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Volume 44, Number 1
  
3 June 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2002, Bishop Nersess Bozabalian instructs seminarians at Armenia’s Vazkenian Armenian Apostolic Theological Seminary. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

In 2002, we visited Armenia to report on life at the local seminaries:

The future of Armenia’s church percolates in the minds of its young seminarians.

In dark blue uniforms resembling military garb, the young seminarians of Vazkenian Armenian Apostolic Theological Seminary line up to attend Sunday Divine Liturgy at St. Arakelotz Church on the Sevan Lake peninsula in eastern Armenia. The seminary is named after the late Vazken I, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The visionary leader pioneered the Armenian Church’s commitment to ecumenism.

The Vazkenian theological seminary was founded in 1990 on the Sevan peninsula. Once an island, this bit of land was gradually absorbed into the surrounding terrain in the 1940’s with a loss of lake waters. Located 36 miles north of the capital of Yerevan, and with an altitude of 6,600 feet above sea level, the area seemed an ideal spot for a seminary because of its serene atmosphere, its pure air and its proximity to the ancient churches of St. Arakelotz and St. Hovannes on the peninsula.

Sevan Lake, like the famous Mount Ararat — legendary home to the remains of Noah’s ark — is the pride of the Armenian nation. The beauty of this area has inspired poets, musicians and artists alike from around the globe.

Seminarians are admitted to Vazkenian seminary after finishing high school. The maximum age for entrance to the seminary is 23. Beginning in September, the academic year runs until June, with 52 to 55 students enrolled each year. The rigors of the first year, however, often weed out some students.

“At the end of the year there are usually 46 or 47 seminarians left,” says Father Minas Martirossian, the seminary’s rector.

“They leave for health or family reasons,” he adds, while others simply learn that they are unsuited for priestly life.

Seminarians study for five years, after which they take an exam and are then transferred to the Gevorkian Apostolic Theological Seminary in Etchmiatzin for their final years of study. Each year one or two top students in their fourth or fifth year are sent to France, Germany, Switzerland, Romania or the United States for further study.

Read more on Hopeful Growth in Armenia’s Seminaries in the March-April 2002 issue of our magazine.



Tags: Armenia Seminarians

3 June 2014
Greg Kandra




Indian Cardinal D. Simon Lourdusamy, who had been the editor of a Catholic weekly newspaper before coming to Rome to serve as head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, died in Rome at the age of 90. He is pictured in an undated photo with Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.
(Photo: CNS files)


Indian cardinal, former head of Congregation for Eastern Churches, dies (CNS) An Indian cardinal who had been the editor of a Catholic weekly newspaper before coming to Rome to serve as head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches died in Rome at the age of 90. The death of Cardinal D. Simon Lourdusamy 2 June leaves the College of Cardinals with 214 members, 118 of whom are younger than 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave. In a telegram of condolence to Archbishop Anthony Anandarayar of Pondicherry and Cuddalore, Pope Francis recalled the late cardinal who spent his life “spreading the Gospel first in India and subsequently in service to the universal church...”

Voting begins in Syria (CNN) Polls for the Syrian presidential election opened Tuesday against the backdrop of a bloody and protracted civil war. The outcome is hardly in doubt: President Bashar al-Assad is almost guaranteed to emerge victorious in a vote that opposition groups and many Western countries say has been be rigged from the start. Syria isn’t renowned for holding free and fair elections...

Patriarch visits Homs (ByzCath.org) On his return from Jordan, where he had gone to welcome Pope Francis, Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, went to Homs on a pastoral visit to strengthen and show solidarity with the city’s clergy and faithful. Welcomed at the city gates by Metropolitan John (Abdo Arbash) of Homs, Hama and Yabrud, Patriarch Gregorios began by visiting the city’s governor, Talal Al-Barazi before going to the Khaled ibn Al-Walid mosque, where Sheikh Fathallah Al-Qadi, the Mufti of Homs Province, and Sheikh Issam Al-Masri, Director of the Waqfs (religious endowments) of Homs, were expecting him. Then Gregorios III began the pastoral aspect of his visit by going to the Melkite Greek Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace where, flanked by Metropolitan John and his clergy, the patriarch proceeded to bless the cathedral by sprinkling with holy water before reciting the peace prayer of Pope Saint John Paul II during his jubilee trip to Syria in 2001...

