13 September 2012
Workers hang a Vatican flag 11 September near the main airport in Beirut in preparation for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Sharif Karim, Reuters)
With World on the Brink, Can Benedict Be a Firebreak? (NCR) Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Lebanon will be the first visit of a major Western leader to the Arab world after the attacks in Egypt and Libya. Big questions loom: Will the pope’s presence inflame extremist Islamic sentiment even further? Or, will the visit act as a firebreak, offering a counter-narrative of Muslim-Christian harmony? In either event, this 24th foreign journey by Pope Benedict XVI, and his fourth to the Middle East, could potentially be among his most consequential. A Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, says that the pope will bring a “message of dialogue and respect for all believers of different religions” to Lebanon.
Christian Presence in Sarajevo Fading (Kuwait Times) The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has warned that Christianity is under threat in Sarajevo, as Muslim and Christian clerics argued during talks meant to promote reconciliation. “The most tragic [thing] is that many who might want to, do not have the opportunity to return [to Sarajevo],” Irinej said on RTRS television, calling on Europe to “put right a great injustice.” A census taken in 1991, before the war in Bosnia, recorded Serbs as about 30% of Sarajevo’s population; though no official census has been taken since then, Serb presence is estimated to have fallen to half of that.
Many Christians Join Protests Against Film Mocking Islam (Fides) In Egypt, Christians are joining Muslims to protest against the film that denigrates the Prophet Muhammed. Father Rafic Greiche, director of the communications for the Catholic Church in Egypt, says: “Right now, demonstrations are in progress in the center of Cairo to protest against the American film which insults the Prophet Mohammed, with several clashes with the police. The situation is tense in the area around the U.S. Embassy, which is very close to Tahrir Square. It should be noted that among the demonstrators there are also many Christians, the Copts in particular, together with Muslims are protesting against the film. Also on Facebook and other social media, Christians and Muslims are united in the protest.” Additionally, even the leaders of the major Christian denominations in Egypt have made their voices heard. “The Catholic Church, the Orthodox and Protestant churches issued a statement in Arabic against the film in question,” Father Greiche says.
In Syria, Christians Take Up Arms for the First Time (The Telegraph) The Christian community has tried to avoid taking sides in the civil war, at first seeking only to protect churches. However, as the war moved into the city and spread across its suburbs, they have begun to accept weapons from the Syrian army and join forces with Armenian groups to repel opposition guerrillas. “Everybody is fighting everybody,” said George, an Armenian Christian from the city. “The Armenians are fighting because they believe the F.S.A. are sent by their Turkish oppressors to attack them, the Christians want to defend their neighbourhoods, Shabiha regime militia are there to kill and rape, the army is fighting the F.S.A., and the [Kurdish militant group] P.K.K. have their own militia too.” For the past six weeks up to 150 Christian and Armenian fighters have been fighting to prevent Free Syrian Army rebels from entering Christian heartland areas of Aleppo.
Armenian Primate Visits U.S. (The Armenian Mirror Spectator) Archbishop Avak Asadourian who has been the Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq for the past 33 years, during some of its most traumatic periods, is considered a hero among his people. He is currently visiting the United States for a special celebration to be accorded him by the large Iraqi-Armenian community in Glendale on 16 September, in honor of his 35 years as a clerical leader. On this trip, the Primate also visited the St. Vladimir’s and St. Nersess’ Seminaries in New York, from which he graduated in 1976. During an exclusive interview, the Primate spoke about the insecure condition of the Armenian and Christian communities since the time of the Iran-Iran war, which started in 1980, and the “ill-conceived war perpetrated by the NATO coalition against Iraq” in 2003.
