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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
4 October 2017
Catholic News Service




Clergy, religious and laypeople of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia pose for a photo with newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception 24 September in Philadelphia.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia)


The newly ordained auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia said on 24 September that he was so “full of joy” about his new role serving the faithful that it was hard to put it into words.

“Today I am full of joy. This is how I feel right now,” Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy said in his homily during the hierarchical Divine Liturgy. “My joy is hard to express. My heart is overflowing. I am so happy to be with you.”

Clergy, religious and laypeople welcomed Bishop Rabiy to the archeparchy with the liturgy celebrated by the bishop at the golden-domed Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Archbishop Stefan Soroka, head of the archeparchy and metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, was the presider and offered words of welcome.

“Our archeparchy is blessed with many priests who are dedicated and capable to exercise leadership within our church,” the archbishop said. “From amidst this talented family of priests, God has called our young Bishop Andriy Rabiy to provide spiritual leadership as our auxiliary bishop.”

Bishop Rabiy, vicar general and a pastor, was consecrated a bishop 3 September in St. George’s Cathedral in his native Lviv, Ukraine. The co-consecrators were Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Soroka and Bishop David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton, Alberta.

He was named a bishop 8 August by Pope Francis, who confirmed his election by the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. At 41, he is the youngest Catholic bishop in the United States.

During the Divine Liturgy in Philadelphia, Msgr. Dennis Kuruppassry, a representative of Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, offered greetings from the nuncio and presented the papal bull on the new bishop’s appointment. It was read in Ukrainian by Father Roman Pitula, the cathedral rector, and in English by Archpriest Michael Hutsko, dean of the South Anthracite deanery.

Bishop Rabiy presented the bull to the congregation, who responded with the traditional acclamation “Axios!” (“He Is Worthy!”)

Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy displays the official apostolic letter from Pope Francis appointing him as an auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. He held up the letter during a 24 September hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia)


In his homily, Bishop Rabiy recalled the verses from Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, my soul; and do not forget all his gifts.”

“Truly the joy is overwhelming,” he told the congregation about serving them as a bishop. “It is such a beautiful feeling.”

At the end of the Divine Liturgy, Auxiliary Bishop John Bura, of the Philadelphia archeparchy, welcomed his brother bishop on behalf of the clergy, religious and laity.

Bishop Bura recalled the life experiences of both Bishop Rabiy and the situation of the persecuted Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ukraine in the 20th century. The underground church, the church of the catacombs, was the church Bishop Rabiy experienced in his home country.

“Bishop Andriy grew up in two worlds, two realities, in Ukraine and in America,” Bishop Bura said. “As a 17-year-old youth, he responded to Christ’s call. He entered the seminary in Ivano-Frankivsk and eventually St. Josaphat Seminary in Washington, D.C. He’s lived in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“As a bishop, he will reveal the faith and beauty of our church to all believers,” he added.

After Bishop Bura’s remarks, Bishop Rabiy went up and down the aisles of the spacious cathedral blessing the congregation with holy water.

Bishop Rabiy will continue as pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Reading and administrator of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Lancaster, a newly formed mission parish which he founded in February 2013.

Bishops who concelebrated the Divine Liturgy of welcome included Bishop Bura; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; Archbishop William C. Skurla of the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh; Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey; Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Deliman of the Latin Archdiocese of Philadelphia; retired Bishop Basil H. Losten of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford; and retired Bishop James C. Timlin of the Latin Diocese of Scranton. Several priests also concelebrated and Deacons Michael Waak and Paul M. Spotts assisted.

Seminarians from St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Seminary Washington were the altar servers. Liturgical responses were sung by the choir of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington.



