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11 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro






As mentioned in today’s Page One post, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople addressed Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops and faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square today. Above is a video report by Rome Reports.

The patriarch praised Vatican II and the efforts that followed:

Fifty years ago in this very square, a powerful and pivotal celebration captured the heart and mind of the Roman Catholic Church, transporting it across the centuries into the contemporary world. This transforming milestone, the opening of the Second Vatican Council, was inspired by the fundamental reality that the Son and incarnate Logos of God is “where two or three are gathered in his name," (Matt. 18.20) and that the Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, “will guide us into the whole truth." (John 16.13). ...

Over the last five decades, the achievements of this assembly have been diverse as evidenced through the series of important and influential constitutions, declarations and decrees. We have contemplated the renewal of the spirit and “return to the sources” through liturgical study, biblical research and patristic scholarship. We have appreciated the struggle toward gradual liberation from the limitation of rigid scholasticism to the openness of ecumenical encounter, which has led to the mutual rescinding of the excommunications of the year 1054, the exchange of greetings, returning of relics, entering into important dialogues and visiting each other in our respective Sees. ...

As we move forward together, we offer thanks and glory to the living God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — that the same assembly of bishops has recognised the importance of reflection and sincere dialogue between our “sister churches”. We join in the “hope that the barrier dividing the Eastern Church and the Western Church will be removed, and that — at last — there may be but the one dwelling, firmly established on Christ Jesus, the cornerstone, who will make both one” (“Unitatis Redintegratio” §18).

The full text of his address is available through the Vatican's news site.



Tags: Vatican Ecumenism Christian Unity Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Dialogue

11 October 2012
Greg Kandra




In this 25 September 2005 photo, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald speaks at a conference in Rome on “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on interreligious dialogue. (photo: CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. In the current issue of ONE, we chat with Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, apostolic nuncio to Egypt, about the legacy of the council and, in particular, Catholic relations with Islam.

An excerpt:

ONE: One of the most significant documents the council produced remains “Nostra Aetate,” which addressed the Catholic Church’s relations with non-Christian religions. How would you assess its meaning and impact?

Archbishop Fitzgerald: “Nostra Aetate” has been a very significant document. It has, of course, to be considered in relation to “Dignitatis Humanae,” the declaration that affirms the right to religious liberty, and also to “Lumen Gentium,” the Dogmatic Constitution on the church. This constitution states that the nature of the church is comparable to that of a sacrament, in other words it is a sign and instrument of what God is doing to bring salvation to the whole of humanity. This is the basis for the church to reach out with great respect to the followers of different religions, conscious that the Holy Spirit is already active within their hearts and also within their religious traditions. This conviction leads to the statement that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions” (NA 2). This does not signify by any means that the church considers all religions to be equal, since it believes that the fullness of revelation has been given in Jesus Christ. Yet the attitude of respect provides the grounds for dialogue and cooperation at the service of all members of the human race. This teaching, repeated and put into practice by the recent popes — Paul VI, Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI — has radically changed relations between Christians, especially Catholics, and the followers of other religions.

ONE: Among other things, this declaration addressed the church’s relationship with Islam. Half a century later, what has changed in that relationship? What has not?

Archbishop Fitzgerald: “Nostra Aetate” has a full paragraph on Islam. Its opening words came perhaps as a surprise to many: “The church has also a high regard for the Muslims.” It notes their strong belief in one God, their veneration for Jesus — although stating clearly that they do not acknowledge Jesus as God — the honor they give to Mary, the valuable practices of prayer, alms-giving and fasting. The declaration does not overlook the fact that “over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims,” but makes a plea for the past to be forgotten and efforts to be made toward mutual understanding. If one looks back over the intervening years, it can be noticed that strong links have been established between Christian and Muslim groups. There are regular meetings both at the international and local levels.

Read it all.



