18 December 2017
Women gather inside Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Kosmach, Ukraine, during the Christmas liturgy. (photo: Petro Didula)
With Christmas fast approaching, we were reminded of a report from Ukraine in 2004 which gave readers a wintry glimpse of life in the Carpathian Mountains:
“The Christian faith in the area is nuanced,” says Father Vasylii Hunchak, pastor of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox parish of Sts. Peter and Paul in Kosmach. “There is faith, but it is not exactly Christian, rather half-Christian, half-pagan ... a mystical faith. In the Carpathian Mountains, there are people who know about trees, plants, nature.” The Hutsuls are intimately connected to nature, the elements and to their dead.
“Before Christmas Eve supper, people visit cemeteries,” says longtime resident Mykhailo Didushytskyi. “They put candles on the graves of their relatives and invite them to come for supper. A place is then left at the table, with plate and utensils for a deceased relative, to show respect for the dead.”
Timing is important.
“When the cattle are fed and the first star appears, we sit down at the table, light candles and pray,” Mr. Didushytskyi continues. “The eldest takes the kuttia [porridge made of wheat, honey, nuts and poppy seeds] and throws it on the ceiling with a spoon.” If the porridge sticks, this means God has blessed the family with health, cattle and fertile fields.
Caroling remains an important Christmas tradition. “According to legend, God gave gifts to all the countries,” says Father Hunchak, “Ukraine came late and God had nothing left to give except songs. Our Christmas carols are simply gifts from God.”
On Christmas Eve, grandchildren carol for their grandparents. On Christmas Day, older children carol. After that, however, only adult men who have permission from their pastors may carol. Proceeds from the singing — carolers receive “tips” — are donated to the parish.
Read more about Faith and Tradition in the November 2004 edition of ONE.
15 December 2017
Christian and Muslim leaders in Lebanon gather on 14 December for an interreligious summit at Bkerke, the seat of Maronite Catholics, to discuss and put forth a unified position regarding the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Read more about the meeting and the group’s response here.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Mychel Akl, Maronite Catholic Patriarchate)
14 December 2017
Catholic and Orthodox leaders and 2,000 of their parishioners in Amman, Jordan, hold a silent candlelight march on 13 December. The event marked their rejection of the recent decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the
U.S. embassy there. (photo: CNS/courtesy Catholic Center for Studies and Media)
Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim leaders denounced the “unjust” decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and demanded that it be reversed.
In a 14 December statement at the end of an interreligious summit, the leaders said “that, in addition to violating the laws and international charters,” the decision ignores the fact that Jerusalem is a city holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The previous evening, in Amman, Jordan, Christian leaders led about 2,000 parishioners in a candelit march to protest the U.S. decision.
“For us, Christian and Muslim Arabs, when we lose Jerusalem, we lose everything,” said Father Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, reading a statement. “We lose the core of our faith, because everything began in Jerusalem. We were all born in Jerusalem.”
The interreligious summit in Lebanon, led by Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite Catholic patriarch, gathered Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs and representatives, as well as leaders of the nation’s Protestant churches and Sunni, Shiite and Druze communities.
Participants stressed that Jerusalem “has a privileged position in the consciences of believers of these faiths.”
“The U.S. president’s decision, based on special political calculations, is a challenge and a provocation for more than 3 billion people and touches on the depth of their faith,” the statement said.
They noted that the international community “has adhered to the resolutions of the United Nations, which consider Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank to be occupied territory,” so most countries have “refrained from establishing embassies in occupied Jerusalem.”
They appealed to the Arab and international communities “to pressure the U.S. administration to undo this decision, which lacks the wisdom that real peacemakers need.”
They also called for the American people and their civic and religious organizations to raise their voices and warn Trump and his administration “of the unjust decision that will certainly push the Middle East again into a new cycle of violence.”
In his opening address, Cardinal Rai said he did “not know if the American people agree with their president’s decision,” but he noted that the U.S. bishops have rejected moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since 1984. He said he hoped for the bishops’ continued support.
He also said the interfaith leaders “categorically reject the Judaization of this holy city.”
In Jordan, Father Bader told Catholic News Service the 13 December march was a “condemnation of the decision” by Trump and a call to keep Jerusalem’s status quo. He said the Christian leaders also wanted to encourage diplomatic efforts by Jordan’s King Abdullah on Jerusalem. Jordan’s king is recognized as the custodian of Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem, retired Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop Yaser Ayyash of Jordan and Jordanian Orthodox Metropolitan Benedict led the march, which ended outside St. Mary of Nazareth Catholic Church in Amman. Church bells rang as people gathered outside the church.
In his statement, Father Bader called Trump’s decision “unjust to the Palestinians and contrary to United Nations and other international resolutions.”
“Jerusalem is calling on people to stand with it,” he said, adding that Christians and Muslims stand in unity to face any act that endangers the Holy City.
King Abdullah has called Trump’s decision a “dangerous” move and a threat to peace, saying “there is no alternative to Jerusalem as the key to ending the historical conflict in the Middle East.”
“We have constantly warned of the danger of unilateral decisions on Jerusalem outside the framework of a comprehensive solution that fulfills all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to liberty and an independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
“Moreover, attempts to Judaize Jerusalem and alter its Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity will unleash further violence and extremism; for the city is holy to the followers of the three monotheistic faiths,” King Abdullah said. “Our right, Muslims and Christians, to Jerusalem is eternal.”
13 December 2017
Palestinians walk past an inflatable Santa Claus on 12 December in Bethlehem, West Bank.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Not far from where journalists lined up for positions outside the guard tower at Rachel’s Tomb in anticipation of confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, life in Bethlehem continued. Trendy young Bethlehem residents and visitors were lunching on vegetarian pizza, quinoa and salmon salad, and sandwiches with names like Sexy Morning at the popular Zuwadeh Cafe.
“No benefit will come (of the demonstrations), but people are getting their frustrations out like they have the right to do. It’s the least they can do,” said Mahmoud Hamideh, 25.
“People go and throw stones, but then life goes back to normal,” agreed his cousin, Saleh al-Jundi, 31, who just moved back to Bethlehem from Abu Dhabi with his wife and 14-month-old son. “But this time I am not sure after what Trump said.”
Palestinians leaders called for three days of protests following U.S. President Donald Trump’s 6 December official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and demonstrations have broken out in the West Bank, Jordan and other parts of the Muslim world.
Palestinians reported one killed and at least 35 injured in clashes in the Gaza Strip, with some 115 Palestinians injured in all protests 8 December. In Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rock-throwing demonstrators.
Jerusalem is home to holy sites sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews and is contested as the capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state. The city has been a key point of contention in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which have been on hold since 2014.
Palestinians say that with his declaration, Trump has removed the United States from the status of neutral mediator.
Though concerned that a continuation of the hostilities may affect the busy Christmas season, shopkeepers and others in the tourism industry in Bethlehem said on 8 December that, for now, pilgrims are not canceling reservations.
“But people will be afraid and will think we have a war here,” said 21-year-old Marianna Musallam, who is Greek Orthodox, as she arranged oversized rosaries meant to be hung on the wall. “But we are always in war. Nothing has changed. Trump’s speech was not for good. Jerusalem is for us Palestinians. It is not possible to share.”
Several guests were busy checking messages on their smartphones in the lobby of the Franciscan Casa Nova Guest House, just steps from the Church of the Nativity, and an older couple dropped off their keys on their way out.
“Until now everything is good,” said Issam Matar, who was staffing the reception desk. “But no one knows what will happen in the future.”
Restaurant manager Mahmoud Abu Hamad, 30, a Muslim, said the Catholic owner had told him to close on 7 December for a one-day strike called by Palestinian leaders. He said they were not concerned about losing customers over Christmas.
“What we have to lose is bigger than anything. (Jerusalem), the capital of Palestine, is bigger than anything,” he said. “In the end, Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine. We don't care what (Trump) says.”
Others, like a Catholic shop owner and a Muslim in the tourism industry, both of whom did not want their names used, said the violence would not help the Palestinian situation.
“If people are smart they would not go out to the streets,” said the Muslim. “With a new conflict, we will lose more kids just because the leaders said to go out into the streets. They should send their own sons, not our sons, who don’t even know what they are fighting for.”
Inside the Church of the Nativity, a large part of which has been cordoned off due to ongoing restoration, pilgrims stood patiently in line, waiting to enter the creche that marks the traditional spot of Jesus’ birth.
Latvian pilgrim Janis Bulisi, 43, said he and his wife had disconnected from the internet since arriving in the Holy Land and had vaguely heard something about Trump’s announcement and the ensuing demonstrations.
“We are here on our pilgrimage. We have felt no tensions. We are just excited to be in the place where Jesus was born,” he said.
“Honestly, I did consider canceling the trip, but after thinking about it I saw the violence was more (in other areas), so I took the chance on still coming, though there is a lot of hesitation, nervousness and uncertainty,” said Daniele Coda, 34, of Italy.
Stella Korsah, 56, said though her group had seen some demonstrators on their way from Jericho to Jerusalem, they had not seen violence.
“I have been waiting for this (pilgrimage) for my entire life and I had the opportunity now,” said Korsah, who is a member of St. Catherine of Genoa Catholic Church in Brooklyn, New York. “I was nervous listening to the news ... but I hope for peace ... and remember my purpose for coming here. We serve a living God, and I know peace will prevail.”
In the courtyard outside the Church of St. Catherine, a Spanish group from the lay ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation prepared, in song, for their Mass.
“We are here on our pilgrimage. We were a bit worried, but our priest reassured us,” said Cristina Gallego, 53, who directed the singing. “We pray for peace. Christ is here. Here one comes to see, touch and feel their faith.”
12 December 2017
This icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe is in St. Mary Parish in Whiting, Indiana. It is the first parish in the Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, to commission an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was created last year by iconographer Christine Uveges. (photo: CNS/Laura Ieraci, Horizons)
Renowned for its reverence for ancient tradition, the Byzantine Catholic Church is rather unhurried to add new feasts to its liturgical calendar.
However, in the past 20 years, the Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic Church in the United States has added at least four new feast days, namely for three 20th-century martyred bishops — Blesseds Paul Gojdich, 17 July, Basil Hopko, 23 July, and Theodore Romzha, 31 October — and one feast dedicated to the mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12 December.
While Our Lady of Guadalupe has been on the Byzantine Catholic calendar since 1999, many Byzantine Catholics still are unaware that this feast, largely perceived as a devotion of Latin-American Roman Catholics, also is theirs to celebrate.
Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego at dawn on 9 December 1531, on Tepeyac Hill, in what is now northern Mexico City. She appeared to Juan Diego twice more, and the last time, on 12 December, filled his “tilma,” or cloak, with roses. When he emptied his cloak of the roses, he found that it bore her image. The cloak is enshrined in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
St. Mary Parish in Whiting, Indiana, has taken the lead in the Eparchy of Parma in promoting this Marian devotion. The parish commissioned a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe last year.
The eparchy includes Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic parishes in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin and most of Ohio.
The story that led to the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe being added to the Byzantine Catholic calendar is one of an American archbishop’s awakening to the need for the Byzantine Catholic Church to be engaged in the evangelizing mission of the church in North America.
During a pastoral visit to Mexico in January 1999, St. John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the Americas, and declared that 12 December would be celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in all the dioceses of the Americas.
Also, in this context, St. John Paul declared her the patroness of the new evangelization, calling the church in the Americas to a deeper commitment to proclaiming the Gospel and to the conversion of nonbelievers.
Archbishop Judson Procyk of Pittsburgh, then head of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States, traveled to Mexico for the pope’s visit and attended the papal Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
One of the archbishop’s theological advisers later recounted that, upon Archbishop Procyk’s return from Mexico, he excitedly remarked, “The Guadalupana is ours.”
He added her feast day to the Byzantine Catholic calendar by circulating the related decree sent to all the bishops from the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Archbishop Procyk reportedly encountered something strangely familiar in Mexico City in the image on the tilma: In the mother of Americas, he found the mother of all Byzantine Catholics.
The mother of God appearing to St. Juan Diego has much in common with the Byzantine tradition of a miraculous icon comes to the lowly, such as the Icon Not Made by Human Hands — an icon of Christ — and the icon of Our Lady of Mariapoch.
In appearing as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary is with child — represented by her belt worn high on her abdomen. It is the only recognized Marian apparition in which she is pregnant. The detail is particularly significant in the Byzantine tradition, which emphasizes Mary’s maternity as “Theotokos,” a term which means “she who bore God.”
As devotions go hand-in-hand with liturgical expression in the Christian East, Father Maximos Davies of Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, wrote a Byzantine Catholic office for Our Lady of Guadalupe, which draws heavily on Byzantine tradition to cast a new light on the miracle of Guadalupe.
For instance, one of the hymns in the “aposticha,” or set of hymns, for the feast takes up the traditional vespers reading for the mother of God, in Chapter 9, verses 1-11, of Proverbs, that depicts Mary as Lady Wisdom, calling all people to feast on her Son at the eucharistic liturgy.
At the same time, the office honors the particular message of hope that the mother of God conveys specifically to the people of the Americas:
“Know all my smallest and most humble children that I am the Virgin who gave birth to God,The Word through whom everything has the breath of life! He has given you to me as your mother, all you peoples of the Americas; I will hear all your weeping and your complaints; I will heal all your sorrows, hardships and sufferings. Repent and believe in the Gospel! And together we will worship the Lord and lover of mankind!”
Byzantine Catholics in North America, who have adopted this feast and include this devotion in their common life of prayer, can contemplate a timely question: How does this miraculous icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe call us to engage in the new evangelization on this continent?
The Ruthenian Catholic Churches
After the Boom
Byzantine Catholics in the Midwest
11 December 2017
Tags: Byzantine Catholic Church Ruthenians
Children pray at the start of the school day at St. Michael School in Aiga, Ethiopia. Read more about efforts to help children in Ethiopia — and see more poignant pictures — in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
7 December 2017
A Lebanese drummer fires up the crowd at a dance club in downtown Montréal. Read about the Lebanese immigrant population in the Canadian city in the September 2004 edition of ONE.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
Several years ago, we took readers to Canada, to discover a thriving population of Lebanese immigrants:
You will find them bowed in churches, whispering praise to “Allah” (God).
You will find them animated in cafes and bars, smoking water pipes and exclaiming “haram” (it’s a shame) over the latest injustice in the Holy Land or some bad call during a European soccer match.
You will find them seated in restaurants before plates of lamb sausages and salads, pounding their fists on tables and crying “mish maouleh” (impossible) in response to some devilishly tall tale.
You will find them frenzied near altars, elbowing their way to capture the perfect photograph of a loved one exchanging marriage vows and begging “lazza choue” (pardon me).
You will find them bellies bared in dance clubs, twisting their torsos and asking “in jeid?” (really) over the reported affection of some member of the opposite sex.
They are everywhere. They are Lebanese and they have found a home in Montréal.
That the most distinct people of the Middle East have found refuge and new life in the most distinct of Canada’s great cities should come as no surprise. The urbane, gregarious and multilingual Lebanese seem a natural fit for Québec’s cosmopolitan center, whose denizens fiercely protect their Francophone patrimony.
6 December 2017
A woman lights a candle before a large icon of St. Nicholas in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior last May. A relic of the saint was sent from Bari, Italy, to Russia for veneration at the Moscow cathedral and at an Orthodox cathedral in St. Petersburg from late May to late July.
(photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)
Today marks the feast of St. Nicholas — the figure who would become immortalized in the popular imagination as Santa Claus.
As Michael J.L. La Civita noted a few years back:
According to tradition, Nicholas was born in the mid-third century to a wealthy Christian couple in Patara, a town near the southern shores of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). After the premature death of his parents, Nicholas gave up his wealth and entered a monastery, later traveling to Egypt and the Holy Land. He returned to his monastery, hoping to live quietly as a hermit. However, against his will, he was elected as Bishop of Myra, a small town near Patara.
Although little else is known about Nicholas, his popularity rests on his compassion for the poor and his passion for the faith.
“The reason for this special veneration of this special bishop, who left neither theological works nor other writings,” writes Leonid Ouspensky, a noted Russian theologian, “is evidently that the church sees in him a personification of a shepherd, of its defender and intercessor.”
The Byzantine Catholic Church website today offers this tribute to the beloved saint:
Most of the stories that come to us through history are of him living the Christian life — such as providing a dowry to three young women so they could marry and avoid slavery (the three bags of gold he threw through their windows landed in their stockings, and so today we hang our stockings by the chimney with care). All of the stories about St. Nicholas that come to us through history are about his love for people, especially the poor. St. Nicholas was good. So good that his goodness shines through history — and radiates even from the man in the red suit. Such goodness can only be found in one who dwells intimately with Lord — for He is the only good One (Mt 19:17).
O holy father,
The fruit of your good works enlightens and delights the hearts of the faithful.
Who cannot wonder at your measureless patience and humility?
At your tender care for the poor?
At your compassion for the afflicted?
O holy Nicholas,
You have divinely taught all things well,
Now wearing your unfading crown,
You intercede for our souls.
(From the Vespers of St. Nicholas)
St. Nicholas, pray for us!
1 December 2017
Pope Francis prays with Christian, Muslim and Buddhist religious leaders and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar during an interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace in the garden of the archbishop’s residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 1 December. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Each human being is created in the image and likeness of God, yet so often people desecrate that image with violence as seen in the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, Pope Francis said.
“Today, the presence of God is also called ‘Rohingya,’” the pope said Dec. 1 after meeting, clasping hands with and listening intently to 16 Rohingya who have found shelter in Bangladesh.
“They, too, are images of the living God,” Pope Francis told a gathering of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders gathered in Dhaka for an interreligious meeting for peace.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he told the crowd, “let us show the world what its selfishness is doing to the image of God.”
“Let’s keeping helping” the Rohingya, he said. “Let’s continue working so their rights are recognized. Let’s not close our hearts. Let’s not look away.”
The Rohingya, like all people, are created in God’s image, the pope insisted. “Each of us must respond.”
The refugees traveled to Dhaka from Cox’s Bazar, the southern Bangladeshi city hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled Myanmar. More than 620,000 Rohingya have crossed the border into Bangladesh since late August.
Speaking directly to them, Pope Francis said, “We are all close to you.”
In comparison to the suffering the Rohingya have endured, he said, the response of the people at the gathering actually is small. “But we make room for you in our hearts.”
“In the name of all those who have persecuted you and have done you harm, especially for the indifference of the world, I ask forgiveness,” he said.
Pope Francis’ remarks, which he made in Italian, were translated for the crowd and for the Rohingya. Many of them were in tears.
In his formal speech at the interreligious meeting, Pope Francis insisted “mere tolerance” for people of other religions or ethnic groups was not enough to create a society where everyone’s rights are respected and peace reigns.
Believers must “reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding,” not ignoring differences, but seeing them as “a potential source of enrichment and growth.”
The “openness of heart” to which believers of all faiths are called includes “the pursuit of goodness, justice and solidarity,” he said. “It leads to seeking the good of our neighbors.”
Pope Francis urged the people of Bangladesh to make openness, acceptance and cooperation the “beating heart” of their nation. Such attitudes, he said, are the only antidote to corruption, “destructive religious ideologies and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities and those who are most vulnerable.”
According to a Vatican translation, Farid Uddin Masud, speaking for the Muslim community, told the pope, “it is compassion and love which today’s world needs most. The only remedy and solution to the problem of malice, envy and fighting among nations, races and creeds lies in the compassionate love preached and practiced by the great men and women of the world.”
Masud, a famous prayer leader and advocate of dialogue and tolerance, is thought by some to have been the main target of a 2016 bombing at a major Muslim prayer service in Sholakia, Bangladesh. Four people were killed.
Praising the pope for speaking on behalf of “the oppressed, irrespective of religion, caste and nationality,” Masud particularly cited Pope Francis’ concern for the Rohingya. He said he hoped that the pope’s public support would strengthen international efforts to defend their rights.
Anisuzzaman, a famous professor of Bengali literature, told the gathering that in a world torn by strife, the pope’s message of encounter and dialogue takes on added importance.
“Those of us who are frustrated to find the forces of hatred and cruelty overtaking those of love and compassion can surely find solace in the pope’s message of peace and harmony and of fraternity and goodwill,” he said, according to the Vatican’s translation of his speech. “We note with great relief that the pope has, time and again, expressed his sympathy with the Rohingya from Myanmar, who have been forcibly ejected from their home and earth and subjected to violence and inhuman treatment.”
The pope arrived at the meeting in a rickshaw after a meeting with Bangladesh’s Catholic bishops. He had told the bishops that interreligious and ecumenical dialogue are essential part to the life of the church in Bangladesh.
“Yours is a nation where ethnic diversity is mirrored in a diversity of religious traditions,” he said. “Work unremittingly to build bridges and to foster dialogue, for these efforts not only facilitate communication between different religious groups, but also awaken the spiritual energies needed for the work of nation-building in unity, justice and peace.”
The Catholic Church’s preferential “option for the poor,” including the Rohingya refugees, is a sign of God’s love and mercy and must continue to shine forth in concrete acts of charity, Pope Francis told the bishops.
“The inspiration for your works of assistance to the needy must always be that pastoral charity which is quick to recognize human woundedness and to respond with generosity, one person at a time,” Pope Francis said.
30 November 2017
A Syrian refugee child greets a visitor at the community center in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The center was founded by Sister Micheline Lattouff and is administered by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Read more about Sister Micheline here and discover her remarkable ministry to refugees in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)