5 September 2017
Catholic News Service




A displaced Iraqi man is seen through a car window near Mosul, Iraq, 9 August. The Rev. Michael Czerny, S.J., undersecretary of the migrant and refugee section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said 4 September the Vatican believes countries must guarantee “adequate legal frameworks and reliable pathways to prevent migrants from becoming victims of human trafficking.” (photo: CNS/Suhaib Salem, Reuters)

Many people become more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation when safe, legal and affordable opportunities for immigration or asylum are lacking, a Vatican official told global leaders.

Since human traffickers “can easily take advantage of the desperation of migrants and asylum seekers,” such people on the move can end up “in an irregular or undocumented status,” which puts them “at a very high risk of abuse and exploitation, including trafficking and enslavement,” said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the migrant and refugee section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

That is why the Vatican believes it is very important countries guarantee “adequate legal frameworks and reliable pathways to prevent migrants from becoming victims of human trafficking,” he said 4 September.

The priest spoke at a meeting in Vienna 4-5 September that was part of the U.N. process for developing and adopting a Global Compact for Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees. The U.N. hopes to have a draft of the compacts ready by February and to present them to the general assembly in September 2018.

Father Czerny led the Vatican delegation at the meeting where other Catholic organizations also have been participating in discussions and hearings to formulate the compacts.

He told the assembly that “despite the great achievements of international agreements, asylum seekers and migrants, who risk their lives in search of safety and a new home, are still and ever more vulnerable, especially to criminal organizations.”

“Since safe, regular and affordable routes are generally not available, many migrants employ smugglers,” he said. Since smugglers are sometimes involved or connected with human trafficking, migrating to start a new life “can go disastrously wrong.”

While victims and potential victims need more protections, he said, receiving communities need to recognize the role they play as part of fueling the demand for forced and slave labor, particularly in prostitution and work that does not meet legal standards in terms of pay or safety.

With human trafficking now being a multibillion-dollar industry, “slavery must not be an unavoidable aspect of economies. Instead, business should be in the vanguard in combating and preventing this travesty,” Father Czerny said.

A measure of the Global Compact for Migration’s success “will be if tomorrow’s migratory movements are no longer inevitably marked by human smuggling as today’s clearly are,” he said. “For irregular migration is not freely chosen but rather forced on people because legal and secure channels are simply not accessible.”



30 August 2017
Catholic News Service




Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia blesses a woman and other pilgrims during "A Call of Prayer Marian Pilgrimage" on 27 August at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, Pennsylvania.
(photo: CNS/courtesy George Ann Novak-Katchick)


Only a few structures still stand in this nearly abandoned borough 62 miles northeast of Harrisburg. Even fewer are visible through the tree cover from the top of an adjacent mountain overlooking what was once a thriving community.

The most notable and recognizable structure is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, with bright blue domes that rise out of the foliage on the side of the mountain. Though all but seven of the town’s residents relocated because of the continuing fire in the anthracite coal mine beneath its surface, the church continues to serve a successful and thriving parish.

Nearly 400 people made the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Philadelphia’s pilgrimage to the little church on 27 August for the second annual “A Call to Prayer” on the eve of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God.

The pilgrimage was the second since Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the leader of more than 5 million Ukrainian Catholics around the globe, visited the church on 10 November 2015. He was accompanied by Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia, metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, and Father Michael Hutsko, pastor of the parish.

Archbishop Shevchuk felt a sense of true holiness at the church and expressed his desire for all people of faith to visit and share the same sanctity and serenity. Six months after the visit, he declared the church a holy pilgrimage site.

“This church is built on the top of solid rock,” Archbishop Soroka said at the time. “A rock of faith for the area, for these pilgrims, and that’s what we want everyone to benefit from here, that our Lord’s love for us in unending.

“Even in disaster, the church continues,” he said.

For the pilgrimage, people crowded into the church, built in 1912, and onto the grounds for the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Soroka and local clergy. Outside the church, they followed along in prayer and song heard over large speakers.

“When one thinks of Centralia, two images come to mind — the mountain and the fire. This is providential, since many references to holy mountains and fire as the presence of God are found in sacred Scripture,” Father John Fields said during his homily.

