30 January 2019
Jesuit Father Paolo Dall'Oglio is pictured celebrating Mass 3 March 2008. Pope Francis met with family members of the Italian Jesuit, whose fate is still unknown after he was kidnapped in Syria in 2013. (photo: CNS/P. Razzo, CIRIC, via Catholic Press Photo)
Pope Francis met with family members of the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, the Italian Jesuit whose fate is still unknown after he was kidnapped in Syria in 2013.
Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, told reporters on 30 January that the pope held the private audience at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
The meeting took place in “a particularly cordial atmosphere,” Gisotti said, and included Father Dall’Oglio’s mother, four sisters and one brother.
“The audience represents the pope’s affection and proximity toward the family of the Italian Jesuit who was kidnapped in Syria in July of 2013.”
The pope met with family members on another occasion at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome in July 2014 — just a few days after the first anniversary of the priest’s disappearance.
The Italian missionary was a respected promoter of peace and Christian-Muslim dialogue in Syria.
Witnesses had reported that on the day the priest disappeared he was going to speak to leaders at the Islamic State headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, to try to persuade them to release several hostages being held there.
13 December 2018
Tags: Syria Pope Francis
Austrian Scout Niklas Lehner poses with a Greek Orthodox priest in the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, where Christ was born. Niklas had just kindled the flame that would be known as the Peace Light from Bethlehem and would be spread around the world.
(photo: CNS/courtesy ORF)
Brian Duane’s maroon Subaru had already covered about 1,800 miles when he pulled into the parking lot at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette on 4 December.
It was Duane’s 18th stop in what would be a weeklong, cross-country journey for the resident of Pembroke, Massachusetts, and his car contained precious cargo with a radiance of goodwill.
This road trip was a mission from Bethlehem carrying a message of peace, contained in a glowing lantern.
This fire had originally been kindled at Christ’s birthplace, the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank. Duane is part of a national network of volunteers spreading this “Peace Light from Bethlehem” across the nation.
“It is symbolic of Christ’s love for us and of the Prince of Peace,” Duane told Catholic News Service. “It serves as a reminder to us.”
For more than a decade, volunteers like Duane have driven this flame from coast to coast, lighting hundreds of lanterns along the route.
The effort to spread the Peace Light is spearheaded by Scouts and Scouting advisers, most often associated with Catholic churches.
The goal is to kindle peace in all hearts by remembering Christ’s mission began in Bethlehem.
“It’s symbolic, but it’s the effort, the coming together, the dedication to peace and heading home and spreading the message, even at the family level,” said Bob McLear, who lives west of Chicago.
McLear planned to take the light from Lafayette back to his parish in Batavia, Illinois, and pass it off to another volunteer headed to Madison, Wisconsin.
The Peace Light’s journey can be traced back to a tradition in Austria. For the past 32 years, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF has sent a child to Bethlehem to kindle a flame from the oil lamps hanging above Christ’s birthplace.
The fire, stored in two explosion-proof miner’s lanterns, is then flown with a safety adviser back to Europe, where it is spread to more than 30 countries.
“The reaction of the people touched my heart,” said Wolfgang Kerndler, a security expert for Austrian Airlines, who has escorted the flame for about two decades.
“Even the crew is proud to be part of the operation,” Kerndler told CNS in an email. “It’s an honor.”
The Peace Light first arrived in the United States in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The Austrian government and national Scouting association sent the flame with a VIP delegation to comfort the grieving nation.
“New York City really was devastated,” said Paul Stanton, the international representative for New York City with the Boy Scouts of America.
“It was a great sign of kindness from the people of the world,” he told CNS in a phone interview from New York City.
The light has been flown by Austrian Airlines to New York every year since. Stanton helps to organize the official reception at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
This year, about 150 adults and children gathered at the airport’s Our Lady of the Skies Chapel to welcome the light of peace and kindle their own flames.
“The youth are needing to know that there is hope, but they also need to know if there is going to be a better world, it will start with them,” Stanton said.
Duane was at the chapel to light his lanterns and begin his journey.
From New York, he drove as far west as Denver, before heading back to Massachusetts, logging more than 5,400 miles.
