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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
2 April 2013
Greg Kandra




The video above from CNS shows highlights of Pope Francis celebrating his first Holy Week and Easter. You can read more about the pope’s Easter message, the traditional “urbi et orbi,”
at this link.


In Easter messages, church leaders call for peace in Syria (CNS) In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East highlighted the need for an end to the war in Syria, now entering its third year. Cardinal and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter appealed “to the disputants in Syria, who are so intent in demolishing the homes of peaceful citizens, [the country’s] institutions and history, and the killing of dozens of innocent people a day … we appeal to them to put away their arms and refuse the money given to them from the outside world, whose interest is only to demolish Syria and other Arab countries…”

Report: March deadliest month in Syrian war (CNN) The brutal civil war in Syria claimed more than 6,000 lives in March alone — making it the deadliest month since the conflict began a little more than two years ago, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday. The group said 6,005 people were killed in Syria last month. That’s more than all the deaths that occurred in the first nine months of the war. “This will become the new normal, and the death toll figures will continue to rise,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the observatory.

Priest from Kerala killed in Bangalor (New Indian Express) A 62-year-old rector was found murdered inside St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary, located next to a church early Monday. The police said the assailants escaped with some valuables after striking the rector’s head with a blunt weapon before strangling him. The victim, Father K. J. Thomas, a native of Kerala, had been staying at the seminary for the past five years. He was the managerial as well as spiritual head of the church and used to train priests…

Hope for a unified Easter (Catholic Register) When Catholics sat down to Easter dinner on 31 March, Orthodox Christians still had most of Lent ahead of them as they wait for Easter Sunday on 5 May. Why would Christians be so divided about something as fundamental as Easter, the one day that stands at the heart of the faith? Getting all Christians to celebrate Easter together would be a major step forward in ecumenical relations, said Father Damian MacPherson, the archdiocese of Toronto’s ecumenical and interfaith affairs director…

Exploring Christianity’s Ethiopian roots (Ebony.com) Christianity reportedly arrived in North Africa in the latter part of first century A.D. or the early part of the second, while “the adoption of Christianity in Ethiopia dates to the fourth-century,” according to findings by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Bible also documents the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch as the early church was forming. Likewise, Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta mentions Christians in Nubia (an area that covers present-day northern Sudan and southern Egypt) in his 14th century travelogue. But when Europeans penetrated Sub-Saharan Africa in the 16th Century, ultimately mining the region for Africans to enslave, the historical narrative shifts which is perhaps why many associate the religion most with Europeans to this day…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Indian Catholics Ethiopian Christianity

28 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Markian Surmach sells pysanky — traditionally decorated chicken or goose eggs, rich with symbolism — at his Ukrainian shop in New York City. Scholars agree that the art form originated at least 2,000 years ago. To learn more about pysanky, read The Colors of Easter, from the March 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Erin Edwards)

Ancient Ukrainian tradition transforms eggs into masterpieces (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Steeped in ancient symbolism and decorated in hot wax, pysanky (pronounced pie-sun-key) is a colorful folk art tradition in Ukraine that harkens back to pagan times. These days, the ancient tradition is celebrated at Easter, when Ukrainian churches and community groups gather to decorate eggs in intricate, painstaking detail. Decorating eggs is more than just a pastime for those who lived in Ukraine when it was under the control of the Soviet Union, from 1922 to 1991. For them, it’s a symbol of expressive freedom…

Self-absorption is root of evils within church, said pope (CNS) Evils within the church are caused by a self-centeredness and “theological narcissism” that forget to share Christ with people outside of the church, Pope Francis said in the days before his election. “When the church is self-referential, inadvertently, she believes she has her own light,” he said in a summary of a speech he gave to the College of Cardinals before the start of the conclave that ended in his election. When the church ceases to be “the mysterium lunae,” that is, to depend on Christ for receiving and reflecting his — not its own — light, the church then “gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness, which according to [Jesuit Cardinal Henri-Marie] De Lubac, is the worst evil that can befall the church,” said then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio…

