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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
31 January 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2003, a sick mother in Ethiopia holds her child. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

The AIDS epidemic has cast a long shadow over Africa, and in 2003 we reported on how one group of sisters was trying to bring light in Ethiopia:

What have the Daughters of Charity learned from their experiences in Ethiopia? That everyone there — rich and poor, educated and illiterate, elderly and infant — is directly or indirectly affected by AIDS. No one gets by unscathed.

As a result, most of the Daughters’ projects in Ethiopia, in social work, education or health, include an AIDS element.

The enormity of the AIDS epidemic in Ethiopia is staggering. According to the most recent United Nations estimates, three million of the 64 million people in Ethiopia are infected with the AIDS virus. One million children are orphaned. Fifty to 70 percent of prostitutes, many in militarized zones, test positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

The disease is spreading at such an alarming rate that by 2010, seven million to 10 million Ethiopians will be infected. More than 1.7 million, or 15 to 25 percent of Ethiopia’s children, will be orphaned.

Sister Aster Zewdie, the Provincial for Ethiopia’s Daughters of Charity, said she and the rest of her community of 67 sisters did not enter religious life to sit at a desk crunching numbers. They joined the Daughters to get their hands dirty.

In a spirit of humility, simplicity and charity, the Daughters of Charity have stepped into action to serve those in most need, following the example of their 17th-century founder, the French priest St. Vincent de Paul.

“It is our charism that we serve the poor through Christ and we serve Christ through the poor,” Sister Aster said.

“St. Vincent didn’t want Christians to stay away from the poor by praying.

“He said, ‘If the poor are looking for you, you leave God for God.’ So you go out from the chapel, and you go to serve these poor people. He always said, ‘Go find the poor.’”

With this in mind, the sisters say their morning prayers and head out to work.

Yet they are also the first to admit that the work of the Daughters of Charity in Ethiopia, a country roughly twice the size of Texas, does little to even register a blip on the fight-against-AIDS radar screen.

Sister Aster said: “Most of our sisters are very young. We are trying our best, but we are really limited when we see the need we have here in Ethiopia.”

Read more about how the Daughters of Charity responded to the AIDS crisis in the March 2003 issue of the magazine.

Tags: Ethiopia Children Health Care HIV/AIDS Daughters of Charity

31 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Palestinian protesters throw rocks at an Israeli border police vehicle during clashes at a protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Kdumim, in the West Bank village of Kfar Kadum, near Nablus, on 25 January. (photo: CNS/Abed Omar Qusini, Reuters)

U.N. inquiry says Israel must end settlements (Al Jazeera) Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank violate international law, and the country must “immediately” withdraw all settlers from such areas, United Nations human rights investigators have said. Israel has not co-operated with the inquiry, set up by the Human Rights Council (H.R.C.) last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem. “Israel must … cease all settlement activities without preconditions [and] must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the occupied territories, the fact-finding mission concluded in a report released on Thursday. The inquiry was led by French Judge Christine Chanet, and included Asma Jehangir of Pakistan and Unity Dow of Botswana as panel members. The settlements contravene the 1949 Geneva Conventions forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into the occupied territory, which could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.), it said…

Islamists ally with Egypt’s liberals in favor of national unity government (Christian Science Monitor) A hardline Islamist party normally allied to Egypt’s president joined the liberal opposition in calling for a national unity government as part of a plan aimed at ending the eruption of political violence that has shaken the country and left more than 60 dead. On Wednesday, the Salafi al Nour Party joined the Salvation Front in an initiative calling for a national unity government — effectively eroding the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on decision-making — and for the amending of contentious articles of the Islamist-backed constitution. For weeks, Morsi and the Brotherhood have ignored the Front’s repeated calls for a unity government. Salafis in general have strongly backed Morsi in the crisis and regularly denounced the liberal and secular opposition, accusing them of trying to reverse Islamists’ election victories and of trying to prevent Egypt from being ruled by Shari’a, or Islamic law. The party’s move may be aimed at distancing itself from Morsi’s Brotherhood ahead of the parliament elections…

