23 August 2017
Volunteers prepare some 5,000 sandwiches for the Lebanese army, which is waging an offensive against an Islamic State enclave near Ras Baalbek, Lebanon. Hundreds of volunteers, Christian and Muslim, are involved in the project, spearheaded by Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, a Lebanese Carmelite nun. (photo: CNS/Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross)
As the Lebanese army wages an offensive against an Islamic State enclave near the border of Syria, Lebanese civilians — Christian and Muslim — are working side by side, not far from the frontlines, to feed some 5,000 soldiers.
The project was spearheaded by Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, a Lebanese Carmelite nun who is superior of the Melkite Catholic monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, Syria. The monastery is about 2.5 miles from the battle.
“Soldiers are involved in a very dangerous operation to defend and liberate the Lebanese territory from Daesh, so it’s very natural to offer help to the army,” Mother Agnes told Catholic News Service, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “Now with the international war on terror, the army has a special importance, and these Lebanese soldiers are offering their lives to save our lives.”
When Mother Agnes visited the army compound, she saw that the kitchen was essentially an empty shell.
The nun talked to local priests, local Christian associations, Scout groups and organizations such as Caritas and “everybody was very thrilled to help.” They mobilized to equip the space — located about six miles from the frontlines of the battle — with “elementary things” such as refrigerators, stoves, pots, utensils and tables for working.
The Lebanese army began its operation in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa in Lebanon on 19 August. By 22 August, the army said it had recaptured two-thirds of the territory in the area.
At first people from mostly the villages of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa came to volunteer, but as word spread of the effort to help feed the Lebanese army, the project mushroomed, and now there are nearly 300 volunteers involved.
Businesses are chipping in. Mother Agnes likened the response of solidarity to a “rolling ball,” with new offers of assistance each day from bakeries and supermarkets.
“Since the very beginning Muslims asked to participate. And they were very much welcome.” People are coming to volunteer from Shiite villages and Sunni villages, she said.
“Everyone works together knowing that the military are also from all the denominations,” she said.
Organized in assembly lines, the volunteers — covered in hairnets, aprons and gloves — prepare 5,000 pita bread sandwiches daily, using chicken and beef cooked at the facility, topped with hummus and pickles. The menu also includes fruit and something sweet, like a piece of cake. Just for the chicken sandwiches, the effort requires 1,763 pounds of chicken each day. Battalion trucks load up the meals for delivery to the soldiers.
“To see all these people giving their time, sharing their skills, to cook, to organize with very limited means, it is a beautiful expression of solidarity with the army. All religions are unified with the purest love for our country, our wounded country,” said Mother Agnes.
Prayers are also being said for the safety of the soldiers and the success of the military mission.
“We have been living this battle moment by moment in prayer, in supplication, in hope and in solidarity,” Mother Agnes said. She added that while working, the volunteers pray the rosary, sing Marian hymns as well as the national anthem and patriotic songs.
Mother Agnes noted that, as is customary in Lebanon, many Muslims attended Christian schools.
“We are praying to holy Mother Mary and they (Muslims) also venerate her, so they don’t mind if we pray our Christian prayers, and they even join in, because, all together, we work and we pray,” she said.
Mothers whose sons were killed in previous battles are coming to help “with a lot of joy and hope,” Mother Agnes said. “They give us a very good example,” she said.
The project will continue “until the end, when victory is achieved,” she stressed. “We hope that this battle will finish very soon, that it's a matter of a few weeks, if not a few days.”
22 August 2017
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia meets with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the Patriarch’s residence. (photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Getty Images)
Although he said planning a papal trip to Russia was not on the agenda, the Vatican secretary of state said his visit to Moscow was designed to build on the meeting Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill had in Cuba in 2016.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, was visiting Moscow 21-24 August and was scheduled to meet with the patriarch and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as with leaders of Russia’s Catholic community.
The list of topics for the meetings ranged from ecumenical dialogue and interreligious cooperation to current world affairs and climate change, he said in a series of interviews before leaving Rome.
After a long morning meeting on 22 August, the cardinal and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a brief news conference, telling reporters they had discussed ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, the Holy Land and Venezuela.
Cardinal Parolin said his meetings with government officials were designed to share “Pope Francis’ interest in bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation as well as his concerns in the sphere of international affairs.”
“Obviously,” the cardinal said, “the meeting offered an occasion to discuss some concrete questions regarding the life of the Catholic Church in the Russian Federation, including the difficulties that remain in obtaining work permits for non-Russian religious personnel and the restitution of some churches, which are needed for the pastoral care of Catholics in the country.” Many church buildings were confiscated by the former Soviet government and never returned.