12 September 2012
Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Christian-Muslim relations Armenian Apostolic Church Coptic Christians
Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia; Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk; and Archbishop Lawrence Huculak of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, process before the Divine Liturgy outside Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Cathedral in Winnipeg on 9 September. (photo: CNS/David Lipnowski)
Archbishop Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio: Great Expectations for Papal Visit (Fides) While the images of the Pope and the Lebanese and Vatican flags emerge everywhere, the slogan of the visit: “I give you my peace” dominates the front pages of newspapers. An evangelical phrase that, said Archbishop Caccia, “fully corresponds to the expectations of the people.” He further notes: “A special novena to prepare for the Pope’s visit is in progress in the churches in the Country.”
Pope Hopes to Further Interreligious Dialogue (Daily Star) Pope Benedict XVI hopes to advance the church’s relationship with Islam and help Christians keep their place in the Muslim world during his trip to Lebanon this week. The pope’s choice of Lebanon for his Middle East trip is not a casual one: the multi-confessional society — by which government posts are split among religious groups — was hailed by pope John Paul II as a model for the region. The visit will include meetings with representatives from Lebanon’s four main communities: Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Alawite.
Palestinian Prime Minister to Ease Protests with Price Cuts (Washington Post) After a meeting of his cabinet, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced a decision to cancel increases this month in the prices of diesel fuel, kerosene and cooking gas, which are purchased from Israel, and to reduce the recently raised value-added tax, which is pegged to Israeli rates under an economic agreement with Israel. To make up for revenue losses from the price and tax reductions, the government will cut the salaries of ministers and other high-level officials and reduce some government expenditures.
Egyptian Town’s Muslim-Christian Unrest Points to Bigger Challenges (Los Angeles Times) It began when a Christian dry-cleaning business scorched a Muslim man’s shirt: First came the insults, and then Muslims and Christians were clashing in a square in this farming town rimmed by pyramids, culminating in a lethal explosion. “There was nothing wrong before all this,” said Ahmed Araby, a Muslim car dealer in a white tunic standing in the shade of a mosque. “It was a mistake. It was over a shirt. Muslims and Christians were like brothers, but a huge problem has fallen on our doorstep.”
“North America’s Churches Can Be an Example for Ukraine” (CNS) Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Yurij of Winnipeg, Manitoba, told several dozen Ukrainian Catholic bishops that the North American Catholic and Orthodox bishops have worked through the “animosity” that once marked relations between their churches, and they now collaborate. “In Ukraine, they have to go through the same kind of process,” he said, adding that bishops outside Ukraine must be patient with their brothers.
11 September 2012
Tags: Egypt Lebanon Interreligious Palestinian Authority Ukrainian Catholic Synod
This Homs church was damaged in the ongoing violence in Syria.
(photo: CNS/Shaam News Network, handout via Reuters)
Vatican ambassador says 100,000 Christians have left Homs (Turkish Weekly) Approximately 100,000 Christians in Homs have had to move relocate within Syria due to the ongoing clashes between the Syrian army and opposition militants, according to a senior Vatican diplomat in Damascus. “Up until now, Christians have been suffering from the same consequences of the conflict like all the other citizens. However, a good number of Christians — around 100,000 — had to leave Homs. Most of them moved to the Christian Valley [Krak des Chevaliers] and to the Damascus area,” Vatican Ambassador to Syria Nuncio Mario Zenari said yesterday.
Vatican official: Religion’s role in Arab Spring is to promote dignity (Catholic News Service) Religious communities can assist the North African and Middle Eastern pro-democracy movements by upholding human dignity and not trying to claim power for one religion or one movement within a religion, a senior Vatican official said. Comboni Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, represented the Vatican at a conference in Istanbul last weekend on “The Arab Awakening and Peace in the New Middle East: Muslim and Christian Perspectives.”
Pentecostal church looted, razed near Moscow (The Moscow Times) The demolition, which sent shock waves through the country’s Protestant community over the weekend, was ordered by city authorities determined to build a sports stadium on the site. But the decision, based on a court order, is raising fears that religious freedom is under attack from a government that has long shown preferential treatment to the dominant Russian Orthodox Church.
