26 August 2019
In this image from February, Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s Al Azhar mosque and university, are seen in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Pope Francis welcomed Abu Dhabi’s formation of an international committee to implement the "Document for Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together," which he and Sheik el-Tayeb signed in the country in February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
At a time when conflict and division dominate the world’s headlines, people need to know there are a growing number of important initiatives to promote interreligious dialogue and understanding, Pope Francis said.
The pope welcomed the Abu Dhabi government’s formation of an international committee to implement the document on “human fraternity,” which he and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university, signed in Abu Dhabi in February.
“Although sadly evil, hatred and division often make news,” the pope said, “there is a hidden sea of goodness that is growing and leads us to hope in dialogue, reciprocal knowledge and the possibility of building, together with the followers of other religions and all men and women of goodwill, a world of fraternity and peace.”
The Vatican press office published the pope’s remarks on 26 August, a week after Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, announced the initiative to promote meetings of religious leaders, academic study of the document and support legislation to broaden religious liberty and tolerance.
Spanish Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, was named a member of the committee.
In an interview with Vatican News, Bishop Ayuso said the document is an appeal to build a “civilization of love,” and should not lead to a fear that Catholics will stop believing that the fullness of salvation lies in Christ.
“I think fear is the number one enemy of interreligious dialogue,” he said. “The Catholic Church remembers the value of its own identity, the courage of otherness and the sincerity of intentions” of those who engage in dialogue.
“It is not about creating a ‘melting pot’ in which all religions are considered equal,” he said, “but that all believers -- those who seek God and all people of good will without religious affiliation -- are equal in dignity.”
23 August 2019
Tags: Muslim Interreligious Abu Dhabi
Alexander and Margarita Mamin show one of their icons with a religious theme, which stands in stark contrast to the secular work the Soviets had insisted upon. Read more about the religious icons being created after the fall of the Soviet empire in New Reality, Same Artistry from the March-April 2004 edition of our magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
22 August 2019
Tags: Russia Icons
In this image from 2018, the Rev. John Szada, chaplain of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, distributes Communion during an annual Marian pilgrimage at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church. This year’s pilgrimage will be held on Sunday. (photo: CNS/Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness)
With the mass shootings that have taken place in this country in recent weeks and “the state of our society in our big cities and small towns,” this is a time “when we all need to turn to God,” said the pastor of a historic Ukrainian Catholic church in Pennsylvania.
The Rev. Michael Hutsko, pastor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, made the comments in an interview with SSPTV of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, ahead of the annual Call to Prayer Marian Pilgrimage set to take place at the church on 25 August.
The white church, with its distinctive three onion-shaped blue domes, sits on a hill to the north of the town, which has been almost entirely condemned as a result of underground mine fires that have undermined the stability of the ground.
“People are coming from all over the East Coast (to) make their way here to pray,” Father Hutsko said. “It truly is a day of prayer and we try to keep the property as peaceful and calm as possible, not to turn it into a reunion or a picnic. It’s a place to experience to God and this mountain is conducive to that.”
The fact the church sits high above the town, escaping the underground mine fires is “something providential, “ the priest added. “Only God knew it would be a place to call people and remind people of his presence.”
Today, while the town is a memory, the church still serves a thriving parish family, with congregants driving to the hilltop on Sundays and holy days from communities throughout the area.
This year’s annual Marian pilgrimage will feature five bishops who will concelebrate the Divine Liturgy: Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Latin-rite Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of the Latin-rite Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Metropolitan-Archbishop Gudziak will be the homilist. Father Deacon Paul Spotts will serve as deacon. Responses to the Divine Liturgy will be congregational singing led by Dennis Hardock, cantors from local parishes, members of St. Nicholas Choir in Minersville, Pennsylvania, and Holy Family Ukrainian National Shrine Choir in Washington.
After the Divine Liturgy, a procession from the church will take the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv to the outside chapel where the icon will be placed for veneration.
Priests will be available for much of the day offering the sacrament of reconciliation for pilgrims at various locations on the church grounds.
