1 September 2017
An Ethiopian Orthodox monk thumbs through an ancient manuscript. To learn more about 21st Century Scribes, check out our profile of these monks from the September 2006 edition of ONE.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
31 August 2017
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, congratulates Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk during his enthronement as the new head of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago on 29 June. (photo: CNS/courtesy Stanley M. Wlodkowski)
With the appointment of two new Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the United States, church leaders are hoping to reach out to church members in the diaspora.
“We are used to thinking about our church in the U.S. as a stabilized and settled church. However, it still is a missionary church,” said Bishop-elect Andriy Rabiy, who will be ordained in Lviv, where he was born, 3 September. He will serve as auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
“Our parishes established a hundred years ago are not as strong as they used to be because people had moved,” he told Catholic News Service. “They go where the jobs are. And in these new places we don’t have our parishes and missions. We need to examine carefully these migration processes and go where our people are.”
Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, former auxiliary bishop of Lviv, was enthroned as the new head of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago 29 June. He, too, told CNS he felt the need to reach out to his people.
“My eparchy, for example, includes California with its Silicon Valley,” he said. “Many Ukrainian IT professionals work there, and the majority of them are not acquainted with the life of church. We need to go to them.”
Bishop Aleksiychuk said he has decided to establish a new department in his curia to be responsible for mission and strategy.
“This department will not deal with the routine challenges but will look in the future, will keep the hand on the pulse and will be constantly looking for the new ways to talk to people about God — the God they seek, sometimes unconsciously,” he said.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the leader of more than 5 million Ukrainian Catholics worldwide, entrusted Bishop Aleksiychuk with the task of mission at his enthronement when he said, “We are a Ukrainian church, but not a church for Ukrainians.”
In the late 19th century, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, a Byzantine church, sent priests to the United States to minister to its members who had migrated. Churches, parishes, and eparchial or diocesan structures were established later in what is known as the diaspora.
Archbishop Shevchuk told CNS that church leaders decided to ordain Bishop-elect Rabiy in Lviv “as a symbol of unity of the global Ukrainian church.”
“All the bishops of our church from different countries and continents will be present, as this day we start our annual synod,” he said. “Therefore, the ordination will be the event not for one eparchy, but for the whole church.”
“These bishops were born in Ukraine but will serve our people in the diaspora,” he added. “That’s an important sign of unity and exchange of gifts within the church. When the (Ukrainian Catholic Church) in Ukraine was getting out of catacombs after the collapse of Soviet Union and started restoring its structures, our clergy and laity from the diaspora helped immensely sharing their resources — financial, human, expertise, etc. Now it's time for the mother-church to share.”
The Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington and a Ukrainian Catholic priest, said his church in the U.S. “needs dynamic pastors who will engage the people into the life of Christ and will stimulate the Christian life of the laypeople in our parishes.”
“We have to bring our unique tradition to the world,” he said noting that people of many different races view the Ukrainian Catholic Church as “their spiritual home.”
30 August 2017
Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia blesses a woman and other pilgrims during "A Call of Prayer Marian Pilgrimage" on 27 August at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, Pennsylvania.
(photo: CNS/courtesy George Ann Novak-Katchick)
Only a few structures still stand in this nearly abandoned borough 62 miles northeast of Harrisburg. Even fewer are visible through the tree cover from the top of an adjacent mountain overlooking what was once a thriving community.
The most notable and recognizable structure is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, with bright blue domes that rise out of the foliage on the side of the mountain. Though all but seven of the town’s residents relocated because of the continuing fire in the anthracite coal mine beneath its surface, the church continues to serve a successful and thriving parish.
Nearly 400 people made the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Philadelphia’s pilgrimage to the little church on 27 August for the second annual “A Call to Prayer” on the eve of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God.
The pilgrimage was the second since Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the leader of more than 5 million Ukrainian Catholics around the globe, visited the church on 10 November 2015. He was accompanied by Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia, metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, and Father Michael Hutsko, pastor of the parish.
Archbishop Shevchuk felt a sense of true holiness at the church and expressed his desire for all people of faith to visit and share the same sanctity and serenity. Six months after the visit, he declared the church a holy pilgrimage site.
