13 August 2012
After winning Olympic Gold in London, Ethiopian long distance runner Meseret Defar kisses an image of the Virgin Mary she’d carried with her. (photo: by Matt Dunham/AP via Vatican Radio)
The moment above captured the attention of the world late Friday during the London Olympics. As Vatican Radio put it:
When Ethiopian long distance runner Meseret Defar crossed the finish line for Olympic Gold, the very first thing she did was reach for an image of the Virgin and Child — which she had carried with her for every step of her 5,000 metre race — and pray, full of thanks and filled with joy.
Defar, an Ethiopian Orthodox, kissed the image and made the sign of the cross. It was one of many public signs of faith on display during the Olympics:
From simple crucifixes to prostrations in prayer, athletes from various religious backgrounds have brought their private, personal relationship with God into the global arena, in moving moments of thanks and praise.
“It is a sign perhaps for many of us in society, that little public signs of faith are no harm”, says Bishop Richard Moth, Bishop of the British Armed Forces. “It’s a sign that faith is not just a personal thing, but in a very simple way they are opportunities for us to proclaim the Gospel, to proclaim faith and all those things can only be good!”
10 August 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church
A child plays at the Godano Institution, a home for abused girls, women and their children. (photo: John E. Kozar)
As we mentioned yesterday, the July edition of ONE is now available online! You may have noticed something new in the last few issues of the magazine: a photograph and accompanying essay on the last page in a feature that we call Focus. In this feature, the president of CNEWA, Msgr. John E. Kozar, (a gifted and accomplished photographer, by the way!) shares one of his own photographs of CNEWA’s world and offers a reflection on what that picture means to him. In the July edition he writes about the children of Ethiopia:
As the president of CNEWA, I am privileged to visit many distant lands. And one of the special joys in each and every place is to meet the children. Children have a way of sharing with us a window into the soul of their country, their people and their tribe. The window is not cluttered or ornate; it is simple and clear and bright.
On a visit not long ago, I met the beautiful children of Ethiopia. In a way that only children can reflect, they helped me experience the joys, the hopes and the sufferings of the Ethiopian poor. They welcomed me into a world that is not sophisticated or complicated, but one that is pure, simple and sincere.
For more, check out the July edition of the magazine.
9 August 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Msgr. John E. Kozar ONE magazine
Kerala’s rapid urbanization often leaves behind impoverished Dalit communities, such as this one in the rural south. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Our July edition of ONE has just been posted online. In the cover story for this edition, Change Comes to ‘God’s Own Country,’ Peter Lemieux reports on how urbanization is threatening the traditional way of life in Kerala:
While the urbanization underway in Kerala may not involve all the classic socioeconomic upheavals, it certainly has meant profound changes in the state’s traditional social fabric. These days, few disagree the once tightly woven rural extended families and parish communities look frayed and threadbare.
“In Kerala, we’ve always had a strong family tradition rooted in our agrarian culture. Family was never disconnected. There was a family oneness,” explains Father Joseph Makothakat, pastor of Little Flower Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Fort Cochin. “But these days, we’re a professional society. Families don’t find time to be together. They work six days a week. Husband works in one place, wife works in another. They come home late at night and don’t even have time for evening prayer, nor do their children, who are too busy with their private tutors. The lifestyle is much different now.”
Check out the rest of the magazine online!
8 August 2012
Tags: India Kerala Dalits Urbanization
In this photo taken in 1992, a woman prays in a garden in Moscow. (photo: Richard Lord)
In the March 2005 issue of ONE, we featured a profile of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has undergone its fair share of turbulence throughout history:
Relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches are poor. The cause of much of this pain, the rebirth of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, is not just the Russian Orthodox Church’s opposition to Eastern Catholicism, but an even greater reluctance to let go of its patrimony, for Ukraine is rich in human and natural resources. A truly independent Ukraine will abandon Moscow for the West, fear Russian nationalists allied to the Orthodox Church.
While such fears may be justified, the Russian Orthodox Church has no other choice but to adapt – just as it has in the past. Gone are the days of Soviet-sanctioned persecution. But the pre-Bolshevik days, when the church enjoyed a state-sanctioned dominion over the land, are gone as well. Thus, today the Russian Orthodox Church faces a new challenge: finding its way in a religiously heterogeneous, market-driven Russia.
To learn more, read our profile of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church has been in the headlines lately. In yesterday’s “Page One”, we highlighted a story about a Russian blogger facing criminal charges for inciting hatred towards the Russian Orthodox Church.
7 August 2012
Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church
Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis greets CNEWA employee Elizabeth Thomas, who is originally from southern India. (photo: Erin Edwards)
“Witnessing is the most important thing in the Christian life.”
That was the prevailing message of Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, as he paid a visit to CNEWA’s central offices in New York this morning. His Beatitude is on a pastoral visit to some of his church’s parishes and communities in the United States and will attend its annual convention held later this month.
Accompanied by the exarch for Syro-Malankara Catholics in North America and Europe, Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius, His Beatitude shared some of his thoughts about his country, its people and the vibrant faith they have brought to North America. During a wide-ranging conversation in our staff conference room, he spoke passionately and eloquently about “witnessing” to the faith — through acts of compassion, charity and simple piety.
“We do that,” he said, “through education, through health care, through caring for those with H.I.V. and leprosy. It has to do with human dignity. I am proud and happy of how our people give witness with how they live.”
The major archbishop also wanted to underscore the universality of the Catholic Church. “Catholicity,” he noted, “is not uniformity, but diversity.” And he said that the Syro-Malankara Church could make its own unique contribution to “bring a new dimension to the Catholic Church.”
“We promote the theology of communion,” he said. “In this country, we have a strong vocation of being an apostle of communion.”
We are not here, he said, “just to preserve our linguistic tradition, but to strengthen the existing Catholic community. The church is beyond ethnic and linguistic boundaries.
“A lot of people have deserted, have gone away from the church and I think we have a responsibility. ... We have a role to play, to bring people back to the fold,” he continued.
Mar Cleemis was especially excited about reaching out to Hispanic non-Catholics in the United States, and working to draw them back into the faith.
“We want to make our liturgical experience available to them,” he said emphatically, “and I think we must seriously work to promote Catholic communion among them. That is my special dream for our presence in the U.S.”
In drawing a portrait of his immediate predecessor, Cyril Mar Baselios, he described the unassuming archbishop as “a man set apart for all.” In fact, this is a unique charism of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and those who lead it.
6 August 2012
Tags: CNEWA Indian Catholics Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
A member of the Daughters of Mary congregation in Pilankalai, Tamil Nadu, poses for a portrait. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During his trip to India earlier this year, Msgr. John Kozar had the pleasure of meeting members of the Daughters of Mary, a congregation of sisters in Tamil Nadu, who care for children in need:
One of the highlights of the day followed when we visited Vimala Orphanage. Here, we were warmly greeted by the house superior, Sister Rose Francis, and the house director, Sister Savio, and a bevy of beautiful young girls. Sisters led us inside where about a 140 girls — all orphans or abandoned and neglected — were assembled to greet us. This contingent of smiling girls represented three different orphanages, all of which are directed by the Daughters of Mary.
The main feature of our visit was to be entertained with songs and dances by these very special children. Their intricate hand and foot motions, their obvious delight in sharing their gifts with us and their genuine happiness overwhelmed me. The simplicity and the sincerity and the faith of these children were an inspiration to all of us.
After the entertainment, I had the privilege to chat with the girls. I shared with them a very simple message: That each one of them is a part of God’s family and that God loves each and every one of them as he loves children everywhere. I further shared with them that they have family in North America, in Canada and the United States, members of the CNEWA family who lovingly support them. Some of them even referred to you as their aunties and uncles to whom they have written. Please know how much they love you and how they promise to remember you in their prayers.
For more from Msgr. Kozar’s pastoral visit to India, read his blog series, “In the Footsteps of St. Thomas.”
3 August 2012
Tags: India Sisters Orphans/Orphanages Disabilities
In this photo taken in 2000, Armenian Catholics pray during the Divine Liturgy.
(photo: Armineh Johannes)
In keeping with our mission to educate people in the West about their brothers and sisters in the East, ONE magazine has featured an article profiling one of the many churches of the East in each edition since 2005. In the September 2008 issue, we profiled the Armenian Catholic Church:
Armenia’s Christian roots run deep. According to tradition, the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus first evangelized the kingdom, then a buffer state between the rival empires of the Persians and Romans. After years of persecution, Christianity took hold when Gregory, the “illuminator of the Armenians,” baptized King Tiridates III in 301. The king proclaimed Christianity the official religion of the state, making Armenia the first Christian nation.
Looking both east and west, the Armenian Church digested the philosophical positions and theological vocabularies of the great learning centers of the ancient world — Alexandria and Antioch, Athens and Rome, Constantinople and Seleucia, Edessa and Nisibis — and began the development of an alphabet for the Armenian vernacular even as an independent Armenian nation expired.
Though conscious of the great Christological controversies that rocked the universal church, the Armenians could not participate in these debates, especially the Council of Chalcedon (451). Appeasing Persian oppression, the leaders of the Armenian Church declared their civil allegiance to the Persian emperor, but stressed their spiritual submission to Christ.
To learn more, read our profile of the Armenian Catholic Church in the September 2008 issue of ONE.
2 August 2012
Tags: Armenia Prayers/Hymns/Saints Armenian Catholic Church
Earlier this year Msgr. Kozar met with CNEWA office staff in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Tazanesh, a sponsorship clerk; Megnote, an accountant; Rahel, a receptionist; and Meseret, a sponsorship clerk. (photo: CNEWA)
We often describe CNEWA as a “family.” It is a very large family, which includes people in need in the regions we serve, church and community leaders throughout those regions, our benefactors and of course the hardworking individuals that staff our offices. We have introduced you to some special members of our New York staff on the blog before. Today, we would like to introduce you to a few dedicated workers from our office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Msgr. John Kozar had the opportunity to meet with them during his pastoral visit in April:
I also had a wonderful visit yesterday with our CNEWA family in Addis Ababa — that is, our staff. This group of very dedicated and dynamic workers welcomed me warmly. I took the opportunity to become better acquainted with them and to share with them how I value greatly not only their performance in the office, but their input in helping me to improve on the good works of CNEWA in Ethiopia. They very readily accepted this challenge as we journey together to discover more fully who we are, what we do and why we do it. We included in our visit a lovely lunch together at a local restaurant, a treat for them and also for me, as sharing a meal together is always the best way to heighten a visit.
To learn more about CNEWA’s work in Ethiopia, read Msgr. Kozar’s blog series, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
1 August 2012
Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA Africa Msgr. John E. Kozar
A Coptic priest celebrates the liturgy at a church in Deir Azra, a Christian village in Upper Egypt. (photo: Holly Pickett)
Last week, Trudy Rubin, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported on the reactions within Egypt’s Coptic community to the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi as president:
There were simmering tensions between radical Muslims and the Coptic community under the Mubarak regime, including attacks on the Copts' places of worship. To open new churches, Copts were required to get presidential permission, which was rarely forthcoming, forcing them to worship in “unlicensed,” and thus vulnerable, structures.
“We thought the revolution would solve our grievances,” Sidhom said, ruefully. “It took a lot of people by surprise that Islamists were able to take advantage of the revolution.”
Under Hosni Mubarak, she said, despite the problems, ultraconservative Salafi Muslims had no power. Now, young Salafis return from the cities to their home villages, where Copts and Muslims have lived side by side, and warn them against Christian “infidels.” She reeled off a list of churches that have been burned down since the revolution.
For more from this story, read Copts in Egypt are watching and worrying.
31 July 2012
Tags: Egypt Village life Coptic Christians Coptic Church
CNEWA’s Bob Pape shares with Cardinal George Alencherry a copy of The Long Island Catholic, featuring the prelate’s visit to a parish in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. (photo: Erin Edwards)
Today, CNEWA welcomed to its offices the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, who is visiting the United States on a pastoral trip. The four-million-strong Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 22 Eastern churches in full communion with Rome and, said the engaging prelate, is “a church that goes out” to preach the Good News.
“A church that does not preach, teach and baptize in the name of the Father will be dormant and will eventually die,” he said. We must not be afraid of temporary failures, he continued. “Not even St. Paul was always successful. But if the church lives the Gospel as Christ intended, we will attract even those who hate us.”
A native of Kerala, the cardinal met with CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, and CNEWA’s New York-based staff. He spoke eloquently about the growth of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in its heartland of southern India, but also throughout the subcontinent and beyond. Despite the presence of hundreds of castes in India, “the Malabar Church holds together” and is “making advances” among the dalits, the suppressed peoples throughout India once called the “untouchables.”
Even as Kerala changes from a rural state to an advanced economy, the cardinal commented on the commitment to the faith made by Syro-Malabar Catholics. “There are different aspects to the growth of the faith,” he said. “There’s a more serious commitment, especially with the concept of charity ... it isn’t just a family tradition anymore.
“At the same time,” he said, “the faithful are going along on their own accord ... internalizing the faith and expressing it” more as individuals and less as parish-centered communities than before. Cardinal Alencherry noted that this change has evolved particularly in the past 20 or 30 years and that it has challenged the “pastoral approaches of our priests.”
Priestly “formation has had to change,” he said, so that Syro-Malabar priests “can adapt and address particular pastoral needs.”
The cardinal spoke about the welcoming environment given to Syro-Malabar Catholics by the church of North America, which includes nearly 100,000 Syro-Malabars in the United States alone. He noted, too, the importance of governing structures to support the church outside its “proper territory.” Prayers, the Eucharist and relationships among Syro-Malabar families in practicing the faith, he said, keep the church alive and are “good for the Latin Church, too. Otherwise, we lose them.”
“Wherever there are conflicts in the church,” he said, “you will find a lack of dialogue, a lack of communication.
“I always tell my bishops and priests that we are called to serve, and to serve means to engage in dialogue with truth and love.”
Tags: CNEWA Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Urbanization Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly