2 October 2013
Philip Deeb and Philip Massamiri read from a prayer book during services at St. Ephrem Maronite Academy near San Diego. Christian immigrants from the Middle East have found a new home in Southern California — and have managed to maintain their faith and traditions. Read about it in East Goes West in the January 2004 issue of the magazine. (photo: Lyon Liew)
1 October 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Cultural Identity United States Emigration Maronite Christians
Pope Francis prays during a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican on 1 October. As a series of consultations aimed at the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy began, the pontiff told his group of cardinal advisers that humility and service attract people to the church, not power and pride. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis began a series of meetings with key cardinal advisers today, as CNS reports:
As a series of consultations aimed at the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy began, Pope Francis told his group of cardinal advisers that humility and service attract people to the church, not power and pride.
“Let us ask the Lord that our work today makes us all more humble, meek, more patient and more trusting in God so that the church may give beautiful witness to the people,” he said on 1 October during morning Mass in his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
The strength of the Gospel “is precisely in humility, the humility of a child who lets himself be guided by the love and tenderness of his father,” he told the cardinals.
But overshadowing that piece of business was an interview published today in a prominent Rome newspaper:
In his latest wide-ranging interview, Pope Francis said that he aimed to make the Catholic Church less “Vatican-centric” and closer to the “people of God,” as well as more socially conscious and open to modern culture.
He also revealed that he briefly considered turning down the papacy in the moments following his election last March, and identified the “most urgent problem” the church should address today as youth unemployment and the abandonment of elderly people.
The pope’s remarks appeared in a 4,500-word interview, published 1 October in the Rome daily La Repubblica, with Eugenio Scalfari, a co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the newspaper. …
Their conversation touched on a range of topics, including economic justice, dialogue between Christians and nonbelievers, and reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.
“Heads of the church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers,” the pope said. “The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”
Pope Francis said that the Roman Curia, the church’s central administration at the Vatican, is not itself a court, though courtiers can be found there.
The Curia “has one defect,” he said. “It is Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us. I do not share this view and I’ll do everything I can to change it.”
“The church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people,” he said. “Priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls are at the service of the people of God.”
In response to Scalfari’s opinion that “love for temporal power is still very strong within the Vatican walls and in the institutional structure of the whole church,” and that the “institution dominates the poor, missionary church that you would like,” Pope Francis agreed, saying: “In fact, that is the way it is, and in this area you cannot perform miracles.”
Pope Francis also spoke about the cardinals meeting with him this week:
“The first thing I decided was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisers, not courtiers but wise people who share my own feelings,” he said. “This is the beginning of a church that is not just top-down but also horizontal.”
You can read the full text of the interview at this link.
30 September 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Rome
This image from 2007 shows an illuminated cross, part of the celebration of Meskel in Addis Ababa. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Ethiopians on Thursday night marked the Christian holiday of Meskel. Gerald Jones wrote about this dramatic celebration in 2011:
Meskel means “cross” in Amharic and it a major celebration (both religious and national) that commemorates the finding of the True Cross by the Empress Helena. Tradition holds that, praying for assistance, Empress Helena had a revelation; she was to light a bonfire, and the smoke would lead her to the resting place of the True Cross. …
The major celebrations occur on Meskel Eve. Around 6 pm, huge crowds gather in the Square where many priests assemble to chant in the Geez liturgical language and dance the measured steps of liturgical dance. These days, parish youth groups also gather and sing and dance, and it is wonderful to see young boys and girls actively involved in this traditional celebration.
The International Business Times has more details:
Legend has it that on this day circa 330, St. Helena — who is known as Nigist Eleni in Ethiopia and was the mother of Rome’s first Christian emperor, Constantine — found the cross on which Jesus had been crucified. In accordance with a revelation she’d had in a dream, Helena burned a giant pile of wood and frankincense. The smoke rose into the sky and then arced back down to earth, showing her the spot where the cross had been buried. Fragments of the cross were distributed to churches around the world, and one found its way to Ethiopia, where it is now said to be buried under the Gishen Mariam Church in the northeastern Wollo region. Ethiopia, which has one of the most devout Orthodox communities in the world, is the only country that celebrates the finding of the cross on a national level.
27 September 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Cultural Identity Ethiopian Orthodox Church Ethiopian Christianity
Father Luis Montes, who directs St. Aloysius School in Alexandria, Egypt, spends some time with the students. Read more about the school’s remarkable work with the poor in City of Charity from the May 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
26 September 2013
Tags: Egypt Children Education Poor/Poverty
Recovering addicts attend a morning yoga class at the detoxification clinic in Kerala. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
In 2005, we turned a spotlight on a dark corner of Indian life, alcohol and drug addiction:
Not long ago, Vincent Njarekaden was driving on the back roads of Irinjalakuda. The rural district lies in the central Indian state of Kerala about 40 miles northwest of the port city of Cochin. Mr. Njarekaden is the camp coordinator of Navachaithanya, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center established in 1991 by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Irinjalakuda.
