10 December 2015
The frescoes adorning the Church of Saint Clement in Ohrid reveal the splendor of medieval Macedonia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Except for a brief period some 1,000 years ago, the territory in the Balkan Peninsula now commonly known as Macedonia has always been subjected to land-grabbing by Bulgarians, Greeks, Serbs and Turks.
In 1991, the disintegration of Yugoslavia — an “experiment” of the Romantic era that united, among others, Macedonians, Croats, Serbs and Slovenes regardless of culture, history and religion — reignited Macedonian cultural and political aspirations for independence. This return of the “Macedonian Question,” which once haunted Europe’s crowned heads and ministers, has fueled new fears of instability in the Balkans — the “powder keg of Europe.”
Macedonian Orthodox await Easter in the Church of Saint Clement in Ohrid. (photo: Sean Sprague)
The preeminent faith community of the country, the Orthodox Church of Macedonia, is also engaged in an ongoing struggle for recognition. Historically, the various national Orthodox churches of the Balkans — Bulgarian, Greek, Montenegrin, Romanian and Serbian — have played leading roles in the development of their distinct nations, serving as cultural repositories and bastions of faith especially in times of peril. Macedonia’s Orthodox Christians, who account for nearly two-thirds of the populations, have taken that lead, but not without incurring isolation and scorn.
Led by its embattled head, Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia, the Orthodox Church of Macedonia works closely with the Macedonian state in developing and nurturing a distinct Macedonian Slav identity, in a nation that remains among Europe’s poorest.
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10 December 2015
A sister leads the blessing before supper at the Santa Lucia Home in Alexandria, Egypt. CNEWA recently provided funds for some needed improvements to the facility. (photo: Holly Pickett)
Last year, our magazine ONE brought you the inspiring story of the Santa Lucia Home, a facility for blind children run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Alexandria, Egypt.
Just this month, we received the following report from our regional office, describing part of our involvement with the facility and recent work there:
In 2002, CNEWA built a three story building, adding new classrooms and increasing the educational level of the school from complementary to secondary. Now, 1,500 students are registered for the 2015-2016 academic year. The majority are Christian. A dispensary provides health care to around 12,500 patients a year, and attends to the medical needs of the 20 visually impaired children.
As part of the school’s curriculum and activities, it provides Christian formation for the primary school students and the boarding of visually impaired girls, as well as music and singing lessons. This activity eventually led to forming a student choir. Today the choir is famous among the Christian community of Alexandria. To improve their skills, and provide these marginalized children with a career and hope for a better future, the sisters requested to renovate and furnish two old rooms in the basement of their home to be used for the above activities.
On 1 June CNEWA/Pontifical Mission, through its funding donors, was able to provide necessary funds to perform the needed work on this center. In October 2015, we visited the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross pastoral center. The initial work estimate of this project was $26,000 for rehabilitation, furniture and equipment. During execution, CNEWA’s engineer was able to reduce the prices of some work items which were overpriced, and thus decreased the total cost repair work to $20,000. As for the furniture and equipment, they will be provided by the institution.
You can read more, including a list of the repairs, at this link.
Help us to help more of Egypt’s Christians through invaluable projects like the Santa Lucia Home. Visit this giving page to learn how. You will help these institutions and religious sisters know they are not forgotten, especially during this holy time of the year.
10 December 2015
An Indian boy puts his school books out to dry as floodwaters recede in Chennai on 7 December 2015. Residents in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state were grappling with the aftermath of devastating floods as authorities stepped up relief work following the worst deluge in decades that killed over 250 people. (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
As India struggles to recover from devastating floods, the Catholic Church is stepping in to help:
The Catholic Church in India has expressed solidarity with the victims of Tamil Nadu floods and appealed to the people to come forward and make voluntary donations for the relief and rehabilitation of the affected.
“The need of the hour calls us to express solidarity with the flood affected suffering families and communities and to contribute our mite for their relief and rehabilitation,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said in a statement.
Two days of heavy rains through 2 December brought double the normal rainfall the Tamil Nadu state capital normally receives during its entire two-month rainy season.
