14 May 2013
In New York, Cardinal Cleemis Mar Baselios, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church, visits with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and CNEWA's chair. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Today, the Vatican announced this coming Sunday, 19 May, Cardinal Cleemis Mar Baselios, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, will take possession of his titular church in Rome, St. Gregory VII al Gelsomino.
The announcement came as the cardinal is paying a visit to North America. Yesterday he met in New York with CNEWA chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan and several other church leaders, including CNEWA president John E. Kozar, who snapped these pictures.
Since his arrival, the Syro-Malankara Church head has met with numerous church leaders, including Cardinal Dolan, center, and Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York. (photo: John E. Kozar)
14 May 2013
Tags: Vatican United States Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Destroyed buildings are seen in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria, on 29 April. The Syriac Catholic patriarch said events in Syria were the result of Western nations carrying out a geopolitical strategy “to split Syria and other countries” in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/George Ourfalian, Reuters)
Patriarch: Crisis in Syria is part of Western strategy (CNS) The Syriac Catholic patriarch said events in Syria were the result of Western nations carrying out a geopolitical strategy “to split Syria and other countries” in the Middle East. “It’s not a question of promoting democracy or pluralism as the West wants us to understand of its policies. This is a lie, this is hypocrisy,” Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service. Western nations did not heed warnings and so “bear responsibility for what is happening in Syria”…
Why Syrian quagmire threatens Turkey (CNN) Turkey’s tragic loss of at least 47 people in the car bombings in the border town of Reyhanli illustrates vividly that Turkey is not immune to the raging violence next door. Turkey has suffered similar, though far less deadly events in the past year, including Syria downing a Turkish jet, the killing of five Turks in cross-border artillery fire and a car bomb blast at a Turkey-Syria border crossing in February killing more than a dozen people. It is also hosting more than 400,000 Syrian refugees at a cost of $1.5 billion and counting. The United Nations estimates that number of refugees will triple by the end of this year. Moreover, it is a critical staging post and a logistical lifeline for opposition fighters against the leadership of Bashar al Assad in Damascus…
Christian village awaits arrival of Syrian army (Lebanon Daily Star) The advance of regime troops on the rebel stronghold of Qusair in central Syria has come as a relief for at least one village, mostly Christian, nestled on the shores of Lake Quttina. For the first time in eight months, the villagers of Ghassaniyeh do not have to make the risky trip across the lake to bring in fresh food and supplies…
Bishop says election of Pope Francis bodes well for Eastern Catholics (Catholic Sun) Bishop Gerald N. Dino of the Byzantine Holy Protection Eparchy of Phoenix said the election of Pope Francis bodes well for Eastern Catholics. “He’s very familiar with the Byzantine rite,” Bishop Dino said. “It means that we have a leader who understands a minority group within the church and respects those minorities”…
Why some Russian Orthodox believers are converting to other Christian faiths (Russia & India Report) Experts say there is a tendency in Russia, although a subtle one so far, of converting from the Russian Orthodox Church to other Christian denominations, such as Catholicism or Protestantism. This is because, they explain, believers often disagree with the position of the Russian Orthodox Church leaders on the most pressing problems of Russian society. In some cases, scandals around individual clergymen are to blame…
13 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Turkey Russian Orthodox Church Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
Altar boys serve the liturgy at the Chaldean parish in Amman. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
In the Spring issue of ONE, writer-photographer Cory Eldridge profiles Christians who have fled Iraq to try and start over in Jordan:
The exodus of Iraqis has slowed since the difficult days of 2004 to 2008. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says a total of about 30,000 Iraqis are registered in Jordan. In 2011, 7,000 new arrivals registered with the agency. Last year it was half that.
Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, says hard numbers are difficult to come by in the Middle East, and the number of registered and unregistered refugees is likely much higher. UNHCR doesn’t release numbers on religious affiliation, but Mr. Bahou believes about 30,000 Iraqi Christians live in Jordan, mostly in Amman. He expects that number to remain constant — a slow trickle in, a slow trickle out and no real change overall.
While the violence after the U.S. military’s surge did abate, life never became anything close to safe. In October 2010, Muslim extremists attacked Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, and the hours-long event left 58 parishioners, priests and police dead. The slaughter cast a long pall over all the country’s Christians.