Syrian bishop: Outsiders are killing Syrians, destroying churches (Russia Today) “A person who has no homeland is nothing,” says Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop Luke, an Arab born in Syria. Metropolitan Luke is speaking Arabic, using the usual Muslim expressions, such as “insha’Allah,” which means “God willing,” or the standard greeting of “as-salam alaykum.” The metropolitan notes: “Our culture implies no intolerance towards Islam. It’s the basic principle of our relations. We call Muslims our cousins.” This solidarity finds an expression in the season; it is the Orthodox Lent — the time to offer the most sincere prayers of absolution. “Now that Lent has begun we say prayers every day. We are under attack, all of the Syrian people. These people say they act with Syrian people’s best interests at heart, but it’s not true. We are the Syrian people, and they have been sent to our country from the outside…”

Syrian official: 10 killed in university attack (Daily Star Lebanon) A Syrian government official says 10 people have been killed and 20 wounded in a mortar attack against Damascus University. The official says the mortar rounds struck the university’s architecture department in the central Baramkeh district on Thursday. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements…



Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Syrian Civil War Cultural Identity Easter

27 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 16 September 2012 photo, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Damascus, Syria, attends Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on the waterfront in Beirut. At left is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Melkite leader urges pope to help end Syria bloodshed (Daily Star Lebanon) Melkite Patriarch Gregory III called on newly elected Pope Francis to help end the two-year-old violence in neighboring Syria. “We warmly urge him [Pope Francis] — as we know the love he has for the Levant — and urge world countries and all the officials to work to stop the bloodshed in Syria,” Laham said in his Easter Resurrection message. “Enough pain. Enough tragedies. Enough violence, terrorism, weapons and fundamentalism. Enough trading in human lives, their dignity, livelihood, security, integrity and stability,” Laham said…

Ecumenical meeting in Iraq discusses pressing issues for community (Fides) On Tuesday, 26 March, leaders and representatives of the churches and Christian communities in Iraq gathered at the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad to discuss the present condition of Middle East Christians and to deal jointly with the emergencies and difficulties that threaten Iraqi Christians. The meeting, convened by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, included senior representatives of the Armenian Apostolic, Assyrean of the East, Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Syriac Orthodox churches. Ecumenism and fraternal dialogue of communion with all Christians is a priority for the Chaldean patriarch, who had said after his election: “Unfortunately one hears some who say: I am more Armenian than Christian, more Assyrian than Christian, more Chaldean than Christian. A tribal mentality persists here and there…”

Pope: Holy week challenges us to step outside ourselves (Vatican Radio) Linked is an English summary of Pope Francis’ first general audience. (An English translation of the Holy Father’s complete catechesis will be available soon.) “Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered,” the pope said…

Indian Christians protest against working on Easter (Fides) Some government departments have told their employees to stay open on 29-31 March, which for Christians are Good Friday through Easter. Christians in India have called for Christian workers to be granted a work break because these are “the most important days of the year for the Christian faith.” Some Catholic nongovernmental organizations, such as the Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum, sent a memorandum to the prime minister and the minister of finance expressing “deep shock” and recalling the existence of a circular that provides for “the closure of business tax offices on Saturday and Sunday”…

Syria’s Shiites offer different picture of war (L.A. Times) Each evening, Ali Jamal and other men in this border town grab their Kalashnikov assault rifles, jump on their motorbikes and ride across the irrigation canal into Syria to protect their homes. The enemies are Sunni rebel “terrorists,” he says, who target Jamal and his neighbors because they are Shiite Muslims. “Imagine, these people used to be our neighbors,” said the 40-year-old farmer, perplexed by the transformation. “Now they want to kidnap and kill us.” The predominant narrative of the Syrian war is that of a tyrannical government largely run by members of a Shiite sect, the Alawites, brutalizing a people yearning for freedom. However, in the largely Shiite towns and villages of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, people who have fled Syria tell a different story. They speak of an “ethnic cleansing” campaign carried out by rebels intent on creating an Islamic state run by Syria’s Sunni majority…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Indian Christians Chaldean Church Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch

26 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In the Christian village of Yacoubiyah, many say their families have fled to safer places, both inside and outside the country. Those who have chosen to stay are confronting new fears close to home, with some abandoned villas now used as bases for opposition brigades. Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Yacoubiyah, in Idlib province. (video: Al Jazeera)

Pope Francis’ sends Passover message online (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Rome’s Jewish community to mark the feast of Passover, which this year begins at sundown, Monday, 25 March. Linked is Vatican Radio’s translation of the full text of the message, addressed to the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, with whom the Holy Father met on 20 March during the course of his audience with delegations from other Christian confessions and non-Christian religions…

Pope to live in Vatican guest house (CNS) Pope Francis has decided not to move into the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, but to live in a suite in the Vatican guesthouse where he has been since the beginning of the conclave that elected him, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. “He is experimenting with this type of living arrangement, which is simple,” but allows him “to live in community with others” — both the permanent residents and guests…

Pope’s Holy Thursday mass to be simple and intimate (VIS) The Mass of the Lord’s Supper that Pope Francis will celebrate on Holy Thursday in the chapel of the Casal del Marmo Penitential Institute for Minors will be, by his express desire, very simple. Around 10 girls and 40 boys will take part in the Mass. The pope will wash the feet of 12 of them, who will be chosen from different nationalities and diverse religious confessions. The youth will also say the readings and the prayers of the faithful. Given the intimate nature of the pastoral visit, journalists will be restricted to the area outside the building and no live coverage will be transmitted…

Ecumenical patriarch expresses possibility of church unity (ANSA) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who attended last week the mass inaugurating the pontificate of Pope Francis, believes the reunification of the Orthodox and Latin churches, separated by schism for about 1000 years, is possible. Speaking at a meeting at the university of Kadir Has in Istanbul, Hurriyet reports, Patriarch Bartholomew I said he believed “there is a possibility for the next generations to see the churches of the East and West reunited,” adding that “this will probably not happen during my life”…

Jerusalem Christian leaders extend Easter invitation (VIS) In their Easter message, the leaders of the Christian churches of Jerusalem invite the faithful around the world to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, extending an ecumenical appeal to visit those churches and to “walk with the living stones of this land, following in the footsteps of the Risen Christ.” The text continues: “The Christian presence here, in the mother city of our faith, remains a beacon of the light of the Risen Christ that the first disciples were witness to in front of the empty tomb”…

More than half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan (Fides) The Syrian refugees who have found refuge in Jordan have already crossed the threshold of 500 thousand, according to Wael Suleiman, director of Caritas Jordan. “Every day,” explains Suleiman “between one thousand and two thousand refugees enter Jordan. 1700 arrived yesterday. The latest report released on this humanitarian crisis estimates that the refugees will be a million and a half by December. At that point the situation will become unbearable for Jordan”…



Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

25 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis exchanges a gift with retired Pope Benedict XVI after arriving at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, on 23 March. Pope Francis traveled by helicopter from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo for the private meeting with the pope emeritus. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis gives icon from Patriarch Kirill to pope emeritus (Interfax) Pope Francis has decided to give the Marian icon he received from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to Pope Benedict XVI. “The icon is called Our Lady of Humility and I will take the liberty to say just one thing: I thought of you, being so humble as a pope,” the press office of the Moscow Patriarchate quoted Pope Francis as saying. “Thank you, what a gift!” the pope emeritus said. The newly elected Pope Francis and his predecessor have just met in the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo…

Catholics, Orthodox celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar (Fides) Most of the Catholic communities in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus are preparing to celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week not these days but in the first week of May, according to the Julian Calendar followed by the Orthodox communities. The unification of the Easter dates in most of the area is an application of the directive issued on 15 October 2012 by the Assembly of Catholic Ordinary of the Holy Land. This comes into force ad experimentum this year in the whole of Holy Land, with the exception of the areas of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where the Gregorian calendar will continue to be followed both to respect the constraints imposed by the system of the “status quo,” which regulates the coexistence of the different Christian churches in Holy Places, and to take account of the arrival of pilgrims from all over the world during the Easter season. By 2015, the provision for a common Easter date should be confirmed or recalibrated in accordance with the directions also given by the Holy See…