The deluge has affected Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Villupuram and Tanjavur districts with the state capital Chennai being the worst hit.
10 December 2015
People gather on 20 November outside the Washington State capitol in Olympia to urge the United States’ acceptance of Syrian refugees. (photo: CNS/David Ryder, Reuters)
25 Christian hostages freed in Syria (Fides) On Wednesday, 9 December the jihadists affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State released other 25 Assyrian Christians, who were part of the large group of hostages kidnapped by them on 23 February, when the jihadi militias had unleashed an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the valley of the river Khabur, in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassake. According to reports from local sources, and re-launched by the Assyrian International News Agengy , the group of hostages freed includes men, boys and two children under ten years of age, who after their release reached the town of Tel Tamar...
Faith leaders, senators say U.S. must not “pause” refugee resettlement (CNS) A coalition of religious leaders joined three U.S. senators on Capitol Hill 8 December to say “enough is enough” to those who want to bar Muslim refugees from Syria and other Middle East trouble spots from the U.S. after terrorist attacks in Paris and Southern California...
First planes of Syrian refugees set to arrive in Canada (Reuters) The first two government flights carrying Syrian refugees to Canada will arrive this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday. His immigration minister noted with pride that Canada’s welcoming attitude contrasts with the wary stance of many in the United States. The first flight will arrive in Toronto on Thursday evening and another will land in Montreal on Saturday, Trudeau said in Parliament. The planes, both military aircraft, will carry a total of 300 Syrian refugees...
Orthodox rabbis urge partnership between Christians and Jews (The Jewish Press) A group of Orthodox Jewish rabbis are advocating for increased partnership between Christians and Jews. More than 25 Orthodox rabbis from Israel, the United States and Europe released the statement titled “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians” on the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) website...
Vatican issues new document on Christian-Jewish dialogue (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews has released a new document exploring the unresolved theological questions at the heart of Christian-Jewish dialogue. The new document, entitled ‘The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable’, marks the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking declaration ‘Nostra Aetate’...
Archbishop: “The pope has profoundly marked the Muslim community” (Fides) “The Pope came as a pilgrim to invite us to peace. Now we must become pilgrims of peace in our own country”, says Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, explaining his gesture to walk the Muslims’ PK5 neighborhood, after tensions in recent days due to the exclusion of former President Francois Bozize’s candidacy in the presidential elections...
9 December 2015
University students camp outside at Ryerson University in Toronto to raise awareness about refugees. (photo: Nansy Khanano/KnanoArt)
We want to highlight the amazing efforts of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada. This group is making a difference to help Iraqi and Syrian refugees — and doing it in a very dramatic and thought-provoking way.
From 16-19 November, in an event dubbed “Life of a Mesopotamian Refugee,” students in the greater Toronto area camped in tents for three nights on different university campuses. These young people wanted to raise awareness and be in solidarity with refugees from their homelands. They also collected donations, which will go towards CNEWA Canada’s efforts to assist refugees.
This student initiative was featured in a video on CityNews television in Toronto. It was also in newspapers, including an article in the Catholic Register.
You can still give to this fundraiser. Learn more by visiting their webpage here. You can also give today to Syrian refugees through CNEWA.
9 December 2015
Pope Francis presents a rose at an icon of Mary and the child Jesus — known as “Doors of Mercy” — as he begins his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 9 December.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis requested the ancient Ukrainian icon “Doors of Mercy” to be brought to the Vatican for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Vatican Radio has details:
This icon, which combines both Western and Eastern traditions, is particularly symbolic and encourages all Christians to unity and peace for the sake of charity.
The Icon was met at the airport by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See, Tatyana Izhevska; and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See, Piotr Nowina-Konopka; and representatives from the Vatican.
The image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, which dates from the seventeenth century, comes from the cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Polish city of Jaroslaw. The icon, which takes its name from the Byzantine Lenten liturgical text, “Open the Doors of Mercy to me, O Mother of God.” is considered miraculous and was given a crown by St. John Paul II in 1996.