Regarding international affairs, Cardinal Parolin said he and Lavrov discussed several ongoing conflicts, including the war in Eastern Ukraine and the war in Syria.
In situations of war, he said, the Catholic Church often is directly involved in promoting humanitarian aid for the victims, but it also works on a diplomatic level to promote a negotiated peace with guarantees of “justice, legality, truth” and the safety of civilians.
The Russian foreign ministry posted online the first minutes of the working meeting between Cardinal Parolin and Lavrov.
The foreign minister told the cardinal, “We see that our positions are close on a number of current issues, including the peaceful settlement of crises, fighting terrorism and extremism, promoting the dialogue among religions and civilizations and strengthening social justice and the role of the family.”
And, he said, it is important that the strengthening of Vatican-Russian relations is “complemented by the dialogue between religions, which was launched during the historical meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Cuba.”
Cardinal Parolin began his visit to Russia with a meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church.
After the meeting, he told reporters their time together was very constructive, and that even though there are “thorny issues,” there also is a great desire to overcome them. As an example of an ongoing difficulty, Cardinal Parolin said the existence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church “remains for the Russian Orthodox Church an obstacle.”
In the evening on 21 August, Cardinal Parolin presided over a Mass for Moscow’s Catholics in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Before Mass, he had met with the country’s Catholic bishops.
21 August 2017
The altar, or Holy of Holies, is seldom revealed during the liturgy at Debra Zion in Ethiopia.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we took readers to Ethiopia’s Lake Ziway, a place celebrated for its rich and exotic history:
Its largest island, Tullu Gudo, shelters the oldest active religious community south of Ethiopia’s Christian heartland, Debra Zion. Tradition holds that Tullu Gudo once housed the Ark of the Covenant, said to contain the Ten Commandments.
Around the ninth century A.D., when reportedly the Ark was sheltered there, the island was home to more than 500 monks. Today, there are three. Numerous factors have contributed to this decline, including the return of the Ark to Aksum, immigration over hundreds of years to the less impoverished mainland and the anti-church policies of Ethiopia’s Marxist dictator (1974-1991), Mengistu Haile Mariam.
According to legend, the Ark had been kept in Aksum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, ever since it was taken from Jerusalem sometime after 587 B.C. But during the ninth century A.D., the Ark’s Ethiopian protectors fled Aksum with the Ark, to escape Queen Judith, whose forces threatened to steal it. Journeying south, the Ark and its guardians eventually settled on the uninhabited island of Tullu Gudo. They built a church, Debra Zion, to hold the Ark and other treasures. About half of the monks returned with the Ark to Aksum some 40 years later, when the city was deemed again safe.
Though it was no longer necessary to guard Tullu Gudo, the monks maintained a significant presence there for more than a thousand years. During the reign of Haile Selassie (1930-1974), Ethiopia’s last emperor, about 100 monks lived on the island. That changed after Mengistu, then a colonel in the army, seized power. Along with the murder and forced relocation of hundreds of thousands, the Marxist dictator also nationalized all land and discouraged religious practice.
Now, religious life is flourishing again in Ethiopia. And the monks of Tullu Gudo, who live amid an Orthodox lay community of several hundred, are trying to recapture some of the island’s celebrated past.
Read more about Ethiopia’s Island Sanctuary in the January 2005 edition of ONE.
18 August 2017
The Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office is marking the 100th anniversary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches with a stamp featuring details from the chapel in the congregation’s office. The stamp will be released 7 September. Read more about the congregation’s anniversary here.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office)
17 August 2017
Catholics attend a Divine Liturgy at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Churcn in Centralia, Pennsylvania. The church has been named a pilgrimage holy site by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine.
(photo: CNS/Jacqueline Dormer, Republican-Herald)
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church sits on a serene Pennsylvania mountain and overlooks the abandoned, desolate borough of Centralia.
The town is a memory, but the church still serves a thriving parish family, with congregants driving to the hilltop on Sundays and holy days from communities throughout the area.
The church and the grounds surrounding it will be the site of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia’s holy pilgrimage on 27 August, the eve of the feast of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God.
The pilgrimage begins at noon with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy with Archbishop Stefan Soroka, head of the Philadelphia archeparchy and the metropolitan of U.S. Ukrainian Catholics in the United States. The homilist will be the Rev. John M. Fields, an archpriest of the archeparchy.
After the Divine Liturgy, a procession will take place from the church with a replica of the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv, where it will be placed in the outside chapel.
The town of Centralia was destroyed by an underground mine fire, which began in 1962 and resulted in the relocation of almost all the residents and the demolition of all but a few buildings. But Assumption Church, capped with its three onion-shaped blue domes, remains on the hilltop, the same as when the first services were held there in 1912. The parish was founded on 15 August 1911.
On 28 August 2011, Archbishop Soroka was the main celebrant and homilist when the parish celebrated the centennial of its founding.
“The main thing is that I want you to hear beyond the words,” the archbishop told the congregation. “This church is standing after 100 years, despite the mine fire and the town leaving, to deliver a message to the world: We are to be like your namesake, the Mother of God, to be servants to others.”
“After 100 years, you are all doing the work the founders of the church wanted to do as well, you are giving service to others, coming together in hard times and good,” he said.
During his historic visit in November 2015, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the leader of more than 5 million Ukrainian Catholics around the globe, marveled at the continuing presence of the church in Centralia.
He also noted how this coal region parish fostered the vocations of four priests and three religious sisters.
As a result of his visit and with Archbishop Soroka’s encouragement, the place was designated a holy site of pilgrimage.
Archbishop Sviatoslav “felt a sense of true holiness which pervades the entire church property,” said an announcement about the upcoming pilgrimage. “His desire is for all people of faith to come and experience this holiness, sanctity and serenity as pilgrims to this holy place on the mountain.”
The first pilgrimage took place in 2016 and the Rev. Michael Hutsko, Assumption’s pastor, has invited all people of faith to join with Archbishop Soroka and clergy for a day of prayer and spiritual blessings 27 August.
In the afternoon after the Divine Liturgy, an opportunity for confession will be available for the pilgrims at various locations throughout the church grounds. A 2 p.m. living rosary will be prayed before the historic and jeweled 18th-century copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv.
Conventual Franciscan Father Martin Kobos, pastor of Mother Cabrini Church in Shamokin, will provide a reflection at the conclusion of the rosary. The icon and relics of Blessed Mykolay Charnetsky (1884-1959) will reside in the church for veneration throughout the day. The Redemptorist priest was martyred for the faith.
At 4:30 p.m., pilgrims will gather at Assumption’s outdoor chapel for a candlelight procession to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” or service of supplication, to Mary, with Archbishop Soroka as the main celebrant and homilist. At the service’s conclusion, there will be prayers for healing and anointing with holy oils &kdquo;for the healing of soul and body.”
16 August 2017
Though settled in Australia, Ukrainian Greek Catholics have not forgotten the traditions of their homeland, such as dance. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we looked at Diversity Down Under, and the vibrant heritage of Eastern Christianity in Australia:
In 1975, the Australian government passed the Racial Discrimination Act, which ended these racially based immigration policies. Subsequently, the country has seen an influx of non-European immigrants. In addition, the indigenous population has rebounded.
Among these recent arrivals have been Eastern Christians — Armenians and Assyrians; Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite Greek and Ukrainian Greek Catholics; and Coptic, Greek, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Syriac Orthodox — whose small but vibrant communities are developing a multicultural Australia. To learn more, I visited three.
Over a lunch of New Zealand mussels, kangaroo steaks and a bottle of local cabernet sauvignon, Bishop Peter Stasiuk, who prepared the meal with relish, spoke about his small but growing community of Ukrainian Greek Catholics.
“Our liturgy attracts many outsiders, and several hundred have crossed over to join us, especially people wanting to become clergy.”
The Canadian-born bishop is responsible for 34,000 souls scattered throughout Australia and New Zealand. Most Ukrainian Greek Catholics, however, live in Melbourne and Sydney.
“There are 1.5 million Latin [Roman] Catholics in Melbourne, and many of our people attend their churches if they are closer to where they live.”
This back-and-forth is representative of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic experience in Australia, Bishop Peter said, an experience not unlike that of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in North America.
To a large degree, Australia’s Ukrainian Greek Catholics have assimilated, though they remain proud of their cultural heritage.
Check out more in the May 2007 edition of ONE.
14 August 2017
Bishop Robert J. Shaheen, left, laughs alongside his successor, Bishop A. Elias Zaidan, in 2013. Bishop Shaheen, who was the first Maronite priest to be ordained in the United States and who served as a priest and bishop in St. Louis for a half century, died on 9 August at age 80.
(photo: CNS/Sid Hastings, St. Louis Review)
Retired Bishop Robert J. Shaheen, who was the second bishop to head the Maronite
Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, died in St. Louis on 9 August.