“Today, as pilgrims to this holy mountain we come with open hearts, humility and faith to be in the presence of God and seek his grace and his blessings for our needs,” Father Fields told the faithful.

After the liturgy, the pilgrims processed from the church to an outdoor chapel that held an 18th-century replica of the miraculous Our Lady of Pochaev icon. A long line of pilgrims waited to pray before it.

Conventual Franciscan Father Martin Kobos, pastor of Mother Cabrini Church in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, offered a reflection on the living rosary. He held up a photo of his meeting with St. John Paul II and then took out something even more special — a rosary given to him by the saint.

Msgr. James T. Melnic led the Akafist to the Dormition of the Mother of God before the Holy Shroud of the Dormition as pilgrims spilled out of the outdoor chapel.

The service was followed by a candlelight procession with the icon to the church for a Moleben prayer service to the Mary led by Archbishop Soroka.

During his homily, Archbishop Soroka recalled the words of Mary to the servants at the wedding feast at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s the same advice Mary gives to the faithful today, he said, “to follow Jesus and to do what he inspires us to do.”

Afterward, participants were anointed with the holy oil and venerated the icon as well as the icon and relics of Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky, a martyr of the church who was beatified by St. John Paul in 2001.

Pilgrims traveled from as far as Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey to focus on their spiritual lives during the afternoon.

The procession was the moment Marsha Brubaker of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had been waiting for. She and her husband, Phil, made the pilgrimage after reading about the event in the faith section of a local newspaper.

“It’s visually powerful when you see so many people praying for peace and praying for others; it’s outstanding,” she said.

Making the trip from Philadelphia for the second year was Eugene Borys and his family, who received individual blessings from Archbishop Soroka. Borys’ son is a seminarian and joined the pilgrimage with five seminarians from St. Josaph at Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Washington.

Mary Theresa Mattu, 83, of nearby Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, was raised in the parish, being baptized and married there. It is also where her parents are buried. She still attends Divine Liturgy at the church.

Barbara Liparela of Shavertown, Pennsylvania, attended as a member of the choir from St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in McAdoo, Pennsylvania, which sang the responses during the Divine Liturgy.

Several languages could be heard being spoken during the pilgrimage, reminding those on the grounds of the feast of Pentecost, when the common language understood by all was that of faith.



17 August 2017
Catholic News Service




Catholics attend a Divine Liturgy at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Churcn in Centralia, Pennsylvania. The church has been named a pilgrimage holy site by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine.
(photo: CNS/Jacqueline Dormer, Republican-Herald)


The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church sits on a serene Pennsylvania mountain and overlooks the abandoned, desolate borough of Centralia.

The town is a memory, but the church still serves a thriving parish family, with congregants driving to the hilltop on Sundays and holy days from communities throughout the area.

The church and the grounds surrounding it will be the site of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia’s holy pilgrimage on 27 August, the eve of the feast of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God.

The pilgrimage begins at noon with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy with Archbishop Stefan Soroka, head of the Philadelphia archeparchy and the metropolitan of U.S. Ukrainian Catholics in the United States. The homilist will be the Rev. John M. Fields, an archpriest of the archeparchy.

After the Divine Liturgy, a procession will take place from the church with a replica of the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv, where it will be placed in the outside chapel.

The town of Centralia was destroyed by an underground mine fire, which began in 1962 and resulted in the relocation of almost all the residents and the demolition of all but a few buildings. But Assumption Church, capped with its three onion-shaped blue domes, remains on the hilltop, the same as when the first services were held there in 1912. The parish was founded on 15 August 1911.

On 28 August 2011, Archbishop Soroka was the main celebrant and homilist when the parish celebrated the centennial of its founding.

“The main thing is that I want you to hear beyond the words,” the archbishop told the congregation. “This church is standing after 100 years, despite the mine fire and the town leaving, to deliver a message to the world: We are to be like your namesake, the Mother of God, to be servants to others.”

