5 April 2013
A man mourns the death of relatives while people search for casualties under the rubble at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 March.
(photo: CNS/Ziad Rev, Reuters)
Aleppo Christians fleeing rebel-held areas in Syria (Fides) The conquest of the district of Cheikh Maksoud by the anti-Assad militia could mark the fate of Aleppo, the metropolis battered for months by a bloody civil war. “Father David Fernandez, a missionary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, confirms that neighborhood- is located on a hill overlooking Aleppo and is a strategic point for those who want to conquer the central area of the city, where there are also government buildings...
Kidnappers target Christians in Egypt (Associated Press) Ezzat Kromer’s resistance to his kidnappers did not last long. One of the masked gunmen fired a round between his feet as he sat behind the wheel of his car and said with chilling calm, “The next one will go into your heart.” The Christian gynecologist says he was bundled into his abductors’ vehicle, forced to lie under their feet in the back seat for a 45-minute ride, then dumped in a small cold room while his kidnappers contacted his family over a ransom. For the next 27 hours, he endured beatings, insults and threats to his life, while blindfolded, a bandage sealing his mouth and cotton balls in his ears. Kromer’s case is part of a dramatic rise of kidnappings targeting Christians, including children, in Egypt’s southern province of Minya, home to the country’s largest concentration of Christians but also a heartland for Islamist hard-liners...
Building collapse near Mumbai kills dozens (BBC) At least 40 people have died, including 11 children, after a building under construction collapsed near the Indian city of Mumbai, police say. Dozens have been injured and many others are feared trapped beneath the seven-storey building in Thane. Police said the block was an illegal construction and building work was going on even though four floors were already occupied. Building collapses are common with poor construction practices often blamed...
A Bosnian Muslim welcome to Pope Francis (Lebanon Daily Star) The election of Argentine Pope Francis, the 266th Bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church, deserves both our congratulations and our reflection for the future of Muslim-Christian coexistence and dialogue. As a survivor of genocide at the end of 20th century in Bosnia, I am very interested in the policy of the Vatican and the message of the Holy See, which speaks for the Catholic Church. While the political influence of the Vatican might be limited to public diplomacy, the spiritual influence has great significance for millions of Christians worldwide. Consequently, the pope has always had a great impact on global peace and security. Pope Francis.. may find in his two immediate predecessors important lessons that could guide his future relations with Muslims...
4 April 2013
Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis Muslim
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II's enthronement ceremony, pictured above, was held
at St. Mark's Cathedral in Abbasiya in Cairo on 18 November. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
Coptic patriarch will go to Rome to meet Pope Francis (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II of Alexandria has expressed his desire to go to Rome to meet Pope Francis. According to Egyptian media sources — such as the daily Al Masry al Youm — the head of the largest Christian church in the Arab world expressed this intention on Wednesday evening, after receiving Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel as a guest at the Cathedral of St. Mark. The Coptic Orthodox patriarch’s visit to the Apostolic See of Rome represent a very important event from an ecumenical point of view. Tawadros’s predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, had met Pope Paul VI at the Vatican 40 years ago, in May 1973…
Will Syria’s refugee crisis drain Jordan of its water? (Time) Now that spring has arrived in the Middle East, Syria’s estimated 1.2 million refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan can hope for relief from the snow, the rain and the bitterly cold nights of winter. But that relief will be as short-lived as the region’s balmy weather. Summer is fast on its way, and in Jordan in particular, life for Syrian refugees, and the border communities that support them, is about to get a lot worse…
In Syria, abandoned baby becomes family’s ‘gift from God’ (Daily Star Lebanon) A newborn baby abandoned on the street in the battleground Syrian city of Aleppo has been named “Gift from God” by the family who adopted her, even at the cost of an extra mouth to feed. In a city that has been devastated by fighting since July last year, where jobs have disappeared and prices for even basic goods have risen beyond most people’s reach, parents face impossible choices. Doctors say the abortion rate has increased as parents take fright at the prospect of having to fend for another child. Others have sent children to live with family members, or abandoned them altogether. Hibat Allah, as she is named in Arabic, was lucky to survive her abandonment in a rebel-held neighborhood of the city in December, her adoptive parents recall…
The story behind an Ethiopian Christian refugee who settled in Israel (Haaretz) He employs a staff of 12 Israelis, is the son of a high-ranking government official and wears brand-name sweaters. Meet Yohannes Bayu, refugee. “I’m one of the lucky ones,” says the Jerusalem resident, who is one of an estimated 170 people who have, in the course of six decades, been officially recognized by Israel as refugees. A Christian from Ethiopia, Bayu, 39, came to Israel after fleeing his native land in 1997, long before thousands of other Africans began walking across the Egyptian desert to make their way to the Jewish state…
3 April 2013
Tags: Refugees Ecumenism Refugee Camps Coptic Orthodox Church Water
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt speaks at an interfaith prayer service at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn on 2 April. (photo: CNEWA)
Last night, dozens of lay people and clergy — including CNEWA’s Msgr. John E. Kozar — gathered at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn for an interfaith service dedicated to praying for peace in the Middle East, especially Syria.