Iraqis regularly describe that event as the defining moment for them, when everything suddenly and irrevocably changed.
In a new but poor neighborhood with wide main streets and side roads packed with the haphazard dwellings of a developing slum, the Rev. Mansour Mattosha, pastor of Amman’s Syriac Catholic parish, walks up four flights of stairs to visit a parishioner — his niece.
Even before 2003, Amman hosted many Christian communities. Now, among Catholics alone there are Chaldean, Latin, Melkite Greek and Syriac parishes, as well as Coptic, Greek and Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Protestant parishes. Relations among the parishes are good: The overwhelming attitude among the faithful is: “We’re all Christians, and there’s too few of us to bicker.”
Most of these parishes can be found in one part of central Amman, called Hashami Shamali, where many Iraqi refugees live. Father Mattosha comes here several times a week to visit 20 or so families. His is one of the smallest congregations, and he serves it alone. When he arrived, there were about 200 Iraqi families in the parish, as well as the original 50 Palestinian families who established the parish in 1948. Now, the number of Iraqi families has dwindled to about 80; the rest have left for U.N.-sponsored locations from Germany and Sweden to the United States and Canada to Australia and New Zealand. Extended families who used to live in the same village, often on the same block, have ended up in multiple countries.
Read more on those who are now Out of Iraq.
13 May 2013
Tags: Iraq Refugees Jordan Chaldeans
A girl sits on a chair placed among rubble as she sells bread on a war-torn street in Deir al-Zor, Syria, on 9 May. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Syria blames Turkey’s government for car bombings (Reuters) Syria’s information minister has blamed Turkey’s government for deadly car bombings near the Syrian border and branded Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan a “murderer,” state-run Russian TV company RT reported on Monday. The bombings took place as prospects appeared to improve for diplomacy to try to end the war in Syria, after Moscow and Washington announced a joint effort to bring government and rebels to an international conference as soon as possible...
Pontifical yearbook shows Catholic population steady, boom in vocations to diaconate (Vatican Radio) The number of Catholics globally remains largely unchanged at 1.2 billion, rising only slightly higher than global population growth for the 2010/2011 period. The number of priests (religious and diocesan) has grown, largely thanks to a rise in vocations in Asia and Africa which has helped balance the continued decline in Europe (-9% in the last decade). The same cannot be said for the number of professed women religious with a downward trend registering a drop of 10% over the past decade. But, perhaps the most surprising statistic revealed in the 2013 Pontifical Yearbook Monday was the boom in vocations to the permanent diaconate, particularly in Europe and the US where numbers have increased by over 40% in the past decade...
Report says India has highest number of child deaths within first 24 hours of life (Fides) Every year a million children die within 24 hours of birth, and two million before the age of three months. This is what emerges in a recently published report by the NGO Save the Children, in which it also records the death of 287,000 women for causes related to maternity. The first day of a child’s life is the most dangerous, especially in India, where 309,300 infants die each year in the first 24 hours of life. In “Surviving the First Day: Status of Motherhood 2013,” the NGO ranks India as having the highest number of maternal deaths in the world, with 56,000 cases per year...
Patriarch: meeting between Francis and Tawadros II caused joy, hope for unity (Fides) “The meeting between the Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II caused joy especially among the very simple people. Now the hope is that the path on the way of unity can move forward with concrete and challenging steps.” This is what was reported to Fides Agency by His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts. The patriarch outlined the hopes in the Egyptian Catholic community from the recent meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch...
Russian Orthodox patriarch pays first visit to China (New Straits Times) The Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Sunday held a service in Beijing on his first ever visit to Communist-ruled China, during which he called for closer ties between the giant neighbours. Kirill, dressed in an ornate red and gold robe, held the service for about 300 people in a tent on the grounds of the Russian embassy in Beijing amid tight security, an AFP photographer witnessed. Chinese exercises strict control over religion, requiring followers to worship in state-approved churches...
