7 September 2012
Children perform in Jounieh, Lebanon, while filming a video greeting for Pope Benedict XVI. He will be visiting the country later this month. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters )
With Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon just a week away, anticipation in the country is growing.
On the evening of 12 September, the eve of the Pope’s arrival in Lebanon, four processions of young people will depart from four points of Beirut to converge in the so-called “garden of Mary” in the Museum Square area, carrying candles and flags of Lebanon. There, around eight o’clock in the evening, the meeting will begin, with a program including songs, Muslim-Christian readings and prayers to ask God and the mother of Jesus that the papal visit is welcomed by all and lived as a blessing for the country of the cedars.
“The title of the initiative is ‘together in peace, love, freedom and security’. It will be a national and popular holiday, to show to the world that Lebanon can be in this moment in history the country of coexistence between Christians and Muslims,” explains Father Antoine Daou, Secretary of the Commission of the Lebanese Episcopal Conference for Dialogue with Islam. The meeting will be attended by representatives and authorities of all religious communities in the country, along with thousands of faithful.
There are more details at the Fides link.
7 September 2012
Tags: Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Muslim
Patriarch Bishara Rai (photo: CNS)
Syria’s Christians support stability, not regime (AFP) Syria’s Christians do not support the regime of President Bashar Assad, but they do want stability in their war-torn country, Lebanon’s Maronite Christian Patriarch Bishara Rai told AFP on Thursday. “I tell Westerners who say that we (Christians) are with the Syrian regime that we are not with regimes, we are with the state. There is a big difference,” Rai told AFP, a week before the arrival in Lebanon of Pope Benedict XVI.
A Christian and Muslim vigil planned ahead of pope’s Lebanon visit (Fides) A Muslim-Christian vigil to invoke the protection of God and the Virgin Mary on the visit of Benedict XVI. On the evening of September 12, the eve of the Pope’s arrival in Lebanon, four processions of young people will depart from four points of Beirut to converge in the so-called “garden of Mary”, in the Museum Square area, carrying candles and flags of Lebanon. There, around eight o’clock in the evening, the meeting will begin, with a program including songs, Muslim-Christian readings and prayers to ask God and the Mother of Jesus that the papal visit is welcomed by all and lived as a blessing for the Country of the cedars.
More than a million children at risk from Syria crisis (Fides) In Syria and neighboring countries where they have taken refuge, there is an alarm for minors due to the shortage of food and health care facilities. There are tens of thousands of children involved in the internal conflict which has been going on for a year and a half without access to safe drinking water, adequate food and health care.
Lech Walesa asks Putin to pardon punk rock band involved in cathedral protest (Wall Street Journal) Poland’s legendary dissident Lech Walesa wrote to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin asking him to pardon three members of punk bank Pussy Riot sentenced last month for staging an anti-Putin protest at an Orthodox cathedral.
Ethiopia’s patriarch brokered peace (Sydney Morning Herald) His Holiness Abune Paulos was Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the oldest Christian Churches in Africa; some two-thirds of Ethiopia’s 83 million people are Christian, the majority following the Orthodox faith.
6 September 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Ethiopia Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox
The Boghossian Education Complex and Youth Development Center in Gyumri, Armenia, offer dance classes for orphaned youth. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
In the March 2011 issue of ONE we wrote about a center for orphaned youth in Armenia, run by the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception:
“There are many of us here, but we are all alone in this world,” says Irina, an orphaned 19–year–old now living at a boarding vocational school in Gyumri, Armenia’s second–largest city.
If not for this Youth Development Center, operated by the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Irina might have found herself homeless a second time in her short life. As is the case for orphans in Armenia fortunate enough to have found shelter in an orphanage, Irina was expected to leave — whether or not she had a place to live — at the age of 18.
Irina was not always an orphan. Until the age of 16, she lived with her mother and attended public school. But when her mother died after a short illness, Irina’s world fell apart. Without any family or friends to turn to, the terrified adolescent wandered the streets before authorities finally placed her in an orphanage.
For more, read From Isolation to Opportunity.
