27 June 2016
Children and their grandmother stand in their home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, which suffered heavy damage in the 2014 war. To read a powerful and personal account of life in Gaza today, check out A Letter from Gaza in the Summer edition of ONE. (photo: Shareef Sarhan)
24 June 2016
Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and Pope Francis arrive to visit the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral at Etchmiadzin in Vagharshapat, Armenia, 24 June.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
A solid, sorrow-tested Christian faith gives believers the strength to overcome even the most horrific adversity, forgive one’s enemies and live in peace, Pope Francis said.
Arriving in Armenia 24 June, Pope Francis went straight to the twin concerns of his three-day visit: Promoting Christian unity and honoring the determined survival of Armenian Christianity despite a historic massacre and decades of Soviet domination.
The high profile of the pope’s ecumenical concern and the importance of faith in Armenian culture were highlighted by making the trip’s first official appointment a visit to the cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church at Etchmiadzin.
The arrival ceremony at the airport was defined as informal, but featured a review of the troops and a greeting by a young boy and a young girl, who offered Pope Francis the traditional gifts of bread and salt. His entrance into Holy Etchmiadzin, as it commonly is known, was heralded with the pealing of church bells. As the pope and patriarch processed down the aisle between crowds of flag-waving faithful, a deacon led them, swinging an incense burner.
For the first two events on the papal itinerary, the English translations of the speeches of the pope’s hosts — the Armenian Orthodox patriarch and the country’s president — repeatedly used the word “genocide” to describe the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1918.
The pope’s prepared text for his speech in Italian used the Armenian term “Metz Yeghern” or its Italian equivalent, “the Great Evil.” However, when speaking, the pope added the Italian “genocidio.”
Turkey objects to the term “genocide” and recalled its Vatican ambassador for about a year after Pope Francis in April 2015 quoted St. John Paul II in describing the massacre as the first genocide of the 20th century.
Pope Francis, visiting the Orthodox cathedral at Etchmiadzin and addressing government officials later at the presidential palace, did not focus on the tragedy, but on the faith of the country’s 3 million people, the need for reconciliation and peace in the region and the role of Christians in showing the world that faith is a power for the good of humanity.
For both nights of his trip, Pope Francis was to be the houseguest of Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
“This sign of love eloquently bespeaks, better than any words can do, the meaning of friendship and fraternal charity,” the pope said.
In a world “marked by divisions and conflicts, as well as by grave forms of material and spiritual poverty,” he said, people expect Christians to provide a witness and example of mutual esteem and close collaboration.
All examples of brotherly love and cooperation, despite real differences existing among Christians, the pope said, “radiate light in a dark night and a summons to experience even our differences in an attitude of charity and mutual understanding.”
Besides being an example of how dialogue is the only way to settle differences, he said, “it also prevents the exploitation and manipulation of faith, for it requires us to rediscover faith’s authentic roots,” defending and spreading truth with respect for the human dignity of all.
Catholicos Karekin echoed the pope’s emphasis on the importance of Christian cooperation “for keeping and cherishing Christian ethical values in the world (and) for strengthening love” which is the only path to true security and prosperity.
He told the pope, “after the destruction caused by the Armenian Genocide and the godless years of the Soviet era, our church is living a new spiritual awakening.” Nearly 90 percent of Armenia’s population belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church; Catholics, mostly belonging to the Eastern-rite Armenian Catholic Church, make up almost 10 percent of the population.
At the presidential palace later, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan praised Pope Francis for having used the word “genocide” a year ago. “We don’t look for culprits. We don’t spread accusations,” he said, according to the English text given to reporters. “We simply want things to be called by their names.”
While the pope and president were meeting privately, Armenian public television broadcast images from the Armenian memorial prayer service Pope Francis presided over at the Vatican last year. They included the clip of him using the word “genocide.”
Pope Francis told the president and government officials, “Sadly that tragedy, that genocide was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims” that extended to “planning the annihilation of entire peoples.”
Unfortunately, he said, “the great international powers looked the other way.”
“Having seen the depths of evil unleashed by “hatred, prejudice and the untrammeled desire for dominion,” people must make renewed commitments to ensuring differences are resolved with dialogue, he said.
“In this regard, it is vitally important that all those who declare their faith in God join forces to isolate those who use religion to promote war, oppression and violent persecution, exploiting and manipulating the holy name of God,” Pope Francis said.
At a time when Christians are again experiencing discrimination and persecution, he said, it is essential that world leaders make their primary goal “the quest for peace, the defense and acceptance of victims of aggression and persecution, (and) the promotion of justice and sustainable development.”
23 June 2016
A child naps in a home between Saesa and Idaga Hamus in Ethiopia. To read about the recent visit of CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar to Ethiopia, and see more dramatic pictures, check out his photo essay in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
22 June 2016
In Armenia, Tatyana Dilbaryan rears her three children alone. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
The Summer 2016 edition of ONE features a poignant glimpse at children in Armenia who are growing up without fathers:
Many men in the northern Armenian town of Tashir leave the country to work abroad; unemployment tops 50 percent in the region. Many who work in Russia provide the minimum means of subsistence for their families back home, but some never return. As a result, women are left behind to shoulder the burden of running households and rearing children on their own.
David’s 49-year-old mother, Tatyana Dilbaryan, wears a smile, but the lines on her brow mask the difficulties she endures. The question lingers: Why has it come to this?
“I don’t know the answer. Perhaps he saw that I managed to do everything myself,” she says of her husband. “I raised livestock, worked in the fields, did everything for my children,” says Tatyana, still smiling despite a welling of tears in her kind eyes.
“We are good. We’ll get through this, my children will grow up and everything will be alright.”
The church is working to help these families. Read on to learn how.
21 June 2016
Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage of Haifa and the Holy Land, center, prays with other prelates during the 13th Extraordinary Prayer of all Churches for Reconciliation, Unity and Peace at the Maronite patriarchal exarchate church 19 June in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Miriam Alster)
Jesus is asking spiritual and civilian Christian leaders to be messengers of the word of God, especially in these difficult times in the Middle East, said Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage of Haifa and the Holy Land.
“Do we witness to Christ in our lives, we who received the teaching of Christ?” the archbishop asked participants in the 13th Extraordinary Prayer of all Churches for Reconciliation, Unity and Peace. “Is Jesus with us and in us? Do we always remember the presence of Jesus in us? And how we live this presence?”
Speaking 19 June, Pentecost on the Julian calendar followed by most Eastern traditions, Archbishop El-Hage said, “We came today to hear the word of God and celebrate the Eucharist, from all the Christian churches, and to open our hearts and minds to the work of the Holy Spirit and to listen to his inspiration.”
Archbishop El-Hage said that, at a time when Middle Eastern Christians are facing grave trials, it is imperative that they not be forgotten and remain in everyone’s prayers. He also prayed for participants in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete.
Since 2010 Jerusalem churches have called on Christians around the world to join in a special intercessory prayer calling for reconciliation and unity among the churches and peace in the world. Emanating from Jerusalem and in recent years also broadcast abroad by Christian channels, the special prayer is hosted by a different faith community each time it is held. This year the service was at the Maronite patriarchal exarchate church.
During the a service, filled with traditional music led by a small choir and a musician playing a stringed instrument called the qanun, celebrants walked up to the roof terrace to complete the prayers. All the religious leaders turned to face the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, whose gray domes could be seen in the near horizon, and knelt together.
At one point the Syriac Orthodox bishop recited part of the liturgy, which was in the same language used in Syrian Orthodox prayer.
“It was a glimpse given to the church members, to show them that they are not so different from one another. It was so beautiful. There was a feeling of happiness,” said Veronique Nebel, a Swiss volunteer who initiated the idea of the joint prayer.
“The prayer is always a challenge for each one of us to believe what God has said to each of us: to live every day of our lives as human beings, each one wanting peace and unity. To believe in unity, not waging wars, using (weapons) or violence,” said Sister Lucia Corradin, a member of the Franciscan Elizabethan Sisters of Padua. “We have to go back to what the message of Jerusalem is, the city of peace. Peace is a value present in each human being; it is here even in this simple prayer to show that even in situations of contradictions, where there is violence and suffering, we don’t want that to be the last word. We want to remember that we believe in our values and our beliefs ... to love each other.”
Juliet Alama said Christians in the Holy Land want to be united as one and forget about ancient disputes that make them look "silly around the world." Using her family as an example, she noted that though she is Maronite Catholic, her husband is Latin Catholic, and they send their youngest son to the Armenian Orthodox School, even taking him to celebrate liturgies there with his classmates.
“We all believe in the same God, in Jesus,” she said. “This is a beginning. We don’t want any more fighting.”
