21 November 2017
A conservator cleans the surface of the Edicule, the traditional site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Oded Balilty, National Geographic)
In the nation’s capital, a $15 museum ticket and pair of 3-D glasses is the passport Christian pilgrims and others need to experience what may be the holiest site in Christianity.
Employing state-of-the-art technology, the National Geographic Museum in Washington on 15 November opened an exhibit that virtually transports visitors to the streets of Jerusalem and through the doors of a small church that protects what is believed to be the site of Christ’s burial and, to Christians, the site of his resurrection.
“We put you in the Old City, we talk to you a little about the walls of the city, how they move over time and where the Gospels say that the Crucifixion took place, and try to give you the context,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of exhibitions for National Geographic during an interview with Catholic News Service.
After an introductory video explaining some of the tumultuous history surrounding the tomb of Christ site, where structures above have been built and torn down repeatedly over the centuries, visitors walk toward a set where a virtual guide projected on a wall welcomes them to a courtyard just outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
It’s a visual appetizer to get them ready for the experience of, not just entering via 3-D through its doors, but also of flying over it and witnessing, from a bird’s eye view, a time-lapse of the structure’s physical history.
“We’re not only taking you in the church the way it looks today but we also go up above the church and we take you back through time,” said Keane. “It’s a bit of a time machine and we show you all the evolutions of the building, from the time that it was, under [Roman emperor] Hadrian, a pagan temple.”
“This is not what I would consider a traditional exhibit. It’s more an experience than it is an exhibit,” said National Geographic archaeologist Fred Hiebert, whose unique experience inside the church led to “Tomb of Christ: The Church of Holy Sepulchre Experience,” which runs at the Washington museum until August 2018.
Last year, Hiebert witnessed various stages of a nine-month-long, $3 million restoration of the small shrine within the Holy Sepulcher that protects the tomb of Christ. The shrine often is referred to as the Edicule, Latin for “little house.” During the process, the three religious groups with jurisdiction over the structure, and who had agreed on its restoration — the Armenians, the Franciscans and the Greek Orthodox — agreed to also allow restorers to put a moisture barrier around the the tomb itself.
The tomb likely had not been opened in centuries and, at some point, marble slabs were placed on top, perhaps to keep pilgrims from taking home parts of it. It has been venerated since the time of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor who, in the fourth century, sent a team in search of the holy burial site. Soon after, they identified a quarry as that place and Constantine’s mother, Helena, had a shrine built around it.
The exhibit explains how the effects of weather, earthquakes and also great numbers of pilgrims, many of whom light candles that contribute to a buildup of soot, had brought the structure to the brink of collapse.
It also explains the dilemma religious leaders faced when they learned that by injecting liquid mortar into the shrine to reinforce it, it presented the possibility that it would seep into the tomb itself — defeating the purpose of protecting the most important part. They had to swiftly decide to shut down the shrine to allow the team to protect the tomb — and that meant briefly opening it.
“They said, ‘Do it, but don’t take more than 60 hours to do it,’“ said Hiebert.
When restorers temporarily shut down the site, Hiebert and other members of the National Geographic team were present to witness the opening of the tomb, which exposed the original limestone bed and the walls of the cave, which Christians believe witnessed Christ returning to life.
“To think that we, we were some of the few people who were locked in that church, got to see what people for hundreds and hundreds of years of Christianity hope to see, and we had a chance to see that. … If there’s anything that drove me to do a virtual exhibit, it was that guilt,” Hiebert said to an audience gathered at the museum on the opening night of the exhibit. “We have to tell the world about this.”
The National Geographic team scanned the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the smaller structure inside, the Edicule, in such detail, that visitors who stop by the exhibit can don a VR, or virtual reality, headset and enter the tiny shrine, navigate the small passage way that leads to the tomb, a space that accommodates no more than three or four people, and see an exact visual representation of the tomb, without the real-life inconveniences.
“As tourist, you get maybe 15 seconds in the tomb and then they move you out,” explained National Geographic engineer Corey Jaskolski at the opening night event. “Part of capturing this and being able to share it with the world through the National Geographic Museum is that we can let people spend as long as they want in the tomb. You can go in there and have your own personal experience and be able to see it in all its glory without the interruptions and bustle of the crowd around.”
The exhibit explains some of the technology the restoration team from the National Technical University of Athens used, as well as what National Geographic used to scan the images that made the visual aspect of the exhibit possible.
“We can tell a story about great science and there’s a certain great aspect of faith to it, too,” said Hiebert.
Keane said the project is an intersection of history, architecture, science, technology and faith.
“All of these things aren’t at odds with each other,” she said.
