4 February 2014
Our good friends at Salt+Light Television have produced an excellent series entitled, “The Church Alive.” Dedicated to the New Evangelization, individual episodes in the series tackle subjects as diverse as interfaith dialogue, economics and the consecrated life.
One recent episode focused on the Eastern Catholic churches, looking at their histories, liturgies and challenges confronting these ancient churches, fully Eastern and fully Catholic. You can watch this episode below and, while you are at it, take some time to watch some of the other programs available on their station on YouTube.
24 September 2013
Tags: Ecumenism Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Media Eastern Catholic Churches
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In the midst of all the disturbing news from the Middle East, there is some wonderful news from Kiev, Ukraine.
After more than a decade of construction, the Holy Resurrection Cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was consecrated on 18 August 2013. This cathedral has become the main shrine for more than five million Ukrainian Greek Catholics throughout the world.
The festive ceremonies around cathedral’s consecration were also linked to the celebration of 1025th anniversary of the baptism of the Ukrainian people. The event brought to Ukraine’s capital more than 20,000 guests and pilgrims from all over the world. From the CNEWA family, Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, and Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, attended the ceremonies.
Here is Msgr. Kozar’s impression:
The consecration of the cathedral was a graphic sign to the faithful in Ukraine and beyond that the faith shared in baptism can flourish, even in the worst of times. And the amazing encounter for me was that these brave and courageous people filled with faith do not complain about their great sufferings nor do they look for sympathy. Rather, they celebrate their joy of rising with Christ and proclaiming him to all.
The consecration of the cathedral was an event of high importance because it marked the revival and resurrection of the church that had been forced out of central and eastern parts of Ukraine four centuries ago and was later brutally repressed by the U.S.S.R.’s Communist regime from 1945 to 1989.
In the 20th century, the church produced hundreds of martyrs, 25 of whom were beatified by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ukraine in 2001. One of them, Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky, is buried in Winnipeg, Canada.
After two decades of independence, Ukraine still remains among the poorest countries in Europe. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has reestablished its parishes in western Ukraine, now has two main focuses: organization of its communities in central and eastern Ukraine and responding to the enormous social challenges faced by its people by implementing various social development and humanitarian initiatives.
Holy Resurrection Cathedral is functional now but far from finished. Funds are still needed to complete the interior and the surrounding complex, in which many of the church ministries will be based. To learn more about how you can help the Ukrainian church and its many ministries, please click here. To help fund the completion of Holy Resurrection Cathedral, use one of the following links: CNEWA or CNEWA Canada.
25 June 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church CNEWA Canada Ukrainian Catholic Church
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CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar meets with Pope Francis at the 86th annual ROACO (Assembly of Aid Agencies for the Eastern Churches) in Rome.
I am just back from a week of meetings in Rome and I want to share with you some of the highlights and even the excitement that surrounded them.
Carl Hétu (our national director in Canada) and I were part of a group of funding agencies called to Rome by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, for an annual meeting to discuss how we might more effectively respond to the pressing needs of Eastern Catholics suffering greatly in areas served by CNEWA. We are the only agency in this consortium (called ROACO) that is pontifical and completely dedicated to assisting the Eastern Catholic churches in some very troubled parts of the world.
But before I get into some of the compelling content of our sessions, let me tell where I was living while in Rome. Carl and I were hosted at the Domus Santae Martae, a Vatican residence that just happens to be the home of our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Imagine the surprise of “running into the Holy Father” at various intervals in the lobby, coming out of the elevator, coming down the stairs. And imagine the sheer excitement of realizing that the figure in white entering the dining room for breakfast was none other than Pope Francis. Yes, we were actually guests at the Holy Father’s new residence and what an honor it was. Although there is discreet security surrounding him at all times, he carries himself in a very relaxed way and freely gives waves and many, many smiles as he comes and goes.
Now for the various sessions:
As we so vividly are reminded each day in the news, the situation is Syria is abominable: everyone is suffering and many thousands are dying. Violence, hatred, vengeance — the realities of war — are confronted on every side.