Rolling Stones’ first concert in Israel delayed for religious Jewish fans (Religion News Service) The Rolling Stones will begin their first concert in Israel 45 minutes later than originally scheduled to accommodate religious Jewish fans. The Stones’ 4 June Tel Aviv concert was initially set to begin at 8:30 p.m., just minutes after the end of the Shavuot holiday, the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which commemorates Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath or holidays, so it would have been impossible for them to arrive at the venue on time. Many of the Stones’ biggest Israeli fans — modern Orthodox baby boomers who moved to Israel from English-speaking countries — had begged the event promoter, Shuki Weiss Promotion and Production, to push back the starting time. “Following many requests from the public, particularly the observant public, to delay the starting hour for the performance, the City of Tel Aviv, together with the production team, decided to change the starting time,” the promoter said in a press release. The municipality had to agree due to after-hours noise pollution laws...



Tags: Syria India Israel Jordan

2 June 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople kiss the Stone of Unction in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 25 May. The two leaders marked the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.
(photo: CNS/Grzegorz Galazka)


Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, offers some personal reflections and insight into the pope’s recent visit to the Holy Land in a column for the latest edition of Pittsburgh Catholic:

Pope Francis came first and foremost as a pilgrim to pray. He also came as a church leader to unite, as a world figure to invite all parties to renounce violence, and to embrace forgiveness, mercy and justice.

His visit was religious in nature and not political, even though every word uttered, every gesture and facial expression, every venue visited has been dissected for a political angle. But this pope doesn’t “second guess” himself, he is not driven by media reviews. He is the “real deal.”

He came to the Holy Land for a number of reasons: to confirm anew the determination of all Christians to be one, as was boldly affirmed 50 years ago by his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras; to demonstrate a solidarity with millions of innocent people displaced by war in Syria and Iraq; to highlight the long suffering of the Palestinian people seeking a permanent homeland; and to encourage Christians to remain in this Holy Land and the greater Middle East.

A prayer service, led by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, took place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the site of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Also participating were leaders of the Latin and Eastern Catholic traditions as well as most of the Orthodox churches, most of whom trace their foundation to apostolic times. The pope and the ecumenical patriarch signed a declaration to continue to pursue “communion in legitimate diversity.”

Pope Francis no doubt surprised the Israelis and Palestinians when he invited both sides to come to his “house” in the Vatican to pray together with him for peace. And the good news is that both sides have accepted his invitation.

Read more.



2 June 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from April, Syrian President Bashar Assad looks at destroyed religious artwork with a member of the clergy during a visit to the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Syria.
(photo: CNS/Syria’s national news agency handout via Reuters)


Syria poised to re-elect Assad (CNN) In the midst of a bloody and protracted civil war, the Syrian government is set to hold a presidential election Tuesday. The outcome is hardly in doubt: President Bashar al-Assad is almost guaranteed to emerge victorious in a vote that opposition groups and many Western countries say will be rigged from the start...

Christian property seized in Syria (Fides) On Sunday 1 June, militiamen of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a Sunni jiahdist formation, confiscated houses and land belonging to Christian families in Ein al-Issa, Syria, the area in the province of Raqqa inhabited mainly by Armenian Christians. According to Kurdish sources, the owners of the confiscated property were forced to leave the area...

Pope appeals for peace in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) At the Regina Coeli address on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed “for the victims of the tensions that still continue in some regions of Ukraine, as well as in the Central African Republic.” He renewed his appeal “to all parties involved, that misunderstandings are overcome and that dialogue and reconciliation might be sought with patience...”

Cardinals to determine canonization date for India’s new saints (Vatican Radio) Cardinals who are in Rome will gather around Pope Francis for a consistory on 12 June to decide upon the date for the canonization of six future saints of the Catholic Church, among them India’s Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sr. Euphrasia Eluvathingal. Blessed Chavara, belonging to India’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church based in Kerala state, founded the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. He lived from 1805 to 1871. Blessed Euphrasia of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, also belonged to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. She was born in 1877 and died in 1952...



Tags: Syria India Ukraine Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

30 May 2014
Greg Kandra




A painting of the Virgin Mary hangs on the wall of Our Lady of Zion Church in Aksum, Ethiopia.
(photo: Sean Sprague)


As May draws to a close — the month devoted to the Virgin Mary — we get a glimpse at a colorful depiction of Mary from Ethiopia (above) and offer some insight into the place where it originated. From the March 2011 issue of ONE:

Located in Ethiopia’s far northern region of Tigray, Aksum is the former capital of an empire that dominated the Horn of Africa from the third century B.C. to the eighth century after Christ. Home of the fabled queen of Sheba, Aksum is best known as the cradle of Ethiopian Christianity, which became the faith of the empire when the Aksumite emperor, Ezana, embraced it in the early fourth century. Today, Ethiopia’s Christian majority is mostly Orthodox.

Since its earliest days, Aksum has been a center for sophisticated and distinctive decorative arts and crafts, especially metalwork, woodcarving and painting. Scholars believe that soon after Christianity took root in the city, artists began fashioning items utilized in the Qeddase (or Divine Liturgy), mainly ecclesiastical crowns, crosses, fans, icons and manuscripts. Geometric carvings, first utilized in pre-Christian era art of the area, predominated.

Not until the late 16th century, after Portuguese Jesuit missionaries arrived in Ethiopia and dazzled Aksum’s elite with their early Baroque artifacts, did local artists begin adding the finer flourishes that many now associate with traditional Ethiopian liturgical art. Manuscript cases, for example, became more intricate and featured figurative and geometric forms; manuscript pages contained delicate and colorful designs, as well as images of the saints, the Virgin Mary and Christ.

Read more about Ethiopia’s Vibrant Sacred Art from the March 2011 issue of ONE.



Tags: Ethiopia Orthodox

30 May 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on 26 May.
(photo: CNS/ Tsafrir Abayov, EPA)


Encounter to pray for peace will take place on 8 June (Vatican Radio) The head of the Press Office of the Holy See, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi has confirmed that the invitation to pray together for peace in the Vatican, Pope Francis extended during his Apostolic Journey to the Holy Land to both the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, and of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, has been accepted and will take place in the afternoon of Sunday 8 June 2014...

Pope decries “globalization of indifference” (CNS) A “globalization of indifference” has taken hold of too many of the world’s people, numbing them to the horrifying reality faced by the people of Syria and other innocent victims of war and violence around the world, Pope Francis said. With the Syrian conflict continuing for more than three years, “there is a risk of becoming used to it” and forgetting that people are dying there each day, the pope said 30 May in a message to participants at a Vatican-hosted meeting for Catholic aid agencies. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable activity, brought together two dozen Catholic relief and development agencies that are working in Syria or with Syrian refugees. The meeting was designed to help them work together more efficiently and reach more people in need...

Pope: Holy Land trip was a great grace (Vatican Radio) At the heart of Pope Francis’ address at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday was his recent visit to the Holy Land. The faithful gathered on a warm day in St Peter’s Square, listened as the Pope told them that this journey was great grace for him and for the whole Church. The Holy Father recalled this trip as one that commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the meeting of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, and which marked a milestone along the path to Christian unity...

Kerala police rescue almost 600 children (India Today) Kerala Police and Palakkad district officials rescued almost 600 children being transported into the state from Bihar and Jharkhand on the pretext of sending them to orphanages. Officials, however, fear this to be a clear case of child trafficking. The authorities rescued the children following tips from Railway Police....

Russian Orthodox priest blesses Soyuz spacecraft (Daily Mail) A Russian Orthodox priest has prayed for the Soyuz spacecraft ahead of its blast off tomorrow to the International Space Station. The crew arrived at the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan two weeks before the launch to prepare themselves for the journey...



Tags: India Middle East Kerala Russian Orthodox

28 May 2014
Greg Kandra





In the video above, Pope Francis gently corrects Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on which language Jesus spoke. (source: Huffington Post)

A small controversy erupted Monday during a meeting between Pope Francis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

As Netanyahu began speaking on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, he mentioned Jesus Christ, saying via a translator, “Jesus lived here. He spoke Hebrew.”

Pope Francis interrupted, pointing out that Jesus spoke Aramaic.

“He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu responded after some chuckling arose from those seated around them.

Israeli linguistics professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann told Reuters that both men had a point.

“Jesus was a native Aramaic speaker,” he said. “But he would have also known Hebrew because there were extant religious writings in Hebrew.” Zuckermann went on to mention how Hebrew was spoken at the time by the lower class, the exact kind of people Jesus was said to have preached to.

CNEWA’s external affairs officer (and Middle East scholar) Elias Mallon offers this analysis:

The Huffington Post recounts that, during his visit to Israel, Pope Francis corrected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. It seems that in his attempt to draw links between Christians and Jews, the prime minister stated that Jesus spoke Hebrew. Pope Francis is said to have interjected, “he spoke Aramaic.”

Although Jesus most definitely did not speak Ivrit, the Hebrew of the modern State of Israel, both the pope and prime minister are probably right. Aramaic was the language generally spoken at the time of Jesus and together with Greek was the lingua franca of the entire Middle East.

While closely related, Hebrew and Aramaic speakers could not understand each other. We know this from 2 Kings 18:26-37. When the leaders of Jerusalem are negotiating the cessation of hostilities with the ambassador of the Assyrian king, the ambassador speaks to them in “the Judean language” in the presence of the Jewish soldiers. But the Jewish negotiators ask him to speak in Aramaic not Hebrew. The clear implication is that the defenders of Jerusalem would not have understood the negotiations if they were carried on in Aramaic.

One often hears that Jesus came from the hinterland, where the uneducated people spoke Hebrew, the older language of the land. However, the image of Galilee as a backwater is no longer tenable. Excavations at Sepphoris, a wealthy city and trade center about three miles from Nazareth, indicate that there was a large Greek-speaking community near the home town of Jesus. Greek merchants would most likely have been familiar with Aramaic if they were doing business in the Middle East. And as a carpenter it would be likely that Jesus had contacts with Sepphoris. It is also possible that he spoke some Greek.

There is mention in John 12:20 of some “Greeks” (hellēnēs) who wished to see Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, when referring to Greek-speaking Jews, Luke calls them “Hellenists” (hellēnistos) and not “Greeks.” So it is not unreasonable to assume the people mentioned in John’s Gospel were Greek.

Matthew, Mark and Luke each recount the story of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 relate that the people were astounded at Jesus’ “wisdom” (sofia). Luke 4:16-19, on the other hand, recounts that Jesus was invited to read from the scroll in the synagogue. The reading was from the Book of Isaiah. It is highly unlikely that this reading would have been in any language other than Hebrew. So I would say it is fairly safe to assert that Jesus could speak and read Hebrew, Aramaic and perhaps Greek as well.

Of course in the contemporary Middle East, everything is politicized — demography, linguistics, even beverages. Coffee changes from “Arabic coffee” to “Turkish coffee” depending on where it is consumed. The good-hearted exchange between the prime minister and the pope, while an echo of stress lines in the Middle East, is also an example of how those stresses can be reduced through open exchange and respect.