Representatives of several faith traditions were there: Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants. The diversity was impressive and inspiring; a Druze cleric led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer, and the service ended with “Immaculate Mary” sung in Arabic. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt (shown above), the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, spoke eloquently of the urgent need for peace, and quoted both Pope Emeritus Benedict and his successor Pope Francis.
Among the prayers from the service was this, adapted from Maronite Evening Prayer:
O Lord, the night and the day are yours; you uphold the light and the sun. Through your power you direct the sequence of the seasons. You have brought the day to its close and called forth the night. Be for us that great day that never ends. In the evening, let your light shine in our hearts, and in the darkness of the night, enlighten us with the knowledge of your truth. And so, through all the days of our lives, we shall praise you, O God. To you be glory and may your mercy rest upon us, now and forever.
To learn more about the Maronite Church, click here.
3 April 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Unity Middle East Peace Process Prayers/Hymns/Saints Maronite
A man holds an injured child who had just been pulled out from under rubble at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 March. (photo: CNS/Ziad Rev, Reuters)
Israel issues warning to Palestine and Syria (Al Jazeera) Israel’s defense minister warned Palestinian fighters that the Israeli military will respond to any attacks in its territory, after a rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel and an attack from Syria. Moshe Yaalon said on Wednesday that the military will not hold back if attacked and will not allow its civilians or armed forces to come under fire “in any form”. “We shall not allow in any form the establishment of a routine of sporadic firing on our civilians or on our forces,” said Yaalon…
Report: Syria conflict drawing hundreds of jihadists from Europe (The Guardian) Hundreds of Europeans have travelled to Syria since the start of the civil war to fight against the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, the most comprehensive study of European foreign fighters to date has found…
Russian Orthodox leaders hope Anglicans will not allow female bishops, same-sex marriage (Interfax) The Moscow Patriarchate expects Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to adhere to the norms of Christian morals and the church system. “We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties coexist in it. However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's department for external relations, said during a meeting between Welby and representatives of the Orthodox churches who attended his enthronement…
Kerala is India’s divorce capital (Deccan Chronicle) Two decades ago, the state had a very modest divorce rate. But now, with the state capital being ranked the divorce capital of the country, and Kerala having the highest divorce rate in the country, family courts are flooded with divorce petitions. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, which came into force in 2006, has given women a legitimate ground for divorce they did not have before. But, like any law, it can be misused. According to Rakhi Ravikumar, a counsel who specializes in divorce petitions, a court will offer interim relief now only when it is convinced that the domestic violence plea is genuine…
2 April 2013
Tags: India Syrian Civil War Kerala Israeli-Palestinian conflict Russian Orthodox Church
Pope Francis visits the excavated necropolis below St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 1 April. The necropolis is where St. Peter’s tomb has been venerated since early Christian times and where the first church dedicated to him was built. The tomb is two levels below the main altar of the modern basilica. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Yesterday, Pope Francis became the first pope to tour what is believed to be the burial site of St. Peter. CNS reports:
Kneeling before the tomb of St. Peter, Pope Francis repeated the three professions of faith the Gospels report the apostle making: “Lord, you are the Christ, the son of the living God,” “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” and “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, said Pope Francis made the three professions on 1 April while kneeling on the marble floor of the Clementine Chapel, facing a grill that allows visitors to see the back of what is believed to be St. Peter’s tomb.
