27 March 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama presents a gift to Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican on 27 March. The president gave the pope a blue box containing a selection of fruit and vegetable seeds from the White House Garden. (photo: CNS/Stefano Spaziani, pool)
President Barack Obama met Pope Francis today for the first time, and the visit included the customary exchange of gifts. The CNS blog has details:
U.S. President Barack Obama gave Pope Francis a small chest full of fruit and vegetable seeds that are used in the White House Gardens.
“If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well,” the president said.
“Como no!” the pope replied in Spanish, “Why not?” or “Of course.”
The seeds were inside individual blue velvet pouches.
“These I think are carrots,” the president said as he opened one of the pouches.
The president said the idea for the seeds came after he heard that Pope Francis had decided to open to the public the gardens at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
The custom-made box the seeds came in is made from reclaimed wood from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore &mash; the first cathedral in the United States and an international symbol of religious freedom. [Read this story by the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s The Catholic Review for more interesting background on the box!]
The basilica’s cornerstone was laid by Jesuit Father John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States.
Read more about the gifts. And CNS also has additional details about the meeting.
26 March 2014
Father Ihor Hiletsky shows a picture of the grave of alcoholism in the village of Stankiv.
(photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn)
While Ukraine has been very much in the news lately, something that isn’t reported much is the country’s serious problem with alcoholism and addiction. We looked at how the country was coping back in 2010:
According to a 2008 study on alcoholism conducted by the World Health Organization, Ukraine ranked at the top of the list of countries with the highest rates of alcohol consumption among children and young people. With a population of 2.5 million people, the Lviv Oblast (or province) falls within the mean of Ukraine’s 24 oblasts with respect to substance abuse, which includes alcoholism and drug use. Last year, between 1 January and 1 July, public health authorities registered 428 cases of alcoholism and drug addiction among people under the age of 18, and 35,248 cases among adults.
“That is only the official data,” says Dr. Myroslava Kabanchyk, the chief physician at the Lviv State Clinical Pharmacological Dispensary. “There are many more people like that, a great number of whom fear seeking medical treatment. If they did they would not be able to work or go abroad for five years. Many others have just not been officially registered, such as those over 60 or those who live deep in the Carpathian Mountains.” She estimates the real number of addicts and alcoholics far surpasses the official numbers...
...In 2003, Viktor Proskuriakov took part in “The Burial of Alcoholism,” a ritual in which parishioners from the Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Stankiv joined together and took an oath to give up drinking and end alcohol dependency. The crowd gathered around an open grave, which was filled with liquor bottles, to pray and symbolically bury the disease. Marked with a tombstone to remind villagers of their oaths, the grave can be seen from the road leading to the church and rectory.
Father Ihor Hiletsky, who serves as the church’s pastor as well as the coordinator of youth programs for the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Stryj, organized the burial.
“The idea to conduct a series of events exposing alcoholism as a sinister evil occurred in 2001 just after I had come to Stankiv,” says Father Hiletsky.
Read more about Burying Alcoholism in the January 2010 issue of ONE.
25 March 2014
In this image from January, Pope Francis is pictured next to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, during an exchange of greetings with ambassadors to the Holy See at the Vatican. Cardinal Parolin today sent a message to participants at an Islamic-Christian Prayer Meeting in Lebanon, urging both Christians and Muslims to work together for peace and the common good and encourage dialogue. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
24 March 2014
Holed up in their caves in Lalibela, an important center of pilgrimage in Ethiopia, hermits dedicate their lives to study and prayer. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we took readers on a journey to Ethiopia, and disocovered a country at a crossroads:
In Ethiopia, one can now discern tension developing between priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church — the historic church of the Ethiopian people — and the faithful. This tension reflects the evolution of Ethiopia from an agricultural society of subsistent farmers to an urbanized and industrial modern state.
In the past, the priest was the natural reference point and adviser. Today, however, Ethiopia’s young, urban Orthodox Christians no longer perceive the priest as the only source of wisdom; they turn increasingly to their own experiences to find answers to life’s complexities.Ethiopia is celebrated for its many monasteries, ancient foundations peopled with men who, in the footsteps of the early desert fathers, have fled the world to fast, pray and participate in the weekly celebration of the Qeddase, the eucharistic liturgy of the church.
