Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
August 9, 2014, Ninth Sunday - 13 September, 2014, 14th Sunday - 11 October, 2014, 18th Sunday (followed by SSJC AGM) - 8 November, 2014, 22nd Sunday - 13 December, 2014, 27th Sunday - 10 January, 2014, Sunday after Christmas

Saturday 26 July 2014 - Eastern Churches of London: Demonstration in Solidarity with the Christians of Iraq - 11.55-1300, Parliament Square, London

Conference: Eastern Christian Thought & Practice for 21st Century Europe, 26-28 November 2014, Theotokos Institute, University of Cardiff - with Prof Andrew Louth (Durham), Dr Roman Zaviyskyy (Lviv Ukrainian Catholic University), Bishop Vahan Hovhanissian (Armenian Apostolic Church in Britain) - Details from http://www.tics.org.uk/

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

UN Security Council Denounces Persecution of Iraqi Christians - AFP

Posted 2014-07-22

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -- The United Nations Security Council has denounced militant persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq, warning such actions can be considered crimes against humanity.
The Islamic State, which last month declared a "caliphate" straddling large swathes of northern Iraq and Syria, has threatened a Christian presence in the region spanning close to two millennia.

Over the weekend, hundreds of families fled Mosul, a once-cosmopolitan city that is the country's second largest.

In a unanimous declaration adopted late Monday, the Council's 15 member countries condemned "in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations and those who refuse its extremist ideology in Iraq by ISIL and associated armed groups," it said, referring to the group's former name of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

"The members of the Security Council further recall that widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable."

The Council also asked that the Iraqi government and the United Nations intensify their efforts to serve the "urgent" humanitarian needs of people displaced by the conflict and to tackle the "terrorist threat" against minorities.

On Sunday, the militants took over the fourth century Mar (Saint) Behnam monastery in northern Iraq, one of the country's best-known Christian landmarks, and expelled its resident monks.

Christians abandoned their homes and belongings in Mosul after IS fighters running the city issued an ultimatum for Christians to convert, pay a special tax, leave or face the sword.

Before the 2003 US invasion, more than a million Christians lived in Iraq, including more than 600,000 in Baghdad and 60,000 in Mosul, as well as a substantial number in the oil city of Kirkuk and in Basra.

Until their forced exodus over the weekend, Christians had been continuously present in Mosul for about 16 centuries.

Iraqi Christians and the West: A rock and a hard place - The Economist

July 14th 2014, 15:08 by B.C., Erasmus

APART from praying and lamenting, is there anything else that concerned outsiders, such as the Western churches, should be doing to help Christians and other religious minorities in northern Iraq? That is a real question, not least because Iraqi Christian leaders are in a quandary themselves.

Until a few weeks ago, Mosul and its environs remained a bastion, however depleted, of ancient Christian communities whose collective memory goes back to the faith's earliest years. To understand the varieties of Iraqi Christian, you have to study theology. Some have roots in Nestorianism, which stressed the difference between the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. Some have their origins in the Miaphysite doctrine, holding that Christ had only one, divine nature [Correction: miaphysite means "united nature" which is both human and divine. Holding that Christ had only one, divine nature is monophysite, seen as a pejorative term because it is a heresy of which 'oriental orthodox' Churches stood accused for centuries but which they have never believed or professed. SSJC Ed.] Within both categories, some have reconciled with the church of Rome, others haven't. Some (like most mainstream Christian churches) hew to the teaching laid down in 451 that Christ had both a divine nature and a human one but was a single person. All this helps to explain why a single Iraqi town can have several Christian bishops, each with his own sonorous titles. Chaldean Catholics (Christians with Nestorian roots who have been reconciled with Rome for 500 years) are the biggest group [Correction: Nestorian is a pejorative term applied by Catholics, Byzantine Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox alike. It is not at all clear that Nestorius believed what was condemned by the other parts of the Church. The "Nestorian" objection is that other Orthodox and Western Christians risk blurring the vital distinctiveness and integrity of Christ's human nature as well as divine nature, which they think the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox subsumes his divine nature in stressing the unity of personhood, or talking of a unified nature. In response, the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox have tended to judge the members of the (Assyrian) Church of the East and the Chaldeans as holding that Christ has two personhoods, united but two nonetheless. For this reason, the Coptic Patriarchate refused the admission of the Church of the East to the Middle East Council of Churches because it was judged "diaphysite", believing Christ to have two natures in a sort of double personhood. Again, this is not what they believe. Interestingly, some Oriental Orthodox dismiss the Roman Catholics as "diaphysite", so stressing the difference between the divine and human natures of Christ that it amounts to failing to assert that his personhood is one. But, because of the closeness of the Antiochene Christological outlook of the Latin Catholic tradition and that of the Church of the East, the union of the Roman Church and a large body of the Assyrian Church, which became the Chaldean Catholic Church, arose out of a given theological affinity. Nowadays there is consensus across the Catholic, Byzantine Orthodox, Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox and Assyrian Churches that, even with different emphases and nuances in theology and liturgy, they confess the same faith. Hence the terms of an earlier polemic (eg Monophysite and Nestorian) are consigned to history as serving no useful illustrative purpose].

Exact figures about Iraqi Christianity are hard to come by. It is often asserted that about 400,000 to 500,000 Christians live in the country, down from a total before the 2003 war of perhaps 1.5m. Other observers think as few as 200,000 may be left. The majority of the remaining Christians live in the far north of the country.

Last month, when the extremist Sunni fighters of ISIS over-ran Mosul, thousands of Christians joined other townspeople in fleeing; many Christians headed for an immediately adjacent area, known as Nineveh Plains. That district had long been a stronghold of Christians as well as lesser known religious groups such as Yazidis and Mandeans. If Nineveh Plains seemed marginally safer, that was only because Christians and others were being protected by the Kurds, who have responded to the Sunni advance by expanding the area under their control. Since then, ISIS and the Kurds have been battling over the Plains; some Christians have moved even deeper into Kurdish-controlled territory.

All this highlights the dilemmas facing the Iraqi Christians. Should they try to secure their future by massing in a "safe area" and seeking to maximise the autonomy of that area? In the last few years, Iraqi-born Christians in America have promoted this idea, while some clergy inside Iraq were more doubtful, arguing that plenty of Christians were still scattered across the country. And if there is to be a safe area, should it be Nineveh Plains, or somewhere under the formal control of the Kurdish regional government, such as Ainkawa, a suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil? A meeting of bishops in Erbil at the end of last month seemed to come round to the idea of a haven, possibly in that very city.

Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, leader of the Chaldean Catholics, acknowledged the dilemma in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity: "Possibly the future [for Christians] is Kurdistan." Asked if Iraq had any future as a federal state, he responded: "No...maybe a symbolic unity." If Iraq breaks up, he was implying, the Christians' natural home would be with the Kurds, rather than the Arab Sunnis or Shias. But as he added, there are also some Christians left in Baghdad and Basra further south. Kurdish friendship wouldn't help them.

John Pontifex, a spokesman for the charity, said the idea of a safe area was gaining fresh traction because recent events had been so disastrous. "The story of the Iraqi Christians has been one of catastrophe piled upon catastrophe, and the prospects look very bleak—so in this context, the safe haven seems like one of the few remnants of hope."

The Nineveh Plains idea is still being mooted. In January, Iraqi-born Christians in America were pleased when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proposed making the Plains into a full-blown province. This seemed like an answer to their prayers for a secure space for Christians and other minorities, to which the Iraqi Christian diaspora could return in safety. Moreover, the area is often described as "floating on a lake of oil". The Kurds, though, didn't like this proposal at all. Now, as relations deteriorate fast between Kurdistan's regional leaders and the Baghdad government, Christians may have hard choices.

Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, told me he thought the Nineveh Plains option should be kept alive. Christians were grateful for recent Kurdish help, but the relationship between Kurds (mostly Sunni Muslims) and Christians had not always been benign, noted Mr Manna, a leader of the large and entrepreneurial Iraqi Christian community in the Detroit area. Many people were now speaking of Iraq's likely break-up into three parts, but as Mr Manna put it: "why not into four—with a fourth part for the Christians and other small minorities?"

Still, as others recall, geography alone would suggest that Christians don't have much hope if their relationship with the Kurds is adversarial. In any case, before anything can happen, the American administration has to acknowledge that the survival of Christian and other religious minorities in Iraq is a real problem. That's what Mr Manna and some fellow Iraqi-American Christians will say in Washington, DC, this week as they lobby legislators and the State Department.

Source: http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2014/07/iraqi-christians-and-west

Chaldean, Maronite and Syriac Catholic and Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs: What are Moderate Muslims Saying About What is Happening to Christians in Mosul? - AsiaNews

Asia News, 2014-07-22
by Fady Noun

"We hear no one cry out" against the brutal behavior that contradicts 1,400 years of history of the Islamic world. The Syriac-Catholic patriarch calls on the Vatican to organise a meeting to deal with the situation with the apostolic nuncios from the countries involved, and consider joining forces with the diplomatic efforts of the Patriarch of Moscow.

Beirut -- "What do moderate Muslims say?" asked Maronite Patriarch Bechara al Rahi yesterday, speaking about last week's ultimatum by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to Mosul Christians, which Pope Francis himself mentioned yesterday.

The ultimatum issued last week by the Islamic State against Mosul Christians shocked the Arab world, particularly Catholics and Eastern Orthodox patriarchs. "We hear no one cry out" against this brutal behaviour, said the patriarch in his homily.

The Christians who remained in Mosul after its conquest by the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), about a hundred families, had three options: First, convert to Islam and become subjects of the Caliphate; second, pay a tax, the "jizya"; and third, leave without taking anything but their clothes or face the sword. Shia Muslims and other minorities were given the same ultimatum.

Events in Mosul "contradict 1,400 years of history and life of the Muslim World," said Louis Sako, patriarch of the Chaldeans, in a message dated 17 July "for Muslims in Iraq and the world" and all men of good will and decision-makers who have some say in the events.

No compulsion in religion

"These imposed conditions hurt Muslims and Islam's reputation," the patriarch of the Chaldeans said in his message. "Islam proclaims that there is no compulsion in religion", and accepts differences in beliefs, according to the hadith 'You have your beliefs and I have mine.'