Tags: Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations ONE magazine Interfaith Dialogue

11 October 2012
Greg Kandra




A priest reads in Arabic during Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 10 October. Arabic made its debut as one of the official languages at the pope’s weekly audience as part of the Vatican’s attempt to reach out more to both Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Yesterday, history was made when the Vatican used Arabic as one of the official languages of the pope’s weekly audience for the first time. Details from Reuters:

Arabic made its debut as one of the official languages at Pope Benedict’s weekly general audiences on Wednesday as part of a Vatican attempt to reach out more to Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.

Vatican officials said that speaking Arabic during the audiences, which are broadcast live on television and radio across the world, would send a comforting word to Christians in a region which is home to many Christian holy places.

They also hope the pope addressing Muslims directly could improve sometimes strained relations with Islam.

A priest read a summary of the pope’s Italian language weekly address in Arabic for the first time, joining other briefs in Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak and Spanish during the audience in front of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

After the address, which dealt with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the pope said in Arabic: “The pope prays for all people who speak Arabic. May God bless you all.”

The Vatican said the addition was made to show the pontiff’s concern for Christians in the Middle East and to remind both Muslims and Christians to work for peace in the region.



Tags: Middle East Christians Unity Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations Middle East Peace Process

11 October 2012
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York arrives for a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on 11 October. The Mass marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, as well as the beginning of the Year of Faith. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope opens Year of Faith (CNS) On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a Mass marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and launching the Year of Faith. The pope called on Catholics to revive the “authentic spirit” of Vatican II by re-proposing the church's ancient teachings to an increasingly secular modern world. Vatican II, the Holy Father said, had been “animated by a desire ... to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man.” The full text of his homily can be found on the Vatican's news site.

Ecumenical patriarch speaks at Vatican II anniversary celebration (Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of the Mass to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople addressed Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops and faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. In his remarks, Patriarch Bartholomew — the “primus inter pares,” or “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Communion — said he was honored to be invited and to attend “this solemn and festive commemoration of the Second Vatican Council.”

Pope prays for Middle East Christians in Arabic (Catholic News Agency) After his recent visit to the Church in Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI added Arabic to the list of official languages used at his weekly general audiences, launching the effort by offering the promise of his prayers in Arabic. “The pope prays for all the people who speak Arabic. God bless you all,” he said in Arabic at the 10 October general audience, which was held in St. Peter’s Square. For the first time, a priest also read an Arabic summary of the pope’s remarks on how the Second Vatican Council was a “moment of grace” in the Catholic Church’s history. Going forward, Arabic will join the ten other official languages in which a brief explanation is delivered.

Turkey detains Syrian passenger plane (Vatican Radio) Turkey scrambled fighters and briefly detained a Syrian passenger plane yesterday, suspecting it of carrying military equipment from Moscow. The plane was on route to Damascus with 30 passengers on board when Turkish military fighter jets forced it to land at Ankara airport.

Russian Orthodox Church stakes out territory on social issues (The World) The reawakening of religion in Russia, 20 years after the end of the atheist Communist system, comes as the church tries to find a new place and relevance in Russian society.



Tags: Syria Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Turkey Russian Orthodox Church

10 October 2012
Mariya Tytarenko




Colorful murals and icons adorn the nave of the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. (photo: Petro Didula)

In the September 2012 issue of ONE, Lviv-based journalist Mariya Tytarenko wrote about an Armenian Apostolic congregation's efforts to rebuild church and community. Presented below are some of the thoughts and impressions she recorded on site.

After the Divine Liturgy in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Lviv, I was invited to join the choir in the church sacristy for a special event.

“Don’t even hesitate,” Andriy Shkrabiuk, a chief cantor of the choir said. “You’ll have a chance to get some extra information for your article that you’ll never get just by interviewing us!”

I was curious. When it’s cold in the church, Father Thaddeos Gevorgian, whom everybody calls in Armenian ter hair, conducts a homily after the Divine Liturgy in the much warmer sacristy. Since there had been a homily during the Divine Liturgy, I assumed this would be something else.

I followed the choristers, who had accepted me into their little “family” the first time we met, last Sunday. That was 26 February — Mardi Gras, or Bun Barekendan in Armenian, which marks the beginning of the Lenten fast.

