10 June 2014
Syrian children from Aleppo play in a shanty near Gaziantep, Turkey, on 25 May According to U.N. agencies, more than 40 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 22.4 million has been displaced by the conflict. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
Iraqi Christians on the run (Fides) Insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, conquered in the late evening of 9 June the seat of the provincial government in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The governor Athel Nujafi was able to escape before the building fell into the hands of the assailants armed with grenade launchers and machine guns mounted on all-terrain vehicles. On Monday, Governor Nujiafi, with a televised appeal, urged the people of Mosul and the province to organize themselves into self-defense groups to resist the ISIL attack. As Fides learns, the attack of Al-qaeda militants has accelerated the flight of Christian families to the villages in the Nineveh Plain, where in recent days the presence of the militia “Peshmerga” Kurds has strengthened...
Initiative urges help to save Syria’s Christians (Public Radio of Armenia) “First Christians,” a new Facebook community of faith devoted to protecting the first Christian nations, has asked all those devoted to religious freedom to join together in calling upon President Obama to bring an end to the latest wave of brutal attacks by extremist groups upon the Christian civilian population of Syria, Asbarez reports...
Ukrainian Catholic bishops thank world for prayers (CNS) Ukrainian Catholic bishops thanked people around the world for their prayers over the last six months and asked for continued prayers for peace in their country. “The dignity that Ukrainians yearn for is not first and foremost material,” said a message from the Permanent Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “They seek a God-given dignity, a respect for their very being. Their right for self-determination, territorial integrity, cultural and especially ecclesial tradition has been violated brutally in the past and is demeaned today.” The bishops described recent events in Ukraine as “truly miraculous,” noting that “transforming grace poured down upon the people of our country...”
Russian Orthodox Church backs renaming Volgograd (Ecumenical News) The Russian Orthodox Church is said to have tentatively voiced its support of a referendum suggesting the renaming of Volgograd, the Russian city formerly known as Stalingrad. A Washington Post blog on June said that the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed support for holding a referendum, but rather wishes to go back to the city’s original name Tsaritsyn, which was the city’s name since 1589 before it became Stalingrad in 1925...
Hundreds of Christians convert to Islam in Turkey (ABNA News Agency) According to the information reported in the Turkish press and from the General Secretariat of Religious Affairs in Turkey, 779 people residing in the Country have converted to Islam since the beginning of 2014. The overwhelming majority of the converts were Christians (616) while the former atheists are only 21, 3 former Hindu and those from Judaism and 132 new Muslims who previously belonged to other religions. A significant number of converts are foreigners living in Turkey, including 150 Germans and 52 Russians...
9 June 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Russian Orthodox Church Islam
Pope Francis looks on as Israeli President Shimon Peres, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas embrace during an invocation for peace in the Vatican Gardens on 8 June.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
9 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Palestine Israel
In the video above, Pope Francis prays with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican on 8 June. (video: from CNS)
Pope: only God can bring peace to the Holy Land (CNS) Praying for peace in the Holy Land alongside leaders of long-antagonistic nations, Pope Francis called on God to act where human efforts had failed, to end what he described as violence inspired by the devil. “More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it,” the pope said June 8 at an evening ceremony in the Vatican Gardens. “That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God.” The pope addressed his remarks to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an “invocation for peace” in the Holy Land, to which he had invited them during his visit to the region two weeks earlier...
Text: Pope Francis’s remarks at the “invocation for peace” (Vatican Radio) Your presence, dear Presidents, is a great sign of brotherhood which you offer as children of Abraham. It is also a concrete expression of trust in God, the Lord of history, who today looks upon all of us as brothers and who desires to guide us in his ways. This meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in the entire world is accompanied by the prayers of countless people of different cultures, nations, languages and religions: they have prayed for this meeting and even now they are united with us in the same supplication. It is a meeting which responds to the fervent desire of all who long for peace and dream of a world in which men and women can live as brothers and sisters and no longer as adversaries and enemies...
The “Francis Doctrine” puts the Vatican on the world stage (RNS) The Israeli-Palestinian prayer summit is drawing particular attention because it comes as traditional diplomatic efforts in the region have once again stalled. It also follows on the heels of Francis’ three-day pilgrimage through the Holy Land, where he spoke forcefully on behalf of peace, and often matched his words with bold actions. That approach raised both hopes and the Vatican’s profile, and it’s the formula Francis has used since he was elected in March last year: repeatedly calling for reconciliation in global hot zones like South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ukraine and Latin America, and dispatching emissaries or launching initiatives when he can. Francis has been especially engaged in the intractable Syria conflict, organizing a fast and a public prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square last year and insisting that the Holy See be present at peace talks in Switzerland this year. “Francis is not resigned to a passive vision of world affairs,” Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic organization active in conflict resolution and peace brokering, said last summer. “We must prepare for a new age of political audacity for the Holy See...”
Orthodox-Catholic group urges Vatican to lift ban on ordination of married priests (USCCB) The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation voted in early June to encourage the “lifting of the restrictions regarding the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Churches of North America.” “This action would affirm the ancient and legitimate Eastern Christian tradition, and would assure the Orthodox that, in the event of the restoration of full communion between the two Churches, the traditions of the Orthodox Church would not be questioned,” the consultation said in a statement released on 6 June. “We are convinced that this action would enhance the spiritual lives of Eastern Catholics and would encourage the restoration of unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians,” the statement said...
Syria’s president issues amnesty for prisoners (AP) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared a general amnesty Monday for prisoners in the country, state media reported. It was not clear how many — if any — prisoners would be freed after the presidential decree, issued just five days after al-Assad had won a third, seven-year term in office amid the three-year-old civil war in his country...
Eritrean bishops describe life in the country (BBC) Four Eritrean Catholic bishops have published a letter criticizing life in the country — a rare move in one of the world’s most tightly controlled states. Although they were careful not to condemn the government directly, correspondents say the letter-writers are taking a huge risk. The bishops describe the country as “desolate” because so many people had fled or were in prison or the army...
4 June 2014
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Palestine Israel Vatican
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with Bechara Peter, patriarch of the Maronite Church, in Beirut on 4 June. Kerry is on an unannounced trip to Lebanon to bring Obama administration support to the country’s government as it confronts severe difficulties, with an influx of refugees in Syria and a political stalemate at home. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
4 June 2014
Pope Francis visits with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after an arrival ceremony at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, West Bank, 25 May. President Abbas will be joining Israeli President Shimon Peres for a prayer meeting with Pope Francis this weekend.
(photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Prayer will be the center of this weekend’s meeting (Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said prayer will be at the center of the 8 June meeting between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican. Pope Francis invited the two leaders to the Vatican on 25 May, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. “It is a meeting of prayer. The Pope has placed it in this perspective: Prayer is like a force for peace,” Cardinal Parolin said. “Certainly, there will be a very powerful symbolic meaning in the fact that the Palestinian president and Israeli president will be there together,” he added. “But then there is an added value, the value of prayer: They will pray together. We hope that there, where human efforts have so far failed, the Lord offers to all the wisdom and fortitude to carry out a real peace plan, including building trust ...and overcoming obstacles — which are ... numerous and serious — which still prevent the achievement of peace in the Holy Land...”
Syrian election sends powerful signal of Assad’s control (Washington Post) Syrians voted on in a tightly controlled election Tuesday that reinforced President Bashar al-Assad’s tenacious hold on power, underscoring the failure of U.S. policies aimed at inducing him to step down. Three years after Assad’s brutal suppression of nationwide protests plunged Syria into a vicious civil war, the election seems certain to deliver him a third seven-year term in office, defying President Obama’s 2011 call for him to “step aside...”
Rebels in Ukraine capture governments posts (The New York Times) Rebel fighters in Ukraine’s troubled east have scored a major victory, capturing a border guard command base here after besieging it for two days and then overwhelming a second base that housed Ukrainian internal security forces...
Bethlehem University students engage in service through Catholic Charities (CNS) A group of students recently arrived in the U.S. from Bethlehem University in Palestine in order to participate in a one-of-a kind program with Catholic Charities. Fostered by a two-year partnership between the Catholic university and Catholic Charities USA, selected students travel to America every year and participate in a six-week summer internship program that allows them to use the skills they have developed within their prospective majors in Catholic Charities agencies nationwide...
Kerala bishops to back new government (The Hindu Businessline) The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), a powerful body that has immense clout in Kerala’s political scene and government policies, has extended its support to the Modi Government. At a meeting on Tuesday, KCBC president Baselios Mar Cleemis said the organisation will support all the people’s welfare programmes of the new Government..
3 June 2014
Tags: Syria Ukraine Palestine Israel Bethlehem University
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.
3 June 2014
Tags: Armenia Seminarians
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...
2 June 2014
Tags: Syria India Israel Jordan
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.
2 June 2014
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...
30 May 2014
Tags: Syria India Ukraine Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
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