After spending a little over 30 minutes interviewing his beatitude, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk — head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — I was reminded of the strong historic continuity which clergymen bring to spiritual service.
Immediately acknowledging that the church’s roots stem from Constantinople, more than a half century before the Great Schism of 1054, Archbishop Sviatoslav carefully chose his words throughout the interview, as if to reinforce the institutional memory that his position embodies.
He didn’t convey his main points in a philosophical or lofty manner.
Archbishop Sviatoslav spoke with an upbeat and excited tone, a sign that he is at ease with his role of serving more than eight million faithful worldwide.
That assuredness keeps him grounded.
Speaking of being raised in an underground Catholic household in Soviet western Ukraine, where he also attended a secret seminary, he said: “I never thought that I would become a priest for the public service. I never thought that one day I would go abroad to study somewhere else outside the limits of the former Soviet Union. I never thought that I would become a bishop and the possibility to become a bishop for the Ukrainians in Argentina. This is an idea from another world.”
Along the way he got a doctorate in moral theology in Rome. He also learned to speak seven languages — our interview was in English, although I am fluent in Ukrainian — and, according to priests in Chicago, where Archbishop Sviatoslav visited earlier this year, the major archbishop is an avid violin player and even sings as a cantor when needed.
Although the majority of the faithful live in western Ukraine, the church in 2005 moved its headquarters from Lviv back to what he called its historic birthplace in Kiev. The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow protested—and objected again in 2013, when the newly built Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Our Lord was consecrated in Ukraine’s capital, close to the eastern bank of the mighty Dnipro River.
Referring to the war that Russia has waged against Ukraine for three years now, the major archbishop said, “we have to do everything to prevent further escalation of that aggression...We have to stop bloodshed between our nations.” Archbishop Sviatoslav said the church holds weekly prayers on Tuesdays for “our enemies...a prayer for the aggressors and for those who consider us their enemies.”
He said he would be eager to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to share a “message of reconciliation.”
Speaking of the other families of the Eastern churches, he spoke repeatedly about “political correctness,” and conveyed the idea that clergymen have the duty to share with others, their flock and with other people of the cloth, the truth of what is happening in their countries.
Archbishop Sviatoslav certainly does that every chance he gets.
When he was a child, Bassem Hazboun loved helping his mother prepare French delicacies in their Bethlehem kitchen. But it was his father who kept trying to steer him to study engineering as he reached his teens.
“You don’t need this,” his father said when Hazboun told him he wanted to take a cooking course. But the passion he found while cooking by this mother’s side never left.
“My food is my identity,” said Hazboun, a Catholic Palestinian who traveled in September from his native Bethlehem in the West Bank to showcase food from his homeland to various U.S. cities, including Washington and Connecticut, part of the “Room for Hope” festival. The festival aims to raise money for scholarships to help youth in the Holy Land study music, dance, cooking and other arts.
Chef Hazboun, 39, studied at Bethlehem University, a Catholic university in the Holy Land, and is the head of the culinary arts program at Dar al-Kalima University’s College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem, which helps youth in the Holy Land hone skills in arts and culture.
Hazboun said food from the Holy Land is in a way unique for Christians because some of it hails from biblical times. Sometimes he prepares biblical menus, he said, for those who arrive in the Holy Land for religious pilgrimages. This may mean a menu that includes a lentil soup, a dish of lamb and yogurt, too. Food from the Holy Land also features lots of olives, which are abundant in the region, he said, and spices you won’t find elsewhere.
“All the foods are special,” he told Catholic News Service.
It’s important for him, he said, to help his students develop a love for the food of their region and to see something positive about their identity as Palestinians through the craft. It’s a love that many of them can share with others and can also allow them to stay in the Holy Land, where work for Palestinians is scarce. Luckily, with tourism, many of them are able to find jobs at restaurants in Bethlehem, he said.
“Sometimes I visit the restaurant and they feed me good,” said Hazboun.
Beth Nelson Chase, executive director of Bright Stars Bethlehem in the U.S., the nonprofit that sponsored the festival, said programs such as the ones chef Hazboun teaches in Bethlehem help students learn skills that are useful for the economy of their homelands, where coming across a job can sometimes prove difficult.
“It gives people hope,” Chase said.
The Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor and president of Bright Stars of Bethlehem, said in a statement that the events focusing on the arts and food of the Holy Land were part of the mission of building cultural bridges “important for both the U.S. and Palestine.”
“We are excited to expose our friends in the U.S. to Palestinian culture and art,” he said.
26 September 2016
A picture taken on 25 September 2016, shows trucks carrying humanitarian aid, parked on a road in Idlib after entering Syria through a border crossing with Turkey.
(photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)
Syria: aid reaches Madaya and other besieged towns (BBC) Aid has been delivered to four besieged towns in Syria for the first time in almost six months, the International Committee of the Red Cross says. Seventy-one lorries reached rebel-held Madaya and Zabadani, near Damascus, and government-controlled Foah and Kefraya, in Idlib province, on Sunday. They brought food, medical supplies and hygiene kits for 60,000 people. Last week, the UN suspended aid deliveries across Syria for 48 hours after a deadly attack on a convoy.
Activist: India’s anti-Christian massacre carefully planned (Vatican Radio) The untold atrocities that Christians in eastern India’s Odisha state were subjected to in 2008, are the result of careful planning by Hindu nationalist groups of the “Sangh Parivar” network at the highest level, an Indian journalist and rights activist told the media on Thursday, alleging illiterate masses of militants were manipulated by propaganda and incited to kill. Thanks to the investigation carried out by Anto Akkara, “one can rewrite the history of Kandhamal,” the district in Odisha where the atrocities were concentrated...
Keeping Jordan’s balance amid crisis (CBS News) The bombs in New York and New Jersey last week brought the specter of terror home, again. It seems no country is safe, but there is one that is beating fearsome odds. ISIS burned through Syria and Iraq until it hit a firewall, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The king, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, is holding the front and sheltering millions of refugees despite his struggling economy, no oil wealth and precious little water. If the king can keep his balance, Jordan may prove that an Arab state can remain peaceful, tolerant, and modern...
‘Couples for Christ’ movement thriving in India (Vatican Radio) Evangelization, renewal of families and care of the poor are part of the mission of a Filipino lay group called Couples for Christ (CFC) that visited Odisha, eastern India, from 13 to 18 September. The Vatican-approved CFC lay movement began their unit in Odisha’s main Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese in 2013...
Relics of Russian Orthodox saint to be sent into space (Radio Free Europe) After spending nearly nine decades forgotten in a Moscow storeroom during the Soviet era, some relics of Russian Orthodox St. Serafim of Sarov should soon be circling the globe aboard the International Space Station (ISS)
23 September 2016
Sami El-Yousef visits the the Lighthouse School the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City. (photo: CNEWA)
Yesterday, in its Vatican Insider section, the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa published an interview with Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel. The discussion focused chiefly on the many challenges facing Gaza, and efforts of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine — CNEWA’s operating agency in the region — to provide support for its people through parishes and church institutions:
You were just a few days ago in Gaza. How is the situation there and what is PMP doing to support the population, in particular concerning the creation of job positions?
Indeed I am a frequent visitor to Gaza as I make approximately six visits per year consistently since I joined the Mission in 2009. Our work is concentrated in Gaza through providing services to the community at large with no distinction to religion, color, race, or gender. Such work is done through a number of partners in Gaza including the Latin Parish and its institutions including the Holy Family School, the Latin Patriarchate School, and other operations of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. Additionally our partners include the Ahli Arab Hospital being the only Christian hospital in Gaza; the Near East Council of Churches clinics and vocational training centers; the Rosary Sisters School; and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), among others. The variety of support included humanitarian support during wars, renovation of premises, equipment and furniture grants, programmatic support where needed such as malnourishment programs and psycho-social support, scholarship support, youth sector support, pastoral programs, and capacity building and job creation. A star project will be launched soon that will provide 16 unemployed Christian youth with employment for 12 months in one of our partner institutions. This will undoubtedly help our Christian youth building their experience and at the same time bring some much-needed income. It is noteworthy to mention that the unemployment rate of Gaza is about 45%, the highest in the world.
Read the rest at La Stampa.
To accompany the people of Gaza as they endure through one of the most afflicted economic, political and social climates in the world, click here.
23 September 2016
Tags: CNEWA Gaza Strip/West Bank CNEWA Pontifical Mission Pontifical Mission for Palestine
Parishioners light votive candles at St. Hripsime Church, built in the year 618 in Vagharshapat, Armenia — the city also known as Etchmiadzin, the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenians, whose ancient homeland now encompasses parts of Asia Minor, the Caucasus and northwestern Iran, have endured for more than 3,000 years, outlasting more powerful neighbors in Asia and Europe who have repeatedly and relentlessly sought to subjugate and even obliterate them. Learn more about the Church of Armenia in the pages of the Autumn 2016 special edition of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
23 September 2016
Tags: Armenia Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches ONE magazine Etchmiadzin
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state of the Holy See addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York on 22 September. (photo: Dominick Reuters/AFP/Getty Images)
Vatican ratifies U.N. Convention against Corruption (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has deposited the instrument of ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption at United Nations headquarters in New York. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, made the formal deposition on 19 September 2016, both for the Holy See, and on behalf of the Vatican City State…
Catholic-Orthodox commission approves statement on authority (CNS) Catholics and Orthodox need to explore ways authority can be understood and exercised so that is not an obstacle to unity, a group of top-level theologians said. Members of the official Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church met near Chieti, Italy, 16 to 21 September and approved a document reflecting a mutual understanding of primacy and synodality. “Primacy” refers to the authority of the lead bishop or pope, and “synodality” refers to the authority exercised collegially by the College of Bishops in the West or a synod of bishops in the Eastern churches. While Orthodox patriarchs are recognized spiritual leaders and exercise authority over some areas of church life, they do not have the kind of jurisdiction the pope has over the Catholic Church and especially over its Latin-rite dioceses…
Iraqi Catholic church in U.S. torn by immigration efforts (Wall Street Journal) The backyard gathering was part Catholic liturgy, part rebellion. The priest, an Iraqi immigrant, had been kicked out of the local church. Parishioners had been warned by local church leaders not to worship with him. Yet 50 people sat in makeshift pews behind a home east of San Diego in a show of opposition to church officials urging Christians to stay in Iraq, where their numbers are dwindling. “There is no future for Christians in Iraq,” said Bahaa Gandor, a 31-year-old who fled the country in 2010. “We have to bring them here…”
‘A massacre is inevitable’: Siege drags on for two Shiite villages in Syria (Los Angeles Times) A punishing siege imposed by Islamist rebels has cut off the two sister towns of Fua and Kefraya in northwest Syria for the last 18 months, leaving them at the mercy of truck bombs, mortar barrages, and the terrifying staccato of sniper fire. The two towns lie in Idlib province, a predominantly Sunni Muslim region southwest of Aleppo. In March 2015, the entire province was overrun by a powerful jihadist coalition known as the Army of Conquest. The exception was Fua and Kefraya, two Shiite villages whose roughly 17,000 residents have remained, even under a devastating blockade, loyal to the government. For most, there has seemed to be little choice: Shiite Muslims are seen as apostates by Islamist hard-liners, and the Army of Conquest has threatened to wipe them out…
Protecting cultural heritage from combatants promotes human rights and universal values (U.N. News Center) Safeguarding cultural property that combatants aim to damage encompasses part of larger endeavors to defend human rights and universal values, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling on the international community to intensify efforts to protect such treasures and end their illicit trafficking…
22 September 2016
Tags: Syria Iraqi Christians United States United Nations Catholic-Orthodox relations
A CNEWA poster from 1926 features Greek Catholic Bishop George Calavassy. (photo: CNEWA)
When Bishop John Gavin Nolan, former secretary general of CNEWA, documented the origins of the association, he began Chapter I with the following words:
On 10 April 1917, four days after the United States entered World War I, Father George Calavassy, a bearded, 36-year-old Greek Catholic priest from Constantinople, dropped an envelope in the mail. Its contents, three pages painstakingly handwritten in English on plain paper at the Jesuit college of St. Francis Xavier in New York City, were addressed to James Cardinal Gibbons in Baltimore, the dean of the American hierarchy. After reviewing the origin and purposes of the tiny Greek Catholic Exarchate (diocese) that the Holy See had established in Constantinople in 1911, Father Calavassy reminded the cardinal of his promise, made in Baltimore two months earlier, to present to the American bishops at their next meeting the needs of the exarchate — viz., $500,000 for a seminary, two schools and a “large” church, presumably a cathedral.
For 25 years, Cardinal Gibbons had lent his name to American Protestants to raise funds for the Armenians in Turkey, but it seems that he did not give Father Calavassy’s letter so much as the favor of a reply. The letter is important, however; it explains clearly in Father Calavassy’s own words the Holy See’s attitude and strategy vis-a-vis the Orthodox before Vatican Council II made ecumenism a household word. Further, it was due to the contacts Father Calavassy made with Catholics in America during the war, and to the correspondence he maintained with them afterward, that the Catholic Near East Welfare Association was founded in Philadelphia in 1924.
Indeed, though the work of CNEWA’s founding would involve such colorful characters as the Rev. Paul Wattson, S.A.; Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle; the Rev. Edmund A. Walsh, S.J.; and ultimately Pope Pius XI, George Calavassy’s efforts to support his flock served as the spark that set the work in motion.
Born to Catholic parents in 1881 at Ano-Siros, on the Cyclades island of Siros — “the island of the pope,” in the words of Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries — Calavassy joined the priesthood early in life, building a reputation as an apologist for Catholicism and strong advocate for ecumenism, long before the latter had come into its own as a modern movement.
