4 February 2014
Our good friends at Salt+Light Television have produced an excellent series entitled, “The Church Alive.” Dedicated to the New Evangelization, individual episodes in the series tackle subjects as diverse as interfaith dialogue, economics and the consecrated life.
One recent episode focused on the Eastern Catholic churches, looking at their histories, liturgies and challenges confronting these ancient churches, fully Eastern and fully Catholic. You can watch this episode below and, while you are at it, take some time to watch some of the other programs available on their station on YouTube.
4 February 2014
Tags: Ecumenism Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Media Eastern Catholic Churches
Altar server Andriy Palchak, 14, holds a candelabra in a tradition known as the “Great Blessing of Water” during the Divine Liturgy celebrated for the feast of Theophany at St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church in St. Louis on 12 January. (photo: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)
As the crisis in Ukraine continues to unfold, churches around the world are offering prayers of support. Catholic News Service recently carried a story profiling one church in St. Louis, Missouri:
Olga Shulga said her father has never lived in fear. So when she learned he had joined the protesters in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, she wasn’t all that surprised.
Shulga and her husband, Alex, members of St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Parish in St. Louis, are among those prayerfully watching as the unrest continues to unfold in Ukraine.
“My father will fight with everything he has, because we were raised Ukrainians,” said Olga Shulga. But the 37-year-old, who came to the United States from Kiev almost 15 years ago, worries about her family members who have frequently been bringing food and other necessities to protesters or stand with them in solidarity.
The ongoing protests started last fall after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych withdrew from a promised trade deal with the European Union. The situation has brought together members of St. Mary’s Assumption to support one another and their homeland as they watch from afar. In mid-January, parishioners took up a collection to be sent to support protesters.
Many of the parish’s 30 households are recent immigrants and some came after the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991, said the parish’s administrator, Deacon Eugene Logusch.
“The people in Ukraine have no fear,” he said. “They are prepared to stand up and they want change. They don’t want the country to continue in this way and the government was completely shocked” at the reaction.
Shulga said that while her heart is with her family, she’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had in the United States. In Ukraine, “there’s no future there. That’s why I left. It’s a fight for every person to build a new life for you and your family,” she told the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the archdiocese of St. Louis.
4 February 2014
Tags: Ukraine United States Ukrainian Catholic
In this video, Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports on a refugee community in Arsal, Lebanon, that received funding to run an informal school. The school teaches the full Syrian curriculum, and though students do not receive certificates, time spent in class is always fruitful. (video: Al Jazeera)
Syria in need of humanitarian corridors (Vatican Radio) Despite sharp differences over the conflict in Syria, Russia and Western countries have joined forces to initiate peace talks that began last month in Geneva. Meanwhile, a meeting in Rome yesterday aimed at tackling the humanitarian crisis stemming from the Syrian conflict…
Syria: Dutch priest trapped in Homs says residents going mad with hunger (The Telegraph) A Dutch priest trapped in the siege on the Syrian city of Homs has told how residents around him are being driven mad with starvation, as they are “abandoned” by the international community. The Rev. Frans Van der Lugt, a 75-year-old Roman Catholic and local leader in the besieged Old City in Homs, told of his community’s battle for survival in two years of living in a district brutalized by war and without food. “Our city has become a lawless jungle,” said Father Van der Lugt. “We are trying our best to behave in a fraternal way, so that we don’t turn on each other for the hunger…”
Maronite priest new president of Caritas Lebanon (Fides) The Council of Catholic Patriarchates and Priests, which convenes under Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, appointed the Maronite Rev. Paul Karam as new president of Caritas Lebanon on 31 January. Father Karam is currently the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon. The decision was made after assessing Caritas Lebanon’s role in light of increasing social challenges posed by the deluge of Syrian refugees — nearly 900,000 according to U.N. sources, or more than a million according to the Lebanese authorities — and the catastrophic conditions in which many of them live…
Police working against the abduction of Copts (Fides) In the first days of February, Egyptian security forces carried out a huge operation in the city of Assiut to dismantle an organized crime network that for months organized kidnappings, robberies and extortion against the local Coptic community. Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut sees a decisive change of pace in the intervention carried out by the local police. “For months and months,” he says, describing the prevailing situation before this shift, “Coptic families and entire communities in Assiut and the province have lived in anguish. Kidnappings took place every day. … The perpetrators of these crimes were known to all, but when the Copts claimed and reported them to the security forces, nothing happened…”
Ukraine political impasse headed for parliament (Al Jazeera) Leaders of the anti-government protests that have gripped Ukraine’s capital for more than two months said they will seek constitutional changes Tuesday that would weaken the president’s powers. Meanwhile, Western officials are returning to the country this week in an attempt to resolve the political crisis, with help that could come partly in the form of a financial aid package currently under discussion between the United States and European Union. The constitutional changes were expected to be discussed in a parliamentary session Tuesday as Ukraine’s political crisis continues unabated, with protesters still refusing to leave their encampment in downtown Kiev or vacate buildings they occupy. The demonstrators, who clashed with police last month, are holding to an uneasy truce, and taking pains to adopt tactics of persuasion, as seen in this video…
3 February 2014
Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Ukraine Refugees
Kostas Patitas sits in his apartment in Kipseli, Athens. (photo: Don Duncan)
The Winter issue of ONE offers a powerful look at how the people of Greece are coping with their country’s ongoing economic crisis:
Kostas Patitsas, 59, who lives in the working-class Athens neighborhood of Kipseli, regularly takes advantage of his local parish’s food aid. Mr. Patitsas’s case is a classic example of Greek recession misfortune: In February 2012, his position was made redundant before he reached retirement age. Now he finds himself without a pension in an anemic job market that has become increasingly discriminatory against mature applicants as the recession deepens. He depends on his brother and other family members to pay the property tax on his small apartment and his electricity bills. He needs about $135 a month for cigarettes and tea. For food, he lives on the fare from his local parish, Hagia Zoni Church.
