3 October 2016
St. Thomas Seminary now serves as the pastoral center for the Archdiocese of Hartford in Connecticut. (photo: CNEWA)
Saturday morning, CNEWA paid a visit to the Archdiocese of Hartford. We dropped by the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut, to speak to deacons and their wives about the ongoing crisis in the Middle East — and, in particular, the plight of persecuted Christians.
CNEWA offered a presentation to about 50 deacons and their wives from the Archdiocese of Hartford. (photo: CNEWA)
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., offered some stark statistics about the continuing exodus of Christians from the region, and I shared some of the personal stories of displaced Iraqis — including the dedicated Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena who so selflessly serve the people in need.
Father Elias presented an overview of the hardships Christians face in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)
The goal was to give deacons the tools to help spread the word about what is happening in the Middle East — and let them know how people in their parishes can help. We want to extend a special note of gratitude to Deacon Bob Pallotti, director of the diaconate program in Hartford, for his warm welcome and hospitality.
We love being able to share CNEWA’s story — so if your church, clergy group or parish would like us to visit and talk about the work we do, just drop us a line. Contact our development director Norma Intriago at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to tailor a presentation for your particular parish or organization!
Deacon Greg Kandra, CNEWA’s multimedia editor, Norma Intriago, director of development, and Father Elias Mallon. (photo: CNEWA)
3 October 2016
Tags: Middle East Christians CNEWA Middle East United States
Pope Francis meets with Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia at the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Paying honor to the steadfast faith of Orthodox Christians in Georgia, Pope Francis nevertheless urged them to draw closer to other Christians and work together to share the Gospel.
Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II, who recently has been cautious in his relations with leaders of other churches, greeted Pope Francis when he arrived at the Tbilisi airport on 30 September, welcomed him to the patriarchal palace that evening and hosted him again on 1 October at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta.
Walking into a meeting hall at the patriarchate on 30 September, Pope Francis helped the 83-year-old Patriarch Ilia, who moves with great difficulty because of Parkinson’s disease.
More than 80 percent of Georgians are Orthodox; Catholics from the Latin, Armenian and Chaldean churches form about 2 percent of the population.
In the 1980’s, the Georgian Orthodox Church was deeply involved in the process of seeking Christian unity, but its participation has waned in recent years in conjunction with a stronger assertion of Georgian identity, including its language and Orthodox faith.
When the pope arrived in Georgia, small groups of Orthodox faithful gathered on the road outside Tbilisi airport holding signs protesting the his visit. One sign called him a “heretic” and the other accused the Catholic Church of “spiritual aggression.” The same groups were present the next evening outside Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, the spiritual center of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox groups most opposed to dialogue with Western Christians have expressed fear that closer ties with the West will lead to what they see as moral decadence.
Patriarch Ilia told Pope Francis that while globalization is not “a negative phenomenon per se, it contains a lot of dangers and threats,” including the possibility of creating what he described as a “homogenous mess” that erases specific cultural and moral values.
While the world has experienced progress in many ways, he said, “humanity has taken steps backward in spirituality, in belief in God.”
Nevertheless, the patriarch spoke warmly of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and practical cooperation and he welcomed the pope, saying, “This is truly a historic visit. May God bless our two churches.”
Pope Francis began his speech by making a personal, improvised comment: “I am profoundly moved by hearing the ‘Ave Maria’ composed by Your Holiness. Only a heart profoundly devoted to the Mother of God could compose something so beautiful.”
“Faced with a world thirsting for mercy, unity and peace,” Pope Francis told the patriarch and members of the Georgian Synod of Bishops, God asks Catholics and Orthodox to “renew our commitment to the bonds which exist between us, of which our kiss of peace and our fraternal embrace are already an eloquent sign.”
While the Georgian patriarchate traces its origins to the preaching of the apostle Andrew, the church of Rome — the papacy — was founded by the apostle Peter. The two apostles were brothers, Pope Francis noted, and the churches they founded “are given the grace to renew today, in the name of Christ and to his glory, the beauty of apostolic fraternity.”
“Dear brother,” the pope told the patriarch, “let us allow the Lord Jesus to look upon us anew, let us once again experience the attraction of his call to leave everything that prevents us from proclaiming together his presence.”
“The Lord has given this love to us, so that we can love each other as he has loved us,” Pope Francis said.