28 May 2014
Greg Kandra




In Lebanon, young refugees at a community center run by the Good Shepherd Sisters smile
for a visitor. (photo: John E. Kozar)


Later this week, CNEWA will be taking part in an important gathering in Rome, focusing in large part on helping refugees like those shown in the picture above.

Vatican Radio has the details:

On Friday, 30 May, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” will host a coordination meeting between the Catholic charitable organizations that operate in the context of the Syrian crisis...

...Speakers will include Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, and Bishop SE Antoine Audo, president of Caritas, Syria. Finally, the activities carried out at the information office in Beirut, set up last year to collect and distribute data on the work of Catholic organizations, will be presented. In the afternoon, the practical aspects of cooperation between the various parties in Syria and neighboring countries will be the focus of attention.

The objective of the meeting, in line with the path taken in the last two years by the Holy See, and as a result of the meeting of 4-5 June 2013, organized by the Pontifical Council, is to make an assessment of the work done so far by the Catholic charitable organizations in the context of the crisis, highlighting critical issues and identifying priorities for the future.

Michel Constantin, regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, will represent CNEWA.

Wondering how you can help kids like those in the picture? Click this link to find out.



27 May 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina, after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on 26 May. The pope's message left at the Wall contained the text of the Our Father and of the 122nd Psalm, traditionally prayed by Jewish pilgrims who travel to Jerusalem.(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Among the many memorable moments from the pope’s trip, a standout was the one shown above. CNS’s Cindy Wooden took note:

In a Holy Land pilgrimage filled with emotion, the embrace of Pope Francis, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud this morning was powerful. Even at a distance of more than 1,400 miles, (thanks to the Vatican Television Center and Vatican Radio) viewers could read in that embrace a sense of “we are actually here; it really happened.”

The embrace, complete with tears, came after Pope Francis visited Jerusalem’s grand mufti and other Muslim leaders near the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque and then prayed at the Western Wall.

The two holy sites make up what is probably the most contested piece of real estate in the world because of its deep religious significance.

Muslims believe Muhammad was taken to the site in his famous “Night Journey” and from there transported to heaven and then back to Mecca.

The Esplanade of the Mosques sits above the sacred Jewish prayer space facing the Western Wall, which is all that remains of the wall that surrounded the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.

An interreligious pilgrimage to the site isn’t a daily occurrence, but Pope Francis wanted to go with his friends.

Read more about that emotional embrace at CNS’s blog.

And you can check out more stories, pictures and video from the trip at our special page, Apostles of Unity in the Holy Land.



23 May 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from last year, Pope Francis burns incense before the icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) after praying the rosary during a service at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

In what has become a custom before beginning an important trip, Pope Francis stopped by the Basilica of St. Mary Major this morning to offer a private prayer before an icon of Mary. The pontiff leaves for his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land Saturday.

CNS has details:

Pope Francis entrusted his upcoming apostolic journey to the Holy Land to Our Lady when he visited a Marian icon at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome this morning.

He brought roses and prayed in silence before the icon for about 15 minutes, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told us today. The unannounced morning visit marks what has become a Pope Francis tradition: visiting the “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) to pray for Mary’s protection and care before a major trip.

He did the same thing before heading to Brazil last year when he prayed that Mary protect and care for everyone attending World Youth Day and for all young people around the world.

He also visited the day after his election, at the start of his new journey as supreme pontiff.

The icon has special significance for the pope and he has visited it often on different occasions to pray. He has said that the Basilica of St. Mary Major was the first Marian shrine in the West where the image of the Mother of God — the “Theotokos” — was venerated.

According to tradition, this image of Mary embracing Jesus as a young boy was the work of the evangelist St. Luke, who painted it on a tabletop made by Jesus himself in St. Joseph’s carpentry shop. Many centuries later, Jesuit missionaries distributed reproductions of the image to promote Marian devotion around the world.







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