Romana Melnyk was carrying a hyacinth in a flowerpot. “It’s Yulia Tsviakh’s 23rd birthday today, and this is her favorite flower,” she whispered as we entered the sacristy.

Romana, 35 years old, is Ukrainian, but her husband is Armenian. Her parents still have not accepted her husband, whom she married against their wishes. “I’m very stubborn,” she had remarked on the circumstances of her marriage, as well as her first impression of the church choir in May 2001: “I was born to sing here!” Since then, she has been a soloist in the choir.

Archbishop Grigoris Bouniatian, the Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Eparchy of Lviv, is inside the sacristy speaking with Karlo Sargsian, the president of the Armenian community in Lviv.

“You’re lucky,” Andriy said, “Although Lviv has a cathedral for the Armenian Apostolic Diocese in Ukraine, Archbishop Grigoris is a rare guest here since he is usually away traveling to other regions of the country. He almost lives in his car.”

We all stood around a large table, and everyone greeted each other in turn in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and Armenian, along with translations from Armenian into Ukrainian, since many of us, including Yulia, didn’t know any Armenian. There are only five Armenians in the 12-person choir.

Yulia looked very happy, especially after Archbishop Grigoris and Father Thaddeos had given her their blessings. She treated everyone to cake and drinks — juice, in observance with the Lenten fast.

“I’m Armenian; that’s why I’ve never raised a toast drinking juice in place of cognac,” Karlo joked, raising a toast to Youlia’s health.

“Oh, I’m used to drinking juice,” 26-year-old Solomiya Kachmar responded cheerfully. She was in her seventh month of pregnancy. When I asked her whether it was not too cold for her to sing in the church during the two-and-a-half-hour Liturgy, she answered: “Not at all! Just the opposite — my blood circulates better when I sing!”

“It’s because Solomiya is pregnant,” 25-year-old Marichka Dolna interrupted. “I get cold really quickly, whether I’m singing in the choir or playing the organ.” Marichka said she plays organ for the church every Saturday from 3:30 to 5 PM.

Another Marichka — 20-year-old, half-Ukrainian and half-Uzbek Marichka Rubaieva — didn’t sing today because she had been away for a year, and Andriy didn’t allow her to join the choir without a rehearsal. When I asked her how she felt today, standing outside the choir, she answered: “I realized how much I missed all this.”

When I was about to leave the company of this wonderful Armenian-Ukrainian group, Andriy said to me while putting on his favorite Stetson hat: “I bet you’ll soon be singing in our choir!”



Tags: Ukraine Armenian Apostolic Church Prayers/Hymns/Saints

10 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




Children greet Msgr. Kozar on his visit to St. Anthony's Dayssadan, a home for children with physical disabilities run by the Preshitharam Sisters. (photo: John Kozar)

CNEWA works for, through, and with the churches of the East to effect real change and positive works through local partners. When CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited India earlier this year, he met many individuals receiving assistance from our dedicated partners. The Preshitharam Sisters,one such group of caregivers, run St. Anthony’s Dayssadan, a home for children with physical disabilities:

The drama began the instant we arrived, when we were welcomed by all the children gathered at the front entrance to greet me with singing and clapping. Now, what I did not know was that about 80 percent of these beautiful children are not able to walk. They assembled there under their own incredible efforts. When the welcome ended they proceeded to crawl inside the building, down a long corridor (with the marble floor immaculately clean), then up a flight of stairs. I had tears watching them, as they demonstrated how they have overcome their disabilities. As I would easily discern, it is the result of the loving patience of the sisters, their devotion to teach these little ones how to overcome and to share with them the love of God for each of them. Let me tell you about three of these youngsters who typify the miracles taking place at this institution, which is supported by CNEWA.

One boy of about 15 — whose arms, hands, legs and feet are horribly contorted — demonstrated mobility by rolling himself down the long corridor, then amazingly up a long flight of stairs, all the while with a smile from ear to ear. I was choked up by his display of determination. His climbing up the staircase defied gravity, but not his human spirit.