A living rosary will be prayed in the afternoon before the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv. Afterward the Akafist Prayer to the Dormition (Assumption) of Mary will be sung.
The schedule also will include a 5 p.m. a candlelight procession with the icon from the Pochaiv Chapel to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” or prayer of (prayer of supplication) to the Mother of God. At the conclusion of the moleben, prayers for healing and the anointing with holy oils for the healing of soul and body will take place.
“During this Marian pilgrimage, as we are called to prayer,” Father Hutsko said, to ask that Mary “extend her mantle of protection over us and lead our nation toward a spiritual conversion of mind, heart and soul.”
The first pilgrimage to the Centralia church was held in 2016 and the story of this unique pilgrimage site has been told throughout the world. It was the cover story for the Christmas 2018 edition of Reader’s Digest and BBC News did a feature story in February 2018.
During a 2015 visit, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, Ukraine, the head of the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church, marveled at the continuing presence of the church in Centralia. He also noted how this coal region parish fostered vocations of four men to the priesthood and three sisters to religious life.
With the visit of Major Archbishop Shevchuk and the encouragement of now-retired Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, the place was designated a holy site of pilgrimage.
21 August 2019
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
A statue of Our Lady of Consolation is surrounded by pilgrims during a candlelight procession and vigil Mass outside the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio on 14 August 2019. (photo: CNS/Katie Rutter)
With its one stoplight and surrounding cornfields, the small Ohio village of Carey seems an unlikely travel destination. Yet, once a year, an estimated 5,000 visitors swell the town population to more than double.
For nine days, climaxing on the evening of 14 August, scores of charter buses drop off pilgrims, most of whom are Iraqi Christians. Hundreds of families fill a five-acre plot with tents, recreational vehicles, Middle Eastern food and music.
“We feel that we’re like in our old village back home. Like when I walk around I know a lot of people,” said Khalid Markos, who is now a resident of Sterling Heights, Michigan, but was born in Alanish, Iraq.
His family, like most of the pilgrims, fled from war and persecution in their home country. Now exiled refugees, they have found consolation by celebrating their faith and traditions at the aptly named Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey.
“We love our faith a lot and as you may know, we left our country because we didn’t want to deny our faith,” Conventual Franciscan Friar Raad Eshoo told Catholic News Service, “and it’s sad that we see a lot of people here and in Iraq there are few Christians, Chaldean Christians.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church, based in Iraq, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome. Chaldean Catholics trace their faith back to the second century and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
In recent decades, however, war and terrorism has caused hundreds of thousands of these Christians to flee their homeland.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce estimates that 160,000 Chaldeans now reside in the Detroit metropolitan area.
“My mother says, ‘Even if someone paid me a million dollars, I wouldn’t go back,’” said Martha Yousif, niece of Markos, whose parents fled Iraq in 1997.
“You can’t guarantee (you will) come back safe,” she related.
“Many things I faced -- bombing. In front of my clinic, even,” said Syrian Orthodox Christian Nawar Awbawyvalsheikh, a physician and native of Mosul, Iraq.
“Terrorists. They came to our building to kill us and American soldiers saved us,” she recalled.
These exiled Christians began traveling two hours from Detroit to the Carey shrine about two decades ago. Many were drawn by stories of miraculous healings, others by a devotion to Mary. All are reliving an Iraqi tradition of visiting shrines and holy sites for pious practices and celebration.
“We have a lot of feasts we call them ‘shera,’ (with) a lot of people camping, music, dancing, food, and we end it with Mass and procession,” said Friar Raad, who was born in Mosul.
“When I’m here, I feel like home,” he said.
The nine days of celebration in Carey are marked by a constant line for confessions, regular blessings by clergy and several Masses daily, often in Aramaic.
At dusk on 14 August, the pilgrims carried candles and processed with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation from the basilica to an open field, called Shrine Park. There Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo presided over an outdoor Mass for the vigil of the feast of the Assumption.