The suffering of the Christians in Syria was dramatically and poignantly shared with us by a team of presenters. The apostolic nuncio to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, described what was happening in the country as a reign of terror and fear. He said that threats of vengeance were directed especially at Christians, as they have generally neither taken up arms in the resistance nor openly sided with the regime. He claimed the “Arab Spring” had been stolen from the people.
A brave Franciscan parish priest joined us to give some brutal descriptions of how the war pits everyone against the other. Former neighbors and friends are now sworn enemies, people (even young teenagers) are captured and tortured and forced to “confess” and give names of their friends. Many have been executed. His particular town has been overrun by both sides on several occasions and so everyone is an enemy. Despite the threats directed personally to him by resistance fighters, radical Islamists and military sympathizers, he does not flinch in his determination to bring a small ray of hope to all: people of every faith and of no faith.
We were blessed with the testimony of a religious sister working in Damascus (a Daughter of Charity) who works mainly with abandoned women and children, but who always keeps the door open for all, at every time of day and night, never knowing if the people knocking at the door are friend or foe. With a deep faith and trust in God she and the other sisters strive to bring the Syrian people a brief respite from the cruel reality of war that surrounds everyone. Sister also highlighted how emotionally draining it is to have countless children wandering aimlessly looking for their parents or a mother and wife looking for her husband who has gone off to war or been taken prisoner.
The crisis in Syria was also described by a brave Jesuit priest who works with refugees in various areas of Syria. The war is not limited to a few areas of conflict, as more than one million homes have been destroyed and many millions have been displaced. Christians have largely stayed in Syria, not fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey, but “hunkering down” with family and friends, sometimes with huge numbers crowded into bombed out and filthy dwellings with 40-50 people crowded together. But in his humble way he brings them the sacraments and the hope of Christ, and maybe a sack of rice.
The new Coptic Catholic patriarch of Egypt, His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac, joined us for an extended presentation and discussion about the trauma for the church in Egypt. He commented that what was supposed to be an “Arab Spring” had turned into an “autumn.” Islamic fundamentalism has spread much fear for Christians. There is a strong movement from the villages (where Christians have previously felt more secure) to towns and cities. Slowly, Christians are losing their identity as they delicately tread the difficult waters of “fitting in” with the new order.
His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac, Coptic Catholic patriarch of Egypt, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. (photo: CNEWA)
The patriarch is a very ebullient and a cheerful man and exudes confidence in the help of God. He is not naïve, though, about the where his nation and where the church might be going. But he stresses the positives: 170 Catholic schools whose doors are opened to all, clinics and hospitals who serve in the name of our Lord, orphanages who give comfort to lost or separated children. The church maintains her presence and gives hope to many, regardless of their religious group or political preferences. By the way, CNEWA is blessed to offer support to many of these programs. The patriarch privately asked me to thank you for your abiding support and especially your prayers of solidarity.
He highlighted the need to support basic human rights, the rights of women, the need to educate the young to become political leaders who can defend the rights of all and the importance of ecumenical outreach to the Coptic Orthodox Church, our big brother in Egypt. I told the Patriarch I was planning to visit him and his dear people next February and he was most enthusiastic to assist me in executing this pastoral visit.
For those of us involved in helping the church in Iraq, we know how underreported the suffering is there and the consequent flight of two thirds of its Christian community. Patriarch Louis Raphael, who was recently elected to govern the Chaldean Church (which represents about 80 percent of the Catholics of this country), gave some dramatic testimony of the suffering and plight of the Iraqi people. Although this is a country blessed with many resources and the ability to contribute to the wellbeing of the entire Middle East, conditions resulting from religious and political persecution have wreaked havoc and violence on the vast majority of Christians in this country.
Can you imagine when two-thirds of your family has fled because of violence or the lack of a future filled with peace? This is his reality. Some have wrongly described him as pessimistic or fatalistic, but his approach is that of a realist. And while he places hope and confidence in Almighty God, he places great importance on unity: in his own church, with other churches, and national unity above political unity.
