27 May 2014
Pope Francis embraces Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina, after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on 26 May. The pope's message left at the Wall contained the text of the Our Father and of the 122nd Psalm, traditionally prayed by Jewish pilgrims who travel to Jerusalem.(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Among the many memorable moments from the pope’s trip, a standout was the one shown above. CNS’s Cindy Wooden took note:
In a Holy Land pilgrimage filled with emotion, the embrace of Pope Francis, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud this morning was powerful.
Even at a distance of more than 1,400 miles, (thanks to the Vatican Television Center and Vatican Radio) viewers could read in that embrace a sense of “we are actually here; it really happened.”
The embrace, complete with tears, came after Pope Francis visited Jerusalem’s grand mufti and other Muslim leaders near the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque and then prayed at the Western Wall.
The two holy sites make up what is probably the most contested piece of real estate in the world because of its deep religious significance.
Muslims believe Muhammad was taken to the site in his famous “Night Journey” and from there transported to heaven and then back to Mecca.
The Esplanade of the Mosques sits above the sacred Jewish prayer space facing the Western Wall, which is all that remains of the wall that surrounded the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.
An interreligious pilgrimage to the site isn’t a daily occurrence, but Pope Francis wanted to go with his friends.
Read more about that emotional embrace at CNS’s blog.
And you can check out more stories, pictures and video from the trip at our special page, Apostles of Unity in the Holy Land.
23 May 2014
In this image from last year, Pope Francis burns incense before the icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) after praying the rosary during a service at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In what has become a custom before beginning an important trip, Pope Francis stopped by the Basilica of St. Mary Major this morning to offer a private prayer before an icon of Mary. The pontiff leaves for his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land Saturday.
CNS has details:
Pope Francis entrusted his upcoming apostolic journey to the Holy Land to Our Lady when he visited a Marian icon at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome this morning.
He brought roses and prayed in silence before the icon for about 15 minutes, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told us today.
The unannounced morning visit marks what has become a Pope Francis tradition: visiting the “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) to pray for Mary’s protection and care before a major trip.
He did the same thing before heading to Brazil last year when he prayed that Mary protect and care for everyone attending World Youth Day and for all young people around the world.
He also visited the day after his election, at the start of his new journey as supreme pontiff.
The icon has special significance for the pope and he has visited it often on different occasions to pray. He has said that the Basilica of St. Mary Major was the first Marian shrine in the West where the image of the Mother of God — the “Theotokos” — was venerated.
According to tradition, this image of Mary embracing Jesus as a young boy was the work of the evangelist St. Luke, who painted it on a tabletop made by Jesus himself in St. Joseph’s carpentry shop. Many centuries later, Jesuit missionaries distributed reproductions of the image to promote Marian devotion around the world.
22 May 2014
With their parents in pews, children take in the liturgy from the floor of the church.
(photo: Tugela Ridley)
In 2006, we explored how Orthodox Christianity spread through Africa, and uncovered some fascinating history:
Orthodox Christianity is not new to Africa. According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark arrived on the continent around A.D. 43, and founded the Church of Alexandria and, by extension, all Africa. But “all Africa,” for most of the church’s history, effectively ended at the Sahara. Orthodox missionaries sat out the 19th century’s “scramble for Africa,” when European Catholics and Protestants fanned out across the continent to save souls and build colonies. The story of how the Alexandrian Church came to have an affiliate in faraway Uganda, a country with no previous connection to the Orthodox world, is therefore not a tale of white men bearing the message of God to a dark continent. Rather, the Ugandan church traces its roots to two Africans who, rebelling against colonial rule, fled to a religion they felt was pure and politically uncompromised. This makes Uganda’s small community of 60,000 Orthodox Christians nearly unique within their home country. They found their faith on their own.
Read more about Orthodox Africa in the March 2006 issue of ONE.
21 May 2014
A man holds a cardboard cutout of Pope Francis’ face as the pope leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 21 May. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about his upcoming trip to the Holy Land:
Asking prayers for his 24-26 May trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis said his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories would be “strictly religious.”
At the end of his weekly general audience 21 May, Pope Francis told an estimated 50,000 people in St. Peter’s Square that he was about to make the trip.
The first reason for going, he said, “is to meet my brother, Bartholomew,” the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The meeting launched a new era of ecumenical cooperation and dialogue.
“Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and this is very beautiful,” the pope said. Pope Francis is considered the successor of the apostle Peter and Patriarch Bartholomew the successor of his brother, the apostle Andrew.
The pope said the second reason for his trip is “to pray for peace in that land that suffers so much.”
He asked the people in the square to pray for the success of the trip.
