Current Issue
December, 2018
Volume 44, Number 4
24 September 2013
Antin Sloboda

In the midst of all the disturbing news from the Middle East, there is some wonderful news from Kiev, Ukraine.

After more than a decade of construction, the Holy Resurrection Cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was consecrated on 18 August 2013. This cathedral has become the main shrine for more than five million Ukrainian Greek Catholics throughout the world.

The festive ceremonies around cathedral’s consecration were also linked to the celebration of 1025th anniversary of the baptism of the Ukrainian people. The event brought to Ukraine’s capital more than 20,000 guests and pilgrims from all over the world. From the CNEWA family, Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, and Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, attended the ceremonies.

Here is Msgr. Kozar’s impression:

The consecration of the cathedral was a graphic sign to the faithful in Ukraine and beyond that the faith shared in baptism can flourish, even in the worst of times. And the amazing encounter for me was that these brave and courageous people filled with faith do not complain about their great sufferings nor do they look for sympathy. Rather, they celebrate their joy of rising with Christ and proclaiming him to all.

The consecration of the cathedral was an event of high importance because it marked the revival and resurrection of the church that had been forced out of central and eastern parts of Ukraine four centuries ago and was later brutally repressed by the U.S.S.R.’s Communist regime from 1945 to 1989.

In the 20th century, the church produced hundreds of martyrs, 25 of whom were beatified by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ukraine in 2001. One of them, Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky, is buried in Winnipeg, Canada.

After two decades of independence, Ukraine still remains among the poorest countries in Europe. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has reestablished its parishes in western Ukraine, now has two main focuses: organization of its communities in central and eastern Ukraine and responding to the enormous social challenges faced by its people by implementing various social development and humanitarian initiatives.

Holy Resurrection Cathedral is functional now but far from finished. Funds are still needed to complete the interior and the surrounding complex, in which many of the church ministries will be based. To learn more about how you can help the Ukrainian church and its many ministries, please click here. To help fund the completion of Holy Resurrection Cathedral, use one of the following links: CNEWA or CNEWA Canada.

Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church CNEWA Canada Ukrainian Catholic Church

24 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2012 photo, Syrian refugee Ferian, who fled to Lebanon to escape the conflict that claimed the lives of her three brothers, sits in an informal refugee camp in Al Four at the foot of the mountains on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)

Pope: ‘Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity’ (AsiaNews) The reality of migration, which in our time has reached unprecedented proportions, “needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner,” because “migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity” and “can not be reduced to mere economic growth, development, achieved, often without looking at the weakest and most defenseless.” The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner…

Egyptian NGO, Copts urge against guaranteed electoral quotas (Fides) The Egyptian Center for Development Studies and Human Rights — an NGO close to the Coptic Orthodox Church — has asked that the forthcoming elections be celebrated by putting aside the quota system of seats reserved for Christians. According to the organization, the practice of reserving seats in parliament to some social groups defined on the basis of religion contradicts the principle of equality among citizens that must be guaranteed by the new constitution, on which 50 members of a Constitutional Commission have been working since 8 September. Even Bishop of Minya of the Catholic Copts Botros Fahim Awad Hanna reported to Fides Agency his opposition to the system of quotas, which in his opinion “favors the division of the Country on sectarian basis…”

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is banned, and crackdown could broaden (Washington Post) An Egyptian court on Monday banned the Muslim Brotherhood and its vast social services network in what could be a devastating blow to the Islamist organization, which swept Mohamed Morsi to the presidency just last year and has fiercely resisted the military coup that ousted him in July. The far-reaching ruling appears to apply to any group remotely associated with the world’s oldest Islamist movement, granting temporary legal cover to the military-backed government of General Abdel Fatah al Sisi to broaden a crackdown that has already left the Brotherhood battered…