As he passed a toddy shop, Kerala’s version of the neighborhood bar, Mr. Njarekaden recognized a former patient, Antu, walking in its direction. Mr. Njarekaden pulled over and summoned Antu to the jeep. “Where are you going?” Mr. Njarekaden asked. The former patient gestured toward the toddy shop.
Economists often cite Kerala as a model of human development in India. The state has achieved a literacy rate, standard of health and women’s empowerment to a greater degree than the country at large.
But there is a dark side to this progress: Unemployment in Kerala stands at about 35 percent, the worst rate of any state in India, according to India’s Labor Ministry. Kerala’s crime rate nearly doubles the national rate, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. A conference on suicide prevention, held in the state capital of Trivandrum in 2004, reported that there are more reported suicides in Kerala than in any other state.
But alcoholism is perhaps the state’s worst social malady.
“When there is high unemployment, it is not uncommon for many people to turn to alcohol,” said Dr. M. Prasanna Kumar, a health consultant in Trivandrum. …
Nearly every village has a toddy shop. They dot the rural byways like rest stops. The shops, typically dark wooden shacks, have good, cheap curries. But they are better known for their toddy, a pungent liquor made from coconut trees. Inside the shops, men — and only men — can be found sipping tall bottles after a day in the fields. Conversation is muted. The men drink purposefully. They are there to get drunk.
Six months ago, Antu attended a month-long detoxification camp at Navachaithanya. He had been sober for five months, he said, but had started drinking a month ago.
Antu recounted his story matter-of-factly; he did not seem ashamed of being caught by the camp administrator. He had spent the whole day climbing coconut trees, collecting fruit. And now he wanted a drink. Antu said he would probably drink four liter-bottles of toddy — which all told will cost him about two dollars, or half of his day’s pay — and then go home and pass out. He claimed he would not be hung over the following day when he woke up to climb more coconut trees. Scolded but undeterred, Antu resumed his walk toward the toddy shop.
Each month, about 50 men arrive at the center for the detoxification and rehabilitation camp. Most men come of their own will, Father Titus said. Others are referred by their families, employers or local police.
Read more about living One Day At a Time In Kerala from the July 2005 issue of ONE.
25 September 2013
Tags: India Kerala Indian Catholics Alcoholism
In this image from last month, people walk around a destroyed Protestant church in Mallawi, Egypt. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in August were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
During his audience today, Pope Francis issued a call for Christian unity, and a plea to pray for those who are suffering:
The pope asked people to reflect upon whether they live out this unity or are they uninterested — preferring to be closed off from others, isolated within their own community, group of friends or nation.
“It’s sad to see a ‘privatized’ church because of egoism and this lack of faith,” he said.
It’s especially sad when there are so many fellow Christians in the world who are suffering or being persecuted because of their faith, he said.
“Am I indifferent or is it like someone in the family is suffering?” he asked.
He asked everyone to be honest with themselves and respond in their hearts: “How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted” and for those who are in difficulty for professing and defending the faith?
“It’s important to look beyond one’s own fence, to feel oneself as church, one family of God,” he said.
But throughout history and even today, people within the church have not always lived this unity, he said.
“Sometimes misunderstandings, conflicts, tensions and divisions crop up that harm [unity], and so the church doesn’t have the face we would want, it doesn’t demonstrate love and what God wants.”
“And if we look at the divisions that still exist among Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, we feel the hard work [needed] to make this unity fully visible.”
The world today needs unity, he said: “We need reconciliation, communion, and the church is the home of communion.”
Read the rest on CNS.
And, to learn how you can help Middle East Christians, visit this page.
24 September 2013
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Violence against Christians Christian Unity Egypt's Christians
A Bulgarian couple hold candles during their marriage ceremony at the Church of the Assumption in Sofia. For more on the Byzantine Catholics of Bulgaria, and how they are upholding their heritage, read Bearers of a Proud Legacy from the September 2004 issue of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
23 September 2013
Tags: ONE magazine Byzantine Catholic Church Bulgaria
Pope Francis wears a hard hat he received from a miner during a Mass outside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia, on 22 September.
(photo: CNS /L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
During a visit to Sardinia Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of the plight of the poor:
Visiting an Italian region especially hard hit by the European economic crisis, Pope Francis blamed high unemployment on globalization driven by greed and said those who give charitable aid to the poor must treat their beneficiaries with dignity.
“We want a just system, a system that lets all of us get ahead,” the pope said on 22 Sept., in his first address during a full day on the Italian island of Sardinia. “We don’t want this globalized economic system that does us so much harm. At its center there should be man and woman, as God wants, and not money.”
Sardinia has an overall unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent, rising to nearly 50 percent among young adults.
Before speaking to a crowd of about 20,000 near the Cagliari city port, Pope Francis heard a series of speeches in greeting, including one from an unemployed father of three, who spoke of how joblessness “wears you out to the depths of your soul.”
In response, the pope discarded his prepared remarks and told his audience what he said “comes to me in my heart seeing you in this moment.”
Pope Francis recalled the struggles of his immigrant Italian father in 1930s Argentina.
“They lost everything. There was no work,” he said. “I was not born yet, but I heard them speak about this suffering at home. I know this well. But I must tell you: courage.”
The pope said he knew that his preaching alone would mean little to those in difficulty.
“I must do everything I can so that this word ‘courage’ is not a pretty fleeting word, not only the smile of (a) cordial church employee,” he said. “I want this courage to come out from inside and push me to do all I can as a pastor, as a man. We must all face this historic challenge with solidarity and intelligence.”
23 September 2013
Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria,
on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
U.S. faces tough challenges bringing aid to Syria (Associated Press) As the Syrian crisis rages and debate heats up over Syria’s chemical weapons, U.S. officials are fighting a quieter battle: The delivery of nearly $1.3 billion in assistance in a war zone so chaotic that ambulances are used for target practice and aid is halted by armed men at random checkpoints...
Syria’s tragedy, up close (Catholic Register) While diplomats shuffle between Geneva, Moscow and Washington, their plans to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control are having no impact on the war of attrition Syrians are fighting with rifles, rocket propelled grenades, tanks and bombing raids. As the violence that’s killed more than 100,000 Syrians wears on, Turkey is seeing more and more of the human toll in the form of refugees and wounded fighters....
Egypt bans Muslim Brotherhood (Associated Press) An Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and ordered its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. Egypt state TV said the court issued its ruling on Monday...
Thousands of Christians travel to Israel for Sukkot (JNS.org) More than 5,000 Christian pilgrims from 100 countries will descend on Israel this week as part of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s (ICEJ) Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) celebration. The festival begins 20 Sept. at the Oasis Hotel in Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea and will continue for the reminder of Sukkot at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. The weeklong celebration is expected to generate more than $16 million in revenue, and is the largest annual tourist event to Israel. “We are thrilled that thousands of Christians from all over the world will be arriving in Jerusalem this week to take part in our annual Feast gathering, despite the recent tensions in the region over the Syrian conflict,” Dr. Jürgen Bühler, the ICEJ’s executive director, said in a statement. “Their visit to Jerusalem is a timely message of solidarity with the people of Israel....”
Pope Francis: social communications is for bringing others to Christ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Pope Francis said the goal of the Church for its communications efforts is “to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts and their hopes.” The Holy Father said we must examine if the communications of the Church are helping others to meet Christ...
In India, Kerala weddings go from spartan to splashy (Times of India) The caparisoned elephant at the entrance is the first shock. Then, you walk straight into Nala and Damayanti, the star-crossed couple from Mahabharata, in full Kathakali regalia waiting to usher you into the hall. This is after you have been welcomed by a percussion ensemble, and watched Mohiniyattam and Kathakali tableaux go by. At a big Christian wedding in the same city, the bride has decided to be Cinderella. She is dropped off by a pumpkin chariot in a white gown and gloves and various other Disney type props. Even Muslim nikaahs have been spiced up with ‘sufi nites.’ There used to be an old joke about Malayali weddings in Delhi. A friend of the groom, freezing in the January cold, steps out of the temple for a quick smoke before the rituals begin. He returns five minutes later — to find the wedding over. Stories like this are now history...
20 September 2013
In this image from July, Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio De Janeiro. The pontiff addressed a group of recovering drug addicts, offering them a message of compassion and hope. (photo:CNS/L’Osservatore Romano).
Pope Francis made big news yesterday, with the publication of a remarkable interview described by CNS:
In a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with one of his Jesuit confreres, Pope Francis spoke with characteristic frankness about the perils of overemphasizing Catholic teaching on sexual and medical ethics; the reasons for his deliberate and consultative governing style; and his highest priority for the church today.
The pope’s remarks appeared in an interview with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Italian journal La Civilta Cattolica. The interview, conducted in August, was the basis for a 12,000-word article published Sept. 19 in the U.S. magazine America, and simultaneously in other Jesuit publications in other languages.
According to the editor of America, Jesuit Father Matt Malone, Pope Francis personally reviewed the article and approved its publication.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” the pope said in the interview, noting that he had been “reprimanded” for failing to speak often about those topics. “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent,” the pope added. “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
“Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things,” he said. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.
“The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
The pope reaffirmed one of his major themes: the need for mercy rather than judgment when approaching sin.
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It needs nearness, proximity,” he said.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you,” the pope said.
“The confessional is not a torture chamber,” he said, “but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.
“Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ’security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things,” Pope Francis said. “In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.”
You can read the exclusive interview in its entirety at America magazine.
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Church Catholicism