“This church is built on the top of solid rock,” Archbishop Soroka said at the time. “A rock of faith for the area, for these pilgrims, and that’s what we want everyone to benefit from here, that our Lord’s love for us in unending.
“Even in disaster, the church continues,” he said.
For the pilgrimage, people crowded into the church, built in 1912, and onto the grounds for the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Soroka and local clergy.
Outside the church, they followed along in prayer and song heard over large speakers.
“When one thinks of Centralia, two images come to mind — the mountain and the fire. This is providential, since many references to holy mountains and fire as the presence of God are found in sacred Scripture,” Father John Fields said during his homily.
“Today, as pilgrims to this holy mountain we come with open hearts, humility and faith to be in the presence of God and seek his grace and his blessings for our needs,” Father Fields told the faithful.
After the liturgy, the pilgrims processed from the church to an outdoor chapel that held an 18th-century replica of the miraculous Our Lady of Pochaev icon. A long line of pilgrims waited to pray before it.
Conventual Franciscan Father Martin Kobos, pastor of Mother Cabrini Church in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, offered a reflection on the living rosary. He held up a photo of his meeting with St. John Paul II and then took out something even more special — a rosary given to him by the saint.
Msgr. James T. Melnic led the Akafist to the Dormition of the Mother of God before the Holy Shroud of the Dormition as pilgrims spilled out of the outdoor chapel.
The service was followed by a candlelight procession with the icon to the church for a Moleben prayer service to the Mary led by Archbishop Soroka.
During his homily, Archbishop Soroka recalled the words of Mary to the servants at the wedding feast at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s the same advice Mary gives to the faithful today, he said, “to follow Jesus and to do what he inspires us to do.”
Afterward, participants were anointed with the holy oil and venerated the icon as well as the icon and relics of Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky, a martyr of the church who was beatified by St. John Paul in 2001.
Pilgrims traveled from as far as Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey to focus on their spiritual lives during the afternoon.
The procession was the moment Marsha Brubaker of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had been waiting for. She and her husband, Phil, made the pilgrimage after reading about the event in the faith section of a local newspaper.
“It’s visually powerful when you see so many people praying for peace and praying for others; it’s outstanding,” she said.
Making the trip from Philadelphia for the second year was Eugene Borys and his family, who received individual blessings from Archbishop Soroka. Borys’ son is a seminarian and joined the pilgrimage with five seminarians from St. Josaph at Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Washington.
Mary Theresa Mattu, 83, of nearby Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, was raised in the parish, being baptized and married there. It is also where her parents are buried. She still attends Divine Liturgy at the church.
Barbara Liparela of Shavertown, Pennsylvania, attended as a member of the choir from St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in McAdoo, Pennsylvania, which sang the responses during the Divine Liturgy.
Several languages could be heard being spoken during the pilgrimage, reminding those on the grounds of the feast of Pentecost, when the common language understood by all was that of faith.
29 August 2017
Volunteers reach out to help flood victims in India. (photo: CNEWA)
While many in the United States and around the world have been following the dramatic stories of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, we were reminded today of a similar disaster affecting the other side of the world.
This morning, we received a note from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, who wrote about the torrential rains and floods that have affected millions in India — and he described how the Diocese of Gorakhpur is responding. CNEWA has supported the diocese and its projects in many ways over the years, particularly in efforts to strengthen the rural health care system.
M.L. Thomas wrote:
Recent floods in eastern Uttar Pradesh have claimed hundreds of lives and caused heavy damage in the areas impacted by the floods. Over 2,523 villages in 24 districts are flooded, affecting approximately two million people. The flood fury is caused by the raging waters of rivers emanating from Nepal.
The Diocese of Gorakhpur, through its social service team, reached out to the flood victims to provide clean drinking water, food items, and medicines. The diocese accepted the help of school children and college students for distributing food packets and water bottles to those in need.
Our prayers are with all our suffering brothers and sisters in India, in Texas, and around the world, with the fervent hope that God’s tender mercies will shelter them through every storm.
Students help to distribute food packets, medicine and water to those affected by the floods.
