5 October 2012
Bishop Amba Tadros visits Port Said, Egypt and distributes sweets during a feast before Lent. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2009, writer Liam Stack reported on the efforts by Coptic Orthodox Bishop Amba Tadros to bring a sense of renewal and hope to a community along the Suez Canal that has seen alternating periods of boom, bust and bombing:
When he was installed in November 1976, he was charged with creating an Orthodox ecclesiastical jurisdiction for a city that had never had one. Port Said was also missing most of its population. As the 1967 war began, the city was evacuated in the face of a massive Israeli aerial bombardment. Soon after, Egypt lost control of the strategically important Sinai Peninsula, which lies just east of the city.
For Egyptians, it was one of the darkest periods of the country’s modern history, and, in the middle of it all, Amba Tadros was building up the local church from scratch.
“Many homes and buildings had been destroyed by bombs, and people were living in shelters or on the streets,” says the bishop, now an elderly man. “Electricity and water were difficult to have all through the day.”
Over the course of the 1970’s, people began to trickle back to their homes, but most of the city was ruined in the war.
For men like Amba Tadros it was a challenging time. Some would have found providing physical and spiritual aid to the city’s displaced residents a crushing task. But local Coptic leaders say that something unexpected grew out of the ashes: renewed friendships among peoples of all faiths that was a harbinger of a citywide renewal.
Read more about Hope and Renewal in Suez in the November 2009 issue of ONE.
4 October 2012
Tags: Egypt Coptic Christians
A farmer brings peppers to sell at a wholesale market in Malatia, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Under the Soviet Union, Christians in Armenia were forced to practice their faith in secret. When Armenia declared its independence in 1991, the suppression of Christianity ended. Even so, some divisions, predating even Soviet communism, would still take time to mend.
In the January 2006 issue of ONE, John Hughes wrote on religious life in Armenia before and after independence:
“If you go to the left, you’ll find the Armenians,” explained a villager. “To the right are the Franks.”
The villager’s directions speak not only of a geographic divide, but a lingering theological and cultural divide that has survived despite 70 years of Communism.
In Dzithankov, Arevik, Lanchik and Panik — villages with large Catholic populations — there was a time when Armenian Catholic (“Franks”) and Armenian Apostolic Christians (“Armenians”) hardly mixed.
The two share the same rites and traditions, but Armenian Catholics maintain full communion with the Church of Rome. (The term Franks derives from the influence of French Catholic missionaries.)
In Arevik, 83-year-old Yeproxia Grigorian remembers when a “mixed marriage” would have caused scandal. It was practically forbidden for Franks to integrate with Armenians. But by the time her daughter Julietta married, only hardliners might have objected to a husband from the Armenian Apostolic Church, an ancient church to which 95 percent of Armenians belong. …
Julietta’s 13-year-old daughter, Armineh, is making up for the church-going opportunities denied her mother and her grandmother. And Armineh’s generation has only their elders’ recollections to connect them to the time when the church was divided by labels and lifestyles, even in a village of only several hundred.
“There was a time,” Julietta said, “when there was a big difference between Franks and Armenians. But there is one God.”
For the Catholic and Apostolic Christians of Dzithankov that one God is worshiped in St. Prkitch Church, which, since Armenia achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, both communities share.
For more, read A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics.
3 October 2012
Tags: Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist Soviet Union
The faithful celebrate the liturgy at the Church of St. Nicholas in Kampala, Uganda. (photo: Tugela Ridley)
“Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa,” noted Andrew Rice in his article appearing in the March 2006 issue of ONE. “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.”
Rice described how an Orthodox Christian identity in sub-Saharan Africa — the Ugandan Orthodox Church — was shaped by colonialism in the 19th century, two African rebels and just a bit of confusion over a name:
[Anti-colonial rebel Reuben] Spartas was, in short, a man in search of a vehicle for his nationalist passions. As it turned out, that vehicle was to be a church. He was a devout man, but by the mid-1920’s Spartas had grown increasingly frustrated with what he saw as the established church’s compromises and inconsistencies. He and an army buddy, Obadiah Basajjakitalo — Metropolitan Jonah [of Kampala and All Uganda]’s grandfather — began exploring other religions. What happened next has taken on the air of a creation myth: Spartas supposedly ran across an entry for the word “Orthodox” in the dictionary. “Like another Archimedes,” a subsequent church leader wrote, “he ran out into the streets shouting: ‘I have found, I have found!’ ”
The real story is a bit more complicated, involving an iconoclastic early civil rights leader and a case of mistaken religious identity. Sometime in the 1920’s, Spartas got hold of a copy of a newspaper called the Negro World, which was published by Marcus Garvey, the West Indian progenitor of the “back to Africa” movement. Spartas learned that Garvey had championed the creation of an African Orthodox Church. Other than sharing a name, Garvey’s church had no relationship to mainstream Orthodoxy. But Spartas did not know that. In 1925, he wrote African Orthodox Church leaders in America, saying he wanted to join up and convert other Ugandans.