Immigration fuels growth in Toronto’s Catholic Church (Catholic Register) Immigration hasn’t just transformed the Catholic Church in Toronto, it’s made the archdiocese of Toronto massively different from Catholic Canada outside the Greater Toronto Area. Two out of every five Catholics in Toronto were born outside the country, compared to just one in 10 Catholics who are immigrants in the rest of Canada...
8 May 2013
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Turkey Coptic
After receiving a new zucchetto (a clerical skullcap) from a young girl, Pope Francis offers her his old one in exchange in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 8 May. The Spring issue of ONE, now available online, looks at how the new pontiff has spoken of issues important to him — and to CNEWA. Read what he had to say here. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
7 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Pope
A little boy looks on in the southern Egyptian village of Qenna, where the church remains the focus of the Christian community. (photo: David Degner)
Recent headlines have told again and again of Copts fleeing Egypt for other countries. In the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, writer Sarah Topol and photographer David Degner look at those who have chosen to stay and are trying to build a future:
With the growing influence of radical Islam, more and more Christians are considering their options. Atef Gamil knows many Christians who have already emigrated. He wants his 21-year-old son, Bishoy, to move to England when the young man finishes his medical degree in three years. But Bishoy Gamil has other ideas. He does not want to leave Egypt.
Discussions about migration are playing out across the Coptic community, says the Rev. Shenouda Andraos, the rector of the Coptic Catholic Seminary of St. Leo the Great in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Father Andraos says the church leadership continues to tell its flock emigration is not the solution.
“The church is trying to raise awareness that we must have a positive and effective role and we cannot leave the country — this is our homeland and we have to participate in building it. It is important we don’t become terrorized, that we continue to have hope in the future.”
Read more about The Men Who Stayed in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
6 May 2013
Tags: Egypt Emigration Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Church
Yesterday, churches that follow the Julian calendar marked Easter. In this image from 2004, a man shows off some Easter eggs at St. Clement Church in Ohrid, Macedonia. Eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. To read more about the Byzantine traditions of Ohrid, check out Answering the Macedonian Question in the July-August 2004 issue of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
3 May 2013
Haghia Sophia is known the world over for its complex and beautiful domed architecture. In this photo, a fish-eye lens lends a sense of scale to the structure. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Yesterday’s New York Times brought some news about controversial plans for one of the most famous and historically significant church structures in the world, the Church of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey:
In 1921 an ecumenical service was held in six languages at St. John the Divine, New York City’s Episcopal cathedral, to call for the return of Byzantium’s most important monument to the Orthodox Church. Days after his 1453 conquest of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, Mehmet II decided to turn the 6th century basilica of St. Sophia into a mosque. Some 500 years later, with the city under Allied occupation, Christendom wanted the building back.
Its prayers were never answered. As the Turkish Republic emerged from the ashes of empire, the new nation’s founding president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, ruled that a building over which two faiths squabbled should be made accessible to all: St. Sophia was turned into the Ayasofya Museum.
That solution not only silenced self-righteous voices in the West; it also helped establish Turkey’s credentials as a worthy custodian for its cultural heritage. Since restoration work in the 1930s, St. Sophia’s stunning mosaics of the Virgin Mary and Jesus have sat beside huge panels of Islamic calligraphy.
For some time, Turkey’s religious and nationalist right has demanded that Ayasofya be converted into a mosque again. Now a parliamentary commission is taking the request seriously.
Why this is a problem is easily illustrated by the restoration of St. Sergius and Bacchus, a 6th century church in Istanbul, after an earthquake in 1999. The undertaking should have been an occasion for scholarly investigation, but instead the floors were ripped up, the walls painted over and a dome added on top — without any consultation with conservationists.
The transformation of historical buildings invariably means finding subtle solutions to delicate problems: how to temporarily cover up figurative Christian art or provide all-weather protection to an open-air ruin. But the priority of the General Directorate of Foundations is to put buildings back into circulation, not to protect or extract their secrets.
You can read more at the Times.
Several years ago, we took readers to this legendary landmark for a closer look at its history and importance:
The Church of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey has had a lasting impact on faith and worship. It is often simply called “the Great Church” because of its grandeur and its important role in the Byzantine Christianity.
An engineering marvel of late antiquity, Haghia Sophia stood unsurpassed in size and splendor for a thousand years. Even today it dominates the skyline of modern Istanbul -formerly Constantinople — which from 330 to 1453 was the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. Time has faded Haghia Sophia’s splendor, but not diminished the majestic soar of its arches and domes.
Read more about The Great Church from the July 1997 issue of the magazine.
3 May 2013
Tags: Turkey Eastern Christianity Islam Byzantium Haghia Sophia
Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphram Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, Archdiocese of the Eastern United States, is greeted by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York at the end of Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on 2 May. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Cardinal Dolan prays for kidnapped Orthodox clergy (CNS) Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan challenged all in attendance to hold onto hope and to pray for the safety and well-being of two Orthodox archbishops kidnapped in Syria in late April while carrying out a humanitarian mission. “Our prayers are singularly fervent this spring morning as I invite all of us to unite in supplication,” Cardinal Dolan said during Mass on 2 May in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo…
Pope meets president of Lebanon (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis expressed hopes for the formation of a new government in Lebanon Friday “that will have to face the important challenges in the national arena as well as in the international sphere.” This is according to a statement released by the Secretariat of State following the Holy Father’s private audience with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman…
Vatican sends annual message to Buddhists (VIS) Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.I., respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, signed the message that, on the occasion of the feast of Vesakh, the dicastery annually sends to the followers of Buddhism. Vesakh is a major Buddhist holy day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha. According to tradition, the historical Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed away during the full moon of the month of May, thus Vesakh is a mobile feast, which this year falls on 24 or 25 May, depending on the country it is celebrated in. On those days, Buddhists visit local temples to offer the monks food and to hear the teachings of the Buddha, taking special care to meditate and to observe the eight precepts of Buddhism. This year’s message is entitled: “Christians and Buddhists: Loving, Defending, and Promoting Human Life”…
Russian Orthodox observe Holy Friday (Voice of Russia) Orthodox Christians are observing Holy Friday, the most sorrowful date of the Christian calendar commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On this day, Orthodox believers observe a particularly rigorous period of fasting in commemoration of Jesus’ sufferings and his death on the cross. They abstain from every kind of food subsisting on bread and water. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will lead Great Vespers with the rank of removal of the shroud and matins with the rank of burials at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow…
Historic Alaskan village destroyed by fire (OCA.org) In a report dated 30 April 2013, KTUU Channel 2 News announced that the abandoned Belkofski village on the Alaska Peninsula had been destroyed by fire. Founded in 1824 by the Russian-American Company, Belkofski was home to Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. The parish’s first church building was erected in 1843. In 1880, a new church was constructed. The structure, which had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, subsequently collapsed. What was left of the church burned in the fire, along with the parish cemetery…
2 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Violence against Christians Russian Orthodox Church Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
The helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI passes the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as the retired pope returns to the Vatican on 2 May. The pope will live in a monastery in the Vatican Gardens. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Today CNS shares an unprecedented moment:
For the first time in history, the Vatican is home to a pope and a retired pope.
Pope Francis welcomed his predecessor, retired Pope Benedict XVI, to the Vatican May 2 outside the convent remodeled for the 86-year-old retired pontiff and five aides. Pope Francis and Pope Benedict entered the convent’s chapel together “for a brief moment of prayer,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
Pope Benedict had been staying at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo since retiring on 28 February. Pope Francis traveled to the villa 10 days after his election to visit, pray and have lunch with Pope Benedict; the new pope also has telephoned his predecessor on at least two occasions.
In response to questions about the fact that Pope Benedict seemed to be much frailer than he was two months ago, Father Lombardi told reporters, “He’s an elderly man, weakened by age, but he is not suffering from any illness.”
In the last year of his pontificate, Pope Benedict was seen walking with a cane on more and more public occasions; after Pope Benedict retired, Father Lombardi confirmed that he had had a pacemaker inserted before becoming pope in 2005 and had undergone a brief procedure in November to replace the battery.
While the Vatican is now home to a pope and his predecessor, neither lives in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis continues to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse just south of St. Peter’s Basilica where the cardinals stayed during the conclave; the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery where Pope Benedict is living is just to the north of the basilica.
Read more here.
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Catholic Pope