28 August 2017
Armenian Catholics in the southern Georgian village of Djulgha gather for the Divine Liturgy. Learn more about the people and traditions of the Armenian Catholic Church in this profile from 2008. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
24 August 2017
Tags: Cultural Identity Village life Georgia Armenian Catholic Church Caucasus
In this image from 2007, a young couple is married in Tbilisi, Georgia. To read more about the flourishing faith of the people there, read A Georgian Revival in the March 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Molly Corso)
23 August 2017
Volunteers prepare some 5,000 sandwiches for the Lebanese army, which is waging an offensive against an Islamic State enclave near Ras Baalbek, Lebanon. Hundreds of volunteers, Christian and Muslim, are involved in the project, spearheaded by Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, a Lebanese Carmelite nun. (photo: CNS/Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross)
As the Lebanese army wages an offensive against an Islamic State enclave near the border of Syria, Lebanese civilians — Christian and Muslim — are working side by side, not far from the frontlines, to feed some 5,000 soldiers.
The project was spearheaded by Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, a Lebanese Carmelite nun who is superior of the Melkite Catholic monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, Syria. The monastery is about 2.5 miles from the battle.
“Soldiers are involved in a very dangerous operation to defend and liberate the Lebanese territory from Daesh, so it’s very natural to offer help to the army,” Mother Agnes told Catholic News Service, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “Now with the international war on terror, the army has a special importance, and these Lebanese soldiers are offering their lives to save our lives.”
When Mother Agnes visited the army compound, she saw that the kitchen was essentially an empty shell.
The nun talked to local priests, local Christian associations, Scout groups and organizations such as Caritas and “everybody was very thrilled to help.” They mobilized to equip the space — located about six miles from the frontlines of the battle — with “elementary things” such as refrigerators, stoves, pots, utensils and tables for working.
The Lebanese army began its operation in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa in Lebanon on 19 August. By 22 August, the army said it had recaptured two-thirds of the territory in the area.
At first people from mostly the villages of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa came to volunteer, but as word spread of the effort to help feed the Lebanese army, the project mushroomed, and now there are nearly 300 volunteers involved.
Businesses are chipping in. Mother Agnes likened the response of solidarity to a “rolling ball,” with new offers of assistance each day from bakeries and supermarkets.
“Since the very beginning Muslims asked to participate. And they were very much welcome.” People are coming to volunteer from Shiite villages and Sunni villages, she said.
“Everyone works together knowing that the military are also from all the denominations,” she said.
Organized in assembly lines, the volunteers — covered in hairnets, aprons and gloves — prepare 5,000 pita bread sandwiches daily, using chicken and beef cooked at the facility, topped with hummus and pickles. The menu also includes fruit and something sweet, like a piece of cake. Just for the chicken sandwiches, the effort requires 1,763 pounds of chicken each day. Battalion trucks load up the meals for delivery to the soldiers.
“To see all these people giving their time, sharing their skills, to cook, to organize with very limited means, it is a beautiful expression of solidarity with the army. All religions are unified with the purest love for our country, our wounded country,” said Mother Agnes.
Prayers are also being said for the safety of the soldiers and the success of the military mission.
“We have been living this battle moment by moment in prayer, in supplication, in hope and in solidarity,” Mother Agnes said. She added that while working, the volunteers pray the rosary, sing Marian hymns as well as the national anthem and patriotic songs.
Mother Agnes noted that, as is customary in Lebanon, many Muslims attended Christian schools.
“We are praying to holy Mother Mary and they (Muslims) also venerate her, so they don’t mind if we pray our Christian prayers, and they even join in, because, all together, we work and we pray,” she said.
Mothers whose sons were killed in previous battles are coming to help “with a lot of joy and hope,” Mother Agnes said. “They give us a very good example,” she said.
The project will continue “until the end, when victory is achieved,” she stressed. “We hope that this battle will finish very soon, that it's a matter of a few weeks, if not a few days.”
22 August 2017
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia meets with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the Patriarch’s residence. (photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Getty Images)
Although he said planning a papal trip to Russia was not on the agenda, the Vatican secretary of state said his visit to Moscow was designed to build on the meeting Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill had in Cuba in 2016.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, was visiting Moscow 21-24 August and was scheduled to meet with the patriarch and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as with leaders of Russia’s Catholic community.
The list of topics for the meetings ranged from ecumenical dialogue and interreligious cooperation to current world affairs and climate change, he said in a series of interviews before leaving Rome.
After a long morning meeting on 22 August, the cardinal and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a brief news conference, telling reporters they had discussed ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, the Holy Land and Venezuela.
Cardinal Parolin said his meetings with government officials were designed to share “Pope Francis’ interest in bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation as well as his concerns in the sphere of international affairs.”
“Obviously,” the cardinal said, “the meeting offered an occasion to discuss some concrete questions regarding the life of the Catholic Church in the Russian Federation, including the difficulties that remain in obtaining work permits for non-Russian religious personnel and the restitution of some churches, which are needed for the pastoral care of Catholics in the country.” Many church buildings were confiscated by the former Soviet government and never returned.
Regarding international affairs, Cardinal Parolin said he and Lavrov discussed several ongoing conflicts, including the war in Eastern Ukraine and the war in Syria.
In situations of war, he said, the Catholic Church often is directly involved in promoting humanitarian aid for the victims, but it also works on a diplomatic level to promote a negotiated peace with guarantees of “justice, legality, truth” and the safety of civilians.
The Russian foreign ministry posted online the first minutes of the working meeting between Cardinal Parolin and Lavrov.
The foreign minister told the cardinal, “We see that our positions are close on a number of current issues, including the peaceful settlement of crises, fighting terrorism and extremism, promoting the dialogue among religions and civilizations and strengthening social justice and the role of the family.”
And, he said, it is important that the strengthening of Vatican-Russian relations is “complemented by the dialogue between religions, which was launched during the historical meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Cuba.”
Cardinal Parolin began his visit to Russia with a meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church.
After the meeting, he told reporters their time together was very constructive, and that even though there are “thorny issues,” there also is a great desire to overcome them. As an example of an ongoing difficulty, Cardinal Parolin said the existence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church “remains for the Russian Orthodox Church an obstacle.”
In the evening on 21 August, Cardinal Parolin presided over a Mass for Moscow’s Catholics in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Before Mass, he had met with the country’s Catholic bishops.
21 August 2017
The altar, or Holy of Holies, is seldom revealed during the liturgy at Debra Zion in Ethiopia.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we took readers to Ethiopia’s Lake Ziway, a place celebrated for its rich and exotic history:
Its largest island, Tullu Gudo, shelters the oldest active religious community south of Ethiopia’s Christian heartland, Debra Zion. Tradition holds that Tullu Gudo once housed the Ark of the Covenant, said to contain the Ten Commandments.
Around the ninth century A.D., when reportedly the Ark was sheltered there, the island was home to more than 500 monks. Today, there are three. Numerous factors have contributed to this decline, including the return of the Ark to Aksum, immigration over hundreds of years to the less impoverished mainland and the anti-church policies of Ethiopia’s Marxist dictator (1974-1991), Mengistu Haile Mariam.
According to legend, the Ark had been kept in Aksum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, ever since it was taken from Jerusalem sometime after 587 B.C. But during the ninth century A.D., the Ark’s Ethiopian protectors fled Aksum with the Ark, to escape Queen Judith, whose forces threatened to steal it. Journeying south, the Ark and its guardians eventually settled on the uninhabited island of Tullu Gudo. They built a church, Debra Zion, to hold the Ark and other treasures. About half of the monks returned with the Ark to Aksum some 40 years later, when the city was deemed again safe.
Though it was no longer necessary to guard Tullu Gudo, the monks maintained a significant presence there for more than a thousand years. During the reign of Haile Selassie (1930-1974), Ethiopia’s last emperor, about 100 monks lived on the island. That changed after Mengistu, then a colonel in the army, seized power. Along with the murder and forced relocation of hundreds of thousands, the Marxist dictator also nationalized all land and discouraged religious practice.
Now, religious life is flourishing again in Ethiopia. And the monks of Tullu Gudo, who live amid an Orthodox lay community of several hundred, are trying to recapture some of the island’s celebrated past.
Read more about Ethiopia’s Island Sanctuary in the January 2005 edition of ONE.
18 August 2017
The Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office is marking the 100th anniversary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches with a stamp featuring details from the chapel in the congregation’s office. The stamp will be released 7 September. Read more about the congregation’s anniversary here.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office)