22 May 2013
Novices of the Bethany community pray in their chapel near Kottayam, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Yesterday, CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar met with Mother Benjamin, S.I.C., superior of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Sisters of the Imitation of Christ, better known as the Bethany Sisters. In our magazine, we’ve discussed the history and work of these sisters at length:
[T]he Sisters of the Imitation of Christ, commonly called the Bethany Sisters, were founded “to follow Christ in an Indian way.”
Although such a purpose appears progressive, this religious community, which is paired with a community for men, was founded more than 75 years ago by one of the most gifted men of the 20th century church — Mar Ivanios, the first Syro-Malankara Catholic Archbishop of Trivandrum. While less than a century old, Bethany reflects the joys and sorrows borne for nearly 2,000 years by the Indian Church. …
Resistance to the Portuguese, explained Cyril Mar Baselios, O.I.C., the present Syro-Malankara Catholic Archbishop of Trivandrum, culminated in Cochin in 1653 with the historic Coonan Cross Oath.
A kind man whose gentle face hides a formidable intellect, Mar Baselios recounted that all who touched the cross and a long cord attached to it cast their vote to depart from the Latinized church. …
After this great schism of the Indian Church, there were at least four unsuccessful attempts to reestablish full communion between the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of Rome. …
[Newly elevated Bishop Ivanios] challenged the bishops, priests and laity of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church to “bring all the Syrian Christians of Kerala, who formed one church formerly, into true union once again so that the biblical ideal of ‘one fold and one pastor’ may become a reality.”
Several months later, Mar Ivanios received the vows of three women, thus instituting the Bethany Sisters and completing his vision of a monastic community of men and women in the service of renewal. …
On 20 September 1930, Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilos, Bishop of Tiruvalla — along with two Bethany monks and a layman — were received into the Catholic Church. After a prayerful but painful period of reflection, the entire community of Bethany Sisters affirmed their communion with the Church of Rome. The properties on which Bethany was founded, however, were lost; the newly constituted Syro-Malankara Catholic Church began penniless.
The charism of Bethany, however, and its spirit of renewal carried Mar Ivanios and his small flock through some difficult times.
To learn more, read Following Christ in an Indian Way.
21 May 2013
Tags: India Sisters Cultural Identity Indian Christians Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople celebrates an Orthodox liturgy for the feast of the Dormition of Mary at the Panagia Soumela Monastery near Trabzon, Turkey, August 15, 2010. Thousands of Orthodox pilgrims from Greece, Russia and Georgia attended the liturgy at the monastery for the first time since 1923. (CNS photo/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
Waiting for Godot, In Turkey (Archons) The memorable play of Irish author and playwright Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot,” has become a metaphor for situations in which people wait for someone unlikely to come, or do not even know what they are expecting. They just keep waiting and waiting.
African Children: Invisible and Deprived of Their Rights (Fides) Half of the African children are “invisible” because they do not appear in any population register. This is what emerged in a statement released on the occasion of the XXI Meeting of the African Union (AU) which has just begun in Addis Ababa.
Ethnic Identity Damages Church’s Catholicity (Fides) The attachment to one’s “Chaldean” ethnic and cultural roots should not become fanatical cult of one’s national identity, if one does not want to obscure the church’s catholicity. This is the key message that the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Sako Raphael I wanted to express in a letter addressed to the clergy of his Church, to share with bishops, priests and religious concerns and hopes on the present moment lived by the church led by him.
Military Chaplains: Serving God and Mother Russia (RBTH) Recruitment of military chaplains is stepping up a gear, as Vladimir Putin’s government builds on traditional Orthodox values to bolster patriotic feelings in society.
One Syrian Village Breathes Easier (France 24) The advance of regime troops on the rebel stronghold of Qusayr in central Syria has come as a relief for at least one village, mostly-Christian, nestled on the shores of Lake Quttina.
