15 May 2014
U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis. J. Madden meet with Seyyed Mahmoud, left, at the Ayatollah Marashi Najafi Library in Qom, Iran, in March. At right is Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops’ office of International Justice and Peace. The meeting was part of a dialogue between the bishops and Iranian Muslim leaders on nuclear weapons.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Stephen M. Colecchi)
U.S. bishops, Iranian ayatollahs hold dialogue on nuclear weapons (CNS) Quietly, a small group of U.S. Catholic bishops and Iranian ayatollahs began in March what they intend to be an ongoing dialogue on nuclear weapons and the role of faith leaders in influencing political moves on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. The meetings in Iran, hosted by the Supreme Council of Seminary Teachers of Qom, began with basic discussions of areas of philosophical and theological commonality between Catholicism and Islam and concluded with a commitment to issue a joint statement, said the U.S. bishop who led the delegation...
Holy Land events are prelude to pope’s visit (CNS) As Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land approaches, the trip is being marked with special events, government sessions, online videos and a photography exhibition both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The activities look at the history of the relationship between the Vatican and the Holy Land and serve to urge Pope Francis to look at the current political situation in the region during his brief stay...
Vatican investigating Indian Jesuit’s work (CNS) A leading Indian Jesuit theologian specializing in mission, dialogue and inculturation, has been engaged in a dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but has not been censured or silenced by the Vatican. Jesuit Father Michael Amaladoss, 77, is director of the Institute for Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at the Jesuit-run Loyola College in Chennai, India. Jesuit Father Joe Antony, acting provincial of the Madurai province to which Father Amaladoss belongs, told Catholic News Service on 14 May: “There has been no condemnation or censure, but for nearly two years there has been a dialogue between Father Amaladoss and the doctrinal congregation...”
Syrian diplomat denies allegations of forced starvation, chemical attacks (CNN) Chemical attacks with chlorine gas. Barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters. Syrians starved into submission in opposition-controlled areas. The alleged assaults by the Syrian government against its own people are atrocious. But in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, the country’s deputy foreign minister says such claims are rubbish. “I assure you 100% that chlorine gas has never been used by the government,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said...
Ukrainian archbishop decries actions by Russia (Byzcath.org) The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, condemned recent Russian actions during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “There was no tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Ukraine until the Russian government annexed Crimea,” Major Archbishop Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the Canadian leader during a recent meeting...
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue marks anniversary (VIS) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation on Monday 19 May. The dicastery was instituted with the name “Secretariat for non-Christians” on 19 May 1964 by Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Letter “Progrediente Concilio”, with the aim of paying attention to those who were without the Christian religion and to whom the words of the Lord would seem to refer: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also”...
14 May 2014
A new generation takes root in the Armenian Catholic congregation. (photo: Molly Corso)
Writer and photographer Molly Corso explores the faith of Armenian Catholics in the current edition of ONE magazine, and offers some additional reflections here.
One of the first things that struck me as I started to work on this story was that Armenian Catholics are a minority, within a minority. Ethnically, they are a minority — albeit Georgia’s largest minority — in the country. And, religiously, they are a minority within their ethnicity, as well as within the predominately Orthodox Christian country.
Despite being prejudged, first as Armenians and then as non-Orthodox, many of those living in Georgian urban communities outside of the tightly knit Armenian villages of Samtskhe Javakheti have only a tenuous tie to their Armenian roots. They speak Russian and Georgian, most of the youth go to Georgian schools, and by far not all have traveled to Armenia.
They are, in a word, similar to Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans in the United States: culturally, symbolically somehow tied to the old country by their last names, a different faith, or a penchant for a certain type offood. But otherwise fairly integrated in the country they call home.
But while being an Italian-American or an Irish-American is now something to be proud of in the states, in Georgia — after two difficult decades of conflict, poverty, and ethnic strife — it can be very difficult to show one’s pride for non-Georgian roots.
Georgia and Armenia share an ancient history and Tbilisi, the country’s capital, has boasted more Armenian citizens than even Yerevan.
But the 1990s were overshadowed by battles over territory as Georgia lost control of large chunks of the small country; attempts, however feeble, by Armenian nationals to cut off Samtskhe Javakheti, a southern region of the country that borders Armenia and has the largest concentration of Georgian-Armenians, were not encouraged.
To this day, some of the more national-leaning television stations are still prone to refer to ethnic Armenians living in the country in that context when there is any conflict in the region: would-be separatists looking for a way to break away.
