4 February 2013
Mother Elizabeth leads Russian Orthodox novices in prayer at the Martha and Mary Convent
in Russia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2002, we paid a visit to a convent in Russia, where young women were doing what they have done for centuries:
While Russia strives to catch up with the modern world, the work of the Martha and Mary Convent is not so different from what it was before the Soviet Union’s great atheistic experiment.
“People think we are outdated because we keep some traditions from the early 20th century,” said the Mother Superior, named Elizabeth in honor of the convent’s founder, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov.
“We believe her ideas were so much ahead of her time that even now we are awed at her far-reaching concepts for helping the poor.”
The Communists forced the closing of the Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow in 1926, but it reopened in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, its sisters are carrying on the mission of the founder and now saint, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, born into the Lutheran noble house of Hesse-Darmstadt, was the granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, sister of the doomed Tsarina Alexandra and wife of the murdered Grand Duke Sergei who was an uncle of the last Russian tsar — Nicholas II. She founded the convent in 1910, some eight years before the bloody revolution also claimed her as a victim.
After her husband was killed in 1905, she visited his assassin in prison and spoke of forgiveness. Shortly after, she gave away much of her wealth, founded hospitals, opened soup kitchens and in 1909 took vows as a Sister of Love and Mercy.
Even prior to the death of her husband, Elizabeth had brought health reforms to peasant mothers in the countryside near Moscow and began visiting the city’s sick, imprisoned and orphaned.
The Bolsheviks executed Elizabeth on 18 July 1918 along with her loyal assistant, Barbara, and several other Romanov prisoners. A peasant who witnessed the murders said Elizabeth sang hymns and soothed the dying after the group had been thrown down a mineshaft. Elizabeth succumbed only after grenades were hurled in the direction of the singing. The Russian Orthodox Church canonized her in August 2000, along with Barbara.
Mother Elizabeth said the community today, as with the original community, bases many of its guiding principles on the deaconess movement popular in Lutheran religious communities at the end of the 19th century. Although Elizabeth converted to Orthodoxy in 1891, she retained many of the deaconess ideals, including caring for the sick and poor.
Elizabeth dedicated the convent to the values of Martha and Mary in the hope that the community would, in Elizabeth’s words: “combine the lofty destiny of Mary with Martha’s service to Our Lord...”
...As in the old days, the community’s routine combines prayer, study and service. They wake up at 6:30, take breakfast and then pray in a small chapel. At 9 they start school. Lunch is at noon, after which they continue their studies until 4. In the evenings they study theology, music and enjoy some free time. The young women, in their late teens and early 20’s, come from all over Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Their studies and accommodation are paid for, but they must often pay for their trips home.
Inna, a 20-year-old from Latvia, has sparkling eyes, an impish grin and studies at the college.
“My parents are not religious but I used to go to church and Sunday school with my friends; there wasn’t much else to do,” she said.
Read more about the convent in the November 2002 issue of our magazine.
4 February 2013
Tags: Sisters Russia Russian Orthodox Nuns
The bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church have elected Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk to be the new patriarch of the Iraq-based church. The election took place on 31 January and was welcomed by Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop Sako, pictured in a 2010 file photo, succeeds Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad as patriarch. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Pope writes to new patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans (VIS) Benedict XVI has written a letter to His Beatitude Louis Raphael Sako, the new Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, granting the “Ecclesiastica Communio” requested of him by the Patriarch. In the text the Pope asks the Lord to fill His Beatitude with “every grace and blessing” and that he be enlightened &lquo;in order to tirelessly proclaim the Gospel, following the living tradition that dates back to St. Thomas the Apostle”...
Putin: Russian Orthodox Church has a “significant voice” (Interfax) President Vladimir Putin has credited regular episcopal assemblies of the Russian Orthodox Church with an “invaluable role” in Russian history. “Bishops’ assemblies have always played a great, truly invaluable role in the development of Orthodoxy, and in the many centuries of Russian history. Their decisions and their wise advice and assessments are still significant both for church and for public life,” a statement from the president’s office quoted Putin as saying in a message to a bishops’ assembly that opened in Moscow on Saturday. “The Russian Orthodox Church has a significant voice in asserting ideals of humanism, virtue and mercy, and in bringing up younger generations on the basis of intransient moral values, patriotism and civil spirit,” Putin said...
