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.
26 September 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Rome
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.”
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.
19 September 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Church Catholicism
Icongrapher Ian Knowles works on a new icon for the shrine of Our Lady of the Mountain in Anjara, depicting scenes from the life of Christ. Read more about efforts to preserve the ancient art of icon writing in Prayers in Paint, in the Summer issue of ONE. (photo: Nicholas Seeley)
18 September 2013
Tags: Palestine Cultural Identity ONE magazine Icons
In India, novices of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel gather for morning prayer. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2000, we visited the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (or C.M.C. sisters) in Ashoga Puram and got a look at the women we dubbed ‘Indian Energizers’:
The sisters’ dedication to education is astounding and tireless. In all, this Syro-Malabar Catholic community works in roughly 500 institutions of education throughout India, with a concentration in Kerala. The sisters provide extensive educational opportunities in lower primary grades, high schools, colleges and specialty schools, as well as in 230 nursery schools that also act as day care centers for the children of working parents.
The C.M.C. Sisters realize the invaluable role of women and their need for recognition in Indian society. As a result, the C.M.C.’s have organized various training programs and workshops that provide women with a chance to learn new skills.
At one such workshop several dozen women received three months’ training in the assembly of voltage stabilizers, after which they were offered full-time employment at competitive wages. Dressed in colorful saris and adorned with jewelry, these women are pros at soldering wires, coils and semiconductors in their light, airy village workshop.
The lives of the C.M.C. Sisters are divided between their work with women and children and the spiritual life. They take their motto from the Gospel of St. John: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
Read more about the sisters in the November-December 2000 issue of our magazine.
16 September 2013
Tags: India Sisters Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Women in India
Anna Valavanal (left) and her sister, Irin, visit the Deivadan sisters and residents in Thankamany. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In 2010, we paid a visit to the Deivadan Home in Kerala, to meet the remarkable sisters caring for the elderly. We discovered the residents sometimes get unexpected visitors:
Siji Valavanal and her two daughters visit the Deivadan Home in Thankamany, in the Idukki District, a few afternoons each week. Established four years ago, the home takes in abandoned elderly women. On those days, Mrs. Valavanal picks up her daughters, 5-year-old Anna and 12-year-old Irin, from school and takes them to the market, where they purchase sacks of rice, tapioca, vegetables and other staples. They then head over to the Deivadan Home, knock on the door and offer the groceries. But more important for Mrs. Valavanal, she and her daughters stay awhile and visit with some of the residents.
Anna, wearing a bright pink-checkered dress, and Irin, wearing a pretty green dress, approach the bedside of a reclining resident. The frail woman sits up, reaches her hands out and clutches Irin’s hands. Irin smiles. She then gently caresses Anna’s cheeks. Anna blushes. The elderly woman beams.
On any given day, visitors drop in unannounced. Some bring sacks of rice, while others offer financial support. Together, as a community, they keep afloat these homes for the abandoned elderly. Some, such as Mrs. Valavanal and her daughters, have adopted the residents as additional parents and grandparents and stop by regularly.
“We’re happy when we come here. We sit and enjoy their company, feel their pain and hear their problems,” explains Mrs. Valavanal.
“Nowadays, society is always looking at the top level, not the low levels. Most people want to make relations with those with status, not to serve those in need. I want to create in my daughters’ minds the desire to serve others,” she says, echoing the wisdom of Father Kaippenplackal’s mother. For that lesson, Mrs. Valavanal could not have found her daughters better teachers than the Deivadan Sisters.
Read more about women with Fearless Grace in the July 2010 issue of ONE.
Tags: India Sisters Caring for the Elderly Women in India