Nuns, orphans trapped in Syria’s Maaloula (France24) Nearly 40 nuns and orphans are trapped inside a convent in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula, where regime troops are battling rebel forces, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said Tuesday. The famed town, where residents still speak Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is thought to have spoken, has been the scene of clashes since earlier this month. “The Mar Takla convent is living through painful days because it is in the middle of the zone where fire is being exchanged, which makes getting supplies difficult and dangerous,” the Damascus-based Patriarchate said in a statement…

Iraq clashes, attacks kill 25 (Daily Star Lebanon) Fighting between security forces and militants killed 25 people in Iraq on Tuesday, as the U.N. warned that sectarian attacks threaten to force more Iraqis from their homes. Violence in Iraq has reached a level this year not seen since 2008, when the country was emerging from a brutal sectarian conflict…

Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War

23 September 2013
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis wears a hard hat he received from a miner during a Mass outside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia, on 22 September.
(photo: CNS /L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

During a visit to Sardinia Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of the plight of the poor:

Visiting an Italian region especially hard hit by the European economic crisis, Pope Francis blamed high unemployment on globalization driven by greed and said those who give charitable aid to the poor must treat their beneficiaries with dignity.

“We want a just system, a system that lets all of us get ahead,” the pope said on 22 Sept., in his first address during a full day on the Italian island of Sardinia. “We don’t want this globalized economic system that does us so much harm. At its center there should be man and woman, as God wants, and not money.”

Sardinia has an overall unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent, rising to nearly 50 percent among young adults.

Before speaking to a crowd of about 20,000 near the Cagliari city port, Pope Francis heard a series of speeches in greeting, including one from an unemployed father of three, who spoke of how joblessness “wears you out to the depths of your soul.”

In response, the pope discarded his prepared remarks and told his audience what he said “comes to me in my heart seeing you in this moment.”

Pope Francis recalled the struggles of his immigrant Italian father in 1930s Argentina.

“They lost everything. There was no work,” he said. “I was not born yet, but I heard them speak about this suffering at home. I know this well. But I must tell you: courage.”

The pope said he knew that his preaching alone would mean little to those in difficulty.

“I must do everything I can so that this word ‘courage’ is not a pretty fleeting word, not only the smile of (a) cordial church employee,” he said. “I want this courage to come out from inside and push me to do all I can as a pastor, as a man. We must all face this historic challenge with solidarity and intelligence.”

23 September 2013
Greg Kandra

Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria,
on 19 September. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)

U.S. faces tough challenges bringing aid to Syria (Associated Press) As the Syrian crisis rages and debate heats up over Syria’s chemical weapons, U.S. officials are fighting a quieter battle: The delivery of nearly $1.3 billion in assistance in a war zone so chaotic that ambulances are used for target practice and aid is halted by armed men at random checkpoints...

Syria’s tragedy, up close (Catholic Register) While diplomats shuffle between Geneva, Moscow and Washington, their plans to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control are having no impact on the war of attrition Syrians are fighting with rifles, rocket propelled grenades, tanks and bombing raids. As the violence that’s killed more than 100,000 Syrians wears on, Turkey is seeing more and more of the human toll in the form of refugees and wounded fighters....

Egypt bans Muslim Brotherhood (Associated Press) An Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and ordered its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. Egypt state TV said the court issued its ruling on Monday...

Thousands of Christians travel to Israel for Sukkot ( More than 5,000 Christian pilgrims from 100 countries will descend on Israel this week as part of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s (ICEJ) Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) celebration. The festival begins 20 Sept. at the Oasis Hotel in Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea and will continue for the reminder of Sukkot at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. The weeklong celebration is expected to generate more than $16 million in revenue, and is the largest annual tourist event to Israel. “We are thrilled that thousands of Christians from all over the world will be arriving in Jerusalem this week to take part in our annual Feast gathering, despite the recent tensions in the region over the Syrian conflict,” Dr. Jürgen Bühler, the ICEJ’s executive director, said in a statement. “Their visit to Jerusalem is a timely message of solidarity with the people of Israel....”

Pope Francis: social communications is for bringing others to Christ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Pope Francis said the goal of the Church for its communications efforts is “to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts and their hopes.” The Holy Father said we must examine if the communications of the Church are helping others to meet Christ...