6 September 2012
Tags: Sisters Armenia Orphans/Orphanages Eastern Europe Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception
Workers hang a poster of Pope Benedict XVI 4 September in Jounieh as part of the preparation for the pope's 14 to 16 September visit to Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)
Lebanon security forces on alert ahead of pope’s visit (AFP) Security forces have been placed on alert ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon, riven by religious rivalries and shaken by the conflict in neighboring Syria, the visit’s coordinator said on Wednesday. “All Lebanese security organizations are on a state of alert poised to protect His Holiness the Pope,” who will travel to the eastern Mediterranean country 14 to 16 September, said Father Abdo Abou Kasm.
Archbishop fears for fate of Syrian Christians (ANSA) Christianity is at stake, especially in Syria, Archbishop Chrysostomos said Monday, warning that if extremists prevail in Syria, minorities and Christians will feel the repercussions.
Russian Orthodox leader says believers deserve protection (RT/Russia) Believers should be protected from “trolls” by law, both on the internet and in real life, the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative to the Council of Europe says. “Unfortunately we are often witnessing trolling in real life in the form of various performances, public actions and other activities aimed against religious communities. Such actions have repeatedly taken place in France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and other countries,” Igumen Filipp Ryabykh said.
Catholic Church in India warns against visit Tamil Nadu (Asian Tribune) The Catholic Church has issued a travel warning against those visiting Tamil Nadu in India stating it is obvious that Tamil Nadu is currently not a conducive place for Sri Lankans to visit. “All Catholics are hereby adviced to refrain from joining pilgrimages to Trichy for visiting of the Velankanni Shrine,” said the statement in the “Messenger,” an official organ of the Catholic Church. It said the authorities at the Shrine reveal that they are not in a position to guarantee the safety of devotees from Sri Lanka.
For Copts, marriage in church may mean marriage TO the church (Egypt Independent) When Rafek Farouk, cofounder of Copts 38, began to chant against the Coptic Church’s divorce laws inside the church’s headquarters, dogs were brought in to run him and others off the grounds. The Copts 38 activist group was named after a 1938 bylaw which legalized a papal declaration listing ten circumstances under which Copts may divorce. When he ascended to the papacy in 1971, the late Pope Shenouda reduced the permissible grounds to two, although this change was not ratified by the state for nearly four decades. Since then, Copts can only obtain the church’s permission for a divorce and a second marriage if their spouse commits adultery or converts to another Christian sect or a different religion altogether.
5 September 2012
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox Church
Surrounded by religious leaders, Archbishop Moussa El-Hage enters Jerusalem for the first time as Maronite patriarchal exarch. (photo: CTS/N. Asfour)
A festive mood charged this weekend as Archbishop Moussa El-Hage was received as the new Maronite patriarchal exarch in Jerusalem. Archbishop El-Hage replaced Archbishop Paul Sayyah, who assumed the duties of patriarchal vicar general in June 2011. The Patriarchal Exarchate in Jerusalem serves the Maronite community in Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
A number of heads of churches in Jerusalem, representatives of religious congregations and civic leaders lined up along with the small Maronite community at Jaffa Gate — the main entrance to the Christian Quarter of the Old City — to welcome Archbishop El-Hage and escort him to St. Maron Church. Boy scout troops led the colorful procession, which was followed by a Divine Liturgy of thanksgiving and a reception.
Earlier, a farewell reception took place at the Notre Dame Center for Archbishop Sayyah, who served in Jerusalem for 17 years until His Beatitude Patriarch Bechara requested he return to Lebanon to serve as vicar general. A number of speeches were delivered at the reception highlighting the many contributions Archbishop Sayyah made during his tenure in the Holy Land. Particular focus was given to his work as a member of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land and his continued attempts to foster better relations between the various churches through the Middle East Council of Churches.
As the regional director of CNEWA-Pontifical Mission, I was privileged to attend each of these celebrations — both to extend our thanks to Archbishop Sayyah and welcome Archbishop El-Hage to his new position.
Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, left, concelebrates a Divine Liturgy of thanksgiving with outgoing Archbishop Paul Sayyah, right. (photo: CTS/N. Asfour)
5 September 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Jerusalem Holy Land Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Maronite
In this photo taken in 2005, Sister Winifred Doherty, a Good Shepherd sister, enjoys lunch with children at The Good Shepherd school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo: Sean Sprague)
Back in May, we interviewed Sister Winifred Doherty in the “People” section of the magazine. It was a time of transition; her order, the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (or, Good Shepherd Sisters) was suspending its work in Ethiopia, citing dwindling vocations. Sister Winifred spoke with us about the remarkable work the sisters had done over the years.
For more from this interview, read A ‘Good Shepherd’ to Suffering Women.
5 September 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Education Africa
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III prays during the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in St. Peter’s Basilica on 24 October 2010. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Patriarch calls for “international campaign for reconciliation in Syria” (Fides) “For Syria, reconciliation is the only anchor of salvation.” This is why “an international campaign for reconciliation in Syria” is needed shared by all the Churches in the world: it is the heartfelt plea of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Damascus, Gregory III Laham, launched in an open letter, while the situation in Syria degenerates and “the language of violence has swept all other languages.”
Red Cross chief meets with Syrian president over humanitarian crisis (Vatican Radio) Recently-appointed president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) Peter Maurer met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad Tuesday morning about the current humanitarian crisis in Syria. The three-day visit will focus on the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Syria, and the challenges faced by the I.C.R.C. in bringing aid to those affected by the conflict, the violence of which has been escalating in recent weeks.
More Russian Orthodox crosses chopped down (The Moscow Times) Someone chopped down a wooden Russian Orthodox cross at the entrance to the mountainous Seminsky Pass in southern Siberia’s Altai republic on Monday night. That same day, nine crosses were found chopped down at a cemetery in Priozersk, Leningrad region.
Maronite bishops call on faithful to turn out for papal visit (Lebanon Daily Star) Maronite bishops called Wednesday for a massive turnout for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon next week. “The Maronite bishops call on the sons and daughters [of the Church] to turn out en masse to welcome his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI ... and be spiritually prepared to accept his guidance and work under his direction ... so that a real spring for Christians and for the region will be achieved,” said a statement issued by the Council of Maronite Bishops at the end of their monthly meeting.
4 September 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Russian Orthodox Maronite
A monk stands near Hebrew text sprayed on the entrance of a Trappist monastery outside Jerusalem, 4 September. (photo: CNS / Baz Ratner, Reuters)
It evidently happened early this morning. Catholic News Service has details:
Vandals burned the door of a Trappist monastery outside Jerusalem and spray-painted a wall with the names of illegal Israeli outposts, one of which had been evacuated two days earlier.
In addition to the names of the outposts — Jewish enclaves not approved by the Israeli government — the vandals scrawled slogans against Christianity including “Jesus is a monkey” on the walls on the Latrun monastery, best known for its contemplative monks and wine-making. The monastery, about 20 miles west of Jerusalem, sits on a hill overlooking the road linking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Trappist Father Louis Wehbee, who is responsible for the formation of novices at the monastery, said a monk heard a noise outside early Sept. 4 and went to investigate. He found the wooden door in flames and alerted the other monks. He was able to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.
”We were very surprised and can’t understand why this has happened,” Father Wehbee told Catholic News Service in a phone interview. “Never in our 122-year history here has something like this happened to us. We are opened to all people, we have good relations with everybody. What makes us sad is the graffiti which they wrote against our faith. If there are political tensions, why are they taking it out against our religion?”
A day earlier, Israel authorities had evacuated residents from an unauthorized Jewish enclave in Migron, West Bank. Migron was one of the names spray painted on the wall.
Police said they had been preparing for such a so-called “price tag” attack against a Palestinian or Muslim target, which has been the recent modus operandi of a group of extremists following an outpost evacuation or other government action that they oppose.
Acting Jerusalem District Police Commander Meni Yitzhaki, who visited the monastery 4 Sept, said he had appointed a special investigator to look into the incident.
You can find more background and additional details at the link.