“It breathes a lot of new life into me and I think the friars that come here love to do this,” said the Rev. Father Thomas Merrill, a Conventual Franciscan, the shrine’s rector. He was joined by dozens of fellow Conventual Franciscans to help care for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims.
“The people are so hungry for anything that is faith-based and so hungry to practice their Catholic faith and receive the sacraments,” Father Thomas said.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation was established in 1875 by a priest from Luxembourg and has welcomed regular waves of pilgrims, often immigrants.
The lower church contains three display cases full of crutches and mementos left by those healed or those who want to thank Our Lady of Consolation for a favor received.
“(The Chaldean people have) suffered a lot. They go through a lot of problems. God and the Virgin Mary saved them to come over here and live peacefully,” Markos told CNS.
“Anytime you’re in need of something, you ask for it, she always (provides), especially here,” said Rafa Kattoula, whose family has made a pilgrimage to the shrine for over 40 years.
Expressing gratitude for Mary’s intercession, Kattoula concluded: “We’ve asked and we come and we receive from her.”
Watch a video of the procession below.
Thousands of Iraqi Chaldean Catholics and other pilgrims converge on the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, for a vigil and procession to honor Mary.
(video: Katie Rutter/CNS/YouTube)
20 August 2019
Tags: Iraqi Christians Chaldeans
An Indian family tries to salvage what is left of their home, as floodwaters sweep through Kerala. The country is continuing to be battered by heavy rains, causing severe flooding and landslides.(photo: CNEWA)
19 August 2019
Tags: India Kerala
Father Al Khoury celebrates the liturgy at Our Lady of Paradise Cathedral in São Paulo, Brazil — home to the largest Melkite Greek Catholic community in the world. Read about this Paradise in Brazil in the July 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Izan Petterle)
16 August 2019
Tags: Melkite Greek Catholic Church Melkite
CNEWA has long partnered with Caritas Georgia to help those in need in Georgia. In this image, Caritas Georgia provides jars of soup for neighbors to bring to bedridden friends. Learn more about how a Human Touch Offers Pensioners Respite in the July-August 2003 edition of our magazine. (photo: Dima Chikvaidze)
14 August 2019
Tags: Georgia Caring for the Elderly Caritas
This popular icon depicts the Dormition of Mary, when she "fell asleep" and entered eternal life.
(photo: St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, 13th century / Wikipedia)
15 August marks an important solemnity on the Catholic calendar: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It honors the moment when — in the words of Pope Pius XII — “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
In Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches, this feast is known as the Dormition of Mary — her ”falling asleep” — and is commemorated on the same date:
The origin of the feast of the Dormition or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary [Theotokos] is closely connected with her public veneration since the beginning of the fourth century. It developed from the early celebration of Christmas in which the Theotokos, the Mother of God our Savior, played an important role. The solemn proclamation of Mary as “the Theotokos” at the Council of Ephesus (431) greatly enhanced her public veneration as the “Mother of God.” This is evidenced by the fact that a few years later her divine maternity was celebrated in Jerusalem as the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, on August 15. (cf. Armenian Lectionary, 434 A.D.)
A popular icon (shown above) depicts Mary asleep, surrounded by the apostles, with Jesus in heaven holding a baby in his arms — representing Mary beginning a new life.
It is common in some Byzantine parishes to bless flowers on this feast, including roses, the Lily of the Valley (sometimes called ”Mary’s Tears) and the Columbine —also known as ”Mary’s Shoes,” since one legend holds that wherever Mary walked on her way to visit Elizabeth, these flowers bloomed.
13 August 2019
Tags: Byzantine Catholic Church Mary
More than 100 young adults from Damascus, Syria, pose on 9 August, after arriving at the Liqaa Conference Center near Beirut. Meeting under the theme, "To You I Say Rise," more than 900 Melkite Catholic young people from the Middle East gathered in Lebanon for the first conference especially for them.(photo: CNS/Doreen Abi Raad)
Full of zeal for their faith, 920 Melkite Catholic young adults from the Middle East gathered in Lebanon for the first conference especially for them.