Cyprus Orthodox patriarch favors leaving eurozone (PressTV) The head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church says he prefers the debt-stricken nation to leave the euro as Nicosia is striving to avoid bankruptcy. “The euro cannot last,” said Archbishop Chrysostomos II in an interview with the Greek daily Realnews, published on Saturday. “I’m not saying that it will crumble tomorrow, but with the brains that they have in Brussels, it is certain that it will not last in the long term, and the best is to think about how to escape it,” he said…

New casualty in wave of Bulgarian self-immolations (Der Spiegel) A 40-year-old Bulgarian set himself on fire to protest poverty and corruption in his country on Friday, becoming the sixth self-immolation in the E.U. country in less than a month. The church is concerned about this trend. Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit urged Bulgarians “under no circumstances” to take their own lives. “The Bulgarians must not fall victim to hopelessness,” he said…

In India, 1500 children die daily from preventable illness (Fides) Some 25 percent of children up to age 5 in India die from causes related to diarrhea. For millions of people in the Asian country, the lack of water is a constant challenge. Two-thirds of India’s population does not have adequate sanitation facilities. In the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh there is a shortage of latrines, and more than 665 million Indian inhabitants use open sewers or fields. According to the organizations Partners India and WASH, about 1500 children die every day in the country due to preventable diseases such as cholera and typhoid…



Tags: India Pope Francis Holy Land Bulgarian Orthodox Church Cyprus

22 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Parishioners pray in the St. Elijah Church in Ain Kawa, Iraq, a mostly Christian neighborhood outside Erbil, Kurdistan’s capital and largest city. In the November 2011 issue of ONE, we reported that much of Iraq’s Christian population had found a haven in the Kurdish-controlled north. In the time since, poor economic conditions have caused many to relocate once again. (photo: Safin Hamed/Metrography)

Pope Francis accepts Chaldean patriarch’s invitation to Iraq (AsiaNews) As St. Francis traveled to the East where he met Sultan Malik al Kamil, so we hope Pope Francis “may come to Iraq to confirm us our faith and give our small community in the land of Abraham courage and hope,” said His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael I during an audience with the pontiff this morning in the Vatican. “Yes,” answered the pope, “with joy.” The patriarch himself told AsiaNews about his meeting with the Holy Father before leaving this afternoon for Baghdad. The head of the Chaldean Church was in Rome for the pope’s inaugural Mass in St. Peter’s Square last Tuesday. The prelate said that he was “struck by the pope’s simplicity and spontaneity.” He was very moved when the two talked about the tragic fate of Iraqi Christians…

Pope emphasizes the importance of ‘table time’ (CNS) Pastors and theologians involved in ecumenical dialogue emphasize the importance of “table time” — sharing meals — along with serious theological discussions, shared prayer and joint action. Pope Francis spoke about his ecumenical vision on 20 March and prayed with delegates from Orthodox and other Christian communities at his inaugural Mass on 19 March. Since 17 March, he’s also had breakfast, lunch and dinner with the Orthodox representatives who came to Rome for his inauguration. Pope Francis is still living at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where the Orthodox delegates also were staying. They all eat together and greet each other in the common dining room…

Moscow patriarchate optimistic about relations with pope (Interfax) The Moscow Patriarchate attaches great importance to promoting relations with the Catholic Church in many areas, including social service, support for the poor and the deprived and protection of people suffering from persecution, said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for External Church Relations. Pope Francis met with metropolitan archbishop at the Vatican on Wednesday…

In pope, other religions see a friend (Washington Post) “In the maximum leader of the Christian world,” said Guillermo Borger, president of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association, “we have an ally.” The secretary general of the Islamic Center of the Argentine Republic, Sumer Noufouri, said he regularly attended an annual Mass convened by the then-archbishop to celebrate Argentina’s Independence Day, alongside the country’s Jewish leaders. “He is a person who listens and who knows Islam,” said Noufouri, who described the new papacy as “an opportunity for a fresh start in relations between Islam and the Catholic Church.” The interfaith relationships built by Pope Francis in Argentina underscore his approach to religious diversity — one that has given him a reputation for tolerance and peaceful cohabitation with non-Catholics…