Along the way, Duane stopped at 26 locations to meet volunteers, participate in ceremonies and pass on the flame.
“I’ve walked into so many different places, a very liberal congregation, a very conservative congregation,” he said, “and yet we all agree on the need for peace and civility.”
Duane arrived in Indianapolis on 4 December, where more than 60 people, mostly children, gathered at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish to welcome him and spread the flame from Bethlehem. Lanterns and candles lined the altar.
“I think that it’s really beautiful and I’m really happy that we came,” said Eliza Frank, a student at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.
“We hear about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, but we never actually see anything from there or go there, so I thought that was really cool,” Frank said.
When Duane arrived at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette later that evening, nearly 100 Scouts and parents were present to spread the light. Even the youngest were challenged to share the flame with at least three other people in their local community, spreading hope and peace in the process.
“To the people out there that don’t have a chance to get the peace light,” said John Niemann, an Eagle Scout and student at Purdue University, “you can still hold Christ’s peace in your heart throughout this Christmas season and really strive to have that, even though you can’t physically have the flame with you.”
The Peace Light was set to reach California by 13 December and is reported to burn in more than 30 states.
A Facebook page set up by volunteers mapped out the spread of the Peace Light and continues to field requests from individuals wishing to take the flame to their own communities.
In most cases, the lanterns lit by the Peace Light will illuminate congregations and homes through the Christmas season. Duane hopes that those lights serve as a constant reminder that small actions, like small lanterns, have the power to light a darkened world.
“We sometimes feel overwhelmed when there’s major conflicts going on in the Middle East or wherever it happens to be,” Duane said.
“Like, what can I do? Well, I can be kind and gentle to my family, my neighbors, the lady at the store, everybody else. Be a vehicle of peace, be a vessel of peace,” he said.
Check out the video about the Peace Light below, produced by Katie Rutter for CNS:
4 December 2018
The Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East gathered for its annual meeting 26-30 November in Baghdad under the theme "Youth is a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries." (photo: CNS/courtesy Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East)
Catholic leaders of the Middle East cautioned that the very existence of Christians in the region is threatened, but their faithful continue “to bear witness to the Lord Jesus amid a turbulent world interrupted by mighty waves.”
The Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East reminded young people: “In light of the difficulties and challenges you face in the midst of the current situation in the Middle East, and in light of the bleak migration that threatens your future and the Christian presence in the East as a whole, we stand by you. As we share the same present pain, we look forward to a bright future with your presence, and we assure you that we will work together to provide the foundations of your steadfastness and steadfastness in your land.”
The patriarchs met in Baghdad 26-30 November with the theme, “Youth Is a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries.”
Cardinal Louis Sako, patriarch of Chaldean Catholics, opened the meeting and noted that emigration and religious extremism are pressing challenges.
At a 27 November liturgy at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph, overflowing with young people who shared their questions, concerns, fears and aspirations for their future with the prelates, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said: “We live in this terrible legacy that we have inherited in recent years. Today, many people want to leave because of the difficulties and pain created by takfiri terrorism and external interference.”
However, Patriarch Younan exhorted, “If we want to be faithful and faithful to our fathers and grandfathers, we must remain steadfast despite all the challenges.”
The patriarchs also concelebrated the liturgy on 26 November at the Syriac Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad, marking the attack there eight years ago in which two young priests and 45 believers were martyred.
In their final statement, the patriarchs called upon Iraq’s officials “to work hand in hand to renew the country and its development.”
The patriarchs also met with Iraqi President Barham Salih, who was received by Pope Francis at the Vatican on 24 November. The president told the prelates that he had invited the pope to visit Iraq.
Regarding Syria, the patriarchs expressed satisfaction “with the stability in most parts of the country, where life has returned to normal, hoping that this will include stability in all of Syria.” They appealed “to all decision-makers to work hard for the return” of displaced people and refugees, which they stressed “will have a profound impact” on maintaining national unity “so that Syria will remain the land of peace, freedom and dignity.”
In their statement, the Middle East patriarchs affirmed their solidarity with Palestine and its people “who still groan under the occupation and long for the dawn of salvation and independence.” They called upon the international community to “recognize the Palestinian state within the framework of the two states and the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.”