Another special child was a 12-year-old boy, the only one presently confined to bed. He is recovering from surgeries that, hopefully, will reverse the ravages of a disease that form birth has eaten away at the bone structure in his joints. And because he is immobile, his condition is also complicated by bedsores. But do you know how this beautiful child welcomed me? He sang the most beautiful rendition, in perfect English, of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The three of us had tears.

Read more of Msgr. Kozar’s remarks here.



Tags: India CNEWA Sisters Health Care Disabilities

10 October 2012
Greg Kandra




In this image from 16 October 2011, Coptic Christians conduct a candlelight protest at Abassaiya Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, one week after more than two dozen people were killed during clashes with soldiers and riot police. (photo: CNS/stringer via Reuters)

Thousands march to remember killing of Egypt Copts (Associated Press) Several thousand Egyptians marched for miles through Cairo on Tuesday, marking the year anniversary of a military crackdown on Christian protesters that killed 26 people and demanding retribution against army leaders they hold responsible for the deaths. Muslim clerics, Christian priests, activists and liberal former lawmakers joined the procession, filling large boulevards to memorialize the “Maspero massacre,” referring to the name of the state TV building overlooking the Nile River where the violence took place a year ago.

In Syria, “humanitarian emergency increases” (Fides) As the conflict continues, “humanitarian crisis increases more and more: although we do our best, we are not able to meet all the needs of refugees. We urgently need other humanitarian aid.” That is how the lay Catholic Pascal Kateb, secretary general of Caritas Syria, describes the situation in Syria to Fides.

Warm welcome for Apostolic Nuncio in Malyankara (Indian Express/IBN) Malyankara is the place where the light of Christianity was ignited first, and it has to glow brightly shedding the light all over the world, said Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Dr. Salvatore Pennacchio to the believers while visiting the St. Thomas Pilgrim Center at Malyankara on Monday. The Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine, at the Pilgrim Center, is a monument to St. Thomas situated at Marthoma Nagar at Kodungallur.

Some Russian Orthodox call for closing gay clubs in Moscow (The Moscow Times) A group of Russian Orthodox believers on Monday called for the closure of all gay clubs in Moscow as part of the drive to ban the promotion of homosexuality. The People’s Council, a nationalist Orthodox organization, said in a statement that homosexuality is “a grave sin” and that it was seeking to close gay clubs that “entice fragile members of society into the gay community,” Interfax reported.

Christians show love of Israel in Jerusalem (Huffington Post) The mainstream news media can leave the average Israeli with the impression that much of the world has hostile, hateful feelings towards the Jewish state or, at the very least, does not want to be friends. It gets a little lonely at times in the Middle East. But there was love in the air of Jerusalem this past Thursday afternoon. Marching through the streets of Jerusalem, approximately 6,000 Christian friends of Israel made their way with flags and smiles, which they readily shared with Israeli bystanders — from secular to ultra-orthodox Jews of all ages and backgrounds. Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov welcomed the Christian visitors, who were led by evangelical Protestant community leaders visiting from across the world to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, the Christian celebration of the seven-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot.



Tags: Syria India Egypt Violence against Christians Israel

9 October 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita




In this 2009 image, students pause from physical education at the Latin School in Zerqa, Jordan, which receives support from the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. (photo: Nader Daoud)

This past Sunday, the Western Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem invited CNEWA’s Father Guido Gockel, M.H.M., and me to address their annual meeting in Palm Springs, California. In my remarks, I looked at some key questions concerning the region:

”Is there a future for Christians — indeed for any minority — in this new Middle East? What role will religion play,especially Islam, in governing these peoples? And, is Islam compatible with the so-called democratic aspirations expressed by the reformers leading the “Arab Spring?”

CNEWA works closely with this chivalric order dedicated to supporting the church in the Holy Land, and Msgr. Kozar and I are blessed to be members.

To read the speech, click here. And please, let me know what you think.



Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Christianity Islam Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

9 October 2012
J.D. Conor Mauro




Faithful celebrate Mass at a Roman Catholic church in Antakya, Hatay province. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In the May 2011 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague provides a window into the variegated Christian life of the Turkish city of Antakya, once known as Antioch:

To walk through Antioch today is to walk through a city that is both historically rich and religiously diverse.

With the great medieval bazaar on one side, with its tiny shops selling nuts, dried fruits, lingerie and cell phones, the old town forms what priests enthusiastically call an “ecumenical triangle.” Within short walking distance are the synagogue to the north, the Latin Catholic church to the west, the Orthodox cathedral to the east, and a scattering of ancient mosques in all directions.

By far the most impressive church is the Orthodox cathedral. With a high dome supported by sturdy limestone columns, it is discreetly hidden behind a narrow gateway so that you almost come upon it by chance. About 100 Arabic—speaking members of the Antiochene Orthodox community attend the evening Divine Liturgy on Ascension Thursday. Father Dimitri Dogum leads his small congregation in its ancient and haunting chant. …

Five minutes away, through a warren of alleyways, stands the Latin Catholic church. Its pastor, Father Domenico Bertogli, a Capuchin from Italy, has lived in Turkey for 42 years, and in Antioch for the last two decades.

Father Bertogli explains why so many different kinds of Christians live together peaceably. “Antioch is the place where we were first called Christians,” he says, “and it should not matter whether we call ourselves Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. Many of the young people tell me this. What matters is that we are Christians!”

Read more in Turkey’s Melting Pot.



Tags: Middle East Christians Unity Ecumenism Turkey Christian Unity

9 October 2012
Greg Kandra




Rubble runs up to the foot of the altar inside a church damaged during shelling in Homs, Syria, on 5 October. (photo: CNS/Shaam News Network,  handout via Reuters)

Fighting intensifies in Homs, church damaged (The Guardian) Homs could fall at any moment as the Syrian army takes street after street, a resident of the central Hamidiya district told the Guardian. Khalid Majied said the Free Syrian Army was doing little to help civilians and appeared to be on the verge of pulling out of the city.

Arabic to become a part of the pope’s general audience (VIS) Beginning on Wednesday 10 October, during the Holy Father’s weekly general audience, an Arabic speaker will join the other speakers who provide a summary of the papal catechizes in various different languages. In this way, in the wake of his recent trip to Lebanon and the publication of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” the Holy Father intends to express his perpetual concern and support for Christians in the Middle East, and to remind everyone of their duty to pray and work for peace in the region.

Patriarch Gregory III: “May the Year of Faith be the Year of Reconciliation” (Fides) “May the Year of Faith be for Syria the Year of Reconciliation: [this] is the hope of Christians and all the Syrian people.” This is what the Melkite patriarch of Damascus, Gregory III Laham, now in the Vatican to attend the Synod on the New Evangelization, declared in an interview with Fides on the eve of the opening of the Year of Faith. “We Christians in the Middle East,” Patriarch Gregory III explains of the Greek Catholic community that in Syria has over 150,000 faithful, “feel an integral part of the Arab world and in this moment of difficulty, problems, fear, we have greater need to strengthen our faith: to be bearers of the Gospel.”

Catholic bishops of the Holy Land offer guidance on living the Year of Faith (Fides) In a newly published pastoral letter, the Assembly of Bishops of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land offers its contribution to the itinerary that the universal church is called to fulfill in the Year of Faith. The pastors of the Catholic churches in the region, citing Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation, remind everyone: “The example of the first community of Jerusalem can serve as a model to renew the current Christian community.”

Kerala Catholics prepare to begin Year of Faith (Asian Age) The Year of Faith beginning in Catholic Church on Thursday will see faithful in the state joining others across the world for special prayers in homes and churches. Though the Catholic Church in Kerala does not expect a situation like that in Europe, where church attendance is in alarming decline, it still is keen on the yearlong stress on reaffirming faith.

Tom Hanks to be featured on posters promoting Christianity in Russia (Hollywood Reporter) Tom Hanks will appear on posters promoting Orthodox Christianity in Russia and neighboring states alongside prominent local cultural and sports figures. The Russian Orthodox youth movement Soboryane said it is launching a massive poster campaign during a missionary event entitled “My Pravoslavnye” (“We Are Orthodox Christians”) on 13 and 14 October in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.



Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Kerala Russian Orthodox Church





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