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Winter, 2015
Volume 41, Number 4
  
5 February 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




A Syriac Christian venerates the Gospel at the Church of the Forty Martyrs in Mardin, Turkey. Reports today highlight the return of refugees to the Middle East after finding a cold welcome in Europe. In the Winter 2015 edition of ONE magazine, contributor Don Duncan takes us to southeastern Turkey, where a small but steady number of Syriac Christians have returned from years in exile to rebuild their homeland. (photo: Don Duncan)



5 February 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill reads a prayer during the Christmas service 7 January at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. After almost three decades of tense Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations, Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Kirill 12 February in Cuba, en route to Mexico.
(photo: CNS/Sergei Chirikov, EPA)


Pope, Russian Orthodox patriarch to meet in Cuba, Vatican announces (CNS) After almost three decades of tense Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations, Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Kirill of Moscow 12 February in Cuba on the pope’s way to Mexico. It will be the first-ever meeting of a pope and Moscow patriarch, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters 5 February...

Lebanese churches concerned about religious discrimination with regards to access to functions and public resources (Fides) Maronite bishops expressed their concern over the imbalance that is being produced regarding access to public offices and state financial resources, with silent discrimination that see Christians penalized. The concern emerged during the last monthly meeting of the Assembly of Maronite Bishops, who met on Wednesday, 3 February, at the patriarchal see in Bkerke, under the presidency of Patriarch Bechara Peter...

Syrian rebels are losing Aleppo and perhaps also the war (Washington Post) Syrian rebels battled for their survival in and around Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Thursday after a blitz of Russian airstrikes helped government loyalists sever a vital supply route and sent a new surge of refugees fleeing toward the border with Turkey...

Economic effect of Syrian war at $35 bn: World Bank (Al-Monitor) The devastating economic impact of the war in Syria and its spillover into nearby countries stands at $35 billion and climbing, the World Bank said. The estimate, included in a quarterly World Bank report on the Middle East and North Africa, was released on the same day that world leaders in London pledged more than $10 billion through 2020 to help the Syrians...

A seminar on the environment in Jordan (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) The Catholic Center for Studies and Media (C.C.S.M.), in cooperation with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung held on Saturday, 30 January 2016 a seminar titled, “Environment: The Common Home of Humanity.” C.C.S.M. Director Father Rif’at Bader said that the preservation of the environment has become one of the greatest global challenges facing humanity. He added that Pope Francis’ historic message of the environment titled, “Laudato Si on Care for Our Common Home” stresses that most the people living on Earth state that they are faithful which entails orchestrating inter-religious dialogue in order to care for the environment, to defend the poor, and to ensure respect for the other brethren...



21 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Vocations to religious life in Eritrea’s new Catholic Church enable it to educate, heal and care for its people. (photo: CNEWA)

Eritrea’s cultural roots run deep: Some 3,000 years ago, Semitic peoples from the Arabian Peninsula crossed the Red Sea and settled in the Horn of Africa. The successive cultures and empires they created — such as the Aksumite and the Abyssinian — are an inheritance Eritreans share with their symbiotic neighbors to the south, Ethiopians.

Eritreans and Ethiopians share many elements of a common history and culture, including the Christian faith and how it is expressed culturally. The vast majority of Christians in both countries share in the ancient traditions of the church as first developed in Alexandria, Egypt, and nurtured over the centuries in Abyssinia by monks and scribes and emperors. Employing the Ge’ez language, steeped in the traditions of the early church, and faithful to indigenous narratives as bulwarks against the influence of European Christianity, Eritrean and Ethiopian Christians are, for the most part, members of the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which also includes the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic and Syriac Orthodox churches.

Catholics are few, but they make up a disproportionately influential community in both countries. Until a year ago, they formed one church, centered in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa with jurisdictions in Eritrea and Ethiopia celebrating the sacraments in both the Ge’ez and Latin rites. However, last January, the bishop of Rome, Francis, erected a new Catholic Eastern church centered in the Eritrean capital of Asmara.

The Eritrean Catholic Church is now a sui iuris (meaning “of its own right”) metropolitan church and is subject directly to the Holy See. The seat of the metropolitan archbishop is Asmara and includes the eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Seghenity, all of which utilize the ancient Ge’ez rites and traditions, although a few communities continue to use the Latin rite.