“I am quite optimistic by nature,” he says in the yard of the church as he lines up for food. “And I believe growth will return in 2014.” All the people lined up around him burst into laughter. He is quoting the much-maligned Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who uses this phrase as a boilerplate response to any interrogation regarding the future. It becomes clear that for Kostas Patitsas, and for many others, humor is a coping mechanism.
Some 300 people have come to the soup kitchen at Hagia Zoni. They joke and laugh, but it is a heavy, trudging humor. Before long, they have all departed with their food to eat at home alone.
Mr. Patitsas eats his food on a small table in a communal garden outside the back door of his ground-floor apartment, which is dark, damp and shabby.
Along with humor, he says, his other big coping mechanism is his faith.
“I go to church every Sunday,” he says, “and when I feel low and hopeless, it fills my soul.”
Read more about A Greek Tragedy in the Winter 2013 issue of ONE.
3 February 2014
In this image from 2011, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill celebrates Christmas liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. Last week, he joined Patriarch John X. Yzigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in issuing a plea for peace in Syria.
(photo: CNS/Denis Sinyakov, Reuters)
Syria hits areas held by rebels in Aleppo (New York Times) Syrian government aircraft continued to strike rebel-held areas in Aleppo with makeshift bombs on Sunday, killing at least three dozen people, most of them women and children, antigovernment activists said. The bombs were dropped across neighborhoods in the south and east of the country’s largest city, reducing cinder-block apartment buildings to rubble and leaving crowds of men searching the debris for survivors, according to videos posted online...
Russian, Greek Orthodox leaders join in call for peace in Syria (AsiaNews) The Moscow Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch have launched a joint appeal for peace and independence of Syria. “The two churches believe that only through open and honest dialogue true peace its independence and territorial integrity be guaranteed in Syria, and equal rights and opportunities for its citizens ensured,” reads the statement issued on 30 January, at the end of Patriarch John X Yazigi’s visit to Moscow...
Protestors fill Kiev’s square as president returns to work (EuroNews) Ukraine’s embattled president has announced that he is returning to work on Monday after four days’ sick leave. It came as thousands of protesters filled Kiev’s main square — demanding that he give up power. Opposition leaders, fresh from meeting European US officials at a conference in Munich, told the crowd that they would secure international aid of they were able to take power. “We have a common understanding with our Western partners about what should be done in Ukraine and how much money it requires,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of Ukraine’s opposition Fatherland Party. “But first of all, the question is who will be executing this plan of change for Ukraine, as no one trusts this regime”...
Pope’s first Lenten message to focus on poverty (Catholic News Service) Pope Francis has chosen the theme, “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich,” for this year’s Lenten message, said a Vatican statement on 31 January. The theme comes from a verse from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians where the apostle is promoting generosity in giving and wishes to “test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others.” The full verse reads: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich,” (2 Cor 8:9). The text of the pope’s message for Lent, which begins on 5 March, was to be released at a Vatican news conference on 4 February...
Cyberactivists say dreams of democracy in Middle East unrealized (Catholic News Service) Cyberactivists from Egypt and throughout the Middle East said their dreams of freedom of expression and democracy are unrealized. They are caught in a vise of surveillance and censorship, no matter if the military or Muslim Brotherhood hold the reins of power in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that saw longtime rulers toppled three years ago. “I’m wanted by three different branches by the security forces, mainly because they have their own propaganda about the revolution,” said Marcell Shehwaro, a young Syrian Christian blogger. “I work against it. I was forced to flee my house, my family and my friends” to live in an area under opposition control...
Kerala considers bill to stop lavish weddings (Business Standard) The Kerala government will soon come up with a bill that will prevent ostentatious weddings where people flaunt their wealth, Social Welfare Minister M.K. Muneer said here Monday. Muneer told the state assembly that the situation has reached such a “dangerous level” where weddings only mean flaunting of one’s wealth. “We are working out on how we can prevent this excessive flaunting of wealth on the occasion of weddings and it would be through a new law,” he said.
31 January 2014
In this 2007 photo, a 3-year-old orphan helps a nun wash the dishes at the Antiochene Orthodox Monastery of St. Thecla in Maaloula, Syria. Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch recently announced that the sisters are still alive and well, though efforts are still underway to secure their release from the Islamist fighters who abducted them a month ago. To learn more about life in this monastery before the war, read Echoes of Jesus From Syria’s Mountains or An Antiochene Legacy, from the May 2008 and January-February 1999 issues of the magazine, respectively. (photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)
31 January 2014
Tags: Syria Violence against Christians Sisters Monastery Nuns
Ibrahim Fahmy, 18, center, poses for a photo with co-workers on 17 January outside the silver shop where they work in Cairo. Mr. Fahmy says he supports Egypt’s new constitution because he believes it can create the stability needed for foreign tourists to return. (photo: CNS/James Martone)
New Egyptian constitution holds promise for Copts (National Catholic Register) After enduring the worst persecution in centuries, a new constitution gives Coptic Christians renewed hope for civil rights and freedom in Egypt, but a lot of work remains. “It is good — not very good — but it is good,” said the Rev. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Conference. “It could not have been better given the context we are living now.” The new constitution’s vision of a pluralistic and inclusive civil state now depends not only on translating it into laws, but also translating it into Egyptian hearts and minds, Father Greiche added…
Gaza youth dream of jobs in Qatar (Al Monitor) On 14 January the Palestinian and Qatari governments signed an agreement for the recruitment of 20,000 professional and specialized Palestinian workers to find employment in Qatar, in addition to the estimated 20,000 Palestinians who have already been working for years in the Gulf state…
Peace plan lets most Jewish settlers remain in West Bank, envoy says (Washington Post) Roughly three-quarters of Jewish settlers in the West Bank would be included in redrawn Israeli borders envisioned under U.S.-backed peace negotiations, the lead U.S. envoy told American Jewish leaders on Thursday…
Church leaders in Ukraine call for national unity (Church Times) At a meeting predominantly of clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate in Odessa (in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea coast, a Russian-speaking area) last Saturday, the call was for moderation, but also national unity: “We especially encourage local elites — political, cultural, intellectual, social — do not rock the boat in which you sit. Do not think that the current conflicts are careless political games. Be aware that we are one family and that we live in the same home: Ukraine…”
U.N. calls for Ukraine torture probe as activist speaks of being ‘crucified’ (Al Jazeera) A Ukrainian anti-government activist who disappeared a week ago during widespread protests in and around Kiev has resurfaced with his face badly beaten and with wounds to his hands, saying his abductors tortured and “crucified” him. “They crucified me, they nailed down my hands. They cut off my ear, they cut my face. There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten,” Bulatov said. “Thank God, I am alive.” He also said he was kept in the dark at all times, and could not identify his captors…
Syria peace talks adjourn with little progress but some hope (Los Angeles Times) The first round of long-awaited Syrian peace talks ended Friday in Geneva with no breakthrough but with both sides planning to meet again and resume negotiations. “Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner,” Lakhdar Brahimi, the chief United Nations negotiator, told reporters in Geneva. “This is a very modest beginning, but it is a beginning on which we can build…”
Mideast cyberactivists say dreams of democracy remain unrealized (CNS) Cyberactivists from Egypt and throughout the Middle East said their dreams of freedom of expression and democracy are unrealized. They are caught in a vise of surveillance and censorship, no matter if the military or Muslim Brotherhood hold the reins of power in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that saw longtime rulers toppled three years ago…
30 January 2014
Tags: Egypt Ukraine Middle East Gaza Strip/West Bank Unity
A Coptic farmer walks through his field near Minya, Egypt. To learn more about the lives and struggles of Coptic farmers, read Seeds of Survival, from the Winter 2013 issue of ONE. To view this issue in its full graphical layout, click the image. (photo: David Degner)
30 January 2014
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Farming/Agriculture Copts Coptic
The Dutch Rev. Frans van der Lugt, S.J., prays at the residence of the Jesuit fathers in the besieged area of Homs, Syria, on 29 January. The priest recently made an appeal for help in a YouTube video, highlighting severe shortages of food and medicine. The Rev. Ziad Hilal, a fellow Jesuit, made note of Father Van der Lugt’s stalwart presence in his Letter From Syria, published in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)