20 May 2014
Hired vans bus students home from the Good Shepherd Sisters’ community center in Lebanon. Read more about the inspiring work of the sisters with refugees in Syria, Shepherds and Sheep from the spring 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
19 May 2014
An image of Pope Francis is displayed at a shop in Jerusalem’s Old City. The pope will visit Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Israel during his 24-26 May trip, his first to
the region as pope. (photo: CNS/Amir Cohen, Reuters)
16 May 2014
At the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ader, Jordan, girls celebrate receiving their
First Communion. (photo: John E. Kozar)
CNS recently paid a visit to the site where Jesus was baptized—and where Pope Francis will visit later this month—and looked at efforts to preserve Christian identity in Jordan:
During a recent visit to Jordan Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said strengthening support of the Christian community is one way to stop Christians from fleeing the region. He pointed to the work of organizations such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, for which he serves as chairman of the board, as vital to ensuring that the presence of Christians remains in the region.
“CNEWA can give a booster shot to the effort it has been doing for decades to support the Christian community in the Middle East,” he said during a break from observing CNEWA’s efforts.
“When you look at what the tiny Christian community is doing in terms of health care, education, feeding the poor, and keeping people together, you can see why Jesus said, ‘By their fruits, you shall know them,‘” he told CNS.
“Muslims have come to respect the magnificent and charitable work of the sisters and other Christians. So religious respect, friendship and dialogue is a result of that,” the cardinal said.
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA president, who accompanied Cardinal Dolan, agreed.
“Whenever we can work with the local church, that’s what CNEWA does, accompany the local church to be stronger, to cultivate people’s roots, to make them deeper and join in solidarity of prayer, that’s where we need to be,” he told CNS.
15 May 2014
Tags: CNEWA Jordan Melkite
A priest blesses Serbian and Greek-American students from Socrates-St. Sava Academy.
(photo: Hryhoriy Prystay)
In 2004, we profiled immigrants from the Balkans discovering a new sense of cooperation and collaboration in Chicago:
A hopeful sign of Christian cooperation in Chicago is Socrates-St. Sava Academy, where Serbian and Greek-American children study together in an Orthodox environment. Socrates Greek American School was founded in 1908, making it “the oldest such school still in existence,” says Voula Sellountos, principal of the academy.
In 2001, it started admitting children of Serbian descent, changed its name and moved to the complex of Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.
There are now 110 students: 27 are of Serbian descent and 83 Greek. The students have English classes together before separately studying in Serbian or Greek.
The school has two chaplains: one Serbian, one Greek. In addition to tuition paid by parents, the respective churches provide financial support according to the number of enrolled students.
“The values the parents try to instill in the home are the same ones instilled at school,” says Ms. Sellountos. “At public schools parents have almost no control over violence, bad language and bad attitudes. We have created a family environment, with love and care for the children.”
The challenges of modern times have forced Chicago’s Christians from the Balkans to adapt and work together with other ethnic groups. None have been able to survive on their own.
Read more about Sharing Space in an Adopted Home from the May-June 2004 edition of ONE.
14 May 2014
Father Elias Koucos celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at Prophet Elias Church in Holladay, Utah. To learn more about the thriving community of Greek Orthodox in Utah, check out “Greek Orthodoxy in Mormon Zion” from the June 2010 issue of ONE. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
13 May 2014
A Southist woman in Kerala, India, prays the rosary during Holy Week observances.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2002, we profiled a distinct group of Christians in southern India known as “Southists”:
It is Good Friday in Kottayam, a city in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A family of Christians gathers to bless a plate of fresh, unleavened rice bread. The head of the household reads from a prayer book written in Malayalam, the vernacular of Kerala. On the cover the Hebrew word for Passover is embossed in gold. By tradition, the youngest member of the family asks the eldest the significance of unleavened bread. He is told how their ancestors, the Jews, fled Egypt in haste and how they had only enough time to prepare unleavened bread.
Before sharing their Passover bread, these Christians greet each other, exclaiming, “Happy Pessaha!”
This Indian Christian family traces its origins to those Jewish Christians who immigrated to India from Mesopotamia in the fourth century. Rooted in the past by cherished traditions, they belong to a dynamic community — the Southists, or Knanaya — a group vital to the mosaic of modern India.
Among the Christians of southern India, explains Father Jacob Kollaparambil, a Southist scholar and Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Kottayam, there are two ethnically distinct communities, the Northists and the Southists:
“The Northists are the descendants of those families who were first evangelized by the Apostle Thomas as well as those who have since embraced Christianity. The Southists trace their origins to 72 Mesopotamian Christian families who settled in Cranganore in 345 A.D.”
Southists now number about 200,000 people, a minority within the whole Thomas Christian community of some 4.5 million people (Thomas Christians describe the descendants of those Christians — now members of several Eastern churches — evangelized by Thomas the Apostle). A Semitic people who have maintained their identity by avoiding intermarriage, the Southists are nevertheless divided into two distinct ecclesial jurisdictions. About two-thirds belong to the Eparchy of Kottayam, a diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The remaining third are in communion with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, who established a Southist eparchy in Chingavanam in 1910.
Read more in Ancient Christians, Modern Mission from the July-August 2002 issue of the magazine.