20 June 2016
Angela Yaacoub, a 60-year-old widow from Mosul, visits St. Anthony’s Dispensary in Beirut, Lebanon. The dispensary helps care for refugees who have fled Iraq. To mark World Refugee Day, Pope Francis has called on Christians to “stand with refugees... to become with them artisans of peace.” (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
Assist and accompany refugees while working to build peace in the world, Pope Francis urged on the eve of World Refugee Day.
“Refugees are people like everyone, but war took away their home, work, relatives and friends,” he said in the run-up to the United Nations-sponsored day 20 June.
Seeing the faces and hearing the stories of refugees should lead Christians “to renew our obligation to build peace through justice,” he said after praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square 19 June.
“This is why we want to stand with them — to encounter them, welcome them, listen to them — in order to become together with them artisans of peace, according to God’s will,” the pope said, referring to the day’s theme, “We Stand #WithRefugees.”
The pope’s appeal followed a joint effort by the Vatican police, the Greek government and Rome’s Sant’Egidio Community to bring a group of Syrian refugees to Italy.
The Vatican police accompanied nine refugees — six adults and three children — from Athens to Rome 16 June. The community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay organization, was arranging their housing.
The Syrian citizens, including two Christians, had been living in a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos — the same island Pope Francis visited in April to highlight the dramatic situation of the people there. He brought three refugee families on his flight back to Rome.
Pope Francis’ appeals and concrete actions tell the world that it is feasible to offer real help to refugees, said Jesuit Father Thomas Smolich, international director of Jesuit Refugee Service.
Leaders and everyday people “get a pretty good model” from Pope Francis about the Catholic and humanitarian duty of welcoming, advocating for and assisting refugees, Father Smolich told Catholic News Service 20 June.
“I would encourage people, especially on World Refugee Day, to contact the part of the church that works with refugees,” for example, Catholic Charities in the United States or Jesuit Refugee Service in Europe, he said, or ask and find out who else is helping in their community.
“There are so many things to do,” he said, such as visiting refugees, helping with free meals, doing advocacy work, becoming part of a long-term coordinated effort or just helping out when time allows. “The possibilities are endless.”
“People are doing this” in spite of what some political leaders say, he said, “so it is a question of bringing it to light” and inspiring more people to help rather than be paralyzed by fear.
While many fears can be legitimate, “fear often translates into anxiety,” which “warps our understanding” of what is really happening and what can be done, he said.
Becoming familiar with or getting to know “real people who share our fears,” but have experienced the difficulties of having to flee their homes, the Jesuit said, helps change the discussion from being centered on “‘What am I afraid of’ to ‘How can we build solidarity?’”
While global estimates say more than 60 million people are fleeing violence, conflict or persecution, the best way to digest such a statistic is “to meet people one-on-one or hear them speak” so they don’t remain an abstract number, the priest said.
JRS was urging people to meet with refugees or watch interviews on the JRS YouTube channel in order “to enable refugees to speak out about their hopes, their future” and help others learn about their lives, Father Smolich said.
Similarly, the International Catholic Migration Commission was commemorating World Refugee Day by sharing stories from resettled refugees around the world “as a witness to their strength and determination despite the hardship they have endured,” the commission said.
It said it hoped the stories would encourage those still on the move and call attention to the benefits refugees bring to host countries.
People were also invited during the Year of Mercy to continue sending messages of hope on social media using the #HandsOfMercy hashtag and share personal stories with #StoryOfMercy or #WithRefugees.
17 June 2016
Leaders of Orthodox churches gather at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Chania on the Greek island of Crete 17 June. Orthodox patriarchs and primates were meeting to consider a draft message for the 19-26 June Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church in Chania. The council is intended to be the first meeting of all the Orthodox churches in more than a millennium. From left are: Archbishop Sawa of Warsaw and all of Poland; Archbishop Chrysostomos of Nova Justiniana and all of Cyprus; Patriarch Irinej of Serbia; Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople; Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem; Patriarch Daniel of Romania; Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all of Greece; Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres, and all of Albania; Archbishop Rastislav of Presov, metropolitan of the Czech lands and Slovakia. Read more about the planned synod here.
(photo: CNS/Sean Hawkey, handout)
A historic gathering in Greece is due to begin on Sunday — but not without a few complications.
From the Associated Press:
Orthodox Christian leaders meeting for a historic council aimed at promoting unity made a last-minute appeal Friday to the Russian Orthodox Church and three others to attend the gathering, the first such meeting in more than a millennium.
A spokesman for Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said the leaders of 10 out of the 14 Orthodox churches that were supposed to convene on the Greek island of Crete will seek to resolve the issues that made the four churches decide not to attend.
“It will proceed but they want their brothers with them and (now) make a plea even at the 11th hour” for them to attend, said the Rev. John Chryssavgis.
He said the church leaders met earlier on Friday and would later in the day send an official request for the other churches to attend. “They will try hard to get their brothers to attend,” Chryssavgis said, adding that the leaders will reach out and ask the others: “How can we address your problems?”
16 June 2016
Women clean and sort coffee beans in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, showing the painstaking human effort that goes into creating Ethiopia’s prized coffees. Learn more in Brewed to Perfection in the November 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
15 June 2016
Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez sits in the “cathedra,” or bishop’s chair, alongside Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, during his 11 June ordination Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul. You can read more about the new bishop’s life and background from the Vatican announcement of his appointment here.
(photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)
14 June 2016
Tourists and Christian pilgrims visit the tomb where it is believed Christ was buried inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on 17 April. For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb. (photo: CNS/Jim Hollander, EPA)
For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was laid to rest after his crucifixion.
The project, which began in early June, is expected to take up to one year to complete and will include sorely needed damage repair and reinforcement of the structure.
The work is being carried out by experts from the National Technical University of Athens.
The project came together when the three principal churches overseeing the tomb under the 19th-century Status Quo agreement overcame enduring differences in a place where rights over every section of the church has been jealously guarded for centuries.
The Status Quo agreement was put in place by the Ottoman rulers in 1852 and preserved the division of ownership and responsibilities of the various Christian holy sites. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it governs the responsibilities of the principal churches — Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic — as well as the Ethiopian, Syriac and Coptic churches.
“There wasn’t any friction on this issue,” said Franciscan Father Athanasius Macora, who is responsible for supervising the agreement on the part of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. “There was good chemistry between the three heads of the churches and they agreed to it right away.”
However, the term “right away” is relative as the heads of the principal churches first brought up the issue of a very conservative “consolidation” of the edicule in 2000.
The current Edicule of the Tomb was built by the Greek Orthodox community in 1810, two years after a devastating fire. It has been encased in metal scaffolding since the
British Mandate period in the mid-20th century because of concern for its stability.
Though many church-connected professionals have expressed concern over the structure since 2000, it took the shutting down of the tomb for four hours by the Israeli Police in February 2015 because of safety concerns — a blatant violation of the Status Quo agreement — to get the churches to act on their earlier discussions. An agreement to carry out the work on the tomb was signed in March.
“The idea is to strengthen the structure and try to bring to get it back to its pristine state,” Father Macora said. “It is important that the work goes well. If all goes well, it will enhance the relationship (among the churches). If it doesn’t go well, it will not help their relationship.”
The tomb today is surrounded by a white perimeter wall, but the work on its exterior walls is taking place in the evening so pilgrims can continue to visit the interior of the tomb, he said.
All three churches are contributing to pay the $3.4 million price tag for the project. Jordanian King Abdullah also made a personal contribution for the restoration. Until 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located, was under Jordanian control and the king continues to play a role in the safe guarding of Christian and Muslim holy sites.
“The tomb is the heart of the shrine. It is the most important reason why people are coming to visit the church and ... everyone knew the (the restoration) needed to be done,” Father Macora said. “There is no reason it could not be done. It is important that the work be done in a way which respects the rights of other communities.”
He noted that despite the often-cited disputes among the churches, relations have improved since the 1960’s and though they have reached a plateau since then, fewer conflicts emerge today.
“There have been sporadic outbreaks and there will be outbreaks in the future, but they are significantly less than in the past,” Father Macora said.
Cleaning work has also been undertaken on some of the mosaics in the church and work remains to be done on the floor around the tomb, which cannot begin until the restoration of the tomb is complete, he said.
This is not the first time the three denominations came together for a restoration project. In 1997, they cooperated to restore and decorate the great dome above the tomb with the financial support of the late Catholic philanthropists George and Marie Doty, seemingly ushering in a new era of cooperation.
Three years ago in Bethlehem, restoration and renovation work also began at the Church of the Nativity with the Palestinian Authority given the role of intermediary between the churches. The wooden roof of the church has been repaired and work is underway on wall mosaics.