putting out a call for applications for a reality show with a spiritual twist: its setting will be an island monastery on a lake halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg...
22 October 2019
Tags: Syria Ethiopia CNEWA
Thousands continue to protest in Beirut, demanding government reform. The protests have been going on for six days. (photo: Rod & Roy / Instagram)
Protests in Lebanon are continuing and show no sign of abating, according to Al Jazeera:
Protesters in Lebanon insisted on Tuesday they will stay in the streets for a sixth day even after the government approved an unprecedented package of economic reforms.
The protesters have declared a general strike, sending a clear signal they reject the measures Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government agreed upon on Monday.
Among the reforms is a 50-percent reduction in salary for former and current politicians and ministers; the abolishment of the Ministry of Information and a number of other state institutions; and the establishment of an anti-corruption panel.
CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, sent us the picture above on Monday — which has been widely circulated on social media — and added this note:
This has become Lebanon’s biggest protest movement in modern history.
Accordingly, our office in Beirut was affected as the main road in front of Boutique Hotel has been closed by demonstrators and wheel burning since Friday, preventing the access to the office.
On Monday, church leaders expressed solidarity with the protestors, with Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, stating: ”We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger.”
22 October 2019
Msgr. Peter Vaccari, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Msgr. John E. Kozar. (photo: CNEWA)
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Chair and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Pontifical Mission for Palestine, has announced the Holy See has approved the nomination and election of Msgr. Peter Vaccari to succeed Msgr. John E. Kozar as president of CNEWA/PMP. Msgr. Vaccari will initiate the process of transition as vice president on January 1, 2020. At a date yet to be determined, but in the near future, Msgr. Kozar will retire and concurrently Msgr. Vaccari will assume his responsibilities as president of CNEWA/PMP.
In a staff meeting in New York on Tuesday announcing the move, Cardinal Dolan said that Msgr. Kozar had approached him nearly a year ago to discuss a successor, noting he was going to be turning 75 in 2020 and wanted a smooth transition.
The cardinal expressed his gratitude to Msgr. Kozar for initiating the process — and also expressed his personal affection for him and the work he has done with CNEWA/PMP over the last eight years. The cardinal reminded the CNEWA family of his high regard for the agency and its work since his days serving the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., then led by Archbishop Pio Laghi. Archbishop Laghi served in Jerusalem under St. Paul VI and was a great supporter of CNEWA and its work in the Middle East.
A priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Msgr. Vaccari, 67, will conclude his term as Rector of Saint Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, on 31 December. Ordained a priest in 1977, he has served as a parish priest, seminary professor, Chaplain with the Air Force Reserve, and Rector of Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington before becoming Rector of Saint Joseph’s Seminary in 2012.
Msgr. Kozar, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, began his tenure as president of CNEWA/PMP in September 2011, after having served as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies for ten years. “A diocesan priest on loan to the missions,” Msgr. Kozar has encouraged the Eastern Catholic churches — which CNEWA is privileged to serve — as these communities continue in their renewal called for by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
”As I travel throughout CNEWA’s world, the men and women of these rich communities of faith demonstrate the church at her best, whether by wiping tears from the eyes of abandoned pensioners or in offering the Bread of Life to refugees in a camp.”
Msgr. Kozar and Msgr. Vaccari reminded the CNEWA staff that they share a deep and long-lasting friendship, built over many years of traveling together to the Middle East on pilgrimage, and they look forward to working together during this period of transition of leadership.
22 October 2019
Tags: CNEWA Msgr. John E. Kozar Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Buses transport displaced Syrian families, who fled violence after the Turkish offensive against Syria, to camps in Iraq on 17 October 2019. After a five day pause, Turkey's offensive may resume as early as today. (photo: CNS/Ari Jalal, Reuters)
Turkey’s Erdogan says Syria offensive could resume (Reuters) Hundreds of Kurdish fighters remain near to Syria’s northeast border despite a U.S.-brokered truce demanding their withdrawal and Turkey could resume its offensive in the area when the ceasefire expires, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said…
ISIS reaps gains from U.S. pullout from Syria (The New York Times) When President Trump announced this month that he would pull American troops out of northern Syria and make way for a Turkish attack on the Kurds, Washington’s onetime allies, many warned that he was removing the spearhead of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Now, analysts say that Mr. Trump’s pullout has handed the Islamic State its biggest win in more than four years and greatly improved its prospects…
Eritrean refugees continue to flood into Ethiopia (The New Humanitarian) The long-dormant border crossings re-opened with such fanfare between Eritrea and Ethiopia last year as a symbol of warming relations are all now closed — but that isn’t stopping a steady flow of Eritrean refugees from fleeing across the heavily militarized frontier…
Netanyahu fails to form government (BBC) Israel’s long-standing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he cannot form a government, handing the opportunity to his political rival. Mr Netanyahu has been in power for the past decade, but he was unable to build a coalition with a majority after September’s election ended in deadlock. His rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party will now be invited to attempt to form a government…
Heavy rains inundate Kerala (The Indian Express) Heavy rains are likely to lash several parts of Kerala and Lakshadweep in the next five days as the North-East monsoon became active over the state, according to the latest forecast by the India Meteorological Department (IMD)…
Vatican: Christians and Hindus must show world peace is possible (CNS) Christians and Hindus must resist pessimism and instead draw from and add to the “a hidden sea of goodness” that convinces many men and women around the world that peace and brotherhood are possible, said a Vatican message for the Hindu feast of Diwali…
21 October 2019
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Turkey Eritrea
Members of the Habib family stand outside a store they have recently rebuilt in Qaraqosh.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
In the current edition of ONE, reporter Raed Rafei revisits Iraq, two years after the defeat of ISIS, and writes of how Iraqi Christians are facing the future with Resolve. He has some additional reflections on the people he met:
It was a blazing hot August Sunday. The streets of Qaraqosh, the largest Christian enclave in Northern Iraq, were mostly empty. Compared to my last trip two years ago, there were some repaired and freshly painted homes here and there. But overall, despite the signs of improvement, heavy destruction caused by the liberation war from ISIS almost three years ago was still visible. Pockmarked walls, collapsed ceilings, piles of rubble, scorched buildings were common sights across this once thriving town.