Indian Church Helps Syria (Persecuted Church) Extending a helping hand to their war-hit brethren in Syria, the Jacobite Church in Kerala collect 20 million rupees for the rehabilitation of the affected in that country.
20 May 2013
At the Baladna Club in Jericho, a member of the girls’ soccer team practices. (photo: Rich Wiles)
One of the important works of CNEWA is spotlighted in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, which looks at youth centers in Palestine:
The Baladna Club is one of 20 youth centers supported by CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Founded in 1999, the club has 120 members — Christians and Muslims, boys and girls from both public and private schools.
Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, believes support for such programs as Baladna is an innovative effort to make a difference in the lives of Palestinian youths. These programs provide formative opportunities to learn, grow, work together and play together. Life under military occupation can be frustrating and dispiriting for young people; these clubs try to raise spirits, offer a sense of community and purpose, and provide stability and hope. CNEWA also set up the initial training to teach 20 nongovernmental organizations how to write proposals, plan strategically, find resources and, most importantly, think realistically.
Read more about this club and others in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
17 May 2013
Tags: CNEWA Palestine
Students attend class at St. Jean Baptiste De La Salle Catholic School in Addis Ababa. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
As the school year enters graduation season, people around the world celebrate academic achievement and students prepare to embark on a new chapter of their lives.
In the November 2012 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on educational institutions renowned for their high levels of achievement — Ethiopia’s Catholic schools:
By almost every measure, Ethiopia’s Catholic schools offer a first-rate education. The most obvious of indicators, results on the national university entrance exam, offer clear evidence.
On last year’s exam, more than half of the country’s 15 Catholic high schools boasted a 100 percent passing rate. The lowest passing rate among them was a respectable 92.4 percent.
“That means almost all the students succeed to study in university,” says Argaw Fantu, head of the education unit for the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat.
Ethiopia’s Catholic schools enjoy many advantages, not least of which is the collective expertise inherited from the church’s long history of running first-rate schools around the world.
“Take our Christian Brothers,” says Mr. Aregay. “This is a congregation with 350 years of tradition working in 81 countries. Obviously, we inherit all those traditions from such a sophisticated and worldwide congregation working in the educational arena. And that holds true for other congregations — Don Bosco, Salesians, Daughters of Charity and others. That automatically gives us an advantage.”
Follow the link to read more about Ethiopians Making the Grade!
16 May 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Education Catholic Schools
Parishioners sing a hymn during evening Mass in the Church of Sts. Simeon and Anne in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Did you know there is a group of Catholics in Israel who regularly attend Mass in Hebrew?
The Spring issue of ONE offers a profile of this unique community:
By any measure, it may be one of the most distinct cultures in all of Israel. With just 500 active members, including children, Israel’s Hebrew-speaking Catholic community is so small that many Catholics around the world, and most Israelis, do not know of its existence. It endures as a vibrant contradistinction: Catholics celebrating their faith in a country that is overwhelmingly Jewish, worshiping in Hebrew, marking Jewish feasts and traditions, and honoring many local customs. Yet they are undeniably, proudly Catholic.
The community was born in 1955. That year, a group of Catholics in Israel founded a pious association called the Work of St. James to help Hebrew-speaking Catholics live their faith in a Jewish society.
“The church began to realize there were thousands of Catholics in Israel who were not Arabs and not expatriates, who belonged to and integrated into Hebrew-speaking, Jewish Israeli society,” says the Rev. David Neuhaus, Latin patriarchal vicar of Hebrew-speaking Catholics.
Some were married to Jews, while others were from Catholic branches of predominantly Jewish families. A smaller number were Jews who, like Father Neuhaus, had converted to Catholicism.
Regardless of their backgrounds, most “strongly saw themselves as Jewish historically, ethnically and culturally, and at the same time Catholic,” he says.