Metropolitan Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.J., leads an estimated 160,000 Eritrean Catholics, and includes a large number of men and women religious who administrate schools, child care facilities and other social service initiatives.

This concludes CNEWA’s series of summaries of the Eastern churches — which may be accessed always from the icon on the blog homepage titled, “Spotlight on the Eastern Churches.” We hope you found this series, which includes links to the more detailed series written for ONE magazine, useful and enlightening.



Tags: Eastern Churches Eritrea Eastern Catholic Churches Eritrean Catholic Church

21 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Parishioners of Holy Family Chaldean Mission in Phoenix, Arizona, pray during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)

Read more about the settling of Iraqi Christians in the American Southwest in ONE magazine’s winter edition.



21 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Girls rest after drawing water from a pump built by the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat of the Eparchy of Adigrat near the village of Mawo. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Caritas warns about threat of famine in Ethiopia (Vatican Radio) The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Michel Roy, says the drought in Ethiopia and resulting food shortages means that the nation could slide into a famine situation later this year unless prompt action is taken to tackle this shortfall...

No one is excluded from the mercy of God, pope says at audience (CNS) The pope said that although divisions are often caused by selfishness, the common baptism shared by Christians is an experience of being “called from the merciless and alienating darkness” to an encounter with God who is “full of mercy...”

Lebanon’s Christian foes become friends (Al-Monitor) The meeting 18 January between the leaders of the two largest Christian parties and parliamentary blocs in Lebanon — Gen. Michel Aoun, former leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform bloc, and Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces — can be described as a miracle...

Vocations bloom in the desert: two priests are ordained in United Arab Emirates (CNA) Last week Catholics in Southern Arabia gathered in Abu Dhabi to celebrate the ordination of two Capuchin Franciscan priests by Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia...

Armine Sahakyan: The double-edged sword of Russia’s build-up in Armenia (KyivPost) The Russians are rapidly building up their two military bases in Armenia — and cranking up their PR machine to make sure everyone in the region knows take notice...



14 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Every year thousands of Orthodox Christian pilgrims arrive at the holy mount of Grabarka, some walking many hundreds of kilometers. The pilgrims gather at Grabarka Hill to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration on 19 August. The hill and church are the holiest location for Poland’s 1 percent Orthodox Christians. (photo: Guy Corbishley/Getty Images)

Though Poles and Russians stem from the same Slavic roots, the two peoples developed radically different — and at times polar opposite — orientations. Not unlike the saga of the Polish nation, the chronicles of the Orthodox Church in Poland reveal the struggles of a faith community squeezed between the Latin West and the Russian East.

World War I changed the map of Europe. The Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian empires collapsed, and from the carnage emerged nation states whose peoples longed for self-determination: Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Poland was created by the victorious Allies as a bulwark to a Russia embroiled in revolution and civil war. Its leaders attempted to emulate the ethnically diverse Polish-Lithuanian state that had once dominated Central Europe until its dismemberment by Austria, Prussia and Russia in the late 18th century.

Resurrected Poland absorbed huge tracts of land and included millions of ethnic Belarussians, Czechs, Germans, Jews, Roma, Russians, Rusyns, Slovaks and Ukrainians — a third of the new nation’s 30 million people. Up to five million of these new Polish citizens professed Orthodox Christianity, a faith long identified with Poland’s neighbor and foe, Russia.

By 1938, and not without its share of controversy, the Orthodox patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow had the independence of a newly organized Orthodox Church of Poland. The state, too, recognized the church.

Wary of the rise of Hitler and the growing power of Stalin, Poland’s government grew increasingly insecure and nationalistic, suspecting the loyalties of Poland’s Orthodox citizens. Despite the protestations of respected church leaders such as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Metropolitan of Lviv, Archbishop Andrei Sheptytsky, local governments shuttered Orthodox and Greek Catholic sanctuaries, turned some over to Latin Catholic authorities and razed others.

Hitler’s pact with Stalin in the autumn of 1939, which again erased Poland from the map, suspended these acts of hostility, as large numbers of Orthodox Christians were reintegrated with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Click here to read more.