I think he surprised some of our group (after all, we represent funding agencies) when he said very openly that he did not join us in Rome to ask for money or for support for important projects, but rather to seek solidarity in prayer and to invite us to engage our governments in the dialogue for a lasting peace in his country, for basic human rights and freedoms.
He is a very practical man and realizes that he also needs to shore up the organization of this important and historic church with better administration and coordination and communication. We all pledged to do our best at being advocates for this suffering church.
Another feature of this annual gathering is to receive a report from some of the religious leaders in the Holy Land, namely the apostolic nuncio to Israel and the apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, and the custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M.
National director of CNEWA Canada, Carl Hétu, and Custos of the Holy Land Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M. (photo: CNEWA)
The nuncio stressed how the church has placed priorities on housing for young Christian families, education (especially higher education), and the heightened need for jobs. He also highlighted how the church seeks to preserve the rights of Christians in Palestine to build a positive society and to be productive citizens.
The custos (who administers the holy sites entrusted to the Franciscans) referred to the challenging equilibrium in preserving the “stones of memory” (the historical sites where salvation history is recorded) and serving the spiritual needs of the “living stones” (those witnesses to Christ now living in these holy places). The landscape in both dimensions is very complex and the costs are always greater than can be accommodated. As you can appreciate if you have been blessed to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we must make every effort to cherish all these stones.
As a fitting conclusion to these days of emotionally charged content and what some would describe as depressing, we were graciously received in an audience by Pope Francis. After his words of thankfulness to all for the generosity of our donors, the Holy Father gave us some uplifting words about the suffering of the church in Syria, Egypt and Iraq and encouraged us never to lose hope and reminded us that charity must always accompany faith.
In a strong personal plea, he urged us not to give up on Syria and to keep the Syrian people in our hearts and prayers. And he gave us the formula of how a Catholic best responds in all circumstances: to be “rooted in faith, nourished in prayer, especially in the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of faith and charity.” ?
The pope then appealed to the powerful and the weak, appealing to world leaders and organizations to seek an end to all pain and violence and discrimination. And to those suffering, the message was loud and clear: “Never lose hope.”
After the ROACO meetings I continued on for two days, attending the meetings of the Board of Regents of Bethlehem University. CNEWA is one of the founders of this great success story in Palestine. As the only Catholic institute of higher learning in Palestine, it serves as a beacon for the rights of all Palestinians and how the Catholic Church seeks to inspire the young people of Palestine to become productive citizens and to contribute to the good of all.
Proudly the university is preparing to celebrate its 40th anniversary this October. It is also in the midst of a significant expansion program that will position it for even better service to the community in the future. The university, which is run by the De La Salle Brothers of the Christian Schools, has a very close working partnership with the Franciscans entrusted with the care of the holy sites in the Holy Land, the Papal nuncio and the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.
It was indeed an eventful week for me and I hope you have assimilated some of the emotional content, the challenges that confront us, the honor entrusted to CNEWA by our Holy Father to respond to the needs of the Eastern Catholic churches in these areas of conflict — and the sheer delight of being so close to our Holy Father.
God bless Pope Francis and God bless all of you for your prayerful support and generous gifts.
For more on Msgr. Kozar’s trip to Rome, and his thoughts on the struggles of people in the Middle East, check out this report from Catholic News Agency, along with this audio interview with Vatican Radio.
29 January 2013
Tags: Egypt Syria Iraq Rome Eastern Catholic Churches
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In this October 2011 photo, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter speaks to reporters at CNEWA’s office in New York. (photo: Erin Edwards)
Someone familiar to all of us at CNEWA will be preparing the Way of the Cross, which is prayed in Rome’s Coliseum on Good Friday: Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch. (The VIS announcement is here.)
In 2011, before he was named a cardinal, the patriarch paid us a visit here in New York. The visit attracted lots of media attention at the time.
More recently, the cardinal played a critical role in Pope Benedict’s historic trip to Lebanon.