In India, Kerala weddings go from spartan to splashy (Times of India) The caparisoned elephant at the entrance is the first shock. Then, you walk straight into Nala and Damayanti, the star-crossed couple from Mahabharata, in full Kathakali regalia waiting to usher you into the hall. This is after you have been welcomed by a percussion ensemble, and watched Mohiniyattam and Kathakali tableaux go by. At a big Christian wedding in the same city, the bride has decided to be Cinderella. She is dropped off by a pumpkin chariot in a white gown and gloves and various other Disney type props. Even Muslim nikaahs have been spiced up with ‘sufi nites.’ There used to be an old joke about Malayali weddings in Delhi. A friend of the groom, freezing in the January cold, steps out of the temple for a quick smoke before the rituals begin. He returns five minutes later — to find the wedding over. Stories like this are now history...

20 September 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from July, Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio De Janeiro. The pontiff addressed a group of recovering drug addicts, offering them a message of compassion and hope. (photo:CNS/L’Osservatore Romano).

Pope Francis made big news yesterday, with the publication of a remarkable interview described by CNS:

In a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with one of his Jesuit confreres, Pope Francis spoke with characteristic frankness about the perils of overemphasizing Catholic teaching on sexual and medical ethics; the reasons for his deliberate and consultative governing style; and his highest priority for the church today.

The pope’s remarks appeared in an interview with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Italian journal La Civilta Cattolica. The interview, conducted in August, was the basis for a 12,000-word article published Sept. 19 in the U.S. magazine America, and simultaneously in other Jesuit publications in other languages.

According to the editor of America, Jesuit Father Matt Malone, Pope Francis personally reviewed the article and approved its publication.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” the pope said in the interview, noting that he had been “reprimanded” for failing to speak often about those topics. “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent,” the pope added. “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things,” he said. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.

“The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

The pope reaffirmed one of his major themes: the need for mercy rather than judgment when approaching sin.

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It needs nearness, proximity,” he said.

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you,” the pope said.

“The confessional is not a torture chamber,” he said, “but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.

“Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ’security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things,” Pope Francis said. “In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.”

You can read the exclusive interview in its entirety at America magazine.

Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Church Catholicism

20 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this image from one year ago, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, right, pays a visit to the CNEWA office in New York. (photo: CNEWA)

Patriarch Twal urges equal citizenship for Christians, prayers for world peace (Vatican Radio) Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal is calling on the faithful and all people of good will to continue to pray for world peace. The Patriarch, who is in Rome for a meeting of the Latin Bishops’ Conference for the Arab Region, told Tracey McClure that the universal day for prayer for peace in Syria and the Mideast called by Pope Francis last September 7th succeeded in its goal, at least temporarily. “It really worked; we must admit that. And we must thank God really. … That doesn’t mean that we must stop…”

Mortar shells against the Melkite Archbishopric of Aleppo (Fides) Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clément of Aleppo reports that “two mortar shells damaged the seat of our Greek Catholic archbishopric.” Thankfully, because of the late hour of the incident, no one was hurt. The archbishop says: “The city is strangled and the situation is worsening day by day. As citizens we feel trapped, and do not know what our fate will be. We have a short supply of goods or prices are very high, people have problems concerning their daily subsistence. … Yet we Christians in Syria have a mission: that of dialogue, peace and reconciliation — to keep a light of faith, hope and charity. And we want to live up to this mission…”

Syrian government says war has reached stalemate (The Guardian) The Syrian conflict has reached a stalemate and President Bashar al Assad’s government will call for a ceasefire at a long-delayed conference in Geneva on the state’s future, the country’s deputy prime minister has said in an interview with the Guardian. Qadri Jamil said that neither side was strong enough to win the conflict, which has lasted two years and caused the death of more than 100,000 people. Jamil, who is in charge of country’s finances, also said that the Syrian economy had suffered catastrophic losses. If accepted by the armed opposition, a ceasefire would have to be kept “under international observation”, which could be provided by monitors or United Nations peacekeepers — as long as they came from neutral or friendly countries, he said…