12 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Most Orthodox Christians in Estonia fall under the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarch. Here in 2003, then Patriarch Alexei II prayed at the grave of his parents in Tallin, Estonia.
(photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)


Tucked in a remote corner of northern Europe on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, lie the republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These nation states possess distinct cultures, languages and peoples, yet they have shared a common history and fate. Squeezed between larger and more powerful peoples — Danes and Germans to the west, Swedes to the north, Poles to the south and Russians to the east — theirs is a history of domination and subjugation. Each neighboring power has struggled to capture their hearts, minds, souls and wealth.

The Baltic tribes — Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians — were the last European peoples to embrace Christianity. At the end of the 12th century, Pope Celestine III called for a campaign of conversion. These “Northern Crusades,” conducted by military orders allied with the Catholic kings of Denmark and Sweden, succeeded in converting the Baltic peoples by the 14th century.

Christianity, however, was not unknown among them. was not unknown among them. The Slavs of Kievan Rus’, especially those in the nearby city of Novgorod, had established mission churches throughout the Baltic region since they had embraced Christianity in its Byzantine form in the tenth century. The Kievan Rus’ — whose descendants today include Belarussians, Carpatho-Rusyns, Russians and Ukrainians — maintained close trading partnerships with the various Baltic tribes, whose amber, flax, honey and timber were particularly valued. Some Baltic tribal leaders even adopted the Byzantine religion of the Rus’, erected churches and ordered their peoples to be baptized and instructed in the faith.

Estonia’s Orthodox community is divided along ethnic lines. Soon after Estonia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, a dispute developed within the church between ethnic Estonians and ethnic Slavs, mostly Russians. A minority of believers, ethnic Estonians, sought to reestablish an autonomous church under the jurisdiction of the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople. The majority wished to maintain their relationship with the patriarchate of Moscow.

Eventually, the two sides agreed on a resolution that allowed individual parishes to decide which jurisdiction to follow. Consequently, there are two Orthodox churches of Estonia.

The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, is led by Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia and includes some 20,000 members in 60 parishes.

The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, led by Metropolitan Cornelius of Tallinn and All Estonia, encompasses more than 150,000 members in 31 parishes.

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Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Estonia

7 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




The Orthodox community in the Alaskan village of Tatitlik was greatly affected by the ecological disaster that resulted from the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in 1989.
(photo: David McNew/Getty Images)


North America is a mosaic of ethnic groups and religions. Orthodox Christians are a tiny minority — about 0.65 percent — and include no more than three million of an estimated 460 million people living in Canada, Mexico and the United States. What they may lack in volume, however, North American Orthodox Christians make up in variety. They comprise immigrants and their descendants from Asia Minor, the Balkans, Europe and the Middle East, as well as Alaska Natives and recent converts, especially from the reformed churches.

The ancient rites of the church of Byzantium unite these Orthodox Christians. Rooted in the New World for more than a century, these North American churches retain strong bonds with the Old World, are divided into a number of ethnic jurisdictions — Albanian, Arab, Belarussian, Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Russian, Rusyn, Serbian and Ukrainian — and typically celebrate the divine mysteries in their respective liturgical languages.

One body has attempted to transcend these cultural differences. Originally a jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Russia, the Orthodox Church in America was established in 1970 and is led by a primate with the title of archbishop of Washington, metropolitan of all America and Canada.

Supreme canonical authority in the Orthodox Church in America rests with a synod of bishops from the 14 jurisdictions that compose this autocephalous, or independent, church. In addition, the Orthodox Church in America includes ethnic Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian eparchies and jurisdictions in Canada and Mexico.

In English-speaking Canada and the United States, English is the norm in most liturgical services. Yet other languages may be used depending on the pastoral needs of the parish.

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Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Orthodox

5 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Orthodox Christians light candles as they celebrate Orthodox Easter during a midnight liturgy at the cathedral in Korca, Albania. (photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images)

The creation of the Orthodox Church of Albania began not in remote Albania — a nation in southeastern Europe — but in Boston, Massachusetts. There, in 1908, free from the constraints of Ottoman Turkish oppression and Greek domination, Albanian-American Orthodox Christians formed an ethnic Albanian church, Byzantine in ethos and Orthodox in faith. Four years later — after a rump Albanian state was carved from the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire — serious discussions surfaced in the homeland concerning the establishment of an independent Orthodox Church of Albania.