Indian religious excited about ‘charism of religious life’ in pope (Fides) “History has repeatedly demonstrated that the charism of religious life can bring about change and growth of the church in terms of holiness and effectiveness of its mission. With Pope Francis the Holy Spirit indicates this direction,” said a statement by the Conference of Religious of India, which brings together more than 130,000 monks and nuns of several orders. The conference expressed “communion of heart and mind” with Pope Francis…

India’s economic miracle bypasses poor (Der Spiegel) Unlike in China, India’s economic miracle has failed to benefit the poor. Instead, the rich are getting richer in this notoriously divided land, and government support fails to reach those in need. An analysis by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that the blatant gap between poor and rich is growing in India almost faster than anywhere else on the globe…



Tags: India Pope Francis Iraqi Christians Ecumenism Chaldean Church

21 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis will carry forward a tradition he kept in Buenos Aires: celebrating Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper in a prison, a hospital or a shelter for the poor and marginalized. He is expected to wash the feet of inmates in a ritual highlighting humility, service and love. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass in prison (CNS) Pope Francis has decided to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in a Rome juvenile detention facility and wash the feet of some of the young detainees. It marks a change in venue of the previously scheduled 28 March Holy Week event — normally held in either St. Peter’s Basilica or the Basilica of St. John Lateran — to Rome’s Casal del Marmo prison for minors. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis used to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in prisons, hospitals or shelters for the poor and marginalized. “With the celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue that practice, which must be carried out in a context characterized by simplicity,” the Vatican said in a 21 March statement. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper highlights “the commandment of love” and service through the ritual of washing the feet of others, the statement said…

Ecumenical patriarch’s inaugural attendance: First time in history? (Archon News) One of the most intriguing recent developments was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I's decision to attend Pope Francis’ installation as bishop of Rome. The occasion is being presented in the media as something that has not happened since the ecclesiastical schism that separated Christian East and Christian West in the eleventh century. But that characterization is almost certainly wrong — this is quite likely the first time in history that a bishop of Constantinople will attend the installation of a bishop of Rome. And this is a profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, one that could have lasting significance…

Full text of Pope Francis’ interfaith discourse available (Vatican Radio) On Wednesday, 20 March 2013, Pope Francis received several dozen representatives of the various Christian churches and other world religions, who attended his inauguration. Among them were several leaders from the Orthodox Church, Orthodox Oriental Church, the Anglican Communion, and various Protestant churches, including the Lutheran, Baptist and Methodist churches. Representatives from the Jewish and Muslim faiths were also present. Please find below Vatican Radio’s translation of the pope’s discourse…

Middle East Christians in danger, Melkite patriarch warns (AKI) Christian minorities in the Middle East are under threat, especially in conflict-wracked Syria. His Beatitude Gregory III, Melkite Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch, has conveyed this concern to Pope Francis, Adnkronos International (AKI) has learned. “The crises in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, are endangering Christians present in the region,” Patriarch Gregory III said, quoting a letter he said he has written to the pope. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was responsible for the Catholic community in the Middle East and was a point of contact for immigrants from Lebanon, Syria and all the countries in that region. “I hope that the pope will ensure a better future for all Arab countries and their peoples,” concluded the Syrian-born patriarch…

Patriarch emeritus has low expectations for U.S. diplomatic visit (Fides) “All the great people in the world come to visit us. They arrive and depart, and our reality does not change. We are in the same situation,” says Latin Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, commenting on U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan. “Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no external pressure can really change things. Only Israel can decide to proceed on the path of peace or to maintain the status quo. No one can change this situation from the outside. Everything is in the hands of Israel…”

Gaza may face severe water crisis (Al Monitor) Figures issued by public and private institutions suggest the Gaza Strip is in imminent danger of a water crisis. Fresh water for domestic and agricultural use has become scarce. Moreover, according to Omar Shabat, the technical director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, 90 to 95 percent of underground water for domestic consumption is contaminated to varying degrees. This portends the spread of diseases among locals and could make the sector unlivable…