But between the 1950’s and the 1980’s, the community dwindled dramatically, largely due to emigration and assimilation.While members of the community come from a variety of backgrounds, all find unity in the most familiar form of Catholic worship, the Mass in the Latin rite, celebrated in Hebrew in six communities across Israel. As Father Neuhaus explains, it is the same Mass prayed around the world, but “with minor concessions to the particularity of praying in Hebrew.”
On Sundays, for example, the liturgy begins by lighting two candles representing the Old and New Testaments, signifying “their intimate unity.” The music is inspired by both Christian and Jewish traditions rooted in the region. Readings from the Old Testament, including the Psalms, are heard in their entirety, rather than selected verses, and Jewish feasts and days of commemoration are mentioned.
“Needless to say, praying in Hebrew brings out very forcefully the resonances in the liturgy with the biblical texts, particularly of the Old Testament,” Father Neuhaus says, after celebrating a weekday Mass at the Jerusalem chapel.
Read more about this community in Hebrew Spoken Here.
15 May 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Israel Cultural Identity Catholic
In an unprecedented event on 12 May 2013, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Beijing before a gathering of over 500 Orthodox Christians.
(photo: The Russian Orthodox Church)
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is presently engaged in a visit of historic proportions. On 10 May, the Russian Orthodox Church head arrived in China. Vatican Insider reports:
The overture to Patriarch Kirill’s official visit to China marked an important moment in relations between China and the Orthodox Church. Yesterday, in the Great Hall of the People, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church had the privilege of meeting Chinese President, Xi Jinping. “You are the first patriarch of Moscow and the first supreme religious leader from Russia to visit our country,” Xi told Kirill, presenting this unprecedented event as a “clear sign of the strength and high level of relations between China and Russia.” Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that during their conversation, Kirill emphasised the “special relationship that has blossomed between Russia and China in recent years.”
Such a visit can include a great many milestones. Among them is the first Divine Liturgy celebrated by a Russian Orthodox Patriarch in China. According to the Voice of Russia:
More than 500 Orthodox believers attended the liturgy held in the Russian embassy, among them Russians living and working in China and the so-called Albazins — descendants of Russian Cossacks who settled in Beijing in the late 18th century.
His Holiness reminded the worshipers that the Russian Orthodox Church in China is more than three centuries old. …
Russian Ambassador to Beijing Andrei Denisov believes that the visit to China by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will open up new opportunities for the local Orthodox community.
For more details and photographs, visit the site of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations.
14 May 2013
Tags: Unity Russian Orthodox Church Orthodox Dialogue Patriarch Kirill
In New York, Cardinal Cleemis Mar Baselios, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church, visits with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and CNEWA's chair. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Today, the Vatican announced this coming Sunday, 19 May, Cardinal Cleemis Mar Baselios, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, will take possession of his titular church in Rome, St. Gregory VII al Gelsomino.
The announcement came as the cardinal is paying a visit to North America. Yesterday he met in New York with CNEWA chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan and several other church leaders, including CNEWA president John E. Kozar, who snapped these pictures.
Since his arrival, the Syro-Malankara Church head has met with numerous church leaders, including Cardinal Dolan, center, and Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York. (photo: John E. Kozar)
13 May 2013
Tags: Vatican United States Indian Catholics Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Altar boys serve the liturgy at the Chaldean parish in Amman. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
In the Spring issue of ONE, writer-photographer Cory Eldridge profiles Christians who have fled Iraq to try and start over in Jordan:
The exodus of Iraqis has slowed since the difficult days of 2004 to 2008. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says a total of about 30,000 Iraqis are registered in Jordan. In 2011, 7,000 new arrivals registered with the agency. Last year it was half that.
Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, says hard numbers are difficult to come by in the Middle East, and the number of registered and unregistered refugees is likely much higher. UNHCR doesn’t release numbers on religious affiliation, but Mr. Bahou believes about 30,000 Iraqi Christians live in Jordan, mostly in Amman. He expects that number to remain constant — a slow trickle in, a slow trickle out and no real change overall.