The love of God and love for God, he said, should enable Catholics and Orthodox “to rise above the misunderstandings of the past, above the calculations of the present and fears for the future.”
Pope Francis praised the strength of the Georgian people and the Georgian church, which “found the strength to rise up again after countless trials.”
Pope Francis and the Orthodox patriarch of Georgia met on 30 September and pledged to witness to the Gospel of peace. (video: CNS)
The Georgian Orthodox Church, like the Catholic churches, is still recovering from harsh repression under Soviet rule. In 1917, there were almost 2,500 Orthodox churches in the country, but by the mid-1980’s only 80 were open for worship. The Catholic parishes suffered a similar fate, with church property confiscated and used as museums, offices, social halls or given to the Orthodox.
“The multitude of saints, whom this country counts, encourages us to put the Gospel before all else and to evangelize as in the past, even more so, free from the restraints of prejudice and open to the perennial newness of God,” the pope said.
When differences arise, he said, they must not be allowed to be an obstacle to evangelizing together, but a stimulus to get to know and understand each other better, “to intensify our prayers for each other and to cooperate with apostolic charity in our common witness, to the glory of God in heaven and in the service of peace on earth.”
Pope Francis ended his remarks by praying that the Georgian martyrs would intercede to bring “relief to the many Christians who even today suffer persecution and slander, and may they strengthen us in the noble aspiration to be fraternally united in proclaiming the Gospel of peace.”
Vatican officials had hoped that Patriarch Ilia would an official delegation to the pope’s Mass in Tbilisi on 1 October, which did not happen, but the patriarch warmly welcomed the pope to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral that evening, explaining the importance of the site in the history of Georgian Christianity and describing it as a symbol of stalwart faith in the face of the harshest persecution.
Pope Francis responded by praising the way the Georgian Orthodox treasure their history, but he also said that Christian identity is maintained when it not only is deeply rooted in faith, but “also when it is open and ready, never rigid or closed.”
Georgian Orthodox tradition holds that a chapel in the cathedral houses the seamless tunic of Jesus, a garment the pope described as symbolizing “a mystery of unity.”
Contemplating that seamless garment, he said, should make Christians feel “deep pain over the historical divisions” among them. “These are the true and real lacerations that wound the Lord’s flesh.”
3 October 2016
Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Georgia Christian Unity Georgian Orthodox Church
The video above details some of the highlights of Pope Francis’s trip this past weekend to Azerbaijan, including his visit to a newly dedicated mosque. (video: Rome Reports)
Pope visits mosque in Azerbaijan, issues plea for tolerance (CNS) As the spiritual leader of a tiny religious minority in Azerbaijan, Pope Francis told the leaders of the country’s other religious communities that they share a responsibility to help people grow in faith, but also in tolerance for the faith of others. “The blood of far too many people cries out to God from the Earth, our common home,” the pope said on 2 October during a meeting with religious leaders hosted by Sheik Allahshukur Pashazade, the region’s chief imam, in Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Mosque…
Pope meets charity workers in Tbilisi (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met Catholic charity workers in the Georgian capital and encouraged them in their work, saying “the poor and the weak are the ‘flesh of Christ’ who call upon Christians of every confession, urging them to act without personal interests, following only the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” The meeting took place in the grounds of the Camilliani health clinic in Tbilisi and was attended by its director and the head of Caritas Georgia. Also present were staff and volunteers working for various Catholic charitable organizations in Georgia as well as patients and medical staff from the Camilliani clinic…
Syrian cave hospital shut down after attack (CNN) A hospital inside a cave in northeastern Syria has been forced to shut down after being hit by suspected “bunker-buster” missiles, according to an international aid organization. The hospital just outside of Hama — about 27 miles north of Homs — was hit Sunday, according to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations…
Al Azhar University will organize international conference on peace (Fides) The Islamic University of Al Azhar will organize in early 2017, in cooperation with the Muslim Council of Elders, an international conference on peace, coexistence and interreligious dialogue, which will also include the active representatives of the Christian Churches of the East…
Ukrainian church in Canada destroyed by fire reopens (CBC) After a devastating fire, which burned St. Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church to the ground in April 2014, the Brampton church has now reopened, and to celebrate the church held its opening liturgy and consecration on Saturday. Hundreds of parishioners and guests from around the world attended, including head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who flew in from Ukraine to preside…
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Georgia Canada Azerbaijan