They also urged respect for religious minorities, adding, “The truth, as Pope Benedict XVI warns us, is that ‘peace and justice in our world cannot be achieved if religious freedoms are not respected for all.’“
19 November 2018
Tags: Iraq Middle East
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, chat during the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon meeting in Bkerke, Lebanon.
(photo: CNS photo/courtesy Mychel Akl for the Maronite patriarchate)
Lebanon’s Catholic religious leaders appealed to the international community to stop the wars in the Middle East and to bring about a comprehensive and just peace.
In a statement following its 12 — 16 November annual meeting, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon urged Catholics “to endure the grace of God in the hope of rebuilding their homelands with their Muslim brothers in equal and responsible citizenship.”
The prelates expressed their “anguish at the continuation of the wars in the Middle East, which continue to destabilize the peace, wreak havoc, destroy and displace citizens.” Reiterating their condemnation “of violence in all its forms,” they called for constructive dialogue among officials.
The patriarchs and bishops appealed to “the international community and concerned states” to stop wars in the region and “to bring about a comprehensive and just peace and to work seriously for the return of displaced persons, refugees, abductees and deportees to their countries, homes and properties.”
Lebanon continues to host more than 1 million Syrian refugees.
In their statement, the church leaders affirmed the principles that have been proclaimed by Pope Francis regarding the Middle East: that peace is a condition for Christians to remain in their homelands; that there is no Middle East without Christians, who are a factor of equilibrium and stability in it; and that citizens have the duty to defend the rights of individuals and minorities.
Turning with urgency to the continuing impasse in forming Lebanon’s government more than five months after parliamentary elections, the prelates said it is unacceptable that the government still does not exist.
They urged all the political parties concerned to facilitate the formation of the government, “today before tomorrow.” They pointed to “the loss of mutual trust, the absence of internal unity and the tyranny of private interests, as well as external interference” as reasons for the deadlock.
They applauded “with all the Lebanese -- at home and abroad -- the historic reconciliation” of two rival Maronite Catholic political leaders after more than four decades of enmity. Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces political party, and Suleiman Frangieh Jr., head of the Marada party, have been foes since the early days of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.
Their formal reconciliation took place on 14 November under the patronage of Cardinal Bechara Rai at Bkerke, Maronite patriarch. The two Maronite leaders signed a document confirming their “joint will to turn the page of the past and move on toward new horizons” in their relations “at the human, social, political and national levels for the years to come.”
13 November 2018
Tags: Lebanon Middle East
Melkite Catholic bishops from around the world are seen on 7 November for their synod in Rabweh, Lebanon under the leadership of Patriarch Joseph Absi (seated center).
(photo: CNS/courtesy Melkite Catholic Synod)
Melkite Catholic bishops from around the world, meeting for their synod, criticized the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories and rejected Israel’s Nation State Law.
In a final statement following their 5-10 November synod in Rabweh, Lebanon, the bishops underscored “the seriousness of the oppression and the violation of the rights of innocent citizens” in the Palestinian territories and called upon “stakeholders to find the best ways to stop the tragedy of the Palestinian people.” The bishops appealed to the Palestinians “to unite their forces in the face of the new reality that is intended to be imposed on them.”
The bishops also rejected the Nation State Law passed by the Israeli Knesset on 19 July. The law limits the promotion and protection offered by the State of Israel to “Jewish citizens of the state of Israel.”
In their statement, the bishops said they support the position taken by Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. That group’s 31 October statement said: “We must draw the attention of the authorities to a simple fact: Our faithful, the Christians, our fellow citizens, Muslim, Druze and Baha’i, all of us who are Arabs, are no less citizens of this country than our Jewish brothers and sisters.” That statement, signed by 25 prelates representing the Latin, Armenian, Melkite, Chaldean, Maronite and Syriac churches, called on Israel to rescind the law.
Addressing the general situation in the Middle East, the Melkite bishops voiced concern about “the deteriorating economic situation that makes most people suffer under the problem of poverty and need.”