Academics describe Ethiopian Orthodox spirituality, with its focus on interior prayer and the communal celebration of the Qeddase, as introspective and monastic. They contrast this with the more extroverted spirituality pervading Christian life in the West, where ministry exercises a more “apostolic” dimension.
Though Ethiopia’s monks have retreated from the world, they have not forsaken it. Historically, monasteries have played a significant role in the development of the Ethiopian nation, its culture and its identity, even participating in its often volatile political life.
Despite such power and influence, however, the laity understands that the role of a monk is contemplative. This traditional role is not reserved to those in monastic life alone, but extended to parish priests as well.
Read more about Ethiopian Orthodoxy at a Crossroads from the November 2007 issue of ONE.
21 March 2014
A woman cries as she holds a boy at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria, on 6 March.
(photo: CNS/ Hosam Katan, Reuters)
Two weeks ago, Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Beirut, spoke to a meeting of Aid to the Church in Need in Kaslik, Lebanon. He described the humanitarian crisis in Syria:
The latest estimates published by the UNHCR show that 6.8 million people in Syria are needy, 5.25 million people internally displaced and an additional 2.2 million seeking refuge in neighboring countries from a conflict that has reportedly killed over 130,000 people.
Some areas face food shortages, and even areas that have been spared large-scale violence like Damascus lack sufficient quantities of gasoline, heating oil and cooking gas. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that by the end of 2014 around 70 percent of the Syrian population will need emergency food help.
Harsh winter weather had made matters worse, and people lack winter clothes, blankets and fuel, with women and children particularly at risk.
In the large city of Aleppo, a battle zone for the past 18 months, the price of bread has climbed in some places more than 15-fold to 250 Syrian pounds ($3.50) a kilo, while it is estimated that half of public hospitals have been damaged by the conflict.
The Syrian displaced families in general and the Christians in particular are facing serious challenges to provide the basic necessities for their children. The need is further inflated when it comes to families who found refuge within their confessional communities and remained unknown — not registered with an international organization whose main activities are concentrated at the large refugee camps.
You can read the full text of his speech here.
And visit this page to learn how you can help our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria.
20 March 2014
Pope Francis waves as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican
on 19 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Fortune magazine has just published a list of the 50 greatest leaders in the world — and the Bishop of Rome tops the list:
When a reformer sweeps through an institution more forcefully in just a year than any other in memory — and when that institution is some 2,000 years old and the largest organization on earth — he draws attention, admiration, and wonder. That’s why Pope Francis leads our inaugural list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, and why he was proposed more often by our nominators than any other candidate. Reforming the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, finally beginning to address the child sexual abuse scandal, shaking up the Vatican’s self-absorbed bureaucracy, setting a striking new tone through his personal example of modesty and inclusiveness — this is what a great leader does.
The magazine describes Pope Francis this way:
Just over a year ago, a puff of white smoke announced the new spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world. In the brief time since, Francis has electrified the church and attracted legions of non-Catholic admirers by energetically setting a new direction. He has refused to occupy the palatial papal apartments, has washed the feet of a female Muslim prisoner, is driven around Rome in a Ford Focus, and famously asked “Who am I to judge?” with regard to the church’s view of gay members. He created a group of eight cardinals to advise him on reform, which a church historian calls the “most important step in the history of the church for the past 10 centuries.” Francis recently asked the world to stop the rock-star treatment. He knows that while revolutionary, his actions so far have mostly reflected a new tone and intentions. His hardest work lies ahead. And yet signs of a “Francis effect” abound: In a poll in March, one in four Catholics said they’d increased their charitable giving to the poor this year. Of those, 77% said it was due in part to the Pope.
Visit the Fortune link to see who else made the list.
19 March 2014
A Syrian girl in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp girl paints her vision of a perfect place to live.
(photo: CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)
With the number of Syrian refugees now soaring into the millions, CNS reports on one innovative effort to help the most vulnerable, the children:
As Syria’s civil war hurtles into its fourth year, hopes of returning home soon seem far off for the 2.5 million refugees sheltering in neighboring countries, like Jordan. Syrians are soon expected to overtake Afghans as the largest refugee population in the world, according to the United Nations.
Top U.N. officials warn that the grinding conflict will leave a generation of 5.5 million children — in and outside Syria — physically and emotionally scarred. But American street artist Samantha Robison is working hard to change that.
A native of Washington, D.C., Robison and her team of international artists paint alongside the refugee children, encouraging them to remain strong and positive in Jordan’s Zaatari camp.
Covered in splashes of paint in every color of the rainbow, Robison encourages a 9-year-old Syrian girl named Zeinab to express her future dreams through painting on a recycled tent tarp.
“I am drawing a bird flying in the air. To me, it represents the freedom we want,” the enthusiastic child said as she drew.
Peaceful demonstrations protesting the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted three years ago and were soon met by sniper fire from government troops before bursting into all-out civil war.
Robison said the young Syrian refugees at Zaatari remember the start of the conflict, but now look to the future.
“Yes, commemorate the three years, but also remember where they’ve come from and how much they’ve accomplished,” she said.
“Honor the human dignity and the next generation and the future of Syria. I think is where a lot of the energy needs to be focused,” she added, speaking of the children.
Read the rest.
And to learn how you can help needy children fleeing the war in Syria, visit our giving page.
18 March 2014
A Ukrainian woman in Malaga, Spain, cries during a 16 March protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine. Pope Francis met privately at the Vatican with the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church on 17 March, the day after pro-Russian voters on the Crimean peninsula voted to secede from Ukraine in a referendum the United States and European Union called illegal. (photo: CNS/Jon Nazca, Reuters)
14 March 2014
Father Pejic is the only full-time staff member at St. Sava’s Church. (photo: Andy Spyra)
In 2009, we paid a visit to a remarkably diverse parish in Germany with a rich mixture of people and cultures:
Apart from the occasional passerby, the streets of Mengendamm are deserted on this quiet Sunday morning. But as the clock approaches 10, this small industrial neighborhood on the north side of Hanover, Germany, momentarily awakens from its slumber.
As he does every week, Zarko Petrovic sounds the bell for worship at St. Sava’s Serbian Orthodox Church. The now retired 74-year-old Serb has spent most of his adult life as a guest worker outside his native country. For 20 years, he worked on the line at a Michelin tire factory in France. He then moved to Germany, where he worked for 14 years as a bartender at Hanover’s InterContinental Hotel before retiring. Now a volunteer sacristan, Mr. Petrovic summons the community to prayer by tolling bells.
At the top of the hour, Father Milan Pejic enters the sanctuary. Since 1976, the 56-year-old priest has led the Hanover parish, which numbers some 2,500 people.
Only 30 worshipers made it on time this morning, but up to 200 people will be in the church by the liturgy’s end. At the right of the nave, a handful of sick and elderly parishioners are seated in places reserved for them. The rest of the congregation faces the iconostasis and stands for the next two hours: women to the left, men to the right. A gilded chandelier hangs above their heads, lighting the dark sanctuary. The perfumed scent of incense fills the air.
Accompanied by a 10-member choir, a sung dialogue unfolds between the pastor and his flock. Some faithful enunciate the prayers’ every word; others pray silently, contemplating the splendid icons on the iconostasis and church walls.
St. Sava’s parishioners hail from 20 different nations, including Ethiopia and other unlikely corners of the world. For this reason, Father Pejic varies to some extent the liturgy’s content and sequence, he says, “depending on who is present.”
Following tradition, Father Pejic celebrates the Divine Liturgy in Church Slavonic, but pauses at several points to repeat select passages first in Serbian, then German. Readings from the Gospel, on the other hand, are chanted in Serbian and then read aloud in German.
“Chanting twice would be inappropriate, but the contents can be received better by the listeners if it is read. This way, even the Serbian-speaking parishioners understand the biblical text better,” he says.
Read more about Germany’s Orthodox Serbs from the July 2009 issue of ONE.
13 March 2014
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. In this image from 13 March 2013, a woman holding holy cards reacts after the election of a new pope outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina became the first man from Latin America to be elected pope and the first to take the name of Francis.
(photo: CNS/Agustin Marcarian, Reuters)
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