Christians fleeing ‘unprecedented levels of horror’ in Syria (Christian Post) As the civil war in Syria has reached “unprecedented levels of horror,” according to the U.N., Christians are being forced to flee their homes as avoiding the violent conflict has become less of an option. “It’s a fight to the death [that] by definition involves killing. No one will win but those who fought from the start will create a desert and then call it victory,” Sky News said of the war raging between army forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad and rebels bent on taking down what they say is a tyrannical regime. The war has swept the entire nation, closing down infrastructure and businesses, and forcing many to choose a side or risk being caught in the crossfire. One of the worst attacks in the country occurred less than two weeks ago, when over 100 people were found slaughtered near the Christian-populated city of Homs. Witnesses blamed forces loyal to President Assad, who allegedly killed civilians they believed were harboring or aiding rebel soldiers…

Maronite patriarch denounces governments ‘inciting’ the civil war in Syria (Fides) Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Peter has charged that the governments who are arming both sides in Syria’s civil war bear a moral responsibility for the bloodshed. The Lebanese prelate denounced the “evil work of incitement” being done by states that are providing military support for either the Syrian government or the country’s rebels. Both, he said, are complicit in the “crimes of murder, destruction, aggression and deportation of innocent citizens”…

Jordanian priest says sects jeopardize relations between Christians and Muslims (Fides) Jehovah’s Witnesses and the sects of American origin, with their propagandistic methods, create problems for the Middle East Christian communities of ancient tradition and their relations with the Muslim majority. Jordanian priest Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, based in Amman, says: “Recently, many families call me to point out the insistence with which Jehovah’s Witnesses ask to enter their houses to distribute propaganda materials. Those who … join them immediately began to publicly express their hostility towards the Christian community that they previously belonged to.” The priest recalled that in 2008, before the effects produced in Jordan by the activity of dozens of preachers, the leaders of the churches settled in the Hashemite Kingdom had expressed in a document their shared concern…

Malnutrition and childhood diseases high in Indian slums (Fides) Recent decades have seen a rapid and disorganized urbanization in India. The impact of childhood illnesses and malnutrition among people marginalized by this process remains difficult to quantify. A group of experts conducted a study on 176 children from four geographically adjacent slums, located on the western outskirts of Vellore, Tamil Nadu, to verify the safety of the water and the resulting intestinal infections. The results gave a total of 3932 episodes of illnesses, with an incidence of 12.5 per child per year. The common respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases detected can adversely affect children’s health and their development, as well as placing an additional burden for families who need to be treated and find resources…

Tags: India Egypt Children Syrian Civil War Jordan

30 January 2013
Greg Kandra

Father Volodymyr Havrylenko blesses a traditional Ukrainian meal before eating with his wife, Halia, and two daughters, Oksanka and Sofika, at their home in Yavoriv, a town eight miles from the Polish border. (photo: Petro Didula)

What’s it like when Father is also a father? A few years ago, the magazine looked at how a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest in a small Ukrainian town balances his responsibilities to his church and his family:

Even before meeting Volodymyr, Halia imagined herself as a priest’s wife. She grew up in Yavoriv, a center of the underground church. She had a regular underground confessor; underground nuns taught her catechism.

“When my brother decided to become a priest, he shared his concerns with me,” Mrs. Havrylenko says. “When I was younger I was afraid to become a priest’s wife. I knew this would be a great responsibility and my husband would have to sacrifice a lot for the church and his people.”

They married in 1997, the same year Volodymyr was ordained a deacon. A year later he was ordained a priest. His first assignment was at the Church of the Most Holy Eucharist in Lviv, a pastoral center for students. Mrs. Havrylenko took a job at a bank and had little time to help her husband…

…The life of a small-town priest is busy. Father Havrylenko gets up at 6 a.m. and celebrates the Divine Liturgy in Yavoriv at 8 a.m. He then hears confessions, which takes much of his time throughout the year, especially before Easter. Three days a week he teaches a course on Christian ethics at a local public school and a few times a week he leads evening devotions. He also teaches special catechism classes throughout the year.

Three priests serve St. George’s, so every third week Father Havrylenko takes his turn “on duty.” In addition to other tasks, he conducts funerals, makes sick calls and presides at baptisms and weddings.

Sundays are particularly full for Father Havrylenko. He celebrates one liturgy each in Yavoriv and Koty before driving to Nemyriv to lead the liturgy at Father Stetskyi’s parish. Sometimes he has an afternoon baptism, followed by evening prayer, often conducted in two parishes. “I get home and have breakfast at 7:30 p.m.,” he laughs.

Read more about Serving Church and Family from the magazine’s January 2004 issue.

Tags: Ukraine Village life Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Priests

30 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Palestinian students study on the campus of Bethlehem University in the West Bank on 13 September 2012. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Students discuss Bethlehem University (Vatican Radio) The only Catholic University in the West Bank is in Bethlehem. Veronica Scarisbrick recently visited the students there together with a delegation of bishops from Europe and North America, known as the 13th annual Holy Land Coordination. Founded following Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Holy Land in 1964, the university is supported by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and organizations like CNEWA, and run by the De La Salle Brothers. It is open to students of all faiths. And as Ms. Scarisbrick discovered, Christian students there are a minority. The embedded audio file contains her conversation with three students, one of whom is Muslim, as they highlight the bonds of friendship and understanding that develop amongst themselves, as well as their shared desire to live in the Holy Land despite their struggles…

Armenian Catholic archbishop: Syrians face ‘daily horror’ (Fides) “The effect of the condition in which we have been living for more than a year is that we are now addicted to horror everyday.” This is how the Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati of Aleppo describes the devastating situation experienced by the inhabitants of the Syrian metropolis, where yesterday dozens of corpses of young victims were found. “There is always new news of massacres, there is the constant noise of bombing, one lives in a state of tension and fear day and night and there is a struggle to survive in a daily life in which there is not even water to drink and fuel to heat homes. As we are overwhelmed by all this,” the Archbishop explained, “there is almost no time to become aware of the terrible things in which we are immersed. The massacre at [Aleppo] University a few days ago, where we lost poor Sister Rima, already seems a distant thing”…

Syria’s Aleppo University tries to carry on after mystery blasts (L.A. Times) Before the first explosion, Laila and fellow architecture students at Aleppo University in Syria had gathered by chance in a stairwell, which shielded them from flying glass and shrapnel. In an instant, the less fortunate lay dead and injured amid the scattered debris. A second blast a few minutes later hit a dormitory across the street, causing more casualties. The twin explosions two weeks ago that killed more than 80 people and wounded 150 also left Laila determined to return to the university as exams and normal class schedules resumed Tuesday for the first time since the blasts. “If we don’t continue attending classes, we will become a backward country,” said Laila, 22, who used her Red Crescent training to aid victims at the chaotic scene. The blasts, apparently caused by a pair of missiles, were among the deadliest and most stunning of Syria’s almost two-year civil conflict, spurring global revulsion at a frontal assault against one of the nation’s leading educational institutions…

Egypt shudders, with leadership nowhere in sight (Christian Science Monitor) “The continuation of this struggle between the different political forces ... could lead to the collapse of the state.” Those were the words of Egyptian Army chief Abdel Fatah al Sissi to military academy students, in a speech posted online today. When the Egyptian military warns of state collapse, it’s time to start worrying. Though a coup is unlikely, that’s always a subtext when senior officers start talking about those incompetent civilian politicians failing to safeguard the very state itself. And it’s worrying enough that he might even believe it. But the fact is that Egypt is now at yet another dangerously chaotic, polarized point, with at least 50 people dead from four days of clashes in Cairo and the main cities of the economically vital Canal Zone under a state of emergency, with soldiers on the streets. The formation of a national consensus about the future from the elections of the past two years? It never happened. Instead, Egypt today has a Muslim Brotherhood president and a Constitution bitterly opposed by the opposition…

