3 June 2013
A pilgrim holds a banner bearing the words “Blessed Pope John XXIII pray for us” in preparation for a Mass at the tomb of the pope. (photo: CNS)
Pope John XXIII died 50 years ago today. One of the men who succeeded him, Pope Francis, mentioned him in his homily this morning:
The pope spoke of the saints, remembering that today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Blessed Pope John XXIII, “a model of holiness.” In the day’s Gospel, he added, the saints are those who “go to collect the rent” on the vineyard. “They know what is expected of them, but they must do it, and they do their duty. … The saints are those who obey the Lord, those who worship the Lord, those who have not lost the memory of the love with which the Lord has made the vineyard: the saints in the church. Just as the corrupt do so much harm to the church, the saints do so much good.”
John XXIII may be best remembered for convoking Vatican II, which led to dramatic reforms within the Catholic Church, including a greater emphasis on ecumenism and dialogue with other faiths. Last year, we interviewed Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who was a student in Rome during the Second Vatican Council. Describing some of the documents of the council, he said:
This is the basis for the church to reach out with great respect to the followers of different religions, conscious that the Holy Spirit is already active within their hearts and also within their religious traditions. This conviction leads to the statement that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” This does not signify by any means that the church considers all religions to be equal, since it believes that the fullness of revelation has been given in Jesus Christ. Yet the attitude of respect provides the grounds for dialogue and cooperation at the service of all members of the human race.
31 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Ecumenism Pope Dialogue
An icon of the Virgin and Child hangs inside St. Michael the Archangel in Ladomirová. (photo: Andrej Bán)
With May drawing to a close, today marks the end of the month traditionally devoted to Mary. But devotion to the Mother of God isn’t confined to just one month. For many of the faithful, it goes on all year. In Slovakia, for example, we found the depiction of Mary shown above when we visited a village with a strong Greek Catholic presence and learned about historic churches:
On a cold and wet November day, a group of carpenters hammered away at the roof of St. Michael the Archangel Greek Catholic Church in the village of Ladomirová in northeastern Slovakia. Built in 1742, St. Michael’s stands out as perhaps Slovakia’s most beautiful and celebrated historic wooden church. Surveying the men’s work, the church’s pastor, Father Peter Jakub, explained that after 40 years, it was time to replace the worn hand-cut spruce shingles.
Only some 50 wooden churches, most dating back two centuries, survive in the modern central European republic of Slovakia; historians estimate more than 300 may have been built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Approximately 30 belong to the Slovak Greek Catholic Church. A handful have been closed and restored as museums, while the remaining churches are used by Evangelical Protestant or Latin (Roman) Catholic congregations. In recent decades, the Slovak government has designated 27 of these tserkvi (Slavonic for wooden churches) as national cultural monuments.
These wooden structures are inexorably fragile, vulnerable to decay and fire. But as architectural achievements constructed during a tumultuous and religiously volatile era, they now galvanize significant interest in and support for their restoration and preservation.
The lion’s share of Slovakia’s wooden churches clusters in the eastern region of Prešov, a mountainous and heavily forested area bordering Poland and Ukraine. Rusyn Greek Catholics — who inhabited tiny hamlets scattered throughout the Carpathian Mountains — constructed most of these churches.
For more on Slovakia’s Greek Catholic heritage, and the country’s remarkable churches, read Rooted in Wood from the May 2008 issue of ONE.
30 May 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Icons Greek Catholic Church Slovakia Slovak Catholic Church
A shepherd tends his flock in Anjar, Lebanon. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
The charming photo above comes from a 2002 profile of “Little Armenia,” located in Lebanon:
Determined to preserve their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions, these Armenian refugees established clubs, schools, churches, hospitals and dispensaries. Today they attend Armenian churches and schools, eat Armenian food, speak Armenian and read Armenian periodicals. Whether members of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Evangelical churches, Lebanon’s Armenians live in harmony. Although tight-knit, they too are affected by the specters of unemployment, emigration and cultural disintegration haunting all Lebanese.
Roughly 100,000 people — 80 percent of the population of Bourj Hammoud — are Armenian. One of the most densely populated areas in the country, Bourj Hammoud has become one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Lebanon, a center for jewelry, shoes and clothing, all crafted by Armenians. And while Armenians prefer to work with fellow Armenians, their clients are usually fashion-conscious Maronites, Sunni Muslims and Druze. …
“Our major problem today is the emigration of young people,” says Sebouh Saghian, the Mayor of Anjar. “We do not have local universities, so our youth go to Beirut for further education. Because of unemployment here, the majority do not return…”
Read more about this community in the July 2002 issue of our magazine.
29 May 2013
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Cultural Identity Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
The Azar family prepares dinner in an empty lot in Al Qaa, Lebanon, where they have found refuge from the war in Syria. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
In the Spring issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan gives a dramatic look at life in Al Quaa, a Lebanese village that has lately become home to Syrian refugees:
Although she has only moved a few miles down the road, Hayat Qarnous wakes up to a world vastly different from the one she knew just a few weeks ago. Back then, she was living in Rableh, a village on the Syrian side of the Syria-Lebanon border and once the center of a quiet farming community. But since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011, it has been anything but peaceful.
“War is like fire,” she says, sitting in her newfound refuge in Al Qaa, a Lebanese village just across the border from Rableh. “A fire eats everything before it. So does war. There is no peace anywhere.”
It is this lack of peace, and its consequences, that have pushed more than a million Syrians to flee their homeland since the beginning of the conflict.
About 320,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon and registered with United Nations aid agencies there. But many observers believe equal numbers of Syrians have not registered with the authorities in Lebanon; among these are an estimated 10,000 Christians.
Lebanon, with its relatively large number of Christians — more than 30 percent of the population — is a natural choice for Christian Syrians seeking refuge. Beyond religion, most of the Syrian Christian refugees have chosen Lebanon for more pragmatic reasons. Many have family living in Lebanon, either as citizens or as laborers who have migrated to work in construction or farming since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990. Others come to Lebanon, as in Mrs. Qarnous’s case, because it is the closest border to cross to safety.
“The journey between Rableh and Al Qaa used to take five to ten minutes before the war,” she says from a makeshift room she and her husband now inhabit in the hall of the Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Al Qaa. “Now it takes four hours.”
The trip is difficult and dangerous. Civilians have to navigate a complex landscape of warring factions, shelling and random attacks in order to arrive safely. Even after that, hunger, poverty and exposure to the elements await many of them in Lebanon.
Read more about Syrians Crossing the Border in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
28 May 2013
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War War
A Coptic woman prepares a meal in her kitchen in the southern village of Qenna, Egypt. As with many villages in the rural parts of the country, the majority of Qenna is Christian. Sarah Topol discusses the precarious state of Christians in Egypt in The Men Who Stayed, featured in the
latest issue of ONE. (photo: David Degner)
24 May 2013
Tags: Egypt ONE magazine Coptic Christians Copts Egypt's Christians
An Iraqi Dominican sister of St. Catherine of Siena administers a checkup to a pregnant, 18-year-old Palestinian refugee at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
In the midst of war, economic crisis and social upheaval, those who call the Middle East home face danger and uncertainty on a daily basis. Against the tumult that touches every aspect of life, knowing that those most vulnerable are receiving the care they need can be a blessing. Enter the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan:
Established in 1982, Mother of Mercy Clinic offers a wide range of general heath care services to thousands of patients — over 26,000 in 2008 — regardless of creed or origin. The clinic, however, specializes in prenatal and postnatal care, giving priority to needy mothers and their infants. …
Generous friends of CNEWA and a few European social service agencies fund the clinic, the annual budget of which runs around $175,000. While the clinic has managed to operate successfully within its budget, it faces its fair share of challenges.
Home to the oldest Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, Zerqa has long served as host to displaced persons — at the time of the article’s publication in the May 2009 issue of ONE, author Daoud Kuttab noted “most of Zerqa’s residents are refugees.” Since then, the combination of the Syrian civil war and continued strife in Iraq and Palestine has led to an even greater refugee presence, including the recent founding of another refugee camp near Zerqa.
To read more about the history and work of the Mother of Mercy Clinic, read Mothering Mercies. To support their mission in this time of great need, click here.
23 May 2013
Tags: Refugees Children Jordan Health Care Refugee Camps
A shepherd watches over her flock in Noraduze cemetery, near Sevan, Armenia. In the May 2008 issue of ONE, Paul Rimple discussed the spiritual core of Armenian culture. Click the image to read about Where God Descended. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
22 May 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Armenia Village life Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
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.
Tags: CNEWA Palestine