The people I talked to during my visit to Iraq as a reporter were generally relieved to be back to their homes and felt relatively safe, but the weight of the economic crisis and uncertainties about the future were noticeable in their worried faces and resonated during the silent moments of our conversations.
As the sun started to set, I could see groups of people of all ages flocking to the Church of Saints Behnam and Sarah. Despite the difficult circumstances, it was heartwarming to see how elegantly dressed the men and women of Qaraqosh were for the Sunday Mass. To secure the area, the streets around the church were blocked for vehicles by the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a Christian Assyrian military organization formed after the invasion by ISIS. The service was being held in a makeshift tent in the church’s courtyard because the main hall was still under reconstruction. The fallen bell tower was a stark reminder of the recent tragedy of displacement. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of hope witnessing how packed the area was and the disarming simplicity of returnees resuming age-old cultural traditions.
The next morning, reality hit again. Members of a Shiite militia supported by Iran had blocked roads leading to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, to protest attempts by the government to integrate them into the Iraqi army. This was a testimony to the fragility of the situation. A vibrant, well-built local man in his late 20’s came in his gym apparel to the monastery where I had spent the night. He was going to drive me out of Qaraqosh. On the road, he told me about his taxi business and a restaurant he owned and managed. Despite economic difficulties, he said he was trying hard since his return to Qaraqosh to rebuild a life for his wife and his young daughter. I was impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit in a country where most people rely on governmental jobs.
After driving for two hours under an intense sun through alternative dirt roads to bypass the blocked highway, I was able to reach my hotel in Erbil. That night, I received a call from my driver. With a desperate voice, he asked me if I could help him find work as a concierge in Lebanon. He said he wanted to apply from there for asylum in Australia where some of his family resides. I was surprised and perplexed by his unexpected call. Compared to all the people I had talked to, he seemed to be doing well.
I answered him, reluctantly, “I will see what I can do but I can’t make any promises.” I wanted to help but with Lebanon’s ailing economy overburdened by a large number of refugees, it would be very difficult for him to find a job there.
He said that sadly, no matter how successful he was, he felt that as a young Christian man, there was no future for him and his small family in Iraq.
Read more about the plight of Iraqi Christians in the September 2019 edition of ONE.
21 October 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians
Demonstrators near Al-Amin mosque in Beirut carry national flags during an anti-government protest on 20 October. Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, protests were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes. (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese of various religions sounded their cries in unison in streets and public squares throughout the country calling for government reforms.
Fueled by economic insecurity and deteriorating living conditions, a fifth day of protests on 21 October were sparked by government plans to impose new taxes.
Lebanon’s Catholic patriarchs — who have repeatedly raised their voices against political corruption, imploring the government to address the country’s dire economic situation — expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, cut short a pastoral visit in Africa to return to Lebanon amid the unprecedented uprising.
Speaking from Laos, Nigeria, on 20 October, Cardinal Rai said that Lebanon’s government officials “know that they are the ones who brought their country to this situation and they must find successful ways to reform.”
The cardinal reiterated that more than one-third of Lebanese citizens are below the poverty line, the country’s unemployment rate stands at nearly 40 percent and that “hunger and destitution threaten many citizens.”
“We pray to God, through the intercession of our mother Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, and St. Charbel, to touch the conscience of our political officials and inspire them to find the necessary, successful and quick solutions to the economic and social crisis, which has become a crisis of hunger,” which the cardinal said threatens the lives of the Lebanese as did the famine in 1914.
The crisis, “imposed from within,” Cardinal Rai said, led elderly and youth alike to demonstrate their rejection of such political practices. “In so doing they (the demonstrators) have all shown that they are united from all spectrums demanding a decent living.”
In an effort to quell the demonstrations, Lebanon’s coalition government on 21 October approved a package of economic reforms that reportedly included a plan to overturn the new taxes and cut by half the salaries of top officials.
Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi also declared his solidarity with the people “who express today their pain and bitterness and loss of confidence in those who brought them to this bitter reality.”
He appealed to government officials “to respond to the demands of the Lebanese people and not drown them with promises, after reaching the brink of despair.”
Patriarch Absi emphasized that “serious reform and the elimination of waste and hot spots of corruption and respect for the dignity of the citizen is urgent and necessary to restore confidence in officials and the salvation of the homeland.”
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan offered his support to the protesters’ demands as well. “We appeal to the consciences of officials, if there is a conscience in this world of hypocrisy, to be within the responsibility assigned to them,” he said.
He urged officials to “listen to the voice of the people, and immediately undertake the necessary and fundamental reforms,” including fighting corruption and holding the corrupt accountable, ending the theft of public money, stopping waste in state facilities and refraining from imposing any tax increase.
“We ask God to inspire officials to get out of this current crisis and to implement the demands of the people, to return to Lebanon its peace, security and prosperity, and to its citizens to reassure, stability and a decent life, through the intercession of our mother, the Virgin Mary of Lebanon, and all the saints and martyrs,’’ he said.
In affirming their solidarity with the demonstrators, each patriarch pointedly called for maintaining peacefulness and rejected any violent means or destruction by protesters. “We are well aware of the role of the fifth column,” Cardinal Rai cautioned, referring to groups that foment violence.