17 May 2013
Sister Eliseea sets aside an unfinished icon of the Holy Trinity to begin another one. (photo: Andreea Câmpeanu)
An old friend dropped by the office today: Sister Eliseea Papacioc, a Romanian Orthodox nun and world-renowned iconographer. She’s visiting the United States for a few weeks, stopping in Washington, New York, Florida and Tennessee for exhibitions and talks about her work, and she came to say hello and show us some of her remarkable work.
Last year, we took readers to her Romanian studio, and she explained the prayerful process by which she creates her icons:
“Once I understood that these icons should only be made with never-ending prayer, I realized I could not write them, because I could not pray. And I was a nun,” she admits.
“Your prayer becomes the icon, and the icon becomes prayer again for the one who has it in his home and prays in front of it. It’s all mystery, a real and continuous link to God,” she explains, as she sits in her workroom’s red armchair and sips a cup of tea.
Now, when Sister Eliseea writes, she prays nonstop. She follows a simple daily routine, which begins and ends in prayer. Each morning, she wakes up at dawn and reads from the Psalms. “That’s where I get all my sap, all my spirit,” she says.
Afterward, she writes icons, which she does until the sunset. She often continues into the night, sometimes until as late as 2 or 3 a.m. However, she only uses colored paints in the daylight.
She spent some time today explaining more of the spirituality that informs her work.
“I’m very connected with God when I do this,” she said, “and God is doing everything through my hand. I can’t paint without prayer. This comes from heaven, from the words of God, and if you can’t pray you can’t call yourself an iconographer. The prayer comes in your heart from God. Through this prayer, God gives me this inspiration. It’s like I’m under his protection all the time when I paint, he’s covering me with his wings. I never know how a painting is going to be. I just start a sketch and it just comes to me.”
Sister Eliseea said she’s written hundreds of icons over the course of her life; some can be done in a matter of months, others take years. A large icon of the “Deposition from the Cross” — Jesus being taken from the cross — took three years. It is all a labor of love.
“I’m not a commercial painter,” she said with a shy smile, explaining that she doesn’t keep any of the icons for herself. “I just paint as much as God inspires me. God gives me this gift to give to people, to give away.”
You can see Sister Eliseea presenting a couple of her icons, below — the aforementioned depiction of the Descent from the Cross on the left, and another portraying the Annunciation on the right. Read more about her in A Romanian Renaissance from the January 2012 issue of ONE.
16 May 2013
Tags: Sisters Prayers/Hymns/Saints Art Icons Romania
Parishioners sing a hymn during evening Mass in the Church of Sts. Simeon and Anne in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Did you know there is a group of Catholics in Israel who regularly attend Mass in Hebrew?
The Spring issue of ONE offers a profile of this unique community:
By any measure, it may be one of the most distinct cultures in all of Israel. With just 500 active members, including children, Israel’s Hebrew-speaking Catholic community is so small that many Catholics around the world, and most Israelis, do not know of its existence. It endures as a vibrant contradistinction: Catholics celebrating their faith in a country that is overwhelmingly Jewish, worshiping in Hebrew, marking Jewish feasts and traditions, and honoring many local customs. Yet they are undeniably, proudly Catholic.
The community was born in 1955. That year, a group of Catholics in Israel founded a pious association called the Work of St. James to help Hebrew-speaking Catholics live their faith in a Jewish society.
“The church began to realize there were thousands of Catholics in Israel who were not Arabs and not expatriates, who belonged to and integrated into Hebrew-speaking, Jewish Israeli society,” says the Rev. David Neuhaus, Latin patriarchal vicar of Hebrew-speaking Catholics.
Some were married to Jews, while others were from Catholic branches of predominantly Jewish families. A smaller number were Jews who, like Father Neuhaus, had converted to Catholicism.
Regardless of their backgrounds, most “strongly saw themselves as Jewish historically, ethnically and culturally, and at the same time Catholic,” he says.
But between the 1950’s and the 1980’s, the community dwindled dramatically, largely due to emigration and assimilation.While members of the community come from a variety of backgrounds, all find unity in the most familiar form of Catholic worship, the Mass in the Latin rite, celebrated in Hebrew in six communities across Israel. As Father Neuhaus explains, it is the same Mass prayed around the world, but “with minor concessions to the particularity of praying in Hebrew.”
On Sundays, for example, the liturgy begins by lighting two candles representing the Old and New Testaments, signifying “their intimate unity.” The music is inspired by both Christian and Jewish traditions rooted in the region. Readings from the Old Testament, including the Psalms, are heard in their entirety, rather than selected verses, and Jewish feasts and days of commemoration are mentioned.