“After 100 years, you are all doing the work the founders of the church wanted to do as well, you are giving service to others, coming together in hard times and good,” he said.

During his historic visit in November 2015, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the leader of more than 5 million Ukrainian Catholics around the globe, marveled at the continuing presence of the church in Centralia.

He also noted how this coal region parish fostered the vocations of four priests and three religious sisters.

As a result of his visit and with Archbishop Soroka’s encouragement, the place was designated a holy site of pilgrimage.

Archbishop Sviatoslav “felt a sense of true holiness which pervades the entire church property,” said an announcement about the upcoming pilgrimage. “His desire is for all people of faith to come and experience this holiness, sanctity and serenity as pilgrims to this holy place on the mountain.”

The first pilgrimage took place in 2016 and the Rev. Michael Hutsko, Assumption’s pastor, has invited all people of faith to join with Archbishop Soroka and clergy for a day of prayer and spiritual blessings 27 August.

In the afternoon after the Divine Liturgy, an opportunity for confession will be available for the pilgrims at various locations throughout the church grounds. A 2 p.m. living rosary will be prayed before the historic and jeweled 18th-century copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv.

Conventual Franciscan Father Martin Kobos, pastor of Mother Cabrini Church in Shamokin, will provide a reflection at the conclusion of the rosary. The icon and relics of Blessed Mykolay Charnetsky (1884-1959) will reside in the church for veneration throughout the day. The Redemptorist priest was martyred for the faith.

At 4:30 p.m., pilgrims will gather at Assumption’s outdoor chapel for a candlelight procession to the church for the celebration of a “moleben,” or service of supplication, to Mary, with Archbishop Soroka as the main celebrant and homilist. At the service’s conclusion, there will be prayers for healing and anointing with holy oils &kdquo;for the healing of soul and body.”



14 August 2017
Catholic News Service




Bishop Robert J. Shaheen, left, laughs alongside his successor, Bishop A. Elias Zaidan, in 2013. Bishop Shaheen, who was the first Maronite priest to be ordained in the United States and who served as a priest and bishop in St. Louis for a half century, died on 9 August at age 80.
(photo: CNS/Sid Hastings, St. Louis Review)


Retired Bishop Robert J. Shaheen, who was the second bishop to head the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, died in St. Louis on 9 August.

Bishop Shaheen, who turned 80 on 3 June, was a native of Danbury, Connecticut, and ordained a priest in 1964. He was the first Maronite priest to be ordained in the United States and was assigned as pastor of St. Raymond’s Maronite Church, now cathedral, in 1967. The parish was founded in 1912 to serve Maronite Catholics primarily of Lebanese and Syrian descent.

On 5 December 2000, St. John Paul II named him the second bishop of the Maronite eparchy. He retired in 2013.

The eparchy, which relocated its headquarters from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 2001, extends across 34 states, ministering to about 46,800 Maronite Catholics from California to Ohio and Michigan to Alabama.

“We pray for the repose of his soul, and give thanks to God for all of the lives that Bishop Shaheen has touched in his extraordinary life” said Bishop A. Elias Zaidan, the eparchy’s current bishop and successor to Bishop Shaheen.

Visitation for Bishop Shaheen will take place Aug. 16 at St. Raymond Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis from noon until the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at 7 p.m. Another visitation is planned for St. Anthony Maronite Church in Danbury Aug. 20 He will be buried from St. Anthony the morning of 21 August.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis in an 10 August statement said he was saddened to hear of the death of Bishop Shaheen, “a good friend and a beloved shepherd of the Maronite Catholic community.”

“I ask that the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Bishop Shaheen,” he said. “Bishop Elias Zaidan and the faithful of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.”

When he retired, Bishop Shaheen had called St. Louis home for nearly 47 years; in retirement he split his time between St. Louis and Danbury.