A copy of of the icon is also found in the Argentinian church belonging to Pope Francis’ former spiritual director, Ukrainian Catholic priest Father Stephan Chmil, who was later made a bishop.
9 December 2015
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, greets people after celebrating Mass on 7 December at Our Lady of the Annunciation Cathedral in Tartus, Syria. He urged Syrian Christians to hold onto their faith amid the country’s conflict, now in its fifth year.
(photo: CNS/Mychel Akl for Bkerke, Maronite patriarchate)
Syrian rebels begin leaving Homs (AFP) Hundreds of Syrian rebels and civilians began evacuating the last opposition-held district in the central city of Homs Wednesday under a local ceasefire deal reached with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The deal agreed at the start December, a rare agreement between the regime and rebel forces, will leave the city once dubbed the “capital” of Syria’s revolution fully under government control. Some 2,000 rebels and their families will abandon the Waer district in Homs to travel to other opposition-held areas, after years of siege and heavy shelling...
Lebanese cardinal visits Syria, urges Christians to hold on to their faith (CNS) Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, visiting Syria, urged Christians to hold onto their faith. “Withstand with your faith and values, hold on to your unity. God doesn’t accept injustice, and our God is the God of peace and justice,” he said from the courtyard of Our Lady of the Sea on 7 December in the Syrian coastal town of Tartus. The governor of the coastal town declared a public holiday in honor of the visit of the cardinal, who is patriarch of Maronite Catholics...
Syrian refugees settling across U.S. despite resistance (CBS News) In at least two states where governors had demanded no Syrian refugees be allowed to settle, families from that war-torn country have begun arriving, despite the resistance. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis also said Tuesday it has brought a Syrian refugee family into the state despite Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s request that it not do so. Archbishop Joseph Tobin said the family arrived safely in Indianapolis Monday night...
Report: Ethiopian drought leaves “10 million without food” (BBC) Ethiopia’s government has increased to 10.1 million the estimated number of people who desperately need food aid because of a drought. More than half of them are children, Save the Children says. The drought, blamed on the El Nino weather phenomenon caused by Pacific Ocean warming, was the worst in 50 years, the charity added...
Bartholomew sends a gift to Pope Francis (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis today received a gift from the Orthodox leader, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st to recall the signing of a Joint Declaration between their predecessors exactly 50 years ago. On 7 December 1965, on the eve of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, lifted the mutual excommunications which had been imposed following the great schism of 1054...
Ukrainian icon “Doors of Mercy” brought to Vatican for Jubilee (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis requested the ancient Ukrainian icon “Doors of Mercy” to be brought to the Vatican for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This icon, which combines both Western and Eastern traditions, is particularly symbolic and encourages all Christians to unity and peace for the sake of charity...
7 December 2015
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Lebanon Refugees Ethiopia
At the Greek Catholic Church of the Dormition in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, a couple hold candles during their wedding ceremony. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Self-determination as a basic human right for nations and peoples to pursue their cultural, economic, political or social destinies is of recent origin. Rooted in Europe’s 18th-century Age of Enlightenment and nurtured in the Romanticism of 19th century Europe, self-determination brought about conflicting results when realized in the last century. Self-determination has destroyed empires and built nations, advanced nationalism and patriotism and furthered extremism and ethnic cleansing.
What does the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church have to do with the right of self-determination?
In the 19th century, a sense of “self” emerged among the assorted peoples of Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, despite centuries of suppression and forced assimilation. Strategically located at Europe’s frontier with Asia, the Balkans had for millennia lured settlers seeking access to and control of the peninsula’s ports and trade routes.
Bulgarian Orthodox Christians, descendants of a central Asian tribe that migrated to the Balkans in the seventh century and intermarried with the Slav population, were just one of the Balkan peoples inspired by calls of self-determination and independence. As with their neighbors, Bulgarians longed to wrest control of their homeland from their Ottoman Turkish Muslim masters.
The Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church runs the Annunciation Center in Sofia, which provides care for people with severe mental and physical disabilities. (photo: Sean Sprague)
This 19th-century Bulgarian search for self-determination — not unlike the quest of Boris I, Bulgaria’s first Christian leader — led an influential circle of Orthodox monks to explore full communion with the church of Rome in order to secure privileges and traditions, obtain aid and further their national aspirations.
In 1861, an elderly archimandrite, Joseph Sokolsky, led a delegation of Bulgarian Orthodox activists to Rome, where they were received by Pope Pius IX. The pontiff ordained Sokolsky bishop, naming him archbishop for Bulgari an Catholics of the Byzantine rite. Although clearly associated with the Bulgarian nationalist cause, the archbishop was recognized in his new capacity by the Ottoman government — largely to undermine the powerful Greek-dominated ecumenical patriarchate.
This Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church grew rapidly and within a decade more than 60,000 Bulgarian Orthodox Christians embraced it. To stem the tide, the Russian tsar (who protected the interests of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman world) pressured the Ottoman government to recognize an autonomous Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was created in 1870. Though the ecumenical patriarch declared this church schismatic, it commandeered the nascent Bulgarian Greek Catholic movement. By the end of the 19th century, three quarters of those Bulgarians who joined the Greek Catholic community returned to Orthodoxy. Those who remained lived in the environs of Constantinople or in a few isolated villages in what are now modern Greece and Macedonia.
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7 December 2015
Young members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church rest during a traditional celebration. To learn more about this ancient branch of Christianity, read our profile in the May 2010
edition of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
7 December 2015
In the video above, officials describe efforts to tighten security in Rome ahead of the Holy Year, which begins on Tuesday 8 December. (video: Reuters)
Rome on alert as Jubilee approaches (The New York Times) On a recent morning on St. Peter’s Square, alongside the bustling priests and nuns, would-be tour guides and vendors hawking cheap umbrellas, military police officers stood guard with submachine guns. But that is just the beginning. On Tuesday — the start of what Pope Francis has declared a holy year, or Jubilee of Mercy, that is expected to draw millions of visitors — anyone entering the square will be subjected to airport-style screening, including metal detectors and X-ray machines. Pilgrims and tourists take note: Expect long lines...
Egypt reports jihadist threats to Coptic monasteries (Fides) In the last hours, according to Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides, jihadist threats were directed in particular against the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of al Baramos, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The threats have been accompanied by information about the location and structure of the monastery, already subjected to considerable protection measures by the Egyptian police...
Poll shows Americans favor sending ground troops to Iraq, Syria (The Boston Globe) A poll released Sunday said that a majority of Americans should send ground troops to Iraq and/or Syria to combat the Islamic State group. The CNN/ORC poll, released shortly before President Obama’s Oval Office speech, showed that 53 percent of Americans favored using ground troops to combat the Islamic State. It’s the first time that a majority has favored such an action in an CNN poll, the network said...
Knesset to host first-ever Reform-Conservative Hanukkah event (Haaretz) A first-of-its-kind Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony that will include representatives of the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel will be held at the Knesset this week. The ceremony, to be held Tuesday afternoon in one of the main halls of the parliament, is the initiative of MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), head of the Knesset lobby for pluralism and civil equality. Among the candle-lighters will be men, women, religious and secular activists, as well as Ethiopian Jewish clergy. The event is meant to coincide with International Human Rights day, which falls this week...
Gaza selling perfumes in bottles shaped like daggers (The Jerusalem Post) The latest perfume trend in Gaza is a new scent being sold in a bottle shaped like a dagger, the Palestinian symbol of resistance in the latest wave of terror to strike Israel in recent months, according to reports by Alkahleej, a United Arab Emirates based media site...
Russian Orthodox priests pose with cats for calendar (Australia Broadcasting Company) In a rare venture into popular culture, bearded Russian Orthodox priests have posed as models for a glossy 2016 calendar — cuddling their pet cats. The calendar put together by an Orthodox news website sees 12 smiling priests in dark robes relaxing with their cats — sitting side-by-side on the sofa, or having the pet sprawled on their chest or draped round their shoulder...
Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox