4 June 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with Bechara Peter, patriarch of the Maronite Church, in Beirut on 4 June. Kerry is on an unannounced trip to Lebanon to bring Obama administration support to the country’s government as it confronts severe difficulties, with an influx of refugees in Syria and a political stalemate at home. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
3 June 2014
In this image from 2002, Bishop Nersess Bozabalian instructs seminarians at Armenia’s Vazkenian Armenian Apostolic Theological Seminary. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In 2002, we visited Armenia to report on life at the local seminaries:
The future of Armenia’s church percolates in the minds of its young seminarians.
In dark blue uniforms resembling military garb, the young seminarians of Vazkenian Armenian Apostolic Theological Seminary line up to attend Sunday Divine Liturgy at St. Arakelotz Church on the Sevan Lake peninsula in eastern Armenia. The seminary is named after the late Vazken I, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The visionary leader pioneered the Armenian Church’s commitment to ecumenism.
The Vazkenian theological seminary was founded in 1990 on the Sevan peninsula. Once an island, this bit of land was gradually absorbed into the surrounding terrain in the 1940’s with a loss of lake waters. Located 36 miles north of the capital of Yerevan, and with an altitude of 6,600 feet above sea level, the area seemed an ideal spot for a seminary because of its serene atmosphere, its pure air and its proximity to the ancient churches of St. Arakelotz and St. Hovannes on the peninsula.
Sevan Lake, like the famous Mount Ararat — legendary home to the remains of Noah’s ark — is the pride of the Armenian nation. The beauty of this area has inspired poets, musicians and artists alike from around the globe.
Seminarians are admitted to Vazkenian seminary after finishing high school. The maximum age for entrance to the seminary is 23. Beginning in September, the academic year runs until June, with 52 to 55 students enrolled each year. The rigors of the first year, however, often weed out some students.
“At the end of the year there are usually 46 or 47 seminarians left,” says Father Minas Martirossian, the seminary’s rector.
“They leave for health or family reasons,” he adds, while others simply learn that they are unsuited for priestly life.
Seminarians study for five years, after which they take an exam and are then transferred to the Gevorkian Apostolic Theological Seminary in Etchmiatzin for their final years of study. Each year one or two top students in their fourth or fifth year are sent to France, Germany, Switzerland, Romania or the United States for further study.
Read more on Hopeful Growth in Armenia’s Seminaries in the March-April 2002 issue of our magazine.
2 June 2014
Tags: Armenia Seminarians
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople kiss the Stone of Unction in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 25 May. The two leaders marked the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.
(photo: CNS/Grzegorz Galazka)
Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, offers some personal reflections and insight into the pope’s recent visit to the Holy Land in a column for the latest edition of Pittsburgh Catholic:
Pope Francis came first and foremost as a pilgrim to pray. He also came as a church leader to unite, as a world figure to invite all parties to renounce violence, and to embrace forgiveness, mercy and justice.
His visit was religious in nature and not political, even though every word uttered, every gesture and facial expression, every venue visited has been dissected for a political angle. But this pope doesn’t “second guess” himself, he is not driven by media reviews. He is the “real deal.”
He came to the Holy Land for a number of reasons: to confirm anew the determination of all Christians to be one, as was boldly affirmed 50 years ago by his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras; to demonstrate a solidarity with millions of innocent people displaced by war in Syria and Iraq; to highlight the long suffering of the Palestinian people seeking a permanent homeland; and to encourage Christians to remain in this Holy Land and the greater Middle East.
A prayer service, led by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, took place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the site of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Also participating were leaders of the Latin and Eastern Catholic traditions as well as most of the Orthodox churches, most of whom trace their foundation to apostolic times. The pope and the ecumenical patriarch signed a declaration to continue to pursue “communion in legitimate diversity.”
Pope Francis no doubt surprised the Israelis and Palestinians when he invited both sides to come to his “house” in the Vatican to pray together with him for peace. And the good news is that both sides have accepted his invitation.
30 May 2014
A painting of the Virgin Mary hangs on the wall of Our Lady of Zion Church in Aksum, Ethiopia.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
As May draws to a close — the month devoted to the Virgin Mary — we get a glimpse at a colorful depiction of Mary from Ethiopia (above) and offer some insight into the place where it originated. From the March 2011 issue of ONE:
Located in Ethiopia’s far northern region of Tigray, Aksum is the former capital of an empire that dominated the Horn of Africa from the third century B.C. to the eighth century after Christ. Home of the fabled queen of Sheba, Aksum is best known as the cradle of Ethiopian Christianity, which became the faith of the empire when the Aksumite emperor, Ezana, embraced it in the early fourth century. Today, Ethiopia’s Christian majority is mostly Orthodox.
Since its earliest days, Aksum has been a center for sophisticated and distinctive decorative arts and crafts, especially metalwork, woodcarving and painting. Scholars believe that soon after Christianity took root in the city, artists began fashioning items utilized in the Qeddase (or Divine Liturgy), mainly ecclesiastical crowns, crosses, fans, icons and manuscripts. Geometric carvings, first utilized in pre-Christian era art of the area, predominated.
Not until the late 16th century, after Portuguese Jesuit missionaries arrived in Ethiopia and dazzled Aksum’s elite with their early Baroque artifacts, did local artists begin adding the finer flourishes that many now associate with traditional Ethiopian liturgical art. Manuscript cases, for example, became more intricate and featured figurative and geometric forms; manuscript pages contained delicate and colorful designs, as well as images of the saints, the Virgin Mary and Christ.
Read more about Ethiopia’s Vibrant Sacred Art from the March 2011 issue of ONE.
