15 May 2013
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)
8 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Pope
Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, prays for the safety of Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul during Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on 2 May. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Syrian bishops still missing after kidnapping (NPR) As orthodox Christians across the world celebrated a late Easter this year, Christian communities in Syria and neighboring Lebanon postponed all celebrations. Instead, they gathered in churches only to pray for the safe return of two bishops kidnapped outside of Aleppo last month. While their whereabouts are still unknown, the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime continue to trade blame for the abduction the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo. We speak to the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Beirut and his congregation about how the kidnappings have marred the traditionally celebratory time of year…
Coptic Orthodox pope and Pope Francis to hold first meeting in 40 years (VIS) From 9 to 13 May, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the See of St. Mark and head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, will visit Rome to meet with Pope Francis on Friday. Pope Tawadros’ predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, met with Pope Paul VI in the Vatican 40 years ago in May of 1973. On that occasion, the pope and the Coptic Orthodox patriarch signed an important Christological declaration in common and initiated bilateral ecumenical dialogue between the two churches…
Three suspects arrested over Armenian church shooting (Tert.am) The Istanbul police have jailed three men on suspicion of opening gunfire near an Armenian church. One of the detainees is reported to be an ethnic Armenian. According to the Turkish website Samanyoluhaber, the men fired seven shots near the St. Hovhannes church during a liturgy…
Deadly attacks strike northern Iraq (Al Jazeera) A shooting and two car bombs in Iraq have left at least two people dead and wounded 26 in the western and northern parts of the country, officials have said. Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media. Wednesday’s attacks follow shootings and a bombing which killed seven people in Iraq on Tuesday…
Ethiopian commuters bid farewell to archbishop memorial statue (AllAfrica.com) The statue of Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Abune Petros, erected in the archbishop’s memory in 1941, moved to its temporary location on Friday, 2 May 2013. The decision to relocate the statue came after the Ethiopian Railway Corporation began the construction of the 20-mile Addis Light Rail Transit project…
7 May 2013
Tags: Syria Iraq Violence against Christians Orthodox human trafficking
A little boy looks on in the southern Egyptian village of Qenna, where the church remains the focus of the Christian community. (photo: David Degner)
Recent headlines have told again and again of Copts fleeing Egypt for other countries. In the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, writer Sarah Topol and photographer David Degner look at those who have chosen to stay and are trying to build a future:
With the growing influence of radical Islam, more and more Christians are considering their options. Atef Gamil knows many Christians who have already emigrated. He wants his 21-year-old son, Bishoy, to move to England when the young man finishes his medical degree in three years. But Bishoy Gamil has other ideas. He does not want to leave Egypt.
Discussions about migration are playing out across the Coptic community, says the Rev. Shenouda Andraos, the rector of the Coptic Catholic Seminary of St. Leo the Great in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Father Andraos says the church leadership continues to tell its flock emigration is not the solution.
“The church is trying to raise awareness that we must have a positive and effective role and we cannot leave the country — this is our homeland and we have to participate in building it. It is important we don’t become terrorized, that we continue to have hope in the future.”
Read more about The Men Who Stayed in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
6 May 2013
Tags: Egypt Emigration Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Church
Yesterday, churches that follow the Julian calendar marked Easter. In this image from 2004, a man shows off some Easter eggs at St. Clement Church in Ohrid, Macedonia. Eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. To read more about the Byzantine traditions of Ohrid, check out Answering the Macedonian Question in the July-August 2004 issue of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
3 May 2013
Haghia Sophia is known the world over for its complex and beautiful domed architecture. In this photo, a fish-eye lens lends a sense of scale to the structure. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Yesterday’s New York Times brought some news about controversial plans for one of the most famous and historically significant church structures in the world, the Church of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey:
In 1921 an ecumenical service was held in six languages at St. John the Divine, New York City’s Episcopal cathedral, to call for the return of Byzantium’s most important monument to the Orthodox Church. Days after his 1453 conquest of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, Mehmet II decided to turn the 6th century basilica of St. Sophia into a mosque. Some 500 years later, with the city under Allied occupation, Christendom wanted the building back.
Its prayers were never answered. As the Turkish Republic emerged from the ashes of empire, the new nation’s founding president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, ruled that a building over which two faiths squabbled should be made accessible to all: St. Sophia was turned into the Ayasofya Museum.
That solution not only silenced self-righteous voices in the West; it also helped establish Turkey’s credentials as a worthy custodian for its cultural heritage. Since restoration work in the 1930s, St. Sophia’s stunning mosaics of the Virgin Mary and Jesus have sat beside huge panels of Islamic calligraphy.
For some time, Turkey’s religious and nationalist right has demanded that Ayasofya be converted into a mosque again. Now a parliamentary commission is taking the request seriously.
Why this is a problem is easily illustrated by the restoration of St. Sergius and Bacchus, a 6th century church in Istanbul, after an earthquake in 1999. The undertaking should have been an occasion for scholarly investigation, but instead the floors were ripped up, the walls painted over and a dome added on top — without any consultation with conservationists.
The transformation of historical buildings invariably means finding subtle solutions to delicate problems: how to temporarily cover up figurative Christian art or provide all-weather protection to an open-air ruin. But the priority of the General Directorate of Foundations is to put buildings back into circulation, not to protect or extract their secrets.
You can read more at the Times.
Several years ago, we took readers to this legendary landmark for a closer look at its history and importance:
The Church of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey has had a lasting impact on faith and worship. It is often simply called “the Great Church” because of its grandeur and its important role in the Byzantine Christianity.
An engineering marvel of late antiquity, Haghia Sophia stood unsurpassed in size and splendor for a thousand years. Even today it dominates the skyline of modern Istanbul -formerly Constantinople — which from 330 to 1453 was the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. Time has faded Haghia Sophia’s splendor, but not diminished the majestic soar of its arches and domes.
Read more about The Great Church from the July 1997 issue of the magazine.
1 May 2013
Tags: Turkey Eastern Christianity Islam Byzantium Haghia Sophia
May is traditionally the month Catholics devote to Mary. The image above from 2010 shows a statue of the Virgin Mary that graces the Chaldean Church of the Mother of God in Southfield, near Detroit. For more on the Arab-Americans who have settled in that part of Michigan, check out Forging a New Detroit from the January 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Fabrizio Costantini)
Tags: Catholic Chaldean Church Arab-Americans Detroit