“Needless to say, praying in Hebrew brings out very forcefully the resonances in the liturgy with the biblical texts, particularly of the Old Testament,” Father Neuhaus says, after celebrating a weekday Mass at the Jerusalem chapel.
Read more about this community in Hebrew Spoken Here.
15 May 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Israel Cultural Identity Catholic
In this picture, taken last August, a Comboni nun watches over newborns at the Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. (photo: John E. Kozar)
With the crisis in Syria growing worse by the day, one beacon of hope remains the CNEWA-supported Italian Hospital in Kerak, Jordan. Recently, Asia News profiled the hospital and the Comboni sisters who run it:
The war in Syria and the overcrowding in refugee camps are forcing more people to seek “salvation” in the Jordanian desert hundreds of miles from the capital Amman and the Syrian border. Interviewed by AsiaNews, Sister Adele Fumagalli, a Comboni religious in the Italian Hospital, describes the tragedy of those who are trying to escape from the horrors of war and the refugee camps. Every day the hospital opens its doors to dozens of pregnant women, orphaned children, young fathers whose dying wives have entrusted their children to them. “In the evening and in the morning,” says Sister Adele, “when we are in the chapel, our first thoughts go to those who have crossed the desert to escape in the night … we base our service on charity and we welcome these people who are struggling in silence.”
The nun confesses that the people in the refugee camps are experiencing a dramatic situation of great urgency and insecurity. According to the religious, refugees in Jordan are about 10 percent of the population and this will force the Hashemite kingdom to open new camps, but the resources of the small state may not be enough, which in less than a year has welcomed more than 500,000 Syrians. The population is beginning to demand other solutions and in recent weeks there have been numerous protests in various cities in the country. For humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations, water supply, sanitation, education, medical care will no longer be guaranteed in a few months. To survive, many have fled to Amman. Says Sister Adele: “On the road leading to the capital there are many Syrian children, that were separated from their families during the trip. They are completely left to themselves. To survive they sell cigarettes, tea, or beg passers-by.”
There are currently over 30,000 Syrians who have settled in the province of Kerak. In January, there were about 10,000. Most are people who have not found a place in the Zarqa refugee camp, in the north of the country, others come directly from Syria. The lucky ones live in small homes for rent. Up to three families with several children live in a single apartment. Sometimes they also bring the elderly or sick people with them. …
Founded in 1939, the Italian Hospital of Kerak is the only equipped clinic in the region and has about 40 beds. It is supported by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), the special Vatican agency for aid to Catholic Churches and the peoples of the Middle East. To address the emergency in Syria the structure along with Caritas and UNHCR has established a program of assistance and shelter for the needy and the sick.
”Other local organizations ask for our cooperation,” explains Sister Adele Fumagalli. “Our hospital remains the reference point for the southern part of Jordan. Our service continues with the support of the Church and of our generous benefactors.“
There’s much more at the link.
To learn how to help Syrian refugees, visit our Emergency: Syria page.
14 May 2013
Tags: CNEWA Jordan Health Care Italian Hospital Comboni Sisters
In New York, Cardinal Cleemis Mar Baselios, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church, visits with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and CNEWA's chair. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Today, the Vatican announced this coming Sunday, 19 May, Cardinal Cleemis Mar Baselios, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, will take possession of his titular church in Rome, St. Gregory VII al Gelsomino.
The announcement came as the cardinal is paying a visit to North America. Yesterday he met in New York with CNEWA chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan and several other church leaders, including CNEWA president John E. Kozar, who snapped these pictures.