“St. Louis has been part of my life for almost 47 years,” said Bishop Shaheen, who was third-generation Lebanese. “It’s become my home more than in Connecticut where I was born.”

He was ordained 2 May 1964, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington by then-Bishop Francis M. Zayek, the founding bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, established in 1972. It is the other U.S. Maronite Catholic diocese.

In 1967, when he was assigned to be pastor of St. Raymond, then-Father Shaheen became the first Maronite priest to serve at St. Raymond in more than 20 years.

Largely credited with leading the renewal of the LaSalle Park neighborhood south of downtown St. Louis, the future bishop led the parish through a large capital program including the construction of a new church, rectory, hall and eparchal center over the years of his pastoral ministry.

Robert Joseph Shaheen was born to Albert and Aileen Shaheen in Danbury. He attended St. Peter Grammar School and Danbury High School before entering the Latin Church’s St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut, in 1955. In 1958, he transferred to the Eastern Catholic Church’s St. Basil Seminary in Methuen, Massachusetts, while attending classes at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire.

When he was named St. Raymond’s pastor, the parish had been without a resident priest for over 20 years. Under his leadership, St. Raymond’s went from just a few faithful parishioners using a four-family apartment to eventually a cathedral with hundreds of active families.

From 1965 to 1970, he organized and celebrated Maronite liturgies on a regular basis. He also developed newsletters, bulletins, and fliers; conducted a census to identify Maronites in the greater metropolitan area; and introduced spiritual and cultural programs, including Maronite religious education classes. He hosted the National Apostolate of Maronites Convention in 1970.

Kicking-off a fund drive for new church in 1971, he later dedicated a new church in November 1975 and a new rectory in February 1977. He was ordained an archpriest in September 1978, and dedicated a new parish center “The Cedars” in November 1979.

On March 31, 1986, Shaheen was ordained a chorbishop by Archbishop Zayek. He purchased additional property and buildings for future development as a Maronite retirement center and cultural center in 1991, and again hosted the National Apostolate of Maronites Convention in 1995.

After he was named to head the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, he was consecrated a bishop 15 February 2001, at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, then leader of the world’s Maronite Catholics.



26 July 2017
Catholic News Service




Boys play under an overflowing dam along Powai Lake in Mumbai, India, on 20 July. Young Indian Catholics are set to travel to Yogyakarta, Indonesia next month for Asian Youth Day.
(photo: CNS/Shailesh Andrade, Reuters)


Young Indian Catholics set to participate in the upcoming seventh Asian Youth Day in Indonesia are expecting the event to change their perspectives on faith, reported ucanews.com.

They will join about 3,000 young people from 26 Asian countries in the Indonesian city for the summit, with the theme “Joyful Asian Youth: Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia.”

The Indian participants are mostly youth leaders and aware of “what is happening in the church, its structure, way of functioning,” said Father Thomas.

“Interacting with other youths about their role in the church and ways of working and their exchanging about these experiences will be helpful for their lives,” he said.

Delegation members come from different regions of India and were chosen by their dioceses. All will cover their own costs, Father Thomas said.

Leon Pereira, vice president of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement, said he is among 12 chosen from Vasai Diocese and is looking forward to meeting young Catholics from various nations.

“They are coming from different backgrounds — their role in the church, way of prayers, and cultures will be different,” said Pereira. “Interacting with them, I’m sure will strengthen our faith, our prayer life and our role in society.&rduo;

The 24-year-old said he was looking to forward to understanding how Catholics from other countries practice their faith.

Jenny Joy, 26, of Delhi Archdiocese said meeting Indians from different regions will be “an experience” because “we are different in our food habit, culture and language.”

Joy said India’s diversity will make it a challenge for the delegation to tell its whole story.

“Life situations, culture and language of Christians from different regions of India vary vastly, making it almost difficult to generalize the situation of Indian Christians,” she said.