Since its inception a century ago, this Christian community has suffered greatly, especially during the Marxist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. In 1967, Hoxha declared Albania the world’s first atheistic state, targeting the country’s Catholic, Muslim and Orthodox communities equally. He jailed the nation’s Orthodox bishops and clergy; an unknown number were murdered. His henchmen shuttered monasteries and pulled down hundreds of churches, converting the remaining sanctuaries into cinemas, clubs, gymnasiums and stables.

Hoxha’s campaign desolated the Orthodox Church. After his death in 1985, and the subsequent collapse of the Marxist government six years later, a representative of the Orthodox ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople toured the country — only 15 clergymen and a handful of laity remained to greet him.

Orthodox Christians once accounted for some 20 percent of Albania’s population; most were “Tosks,” a term that describes a collection of Albanian tribes concentrated in the southern half of the country. Latin Catholics, concentrated among the “Ghegs” in the north, included about 10 percent of the population. Muslims dominated both groups, but all Albanians, Tosks and Ghegs, descended from Christian families who embraced Islam after the Ottomans began to subdue the Balkans in the 15th century.

Today, most Albanians, while conscious of the cultural, religious and tribal identities of their forebears, remain largely aloof from religion. About a third of Albania’s 2.9 million people practice some form of religious faith. Muslims — primarily Sunnis or Bektashi, a Sufi sect — dominate the religious landscape, followed by Orthodox and Catholic Christians.

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29 December 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita




An Orthodox priest holds a cross during the Meskel festival in Asmara, where thousands of people have gathered in the Eritrean capital to celebrate the finding of Christ’s cross by Saint Helen, some 1700 years ago. (photo: Nicolas Germain/AFP/Getty Images)

Though Eritrea’s political history began some 23 years ago, this northeast African nation has rich cultural roots dating back some 3,000 years, when Semitic peoples from the Arabian Peninsula first crossed the Red Sea and settled in the Horn of Africa. These cultural roots are not exclusively Eritrean, but a shared legacy with its symbiotic neighbor to the south, Ethiopia.

While Eritreans and Ethiopians share many elements of a common history and culture, Eritreans have forged a separate identity. Perhaps the single greatest element binding the two nations — the Christian faith and its cultural expression — may best have influenced the evolution of Eritrean self-determination.

Of the nation’s 6.3 million people, more than 50 percent are Christian. Although Catholics and evangelical Protestants are prominent in various ministries, most Christians belong to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. About 45 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim; animists and unbelievers make up the balance of the population. There have been some tensions among the religious communities, particularly with the influx of evangelical Christian missionaries from the United States, but generally these communities coexist harmoniously.

Historically, Eritrea’s Orthodox Christians have played a prominent role: advocating common bonds with Ethiopians; condemning Ethiopian atrocities and sheltering soldiers in monasteries in times of war; issuing calls for peace with their Ethiopian colleagues; providing care to all Eritreans in need, regardless of creed. Since independence, Eritrea’s Orthodox Church has been reorganized, its strengthened administrative structure poised to make an even greater impact.


Eritrean youth celebrate in Asmara during a colorful Epiphany festival. The festival, also known as ‘Timkat’ in the local Tigrinya language, is a commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus observed annually among the Orthodox Christians. (photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Until 1991, Eritrea’s Orthodox Christians formed a single diocese of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In July 1993 — just a few months after Eritreans overwhelmingly approved independence from Ethiopia — a delegation of Eritrean Orthodox Christians, bearing a letter of support from Eritrea’s respected Orthodox leader, Abune Philipos, visited the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, in Cairo. They appealed for his support for the canonical erection of an independent Eritrean Orthodox Church that would nevertheless remain in full communion with the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches.

Pope Shenouda subsequently recognized their request. A signed protocol provided for strengthening cooperation between the two churches, including a joint general synod at least every three years; the formation of a common theological dialogue team; and the creation of a permanent committee to tackle theological formation, catechesis, youth and family programs, social services and development projects.

The then patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Paulos, also sanctioned the new church’s self-governance and issued a joint statement with Abune Philipos pledging mutual support.

In July 1994 Pope Shenouda consecrated five bishops, all drawn from Eritrea’s monasteries, who were elected to serve as diocesan bishops. These five men formed the nucleus of a synod that eventually elected the 96-year-old Abune Philipos, heralded by Eritreans as “the father of resistance to Ethiopian oppression,” as patriarch in 1998.

Click here to read more about the church and its subsequent development.



Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Eritrea





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