14 February 2013
Pope Benedict XVI prays at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, in the Old City of Jerusalem on 12 May 2009. The pope left a written prayer in a crevice of the wall. It appealed to God to bring “your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family.” (photo: CNS/Catholic Press Photo)
Like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI has spent much of his time as pontiff traveling the world. In 2009, he made a historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land, praying at sites sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews. He said at the time:
My friends: Jerusalem, which has long been a crossroads for peoples of many different origins, is a city that affords Jews, Christians and Muslims both the duty and the privilege to bear witness together to the peaceful coexistence long desired by worshipers of the one God; to lay bare the Almighty’s plan for the unity of the human family announced to Abraham; and to proclaim the true nature of man as a seeker of God. Let us resolve to ensure that through the teaching and guidance of our respective communities we shall assist them to be true to who they are as believers, ever aware of the infinite goodness of God, the inviolable dignity of every human being and the unity of the entire human family.
You can read more of his remarks from his journey in the July 2009 issue of ONE.
13 February 2013
Tags: Middle East Jerusalem Pope Benedict XVI Holy Land Prayers/Hymns/Saints
Pope Benedict XVI receives ashes from Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Vatican on 13 February. The service is expected to be the last large liturgical event of Pope Benedict's papacy, following his announced resignation. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
12 February 2013
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope
Pope Benedict XVI has made many travels during his pontificate, including a historic trip to Lebanon in September, to deliver his apostolic exhortation. In this image, he is welcomed to Bkerke by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter. Click here to read the full text of the exhortation. You can also read analysis of the document by Father Elias Mallon in the November 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
11 February 2013
Tags: Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Ecumenism Christian Unity Exhortation
In this photo from the Vatican taken last June, CNEWA’s President Msgr. John E. Kozar shares a moment with Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father met Msgr. Kozar during the 85th annual ROACO (Assembly of aid Agencies for the Eastern Churches) in Rome. (photo: L’Osservatore Romano)
8 February 2013
Parishioners, clutching rosaries, attend a liturgy in the Catholic village of Azadan. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
A continuing theme in many of our stories is how faith survives — often under seemingly impossible circumstances.
In 2006, for example, we took a look at the resilient faith of the people of Armenia:
Under the Communists, and particularly under Josef Stalin, all religions in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic were vigorously suppressed. Eventually, some accommodations were made with the Armenian Apostolic Church. But Armenian Catholics — which today number 220,000 of Armenia’s 2.9 million citizens — were not given the same allowances.
Ruzanna Amiraghian, 27, was reared during a more tolerant period of Communist rule, but she grew up with the horrible tales of her forebears.
The family matriarch, Ruzanna’s great-grandmother, Hripsime Avakaian, had two sons. One, Hovannes, entered the seminary and became a priest; the other, Ashot, joined the Communist Party. Mrs. Avakaian arranged for her son, Hovannes, to baptize secretly her grandchildren in one of the churches closed by the Communists. On the way to the church, however, Ashot intervened, saying it would put the family in jeopardy.
A few years later, Father Hovannes was arrested. He disappeared and, for more than 60 years, the family knew nothing of his fate. But 10 years ago, a family member gained access to an archive previously sealed. The records revealed Father Hovannes was executed the same day he was arrested.
Under such conditions — closed churches, disappearing priests, forbidden religious practice — it is no wonder faith was tested. What is surprising is how many Armenian Catholics maintained it even while it was outlawed.
Read more about A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics in the January 2006 issue of ONE.
7 February 2013
Tags: Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist
The girls being cared for at St. Joseph's in Kerala look forward to a brighter future. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
When is an orphanage not a home for orphans? The answer, we found in 2005, can be found in one haven for young girls in India:
Most of the girls at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Pulincunnoo, Kerala, are not orphans at all. They have parents and, in most cases, remain in touch with them. A few of the 32 girls at St. Joseph’s come from broken homes, but most come from poor, intact families. And it is the poverty of the parents, combined with knowing that St. Joseph’s offers their children a better future, that explains the girls’ presence in Pulincunnoo, a small town beside a small river in central Kerala.