They warned that such an atmosphere can be used “by those with influence and power to continue to control people in need.” The bishops appealed “to those concerned -- wherever they may be -- to work for the lifting of social injustice and the achievement of justice, in the interests of humanity and for the preservation of dignity.”
Regarding Lebanon, the Melkite bishops expressed their concern about the delay in the formation of a new government as the country’s rival political parties have yet to reach consensus since parliamentary elections in May. The bishops urged all parties “to put narrow interests aside and cooperate to speed up the formation of a government in order to mitigate the adverse negative effects of the delay at all levels.”
As for neighboring Syria, the bishops expressed their satisfaction “at the decline in fighting in most areas” in the country, the establishment of security and safety, the start of reconstruction and the return of refugees to their homes. They renewed their determination “to pursue the work of the church in order to alleviate the suffering of their children at all levels.”
24 September 2018
Tags: Lebanon Melkite
In this image from 2016, Abraham George, an Ethiopian Catholic, carries the cross during the Sunday Divine Liturgy in Bahir Dar. Priests, bishops, religious and lay people from Ethiopia, Eritrea and other East Africa countries are planning a Synod of Bishops, set to take place next month at the Vatican. (photo: James Jeffrey)
Due to its impact on young Catholics in Africa, fundamentalism will be a topic that bishops from East Africa prioritize in their talks with other delegates during the synod’s intervention sessions.
More than 300 delegates, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, sisters and laypeople are expected to attend the 3-28 October Synod of Bishops, which will meet at the Vatican to discuss “young people, faith and vocational discernment.”
Bishops from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa also will take to the synod topics such as young people as protagonists, the training of spiritual directors and holistic formation in Catholic schools and universities.
Known by its acronym AMECEA, the group includes the bishops’ conferences of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, Djibouti and Somalia.
Maryknoll Rev. Joseph Healey, a facilitator at AMECEA’s preparatory meeting on the synod, said young Catholics in Africa want their peers to run their small Christian communities.
“A survey we have carried out in the AMECEA region and beyond in Africa has shown that our young people ... are no longer comfortable” in small Christian communities run by adult Catholics, he told Catholic News Service on 17 September. “They are today calling for the formation of their own [communities].”
Father Emmanuel Chimombo of Malawi, AMECEA pastoral coordinator, told CNS on 18 September that the 12 bishops at the Nairobi meeting also discussed integral education and formation in Catholic institutions, the digital world and its impact on young people, and situations of war, violence and young migrants.
The meeting also addressed uncertainty, hope, fear and unemployment, enjoyment of the liturgy and the vocational status of single persons with no particular consecration, he said.
The bishops considered these and other topics after they had deliberated extensively on the synod’s “instrumentum laboris” (“working document”), Father Chimombo said.
Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, Ethiopian Catholic Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, Archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye of Lilongwe, Malawi, and Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri, Kenya, are among the delegates from the East African region who will attend the synod.
The AMECEA meeting took place with financial support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
7 September 2018
Tags: Ethiopia Eritrea
An icon of the Blessed Mother and the infant Jesus is seen as pilgrims walk in a procession to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church on 26 August. (photo: CNS/ Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness)
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, seems an unlikely place for a pilgrimage.
Located on a lonely tree-filled hilltop, above a famous but mostly abandoned town, this church built in 1911 could have been forgotten. Instead, with its three onion-shaped domes, it stands as a testament to faith in tough times and places.
Centralia’s claim to fame isn’t the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but the fire burning in a network of mines underneath the town since 1962. That fire eventually sent poisonous gases into homes and businesses.
As a result, most residents moved out using money from a federal relocation program. Hundreds of buildings were demolished. Today, less than a dozen people live in Centralia, often called a ghost town.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church is the only church left of the seven once here. Among them was St. Ignatius Catholic Church, where Masses were celebrated just a year after the Diocese of Harrisburg was established in 1868. Once home to 3,000 members, a parochial school, convent and cemetery, St. Ignatius was directly affected by the fire in the early 1980s. The last Mass celebrated there was on 25 June 1995. St. Ignatius Church was razed in November 1997. Today, its cemetery is the only standing reminder of the once flourishing parish.