28 June 2017
Catholic News Service




Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai of Lebanon, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, walks near a statue of Our Lady of Fatima on 25 June. He led a pilgrimage to consecrate Lebanon and all the Middle East to Mary. (photo: CNS/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai consecrated Lebanon and all the Middle East to Mary in Fatima, praying for peace and stability.

Thousands of faithful from the Middle East as well as Lebanese diaspora from around the world also made the pilgrimage for the “Lebanon Day in Fatima,” which began 24 June with the recitation of the rosary and a candlelit procession.

“We have come from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Holy Land, Egypt, the (Persian) Gulf countries and various countries of proliferation — particularly from Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe — to continue, from generation to generation, to honor our Blessed Virgin Mary,” the patriarch said during his homily 25 June. He concelebrated Mass with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and a delegation of bishops and priests.

“We have come to renew the dedication of Lebanon and the countries of the Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, according to her wishes. This dedication is to repent, to stop wars and to consolidate peace,” Cardinal Rai said.

Beginning in June 2013, the patriarch has annually consecrated Lebanon and all the Middle East to Mary at Harissa, home of Our Lady of Lebanon. The consecrations were in response to a request of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East held in the Vatican in October 2012. This year, the consecration at Fatima commemorated the centennial of the apparitions, when Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the Portuguese village.

“We have come to ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima for peace in the Middle East region, and for stability in Lebanon, to preserve our country’s mission and model of coexistence among religions and cultures, especially among Christians and Muslims,” the cardinal said in his homily at Fatima. He stressed that “Lebanon’s significance lies in its open system of cultural and religious pluralism within a framework of cooperation, integration and mutual enrichment.”

About 40 percent of the approximate 4 million Lebanese citizens residing in Lebanon are Christian.

Lebanon has the only Christian head of state in the entire Middle East and North Africa. Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Catholic, while the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament is a Shiite Muslim.



29 September 2016
Catholic News Service




Families displaced by violence arrive in June at a temporary shelter in Kirkuk, Iraq. Chaldean Catholic bishops, meeting for their annual synod in Erbil, Iraq, pleaded for peace in the Middle East and for the liberation of areas seized by the Islamic State so that the displaced can return to their homes. (photo: CNS/EPA)

Chaldean Catholic bishops, meeting for their annual synod, pleaded for peace in the Middle East and for the liberation of areas seized by the Islamic State group so that the displaced can return to their homes.

Chaldeans were among the approximately 120,000 Christians who were uprooted when the Islamic State seized Mosul and the Ninevah Plain in Iraq during the summer of 2014.

In the final statement issued at the conclusion of the 22-27 September synod, the 20 bishops from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the United States, Canada and Australia also expressed their solidarity with Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, one of the participants.

They called for officials to “stop the war in Syria and sit together in a constructive dialogue to find a peaceful political solution that preserves the country and the nation.”

Regarding the issue of priests and monks who left their dioceses and monasteries in Iraq without formal permission to emigrate, the bishops emphasized that such departures from the homeland “were raising doubts among faithful.” Consequently, the statement directed that those priests and monks must “leave their current dioceses (abroad) immediately.”

“We could accept them, on condition that one of the Chaldean bishops can accommodate them after a month or two of rehabilitation,” the statement continued. “Meanwhile, (those) priests should return to their bishops to regularize their status before commencing their pastoral mission.” They confirmed that Chaldean Father Noel Gorgis, who had emigrated without permission, had been ordered to leave the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle in San Diego.

The synod selected three candidates for bishop of the San Diego eparchy to be sent to Pope Francis. Bishop Shlemon Warduni has been serving as interim bishop of the eparchy since the retirement of Bishop Sarhad Jammo.

The statement said that the Chaldean Church will proceed with the cause for canonization of Catholics martyred in Iraq since 2003, including Archbishop Faraj Rahho, Father Father Ragheed Kani, four deacons and a nun.



25 August 2016
Catholic News Service




A framed picture lies amid rubble in Damascus, Syria, on 27 July. Christian patriarchs residing in Damascus urged the international community to “stop the siege of the Syrian people” and to lift international sanctions, which they say are deepening the suffering.
(photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)


Christian patriarchs residing in Damascus urged the international community to “stop the siege of the Syrian people” and to lift international sanctions, which they say are deepening the suffering.

The three Christian leaders — Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X — directed their 23 August appeal to “the international conscience and the concerned countries.”

Although “the main goals of imposing these sanctions are political,” the patriarchs said, they have affected all Syrian people, “especially the poor and working class, whose ability to provide their basic daily needs such as food and medical care are greatly affected.”

“Despite the resolution of the Syrian people in the face of the crisis, the social situation is getting worse and the poverty and suffering of the Syrian people are constantly increasing,” the patriarchs said.

In their statement, the patriarchs pointed to specific consequences that are crippling the country and isolating it from the rest of the world. Those include the absence of new investments, a ban on international flights to Syria, reduced exports to the country and the placing of some Syrian companies on the blacklist for international trade, all of which the patriarchs said “are considered to be economic measures toward the isolation of Syria from the international community.”

They criticized most Western countries for closing their embassies and said a ban on international banking transactions with Syria “puts the people in a financial difficulty.”

The patriarchs said that in addition to helping to improve the dire living conditions in Syria, lifting the sanctions would facilitate efforts of church and humanitarian groups in providing aid, thus reducing exploitation of the suffering Syrian people.

“We hope that the international community responds to the humanitarian appeal of the Syrians: ‘Stop the siege on the Syrian people! Lift the international sanctions on Syria and allow this people to live in dignity, which is a basic right to all the peoples of the world.’”

A day earlier, in a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Kinshchak, Patriarch Aphrem requested Russia’s help for the release of two kidnapped archbishops of Aleppo. Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul, brother of Patriarch John, were kidnapped in April 2013 in northern Syria while on a humanitarian mission.



23 August 2016
Catholic News Service




Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter greets faithful at the Korean Martyrs Shrine in Seoul, South Korea on 22 August. (photo: CNS/courtesy Mychel Akl for Bkerke)

Lebanese Cardinal and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, visiting the South Korean capital of Seoul, urged the international community to end the wars raging in the Middle East “fueled by foreign countries.”

The church leader also said that terrorist organizations “working for the destruction of the Middle East do not represent Islam or Muslim.”

Such groups, he said in an address during the Forum for Peace on the Korean Peninsula that met 18-21 August, work to destroy “a moderate and open Islam, resulting from coexistence with Christians.

Patriarch Bechara Peter addressed the forum under an invitation of Seoul Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung.

He implored the international community “to speed up the solutions and impose a halt to the wars, fueled by foreign countries, raging in the Middle East.”

Stressing the need for a “series of reforms” in the Arab states, the patriarch called for the separation of state and religion, the development of democracy and “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

He also called on the international community to “help the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia” which he said would reduce sectarian tension in the region.

Lebanon, the patriarch lamented, is “paying the price of all these political-religious conflicts to the point that it is without a president for more than two years.” According to the Lebanese system, the presidential office is reserved for a Maronite Catholic.

Yet, the Maronite leader stressed, “the Lebanese formula still remains unique, and our constitution is a model to be imitated by other states on the basis of civic equality and cultural community” within the same country.

The cardinal also called for world leaders to work toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, which would facilitate the return of all Palestinians expelled from their land, and for the enforcement of all resolutions of the Security Council.

In addition to some 2 million Syrian refugees that have swelled Lebanon’s existing population of about 4 million, Lebanon also is home to more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

Patriarch Bechara Peter celebrated the Divine Liturgy on 22 August at the Korean Martyrs’ Shrine in Seoul. In his homily, he prayed that “peace would reign in countries that are torn by wars, including Korea and the Middle East.”



Tags: War Middle East Peace Process Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Maronite Church





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