Even among their own kind, Armenian Catholics are viewed as ‘others,’ as Armenians who have strayed from their apostolic flock. The pitched fight over church property seized by the Communists after Georgia became part of the Soviet Union in 1921 is largely played out between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, with little effort to include smaller faiths.
During the Armenian Catholic Center’s Saturday school in Tbilisi, however, Georgian-Armenians are given the opportunity to explore their cultural heritage without concern that they will be deemed less Georgian-or less Armenian- for doing so. In a delectable mix of Armenian, Georgian and Russian, children struggle over Armenian vocabulary, learn Armenian Catholic hymns, and dance Armenian folkdances.
I was struck by how seamlessly the children were able to go from one language to another, discussing art projects, language assignments, and dance moves in all of those languages without a break for translation — proof that, especially among the minority of a minority, there is a synergy between the traditions of their ancestors and their identity as modern Georgians.
Read more about the Armenian Catholics in A Firm Faith in the spring 2014 edition of ONE.
14 May 2014
Father Elias Koucos celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at Prophet Elias Church in Holladay, Utah. To learn more about the thriving community of Greek Orthodox in Utah, check out “Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion” from the June 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
14 May 2014
People mourn on 14 May for their relatives and friends after a mine explosion a day earlier in Soma, Turkey. More than 225 people died in the explosion. Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience that his prayers were with those killed in the disaster.
(photo: CNS /Togla Bozoglu, EPA)
Pope prays for victims of Turkish mining disaster (Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the miners who lost their lives in a mining disaster in Turkey: “Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for the miners who died in the mine yesterday in Soma, Turkey, and for those who are still trapped in the tunnels. May the Lord receive the deceased in His house and give comfort to their families...”
UN mediator on Syria quits, peace prospects dim (The New York Times) International efforts to end the war in Syria faltered further on Tuesday as the United Nations mediator quit, citing frustrations over the moribund political negotiations, and France’s top diplomat said there was evidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons more than a dozen times after it signed the treaty banning them. Taken together, the two events pointed to the failings of the West’s signature efforts on Syria, finding a diplomatic way out of a civil war in its fourth year — and a pact that was proudly touted as stopping the Syrian government from using chemical weapons...
Pope appeals to stop “shameful carnage” of migrant deaths (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is calling on Europe to unite forces and to put human rights in the forefront as the death toll of migrants trying to reach Europe continues to rise...
Talks to end crisis in Ukraine set to begin in Kiev (BBC) Talks to end the crisis in Ukraine are due to begin in Kiev, brokered by international monitors, but pro-Russian rebels look unlikely to attend. The round table was organised as part of a roadmap drawn up by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE). Government and regional figures are to attend but the idea was for the talks to be as inclusive as possible...
Grand Mufti proposes “pact” between Muslims and Christians in Middle East (Fides) Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic and the highest authority of Sunni Islam in the Country of the cedars, proposed a Christian-Muslim pact as a contribution to the promotion of peaceful coexistence in the nation. He submitted the content to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai, during the meeting between Cardinal Rai and a delegation of the Islamic Sharia Council, which took place on 13 May at the Maronite patriarchal See in Bkerké...
Pope Tawadros says charter secures equality for all Egyptians (Gulfnews) New Egypt’s charter enshrines the rights of citizenship and equality for every Egyptian, Muslims and Copts, said Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark yesterday. Dismissing persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II told a news conference held in Abu Dhabi, as neighbours at home, partners at work, friends in schools and colleges, Muslims and Christians have been living in harmony for more than 14 centuries. “But some problems between Copts and Muslims pop up from time to time. The new constitution will help solve these problems, so that justice and peace prevail,” the Coptic Pope said, winding up a several days visit to the UAE...
Resort rises on site where Jesus may have taught (The New York Times) For the Rev. Juan M. Solana, it was the spiritual equivalent of striking oil. When he set out to develop a resort for Christian pilgrims in Galilee, he unearthed a holy site: the presumed hometown of Mary Magdalene and an ancient synagogue where experts say Jesus may well have taught. The project, which Father Solana, a Roman Catholic priest, describes as “providential,” will be blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land this month...
13 May 2014
In Homs, the Syriac Orthodox Oum-al-Zennar Church last week hosted a liturgy of thanksgiving for the return of security to the city. (photo: CNEWA)
After three years, the Old City of Homs is gradually being brought back to life with an increasing number of residents returning to the homes they fled when terrorists took over the city.