The exhibit displays the document that Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Franciscan leaders signed in 2016, which made the restoration possible, while also noting in a timeline that the groups had agreed in principle in 1959 that the “little house” needed the renovations.
Hiebert applauded the cooperation among the religious groups as a “brave” and said of their ability to agree, “That happens once in a lifetime with these guys.”
The project shows, Hiebert said, that there can be cooperation among different groups in the Middle East.
“Having reviewed the history of the [Holy Sepulcher] church, and realizing that it’s a contested space, in a contested area … here was a project that was bringing people together to do something that was positive,” he said. “That is a metaphor for optimism in the Middle East. In a place as difficult as Jerusalem, as complex as the Middle East, it’s still possible to do an optimistic idealistic project.”
Archaeologist Hiebert said the exhibit, as well as a TV show about the restoration of the tomb of Christ that National Geographic documented, will debut 3 December on its cable channel. The December cover story of National Geographic magazine also focuses on archaeology and what it reveals about the life of Christ. It shows that science and faith can go hand in hand, Hiebert said.
“When we look back on the history of exploration and even the history of National Geographic, we realize that this idea that science is divorced from faith is not true,” he said. “It seemed to me natural that National Geographic would be in a position of, here’s a site, which is sacred and historic, and we’re about to embark on an epic adventure.”
20 November 2017
Tags: Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre
A chef displays ingredients and Keralite specialties prepared by chefs at Naipunnya Institute of Management and Information Technology. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the United States, families are preparing for Thanksgiving this Thursday. But for another kind of feasting, check out this story from India:
If you enjoy food, you should come to Kerala!” said Father Sebastian Kalapurackal, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest and director of Naipunya Institute of Management and Information Technology, which boasts one of the state’s top hotel management programs. Each year, the program graduates some 100 students, many of whom land jobs with five-star hotels, major cruise lines and airline companies.
Keralites unquestionably take great pride in their local cuisine — and for good reason. Its diversity and sophistication have earned the state worldwide fame.
What is more, it is unique. A narrow strip of coastland bounded to the east by the Western Ghats (mountains) and to the west by the Arabian Sea, Kerala has been largely disconnected from the rest of India for much of its history. Isolated from the prevailing trends of Indian cooking, Keralites developed a distinct culinary tradition unlike any other on the subcontinent.
The secret to Keralite cuisine is its special blend of produce and other indigenous ingredients: rice from the paddies; pepper, cardamom, coriander, turmeric and asafetida from the forests and fields; and fish caught off the coast or in one of the many freshwater rivers. However, what gives many Keralite dishes their signature flavor is coconut. Translated from the local language of Malayalam as “land (alam) of the coconut (kera),” Kerala produces a vast quantity of the fruit, which grows just about everywhere and is one of the state’s principal exports.
The essence and complexity of Keralite cuisine, however, should not be reduced to the sum of its ingredients. Religion and region have also played significant roles in the development of Kerala’s diverse menu of tasty entrees and treats. Christians, Hindus and Muslims approach food differently. And in Kerala, each faith community possesses its own variant culinary tradition.
“Ninety percent of what Muslims eat is meat, Hindus are 100 percent vegetarian and Christians eat everything, including pork,” said T.C. Noushad, a Muslim restaurateur who owns Royal Food Court, a chain of five establishments across Ernakulam.
“I serve everything and anything, just give me 15 minutes,” he added.
According to Father Kalapurackal, to Christians, taste matters most.
“That’s the problem with our people. They worry too much about their taste buds and not enough about their health. We should learn from the Hindus and eat less meat.”
Read more about what’s cooking in Kerala in the November 2008 edition of ONE.
And if you’re curious, try out some recipes, too.
17 November 2017
Tags: India Cultural Identity Cuisine
In this image from 2016, children prepare for first communion at a Catholic church in a displaced persons camp in Ain Kawa, near Erbil, Iraq. Now, a year later, some displaced Iraqis are returning to their homes. Read about that and more in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
16 November 2017
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians
An Indian Christian woman prays on 2 November, All Souls’ Day, at a cemetery in Bhopal. A Catholic bishop has sought protection for the Christian community in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh after Hindu nationalists marched through the streets waving burning torches and denouncing missionaries. (photo: CNS/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA)
A Catholic bishop has sought protection for the Christian community in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh after Hindu nationalists marched through the streets waving burning torches and denouncing missionaries.
The marchers on 10 November accused Sagar district authorities of not acting upon complaints they filed against missionaries for violating a law that restricts religious conversions. They said if the administration failed to act within two weeks, they would start an indefinite strike in front of a Catholic-run orphanage in the area.