The cardinal joins a long and storied list of contributors to this particular devotion. Last year, for the first time, a married couple, Danilo and Anna Maria Zanzucchi, composed the meditations. In 2005, the meditations and prayers were written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Below is a video report, from Rome Reports:
26 September 2012
Tags: Prayers/Hymns/Saints Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai Rome Maronite Catholic
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In this image from 9 September, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, celebrates the Divine Liturgy at Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Cathedral in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (photo: CNS/David Lipnowski)
Yesterday, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church spoke to Canada’s bishops, and had some harsh words about the threat from secularism in the West.
From Catholic News Service:
“The current economic crisis is merely the symptom of a much deeper spiritual and cultural crisis,” Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the annual plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on 25 September. “As Western society rejects old moral structures and values, it finds that its moral GPS has no fixed and stationary points of reference.”
Archbishop Shevchuk said the church must find “new courage” to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to contemporary society to provide “an anchor and compass.”
”We live in societies where virtue and goodness are frequently a veneer for religious intolerance, personal gratification and moral decay,” he said. “Secularism would like us to be closed in a little box of Sunday worship.”
The former Soviet Union used that approach to religion, he said.
”Separation of church and state has become separation of faith values from society, yet our mission is to preach the word of God to all and to be a constant sign of God’s loving presence through social ministry,” he said.
27 August 2012
Tags: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk
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Bishop Boris Gudziak was ordained yesterday at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine.
(photo: Press Office of Ukrainian Catholic University)
On Sunday 26 August, Father Boris Gudziak, a long-time friend of CNEWA and former professor of mine, was ordained a bishop for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Bishop Boris was born in 1960 in Syracuse, New York. After completing his Ph.D. in Slavic and Byzantine History at Harvard University, he went to Ukraine and in 1992 founded the Institute of Church History. He played a key role in reestablishing the Lviv Theological Academy, which in 2002 became the Ukrainian Catholic University, the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union. From 2002 to 2012, he was the university's rector.
Bishop Boris’s consecration took place at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine, and his Principal Consecrator was His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The new bishop is appointed as the Apostolic Exarch for the Ukrainian Greek Catholics of France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Two weeks from now, Bishop Boris, along with all other bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, will participate in the Church’s Synod in Winnipeg, Canada.
22 August 2012
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada
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Girls wearing traditional dress participate in an Easter celebration in Jakubany, a village in northern Slovakia. (photo: Father Damian Saraka)
In the current issue of ONE, we profile the Slovak Greek Catholic Church and look at some of its rich religious history.
In the celebration of the sacraments, Slovak Greek Catholic parish communities use Slovak and its Latin alphabet as well as Church Slavonic and its Cyrillic alphabet. And its territory is restricted to parish communities in the Slovak Republic.
Yet the church’s origins and development are synonymous with the various Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic churches of Central Europe. Together, the ancestors of these Catholics received the Christian faith from Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the late ninth century. And they professed their full communion with the bishop of Rome in the chapel of the castle of Uzhorod in April 1646, centuries after the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) churches had drifted apart.
You can get a sense of the tradition and culture that continue to enliven Slovakia in the images below, accompanied by a beautiful Carpathian chant.
20 July 2012
Tags: ONE magazine Greek Catholic Church Slovakia Eastern Catholics Slovak Catholic Church
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Last weekend (14 and 15 July) was quite special for a great many young Ukrainians; over 100,000 participated in a youth pilgrimage to the shrine of Mary, the Mother of God, in the western Ukrainian village of Zarvanytsia. The shrine is particularly known for its miraculous icon of the Mother of God. Even in the days of the Soviet Union, when Ukrainian Greek Catholicism was outlawed, the site drew thousands of pilgrims who risked everything to profess publicly their Christian faith. Since the independence of Ukraine, the shrine has become “the Lourdes of Ukraine” and one of the most popular pilgrimage locations of Eastern Europe.
Among the pilgrims to Zarvanytsia this year was Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour, bishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee. The archbishop came to Ukraine to witness the flourishing faith of the Ukrainian people and to ask them to pray for Christians of the Holy Land who currently face challenges due to violent conflicts and extremism.