“It was moving for us to hear the pope, who took these words of Peter and made them live again, because today it is his mission to continue the mission Jesus entrusted to Peter,” the cardinal told Vatican Radio.
Cardinal Comastri accompanied Pope Francis on a late-afternoon tour of the excavated necropolis where St. Peter is buried. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Pope Francis was the first pope to tour the site, walking the path between mostly second-century burial vaults to the tomb.
Read more at the CNS link.
2 April 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Saints
The Russian military's Orthodox chapel can be deployed wherever soldiers may be stationed. (photo: Russian Airborne Force)
Now, an unorthodox kind of church for Orthodox soldiers.
From the Guardian:
The Russian military unveiled an unlikely new weapon in its arsenal this month — an army of parachuting priests. The unit of chaplains, who have joined the Russian Airborne Force to train in parachute jumping and vehicle assembly, will operate out of flatpack churches that can be airlifted in to wherever soldiers may be stationed.
The church could be mistaken for a standard-issue army cabin, taking the form of a khaki-colored shed on wheels, were it not for the cladding of gilded icons and the majestic onion dome spire sprouting from its rooftop. The mobile prayer room has also been fitted with a “life-sustaining module”, which includes a diesel power source, an air-conditioning unit and a fridge, reported Russia Today.
The chapel is flown in as a kit of parts, delivered via the kind of airborne platform usually used to carry armored vehicles and other heavy military equipment, and is then assembled on the ground. Within, the gilded interior incorporates crucifixes, bells and icons, as well as a mini theatre — which can be extended sideways with additional wings, thus forming the cross-shaped plan of an Orthodox church.
The initiative has not gone without controversy in the Russian government, where debate rages over the cost of rearmament and rising military spending.
While the Russian army insists this is the first ever flying chapel in the world, Orthodox Christianity is not the first to bring mobile worship to the battlefield. The Israeli Defense Force launched a mobile synagogue initiative in 2011 to allow troops to pray more comfortably as they operate the Iron Dome anti-missile system in southern Israel. The UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (UKAWIS) has provided such mobile synagogues — which contain an ark, reader’s platform and washbasin — as “a source of spiritual sustenance [for the soldiers] as they carry the weight of Israel’s security on their shoulders”.
2 April 2013
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church Priests Church
The video above from CNS shows highlights of Pope Francis celebrating his first Holy Week and Easter. You can read more about the pope’s Easter message, the traditional “urbi et orbi,”
at this link.
In Easter messages, church leaders call for peace in Syria (CNS) In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East highlighted the need for an end to the war in Syria, now entering its third year. Cardinal and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter appealed “to the disputants in Syria, who are so intent in demolishing the homes of peaceful citizens, [the country’s] institutions and history, and the killing of dozens of innocent people a day … we appeal to them to put away their arms and refuse the money given to them from the outside world, whose interest is only to demolish Syria and other Arab countries…”
Report: March deadliest month in Syrian war (CNN) The brutal civil war in Syria claimed more than 6,000 lives in March alone — making it the deadliest month since the conflict began a little more than two years ago, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday. The group said 6,005 people were killed in Syria last month. That’s more than all the deaths that occurred in the first nine months of the war. “This will become the new normal, and the death toll figures will continue to rise,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the observatory.
Priest from Kerala killed in Bangalor (New Indian Express) A 62-year-old rector was found murdered inside St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary, located next to a church early Monday. The police said the assailants escaped with some valuables after striking the rector’s head with a blunt weapon before strangling him. The victim, Father K. J. Thomas, a native of Kerala, had been staying at the seminary for the past five years. He was the managerial as well as spiritual head of the church and used to train priests…
Hope for a unified Easter (Catholic Register) When Catholics sat down to Easter dinner on 31 March, Orthodox Christians still had most of Lent ahead of them as they wait for Easter Sunday on 5 May. Why would Christians be so divided about something as fundamental as Easter, the one day that stands at the heart of the faith? Getting all Christians to celebrate Easter together would be a major step forward in ecumenical relations, said Father Damian MacPherson, the archdiocese of Toronto’s ecumenical and interfaith affairs director…
Exploring Christianity’s Ethiopian roots (Ebony.com) Christianity reportedly arrived in North Africa in the latter part of first century A.D. or the early part of the second, while “the adoption of Christianity in Ethiopia dates to the fourth-century,” according to findings by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Bible also documents the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch as the early church was forming. Likewise, Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta mentions Christians in Nubia (an area that covers present-day northern Sudan and southern Egypt) in his 14th century travelogue. But when Europeans penetrated Sub-Saharan Africa in the 16th Century, ultimately mining the region for Africans to enslave, the historical narrative shifts which is perhaps why many associate the religion most with Europeans to this day…
28 March 2013
Tags: Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Indian Catholics Ethiopian Christianity
In this image from Holy Week in 2009, Christians in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem pray at the Stone of Unction, the place where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial. (photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)
27 March 2013
Tags: Middle East Jerusalem Easter Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre
A child prays during liturgy in Santhithadam, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we paid a visit to a valley in Kerala where some enterprising families had established a small community of Christians:
Santhithadam means “Valley of Peace” in Malayalam, the language of Kerala.
Located at the end of a nearly impassable dirt road, Santhithadam is indeed a peaceful valley hidden away in one of the most remote corners of Kerala, in southwest India. While much of Kerala is overcrowded, its many people competing for limited farmland, Santhithadam is an exception.
Not far from the border with Tamil Nadu and set on the high Attapaddy plateau, the area was thinly populated by scattered tribes for centuries. Then, about 30 years ago, 76 families settled in Santhithadam from the crowded south, including 40 Syro-Malabar Catholic families from Kottayam, Kerala’s Christian heartland.
The families who settled in Santhithadam were like pioneers arriving at a new frontier. These economic migrants had given up their former lives, knowing there would be no turning back. What tiny plots of land they had owned in Kottayam were sold and replaced in Santhithadam with larger plots, ripe for development and cultivation. But at the time, many of these hard-working people did not know what they were facing.
Read more about Kerala’s Brave New Frontier in the July 2003 issue of the magazine.
26 March 2013
Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Farming/Agriculture
Jesus falls the first time, the third Station of the Cross, is depicted in the prayer book for the Way of the Cross service on Good Friday at Rome’s Colosseum. The Via Crucis prayer book is illustrated with works discovered in Bethlehem and attributed to an unknown 19th-century Palestinian Franciscan artist. (image: CNS)
The Vatican has released the text of the Way of the Cross that Pope Francis will pray on Good Friday — and it has some strong connections to the people of the Middle East and to the world of CNEWA.
Meditating on Christ’s passion and the ways people contribute to his suffering, Lebanese youths lamented the ongoing emigration from and violence in the Middle East, divisions among Christians, the abuse of women and children, and the promotion of abortion.
But despite the hardships, horrors and despair, Christians are called to walk with Christ because “suffering, embraced in faith, is transformed into the path to salvation,” the youths said in meditations for the 29 March Way of the Cross service at Rome’s Colosseum.
Christians can find hope in bearing their burdens because Christ is with them. However, acceptance does not mean putting an end to one’s dreams, to speaking out and fighting for freedom and the truth, the reflections said.
“God does not want suffering and does not accept evil,” the text said. In fact, people can carry the cross with joy and hope because Christians know Christ “triumphed over death for us.”
A group of Lebanese young people wrote the meditations at the request of retired Pope Benedict XVI; the Vatican released the published text with commentary and prayers on the 14 Stations of the Cross on 25 March.
Each year, the pope chooses a different person or group of people to write the series of prayers and reflections that are read aloud during the solemn, torch-lit ceremony.
The retired pope asked Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai to choose the youths and guide their preparation of the texts. The retired pope’s request was meant to recall his 2012 visit to Lebanon and invite the whole church to pray for the Middle East — its tensions and its beleaguered Christian community.
The task of composing the 14 meditations was divided equally among committees from the six rites of the Catholic Church represented in Lebanon: Latin, Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean. In addition, six Catholic youth groups, a special-needs group and a nongovernmental organization were randomly chosen and assigned a station to focus on.
Participants said they tried to show the biggest challenges facing young people in the Middle East and elsewhere while also showing the Christian vision of hope and resurrection.
Read more here. And you can find the full text at the Vatican website.
Tags: Lebanon Emigration Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Prayers/Hymns/Saints Easter