More in France are converting to Islam (New York Times) The spacious and elegant modern building, in the heart of this middle-class suburb of Paris, is known as “the mosque of the converts.” Every year about 150 Muslim conversion ceremonies are performed in the snow-white structure of the Sahaba mosque in Créteil, with its intricate mosaics and a stunning 81-foot minaret, built in 2008 and a symbol of Islam’s growing presence in France. Among those who come here for Friday Prayer are numerous young former Roman Catholics, wearing the traditional Muslim prayer cap and long robe. While the number of converts remains relatively small in France, yearly conversions to Islam have doubled in the past 25 years, experts say, presenting a growing challenge for France, where government and public attitudes toward Islam are awkward and sometimes hostile...
Detroit Orthodox pastor reflects on turmoil in Syria (Detroit Free Press) Growing up as the youngest of seven children in the historic city of Hama in Syria, George Shalhoub led an idyllic life in which he says Muslims and Christians lived together peacefully. “We lived in a neighborhood that is called the Christian quarter, surrounded by Muslim neighborhoods,” recalled Shalhoub, 63, founder and pastor of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Livonia. “We played in their mosques, and they played in the courtyard of our church. We were safe. We visited each other, and were part of each other’s lives. I never once felt discriminated against by the Muslims. “It was the happiest time of my life.” But over the last two years, the civil war has unraveled the threads that bind society in Hama and other places in Syria, leading to sectarian strife and bloodshed. Last month, Shalhoub learned that the daughter, son-in-law and grandson of his 95-year-old hometown priest, Rev. Rafael Basha, were killed. The discovery added another layer of sorrow for Shalhoub, who often prays for reconciliation in his native land. “No one is happy” about the war in Syria, Shalhoub said. “We’re all losing in this battle”...
Indian religious gather for conference (Fides) To be prophets and witnesses in society, but at the same time be “mystical” men and women of prayer: that is the challenge of the congregations and Indian communities that gathered in the “Conference of the Religious of India” on 3 February in Mangalore to celebrate the “World Day for Consecrated Life”...
1 February 2013
Tags: Syria Iraq India Islam Russian Orthodox
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai arrives with Pope Benedict XVI for a meeting with young people in the square outside of the Maronite patriarch’s residence in Bkerke, Lebanon, in this 15 September file photo. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Days after asking Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch, to prepare the Way of the Cross for Rome’s Coliseum on Good Friday, Pope Benedict XVI announced the cardinal’s assignments to the Roman Curia.
The Holy Father named him a member of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
CNS details the other appointments:
Two months after receiving their red hats, the six newest members of the College of Cardinals have received their assignments as members of Vatican congregations, councils and offices — one of the clearest ways they help Pope Benedict XVI govern the universal church.
While keeping their main jobs, the new assignments allow the cardinals to bring their experience and perspective to bear on the discussions and decisions of the central church offices that assist the pope.
Creating the new cardinals on 24 November, Pope Benedict had told them: “Particularly through the work you do for the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, you will be my valued co-workers, first and foremost in my apostolic ministry for the fullness of catholicity, as pastor of the whole flock of Christ and prime guarantor of its doctrine, discipline and morals.”
The assignments announced by the Vatican on 31 January included:
— For U.S. Cardinal James M. Harvey, archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, membership on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and on the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, which oversees Vatican property and investments.
— Indian Cardinal Baselio Cleemis Thottunkal, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, was named a member of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
— Nigerian Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja was named a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the presiding committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
— Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota was named a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
— Philippine Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila was named a member of presiding committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
1 February 2013
Tags: Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Maronite
Children sing Coptic Orthodox hymns at the Al Karma Center. (photo: Sean Sprague)
While much of the news out of Egypt this week has been grim, it’s good to be reminded that every now and then the desert does bring forth promising flowers of hope.
In 2004, we looked at one of those, a center catering to the needs of isolated Christians in Egypt’s western desert:
Being a minority is never easy; being a minority newly settled in a once inhospitable terrain much less so. But such is the fate of some 40,000 Coptic Orthodox, who face poverty and isolation in the arid land west of the Nile Delta.
Most immigrated to the area from Upper Egypt to escape discrimination from Islamic fundamentalists and economic deprivation. Others came after the government encouraged them to leave the over-populated Nile Valley and settle along the desert highway linking Alexandria and Cairo. With only one church to serve them, all fear their faith and heritage will be lost on younger generations eager to escape the bleak landscape where jobs are few.
A multipurpose religious center near Alexandria, however, is providing this isolated community with an opportunity to bring their children together and strengthen their faith.
“The role of the center is to identify needy children and equip them with the tools and education to live their lives in a Christian way,” said Antoin Nabil, the coordinator of the Al Karma Center in Mariout, a southwestern suburb of the Mediterranean port city.
The center gathers children from across the desert for a three-day program of activities dubbed “Jesus the Child.” Boys and girls, ages 6 to 14, are shuttled to the center in groups of 50 to 60 for an up-close look at the life of the Coptic Church.
“Many of the children who come to the center have never even seen a church before,” said Bishop Tawadros, the center’s founder, “so the opportunity to see priests, bishops, deacons and many Christians together at prayer strengthens their faith.”
Al Karma also provides the children with many of the necessities and basic services their families are unable to secure. Upon arrival, the children are bathed, their hair combed and nails trimmed. A doctor also conducts a routine physical. Clothes, shoes, school bags and books are also provided.
“Some of the children come from extremely remote villages, where there are no schools or medical facilities,” said Bishop Tawadros. “Only about half of them attend school, which is a serious problem, especially for the girls.”
Read more about this Oasis of Hope in the March 2004 issue of our magazine.
1 February 2013
Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church Copts
A Syrian man stands outside his tent at a refugee camp near the Syrian-Turkish border on 29 January. According to the U.N.’s refugee agency, more than 550,000 Syrians have crossed the borders and registered as refugees in neighboring countries. (photo: CNS /Muha mmad Najdet Qadour, Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)
Deadly explosion at U.S. embassy in Turkey (CBS News/AP) A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at an entrance to the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital on Friday, killing himself and one other person, officials said...There was no claim of responsibility, but Kurdish rebels and Islamic militants are active in Turkey. Kurdish rebels, who are fighting for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast, have dramatically stepped up attacks in Turkey over the last year...
Archbishop Louis Sako elected patriarch of Chaldeans (Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI has granted ecclesiastical communion, in accordance with Canon 76 § 2 of the code of canons of the Eastern Churches to His Beatitude Raphael I Louis Sako, canonically elected Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans in the Synod of Bishops of the Church, held in Rome on 28 January 2013...
Syrian Orthodox church and Christian school destroyed in eastern Syria (Fides) The Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Mary and the Christian school of Al-Wahda were destroyed in Deir Ezzor, a town in eastern Syria, at the center of fighting that has caused an exodus of the civilian population. This was reported to Fides Agency by the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop, Eustathius Matta Roham, Metropolitan of Jazirah and Euphrates, explaining that “it is a very sad day for me and for the whole community...”
Pope’s Lenten message: believing in charity calls forth charity (Vatican Radio) On Friday Pope Benedict XVI’s message for Lent 2013 was published at the Vatican. With less than two weeks to Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father has concentrated his reflections for the 40 days of prayer, penance and almsgiving to “the indissoluble interrelation” between faith and charity. The Pope writes “faith is a gift and response, it helps us know the truth of Christ as the incarnate and crucified Love, full and perfect obedience to the Father’s will and God’s infinite mercy towards others...charity helps us enter into the love of God manifest in Christ, and joins us in a personal and existential way to the total and unconditional self-giving of Jesus to the Father and to his brothers and sisters...”
Concern over 50% maternal mortality in Ethiopia (Fides) Every year, about 25,000 women die from complications during childbirth, and another 500 thousand suffer long-term disability due to pregnancy and birth complications. This is what emerges from the estimates of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). According to a study carried out in 2010, Ethiopia is one of the five countries in the world where there is 50% of maternal mortality. The African country in fact has a very precarious health system and for women this causes complications before, during and after childbirth...
Russian Orthodox Church helps rehabilitate drug addicts (Gazeta.ru) A derelict village located eight hours northeast of Moscow by car hosts one of the 60 rehabilitation centers for drug addicts that the Russian Orthodox Church has opened since the early 1990s...
31 January 2013
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Pope Benedict XVI Orthodox Chaldeans
In this image from 2003, a sick mother in Ethiopia holds her child. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
The AIDS epidemic has cast a long shadow over Africa, and in 2003 we reported on how one group of sisters was trying to bring light in Ethiopia:
What have the Daughters of Charity learned from their experiences in Ethiopia? That everyone there — rich and poor, educated and illiterate, elderly and infant — is directly or indirectly affected by AIDS. No one gets by unscathed.
As a result, most of the Daughters’ projects in Ethiopia, in social work, education or health, include an AIDS element.
The enormity of the AIDS epidemic in Ethiopia is staggering. According to the most recent United Nations estimates, three million of the 64 million people in Ethiopia are infected with the AIDS virus. One million children are orphaned. Fifty to 70 percent of prostitutes, many in militarized zones, test positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.
The disease is spreading at such an alarming rate that by 2010, seven million to 10 million Ethiopians will be infected. More than 1.7 million, or 15 to 25 percent of Ethiopia’s children, will be orphaned.
Sister Aster Zewdie, the Provincial for Ethiopia’s Daughters of Charity, said she and the rest of her community of 67 sisters did not enter religious life to sit at a desk crunching numbers. They joined the Daughters to get their hands dirty.
In a spirit of humility, simplicity and charity, the Daughters of Charity have stepped into action to serve those in most need, following the example of their 17th-century founder, the French priest St. Vincent de Paul.
“It is our charism that we serve the poor through Christ and we serve Christ through the poor,” Sister Aster said.
“St. Vincent didn’t want Christians to stay away from the poor by praying.
“He said, ‘If the poor are looking for you, you leave God for God.’ So you go out from the chapel, and you go to serve these poor people. He always said, ‘Go find the poor.’”
With this in mind, the sisters say their morning prayers and head out to work.
Yet they are also the first to admit that the work of the Daughters of Charity in Ethiopia, a country roughly twice the size of Texas, does little to even register a blip on the fight-against-AIDS radar screen.
Sister Aster said: “Most of our sisters are very young. We are trying our best, but we are really limited when we see the need we have here in Ethiopia.”
Read more about how the Daughters of Charity responded to the AIDS crisis in the March 2003 issue of the magazine.
30 January 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Health Care HIV/AIDS Daughters of Charity
Father Volodymyr Havrylenko blesses a traditional Ukrainian meal before eating with his wife, Halia, and two daughters, Oksanka and Sofika, at their home in Yavoriv, a town eight miles from the Polish border. (photo: Petro Didula)
What’s it like when Father is also a father? A few years ago, the magazine looked at how a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest in a small Ukrainian town balances his responsibilities to his church and his family:
Even before meeting Volodymyr, Halia imagined herself as a priest’s wife. She grew up in Yavoriv, a center of the underground church. She had a regular underground confessor; underground nuns taught her catechism.
“When my brother decided to become a priest, he shared his concerns with me,” Mrs. Havrylenko says. “When I was younger I was afraid to become a priest’s wife. I knew this would be a great responsibility and my husband would have to sacrifice a lot for the church and his people.”
They married in 1997, the same year Volodymyr was ordained a deacon. A year later he was ordained a priest. His first assignment was at the Church of the Most Holy Eucharist in Lviv, a pastoral center for students. Mrs. Havrylenko took a job at a bank and had little time to help her husband…
…The life of a small-town priest is busy. Father Havrylenko gets up at 6 a.m. and celebrates the Divine Liturgy in Yavoriv at 8 a.m. He then hears confessions, which takes much of his time throughout the year, especially before Easter. Three days a week he teaches a course on Christian ethics at a local public school and a few times a week he leads evening devotions. He also teaches special catechism classes throughout the year.
Three priests serve St. George’s, so every third week Father Havrylenko takes his turn “on duty.” In addition to other tasks, he conducts funerals, makes sick calls and presides at baptisms and weddings.
Sundays are particularly full for Father Havrylenko. He celebrates one liturgy each in Yavoriv and Koty before driving to Nemyriv to lead the liturgy at Father Stetskyi’s parish. Sometimes he has an afternoon baptism, followed by evening prayer, often conducted in two parishes. “I get home and have breakfast at 7:30 p.m.,” he laughs.
Read more about Serving Church and Family from the magazine’s January 2004 issue.
29 January 2013
Tags: Ukraine Village life Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Priests
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, visited Rome earlier this month, and a few high-profile media outlets covered some presentations involving our work.
First, Rome Reports interviewed Msgr. Kozar. The video is below:
Catholic News Service also spoke with Msgr. Kozar, who emphasized that preserving the church’s diversity is a matter of faith, not nostalgia:
Finally, EWTN’s Rome bureau chief Joan Lewis was on hand, too:
I’ve been out for much of the day at a variety of meetings, including one late afternoon gathering for a small group of journalists at the Rome offices of CNEWA — the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. It was a fascinating roundtable presentation and discussion with New York-based Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA president, and CNEWA’s three Middle East regional directors. Joining Msgr. Kozar were Ra’ed Bahou from Amman, Jordan; Issam Bishara from Beirut; and Sami El-Yousef from Jerusalem.
Also in attendance were Archbishop Terence Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada, who heads CNEWA in that country, and Carl Hétu, who spearheads CNEWA’s work in Canada. You’ll be hearing more about CNEWA’s amazing work in future columns and interviews for Vatican Insider. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is Chair of the Board of CNEWA.
Wednesday, Msgr. Kozar addressed over 100 prominent Italians about the needs of Eastern Christians, especially those of the Middle East, at the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Rome. He spoke in the presence of the Order’s Grand Master, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien and co-host, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches.
Msgr. Kozar highlighted the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy but noted the “thousands of volunteers came from far and wide to assist the victims of this horrific storm to help people rebuild.”
He then said, “almost every day, in an area of the world called the Middle East, people face forces far greater than the destruction of a hurricane: they face the storms of conflict, hostility, hatred, poverty, injustice and religious and political persecution. At times, there is little hope of survival, let alone the opportunity to rebuild and to live in peace with hope.
“The Catholic Church in this part of the world,” said the CNEWA president, “especially its family of Eastern churches, is small in number, but deeply rooted in the history, culture and fabric of society in the Middle East. It is the presence of the church that offers the poor, the oppressed and the victims of the daily storms of life a sign of hope, where otherwise there would be only flight, fear and despair.
Visit EWTN’s website for more.
29 January 2013
Tags: CNEWA Middle East CNEWA Canada Media CNEWA Pontifical Mission
An Ethiopian boy stands outside the Mevaseret immigrant absorption center near Jerusalem. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
A few years ago, we took a look at a particularly interesting demographic in the Holy Land: Jews who had moved to Israel from Ethiopia:
“Everything was difficult,” said Bat-El Ananey, a 28-year-old attorney, as she recalled her family’s culture shock when they first arrived in Israel from the African nation of Ethiopia.
“We came from a place with no toilets, no electricity, no telephones or television. I remember fetching drinking water from the river,” she continued. “And we had never seen white Jews before!”
Ms. Ananey and her family are among the 110,000 Ethiopian Jews, known as the Beta Israel, or House of Israel, who today call Israel home. For thousands of years, the Beta Israel lived in obscurity in northwestern Ethiopia, where they observed a form of Judaism that predates the rabbinical form practiced by most Jews since the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, Ethiopia’s great famine in 1984 and the West’s response ended their relative isolation and irrevocably altered their fortunes.
Read more about Challenges For A Land of Immigrants in the November 2008 issue of ONE.
29 January 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Israel Immigration Ethiopian Jews
In this October 2011 photo, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter speaks to reporters at CNEWA’s office in New York. (photo: Erin Edwards)
Someone familiar to all of us at CNEWA will be preparing the Way of the Cross, which is prayed in Rome’s Coliseum on Good Friday: Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch. (The VIS announcement is here.)
In 2011, before he was named a cardinal, the patriarch paid us a visit here in New York. The visit attracted lots of media attention at the time.
More recently, the cardinal played a critical role in Pope Benedict’s historic trip to Lebanon.
The cardinal joins a long and storied list of contributors to this particular devotion. Last year, for the first time, a married couple, Danilo and Anna Maria Zanzucchi, composed the meditations. In 2005, the meditations and prayers were written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Below is a video report, from Rome Reports:
Tags: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Prayers/Hymns/Saints Rome Maronite Catholic