The program in Zarvanytsia was led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, and other bishops of both Ukrainian Greek and Latin Catholic Churches also participated. Many of the faithful walked hundreds of kilometers in order to enjoy the spiritual benefits of the pilgrimage to the fullest.
One highlight of the event was the candle procession from the parish church to the recently built monument dedicated to the Theotokos. For video footage, see below:
2 July 2012
Tags: Ukraine Pilgrimage/pilgrims Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Catholic Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour
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Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; and Pope Benedict XVI meet at the end of the ROACO general assembly in Rome. (photo: L'Osservatore Romano)
“Rome has a way of bringing it all into focus,” Monsignor John Kozar observes. It is the “universality” of the city that the CNEWA president credits with providing a unique sense of perspective on the matters at hand.
Two weeks ago, he visited Rome to meet with religious and civil leaders at several important events, including the 85th annual ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Eastern Churches) and the meeting of the Bethlehem University board of regents. Now, back in his New York office, he recounts the details of his trip.
Convoked by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and hosted by the pope, ROACO gathers representatives from Catholic donor agencies serving the Eastern churches and church leaders to plan and coordinate aid.
“It’s exciting to know firsthand how many other agencies there are committed to reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the Eastern tradition,” Msgr. Kozar says enthusiastically. He adds that engaging with Eastern churches has been a source of growth for him. “It’s like learning to use my other lung.”
The proceedings gave Msgr. Kozar the opportunity to confer with members of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches — Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect; Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, secretary; and Msgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, undersecretary — as well as church leaders, such as Cardinal George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Joining them were other important leaders, such as Archbishop Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio to the Holy Land; and Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., custos of the Holy Land (the leader of the Friars Minor in the Holy Land) and a “dear friend and great collaborator.”
With world-class translators working in four languages, they discussed the pressing issues facing the churches and regions they serve. “We all want to improve: to do good works better,” Msgr. Kozar says.
One of the most important subjects discussed was Christian emigration: Iraqi Christians migrating to Switzerland, Ukrainian Christians moving to Canada, and other such trends in the wake of political upheaval and strife. These trends, Msgr. Kozar notes, require not only attention, but also the ability to change some operations to accommodate geographically shifting needs.
At the event’s conclusion, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address to the assembly, discussing the challenges facing the churches of the East, insisting that “every effort should be made” to achieve peace in Syria. “May you always be eloquent signs of the charity that flows from the heart of Christ and presents the church to the world in her true mission and identity by placing her at the service of God who is love.” Following tradition, the pope then warmly received each participant.
“I had the opportunity to thank the Holy Father for the honor and privilege of doing this great work on his behalf,” reports Msgr. Kozar.
The work of sharing the light of charity and cooperation with the churches of the East is great, with much to be done the world over. However, those who attended the assembly left ready and eager to continue this work — armed with clear focus and two strong lungs.
14 June 2012
Tags: Unity Msgr. John E. Kozar Eastern Churches Rome Eastern Catholics
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Olha Tomkiv, Daryna Palykh and Iryna Tomkiv come together for a family reunion.
(photo: Petro Didula)
In the March 2011 issue of ONE Mariya Tytarenko reported on the disappearance of Ukraine’s villages and the efforts to preserve Ukrainian culture and history. She met with many elderly residents, such as the Tomkiv sisters, who shared a desire to keep tradition alive:
Though a widow living on her own, Mrs. Palykh–Tomkiv has three sisters living nearby, 61–year–old Daryna Palykh, 70–year–old Iryna Tomkiv and 80–year–old Olha Tomkiv. The sisters survive their parents as well as two brothers and a sister.
On the feast day of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God, the family gathers at Iryna’s home. “Glory to Jesus Christ,” she says, using the traditional greeting in the village to welcome visitors, who include several relatives from the area and two nieces from Lviv.
Iryna has earned a reputation in the region for her exceptional embroidery skills. Her elaborate needlework adorns almost every item in the house, including napkins, tablecloths, pillowcases, curtains, wall décor and icons.
For more, read What’s Next for Ukraine’s Villages?
Tags: Ukraine Village life Eastern Europe Eastern Catholics
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