CNEWA aiding refugees in Jordan (Vatican Radio) CNEWA is calling on the international community to help Amman meet the growing needs of Syrian refugees flooding over the border into Jordan. CNEWA regional director Ra’ed Bahou told Vatican Radio that some 300,000 Syrian refugees are in Jordan now but, given the current economic crisis, the government is unable to cover the costs alone. “The situation of refugees coming from Syria is ... they are in a very desperate situation,” says Bahou. “We have 300,000 Syrian people in Jordan. 60,000 in a camp called Zaatari camp, the majority are Muslims in these camps. The conditions in these camps are very difficult.” Rigid temperatures and beating rain has made much of this winter miserable for the refugees, huddled around stoves in makeshift tents - causing serious health and safety concerns. A small Catholic aid agency, CNEWA provides what help it can to the refugees, including distributing food, clothing and sanitary supplies; offering education, counselling and catechesis. Embedded at the bottom is an extended interview with Mr. Bahou…

Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Armenian Catholic Church Bethlehem University Multiculturalism

29 January 2013
Greg Kandra

CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, visited Rome earlier this month, and a few high-profile media outlets covered some presentations involving our work.

First, Rome Reports interviewed Msgr. Kozar. The video is below:

Catholic News Service also spoke with Msgr. Kozar, who emphasized that preserving the church’s diversity is a matter of faith, not nostalgia:

Finally, EWTN’s Rome bureau chief Joan Lewis was on hand, too:

I’ve been out for much of the day at a variety of meetings, including one late afternoon gathering for a small group of journalists at the Rome offices of CNEWA — the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. It was a fascinating roundtable presentation and discussion with New York-based Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA president, and CNEWA’s three Middle East regional directors. Joining Msgr. Kozar were Ra’ed Bahou from Amman, Jordan; Issam Bishara from Beirut; and Sami El-Yousef from Jerusalem.

Also in attendance were Archbishop Terence Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada, who heads CNEWA in that country, and Carl Hétu, who spearheads CNEWA’s work in Canada. You’ll be hearing more about CNEWA’s amazing work in future columns and interviews for Vatican Insider. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is Chair of the Board of CNEWA.

Wednesday, Msgr. Kozar addressed over 100 prominent Italians about the needs of Eastern Christians, especially those of the Middle East, at the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Rome. He spoke in the presence of the Order’s Grand Master, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien and co-host, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches.

Msgr. Kozar highlighted the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy but noted the “thousands of volunteers came from far and wide to assist the victims of this horrific storm to help people rebuild.”

He then said, “almost every day, in an area of the world called the Middle East, people face forces far greater than the destruction of a hurricane: they face the storms of conflict, hostility, hatred, poverty, injustice and religious and political persecution. At times, there is little hope of survival, let alone the opportunity to rebuild and to live in peace with hope.

“The Catholic Church in this part of the world,” said the CNEWA president, “especially its family of Eastern churches, is small in number, but deeply rooted in the history, culture and fabric of society in the Middle East. It is the presence of the church that offers the poor, the oppressed and the victims of the daily storms of life a sign of hope, where otherwise there would be only flight, fear and despair.

Visit EWTN’s website for more.

Tags: CNEWA Middle East CNEWA Canada Media CNEWA Pontifical Mission

29 January 2013
Greg Kandra

An Ethiopian boy stands outside the Mevaseret immigrant absorption center near Jerusalem. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

A few years ago, we took a look at a particularly interesting demographic in the Holy Land: Jews who had moved to Israel from Ethiopia:

“Everything was difficult,” said Bat-El Ananey, a 28-year-old attorney, as she recalled her family’s culture shock when they first arrived in Israel from the African nation of Ethiopia.

“We came from a place with no toilets, no electricity, no telephones or television. I remember fetching drinking water from the river,” she continued. “And we had never seen white Jews before!”

Ms. Ananey and her family are among the 110,000 Ethiopian Jews, known as the Beta Israel, or House of Israel, who today call Israel home. For thousands of years, the Beta Israel lived in obscurity in northwestern Ethiopia, where they observed a form of Judaism that predates the rabbinical form practiced by most Jews since the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, Ethiopia’s great famine in 1984 and the West’s response ended their relative isolation and irrevocably altered their fortunes.

Read more about Challenges For A Land of Immigrants in the November 2008 issue of ONE.

Tags: Ethiopia Israel Immigration Ethiopian Jews

29 January 2013
Greg Kandra

In this October 2011 photo, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter speaks to reporters at CNEWA’s office in New York. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Someone familiar to all of us at CNEWA will be preparing the Way of the Cross, which is prayed in Rome’s Coliseum on Good Friday: Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch. (The VIS announcement is here.)

In 2011, before he was named a cardinal, the patriarch paid us a visit here in New York. The visit attracted lots of media attention at the time.

More recently, the cardinal played a critical role in Pope Benedict’s historic trip to Lebanon.

The cardinal joins a long and storied list of contributors to this particular devotion. Last year, for the first time, a married couple, Danilo and Anna Maria Zanzucchi, composed the meditations. In 2005, the meditations and prayers were written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Below is a video report, from Rome Reports:

Tags: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Prayers/Hymns/Saints Rome Maronite Catholic

29 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Patriarch Emmanuel III of Baghdad attends Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this 14 March 2012 file photo. The 85-year-old prelate recently resigned for health reasons. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Chaldean leaders gather for election of new patriarch (Vatican Radio) The Synod of the Chaldean Catholic Church has convened in Rome to elect a new patriarch of Babylon. The 15 bishops of the Chaldean synod are meeting under the direction of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. After a spiritual retreat on Monday, 28 January, they will precede to discussing the future of the Chaldean Church, which is centered in Iraq, and the election of a successor for Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, who resigned in December at the age of 85. Tuesday will see the first round of debate and discussion on the current situation of the Chaldean Church in the patriarchal territory and wider Diaspora. Wednesday will see the first elections take place according to the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches…

March of solidarity for the hostages in Mesopotamia (Fides) Christians, Muslims, Kurds, nongovernmental organizations, public officials, churches leaders and leaders of mosques all assembled for a march of solidarity with victims of kidnappings. The 24 January initiative was held in Hassake, in eastern Syria, where the civilian population has faced considerable hardship and suffering. In the region a precarious balance between the opposing forces (including Islamist militias), the Kurdish forces, the Syrian army is lived, fighting each other. The population pays the price that took to the streets — more than three thousand were present — with banners and slogans to demand “a future of peace and hope for Mesopotamia.” The participants, who gave birth to the “Association of solidarity with the families of those kidnapped,” marched from the headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Church to the city’s Palace of Justice, expressing their suffering and their demands. A memorandum was presented to the Public Prosecutor, asking him to carry out his tasks and asking the local government to provide protection to the innocent citizens…

Syria crisis: ‘Bodies of executed men’ found in Aleppo (BBC) The bodies of dozens of young men, all apparently summarily executed, have been found in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, rebels and activists say. At least 65 bodies were found on the banks of the Quwaiq River in the western district of Bustan al Qasr, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported. Most had their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds to the head. A captain in the rebel Free Syrian Army said some of those who had been killed were just teenagers. Few had means of identification. People were gathering at the bank to see if they could find their missing relatives, A.F.P. reported. “My brother disappeared weeks ago when he was crossing [through] the regime-held zone, and we don’t know where he is or what has become of him,” said Mohammed Abdul Aziz…

Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitan enthroned (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.) His Eminence Metropolitan Antony was enthroned on 26 January 2013 as the fourth metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America during a magnificent and traditional ceremony at St. Andrew the First Called Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Spring, MD. The Enthronement services were attended by more than 500 faithful and about 70 clergymen of the Metropolia and many visitors from across the country from various Orthodox and Catholic jurisdictions…

Orthodox Church in America enthrones metropolitan of All America and Canada (O.C.A.) On Sunday, 27 January 2013, His Beatitude Tikhon, archbishop of Washington, metropolitan of All America and Canada, was enthroned at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C. In attendance at the Enthronement were members of the Orthodox Church in America’s Holy Synod of Bishops and guests representing several Orthodox churches in North America and abroad. Metropolitan Tikhon was elected O.C.A. primate at the 17th All-American Council held in Parma, OH on Tuesday, 13 November 2012…

Israel gave birth control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent (The Independent) Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent. The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically. One of the Ethiopian women is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Israel Chaldean Church Orthodox Patriarchs

28 January 2013
Douglas May, M.M.

In this 1998 image, seminarians at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Seminary in Cairo gather
for prayer. (photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)

Father Douglas May grew up in a small town near Buffalo, New York, but now serves as a Maryknoll missionary in Cairo.