Tags: Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Ecumenism Israeli-Palestinian conflict Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

20 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, 71, was elected and enthroned as head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church in November 2006. (photo: Cyprus Orthodox Church)

Cyprus Orthodox Church offers to help bail out state (CBS News) The head of Cyprus’ influential Orthodox church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, says he will put the church’s assets at the country’s disposal to help pull it out of a financial crisis, after lawmakers rejected a plan to seize up to 10 percent of people’s bank deposits to secure an international bailout. It wasn’t immediately clear what the total value of the church’s assets would be, or how much of that value the church was actually willing to lend the government…

Pope ‘determined’ to continue toward unity (AsiaNews) Pope Francis has a “strong desire” to continue the ecumenical journey towards the “noble cause” of Christian unity. He has also stated his confidence that the “fraternal dialogue” with the Jewish people will continue. Further, he expressed his appreciation for the presence of Muslims at the ceremony marking the beginning of his pontificate. This morning’s meeting with 33 delegations from churches and religious denominations, Christian and non-Christian, who attended the inaugural mass of the new Pope was an insight into this pontificate’s line regarding relations with other Christians and religions, and even those who “do not even belong to any religions but who feel close to the truth and beauty.” The Pope responded to the warm greetings of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, calling him Andrew — the name of the apostle founder and patron of the patriarchate. “Yesterday morning,” he said, “during Holy Mass, through your presence, I recognized the spiritual presence of the community you represent. In this manifestation of faith, the prayer for unity among believers in Christ seemed even more urgent to men and together somehow to see prefigured this full realization, which depends on the divine plan and our sincere cooperation...”

Catholic commission writes to U.S. president in honor of visit (Fides) On the occasion of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit in the Middle East, which began with his arrival in Israel today, Wednesday, 20 March, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land has written the president a letter. The missive is intended to draw his attention to some major problems that affect the presence of Christians in the region. “The Palestinian people,” reads the letter, are living their “46th year under occupation. And the plight of Palestinian Christians is the same as experienced by the Palestinian people as a whole…”

Pope Francis calls pope emeritus to wish him happy feast day (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to wish him well on the feast of St. Joseph, 19 March. The Argentine pope, who placed the call to his German predecessor shortly after 5 p.m. Rome time, Tuesday, once again expressed gratitude to the pope emeritus for his long service to the church. Since his resignation on 28 February, Pope Benedict has been staying at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, in the countryside of Rome, until restoration work on his new residence in the Vatican is completed…

Lebanon’s Catholics fear incursion of Islamic fundamentalism (Global Post) Even though Beirut is no longer cleaved into Muslim and Christian sides by the Green Line — the five-mile long, overgrown barricade erected during Lebanon’s 1975-1991 civil war — some Christians still feel like their presence here is not guaranteed. An influx of refugees from the civil war in neighboring Syria has Christians in Lebanon anxious that religious violence against them could reappear here. A swath of leaders, from U.S. President Barack Obama to Pope Benedict XVI, have identified post-war Lebanon as a model for the world. Archbishop Paul Sayah, the vicar general of the Maronite patriarch and the Maronite Church’s second-ranking clergy member, believes that the survival and continuity of Lebanon’s Christians carries global implications. “If this formula does fade in Lebanon, the message to the world is that religions can’t live together, cultures can’t work together, and the alternative is war of religions,” says Archbishop Sayah. “This is the importance of Lebanon”…



Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Holy Land Cyprus President Obama

19 March 2013
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating his inaugural Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 19 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope begins his ministry with a Mass rich in symbolism (CNS) Although attempts were made to simplify the ceremony, Pope Francis officially inaugurated his ministry as pope and bishop of Rome in a liturgy filled with biblical symbolism and signs of the universality of his mission. But before the solemn rites began on 19 March, Pope Francis — known for choosing public transport over chauffeur-driven limousines — took his first spin in the popemobile, blessing the tens of thousands of people who arrived in St. Peter’s Square as early as 4 a.m. to pray with him. He waved and, at one point, gave a thumbs-up to the faithful. He also kissed three babies held up to him by the chief of Vatican security, Domenico Gianni, and other officers. But he climbed out of the open jeep used as a popemobile to kiss a severely disabled man…

Below is video of the pope receiving his pallium and ring:



Homily of Pope Francis at inaugural Mass (Vatican Radio) The full text of the Holy Father’s homily…

While in Rome, patriarch meets with Lebanese leaders (Fides) Today consultations are continuing in Rome between the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Antioch and political leaders of the Lebanese delegation, who arrived in the city to attend the opening Mass of the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis. Discussions will focus on the impasse on the electoral law that is paralyzing the political life in Lebanon, while there is a growing risk that the Syrian conflict destabilizes Lebanon…

Syria rebels, regime blame each other for first alleged chemical weapons attack (CBS News) Syrian state media accused rebels of firing a chemical weapon for the first time on Tuesday in the north of the country, killing at least 15 people in the war-torn Aleppo province. Rebels quickly denied the report and accused regime forces of firing a chemical weapon on a long-range missile…

Car bombs strike Iraq on 10th anniversary of US invasion (Reuters) Car bombs and a suicide blast hit Shiite districts of Baghdad and south of Iraq’s capital on Tuesday, killing at least 50 people on the 10th anniversary of the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Sunni Islamist insurgents tied to al Qaeda have stepped up attacks on Shiite targets since the start of the year in a campaign to stoke sectarian tension and undermine Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s government. Tuesday’s car bombs exploded near a busy Baghdad market, close to the heavily fortified Green Zone and in other districts across the capital…



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Lebanon Syrian Civil War Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter

18 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, pictured above in a 2009 photo, will be attending the inauguration of Pope Francis — the first time an ecumenical patriarch has done so since the Great Schism. (photo: CNS/Larry Downing, Reuters)

Ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople to attend pope’s inauguration (AsiaNews) In an unprecedented gesture, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Office informed AsiaNews about the decision, noting that this is the first time such an event has occurred since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054 — an important sign for Christian unity. Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue…

Palestinians hope new pope will continue Vatican support for them (Al Monitor) Palestinians and peoples of the Middle East have been searching hard in the new pontiff’s history to try and figure out where he will stand on the issues that are of concern to them. Two issues were prominently talked about in this regard. The Jesuit background of the new pope was quickly seen as a good sign; in the Middle East, Jesuits are known to have established schools of higher education and other projects supporting the poor. His status as a non-European also ensures, many believe, a more international perspective at the Vatican. The Vatican has generally been supportive of Palestinian rights and the need to end the occupation of Palestine. But, equally, the leaders of the Catholic Church have placed tremendous efforts to improve relations with Israel…

Patriarch: Serbs must return to Kosovo (B92) “One of the first … items in the talks, today and tomorrow, a condition and request we need to set is the return of a large number of Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija,” Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej said at a ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the March Pogrom in Kosovo. Patriarch Irinej noted that 240,000 Serbs had been expelled from Kosovo and that it was the country’s obligation to help those who still lived in Kosovo and the displaced to return to their homes. “If we survived five centuries under Turks, we will survive this as well. We must not despair”…

Bulgarian Orthodox Church nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (Novinite) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has been nominated by for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize by MP Lachezar Toshev. The occasion is the 70th anniversary of Bulgaria rescuing its Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Toshev says he wants to make the above fact more popular and globally known, stressing the involvement of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the rescue of Jews is unprecedented on international scale and must be recognized…

After two years of Syrian violence, religious sisters continue aid (EWTN) While the world marks the second anniversary of demonstrations that began what is now the Syrian civil war, the Sisters of Charity of Besancon continue to help the poor of the country’s capital. “Everybody is afraid. They don’t know how long they have to live,” Sister Marie-Joseph Chanaa told Aid to the Church in Need on 13 March. “When someone goes to work he doesn’t know if he’ll come home again.” Sister Chanaa and five other Sisters of Charity work and pray in Damascus to care for their neighbors, who are caught in the midst of war. She said that they pray daily for peace and she encourages those she helps to maintain hope…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Palestinians Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Bulgarian Orthodox Church





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