Still, people of faith continue to be drawn to the church on the hill and hundreds traveled there 26 August for the third annual Marian pilgrimage.
“We’re located on the side of a mountain, a place conducive to meditation and prayer,” said the Rev. Michael Hutsko, an archpriest who is pastor of the church. The church was declared a Ukrainian Catholic pilgrimage site in 2015.
Pilgrims came from Pennsylvania and nearby states for the day of prayer led by four bishops with three Catholic traditions: Ukrainian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic.
“It’s a time to place your heart, soul and mind in the hands of our Savior and ask him to heal all of us, bring us peace and strengthen our faith,” Father Hutsko said.
The day of prayer included a Divine Liturgy with responses sung by the choir of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, a living rosary and a procession to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” which is a service asking for the mother of God’s intercession.
Pilgrims sang the traditional Akathist hymn to Mary, the mother of God.
In his homily, Bishop Andriy Rabiy, apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, thanked the pilgrims for journeying to this holy mountain, where “you can feel something special, the presence of God.” He was accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of the archeparchy.
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Latin-rite Diocese of Harrisburg urged the pilgrims to “take time and meditate on each prayer at each bead” when praying the rosary.
At the prayer service, Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey, talked about forgiveness and “fresh beginnings.” When he had needed to forgive, he was given the strength to do so, he said. “I prayed in front of the icon of Mary and asked her to pray for someone. After a while, it worked. God softened the hardness of my heart.”
Assumption’s parishioners know all about challenges. Most lost their family homes due to the mine fires. They also worried about losing their church.
While they were relocating, there was talk about demolishing Assumption. That plan was dropped after a survey done under the church indicated that it was built on solid rock, not coal.
Although the vast majority of Assumption’s parishioners moved out of Centralia, 50 of them still faithfully attend Divine Liturgy every Sunday morning, Father Hutsko said.
“We have members whose families belonged to this church for generations,” he said. “We also have new members. We’re a prayerful church where faith is expressed in an open and real way.”
Joanne Panko, who relocated to nearby Numidia, is the third generation of her family to belong to Assumption. She is raising her children in that church too.
“My grandparents went to Assumption,” she said. “My parents were married there. I was baptized and married there. My parents were buried from there. My three children were baptized there. It’s a big part of my life.”
4 September 2018
Tags: Ukrainian Catholic Church
An overhead view taken with a drone in early June shows the clock tower of the rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria. Pope Francis appealed for peace and dialogue as the Syrian government and its allies prepare to launch strikes against the Idlib province.
(photo: CNS /Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)
Pope Francis appealed for peace and dialogue as the Syrian government and its allies prepare to launch strikes against the last major rebel stronghold in Idlib province in the country’s northwest.
Speaking to hundreds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address on 2 September, the pope warned that “the winds of war continue to blow” in the already war-weary country.
An attack against the Syrian province’s nearly 3 million people, he said, would cause “a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“I renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community and to all the actors involved to make use of the instruments of diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations, in compliance with international humanitarian law and to safeguard the lives of civilians,” the pope said.
Several world leaders had expressed concern over the looming attack and the possible use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces.
Syrian army warplanes allegedly flew over and bombed the eastern town of Douma, 15 miles north of Damascus, in a suspected chemical-weapon attack 7 April. Despite the accounts of witnesses, the Syrian government denied involvement in the attack.
The pope’s appeal echoed the sentiments of the United Nations and the United States, who have expressed similar concerns and fears that Syria, led by President Bashir al-Assad, would use chemical weapons against innocent civilians.
Antonio Guterres, U.N. secretary-general, urged Syria and its allies, which include Russia, Turkey and Iran, “to exercise restraint and to prioritize the protection of civilians.”
“The secretary-general is deeply concerned about the growing risks of a humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full-scale military operation in Idlib province in Syria. The secretary-general once again reaffirms that any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable,” a U.N. statement said on 29 August.
On the same day Pope Francis made his appeal, U.S. President Donald Trump warned President al-Assad to “not recklessly attack Idlib province” and said Syria and its allies would be “making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!” President Trump tweeted.