The orphanage was built in 1973, next to a primary school and high school, all of which are run by the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel. The primary school, 100 years old, serves the area’s boys and girls, while the high school, built in 1975, is only for girls. The orphans attend classes with the girls and boys of Pulincunnoo.
“I was scared at first to come here,” said 9-year-old Nivia, who recently moved into the orphanage. “But now I prefer it here. I had friends back home [in Aleppy], but I have more here. And I have more opportunities to play and study.”
Sister Flower Mary, 61, runs the orphanage and enforces a strict schedule. The girls rise at 5 a.m., attend liturgy at 6:15 and study until breakfast at 8:30. From 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. they attend school, with a one-hour lunch break. After school, the girls play until 5:30, then study for two hours before prayer and dinner. Afterward, it is another hour of study. Bedtime is at 10 p.m. The girls are ambitious. Neethu, a 15-year-old basketball player, hopes to become a sister, following in the footsteps of Sister Flower Mary. Sister Ancid Maria, 15, was enrolled at St. Joseph’s when she was 3 and entered the community’s novitiate earlier this year.
“From a very early time, I knew I wanted to do social work and help out,” she said. “And I thought the best way to do that would be to become a sister like my teachers.”
Read more about St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’ in the September 2005 issue of ONE.
6 February 2013
Tags: India Children Education Kerala Orphans/Orphanages
Cooks attend Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on 6 February. Read more about the pope’s audience and his remarks here. Hungry? See what’s cooking in Lebanon and check out these recipes for pomegranates. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
5 February 2013
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Cultural Identity
Father Edison visits with one of the parishioners in a nearby village. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Being a priest in India brings with it special challenges, as we reported in 2005:
Sitting in the foyer of their simple rectory, a small concrete house, the priests sipped coconut water and prepared for Sunday liturgy at their compound in the town of Vattakarickam. Services would be held at St. Mary Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the largest of the compound’s three buildings.
This Sunday’s duties were a welcome respite from the heavy travel of most Sundays, when they celebrate six liturgies — three each — driving 20 miles of winding dirt roads between churches. All told, about 1,000 people attend the priests’ Sunday liturgies.
But about once a month, Father Edison and Father John concelebrate at St. Mary’s, host a feast and arrange classes for children. About 200 parishioners attend and the festivities end in the late afternoon. And this Sunday, they would be joined by Father Abraham Parappallil, a catechist.
Fathers Edison and John live in relative isolation, far from the bustle of Trivandrum, the state capital and the seat of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, where both spent 10 years at St. Mary’s Seminary.
Life is ascetic. There are no sizable towns nearby, just farmland and small, poor low-caste communities.
Both priests rarely see their families, who live between 30 and 60 miles away, an imposing distance by dirt roads especially during the rainy season.
“When I first came here four years ago, I was bored,” said Father Edison, who like Father John had an urban, middle-class upbringing. “I am an energetic person. But now, I feel that the nature that surrounds us has something to tell me. When the sun rises through the forest each morning, it puts me in a meditative mood.”
In the morning, before the faithful arrived, Father Edison visited some of the villages in the area. The villages are poor, typically a collection of huts clustered around a well.
“There are mainly low-caste Hindus in the area,” Father Edison said.
Read more on Village Priests in the November 2005 issue of ONE.
4 February 2013
Tags: India Poor/Poverty Indian Christians Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics
Mother Elizabeth leads Russian Orthodox novices in prayer at the Martha and Mary Convent
in Russia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2002, we paid a visit to a convent in Russia, where young women were doing what they have done for centuries:
While Russia strives to catch up with the modern world, the work of the Martha and Mary Convent is not so different from what it was before the Soviet Union’s great atheistic experiment.
“People think we are outdated because we keep some traditions from the early 20th century,” said the Mother Superior, named Elizabeth in honor of the convent’s founder, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov.
“We believe her ideas were so much ahead of her time that even now we are awed at her far-reaching concepts for helping the poor.”
The Communists forced the closing of the Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow in 1926, but it reopened in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, its sisters are carrying on the mission of the founder and now saint, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, born into the Lutheran noble house of Hesse-Darmstadt, was the granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, sister of the doomed Tsarina Alexandra and wife of the murdered Grand Duke Sergei who was an uncle of the last Russian tsar — Nicholas II. She founded the convent in 1910, some eight years before the bloody revolution also claimed her as a victim.
After her husband was killed in 1905, she visited his assassin in prison and spoke of forgiveness. Shortly after, she gave away much of her wealth, founded hospitals, opened soup kitchens and in 1909 took vows as a Sister of Love and Mercy.
Even prior to the death of her husband, Elizabeth had brought health reforms to peasant mothers in the countryside near Moscow and began visiting the city’s sick, imprisoned and orphaned.
The Bolsheviks executed Elizabeth on 18 July 1918 along with her loyal assistant, Barbara, and several other Romanov prisoners. A peasant who witnessed the murders said Elizabeth sang hymns and soothed the dying after the group had been thrown down a mineshaft. Elizabeth succumbed only after grenades were hurled in the direction of the singing. The Russian Orthodox Church canonized her in August 2000, along with Barbara.
Mother Elizabeth said the community today, as with the original community, bases many of its guiding principles on the deaconess movement popular in Lutheran religious communities at the end of the 19th century. Although Elizabeth converted to Orthodoxy in 1891, she retained many of the deaconess ideals, including caring for the sick and poor.
Elizabeth dedicated the convent to the values of Martha and Mary in the hope that the community would, in Elizabeth’s words: “combine the lofty destiny of Mary with Martha’s service to Our Lord...”
...As in the old days, the community’s routine combines prayer, study and service. They wake up at 6:30, take breakfast and then pray in a small chapel. At 9 they start school. Lunch is at noon, after which they continue their studies until 4. In the evenings they study theology, music and enjoy some free time. The young women, in their late teens and early 20’s, come from all over Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Their studies and accommodation are paid for, but they must often pay for their trips home.
Inna, a 20-year-old from Latvia, has sparkling eyes, an impish grin and studies at the college.
“My parents are not religious but I used to go to church and Sunday school with my friends; there wasn’t much else to do,” she said.
Read more about the convent in the November 2002 issue of our magazine.
1 February 2013
Tags: Sisters Russia Russian Orthodox Nuns
Children sing Coptic Orthodox hymns at the Al Karma Center. (photo: Sean Sprague)
While much of the news out of Egypt this week has been grim, it’s good to be reminded that every now and then the desert does bring forth promising flowers of hope.
In 2004, we looked at one of those, a center catering to the needs of isolated Christians in Egypt’s western desert:
Being a minority is never easy; being a minority newly settled in a once inhospitable terrain much less so. But such is the fate of some 40,000 Coptic Orthodox, who face poverty and isolation in the arid land west of the Nile Delta.
Most immigrated to the area from Upper Egypt to escape discrimination from Islamic fundamentalists and economic deprivation. Others came after the government encouraged them to leave the over-populated Nile Valley and settle along the desert highway linking Alexandria and Cairo. With only one church to serve them, all fear their faith and heritage will be lost on younger generations eager to escape the bleak landscape where jobs are few.
A multipurpose religious center near Alexandria, however, is providing this isolated community with an opportunity to bring their children together and strengthen their faith.
“The role of the center is to identify needy children and equip them with the tools and education to live their lives in a Christian way,” said Antoin Nabil, the coordinator of the Al Karma Center in Mariout, a southwestern suburb of the Mediterranean port city.
The center gathers children from across the desert for a three-day program of activities dubbed “Jesus the Child.” Boys and girls, ages 6 to 14, are shuttled to the center in groups of 50 to 60 for an up-close look at the life of the Coptic Church.
“Many of the children who come to the center have never even seen a church before,” said Bishop Tawadros, the center’s founder, “so the opportunity to see priests, bishops, deacons and many Christians together at prayer strengthens their faith.”
Al Karma also provides the children with many of the necessities and basic services their families are unable to secure. Upon arrival, the children are bathed, their hair combed and nails trimmed. A doctor also conducts a routine physical. Clothes, shoes, school bags and books are also provided.
“Some of the children come from extremely remote villages, where there are no schools or medical facilities,” said Bishop Tawadros. “Only about half of them attend school, which is a serious problem, especially for the girls.”
Read more about this Oasis of Hope in the March 2004 issue of our magazine.
Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church Copts