Last week, with that portion of the city declared secure after the gunmen were evacuated, the Syriac Orthodox Oum al-Zennar Church hosted a liturgy of thanksgiving.
Syriac Orthodox Archishop of Homs and Hama, Mar Selwanos Boutros al-Neemeh, said that this liturgy expressed thanks to God for the restoration of stability to the city. He said that although terrorists vandalized places of worship—along with teaching and services facilities and homes, all in an attempt to sow discord among the people —the terrorists failed. The people, he said, remain strong.
As the locals continue returning to their homes, repair teams are working to restore life to downtown Homs—opening roads, removing rubble and roadblocks, and repairing the power grid.
To support the people of Homs as they work to rebuild their way of life, visit our emergency giving page.
13 May 2014
A Southist woman in Kerala, India, prays the rosary during Holy Week observances.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2002, we profiled a distinct group of Christians in southern India known as “Southists”:
It is Good Friday in Kottayam, a city in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A family of Christians gathers to bless a plate of fresh, unleavened rice bread. The head of the household reads from a prayer book written in Malayalam, the vernacular of Kerala. On the cover the Hebrew word for Passover is embossed in gold. By tradition, the youngest member of the family asks the eldest the significance of unleavened bread. He is told how their ancestors, the Jews, fled Egypt in haste and how they had only enough time to prepare unleavened bread.
Before sharing their Passover bread, these Christians greet each other, exclaiming, “Happy Pessaha!”
This Indian Christian family traces its origins to those Jewish Christians who immigrated to India from Mesopotamia in the fourth century. Rooted in the past by cherished traditions, they belong to a dynamic community — the Southists, or Knanaya — a group vital to the mosaic of modern India.
Among the Christians of southern India, explains Father Jacob Kollaparambil, a Southist scholar and Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Kottayam, there are two ethnically distinct communities, the Northists and the Southists:
“The Northists are the descendants of those families who were first evangelized by the Apostle Thomas as well as those who have since embraced Christianity. The Southists trace their origins to 72 Mesopotamian Christian families who settled in Cranganore in 345 A.D.”
Southists now number about 200,000 people, a minority within the whole Thomas Christian community of some 4.5 million people (Thomas Christians describe the descendants of those Christians — now members of several Eastern churches — evangelized by Thomas the Apostle). A Semitic people who have maintained their identity by avoiding intermarriage, the Southists are nevertheless divided into two distinct ecclesial jurisdictions. About two-thirds belong to the Eparchy of Kottayam, a diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The remaining third are in communion with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, who established a Southist eparchy in Chingavanam in 1910.
Read more in Ancient Christians, Modern Mission from the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine.
13 May 2014
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem pauses during an 11 May news conference in the northern city of Haifa, called because of recent attacks dubbed “price tagging.” Archbishop Twal said a spate of attacks he described as acts of terror against the church were poisoning the atmosphere ahead of this month’s visit by Pope Francis, and urged Israel to arrest more perpetrators. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Patriarch wants Israelis to crack down on vandalism at religious sites (CNS) The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem called a continuing wave of vandalism against Christian, Muslim and Druze properties a “blight on Israeli democracy” and urged authorities to step up prosecution against the perpetrators. Patriarch Fouad Twal said during a news conference on 11 May in the northern city of Haifa that the attacks, which involve scrawling and spray painting racist and anti-Christian and anti-Muslim messages on buildings and holy sites, was particularly troublesome in light of Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Holy Land on 24-26 May...
Cardinal challenges interfaith leaders to promote peace (Vatican Radio) Do the choices we make as individuals or collectively lead to increasing peace or increasing violence? That’s the question posed by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran to participants at a seminar Monday at Petra University in Amman, Jordan exploring the theme “religion and violence.” In his discourse entitled, “Religion, society and violence: causes and results. The role of religious leaders for peace and social cohesion,” the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue challenged religious leaders to be at the forefront of efforts to promote peace in their societies...
Group claims Syria used chemical weapons last month (AP) An international human rights group said Tuesday it has strong evidence that the Syrian army used chlorine gas on three rebel-held towns last month. The statement by the New-York based Human Rights Watch adds to concerns that chemical weapons are still being used in Syria, months after a chemical attack killed hundreds of civilians last August. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, said in April that it would investigate the chlorine claims but hasn’t commented further...
Metropolitan Hilarion says he was refused entry to Ukraine (Reuters) A top cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church said he was refused entry to Ukraine this week amid an escalating stand-off between Moscow and Kiev over separatist unrest in Ukraine’s east. The church’s Department of External Relations said its head, Metropolitan Hilarion, was turned back on Friday at the airport in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk where he came to award a prize to a local cleric. “I was given no explanation,” Hilarion told Russian state news channel Rossiya 24. “Apparently my name, and possibly the names of other Church hierarchs, are on a list of people who are banned from entering Ukraine.” The Ukrainian border guard declined to comment...
9 May 2014
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop William Murphy and the CNEWA team wrapped up their journey to Jordan on Wednesday.
In Kerak, they stopped by the Italian Hospital, administered by the Comboni Sisters. CNEWA has supported the hospital’s renovation and expansion, bringing health care to countless families.
We profiled the lives of Christians in the Kerak plateau two years ago in the pages of ONE magazine. Many of the people are descended from Bedouins, and have strong ties to the church:
As do most Jordanians, the Christians of the Kerak area express pride about their tribal past. But nostalgia for the old days is hard to find on the Kerak plateau. For generations, these villagers have struggled to achieve a better life, a fight that often has meant leaving behind tribal customs. Now, young and old have their eyes fixed firmly on the future. They want to talk about the Internet, not about camels and sheep; about college degrees, not tents and traditions.
The only vital thread weaving together their present and past, and one they speak about eagerly, is their Christian faith. According to these villagers, the church — Greek Orthodox and Latin and Melkite Greek Catholic — has held the community together and served as a bridge to modern society.
After visiting Kerak, the team traveled to the Christian Bedouin village of Ader to celebrate a First Communion liturgy at the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of St. Gregory.
After that, it was back to Amman for the trip home.
You can find more about this pastoral visit at Cardinal Dolan’s blog and at the blog for Bishop William Murphy. The complete Journey to Jordan is also archived here.
And if you’d like to be a part of the exciting and meaningful work we’re doing in Amman, Kerak and Ader, check out our giving page.
9 May 2014
Msgr. John Kozar and Cardinal Timothy Dolan meet with the CNEWA staff to discuss their just-completed pastoral visit to Jordan. (photo: CNEWA)
Fresh from his pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — he only returned last night — an exuberant Cardinal Timothy Dolan met with the members of the CNEWA team in their New York offices this morning.
“You are making great things happen in Jordan,” the cardinal said, his arm resting on his traveling companion and CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar.
We are very close to the local churches there, the cardinal said of CNEWA. “We do not lord over them, but accompany them, walking with them every step of the way.”
Though Jordan’s Christian community in Jordan is tiny, maybe two percent of the population, he said, it is well respected and faithfully lives the Gospel for all those in need, Christian and Muslim. “They don’t preach the culture of life,” he exclaimed, “they live it!”
“And isn’t the work of the women religious something, Monsignor?”
Follow our special coverage on the pastoral visit to Jordan here. You can also read more from Cardinal Dolan on his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age, or on the blog of Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, who as a member of CNEWA’s board of trustees, joined the cardinal for the pastoral visit.
9 May 2014
A painting of Pope Francis at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity shows him holding an icon of Sts. Peter and Andrew. The icon was given by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople to Pope Paul VI in 1964 and how hangs in the council’s
Vatican office. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Later this month, Pope Francis is not just making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; he is traveling, in effect, to visit a member of the family.
With the bishop of Rome going to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a family reunion will take place. The successor to Peter will meet the successor to the apostle Andrew, Peter’s brother, who founded the church in Byzantium.
The patriarch recently spoke about the meeting in an interview with the Associated Press:
Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians, says a meeting with Pope Francis in Jerusalem this month will help move the two churches closer to ending their nearly one-thousand-year divide.
In an interview with The Associated Press in his Istanbul office, Bartholomew also praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for improving rights for Christians but said pointedly, “it is not enough.”
The meetings between the ecumenical patriarch and the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics on May 25-26 will commemorate the historic visit of their predecessors 50 years ago that launched a dialogue aimed at ending the two churches’ schism in 1054.
“We shall say through our meeting and our prayer that it is the intention of both of us to work further for Christian unity and reconciliation,” Bartholomew said, sitting at his desk piled high with papers in his Patriarchate office. Around him, golden icons from Byzantium on the walls loomed over standing photos of the patriarch greeting world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Erdogan.
Although the Orthodox and Catholic churches remain estranged on key issues, including married clergy and the centralized power of the Vatican, there have been moves toward closer understanding, beginning with the 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem. It was the first encounter between a pope and Orthodox patriarch in more than 500 years.
Read more at the AP link.