Father Elias Koucos celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at Prophet Elias Church in Holladay, Utah. To learn more about the thriving community of Greek Orthodox in Utah, check out “Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion” from the June 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
14 May 2014
People mourn on 14 May for their relatives and friends after a mine explosion a day earlier in Soma, Turkey. More than 225 people died in the explosion. Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience that his prayers were with those killed in the disaster.
(photo: CNS /Togla Bozoglu, EPA)
Pope prays for victims of Turkish mining disaster (Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the miners who lost their lives in a mining disaster in Turkey: “Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for the miners who died in the mine yesterday in Soma, Turkey, and for those who are still trapped in the tunnels. May the Lord receive the deceased in His house and give comfort to their families...”
UN mediator on Syria quits, peace prospects dim (The New York Times) International efforts to end the war in Syria faltered further on Tuesday as the United Nations mediator quit, citing frustrations over the moribund political negotiations, and France’s top diplomat said there was evidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons more than a dozen times after it signed the treaty banning them. Taken together, the two events pointed to the failings of the West’s signature efforts on Syria, finding a diplomatic way out of a civil war in its fourth year — and a pact that was proudly touted as stopping the Syrian government from using chemical weapons...
Pope appeals to stop “shameful carnage” of migrant deaths (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is calling on Europe to unite forces and to put human rights in the forefront as the death toll of migrants trying to reach Europe continues to rise...
Talks to end crisis in Ukraine set to begin in Kiev (BBC) Talks to end the crisis in Ukraine are due to begin in Kiev, brokered by international monitors, but pro-Russian rebels look unlikely to attend. The round table was organised as part of a roadmap drawn up by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE). Government and regional figures are to attend but the idea was for the talks to be as inclusive as possible...
Grand Mufti proposes “pact” between Muslims and Christians in Middle East (Fides) Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic and the highest authority of Sunni Islam in the Country of the cedars, proposed a Christian-Muslim pact as a contribution to the promotion of peaceful coexistence in the nation. He submitted the content to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai, during the meeting between Cardinal Rai and a delegation of the Islamic Sharia Council, which took place on 13 May at the Maronite patriarchal See in Bkerké...
Pope Tawadros says charter secures equality for all Egyptians (Gulfnews) New Egypt’s charter enshrines the rights of citizenship and equality for every Egyptian, Muslims and Copts, said Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark yesterday. Dismissing persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II told a news conference held in Abu Dhabi, as neighbours at home, partners at work, friends in schools and colleges, Muslims and Christians have been living in harmony for more than 14 centuries. “But some problems between Copts and Muslims pop up from time to time. The new constitution will help solve these problems, so that justice and peace prevail,” the Coptic Pope said, winding up a several days visit to the UAE...
Resort rises on site where Jesus may have taught (The New York Times) For the Rev. Juan M. Solana, it was the spiritual equivalent of striking oil. When he set out to develop a resort for Christian pilgrims in Galilee, he unearthed a holy site: the presumed hometown of Mary Magdalene and an ancient synagogue where experts say Jesus may well have taught. The project, which Father Solana, a Roman Catholic priest, describes as “providential,” will be blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land this month...
13 May 2014
A Southist woman in Kerala, India, prays the rosary during Holy Week observances.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2002, we profiled a distinct group of Christians in southern India known as “Southists”:
It is Good Friday in Kottayam, a city in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A family of Christians gathers to bless a plate of fresh, unleavened rice bread. The head of the household reads from a prayer book written in Malayalam, the vernacular of Kerala. On the cover the Hebrew word for Passover is embossed in gold. By tradition, the youngest member of the family asks the eldest the significance of unleavened bread. He is told how their ancestors, the Jews, fled Egypt in haste and how they had only enough time to prepare unleavened bread.
Before sharing their Passover bread, these Christians greet each other, exclaiming, “Happy Pessaha!”
This Indian Christian family traces its origins to those Jewish Christians who immigrated to India from Mesopotamia in the fourth century. Rooted in the past by cherished traditions, they belong to a dynamic community — the Southists, or Knanaya — a group vital to the mosaic of modern India.
Among the Christians of southern India, explains Father Jacob Kollaparambil, a Southist scholar and Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Kottayam, there are two ethnically distinct communities, the Northists and the Southists:
“The Northists are the descendants of those families who were first evangelized by the Apostle Thomas as well as those who have since embraced Christianity. The Southists trace their origins to 72 Mesopotamian Christian families who settled in Cranganore in 345 A.D.”
Southists now number about 200,000 people, a minority within the whole Thomas Christian community of some 4.5 million people (Thomas Christians describe the descendants of those Christians — now members of several Eastern churches — evangelized by Thomas the Apostle). A Semitic people who have maintained their identity by avoiding intermarriage, the Southists are nevertheless divided into two distinct ecclesial jurisdictions. About two-thirds belong to the Eparchy of Kottayam, a diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The remaining third are in communion with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, who established a Southist eparchy in Chingavanam in 1910.
Read more in Ancient Christians, Modern Mission from the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine.
13 May 2014
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem pauses during an 11 May news conference in the northern city of Haifa, called because of recent attacks dubbed “price tagging.” Archbishop Twal said a spate of attacks he described as acts of terror against the church were poisoning the atmosphere ahead of this month’s visit by Pope Francis, and urged Israel to arrest more perpetrators. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Patriarch wants Israelis to crack down on vandalism at religious sites (CNS) The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem called a continuing wave of vandalism against Christian, Muslim and Druze properties a “blight on Israeli democracy” and urged authorities to step up prosecution against the perpetrators. Patriarch Fouad Twal said during a news conference on 11 May in the northern city of Haifa that the attacks, which involve scrawling and spray painting racist and anti-Christian and anti-Muslim messages on buildings and holy sites, was particularly troublesome in light of Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Holy Land on 24-26 May...
Cardinal challenges interfaith leaders to promote peace (Vatican Radio) Do the choices we make as individuals or collectively lead to increasing peace or increasing violence? That’s the question posed by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran to participants at a seminar Monday at Petra University in Amman, Jordan exploring the theme “religion and violence.” In his discourse entitled, “Religion, society and violence: causes and results. The role of religious leaders for peace and social cohesion,” the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue challenged religious leaders to be at the forefront of efforts to promote peace in their societies...
Group claims Syria used chemical weapons last month (AP) An international human rights group said Tuesday it has strong evidence that the Syrian army used chlorine gas on three rebel-held towns last month. The statement by the New-York based Human Rights Watch adds to concerns that chemical weapons are still being used in Syria, months after a chemical attack killed hundreds of civilians last August. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, said in April that it would investigate the chlorine claims but hasn’t commented further...
Metropolitan Hilarion says he was refused entry to Ukraine (Reuters) A top cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church said he was refused entry to Ukraine this week amid an escalating stand-off between Moscow and Kiev over separatist unrest in Ukraine’s east. The church’s Department of External Relations said its head, Metropolitan Hilarion, was turned back on Friday at the airport in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk where he came to award a prize to a local cleric. “I was given no explanation,” Hilarion told Russian state news channel Rossiya 24. “Apparently my name, and possibly the names of other Church hierarchs, are on a list of people who are banned from entering Ukraine.” The Ukrainian border guard declined to comment...
9 May 2014
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop William Murphy and the CNEWA team wrapped up their journey to Jordan on Wednesday.
In Kerak, they stopped by the Italian Hospital, administered by the Comboni Sisters. CNEWA has supported the hospital’s renovation and expansion, bringing health care to countless families.
We profiled the lives of Christians in the Kerak plateau two years ago in the pages of ONE magazine. Many of the people are descended from Bedouins, and have strong ties to the church:
As do most Jordanians, the Christians of the Kerak area express pride about their tribal past. But nostalgia for the old days is hard to find on the Kerak plateau. For generations, these villagers have struggled to achieve a better life, a fight that often has meant leaving behind tribal customs. Now, young and old have their eyes fixed firmly on the future. They want to talk about the Internet, not about camels and sheep; about college degrees, not tents and traditions.
The only vital thread weaving together their present and past, and one they speak about eagerly, is their Christian faith. According to these villagers, the church — Greek Orthodox and Latin and Melkite Greek Catholic — has held the community together and served as a bridge to modern society.
After visiting Kerak, the team traveled to the Christian Bedouin village of Ader to celebrate a First Communion liturgy at the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of St. Gregory.
After that, it was back to Amman for the trip home.
You can find more about this pastoral visit at Cardinal Dolan’s blog and at the blog for Bishop William Murphy. The complete Journey to Jordan is also archived here.
And if you’d like to be a part of the exciting and meaningful work we’re doing in Amman, Kerak and Ader, check out our giving page.
9 May 2014
A painting of Pope Francis at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity shows him holding an icon of Sts. Peter and Andrew. The icon was given by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople to Pope Paul VI in 1964 and how hangs in the council’s
Vatican office. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Later this month, Pope Francis is not just making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; he is traveling, in effect, to visit a member of the family.
With the bishop of Rome going to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a family reunion will take place. The successor to Peter will meet the successor to the apostle Andrew, Peter’s brother, who founded the church in Byzantium.
The patriarch recently spoke about the meeting in an interview with the Associated Press:
Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians, says a meeting with Pope Francis in Jerusalem this month will help move the two churches closer to ending their nearly one-thousand-year divide.
In an interview with The Associated Press in his Istanbul office, Bartholomew also praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for improving rights for Christians but said pointedly, “it is not enough.”
The meetings between the ecumenical patriarch and the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics on May 25-26 will commemorate the historic visit of their predecessors 50 years ago that launched a dialogue aimed at ending the two churches’ schism in 1054.
“We shall say through our meeting and our prayer that it is the intention of both of us to work further for Christian unity and reconciliation,” Bartholomew said, sitting at his desk piled high with papers in his Patriarchate office. Around him, golden icons from Byzantium on the walls loomed over standing photos of the patriarch greeting world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Erdogan.
Although the Orthodox and Catholic churches remain estranged on key issues, including married clergy and the centralized power of the Vatican, there have been moves toward closer understanding, beginning with the 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem. It was the first encounter between a pope and Orthodox patriarch in more than 500 years.
Read more at the AP link.
8 May 2014
Our CNEWA team — board chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan, board member Bishop William Murphy and president Msgr. John Kozar — continued their pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and discovered the “keys to the kingdom,” its wonderful and generous people.
An important stop yesterday was the convent of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Amman.
From their home, the sisters offer Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria counseling, schooling, formal catechesis and emergency assistance to those in dire need. The sisters’ “House of Mary” also offers a safe haven, a refuge from the storm that has enveloped these innocent families.
We described the work of the sisters — which is supported by CNEWA’s generous benefactors — in a story for ONE magazine we called, fittingly, “A Loving Embrace”:
Among the courses the convent school offers is a remedial tutorial for Iraqi children who have fallen behind since the war’s outbreak and fled west. Some of these children have missed several years of school — not until last August did the government permit Iraqi school-age children to enroll in its schools...
In addition to the remedial program for young children, the convent school operates a kindergarten, a second grade and a literacy course offered at no cost to young adults between the ages of 14 and 20.
...For a few short hours, the participants leave behind their worries and gather the strength to move forward despite the seemingly impossible and unending challenges in their lives — at least for one more day.
That’s the warm and supportive atmosphere that greeted the CNEWA team yesterday. The sisters and the families they are privileged to serve welcomed their visitors and made them feel right at home. Later, they celebrated Mass together and had the opportunity to share stories, and even a few laughs.
It was a meaningful and emotional visit for everyone.
To find out what you can do to support the good work of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Jordan — and extend that “loving embrace” of Christ to others — visit our Jordan giving page.
8 May 2014
A young girl tries on the pectoral cross of Cardinal Timothy Dolan during his pastoral visit to Jordan. Follow his trip this week in the series Journey to Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
8 May 2014
Pope Francis embraces the catholicos-patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, during a meeting at the Vatican on 8 May.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis to Armenian Catholicos: blood of martyrs is seed of unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, on Thursday at the Vatican. The Catholicos is in Rome on a three-day visit that concludes on 9 May. In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s 2001 visit to Armenia, and the many other visits the Catholicos has made to Rome and to the Popes in the Vatican, especially his 2008 visit to Pope Benedict XVI and his participation in the inauguration of Pope Francis’ own pontificate...
Explosion destroys hotel in Aleppo (BBC) A large explosion in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo has destroyed a hotel and several other buildings, state media and activists report. Rebel fighters are believed to have detonated a bomb placed in a tunnel beneath the Carlton Citadel Hotel, near the city’s medieval citadel and souk. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops had been based there and at least 14 died...
Report documents "egregious" violations of religious freedom in Syria (National Catholic Register) The U.S. government should designate Syria as a “country of particular concern” due to “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” in its ongoing conflict, a global religious liberty group said. “The existing humanitarian disaster and egregious human rights and religious freedom violations pose a serious danger to Syria’s religious diversity post-conflict,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2014 report...
American Christians pledge solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria (Fox News) On behalf of the suffering churches of Egypt, Iraq and Syria, a broad array of American Christians, with a degree of unity rarely seen since the Council of Nicaea in 325, have joined together in a “pledge of solidarity and call to action.” Their action results from deepening concern about the “wave of persecution” in the region of Christianity’s roots. Some 200 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders have signed on — from Catholic Cardinal Wuerl, to National Association of Evangelicals’ chair Leith Anderson, to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church to Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan...
Special novena organized ahead of pope’s trip to Holy Land (L’Osservatore Romano) Nine days of special prayer have been organized in preparation for Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the Holy Land from 24 to 26 May. According to the website of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Latins, the Jerusalemite Churches and Christian communities from 24-26 May will spiritually prepare and support the Pope’s pilgrimage and his meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, which will take place in the holy city...
7 May 2014
Continuing their pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop William Murphy and Msgr. John Kozar visited two key holy sites before spending the rest of the day with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. They visited the site on the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, touring the archaeological remains associated with the early church.
They also paused to enjoy the view at Mount Nebo, where tradition holds Moses viewed the Promised Land he was never able to enter himself.
In 2011, we reported in ONE magazine on some of the places they’re visiting in the article On Jordan’s Bank:
Jordan is home to a mosaic of biblical places. For example, near the Zerqa River, Jacob wrestled the angel and received the name Israel. At Mount Nebo, Moses looked upon the Promised Land. The Prophet Elijah ascended to heaven on a chariot of fire from the Jordan River’s eastern bank, which also later served as the center of John the Baptist’s ministry.
These holy places, coupled with the country’s arid landscape, drew thousands of early Christians, such as St. Mary of Egypt, who led lives of penitence and prayer. Their monastic cells, caves, chapels and tombs in turn became important venues of pilgrimage for generations of Christians, who traveled along a well–beaten circuit from one site to the next for much of the first millennia of the Christian era.
Today, these sacred areas draw considerable numbers of pilgrims and tourists each year, but less traffic than one might expect. Most of the locations receive scant publicity and are overshadowed by better–known holy sites in Israel and Palestine. And, until recently, some of the most important sites in Jordan have been long lost or neglected.
The CNEWA team next headed to meet with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who are providing support to Iraqi and Syrian refugee families, especially young women.
More on that part of the visit tomorrow!
Meantime, you can read more about their visit at Cardinal Dolan’s blog and at the blog of Bishop Murphy.