4 September 2012
Tags: Violence against Christians Jerusalem Holy Land Monastery
Coptic Christians grieve during the funeral for seven victims of sectarian violence at Samaan el-Kharaz Church in Cairo, Egypt, last year. Thirteen people died and 140 were wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims initiated by anger over an arson attack on a church the week before. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)
In this morning’s “Page One,” we highlighted an essay featured in America Magazine by David Pinault, a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University. The author described a recent visit to Egypt, his impressions of the country since the “Lotus Revolution,” and the declining number of Copts in Egypt since the onset of conflict. He described a conversation with a Cairo cab driver:
I told him the statistics: in 2011 and 2012, since the revolution’s onset, over 100,000 Copts have fled Egypt. “Well, I’m not going to leave,” Sami insisted. “Christ is testing us. I tell my friends to stay. Christ could end this suffering, this trial, at any time. How will you feel, I tell my friends, if you’re in Canada instead of Egypt when Christ returns?”
I pondered this apocalyptic thought as we skirted Tahrir Square, the scene of recurrent confrontations between demonstrators and Egypt’s military, and passed the blackened ruins of the Institute of Egypt. French scholars had founded the Institute after Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion in 1798; its archives held centuries-old maps, books and manuscripts — a priceless treasure. But in December 2011, when government forces on nearby rooftops shot at demonstrators in the street, protesters retaliated by throwing firebombs at the soldiers. Some of the projectiles fell short; the resultant fire destroyed most of the building and much of the collection. In January 2012, Sami told me, Muslim and Christian volunteers collaborated in salvaging charred volumes from the ruins.
But what lingered in my mind was the assessment published in the Arabic-language newspaper al-Ahram by the Egyptian poet and commentator Kamal ‘Arafah. He compared the destruction of Cairo’s Napoleonic Institute to the ancient burning of the Library of Alexandria and the Mongols’ obliteration of Baghdad’s learning centers in the 13th century. Labeling Egypt’s fire-bombers “Mongols of chaos,” ‘Arafah added, “I felt pain when I saw in the videos and pictures the cries of Allahu akbar (Allah is great) and La ilaha illa Allah (there is no god except Allah) coming from young men and women while the Institute of Egypt was burning — young men and women who were ignorant of the extent of the loss bleeding from the heart of Egypt.“
When I mentioned ‘Arafah’s commentary to Sami, he said he, too, found disturbing the linkage of religious sloganeering and violence. He returned to what we had been discussing earlier, Salafist persecution of the Copts: “I’m staying. I’m not leaving my country. I’m not going to do what the Salafists want me to do.” He added that in the aftermath of recent attacks on Christian churches, when he and his Coptic friends assemble for prayer, they have the feeling, “We’re ready to be martyrs. We’re ready to be with Christ, to live with Christ.” Not martyrs in any violent sense, he insisted, but in the sense of giving witness.
For more, read Ready To Be Martyrs.
4 September 2012
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Africa Coptic Christians
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk (photo: Vancouver Sun)
Ukrainian leader warns against “moral escapism” during visit to Canada (Vancouver Sun) — Sviatoslav Shevchuk first visited Vancouver 15 years ago as a fresh young priest on an adventure, driving here with friends from San Francisco. This week he makes a return visit as Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.
Coptic Christians ready to be martyrs (America Magazine) — Since the revolution’s onset, over 100,000 Copts have fled Egypt. “Well, I’m not going to leave,” Sami insisted. “Christ is testing us. I tell my friends to stay. Christ could end this suffering, this trial, at any time. How will you feel, I tell my friends, if you’re in Canada instead of Egypt when Christ returns?”
Thousands of Christians take to the streets in India to demand justice (Fides) — About 5,000 Christians took to the streets in Orissa staging a peaceful demonstration to demand justice, on the anniversary of the massacres that hit the Christian community in Kandhamal district in 2008.
Archbishop Chrysostomos says he fears for fate of Christians in Syria (Cyprus Mail) — Archbishop Chrysostomos said yesterday that Christianity in the Middle East and especially in Syria was in danger due to the troubles in the area. “We’re really concerned what will happen to our Christians in the Middle East. ... We’re concerned about the refugees that have left Syria, plenty have gone to Jordan,” said the Prelate.
Patriarch Bechara Rai: Welcome pope to Lebanon by overcoming divisions (Asia News) — Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai urged the Lebanese not to let their divisions compromise the welcome they will give Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the country between 14 and 16 September.
Tags: Syria Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Indian Christians Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Canada