Since his arrival, the Syro-Malankara Church head has met with numerous church leaders, including Cardinal Dolan, center, and Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York. (photo: John E. Kozar)
14 May 2013
Tags: Vatican United States Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Destroyed buildings are seen in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria, on 29 April. The Syriac Catholic patriarch said events in Syria were the result of Western nations carrying out a geopolitical strategy “to split Syria and other countries” in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/George Ourfalian, Reuters)
Patriarch: Crisis in Syria is part of Western strategy (CNS) The Syriac Catholic patriarch said events in Syria were the result of Western nations carrying out a geopolitical strategy “to split Syria and other countries” in the Middle East. “It’s not a question of promoting democracy or pluralism as the West wants us to understand of its policies. This is a lie, this is hypocrisy,” Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service. Western nations did not heed warnings and so “bear responsibility for what is happening in Syria”…
Why Syrian quagmire threatens Turkey (CNN) Turkey’s tragic loss of at least 47 people in the car bombings in the border town of Reyhanli illustrates vividly that Turkey is not immune to the raging violence next door. Turkey has suffered similar, though far less deadly events in the past year, including Syria downing a Turkish jet, the killing of five Turks in cross-border artillery fire and a car bomb blast at a Turkey-Syria border crossing in February killing more than a dozen people. It is also hosting more than 400,000 Syrian refugees at a cost of $1.5 billion and counting. The United Nations estimates that number of refugees will triple by the end of this year. Moreover, it is a critical staging post and a logistical lifeline for opposition fighters against the leadership of Bashar al Assad in Damascus…
Christian village awaits arrival of Syrian army (Lebanon Daily Star) The advance of regime troops on the rebel stronghold of Qusair in central Syria has come as a relief for at least one village, mostly Christian, nestled on the shores of Lake Quttina. For the first time in eight months, the villagers of Ghassaniyeh do not have to make the risky trip across the lake to bring in fresh food and supplies…
Bishop says election of Pope Francis bodes well for Eastern Catholics (Catholic Sun) Bishop Gerald N. Dino of the Byzantine Holy Protection Eparchy of Phoenix said the election of Pope Francis bodes well for Eastern Catholics. “He’s very familiar with the Byzantine rite,” Bishop Dino said. “It means that we have a leader who understands a minority group within the church and respects those minorities”…
Why some Russian Orthodox believers are converting to other Christian faiths (Russia & India Report) Experts say there is a tendency in Russia, although a subtle one so far, of converting from the Russian Orthodox Church to other Christian denominations, such as Catholicism or Protestantism. This is because, they explain, believers often disagree with the position of the Russian Orthodox Church leaders on the most pressing problems of Russian society. In some cases, scandals around individual clergymen are to blame…
13 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Turkey Russian Orthodox Church Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
Altar boys serve the liturgy at the Chaldean parish in Amman. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
In the Spring issue of ONE, writer-photographer Cory Eldridge profiles Christians who have fled Iraq to try and start over in Jordan:
The exodus of Iraqis has slowed since the difficult days of 2004 to 2008. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says a total of about 30,000 Iraqis are registered in Jordan. In 2011, 7,000 new arrivals registered with the agency. Last year it was half that.
Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq, says hard numbers are difficult to come by in the Middle East, and the number of registered and unregistered refugees is likely much higher. UNHCR doesn’t release numbers on religious affiliation, but Mr. Bahou believes about 30,000 Iraqi Christians live in Jordan, mostly in Amman. He expects that number to remain constant — a slow trickle in, a slow trickle out and no real change overall.
While the violence after the U.S. military’s surge did abate, life never became anything close to safe. In October 2010, Muslim extremists attacked Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, and the hours-long event left 58 parishioners, priests and police dead. The slaughter cast a long pall over all the country’s Christians.
Iraqis regularly describe that event as the defining moment for them, when everything suddenly and irrevocably changed.
In a new but poor neighborhood with wide main streets and side roads packed with the haphazard dwellings of a developing slum, the Rev. Mansour Mattosha, pastor of Amman’s Syriac Catholic parish, walks up four flights of stairs to visit a parishioner — his niece.
Even before 2003, Amman hosted many Christian communities. Now, among Catholics alone there are Chaldean, Latin, Melkite Greek and Syriac parishes, as well as Coptic, Greek and Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Protestant parishes. Relations among the parishes are good: The overwhelming attitude among the faithful is: “We’re all Christians, and there’s too few of us to bicker.”
Most of these parishes can be found in one part of central Amman, called Hashami Shamali, where many Iraqi refugees live. Father Mattosha comes here several times a week to visit 20 or so families. His is one of the smallest congregations, and he serves it alone. When he arrived, there were about 200 Iraqi families in the parish, as well as the original 50 Palestinian families who established the parish in 1948. Now, the number of Iraqi families has dwindled to about 80; the rest have left for U.N.-sponsored locations from Germany and Sweden to the United States and Canada to Australia and New Zealand. Extended families who used to live in the same village, often on the same block, have ended up in multiple countries.
Read more on those who are now Out of Iraq.