Deadly blasts hit Iraq mosque (Al Jazeera) Two explosions inside a Sunni mosque north of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, have killed least 16 people, officials said. The bombs were hidden inside air conditioners, the same tactic used in a deadly bombing on a Sunni mosque in Baquba last Friday that killed 33 people. Iraq’s delicate sectarian balance has come under growing strain from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where mainly Sunni rebels are fighting to overthrow President Bashar al Assad, a leader backed by Shia Iran…

Delga Islamists threaten Christians (AsiaNews) The Copts of Delga, in upper Egypt, are still suffering the Islamists’ persecution despite the presence of the army and police. Witnesses say that “the Muslim Brotherhood are going door to door to Christian homes in front of police, demanding their silence” on pain of death. Interviewed by Mina Thabet, founder of the Maspero Youth Union, a witness explained: “The Islamists are forcing people to sign documents that state they have not been subjected to any attack by extremists. If they do not sign, the Muslim Brotherhood will destroy their homes once the army leaves the city…”

Tags: Iraq Egypt Syrian Civil War Melkite Greek Catholic Church Patriarch Fouad Twal

19 September 2013
Greg Kandra

Icongrapher Ian Knowles works on a new icon for the shrine of Our Lady of the Mountain in Anjara, depicting scenes from the life of Christ. Read more about efforts to preserve the ancient art of icon writing in Prayers in Paint, in the Summer issue of ONE. (photo: Nicholas Seeley)

Tags: Palestine Cultural Identity ONE magazine Icons

19 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 2011 image, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev-Halych, then-major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, waves as he leaves a news conference in Kiev. (photo: CNS/Konstantin Chernichkin, Reuters)

Former church head lashes out in defense of international adoption (RISU) At this week’s session, for the eighth time the deputies will decide whether to ratify the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The convention is aimed at streamlining the mechanism for international adoption, which is often the last hope many older or less-healthy children have of joining a family. Cardinal Lubomyr Husar sharply criticized the fact that the deputies still do not support the Hague Adoption Convention: “I would take a whip and give them all a good beating, then maybe they would start to think straight. … Every child is vulnerable, but those poor children who are deprived of parental care and protection are particularly vulnerable…”

Pope Francis sends a letter to the imam of Al Azhar (Fides) Pope Francis sent a message to Ahmed al Tayyeb, the great imam of the Islamic university Al Azhar, the main cultural institution of Sunni Islam. The university reports that the Pope’s message expresses esteem and respect “for Islam and Muslims” and the hope that one tries to make an effort in the “understanding among Christians and Muslims in the world, to build peace and justice.” The personal letter from the Pope was delivered on Tuesday, 17 September, by the apostolic nuncio in Egypt, Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel…

Sectarian violence reignites in an Iraqi town (New York Times) The archway at the entrance to this farming community welcomes visitors in “peace. For generations, Shiite and Sunni families worked the land, earning a living from their sheep and cows, their wheat fields and lemon trees. Recently, though, the only talk is of how to stop them from killing one another. The latest strategy: new concrete walls with separate entryways for the different sects. “So there’s a Sunni way in, and a Shiite way in,” Abu Jassim, a Sunni resident who recently fled his home after sectarian revenge killings by Shiite gunmen, explained to a local representative in Parliament. During the worst of Iraq’s carnage over the last decade, this area of Diyala Province, a mixed region where Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds still compete for power, faced killings and displacement. But what is happening now, villagers say, is worse — what one Western diplomat described in an interview as “Balkans-style ethnic cleansing…”

Syrian Christians in limbo, fearing repeat of Iraq (Voice of America) From the earliest days of Christianity, Christians have lived and worshipped in Syria. But in less than three years, civil war has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, and Christians worry there will be an even greater exodus. Their biggest concern is an eventual rebel victory. They point to what happened in neighboring Iraq where sectarian killings, persecution of Christians and an increasingly Islamist political culture, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, forced more than half of the Iraqi Christian population to flee…