After a long courtship-by-letter, Spartas announced that he had left the Anglican Church and declared the establishment of a new church “for all right-thinking Africans, men who wish to be free in their own house, not always being thought of as boys.” In 1932, one of Garvey’s bishops traveled to Uganda and ordained Spartas and Basajjakitalo priests. The kabaka of Baganda donated a section of his personal estate at Namungoona to the new church, and within a few years, it claimed 5,000 members.
There was just one problem — the church was not really Orthodox. Spartas discovered this when a Greek expatriate in town came to baptize a child and told him he had the rituals all wrong. Worried correspondence with Alexandria ensued and, after some confusion, all links to Garvey’s church were severed, and Spartas traveled to Egypt to be ordained by Patriarch Christophoros II. The Ugandan Orthodox had Alexandria’s recognition. Acceptance would be longer in coming.
For more of this fascinating story, read Orthodox Africa.
2 October 2012
Tags: Christianity Africa Orthodox Church Orthodox
Despite his busy schedule, Father Jose is always available to his parishioners. (photo: Sean Sprague)
For decades, the people of Kerala have suffered from high poverty rates, exacerbated by high rates of unemployment. The Indian government’s Ministry of Labor and Employment recently released a report revealing that against India’s average rate of 3.8 percent, unemployment in Kerala currently hovers at 9.9 percent. Though lower than a decade ago, this is still very high in absolute terms.
In such an environment, people like Father Jose Thottakkara are a godsend. In the May 2008 issue of ONE, Jomi Thomas reported:
“Once priests start to think of themselves as sacrament machines, they lose the real sense of what they do,” said Father Jose Thottakkara, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest working in suburban Ernakulam.
A highly educated 44-year-old, Father Jose epitomizes a new, dynamic breed of priest. Founder and director of Naipunya International — a nonprofit agency of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly that places thousands of qualified young people in good jobs worldwide — the priest also leads more than 100 families at St. George Church, a suburban Syro-Malabar parish.
For a son of poor farmers, the priest has accomplished a great deal at a relatively young age. After some eight years of advanced education, he holds degrees in business management, economics, theology and world history. Complementing these studies, he undertook formal and on-the-job training in social work and management. In addition, he has received faculties to serve both Syro-Malabar and Roman Catholic communities.
Father Jose manages a tight schedule during the week. And while his responsibilities at Naipunya take up the lion’s share of his day, the families to whom he ministers remain close to his heart.
Read more about Father Jose in A Priest With Global Reach.
1 October 2012
Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Economic hardships
Nikolay Vakulin and Melkonian Haykaz exercise in the yard of the shelter for elders run by Caritas Austria. In a 2007 Caritas Armenia survey, 76 percent of elderly respondents and 60 percent of other respondents considered adequate medical services to be unavailable in northern Armenia. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
Poverty and unemployment rates hover around 40 percent in northern Armenia. The only hospital in the vicinity is the Catholic-run Tiramayr Narek Hospital in Ashotzk. Thanks to support form CNEWA and Caritas Italy, the hospital serves some 30,000 patients from as far away as Gyumri (62 miles south) and Vardenis (124 miles southeast) and conducts about 1,800 complicated surgeries per year. In the March 2009 issue of ONE, Gayane Abrahamyan discusses this institution:
Razmik Minasian, his face tanned from laboring in the sun, swiftly paces up and down a white sterile hallway in Tiramayr Narek Hospital in Armenia’s northernmost town of Ashotzk. Again and again, he looks worriedly at the closed door from where the cry of his 4-month-old son can be heard.
“Had we managed to get here earlier, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said as he approached his wife who sat nervously beside the door.
The Minasians live in Samtskhe-Javakheti, a predominantly Armenian region in southern Georgia near Armenia’s northern border. The couple made the three-hour journey to Tiramayr Narek because the infant’s temperature had reached a dangerous 104 degrees and the Catholic-run facility is the only one in the vicinity that offers quality care at little or no cost.
Read more in Armenian Winter.
28 September 2012
Tags: CNEWA Armenia Health Care Caring for the Elderly Employment
A little girl plays in the village of Horpyn in Ukraine. Read about the ethnic and religious patchwork of the region in this article from the March 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Petro Didula)
27 September 2012
Tags: Ukraine Russia Crimea
Asela orphanage alumnus Matheas Hussein studies music at Addis Ababa University. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Four years ago, ONE took a look at a remarkable school in Ethiopia that cares for hundreds of orphaned boys with special needs and gives them training that can help transform their lives:
Asela’s orphanage school owes a good deal of its recent success to Father Renato Saudelli, I.M.C., who was appointed its director in 1991. An ardent advocate for sustainable development, Father Saudelli has integrated vocational skills training with the school’s academic curriculum so every student has a better chance at succeeding once they enter the work force.
Father Saudelli’s legacy, however, has been his work with the fine arts and music programs at the school. Thanks to his tireless efforts, these programs have thrived in recent years.
An artist himself, the Italian-born priest threw his weight behind the school’s art program the moment he assumed leadership responsibilities. With honest effort, patience, individual attention and, of course, the best available art materials, Father Saudelli believes all children can discover the joy of, as well as their unique talent for, creating art. For this reason, he encourages the disabled children to take advantage of the art program. Artistic expression using one’s hands, he believes, can help instill a sense of pride, particularly in those who may be physically handicapped in other ways.
The school’s music program, which Father Saudelli vigorously supports in tandem with the fine arts program, has also come into its own under the priest’s direction. A growing number of alumni have chosen to pursue careers in music, and many more have found inspiration through their musical training. …
A prospective graduate of the Yared Music School at Addis Ababa University, Matheas Hussein plays part-time in a local band, Harlem Jazz, which enjoys some celebrity in Addis Ababa. After graduating from the Consolata Fathers’ school, Mr. Hussein was recruited by a private college. His passion for music, however, led him to the Yared Music School. He persistently applied for admission, never losing hope. Finally, after three years, he was accepted to the program.
Read more on Revealing Hidden Talent.
26 September 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education
Altar servers assist a liturgy at the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Lviv. (photo: Petro Didula)
In the September issue of ONE, read how Armenians are practicing their faith in western Ukraine in the story Restoring Faith.
24 September 2012
Tags: Ukraine Eastern Christianity Armenian Apostolic Church
Msgr. John Kozar, top center, shares a joyful moment with the Vincentian Fathers of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in southern India. (photo: CNEWA)
In the newest issue of the magazine, Msgr. Kozar reflects on his recent visit to India:
Earlier this year, I was blessed to visit with the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara churches in southern India. It was, for me, a Pentecostal experience. Let me explain.
The energy and enthusiasm of these churches takes one back to the celebration of the first Pentecost. The mandate of our Lord to preach and teach the Good News is alive and active with our brothers and sisters in southern India.
The photo above captures a little of the joyful feeling expressed by a group of Vincentian Fathers of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, who joined about 10,000 faithful of every age in the culmination of a week-long “Popular Mission.” Imagine this huge crowd of souls who have processed from near and far, gathered in the open air — singing, dancing, shouting their praises to give honor and glory to God and to give witness of their faith to each other. Turn up the decibels, look out at the army of faithful and celebrate that this is what Pentecost is all about.
Read more in the September issue of ONE.
21 September 2012
Tags: India Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics
Major Archbishop Mar Cleemis, center, consecrates the new cathedral in Pathanamthitta.
It doesn’t happen often, but it happened yesterday in Pathanamthitta — the consecration of a new cathedral, dedicated to St. Peter, for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy of Pathanamthitta, a mountainous jurisdiction in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala.
This morning, we received an e-mail from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas:
I attended the new cathedral blessing at Pathanamthitta diocese... invited by His Beatitude, Mar Cleemis, Major Archbishop, and His Excellency, Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom, bishop. His Beatitude, Bechara Peter, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, was the special guest in the ceremony.
The Syro-Malankara Eparchy of Pathanamthitta came into existence on 25 January 2010. The eparchy is relatively small: about 810 square miles, consisting of a little over 30,000 Syro-Malankara Catholics.
Bishop Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom (shown above second from the right) is a familiar face. He paid us a visit in June, stopping by our New York office to meet Msgr. Kozar and discuss the activities in his eparchy.
Patriarch Bechara (shown above, second from the left) may also be familiar to our readers. He made a pastoral visit to the United States last fall and met the press at our New York headquarters.
You can read more about the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church here.
Tags: Syria Syro-Malankara Catholic Church