28 May 2014
Tags: Ethiopia Orthodox
In Lebanon, young refugees at a community center run by the Good Shepherd Sisters smile
for a visitor. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Later this week, CNEWA will be taking part in an important gathering in Rome, focusing in large part on helping refugees like those shown in the picture above.
Vatican Radio has the details:
On Friday, 30 May, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” will host a coordination meeting between the Catholic charitable organizations that operate in the context of the Syrian crisis...
...Speakers will include Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, and Bishop SE Antoine Audo, president of Caritas, Syria. Finally, the activities carried out at the information office in Beirut, set up last year to collect and distribute data on the work of Catholic organizations, will be presented. In the afternoon, the practical aspects of cooperation between the various parties in Syria and neighboring countries will be the focus of attention.
The objective of the meeting, in line with the path taken in the last two years by the Holy See, and as a result of the meeting of 4-5 June 2013, organized by the Pontifical Council, is to make an assessment of the work done so far by the Catholic charitable organizations in the context of the crisis, highlighting critical issues and identifying priorities for the future.
Michel Constantin, regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, will represent CNEWA.
Wondering how you can help kids like those in the picture? Click this link to find out.
27 May 2014
Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina, after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on 26 May. The pope's message left at the Wall contained the text of the Our Father and of the 122nd Psalm, traditionally prayed by Jewish pilgrims who travel to Jerusalem.(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Among the many memorable moments from the pope’s trip, a standout was the one shown above. CNS’s Cindy Wooden took note:
In a Holy Land pilgrimage filled with emotion, the embrace of Pope Francis, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud this morning was powerful.
Even at a distance of more than 1,400 miles, (thanks to the Vatican Television Center and Vatican Radio) viewers could read in that embrace a sense of “we are actually here; it really happened.”
The embrace, complete with tears, came after Pope Francis visited Jerusalem’s grand mufti and other Muslim leaders near the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque and then prayed at the Western Wall.
The two holy sites make up what is probably the most contested piece of real estate in the world because of its deep religious significance.
Muslims believe Muhammad was taken to the site in his famous “Night Journey” and from there transported to heaven and then back to Mecca.
The Esplanade of the Mosques sits above the sacred Jewish prayer space facing the Western Wall, which is all that remains of the wall that surrounded the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.
An interreligious pilgrimage to the site isn’t a daily occurrence, but Pope Francis wanted to go with his friends.
Read more about that emotional embrace at CNS’s blog.
And you can check out more stories, pictures and video from the trip at our special page, Apostles of Unity in the Holy Land.
23 May 2014
In this image from last year, Pope Francis burns incense before the icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) after praying the rosary during a service at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In what has become a custom before beginning an important trip, Pope Francis stopped by the Basilica of St. Mary Major this morning to offer a private prayer before an icon of Mary. The pontiff leaves for his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land Saturday.
CNS has details:
Pope Francis entrusted his upcoming apostolic journey to the Holy Land to Our Lady when he visited a Marian icon at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome this morning.
He brought roses and prayed in silence before the icon for about 15 minutes, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told us today.
The unannounced morning visit marks what has become a Pope Francis tradition: visiting the “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) to pray for Mary’s protection and care before a major trip.
He did the same thing before heading to Brazil last year when he prayed that Mary protect and care for everyone attending World Youth Day and for all young people around the world.
He also visited the day after his election, at the start of his new journey as supreme pontiff.
The icon has special significance for the pope and he has visited it often on different occasions to pray. He has said that the Basilica of St. Mary Major was the first Marian shrine in the West where the image of the Mother of God — the “Theotokos” — was venerated.
According to tradition, this image of Mary embracing Jesus as a young boy was the work of the evangelist St. Luke, who painted it on a tabletop made by Jesus himself in St. Joseph’s carpentry shop. Many centuries later, Jesuit missionaries distributed reproductions of the image to promote Marian devotion around the world.
22 May 2014
With their parents in pews, children take in the liturgy from the floor of the church.
(photo: Tugela Ridley)
In 2006, we explored how Orthodox Christianity spread through Africa, and uncovered some fascinating history:
Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa. According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But “all Africa,” for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara. Orthodox missionaries sat out the 19th century’s “scramble for Africa,” when European Catholics and Protestants fanned out across the continent to save souls and build colonies. The story of how the Alexandrian Church came to have an affiliate in faraway Uganda, a country with no previous connection to the Orthodox world, is therefore not a tale of white men bearing the message of God to a dark continent. Rather, the Ugandan church traces its roots to two Africans who, rebelling against colonial rule, fled to a religion they felt was pure and politically uncompromised. This makes Uganda’s small community of 60,000 Orthodox Christians nearly unique within their home country. They found their faith on their own.
Read more about Orthodox Africa in the March 2006 issue of ONE.
21 May 2014
A man holds a cardboard cutout of Pope Francis’ face as the pope leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 21 May. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about his upcoming trip to the Holy Land:
Asking prayers for his 24-26 May trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis said his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories would be “strictly religious.”
At the end of his weekly general audience 21 May, Pope Francis told an estimated 50,000 people in St. Peter’s Square that he was about to make the trip.
The first reason for going, he said, “is to meet my brother, Bartholomew,” the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The meeting launched a new era of ecumenical cooperation and dialogue.
“Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and this is very beautiful,” the pope said. Pope Francis is considered the successor of the apostle Peter and Patriarch Bartholomew the successor of his brother, the apostle Andrew.
The pope said the second reason for his trip is “to pray for peace in that land that suffers so much.”
He asked the people in the square to pray for the success of the trip.
20 May 2014
Hired vans bus students home from the Good Shepherd Sisters’ community center in Lebanon. Read more about the inspiring work of the sisters with refugees in Syria, Shepherds and Sheep from the spring 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Hadi)