Above all, he went to every imaginable length to secure the safety and continuity of his community. In his profile on Greece’s Eastern Catholic Church, Michael La Civita wrote:
If not for the humanitarian and pastoral works of one of its leaders, Bishop George Calavassy (1920-57), this church would barely merit a footnote in the annals of church history. …
In 1911, Pope Pius X erected an ordinariate, later an exarchate, for this nascent church and named Father Isaias Papadopoulos as its first bishop. Called to Rome during the waning days of World War I, he was succeeded in 1920 by Bishop George Calavassy, who witnessed firsthand the horrors of a country at war with outsiders and with its own Christian minorities.
By 1920, an estimated million refugees had swarmed Constantinople. Hundreds of thousands of them were Greeks. Fleeing the excesses of the Bolsheviks, some 100,000 penniless Russians engulfed the former Byzantine capital. Scores of Armenians, Assyrians and Chaldeans fled their homesteads during and after the war; many more died in the struggle to defend them.
Among the first to minister to the needs of the dispossessed was Bishop George. Overwhelmed by the refugee crisis — especially after his requests for funding in Europe and the United States went unanswered — the bishop appealed to Father Paul Wattson.
The resulting efforts would prove a lifeline to his church in its most difficult time — sustaining orphans, students, parishioners and seminarians alike, and supporting the small church’s monumental relief efforts. And the rest, as they say, is history.
To continue the work that began with Bishop George Calavassy’s appeal for help, click here.
22 September 2016
Tags: Refugees CNEWA Relief Greek Catholic Church
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Diodoros I of Jerusalem leads the procession out of Church of Holy Sepulchre on Palm Sunday, 1988. The Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Jerusalem accounts for about a third of the 400,000 Christians who participate in the life of the Church of Jerusalem, at the birthplace of the faith. Learn more about the Church of Jerusalem in the pages of the Autumn 2016 special edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Souders)
22 September 2016
Tags: Jerusalem Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches ONE magazine
Egyptians stand on the shore in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta, waiting for the results of a search operation after a boat carrying migrants capsized in the Mediterranean on 21 September 2016. (photo: Mohamed El Shahed/AFP/Getty Images)
Egypt migrant boat capsize: Hundreds feared dead (BBC) Survivors from a boat which capsized off the Egyptian coast on Wednesday have told the BBC that hundreds of people may have drowned. The boat was carrying about 550 migrants when it capsized eight miles off the coast, they say. Authorities have rescued 163 people and recovered 42 bodies so far off the port city of Rosetta. Four crew members have been arrested in connection with incident, Egyptian officials said…
Church committed to support for Dalits against rising violence (Fides) Violence against Dalits (the “untouchables”) in India have increased in recent years, according to the National Crime Record Board. “It is a matter of concern to note: Since the Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been ruling, atrocities on Dalits have increased” says Jesuit A. Xavier John Bosco, director of the Jesuit Social Centre, based in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh…
Jerusalem archbishop: Christian unity, Middle East situation are priorities (CNS) The new apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said he would focus on listening to the priests and people of the diocese to better understand the pastoral issues. In a 21 September news conference before his official entrance into Jerusalem, the archbishop told journalists the diocese faces many challenges similar to those of the church in other parts of the world, including divisions within family life, young people’s disenchantment with the church. But he said the local church also is concerned with the influx of refugees, foreign workers and migrants in Jordan and Israel, many of whom are Christian, as well as issues of family reunification and an acute shortage of housing…
Syrian archbishop: ‘A bullet narrowly missed my head’ (AINA) Christians in Syria are being targeted by Kurdish militias according to a senior Christian leader in the region. Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo says Kurds in Hassake, a city in northeast Syria, and surrounding areas are responsible for “acts of violence and intimidation” against Christians. He said he had a narrow escape himself when shots were fired through the window of his house and a bullet narrowly missed his head. “At that moment, the area was presided over by Kurdish militias, and there were no other armed persons nearby…”
Christian and Muslim religious leaders pray for peace in the name of Mary in Beirut (AsiaNews) Representatives of all of Lebanon’s faith communities gathered on Tuesday for an interfaith prayer for peace at Marian shrine in Harissa, north of Beirut. The group met in response to a call made by Pope Francis, who asked that all the dioceses in the world hold prayer ceremonies, at the same time as the one in Assisi, the city of St. Francis, which brought together prominent figures of faith and culture…
21 September 2016
Tags: Syria India Egypt Lebanon Jerusalem
A child attends the Divine Liturgy in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Shefa-‘Amr, a small city in the Galilee. The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is one of ten distinct churches that together form the richly diverse Church of Antioch. Learn more about the Church of Antioch in the pages of the Autumn 2016 special edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Tags: Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Melkite Greek Catholic Church Antiochene church Antioch