13 May 2013
Tags: Iraq Refugees Jordan Chaldeans
A girl sits on a chair placed among rubble as she sells bread on a war-torn street in Deir al-Zor, Syria, on 9 May. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Syria blames Turkey’s government for car bombings (Reuters) Syria’s information minister has blamed Turkey’s government for deadly car bombings near the Syrian border and branded Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan a “murderer,” state-run Russian TV company RT reported on Monday. The bombings took place as prospects appeared to improve for diplomacy to try to end the war in Syria, after Moscow and Washington announced a joint effort to bring government and rebels to an international conference as soon as possible...
Pontifical yearbook shows Catholic population steady, boom in vocations to diaconate (Vatican Radio) The number of Catholics globally remains largely unchanged at 1.2 billion, rising only slightly higher than global population growth for the 2010/2011 period. The number of priests (religious and diocesan) has grown, largely thanks to a rise in vocations in Asia and Africa which has helped balance the continued decline in Europe (-9% in the last decade). The same cannot be said for the number of professed women religious with a downward trend registering a drop of 10% over the past decade. But, perhaps the most surprising statistic revealed in the 2013 Pontifical Yearbook Monday was the boom in vocations to the permanent diaconate, particularly in Europe and the US where numbers have increased by over 40% in the past decade...
Report says India has highest number of child deaths within first 24 hours of life (Fides) Every year a million children die within 24 hours of birth, and two million before the age of three months. This is what emerges in a recently published report by the NGO Save the Children, in which it also records the death of 287,000 women for causes related to maternity. The first day of a child’s life is the most dangerous, especially in India, where 309,300 infants die each year in the first 24 hours of life. In “Surviving the First Day: Status of Motherhood 2013,” the NGO ranks India as having the highest number of maternal deaths in the world, with 56,000 cases per year...
Patriarch: meeting between Francis and Tawadros II caused joy, hope for unity (Fides) “The meeting between the Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II caused joy especially among the very simple people. Now the hope is that the path on the way of unity can move forward with concrete and challenging steps.” This is what was reported to Fides Agency by His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts. The patriarch outlined the hopes in the Egyptian Catholic community from the recent meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch...
Russian Orthodox patriarch pays first visit to China (New Straits Times) The Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Sunday held a service in Beijing on his first ever visit to Communist-ruled China, during which he called for closer ties between the giant neighbours. Kirill, dressed in an ornate red and gold robe, held the service for about 300 people in a tent on the grounds of the Russian embassy in Beijing amid tight security, an AFP photographer witnessed. Chinese exercises strict control over religion, requiring followers to worship in state-approved churches...
Immigration fuels growth in Toronto’s Catholic Church (Catholic Register) Immigration hasn’t just transformed the Catholic Church in Toronto, it’s made the archdiocese of Toronto massively different from Catholic Canada outside the Greater Toronto Area. Two out of every five Catholics in Toronto were born outside the country, compared to just one in 10 Catholics who are immigrants in the rest of Canada...
8 May 2013
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Turkey Coptic
After receiving a new zucchetto (a clerical skullcap) from a young girl, Pope Francis offers her his old one in exchange in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 8 May. The Spring issue of ONE, now available online, looks at how the new pontiff has spoken of issues important to him — and to CNEWA. Read what he had to say here. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
7 May 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Pope
A little boy looks on in the southern Egyptian village of Qenna, where the church remains the focus of the Christian community. (photo: David Degner)
Recent headlines have told again and again of Copts fleeing Egypt for other countries. In the Spring 2013 issue of ONE, writer Sarah Topol and photographer David Degner look at those who have chosen to stay and are trying to build a future:
With the growing influence of radical Islam, more and more Christians are considering their options. Atef Gamil knows many Christians who have already emigrated. He wants his 21-year-old son, Bishoy, to move to England when the young man finishes his medical degree in three years. But Bishoy Gamil has other ideas. He does not want to leave Egypt.
Discussions about migration are playing out across the Coptic community, says the Rev. Shenouda Andraos, the rector of the Coptic Catholic Seminary of St. Leo the Great in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Father Andraos says the church leadership continues to tell its flock emigration is not the solution.
“The church is trying to raise awareness that we must have a positive and effective role and we cannot leave the country — this is our homeland and we have to participate in building it. It is important we don’t become terrorized, that we continue to have hope in the future.”
Read more about The Men Who Stayed in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
6 May 2013
Tags: Egypt Emigration Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Church
Yesterday, churches that follow the Julian calendar marked Easter. In this image from 2004, a man shows off some Easter eggs at St. Clement Church in Ohrid, Macedonia. Eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. To read more about the Byzantine traditions of Ohrid, check out Answering the Macedonian Question in the July-August 2004 issue of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)