When an American, Latin rite Catholic priest finds himself living and working with Eastern Catholics among Muslims and Orthodox Christians, he is bombarded with emotions from awe and puzzlement to déjà vu and arrogance.

As a seminarian at Maryknoll 33 years ago, I found dogma, church history and liturgy boring as academic subjects. Since my first direct encounter with the Coptic and several other Eastern Catholic churches in Egypt 30 years ago, what I found boring on paper has been anything but boring in real life. As an “outsider,” there is so much richness to experience, history to fathom, wisdom to ponder, controversy to understand and a global church vision to offer.

The Coptic Church traces its history to ancient Alexandria and St. Mark the Evangelist. Egypt is the land of many prophets and church fathers. The monastic movement was founded in Egypt by two great monks, Anthony and Pachomius. Theologies and heresies battled here, causing schisms in the church that exist in some form even to this day.

One of the first schisms in Christian history regarded the essence of Jesus: Was he “true God and true Man?” The bishops of Rome and Alexandria parted ways after an ecumenical council in 451 offered a solution; which the church of Egypt largely resisted. What little remained of the Catholic Church in Egypt after that time was Greek-speaking and of the Byzantine tradition. And this disappeared after the Great Schism of 1054. Near the end of the 18th century, the Catholic Church tried to reestablish itself, but little happened until a group of Orthodox Copts entered the Catholic Church and formed a Coptic Catholic rite, which was later recognized by the Egyptian government in 1900. The first Coptic Catholic seminary was opened in that same year.

Since the seventh century, Islam in Egypt has grown — slowly — at the expense of the church. Egyptian churches struggled to preserve their identities while being tempted to “ghettoize” themselves.

Working with Eastern and Latin Catholics in Egypt, combined with having Muslim friends, has put me in a unique position. First, I felt like a “space invader” intruding into the many subcultures of Egypt as an unwelcome outsider. Now, I feel more like a “bee” buzzing from one subculture to the next, picking up “pollen” from one and leaving a little bit of it on another as well as on myself.

I find myself challenging some of what I encounter and being challenged by much more. In many ways, the reforms of Vatican II have just started to work their way into the Eastern churches. Vatican II was originally perceived as a Latin rite council that had little to say to the Eastern churches. Only in the last decade or two have the Eastern churches really had to deal with the social and ecclesial issues that the Western church has had to deal with for the last five decades.

For a decade, I often struggled with the clericalism and the rigidity of the formation-education style at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Seminary. There was a sense that the Coptic Catholic Church must live in the shadows of Islam, Orthodoxy and Latin Catholicism. When John Paul II came to Egypt in 2000, my friend, Amir, ran up to me after Mass all excited, saying: “This is the first time in my life that I have been proud to be Christian and Catholic at the same time!”

John Paul’s visit gave Egyptian Catholics a sense of global identity they had never experienced.

The Eastern Catholic churches of Egypt are beginning to emerge from these shadows. They are ready to offer their contributions to the world. A former Syriac Catholic bishop of Cairo and professor at the Coptic Catholic Seminary was, until recently, the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches in Rome. As a former patriarch, Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud’s outreach to his Orthodox counterpart was cited by some observer’s for his selection to the post by Pope John Paul II in 2001. They would often refer to themselves as “brother patriarchs” and “co-patriarchs,” which is seldom heard in Eastern church circles.

The former Armenian Catholic bishop in Cairo has been the Armenian Catholic patriarch for well over a decade, and he is following the lead of his Syriac Catholic colleague. The former Coptic Catholic Patriarch Cardinal Antonius Naguib (who resigned earlier this year for reasons of health), has encouraged the renewal of the Coptic tradition, maintaining for example the Eastern Christian tradition of a married and a celibate clergy; in the Eastern churches, celibacy is seen as part of a “monastic call” that does not always aid a diocesan priest in living a pastoral life of service.

Seminarians studying at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Seminary.
( photo: Mohammed El-Dakhakhny)

My challenge in Egypt, since the January Revolution began last year, is to encourage seminarians, priests and bishops to step out into the perilous world of social justice concerns. In Egypt, there are long-held traditions of religious and sexual discrimination in society along with denying the laity an active role in church affairs.

Acknowledging first the faults of my own country and church, I urge local church leaders to speak out and act on these issues. For example, 13 years ago I helped Bishop Ibrahim Sedrak, the former rector of the seminary, attend the Vatican II Institute renewal program in Menlo Park, California. It was a rewarding experience, and one I hope will help him in his new role as patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church.

During my ten years at the Coptic Catholic seminary, I would introduce social justice issues into all of my teaching and get the seminarians to view Egyptian issues in a more global and ecumenical context. I often exposed “blind spots” of injustice that may have been only visible to me as an “outsider,” and they often confronted me with my own personal, national and ecclesial blind spots.

I tried to bring Muslim, foreign and female friends to the seminary so that the seminarians could view my interactions. In my homilies at both the seminary and expatriate parishes where I still help out, I habitually insert justice and peace issues that seem to relate to the readings.

Over the years, I have drawn pictures of an Egyptian church building having all its doors and windows bricked up for fear of the outside world. Now, the Coptic and Eastern Catholic churches of the Egypt need to knock down these protective barriers and be new witnesses to what they can offer at home and be bold witnesses in what they can offer to the world.

It is an exciting adventure to be part of the process of a church risking its security and taking its place in the global Catholic community. Egypt’s Eastern Catholic churches are very much part of the mosaic that forms the Catholic Church.

Tags: Egypt Coptic Christians

28 January 2013
Greg Kandra

Ukrainian Bishop Peter Stasiuk celebrates the Divine Liturgy on Epiphany in Melbourne, Australia.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

Anyone who thinks Australia is just kangaroos and koala bears should check out Sean Sprague’s profile of the continent’s diverse religions from 2007:

Once Europeans gained a foothold on the continent, the native population, estimated at about 350,000 at the time of settlement, began its precipitous decline, due mainly to infectious diseases. Open land, a gold rush and the building of railroads generated an immigration boom — not limited to Europeans — in the mid-19th century. But reactionary, anti-Asian discriminatory practices soon generated laws restricting the settlement of Australia to northern Europeans alone. This “White Australia Policy,” enacted nationally in 1901, controlled immigration for more than four decades, until reforms in the second half of the 20th century all but eliminated its effectiveness.

In 1975, the Australian government passed the Racial Discrimination Act, which ended these racially based immigration policies. Subsequently, the country has seen an influx of non-European immigrants. In addition, the indigenous population has rebounded.

Among these recent arrivals have been Eastern Christians — Armenians and Assyrians; Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite Greek and Ukrainian Greek Catholics; and Coptic, Greek, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Syriac Orthodox — whose small but vibrant communities are developing a multicultural Australia. To learn more, I visited three.

Over a lunch of New Zealand mussels, kangaroo steaks and a bottle of local cabernet sauvignon, Bishop Peter Stasiuk, who prepared the meal with relish, spoke about his small but growing community of Ukrainian Greek Catholics. “Our liturgy attracts many outsiders, and several hundred have crossed over to join us, especially people wanting to become clergy.”

The Canadian-born bishop is responsible for 34,000 souls scattered throughout Australia and New Zealand. Most Ukrainian Greek Catholics, however, live in Melbourne and Sydney.

“There are 1.5 million Latin [Roman] Catholics in Melbourne, and many of our people attend their churches if they are closer to where they live.”

This back-and-forth is representative of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic experience in Australia, Bishop Peter said, an experience not unlike that of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in North America.

Read more about Diversity Down Under in the May 2007 issue of ONE.

Tags: Armenia Eastern Churches Greek Catholic Church Coptic Australia

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