While the violence after the U.S. military’s surge did abate, life never became anything close to safe. In October 2010, Muslim extremists attacked Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, and the hours-long event left 58 parishioners, priests and police dead. The slaughter cast a long pall over all the country’s Christians.
Iraqis regularly describe that event as the defining moment for them, when everything suddenly and irrevocably changed.
In a new but poor neighborhood with wide main streets and side roads packed with the haphazard dwellings of a developing slum, the Rev. Mansour Mattosha, pastor of Amman’s Syriac Catholic parish, walks up four flights of stairs to visit a parishioner — his niece.
Even before 2003, Amman hosted many Christian communities. Now, among Catholics alone there are Chaldean, Latin, Melkite Greek and Syriac parishes, as well as Coptic, Greek and Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Protestant parishes. Relations among the parishes are good: The overwhelming attitude among the faithful is: “We’re all Christians, and there’s too few of us to bicker.”
Most of these parishes can be found in one part of central Amman, called Hashami Shamali, where many Iraqi refugees live. Father Mattosha comes here several times a week to visit 20 or so families. His is one of the smallest congregations, and he serves it alone. When he arrived, there were about 200 Iraqi families in the parish, as well as the original 50 Palestinian families who established the parish in 1948. Now, the number of Iraqi families has dwindled to about 80; the rest have left for U.N.-sponsored locations from Germany and Sweden to the United States and Canada to Australia and New Zealand. Extended families who used to live in the same village, often on the same block, have ended up in multiple countries.
Read more on those who are now Out of Iraq.
10 May 2013
Tags: Iraq Refugees Jordan Chaldeans
Roma musicians perform during a Roma funeral in Hodasz, Hungary. The majority of European Roma, commonly called “gypsies,” is Christian, with a strong representation, particularly in eastern Slovakia, of Greek Catholic or Orthodox. (photo: Balazs Gardi/VII Network)
Today, The New York Times ran an article on Roma integration into the Slovakian school system, drawing a parallel to the United States's own history of overcoming segregation:
Gazing out his window during morning recess on his first day at work, the principal of an elementary school here, Jaroslav Valastiak, was caught up short: all the children playing in the asphalt-covered yard were white, a strikingly monochromatic scene at a school where a majority of pupils are dark-skinned Roma.
Lunchtime brought another shock. The school canteen served only white children, with Roma pupils left outside with bagged rations, instead of hot food. Classes were also divided, officially on the basis of academic aptitude, but in a manner that ended up grouping students along rigid ethnic lines.
“The segregation here was as obvious as fireworks,” Mr. Valastiak said.
The 59-year-old principal has spent the past year trying to break down barriers, both physical and mental, in a painful struggle for integration that some here say echoes that of the United States more than a half-century ago.
“The situation in Slovakia now is exactly the same as it was in the United States,” said Peter Pollak, a Roma member of Parliament and the government’s plenipotentiary for Roma communities, who recently visited the United States to learn about its battles over segregated schooling and other entrenched barriers to equality.
In a continent faced with an economic crisis, soaring unemployment and bursts of nationalist populism, the elementary school here in eastern Slovakia is a microcosm of one of Europe’s biggest challenges: how to keep old demons of ethnic scapegoating at bay and somehow bring its most disadvantaged and fastest growing minority into the mainstream.
You can read the rest here.
ONE has been sharing stories of the Roma of Eastern Europe for years. To learn more about the Roma of Slovakia, see Jacqueline Ruyak's Those Who Remain Behind. Ms. Ruyak also reported on the Roma of Hungary in Our Town, which included a sidebar on the progress of anti-discrimination legislation in Eastern Europe at the time of its publication.
8 May 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Hungary Slovakia Roma
After receiving a new zucchetto (a clerical skullcap) from a young girl, Pope Francis offers her his old one in exchange in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 8 May. The Spring issue of ONE, now available online, looks at how the new pontiff has spoken of issues important to him — and to CNEWA. Read what he had to say here. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
Tags: Pope Francis Pope