Bishop Shaheen, who turned 80 on 3 June, was a native of Danbury, Connecticut, and ordained a priest in 1964. He was the first Maronite priest to be ordained in the United States and was assigned as pastor of St. Raymond’s Maronite Church, now cathedral, in 1967. The parish was founded in 1912 to serve Maronite Catholics primarily of Lebanese and Syrian descent.
On 5 December 2000, St. John Paul II named him the second bishop of the Maronite eparchy. He retired in 2013.
The eparchy, which relocated its headquarters from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 2001, extends across 34 states, ministering to about 46,800 Maronite Catholics from California to Ohio and Michigan to Alabama.
“We pray for the repose of his soul, and give thanks to God for all of the lives that Bishop Shaheen has touched in his extraordinary life” said Bishop A. Elias Zaidan, the eparchy’s current bishop and successor to Bishop Shaheen.
Visitation for Bishop Shaheen will take place Aug. 16 at St. Raymond Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis from noon until the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at 7 p.m.
Another visitation is planned for St. Anthony Maronite Church in Danbury Aug. 20 He will be buried from St. Anthony the morning of 21 August.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis in an 10 August statement said he was saddened to hear of the death of Bishop Shaheen, “a good friend and a beloved shepherd of the Maronite Catholic community.”
“I ask that the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Bishop Shaheen,” he said. “Bishop Elias Zaidan and the faithful of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.”
When he retired, Bishop Shaheen had called St. Louis home for nearly 47 years; in retirement he split his time between St. Louis and Danbury.
“St. Louis has been part of my life for almost 47 years,” said Bishop Shaheen, who was third-generation Lebanese. “It’s become my home more than in Connecticut where I was born.”
He was ordained 2 May 1964, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington by then-Bishop Francis M. Zayek, the founding bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, established in 1972. It is the other U.S. Maronite Catholic diocese.
In 1967, when he was assigned to be pastor of St. Raymond, then-Father Shaheen became the first Maronite priest to serve at St. Raymond in more than 20 years.
Largely credited with leading the renewal of the LaSalle Park neighborhood south of downtown St. Louis, the future bishop led the parish through a large capital program including the construction of a new church, rectory, hall and eparchal center over the years of his pastoral ministry.
Robert Joseph Shaheen was born to Albert and Aileen Shaheen in Danbury. He attended St. Peter Grammar School and Danbury High School before entering the Latin Church’s St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut, in 1955. In 1958, he transferred to the Eastern Catholic Church’s St. Basil Seminary in Methuen, Massachusetts, while attending classes at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire.
When he was named St. Raymond’s pastor, the parish had been without a resident priest for over 20 years. Under his leadership, St. Raymond’s went from just a few faithful parishioners using a four-family apartment to eventually a cathedral with hundreds of active families.
From 1965 to 1970, he organized and celebrated Maronite liturgies on a regular basis. He also developed newsletters, bulletins, and fliers; conducted a census to identify Maronites in the greater metropolitan area; and introduced spiritual and cultural programs, including Maronite religious education classes. He hosted the National Apostolate of Maronites Convention in 1970.
Kicking-off a fund drive for new church in 1971, he later dedicated a new church in November 1975 and a new rectory in February 1977. He was ordained an archpriest in September 1978, and dedicated a new parish center “The Cedars” in November 1979.
On March 31, 1986, Shaheen was ordained a chorbishop by Archbishop Zayek. He purchased additional property and buildings for future development as a Maronite retirement center and cultural center in 1991, and again hosted the National Apostolate of Maronites Convention in 1995.
After he was named to head the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, he was consecrated a bishop 15 February 2001, at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, then leader of the world’s Maronite Catholics.
11 August 2017
A pair of young Ethiopians greet a visitor at a clinic operated by the Daughters of Saint Anne. Learn more about the resilient and faith-filled people of Ethiopia — and take a pictorial journey there with CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar — in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
10 August 2017
Children at a child care institution in Anjar, Lebanon gather for a picture. To learn more about Armenians making a new home in Lebanon, read about Little Armenia in the July-August 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
8 August 2017
Rachelle Beaini, a social worker at the Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Zahleh, plays with 2-year-old Michael, the Lebanese-Syrian son of Eli Yassin and Lina Barakat, during a visit at their home in Zahleh — a large Christian town in the Bekaa Valley. To learn more about how Lebanese citizens are living alongside Syrian refugees, read Hardship and Hospitality, from the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees