8 January 2015
Pope Francis greets Tahsin Said Ali Beg, a leader of the Yazidi people, and other members of the delegation during a private audience at the Vatican on 8 January. The delegation spoke about the good relations between Christians and Yazidis and their efforts to help one another.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
In his appeals for an end to the persecution of minorities in Syria and Iraq, Pope Francis often has mentioned both the Christians and the Yazidis attacked by Islamic State fighters. Today he met with representatives of the Yazidis.
For more than half an hour on 8 January, Pope Francis met with global leaders of the Yazidi ethnic and religious group, including their secular leader Tahsin Said Ali Beg and Sheikh Kato, who is their spiritual leader or “Baba Sheikh.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said that in addition to the two leaders who live in Iraqi Kurdistan, other representatives of the community came from northern Iraq, Georgia and Germany, where many have fled.
Thanking Pope Francis for his support, one of the delegates referred to the Pope as “father of the poor,” Father Lombardi said.
The Yazidi are a Kurdish community with a monotheistic religion with Zoroastrian and other influences. When militants of the Islamic State proclaimed a caliphate in June 2014 and began their rampage through Syria and northeastern Iraq, they particularly targeted Christians and Yezidis. They tried to covert many to Islam, killed thousands and drove tens of thousands from their homes with almost no warning.
Thanking the Pope for his support “during this time of persecution and suffering,” the delegation informed the Pope about “the situation of about 5,000 Yezidi women reduced to slavery” by the Islamic State, Father Lombardi said.
Read more at the CNS link.
7 January 2015
In this image from 2012, Father John Cox of Dormition of the Theotokos Church in Norfolk, Virginia, throws a cross into the Chesapeake Bay on the Feast of the Epiphany. To learn more about the Orthodox Church in America read this profile from ONE magazine.
(photo: Stephen Katz)
To mark Epiphany, many members of the Orthodox Church take part in the blessing of water. The Orthodox Church of America website explains:
The main feature of the feast of the Epiphany is the Great Blessing of Water. It is prescribed to follow both the Divine Liturgy of the eve of the feast and the Divine Liturgy of the day itself. Usually it is done just once in parish churches at the time when most people can be present. It begins with the singing of special hymns and the censing of the water which has been placed in the center of the church building. Surrounded by candles and flowers, this water stands for the beautiful world of God’s original creation and ultimate glorification by Christ in the Kingdom of God. Sometimes this service of blessing is done out of doors at a place where the water is flowing naturally.
...After the epistle (1 Cor 1:10-14) and the gospel reading (Mk 1:9-11) the special great litany is chanted invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit upon the water and upon those who will partake of it. It ends with the great prayer of the cosmic glorification of God in which Christ is called upon to sanctify the water, and all men and all creation, by the manifestation of his saving and sanctifying divine presence by the indwelling of the Holy and Good and Life-creating Spirit.
As the troparion of the feast is sung, the celebrant immerses the Cross into the water three times and then proceeds to sprinkle the water in the four directions of the world. He then blesses the people and their homes with the sanctified water which stands for the salvation of all men and all creation which Christ has effected by his “epiphany” in the flesh for the life of the world.
Sometimes people think that the blessing of water and the practice of drinking it and sprinkling it over everyone and everything is a “paganism” which has falsely entered the Christian Church. We know, however, that this ritual was practiced by the People of God in the Old Testament, and that in the Christian Church it has a very special and important significance.
It is the faith of Christians that since the Son of God has taken human flesh and has been immersed in the streams of the Jordan, all matter is sanctified and made pure in him, purged of its death-dealing qualities inherited from the devil and the wickedness of men. In the Lord’s epiphany all creation becomes good again, indeed “very good,” the way that God himself made it and proclaimed it to be in the beginning when “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2) and when the “Breath of Life” was breathing in man and in everything that God made (Gen 1:30; 2:7).
6 January 2015
A frankincense farmer cuts the bark of a tree to release resin. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
Today marks the Solemnity of Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the magi to the Christ child, bringing him gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In 2003, we took a closer look at the history behind these legendary gifts, particularly frankincense:
The Egyptians embalmed their kings with frankincense and considered the fruit of the Boswellia or frankincense tree the perfume of the gods that, when collected and preserved correctly, ensured immortality. Pliny noted in the first century A.D. how control of the frankincense trade had made the southern Arabians the richest people in the world. It was said the trees were so valuable that snakes guarded them.
Today, in Oman’s southernmost region of Dhofar, which borders Saudi Arabia’s vast and empty Rub al-Khali desert to the north and west and the upper curve of southern Yemen to the south, the stubby, thorny trees live where little else will. The trees can only grow when a complex set of conditions has been met: limestone soil and a climate with high humidity in a desert that receives little rain.