A monk of the Holy Land: ‘No to confessionalism’ (Fides) “We need to separate religion and politics. Nothing is worse, in this situation, than a confessional approach. Syria is a country full of ethnic and religious diversity. Among Christians and non-Christians there are very different political views, even though today the majority of Syrians are forced into silence by violence,” says the Rev. Bahjat Karakach, O.F.M., of Aleppo. Father Bahjat adds that this majority “[does] not agree with the violence that is devastating the country…”

Egypt army storms village near Cairo (Al Jazeera) Egyptian troops and police clashed Thursday morning on the outskirts of Cairo after security forces launched an operation to arrest people accused of torching police stations and killing at least 11 police officers during July clashes. Egypt’s official news agency MENA said troops backed by helicopters had surrounded the town of Kerdassah, a known Islamist stronghold, after exchanging fire with suspected militants there…

A mysterious mass conversion from Islam to Christianity in Georgia (Mystagogy, translated from In 1991, three out of four Adjarians in Georgia were Muslim. Today, 75 percent is Orthodox Christian. How can these conversions, apparently unique in the world, be explained? In a long interview published in December 2012, Metropolitan Dimitri of Batumi (the capital of Adjara) — nephew of Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia — says he was appointed parish priest of St. Nicholas in Batumi in 1986. At that time, there was only one Orthodox church in Batumi. Dimitri states that “the metamorphosis of an entire region, this conversion from Islam to Orthodoxy, or rather the return to basics, to the faith of their ancestors,” took place before his eyes…

Tags: Iraq Egypt Syrian Civil War Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Georgia

18 September 2013
Greg Kandra

In India, novices of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel gather for morning prayer. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In 2000, we visited the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (or C.M.C. sisters) in Ashoga Puram and got a look at the women we dubbed ‘Indian Energizers’:

The sisters’ dedication to education is astounding and tireless. In all, this Syro-Malabar Catholic community works in roughly 500 institutions of education throughout India, with a concentration in Kerala. The sisters provide extensive educational opportunities in lower primary grades, high schools, colleges and specialty schools, as well as in 230 nursery schools that also act as day care centers for the children of working parents.

The C.M.C. Sisters realize the invaluable role of women and their need for recognition in Indian society. As a result, the C.M.C.’s have organized various training programs and workshops that provide women with a chance to learn new skills.

At one such workshop several dozen women received three months’ training in the assembly of voltage stabilizers, after which they were offered full-time employment at competitive wages. Dressed in colorful saris and adorned with jewelry, these women are pros at soldering wires, coils and semiconductors in their light, airy village workshop.

The lives of the C.M.C. Sisters are divided between their work with women and children and the spiritual life. They take their motto from the Gospel of St. John: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

Read more about the sisters in the November-December 2000 issue of our magazine.

Tags: India Sisters Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Women in India

18 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

In this 24 August photo, relatives of car bomb victims inspect the damaged cars at the explosion site in front of a mosque in Tripoli, Lebanon. Bombs hit two mosques the day before in the northern Lebanese port city, killing dozens of people and wounding hundreds. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)

‘Arab Spring’ degrades into sectarian counterrevolution (Global Research) The blind sectarian rampage wreaking havoc on mosques, churches and other religious sites has become a trademark phenomenon of the Arab world since the “Arab Spring” first blossomed in the streets. Swept away in the tides of conflict are cultural treasures of archeology and history, hitting hard the very foundations of the Arab and Islamic identity in the region — and, more importantly, tormenting the souls of the Arab Muslim and Christian believers who helplessly watch their havens being desecrated, looted and bombed…

The U.S. Pentagon to Egyptian general: Protect the Copts (Fides) In a telephone conversation on 17 September, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel implored General Abdel Fattah al Sisi to make every effort to ensure the safety of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt, targeted in recent weeks by the violence of Islamist gangs following the deposition of President Mohamed Morsi. This was reported by Pentagon spokesman George Little in a statement, referring that general Sisi was also invited to take measures to “demonstrate the commitment of the transitional government” in favor of the process of democratic normalization…

Curfew in Delga, a Islamist-held town where Christians cannot live (AsiaNews) A small-scale civil war broke out yesterday in Delga, a town in upper Egypt following its takeover by Islamists over a month ago. According to local sources, the Egyptian military and police retook the town this morning from armed extremist militia, only thanks to the intervention of the air force. On 14 August, Islamists took advantage of the chaos that began when the authorities began clearing pro-Morsi camps in Cairo to occupy Delga and impose Sharia law on the entire population. After their takeover, members of the Muslim Brotherhood torched at least 62 homes and forced half of the Christian population to flee the Minya region. Coptic residents said that some Islamic leaders tried to negotiate with the Islamists to stop the destruction of homes. Youssef Alfi, a resident, said that extremists started to force Christians to pay the jizya — the ancient poll tax tolerated non-Muslim minorities have to pay if they want to live in Islamic territory…

Religious leaders and Syrian refugees meet in Lebanon (Huffington Post) During Ramadan this year, an Alawite Sheikh, a Sunni Mufti, a Greek Orthodox Metropolitan and a Maronite Monsignor, along with a group of over 100 Syrian refugees and 50 local Lebanese met to share a meal together. The unlikely group of diners gathered in front of a beautiful mountain top restaurant in the village of Miniara, near Halba for an iftar — a meal after a day of fasting — showing that religious leaders and their communities can live in peace together if they wish. The next interfaith event will take place on 22 September, gathering all four religious communities and their leaders for a joint walk to a nearby Christian sanctuary, followed by a children’s festival and a communal meal for hungry walkers…

Russia’s Orthodox awakening (Foreign Affairs) When the Russian Orthodox Church is in the news, which has been quite often of late, the image that comes to mind is of an army of archbishops and abbots, commanded by Patriarch Kirill I, operating in conspiracy with the country’s authoritarian rulers in the Kremlin. This is not without reason. The church’s conservative clerics have, in fact, given their support to the government’s most polarizing recent laws, including the jailing of three members of Pussy Riot for offending believers’ religious sensibilities, legislation proscribing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” and the institution of a limit of three legal marriages per Russian, to discourage divorce. But to conclude that the Russian Orthodox Church is nothing more than a bastion of political and moral reactionaries is to miss the many ways that change is being forced upon it. In some sense, the church’s ultraconservatism is on the wane…

Besieged residents of Syria’s Homs plead for help (Daily Star Lebanon) Thousands trapped in rebel areas of the Syrian city of Homs are living in dismal conditions and suffering severe food and medical shortages, say activists, who appealed for help to evacuate civilians safely. “Nothing is allowed in or out of the besieged areas,” Homs-based activist Yazan said Wednesday, urging international agencies to help “save … the children, women and the elderly.” The appeal by Yazan, who did not give his full name for security reasons, comes 15 months into a suffocating army siege on rebel areas in the central city. “Most people are showing symptoms of malnutrition. There is no clean drinking water,” and diseases “are spreading”, he told AFP via the Internet…

Pope calls on Christians to continue prayers for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis Wednesday during his weekly general audience called on Catholics together with other Christians to continue to pray for peace in the most troubled parts of the world. He made the appeal ahead of the International Day of Peace, celebrated on 21 September. Below is a Vatican Radio English translation of the pope’s words…

Patriarch Tikhon Choir nurtures sounds of the Orthodox Church (New York Times) The Patriarch Tikhon Choir, a mixed-voice professional ensemble of 35 American, Canadian and Russian singers, was formed recently to focus on Orthodox Christian sacred music, a tradition it hopes to nurture in the United States. A substantial audience that included many monks turned up to hear the ensemble — named for a missionary saint who helped expand Orthodoxy in early 20th-century America — give its debut concert on Monday evening at St. Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church (the Actors’ Chapel) in the theater district of New York…

Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Arab Spring/Awakening

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