Syria allegedly demolishing neighborhoods to punish residents (The Guardian) The Syrian government has demolished thousands of buildings, in some cases entire neighborhoods, in parts of Damascus and Hama, as part of a collective punishment against residents of rebel-held areas, Human Rights Watch says. Satellite imagery taken over both cities has revealed seven areas where neighborhoods have either been largely destroyed or totally demolished. None of the destruction was caused during combat. Rather, the buildings have been systemically destroyed using bulldozers and explosives placed by troops who first ordered residents to leave and then supervised the demolitions…
Starving to death in Syria’s Yarmouk camp (Al Jazeera) In the Yarmouk refugee camp, more than 55 people have died from hunger and the majority of children are suffering from malnutrition, according to Abdullah al Khatib, a Palestinian activist living there. Most people are consuming soup made from water and spices, Khatib said, and some are reportedly eating grass for survival. Starvation conditions continue despite recent United Nations efforts to get much-needed food through the street battles and checkpoints, and most residents are still searching garbage piles for anything edible, Khatib told Al Jazeera on Monday. Until last week, food aid had not been delivered to the camp since September 2013…
Ukraine tensions high after amnesty laws’ adoption (Vatican Radio) Tensions remain high in Ukraine’s capital after the government approved an amnesty for anti-government protesters, following deadly violence in which as many as five people died. Opposition parties abstained from voting because the legislation contains unacceptable conditions, while the European Union’s top envoy and neighboring countries expressed concern about the situation…
Amid ‘civil war’ talk, Kremlin keeps wary eye on Ukraine (Christian Science Monitor) Russia has offered strong assurances of non-intervention in a fast-unraveling Ukraine. But experts say the Kremlin is watching events in Kiev with mounting concern as central government control grows increasingly tenuous — and warn that Moscow may react badly if the ten-week-old protest movement leads to sweeping constitutional changes in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin told European Union leaders in Brussels Tuesday that Moscow will not change the terms of its financial-aid package to Ukraine, even if the government in Kiev changes, and will not interfere in the increasingly turbulent political crisis there. He chided European Union officials for what he described as cheerleading for anti-government protesters, and warned against the urge to “mediate” in the struggle for Ukraine’s soul…
The verdict on the wall in the Cremisan Valley has been postponed (Fides) The Supreme Court of Israel has postponed the verdict on the route of the separation wall. Israeli authorities plan to build a security wall in the Cremisan Valley, on the land of 58 Palestinian families in Beit Jala and two Salesian religious communities. The Society of St. Yves, a Catholic human rights, filed the lawsuit against the construction of the wall in the Cremisan Valley. Those in attendance at yesterday’s hearing included Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, several priests of the patriarchate, the mayors of Bethlehem and Beit Jala and the representatives of 13 consulates of foreign countries…
Maronite patriarch: Lebanon needs a president (AsiaNews) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter I, in an interview yesterday with Lebanese daily As Safir, said that the election of a new president, national unity and respect for the constitution are some of some of the urgent issues the country must address. The church leader, also a cardinal of the Catholic Church, decried attempts to postpone the presidential elections. “The problem is that everyone wants to divide the country according to his perspective instead of becoming as one…”
Chaldean patriarch reflects on first year leading church, future of church (AsiaNews) In a pastoral letter addressed to the bishops, priests, nuns and faithful on the occasion of the first anniversary of his election as leader of the Chaldean Church, Patriarch Louis Raphael I discussed concerns such as massive emigration, fragmentation, isolation, the revision of the liturgy. “Our church is invited to rebuild what was destroyed and distorted, gather the scattered” and call back those who have fled…
Egypt says charging Al Jazeera journalists with terrorism (Christian Science Monitor) The Egyptian prosecutor’s office today said it had charged 20 journalists working with the Al Jazeera news network, including four foreigners, with various charges including belonging to or aiding a terrorist organization and broadcasting false news. But the prosecutor’s statement did not list the names of the defendants, and it was unclear who had been charged. The terrorism charges send a chilling message to journalists who veer from the government’s view of events in Egypt…
29 January 2014
Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Middle East Separation Barrier
A large drawing of Pope Francis depicting him as a superhero is seen on a wall near the Vatican on 29 January. The Argentine pope is shown taking off into the air with his right fist clenched in classic Superman style. In addition to this super-heroic rendering, the pope also also recently received a “rockstar” treatment as the subject of Rolling Stone magazine’s cover story. (photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Art Rome Media