27 July 2018
Tags: Syria Pope Francis
Bishop Milan Lach holds up an icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha, the Ruthenian bishop of Mukachevo, Ukraine, who was killed by the communists in the 20th century. The icon was presented to him by Bishop Milan Sasik, right, the current bishop of Mukachevo. He attended Bishop Lach's Divine Liturgy of enthronement at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio on 30 June. (photo: CNS/Reen Nemeth, Horizons)
At 44, Bishop Milan Lach is the fifth bishop of the Byzantine Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma and the youngest bishop to head a diocese in North America.
He also is the third-youngest Eastern Catholic bishop to head a diocese and the first foreign-born bishop for an eparchy that comprises 12 states in the Midwest.
A native of Slovakia, Bishop Lach is among about a dozen bishops from other countries that Pope Francis has appointed to the United States.
He was enthroned recently as Parma’s bishop during a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, after having served as its apostolic administrator since 24 June 2017. He succeeds Bishop John M. Kudrick, who resigned in May 2016.
Bishop Lach, who is a Jesuit, has visited almost every parish and mission of the eparchy since his arrival to the United States last summer and has established pastoral priorities that include youth, evangelization, and parish reorganization.
Byzantine Catholic Bishop Milan Chautur of Kosice, Slovakia, who was present for the 30 June enthronement, said his “wish for all the faithful” in the United States is that they receive Bishop Lach “as a gift from the Slovak church.”
“After the fall of communism, we immediately turned to the Greek Catholic Church in America for material needs, to build churches again. We were liquidated for 18 years (under communism),” the 60-year-old prelate told Horizons, newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma.
But now, with the Slovak Eastern Catholic Church strongly re-established, there may be an opportunity to return the favor, he said.
“We sense that, compared with us, there is a certain crisis of vocations and in the spiritual life (in the United States),” he said. “So, just as we received material gifts after the fall of communism, now we can repay with spiritual gifts.”
Bishop Chautur, who is a Redemptorist, said he attended the enthronement because he realized the importance of maintaining a connection between the Byzantine Catholic churches in the United States and Europe.
“There are people who came (to the United States) 10 years ago or 100 years ago, and they still carry within them the Gospel they received from their forefathers,” he said.
At the same time, he acknowledged the mission of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the U.S. is to minister and to be open to the diversity in American society.
“It is important to understand the roots (of the church), but it has to be open to everybody, all races, everyone is welcome,” he said. “The church has to fulfill its missionary vocation.”
The early Christians “didn’t stay in the ethnic ghetto, but they went to the whole world,” he said. “It is good to understand where we come from, but to spring up new offshoots. This was the foundation we have received, and now we need to build a new church, with new growth, open to everyone.”
Bishop Chautur, who ordained Bishop Lach a deacon in 2000 and a priest a year later, was one of three European bishops at the enthronement.
The other concelebrating Catholic bishops included Bishop Kudrick; Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey; Bishop John S. Pazak of Byzantine Eparchy Phoenix, Bishop Bohdan Danylo of the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Josaphat, also based in Parma; Bishop Nelson J. Perez of the Latin-rite Diocese of Cleveland; Auxiliary Bishop Neal J. Buckon of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; Ruthenian Bishop Milan Sasik of Mukachevo, Ukraine; and Bishop Abel Socska of Nyiregyhaza, Hungary.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, presided at the enthronement, attended by 400 people. The liturgy also was livestreamed. He read the letter of the pope appointing Bishop Lach to Parma, as well as a message from the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.
Byzantine Archbishop William C. Skurla, metropolitan archbishop of Pittsburgh, was the main celebrant and homilist. He urged Bishop Lach in his homily to use his “energy to enliven the spiritual life of the church and protect it from the challenges of secularism and materialism which undermine the faith of our people.”
At the end of liturgy, Bishop Sasik presented Bishop Lach with an icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha, the Ruthenian bishop of Mukachevo who was martyred by the communists in the 20th century.
“I would like to express to the Holy Father my gratitude for his confidence in me as bishop of Parma. I will try my best to be the successor of the Apostles, to govern and serve,” Bishop Lach said at the end of the liturgy.
Bishop Lach told Horizons he intends to develop action plans in various areas of pastoral ministry and eparchial management to develop a more vibrant church.
“We are invited to be witnesses to the Gospel,” he said. “Our church must focus on evangelization, have a spirit of openness and prayer.”
His priorities include the “liturgy, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confession,” which are “part of our Eastern theology,” he said. He underlined the need to offer more catechesis and faith formation to the faithful, and to nurture priestly vocations.
Due to the current priest shortage in the eparchy, Bishop Lach has been inviting priests from Slovakia to come and minister. Two Slovak priests are currently undergoing the visa application process; one of them is expected to arrive this fall.
Bishop Lach said the recruitment of Slovak priests is a short-term measure to try to meet the urgent need for priests: Two priests retired this past year and at least another four are expected to retire in the next 12 months.
He said he hopes prospective vocations to the priesthood will be nurtured and there will be American candidates for seminary soon. The eparchy currently has two men in seminary formation and a third who will be ordained a subdeacon in August.
Bishop Lach recently created an eparchial youth commission to try to jump-start more youth ministry efforts.
The bishop also said he will consider reorganizing parishes to shift already limited resources, both pastoral and financial, to support the new missions and prayer communities that have developed in the western part of the eparchy.
“Perhaps we will have fewer parishes, but they will be more open (to welcoming others) and more vibrant,” he said.
He said there is an urgent need to get the eparchy in stronger financial shape, which includes reducing costs across the board, and he has already reached out to the neighboring Latin-rite Catholic dioceses of Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, to share resources.
In an interview with Horizons, Bishop Perez said it has been a “a great blessing” to share resources with the eparchy and to get to know Bishop Lach, whom he described as a “wonderful guy, young guy, very spiritual, very pastoral.”
“It’s a great celebration for all of us, Eastern rite and Latin rite,” he said of Bishop Lach’s enthronement. “We all gathered together in an incredible liturgy and a great moment of joy for the church.”
Read more about the Ruthenian Catholic Church at this link.
19 July 2018
Tags: Byzantine Catholic Church
An Orthodox woman holds a portrait of Czar Nicholas II during a 2012 gathering in Moscow. The secretary-general of the Russian bishops' conference urged Catholics to remember the 1918 murder of Nicholas II and his family with "penance and reflection," while suggesting Catholics could participate in future commemorations. (photo: CNS/Maxim Shemetov, Reuters)
The secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference urged Catholics to remember the 1918 murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family with “penance and reflection,” while suggesting Catholics could participate in future commemorations.
“The killing of this family was one of the first steps on a path of mass murder, forced labor, religious persecution and genocide which led on through the Stalinist period,” said Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general.
“Although not officially engaged in these centenary events, the Catholic Church must do something -- so the best is to reflect deeply, in a spirit of penance, on all those tragic times.”
The priest spoke after 100,000 people — led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill — attended a pilgrimage and religious observances in Yekaterinburg.
In a 19 July Catholic News Service interview, Msgr. Kovalevsky said the country’s million-strong Catholic Church had not been involved in past commemorations of the czar and his family, nor in their canonization by the Orthodox Church.
However, he added that Nicholas II’s murdered entourage had included at least one Catholic, the Latvian-born footman Alexei Yegorovich Trupp, and said he believed members of Yekaterinburg’s Catholic parish had taken part in the 12-17 July events.
“We should remember Nicholas II had voluntarily given up his throne the previous year, so it’s more historically accurate to mourn the killing of a family than the death of a czar,” Msgr. Kovalevsky said.
“We also follow quite different procedures when it comes to proclaiming saints, so the Orthodox Church’s approach to these matters is its own internal affair.”
Nicholas II, who abdicated in February 1917, was shot by Bolshevik captors in a basement while under house arrest at Yekaterinburg in the early hours of 17 July 1918. The empress and five children also were killed.
The victims, finished off with bayonets, were burned and doused with acid before being dumped in a pit at Ganina Yama, 14 miles from the city, where their presumed remains were exhumed in 1991.
All seven were later reinterred in St. Petersburg’s Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Cathedral and canonized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church in August 2000.
An Orthodox church was dedicated in 2004 on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the killings took place.
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church