In Oman, frankincense accounted for three-quarters of the country’s gross national product until the bottom fell out of what was once a thriving trade. The finest grades of frankincense are still used for high-end perfume manufacturing. But gums of all grades can be found in the local souqs, especially “frankincense alley” in the country’s southern port of Salalah and the perfume market at Mutrah Souq in Oman’s capital, Muscat. The people who buy are local, burning it for its antiseptic purposes, perfuming hair with the smoke, chewing it for digestion.
The frankincense trees release their aromatic amber for only a few weeks in late summer. Gathering the resin has been a family-run business for centuries. Then, as now, the harvesting skill has been passed from father to son.
Read the rest in Scents of Time and Place.
5 January 2015
In this image from October, Ethiopian Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Addis Ababa arrives for the opening session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican. Archbishop Souraphiel, 66, was one of 20 new cardinals named by Pope Francis on 4 January. You can read more about the Ethiopian Catholic Church here. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
31 December 2014
Santa Clauses parade through the streets of Thrissur, India, on 27 December. The Archdiocese of Thrissur created a new Guinness World Record when they assembled 18,112 Santa Clauses on the streets and broke the existing record set by Londonerry, Northern Ireland, with 13,000. Read more about this event here. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
30 December 2014
A sister of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, one of CNEWA’s partner organizations in India, feeds ducks in Aluva, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
29 December 2014
Tags: India Sisters Indian Catholics
Four young carolers pose in their home-made costumes in front of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kosmach, Ukraine. To learn more about how the Hutsuls of the Carpathian Mountains celebrate the holidays, read Faith and Tradition, from the November 2004 issue of ONE.(photo: Petro Didula)
23 December 2014
Tags: Ukraine Cultural Identity Village life Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Eastern Europe
Fadi Hazboun, 20, takes a selfie of with his Catholic family from Nazareth in front of the Christmas tree in Manger Square outside the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 21 December. Pictured with him are his father, Afif; mother, Nardin; and his 8-year-old brother, Jowan. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
22 December 2014
Tags: Holy Land Bethlehem Palestinians West Bank
The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony on 19 December. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
19 December 2014
In this image from 2013, a man lights a candle in a temporary Ukrainian Greek Catholic tent church during anti-government protests in Kiev. (photo: CNS/Tatyana Zenkovich, EPA)
Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned their church is being driven underground again, according to CNS:
“In Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we’ve already effectively returned to the catacombs,” said Father Ihor Yatsiv, the church’s Kiev-based spokesman.
“It’s a sad paradox that history is being repeated just as we commemorate our liberation. But after a couple of decades of freedom, we again look set to lose our freedom,” he told Catholic News Service on 18 December.
The priest spoke as Ukrainian Catholic communities in Russian-occupied Crimea approached a 1 January deadline for re-registering under Russian law. He said the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church had no legal status in Russia and would therefore be unable, in practice, to register.
Father Yatsiv said Russian and separatist forces had not officially refused to register Ukrainian Catholic parishes, but had ensured it was impossible because of the lack of legal provisions. He added that there was no effective government in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, where rebel groups did not recognize Ukrainian Catholics and were “imposing whatever rules and regulations they choose.”
Earlier in December, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych told Austria’s Kathpress news agency that Crimea’s five Ukrainian Catholic parishes would find themselves “outside the law,” along with the territory’s Latin Catholic, Muslim and breakaway Orthodox communities.
“It’s ironic we’ve just been celebrating the 25th anniversary of our legalization in the former Soviet Union — but our right to legal activity will soon be withdrawn in various parts of our country,” Archbishop Shevchuk told Kathpress Dec. 12.
“There’s clearly no religious liberty already in Crimea and the occupied territories of the east, and I hope the international community will deploy its resources to restoring freedoms in the affected areas,” he said.
Ukrainian Catholics fled Crimea to escape arrests and property seizures after Russia annexed the region in March. Most church parishes have closed in Ukraine’s war-torn Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where separatists declared an independent “New Russia” after staging local referendums last spring.
Ukraine’s Catholic Caritas charity warned on 11 December of a “humanitarian catastrophe” this winter, with 490,000 people now registered as refugees, and 545,000 displaced abroad, mostly in Russia.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church makes up around a tenth of Ukraine’s 46 million inhabitants. It was outlawed under Soviet rule from 1946 to 1989, when many clergy were imprisoned and most church properties seized by the state or transferred to Russian Orthodox possession.