Egyptian lawyer says Coptic immigration could be demographic disaster (Al Arabiya News) Egyptian Christian lawyer Mamdouh Ramzi warned of the repercussions of the immigration of Copts outside Egypt for fear of persecution at the hands of the Islamist government. “More than 100,000 Copts applied for immigration to the United States and Scandinavian countries,” he told Al Arabiya’s al-Hadath al-Masri (The Egyptian Event). “The immigration of such large numbers of Copts constitutes a grave threat to Egypt’s demographic structure.”
10 September 2012
Tags: Syria Russian Orthodox Church Coptic Christians Egypt's Christians Arab Spring/Awakening
In preparation for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon later this week, a papal media office in Jounieh distributed CD's in decorative envelopes. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)
Pope Benedict XVI: On the priority of peace for the Middle East (Vatican Radio) “My apostolic visit to Lebanon, and by extension to the Middle East as a whole, is placed under the sign of peace”: On the eve of his departure, Pope Benedict XVI has clearly stated the aim of this his 24th foreign visit and has voiced his serious concern for the “daily sufferings” of the people of the Middle East, “which sadly, and at times mortally, plague their personal and family life.”
Lebanon’s bishop says situation worsening for Christians (Lebanon Daily Star) The situation in the Middle East is becoming increasingly dangerous and threatens the presence of Christians, Maronite Bishop Michel Aoun said Sunday during a talk with reporters about the pope’s upcoming visit to Lebanon. “The pope’s synod is a road map for Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East; we all know that Christians are experiencing difficulties due to the political and regional situation and that they are exposed to immigration.”
Ukrainian Catholic leader shares favorites, faith in Winnipeg (Catholic News Service) When young Ukrainian Catholics asked the church’s major archbishop to name his favorite book of the Bible, he did not hesitate: the Gospel of St. John. Why? “First — shortest one,” laughed 42-year-old Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine. Then, he added more seriously: “With those few words, he speaks so profoundly.” “Favorites” was among question topics that young people from Manitoba submitted for the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to answer during a visit to St. Nicholas Parish on 7 September. Posed in the form of Tweets and projected onto a screen in front of the church, the questions followed a service to honor Blessed Nykyta Budka, the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop who arrived in Canada 100 years ago.
Russian Orthodox patriarch says his church is under attack (Reuters) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church used a Sunday prayer service and a state TV interview to argue that the church he presides over is under attack from foes he said fear its post-Soviet revival and want to destroy its places of worship. Patriarch Kirill did not name punk music group Pussy Riot but was clearly referring to the collective, three members of which were sentenced to jail for performing a “punk prayer” at the altar of a Moscow cathedral during which they criticized President Vladimir Putin.
Catholic Church likely to take up migrants’ issues in India (Times of India) With interstate migration trending upward over the years, the Catholic Church in India may adopt it as a policy matter to help migrants. Labor bodies attached to the church in 12 states — including Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — will meet in Bangalore next month to chalk out a final decision.
7 September 2012
Tags: India Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox Church Maronite
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
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
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
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.
30 August 2012
Tags: Syria Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Indian Christians Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Canada
Patriarch Twal: Pope's trip to Lebanon is for entire region (Vatican Radio)
Clerics call on Christians to stay in Syria (Hurriyet Daily News)
Patriarch releases statement on Daraya attacks (ByzCath.org)
Russians to raise security at places of worship (Voice of Russia)
A Maronite revival in Israel (Jerusalem Post)
In Kerala, feasting and splurging during Onam (New York Times)
29 August 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Israel Kerala Russia
Terrorist attack at Christian funeral in Damascus (Fides)
Syrian women, children caught in situation they never imagined (Catholic Register)
Relics of Orthodox saints stolen from St. Petersburg cathedral (The Moscow Times)
Coptic Christian defends accepting role as advisor to Egypt's president (Ahram)
Kerala Catholic bishops calls for celebrating Onam without liquor (The Asian Age)
Tags: Violence against Christians Coptic Christians Saints Indian Bishops Damascus