Meeting under the theme, “To You I Say Rise,” the participants, ages 18-35, came from the Palestinian territories, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon for the 9-13 August event, hosted by the Melkite Catholic Patriarchate.
Edward Nazarian, 22, a student in medical devices engineering from Aleppo, Syria, said the conference restored hope for young people, particularly those from Syria.
“After going through so many years of war, we fell into despair. We are here to renew that hope, that confidence and faith,” he told Catholic News Service.
The Rev. Kamil Melhem, spiritual director for young adults, told the group at the opening that the conference would “be the first spark that will illuminate the paths of our faltering lives in the East.” The main venue was the Liqaa (“gathering”) Conference Center, located in a valley beneath the Melkite Patriarchate in Rabweh, 12 miles north of Beirut.
The event combined prayer, educational workshops -- including communication and social media -- and presentations related to the Melkite Catholic identity. Participants also visited holy sites of Lebanon, including Harissa, Our Lady of Lebanon, the tomb of St. Charbel and the biblical coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon in South Lebanon.
Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi told participants in his opening address, “You came carrying a variety of flags, but one banner unites you, the banner of Jesus Christ.”
He continued, “There are many voices and noises in your life, attracting you, disputing you ... tiring you, but today the voice of Jesus is calling each of you.”
Patriarch Absi advised the young adults: “Open up to each other and communicate. Show each other your dreams and aspirations, and share your fears and concerns. Unite, because you are the power that can create a new Pentecost.”
Emphasizing that young people are precious to the church, Patriarch Absi told them: “Thank God you are here. You have heard the voice of Jesus Christ who says, ‘Rise!’“
“It’s great to see the unity of the church,” said Nadine Zayat, 24, a recent graduate in sociology from Cairo.
“Even though we’re from different countries and different backgrounds, we’re all united in Jesus; this is why it’s so special. It’s great to meet new people, have fun and encourage and support each other to continue our message in our countries. I’m hoping more people get to know Jesus.”
Even though it is forbidden in Egypt to preach in the streets, she said, Christians “are a witness by the way we act.”
At a break time, Father Youssef Achaia of Cairo led an impromptu chorus singing “Immaculate Mary”; the circle they formed grew wider as more conference participants joined in.
“The youth, when they come together are very strong,” Father Achaia told Catholic News Service. “They can do a lot.”
As Christians living among Muslims in the Middle East, he said, “we have to be a light. We’re taking this light from Jesus, and we reflect it, first in our self, and then onto the others.”
For 32-year-old Khaldoon Al Haddad, who works at the Central Bank in Amman, Jordan, the gathering was a chance to exchange and share ideas. He told CNS one of the biggest challenges of working with a youth group in his parish is to engage teens, amid all their activities and the “noise of the world.”
“I hope to come back (to Jordan) with new ideas, new ways and methods to bring youth back to the church,” he said.
During lunchtime the first day, horns bellowed from three buses signaling the arrival of 110 young adults from Damascus, Syria, after more than 10 hours of travel. The journey, under normal circumstances, should not exceed three hours. However, because of their large number, procedures at the border crossing between the two countries caused their delay.
Emerging from the buses, the Syrians’ weariness transformed into exuberance at the celebratory welcome. A group of Jordanians played traditional bagpipes and thundering drums. There was cheering, clapping and waving of Syrian flags. Young adults joined arms for the step-and-stomp traditional dabke dance.
Dina Fares, 26, an English teacher from Damascus, told CNS: “We are so tired. But we are so excited to be here. ... We’re here to say, ‘There are Christians in Syria. We’re still here (in Syria), and we’re not going anywhere.’“
Inside the venue, Patriarch Absi posed for selfies and group photos with the newcomers from his native Damascus.
Elsewhere, Natalie Abou Sada, a 21-year-old graphic designer, was one of 11 young adults from the Palestinian territories.
“I’m very proud to represent my country. From here to Palestine, I want to bring back a message of peace and love. Peace is most important,” she told CNS. “We always pray for a better life.”
12 August 2019
Tags: Lebanon Melkite
In this file photo, Cardinal Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, celebrates a liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Lay people for the first time joined clergy during the first two days of the weeklong Chaldean Catholic synod in northern Iraq. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The Chaldean Catholic Church concluded a weeklong synod in Ainkawa, a Christian enclave in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, in which laity from the church’s various dioceses in the Middle East and the diaspora also participated for the first time.
The synod, held 4-10 August at the invitation of Cardinal Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, brought together church leaders and parishioners from Iraq, the United States, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Canada, Australia and Europe to discuss issues vital for the church’s future in Iraq and worldwide.
Cardinal Sako said it was important to engage the views of the laity and to “support the participation of people in the life of the church” at such a critical moment in the church’s history. “The lay faithful, men and women, are members and partners of our church because of their faith and their common priesthood,” he said.
He said it was essential to “take advantage of their (laity’s) charisma” in the service of the church during what he described as a time of great difficulty in Iraq and Syria for thousands of Iraqi Christians who were forced to abandon their ancestral communities, including in Mosul and the Ninevah Plain.
“It is a good opportunity for us to study the complicated situation of our Chaldean Church in Iraq and diaspora, including the struggle with displacement, killing and destruction as well as current fears and concerns about the future,” Cardinal Sako told attendees.
“In such difficult circumstances, our faith should lead us to plant hope, joy and peace in the hearts of those we serve; respect them and create a friendly relationship with them, otherwise, we won’t grow up, improve and be trusted, but rather lose our credibility. Therefore, we should walk in the path of ‘evangelical conversion’ with all its aspects,” Cardinal Sako said.
Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service by phone that the participation of the laity during two days of the synod was “a good experience.”
“We hope it is a good start for other future involvement. The first steps are new and open the possibility to other perspectives for the future,” he said of the 16 laypersons who attended.
The contingent included four lay women. Among them was Sister Maryam Yalda Shabo, superior of the Chaldean Sisters, Daughters of Mary Immaculate Conception, representing the patriarchal orders in Iraq.
Archbishop Mirkis said discussions centered on “liturgy, prayers, and the translation of the languages used in the diaspora for liturgy.”
Bishops also will be appointed for important towns in the predominately Kurdish areas of northern Iraq that are experiencing growth, in part because of the displacement of Christians.
“We need a bishop for Zakho because the diocese there is growing. We will split the dioceses in the Kurdish region. Amadiya and Duhok will become a diocese, while Zakho will become another,” Archbishop Mirkis explained.
In January, Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa of Mosul, Iraq was the first prelate installed since Christians were expelled from the city by Islamic State forces in 2014.
“He is doing his utmost to help Christians, but we know that the situation is very difficult to encourage people to return because many things, including universities, (schools, hospitals, and various infrastructure) are waiting to return,” Archbishop Mirkis said.
In a final statement, synod participants pledged “continued support to the displaced to help them return, build their homes and provide a source for their livelihoods.”
Other recommendations included: the Chaldean Church taking up its key role as a mediator with other Christians and various segments of Iraq’s mosaic social fabric; establishing a Chaldean Unified Fund to support joint projects and aid emergencies; organizing a Chaldean youth conference in Spring 2020 to address faith, marriage, and vocation; ongoing training to detect abuse; and preparing for a Chaldean Laity Conference in 2022.
Maronite Archbishop Joseph Soueif of Cipro, Cyprus, set the tone for the synod proceedings by leading a retreat during the assembly’s first two days.
As the conference opened, Cardinal Sako remarked on the challenges facing the Chaldean Catholic Church in a letter to Pope Francis.
“We can say that it has always been the ‘Church of the Martyrs.’ Even our Muslim brothers suffer for their life every day, and hope that in the shared pain, paths of hope for a better future can be opened,” he wrote.
He later told synod participants that “we pray also for our church, in particular, for the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq at this turning point in our history, for his presence and encouragement are what we need now.”
Tags: Iraqi Christians Chaldean Church Iraqi