Ucanews.com reported the trouble in Sagar started in September after government officials evicted a Catholic priest working in the orphanage and closed a 20-year-old mission following a dispute over the land title. Church leaders say the government action was instigated by Hindu groups.
The leaders of the fundamentalist religious awakening co-ordination committee, which organized the march, told media that the church's social services and work in education and health care are all a facade to convert gullible people to Christianity.
The protesters said they were working with the government for a national law against religious conversions and to check missionary activities. Madhya Pradesh and five other Indian states already have laws that make religious conversion through allurement and force illegal.
“We are under tremendous pressure,” said Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar, who submitted a memorandum to district officials and the state chief minister and governor seeking their intervention for the protection of Christians.
Ucanews.com reported the bishop wanted the administration to take immediate steps to end this “false and malicious campaign” in the media that projects Christians as “out to convert Hindus, violating laws.”
The facts disproved the propaganda, he said. Sagar has some 300,000 people. But since its beginning in 1986, the diocese has only 1,000 Catholics.
“Our number has not grown in years. Still, we are accused of converting people,” he said.
The district has only 5,000 Christians among its 2.3 million people, 92 percent of whom are Hindus. In the predominantly Hindu state, Christians form less than 1 percent of the 72 million population.
Christian leaders say the state, run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, has been tacitly supporting violence against Christians orchestrated by Hindu nationalists, pushing to establish a Hindu-only nation in India.
Missionaries in the diocese say the campaign by hardline Hindu activists has made their work increasingly difficult as villagers view them as criminals.
14 November 2017
Daily life at the Greek Catholic seminary in Hungary includes a little free time for socializing. Learn more about what it takes To Be a Priest in Hungary in the March 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Tivadar Domaniczky)
13 November 2017
A woman mourns next to a dead body following an earthquake in Sarpol-e Zahab, Iran, on 13 November. The 12 November earthquake killed more than 400 people and injured more than 6,000 in Iran and Iraq. (photo: CNS/Tasnim News Agency via Reuters)
Pope Francis sent messages of condolence to people in Iran and Iraq after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake killed more than 400 people, mostly in Iran.
The pope “assures all affected by this tragedy of his prayerful solidarity,” said the nearly identical messages, released on 13 November.
“In expressing his sorrow to all who mourn the loss of their loved ones, he offers his prayers for the deceased and commends them to the mercy of the almighty,” said the telegrams, signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
As he often does in emergencies, Pope Francis also asked for the “blessings of consolation and strength” for first responders and civil authorities.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the 12 November quake was centered 19 miles outside Halabja, Iraq. It was felt as far west as the Mediterranean coast.
The hardest-hit area was Iran’s western Kermanshah province, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq. The Associated Press reported residents in the rural area rely mainly on farming to make a living.
Caritas MONA, the regional branch of the church’s charitable aid agency in the Middle East and North Africa, sent tweets asking people to join Caritas Iran and Caritas Iraq in prayers for those affected.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers & sisters in Iraq and Iran following yesterday’s devastating earthquake that hit the border region,” said another tweet.
9 November 2017
Pope Francis receives members of the community of the Ukrainian Pontifical College in Rome.
(photo: Vatican Radio)
Pope Francis marked the 85th anniversary of the foundation of St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Pontifical College in Rome by sharing some thoughts with the school’s seminarians.
From Vatican Radio:
In his message to future Ukrainian priests, Pope Francis recalled that the institution was built with the intent of conveying a message of love and closeness to those faithful “who live in areas of suffering and persecution.”
He invited them to prepare for their apostolic mission as deacons and priests studying the Church’s Social Doctrine and recalling the example of Pope Pius XI whom, he said, “always and firmly raised his voice in defending the faith, the freedom of the Church and the transcendent dignity of every human person” while condemning the atheistic and inhumane ideologies that bloodied the 20th century.
“Also today the world is world is wounded by wars and violence” the Pope said with a particular reference to the beloved Ukrainian nation “from which you came and to where you will return” after having completed your studies in Rome.
Backing his encouragement to spread a culture of peace and acceptance with words from the Gospel, the Pope said “to you, seminarians and priests of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, these challenges may seem out of your reach; but let us remember the words of the Apostle John: I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.”
The Pope said that by loving and proclaiming the Word they will become true shepherds of the communities that will be entrusted to them.
Read more here.
Meantime, CNS has this report from Junno Arocho Esteves, offering the pope’s personal remembrance of a beloved Ukrainian bishop:
Meeting a group of Ukrainian Catholics, Pope Francis said that long ago in Argentina, he had learned about the suffering of Christians in their homeland and about the beauty of their liturgy.
Speaking to a group of professors, students and alumni from the Ukrainian Pontifical College of St. Josephat, a seminary in Rome, the pope said he valued the lessons he learned as a boy from Bishop Stepan Chmil.
“It did me so much good because he spoke to me about the persecution, sufferings, the ideologies that persecuted the Christians” in Ukraine under communism, the pope said on 9 November.
Then-Father Chmil was among the first Eastern-rite Catholics allowed to enter the Salesian order while retaining their liturgical rites and traditions.
After completing his studies in Turin, Italy, Father Chmil ministered to countless Ukrainian refugees who arrived in Western Europe during World War II.
In 1948, he was sent to Argentina to minister to Ukrainian refugees there and met a young Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was in his last year of grade school.
“I learned how to assist at Mass in the Ukrainian rite from him; he taught me everything,” the pope said.
Assisting Father Chmil twice a week, he said, “taught me to be open to a different liturgy, which has always remained in my heart as something beautiful.”
After Father Chmil’s death in 1978, the pope said, it was revealed that he had been “consecrated a bishop in secret in Rome” by Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, then-major archbishop.
Pope Francis also said he gave testimony for the Ukrainian bishop’s canonization cause to the current head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych.
“I wanted to remember him today,” he said, “because it is right to give thanks to him for the good that he has done for me.”
8 November 2017
The icon above depicts the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers, a feast day celebrated on 8 November throughout the Eastern Christian world. (photo: OCA.org)
This date, 8 November, marks a significant feast for the Eastern churches: the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers.
The Synaxis of the Chief of the Heavenly Hosts, Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers: Archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel was established at the beginning of the fourth century at the Council of Laodicea, which met several years before the First Ecumenical Council. The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration.
A feast day was established in November, the ninth month after March (with which the year began in ancient times) since there are Nine Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was chosen for the Synaxis of all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven since the Day of the Dread Last Judgment is called the Eighth Day by the holy Fathers. After the end of this age (characterized by its seven days of Creation) will come the Eighth Day, and then “the Son of Man shall come in His Glory and all the holy Angels with Him” (Mt. 25:31).
Read more about this feast here.
Troparion — Tone 4
Commanders of the heavenly hosts, / we who are unworthy beseech you, / by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings of your immaterial glory, / and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you: / “Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commanders of the powers on high!”
Kontakion — Tone 2
Commanders of God’s armies and ministers of the divine glory, / princes of the bodiless angels and guides of mankind, / ask for what is good for us, and for great mercy, / supreme commanders of the Bodiless Hosts.
7 November 2017
Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches
In this image from 2013, altar boys serve the liturgy at the Chaldean parish in Amman. To learn more about Iraqi families seeking to start a new life in Jordan, read Out of Iraq in the Spring 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
3 November 2017
Elizabeth and Hannah Valentine pray at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wisconsin.
(photo: Miriam Sushman)
In 2003, we paid a visit to Cedarburg, Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee, where the people of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church are preserving ancient traditions and welcoming a diverse flock:
About half of the parish’s 175 members were raised in other church traditions. Others are second — and third — generation Greek or Russian Orthodox. About 40 are Arab. With this kind of a mix, everyone is thankful for the exclusive use of English in the Divine Liturgy.
Three of the youthful members are Chinese and were adopted by a local family. The oldest child is blind. She has learned the liturgy by heart and chants it with the choir. Her father watched her with pride while her siblings squirmed in the pew.
Though the congregants come from different ethnic backgrounds, they are united by their faith and the traditions of the Orthodox Church. “When there is a disagreement, it is never along ethnic lines,” Father [Bill] Olnhausen said.
He takes care to explain again and again the meaning of the church’s traditions for newcomers. Repetition, he explained, reinforces tradition.
Some traditions require more from the congregation than just listening. Prostration is common in the Orthodox Church, and on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross parishioners knelt and bowed during the procession of the cross.
Among the joyful noises on that day were the voices of the youngest parishioners, some still so young they were wrapped in blankets and lay cooing in the pews.
St. Nicholas is child-friendly. A crying room in the back of the church was full of active toddlers whose parents retreated there for a “time out.” Preschoolers attended church school, returning for Communion with the adult parishioners.
Children and adults alike dressed in their Sunday clothes. Ties and white shirts were standard for boys and men and dresses for girls and women.
Community participation is also strong at the church. The church double tithes: 10 percent supports the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. The other 10 percent goes toward charities and needy individuals.
Read more about Serving a Diverse Community in the November-December 2003 edition of our magazine.