The conditions imposed contradict 1,400 years of history and life of the Muslim World and coexistence between different religions and different peoples, whether eastern or western, mutual respect for the beliefs and fraternisation between Muslims and Christians, not to mention the happy and unhappy days shared by Christians in the East, since the advent of Islam, and the common blood they shed to defend their rights and lands. They built together cities and a heritage. It is a sin (haram) for Christians to be rejected, expelled and treated roughly.

Let us keep in mind the serious consequences of this fact on the coexistence between majorities and minorities; even among Muslims, for the near and distant future. Otherwise, Iraq is moving towards a humanitarian, cultural and historical catastrophe.

"This is why we are making this urgent and fraternal appeal, full of gravity. We plead with our Iraqi brothers who support them, to revise their strategy, to respect the innocent and isolated civilians, whatever their nationality, religion and community particularities."

"The Qur'an recommends that the innocent be respected, and does not call for the confiscation of the property of others. It spares widows, orphans and the needy and says to be friendly to neighbours."

"Meanwhile, we urge Christians in the region to exercise judgment, to measure properly their actions and understand what is planned for the region, to show solidarity with one another in love, review and retain what is likely to build trust among themselves and with their neighbours, to become one with their churches, to exercise patience and endurance and pray that the trial does not contnue."

Ignatius Youssef III at the Vatican

Indignant reactions also came from the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II, who also denounced the burning and complete destruction of churches and called for "a stop to the funding of extremist groups that spread terror and seek to divide the Iraqi people, which has a long and rich history of coexistence and working together."

For his part, Ignatius Youssef III Younan, patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church, met Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with States, with whom he spoke of the calamities that have fallen on the Christians of Iraq, and the partial destruction of the Syriac Catholic church in Aleppo, hit by a huge bomb dropped by a Syrian warplane.

To Card Mamberti, he proposed a meeting of apostolic nuncios from the countries involved to deal with the situation. He suggested joint diplomatic efforts with the patriarch of Moscow [Why? He actively campaigns against Eastern Catholics as with the Russian state he promotes Moscow Patriarchate dominance in neighbouring countries and the Middle East region. MW, SSJC], as well as mobilising moderate Islamic regimes and organisations.

Sign of the times, the patriarch made a stop in Rome before flying to the United States where he is set to visit the Syrian Catholic Diocese of Our Lady of Relief, which includes the United States and Canada.

Source: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Patriarch-Rahi:-What-do-moderate-Muslims-say-about-what-is-happening-to-Christians-in-Mosul-31682.html

Coptic Orthodox Church condemns targeting of Iraqi Christians - Daily News Egypt

Scores of Christians flee Mosul amid continued prosecution by Islamist extremists

Daily News Egypt July 21, 2014, By Adham Youssef

The Coptic Orthodox Church has condemned the targeting of Iraqi Christians in the militant-held city of Mosul, which caused the displacement of thousands into the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

In its Saturday statement, the Church added that violence against Christians and forced immigration are unprecedented acts in the history of Iraq. “We pray for the safety of victims and for all Iraqis, regardless of their faith.”

The Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), moved into Mosul last month, causing many residents to flee. Christians living in the city were given an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death, reported Reuters news agency.

Saturday was the deadline for Christians who were not willing to pay the issued taxes to leave the newly established “Caliphate”. The Islamist insurgent group is abiding by an ancient historic practice of paying taxes, where non-Muslims are to pay jizya to live in Muslim countries.
The Christian community has been present in large numbers in Mosul since the earliest days of Christianity. The head of Iraq’s largest church told Reuters that the current situation is “worse than the practices of the Mongols in the medieval times”.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned Sunday the “extremist” actions by the Islamic State, which targets thousands of Christians in territories it controls, arguing that such practices might endanger the “centuries-old heritage” of the Christian community.

Al-Maliki added that the Islamist group is targeting Christians, along with their properties and their houses of worship, which proves the group’s extremist tendency and “terrorist nature”. Plus, such practices reveal that the group is not pursuing any revolutionary agenda, said Al-Maliki.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned Sunday “the systematic persecution of minority populations in Iraq by Islamic State (IS) and associated armed groups”.

A statement published by the UN Sunday, asserted that “a number of minority communities that have lived together for thousands of years in Mosul and the Ninewa province have come under direct attack and persecution by IS”.
“Tens of thousands of members of these ethnic and religious minority groups have been displaced or forced to flee and seek refuge, while many others have been executed and kidnapped,” said the statement.

Ban stressed that the persecution of Christians in Iraq and their forced immigration from their homes could constitute a crime against humanity.

Since the beginning of the year, almost 1.2 million people have been displaced in Iraq amid the ongoing confrontation between government forces and Sunni Islamist militants, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq report on internally displaced persons in the country. From June 1 to July 16, the report estimates that around 100,000 people have been displaced in Ninawa, the governorate which includes Mosul.

Sectarian killing increased in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003, and has been booming since the insurrection by the IS. Amnesty International said in a statement published on 14 July that besides abductions and displacement in every town and village that has fallen under IS control, others were subjected to deadly violence.
Shi’a citizens and policemen were primary target for IS militants especially in territories left unprotected since the withdrawal of the Iraqi army from the area on 10 June, said Amnesty International.

Source: http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/07/21/coptic-orthodox-church-condemns-targeting-iraqi-christians/

Ecumenism in Qatar » Chestnut Hill Local Philadelphia PA

July 3, 2014, by Mary Hansbury

I recently returned from a conference in Qatar, having been invited to present research and read a paper in my field of Syriac studies. The conference was about various Syriac writers from 1,500 years ago. They are Christian writers, but the Muslim government of Qatar funded the conference in its desire to reach out to Christians and Jews. Perhaps a unique ecumenical experience in an age of increasing polarization!

It is only since 2008 that churches have been allowed in Qatar, ending a restriction dating from the 7th century. Now churches, without cross or bells, are permitted in a compound: Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Anglican – all together. No churches may be built outside the compound.

For example, the Catholic Church has 100,000 members. These are mostly immigrants who have come to work in Qatar from India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Korea, Lebanon and Africa. They are ministered to by priests from India. Qatar has always had a link with India, being on the trade route from the Middle East to India from early centuries.

Now the Indian presence there helps forge a triple identity: Arab/Islamic; Indian; industrial/professional/Western. (Georgetown University, for example, has a campus there). It really is a unique place.

The conference was international, and scholars came to discuss issues of Syriac Christianity. Iraq, Iran and Syria are areas of this early Christian development. The Syriac language, like Arabic, is a dialect of Aramaic and is therefore very close to the language of the Hebrew Bible. The conference dealt mostly with the 7th century, but underlying all is the work of St. Ephrem who died in 373. He represents a genuinely Semitic form of Christianity.

Many now in the West appreciate this simpler, symbolic, faith-filled approach to Christianity as opposed to a doctrinal approach. Ephrem uses poetry primarily as a vehicle for his theology. Since poetry tends not to encapsulate truth, Ephrem is able to present a dynamic approach and does not use Western philosophy but rather images from the Bible and human experience.

The basic structure of Ephrem’s understanding of Scripture is that it has two kinds of meanings: an outer historical one, which scholars and exegetes deal with, and an inner spiritual meaning, “the hidden power” of divine inspiration. And it is through symbols that one understands the inner meaning.

It is important to understand the true sense of symbol: that it has a very real connection with what it symbolizes. Often in modern thought, symbol is separate from what it symbolizes. But the true sense of symbol, even in anthropological thinking, is that a symbol actually is connected to what it symbolizes and participates in it.

Another aspect of contemporary interest in Ephrem, and to those at the conference, is that he sees all of reality as interconnected. Nothing in creation exists in isolation. Nature and the natural world stand side-by-side with Scripture as witnesses to God. He does not deify nature, but he says it reveals God the way many Christians believe Scripture does. This has an impact on environmental issues.

Ephrem insists on wonder and gratitude rather than greed and exploitation. Modern commentators have seen in this an indication of what the attitude of mankind to the environment could be. The abuse of nature from human misuse of free will has moral consequences. And because of this Scripture/Nature relationship, Ephrem sees Paradise or heaven as literally all around us in a way that has been compared to the modern scientific theory of parallel universes.

Finally, Ephrem has great sensitivity for women. He wrote for women’s choirs, and the role of women in liturgical worship in the early church was significant. He wrote about women in the Bible frequently. And there is extensive use of feminine imagery in his poetry. He even uses it when speaking about God. In fact, in early Syriac literature, the Holy Spirit is translated as feminine.

Sebastian Brock, of Oxford University, was with us at the conference and has written on these aspects of Ephrem in “The Luminous Eye” (Cistercian Publications, 1992).

These are some of the issues that drew Muslim sponsors of the conference in Qatar to invite Syriac scholars, given the similarities between Syriac and Arabic ways of thinking. And this form of Christianity, free from European philosophical and cultural baggage, plays an important role in the development of Christianity in India as well.

Syriac Christianity has been in south India since the 3rd century and to this day is an active form of worship, especially in Kerala. A research center has been established in Kerala with a library and teaching facilities for Syriac studies where I go every other year. And now there are at least three Indian Syrian Christian Churches in Philadelphia.

As I look back at the time spent in Qatar, the beginning of a three-year project, I’m impressed with this ecumenical breakthrough. There is also a foundation there now: The Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue, sponsored by the royal family to spread a culture of dialogue and peaceful coexistence. Given the present sectarian divide in the area – the worst in a millennium – perhaps these ecumenical efforts may have a ripple effect.

Mary Hansbury, Ph.D., a Chestnut Hill resident, does research concerning early Syriac Christianity and has translated seven books and written numerous articles in her field.
Source: Commentary: Ecumenism in Qatar » Chestnut Hill Local Philadelphia PA

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Gazans find sanctuary in ancient church - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Internally displaced families from Gaza’s Shajaiya neighborhood,
which has come under intense Israeli bombardment,
seek refuge in the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius,
July 22, 2014. (photo by Wissam Nassar)
Author: Asmaa al-Ghoul, July 22, 2014, translator(s)Joelle El-Khoury

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — On July 19, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Alexius was reciting prayers to a small congregation in the only Greek Orthodox Church in the Gaza Strip. He was surrounded by the Byzantine-style icons hung on the walls, the scent of incense filling this 1,600-year old-church.

Gaza’s only Greek Orthodox Church canceled its Sunday prayers and opened its doors to hundreds fleeing the Israeli bombardment of the Shajaiya neighborhood. But he was reciting prayers to a largely empty church, with few attending due to the war. Deacon Rami Ayad, nevertheless, expected the church to be filled with worshipers the next day, a Sunday, and said, “There are not many worshipers usually on Saturday, but we are expecting more, particularly those who live in the area.” After a loud noise interrupted him, he said, “It is a rocket launched by the resistance.”

Abdullah Jahshan, a 29-year-old worshiper, told Al-Monitor, “I am here to attend the prayer service because I live close to the church. My family will attend prayer on Sunday. If I were not living nearby, I would not have come because of the intense shelling everywhere.”

Alexius presented a piece of blackened shrapnel the size of his palm. It had come from an Israeli missile which fell in the courtyard of the church during the shelling nearby. “If I was sitting in the courtyard, where I usually sit and read, this shrapnel would have hit me and I would have died a martyr, as happened with the others during this war,” he said.

On Sunday, things did not go as planned. It was not because of an absence of worshipers, but because of the bloodbath that took place in the Shajaiya neighborhood, where 72 Palestinians died. More than 100,000 have fled their homes. As a result, the church doors were opened to them.

On Monday, Al-Monitor returned to the church, which was teeming with families, children and women. Deacon Ayad smiled and said, “We cancelled the prayer. The residents who fled their homes in Shajaiya knocked on our door at 7 a.m.” He said he had asked the archbishop first, who agreed that the doors of the church must be opened and the Sunday prayer cancelled.

Ayad said the church had welcomed roughly 400 internally displaced persons from Shajaiya, adding that they have also “opened shops and houses to accommodate another 600 people. The neighbours are donating to everyone and the church is providing the youth in the mosque nearby with money to get food and break the fast at sunset, since they are fasting (for Ramadan).”

In the inner courtyard of the church, dozens of men were lying on the ground. Wael Jundiyah, 39, said, “We ran outside our homes on al-Mansoura Street in Shajaiya, which is adjacent to the Karni crossing. The shelling was heavy and we saw people dead in the streets while we were trying to save our lives yesterday morning.”

Ihab Bahtiti, 30, who carried Ihab, his 2-year-old son, had fled the Shajaiya shelling. “We had endured the shelling throughout the night and we had the feeling that it was about our last moments. At sunrise, my family and I ran away and, thank God, my wife, son, mother and I reached the church. We all feel safe here,” he told Al-Monitor.

In a hall of the church, dozens of women were sitting, chatting and sharing their experience from their areas. Khitam Jundiyah, 31, said, “My 10 children and I were saved miraculously. There were violent clashes between the resistance and the occupation and our homes are located on the front lines.”

Khitam pointed out that most of the women were barefoot, their feet swollen and black. “We were running barefoot, and we could feel the corpses we stepped on. Isra, my daughter, told me. ‘Mum, I stepped on the hand of a child.’”

Shocked and silent, Isra was sitting next to her mother. The expression of her face was vacuous, abnormal for a child her age.

The women who spoke to Al-Monitor all agreed that they felt safe in the church, despite the loud sound of tank shells every few seconds. The fifth century Church of Saint Porphyrius is close to the Shajaiya neighborhood. It is in eastern Gaza City in Harat az-Zaytoun, which is one of the most ancient and popular neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip. It is also adjacent to the ancient and historic Kateb al-Welaya Mosque.

Nazha Succar, 49, has had no news of his family members since he fled Shajaiya. “We know nothing about the rest of our family members. We have seen moments we used to see on TV while watching the news on Syria. The corpses I saw in the street reminded me of the Sabra and Shatila massacre (near Beirut, Lebanon in 1982).” Nazra was still unaware that 30 members of the Succar family died in the random tank shelling in Shajaiya.

Salama Shalh, 14, and Ahmed Juha, 17, both of whom fled Shajaiya with their families and were staying in the church hall, asked the deacon, Ayad, “Do Christians pray once a year?” He replied “No, they pray every Sunday.” Curiously, they asked him, “What does it (the church) look like inside?” Ayad seemed confused. So, I answered them, “It looks just like a mosque.”

Read more: Gazans find sanctuary in ancient church - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Monday, 21 July 2014

BBC News - Isis militants 'seize Iraq Mar Behnam monastery and expel monks'

21 July 2014, 16:25

Islamist militants in Iraq are reported to have seized an ancient monastery near Mosul and expelled the monks. Local residents said monks at the Mar Behnam monastery were allowed to take only the clothes they were wearing.
The monastery, which dates from the 4th Century, is a major Christian landmark and a place of pilgrimage.

Christians have fled Mosul after the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) told them to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death. Isis has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate. Mosul itself is now said to be empty of Christians.

The Mar Behnam monastery is run by the Syriac Catholic Church and is near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, to the south-east of Mosul.

A member of the Syriac clergy quoted the militants as telling the monastery's residents: "You have no place here any more, you have to leave immediately." He said the monks asked to be allowed to save some of the monastery's relics but the fighters refused.

Analysis by BBC Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher
Ancient landmarks like Mar Behnam show how deeply embedded Christianity is in the culture and history of Iraq. Just as in many other Arab countries, churches and monasteries are a timeless part of the landscape.

For years, though, Christians have been warning that their hold in parts of the Middle East is weakening. In Iraq, the lightning seizure of large parts of the country by Isis has been a frightening new threat. Thousands have fled Mosul, leaving it for the first time without a Christian community, after Isis gave them an ultimatum to submit to its authority or face death.

But if Iraqi Christians face penalties and discrimination under Isis, other religious sects are faring even worse. Yazidis and Shia Muslims risk being taken out and killed on the spot for their beliefs.

Local Christian residents told AFP news agency that the monks walked for several miles before they were picked up by Kurdish fighters.

Earlier this month, Isis issued an ultimatum in Mosul, citing a historic contract known as "dhimma," under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a "jizya".

"We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword," the Isis statement said.

Isis issued a similar ultimatum in the Syrian city of Raqqa in February, calling on Christians to pay about half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety.

Iraq is home to one of the world's most ancient Christian communities but its population has dwindled amid growing sectarian violence since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Source: BBC News - Isis militants 'seize Iraq monastery and expel monks'

Muslims Attack 1800 Year Old Christian Church, And Completely Burn the Archbishopric | Walid Shoebat

While the Christian British government says nothing; while the BBC thinks none of the systematic extirpation of Christians in its ancient lands is worth covering ...

Muslims in Mosul, Iraq, burned and destroyed a 1800 year old Catholic church.  Informed sources said that the organization of the so-called Islamic State in Mosul, “Daash” had completely burned down the Syriac Catholic Diocese in Mosul, the sources said that the organization has burned the archdiocese, which lies in the area of the field and was burnt down with the full contents of its holdings. [need for clarification: the 1800 year old church remains are archaeological - those of Dura-Europos.  St Aphrem's Cathedral is modern. The Archdiocese buiding, too, is much younger - see video above. Ed]

Here is a photo of damages Muslims did inside the Armenian church earlier in the month:

A Christian named Mukhalis Yeshua, whose name means, “Yeshua the Savior,” stated:
We left Mosul as we saw that were close to being butchered, and under the threat of armed militants. It was serious and firm. …But the issue that sparked the pain and sorrow was the checkpoints exiting Mosul as the armed men searched the families, and robbed all their money as search parties from the IS (Islamic Caliphate) searched all the women and robbed their jewelry and money, telling them that such money is Islamic property.
Other families were robbed from their cars and made to walk on foot. Today and yesterday more than 135 families left Mosul and were greeted by Fr. Bashar Qadiya, stating that the Church would not budge and Islamize, emphasizing that holy Christian men refuse to negotiate with terrorists, and for that, the IS came this morning and burned the Syriac Catholic Diocese.

In Syria, Hamediyeh Street where the same Archdiocese resides is called “Sad Street”, see the condition of the church there as Shoebat.com obtained footage (above).

The burning of the church took place while forty five Christian families were escaping Mosul. Twelve Christian families were completely robbed by ISIS Muslim operatives.

This chaos is happening amidst the Muslim threat that states that Christians must convert, live as dhimmis, leave, or die. But no Christian has converted. They refuse to convert to this utterly diabolical religion and heresy.

The Christians were given three days to arrive to a meeting and convert, but not one showed up. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21) But there are still about 200 more Christian families left in Mosul. Shoebat.com urges all of you to pray for them.

Source: Muslims Attack 1800 Year Old Christian Church, And Completely Burn It Down And Destroy It | Walid Shoebat

Holy Family Eparchy of London: Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17

Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of London

Ukrainian Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland are saddened by the demise of innocent victims of terrorist attacks in Ukraine - the most recent being the passengers and crew of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, shot down in the Donetsk Region on 17 May 2014. We pray for the repose of their souls, but also for their families, that the Lord comfort them and give them strength to carry on. We offer our deepest sympathies to all.

I kindly ask the priests of the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London and in the Republic of Ireland to pray for the deceased at this Sunday's Liturgy, 20 July 2014, and pray for their families as well. After Liturgy, please pray a Panakhyda for the innocent victims of terrorist attacks in Ukraine.

Eternal Memory!

London, 19 July 2014.

Bishop Hlib
Eparch of the Holy Family of London
Apostolic Visitor for Ukrainians in Ireland

Patriarch Louis Raphael I's Appeal to all in Iraq and the World with a Conscience, 18 July 2014

An urgent message of Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad

Mosul Christians: Whither?
To all who have a living conscience in Iraq and all the world
To the voice of moderate brother Muslims who have a voice in Iraq and all the world
To all who have a concern that Iraq could remain a country for all His Children
To all leaders of thought and opinion
To all who announce the freedom of the human being
To all protectors of the dignity of human beings and of religion


The control exercised by the Islamist Jihadists upon the city of Mosul, and their proclamation of it as an Islamic State, after several days of calm and expectant watching of events, has now come to reflect negatively upon the Christian population of the city and its environs.

The initial sign was in the kidnapping of the two nuns and 3 orphans who were released after 17 days. At the time, we experienced it as a flash of hope and as a clearing of the sky after the appearance of storm clouds.

Suddenly we have been surprised by the more recent outcomes which are the proclamation of an Islamic state and the announcement calling all Christians and clearly asking them to convert to Islam or to pay the jizyah (the tax all non- Muslims must pay while living in the land of Islam) – without specifying the exact amount. The only alternative is to abandon the city and their houses with only the clothes they are wearing, taking nothing else. Moreover, by Islamic law, upon their departure, their houses are no longer their properties but are instantly confiscated as property of the Islamic state.

In recent days, there has been written the letter ‘N’ in Arabic on the front wall of Christian homes, signifying ‘Nazara’ (Christian), and on the front wall of Shiite homes, the letter ‘R’ signifying ‘Rwafidh’ (Protestants or rejecters). We do not know what will happen in future days because in an Islamic state the Al-sharia or Islamic code of law is powerful and has been interpreted to require the issuance of new I.Ds for the population based on religious or sectarian affiliation.

This categorization based upon religion or sect afflicts the Muslims as well and contravenes the regulation of Islamic thought which is expressed in the Quran which says, “You have your religion and I have my religion” and yet another place in Quran states, “There is no compulsion in religion”. This is exactly the contradiction in the life and history of the Islamic world for more than 1400 years and in the co-existence with other different religions and nations in the East.

With all due respect to belief and dogmas, there has been a fraternal life between Christians and Muslims. How much the Christians have shared here in our East specifically from the beginnings of Islam. They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life; Christian and Muslim blood has been mixed as it was shed in the defense of their rights and lands. Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.

It is clear that the result of all this discrimination legally enforced will be the very dangerous elimination of the possibility of co-existence between majorities and minorities. It will be very harmful to Muslims themselves both in the near and the distant future.

Should this direction continue to be pursued, Iraq will come face to face with human, civil, and historic catastrophe.

We call with all the force available to us; we call to you fraternally, in a spirit of human brotherhood; we call to you urgently; we call to you impelled by risk and in spite of the risk. We implore in particular our Iraqi brothers asking them to reconsider and reflect upon the strategy they have adopted and demanding that they must respect innocent and weaponless people of all nationalities, religions, and sects.

The Holy Quran has ordered believers to respect the innocent and has never called them to seize the belongings, the possessions, the properties of others by force. The Quran commands refuge for the widow, the orphaned, the poor, and the weaponless and respect "to the seventh neighbour."

We call Christians in the region to act with reason and prudence and to consider and to plan everything in the best way possible. Let them understand what is planned for this region, to practice solidarity in love, to examine the realities together and so be able together to find the paths to build trust in themselves and in their neighbors. Let them stay close to their own Church and surround it; endure the time of trial and pray until the storm will be over.

† Louis Raphael Sako
Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans
17 July 2014

Source: A Desperate Cry from Iraq's Christians

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Hilarious — even Chaplinesque: Hilarion v. the Greek Catholic Church

Andrew Sorokowski, 26 June 2014, RISU

In Metropolitan Hilarion’s view, the crisis in Ukraine, which in fact consists of a Russian invasion, is being exacerbated by the Greek-Catholic Church. Evidently, standing by the people, seeking to mediate, offering pastoral aid, and comforting the wounded and dying serve only to “make the crisis worse.”
This June, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Church Relations, addressed the Fourth European Orthodox-Catholic Forum in Miensk, Belarus. He devoted half of his greetings to the issue of Ukraine. (Quoted from rospat.ru by Robert Moynihan, Letter #22, 2014) Several of his statements about Ukraine merit commentary.

Metropolitan Hilarion asserted that in Ukraine, “The people remain deeply divided not only according to their political choices but also on religious lines.” Formally speaking, this is true. There are Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Greek-Catholics, for example. But what does “deeply” divided mean? And do these religious divisions coincide with political divisions? In fact, they do not: many Ukrainian Orthodox share the political positions of Greek-Catholics. And neither the political nor the religious differences are so deep as to actually divide the nation. On the contrary, foreign invasion has brought the Ukrainian people closer together.

“Sadly,” lamented Hilarion, “the Greek Catholics have played a very destructive role in allowing this situation to develop. The words of their leading archbishop, hierarchs and clergy and an extremely politicized position have brought about the polarization of society and a worsening of the conflict which has already led to numerous victims.”

First, one must ask how a minority of five out of forty-five million, concentrated in the west of the country, could be faulted for “allowing” the “situation” in the east to develop. And what situation, exactly, is Hilarion referring to? Ukraine is not in a state of civil war. It is being invaded by Russia. Hilarion himself bears more responsibility for “allowing this situation to develop” than the Greek Catholics. And what are these destructive “words” and “extremely politicized position”? The Church supported the people’s just demands that the government keep its promise of an Association Agreement with the European Union, that it end corruption, and that it cease to kidnap, torture, and kill journalists and political activists. That is what a truly Christian Church of the people does. Did this “worsen the conflict”? What worsened the conflict was the brutality of the Yanukovych government’s riot police and snipers, and the armed aggression of Hilarion’s government.

The metropolitan continued: “…the Uniates have ostentatiously associated themselves with only one of the belligerent forces. The aggressive words of the Uniates, actions directed at undermining the canonical Orthodox Church, active contacts with schismatics and the striving to divide a single multinational Russian Orthodox Church have caused great damage not only to the Ukraine and her citizens, but also to the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.”

In fact, there is only one belligerent force: the Russian special forces, volunteers, mercenaries, and their collaborators. But if Hilarion is referring to the period before the invasion, then there were indeed two forces: the Yanukovych government, and the peaceful demonstrators on the Maidan. And yes, the Greek-Catholic Church sided with one of these forces: the people. Hilarion’s allegation that the Greek-Catholics are “striving to divide a single multinational Russian Orthodox Church” is peculiar. First of all, how can a Church be both Russian and multinational? Second, does he mean that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate is a sham, since there is only a single Russian Church?

The metropolitan concludes that “Today once again it has been all the more obvious what the Orthodox knew – that the Unia was and, unfortunately, remains a special project of the Catholic Church aimed at undermining canonical Orthodoxy.” In one sentence, he reverses decades of ecumenical rapprochement, whereby the Orthodox Church gradually came to admit that the Eastern Churches in union with Rome had a right to exist and to participate in the dialogue. Now, Hilarion has reverted to the old position that the Union is a Catholic plot to divide the Orthodox Church. We are back to the seventeenth century. But today, this conspiracy theory constitutes a perfect analogue to Russia’s theory that the Maidan itself was a conspiracy hatched by the U.S. government to divide Russia. Perhaps he believes, along with Aleksandr Dugin, that the very notion of a Ukrainian people is part of a Western conspiracy to destroy his country.

Next, Hilarion calls for suppression of the Greek-Catholic Church’s activities: “Allow me to use this platform to appeal to all our partners in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue to do all that is possible to cool down the ‘hotheads’ among the Uniates, to halt the actions of the Greek Catholics in making the crisis in the Ukraine worse.” In his view, the “crisis” in Ukraine, which in fact consists of a Russian invasion, is being exacerbated by the Greek-Catholic Church. Evidently, standing by the people, seeking to mediate, offering pastoral aid, and comforting the wounded and dying serve only to “make the crisis worse.”

And now the metropolitan reveals the real aim of his discourse: “Today,” he asserts, “one part of the Catholic Church is employing all her strength, talents and resources in strengthening Orthodox-Catholic interaction, while another (even though it enjoys autonomous status) is doing everything possible, as in former unfortunate times, to drive the wedge of distrust and enmity between Orthodox and Catholics.” The arrogance of an Orthodox prelate judging which part of the Catholic Church is advancing ecumenical dialogue and which part is hindering it is certainly striking. But it is clear where and by whom the wedge is being driven: not by the Greek-Catholics between Catholics and Orthodox, but by Hilarion himself between Roman Catholics and Greek-Catholics, in order to isolate and neutralize the latter.

It is a clever manoeuvre, which parallels the Russian diplomatic strategy of blaming the victim of its aggression for the “crisis,” in order to isolate that victim from its natural allies. It displays the same kind of hypocrisy as Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin’s calling on the Ukrainian forces in the Crimea not to resist the invading Russians, lest there be bloodshed. The Moscow Patriarchate is certainly doing its part in the noble Russian war effort, reliving World War II by fighting the “Nazis” in Kyiv. Were it not so tragic, it would be hilarious – even Chaplinesque.

Source: Hilarious — even Chaplinesque

Reeling but Erect: Prolegomena to Ecumenism

This excellent post from Seraphim from a "Byzantine Chesterton" viewpoint, is well worth taking to heart:

Prolegomena to Ecumenism

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The recent and continuing expressions of outrage by the Moscow Patriarchate over "Uniatism", Catholic "proselytization" in Slavic countries, over the Catholic Church's recognition of St. Josaphat of Polotsk and a few other saints, and quite often simply the existence of Eastern Catholics call for the recognition of some much-needed prolegomena to ecumenical discussion.

Ecumenical discussion must be grounded in mutual respect for each other. It will accomplish nothing and go nowhere if we cannot come to grips with the fact that each other exists, that each other has saints who have suffered at our hands, that we have mistreated each other in the past, and that each communion takes its own ministry seriously and cannot reasonably be expected to shut itself down to avoid offending the other party.

There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one group complains about the existence of a minority rite in the other communion.

There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one group takes offense at the existence of another jurisdiction and insists that they not be mentioned.

There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one patriarch demands that another patriarch suppress an entire jurisdiction (to go where, exactly?), or that any jurisdiction within either the Orthodox or Catholic communion is a "stumbling block" to reunion.

There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group takes offense at the self-designation used by faithful of the other group.

There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group demands that the other cease ministering to its faithful or preaching the Gospel, whether universally or in any particular region.

There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group takes offense at discussion of the other group's saints and martyrs.

These are a bare minimum needed to talk to each other. If you do not respect the person or church you are talking to, whether you are a layman, priest, or patriarch, you should not be talking at all.

Source: Reeling but Erect: Prolegomena to Ecumenism

The Russian Church criticizes Greek-Catholics - again (Interfax-Religion)

On 26th June, Interfax, the Russian state news service with a particular focus on the works and policy of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, carried yet another diatribe from Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk against the supposed sins of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

We have extensively covered his disinformation before, arguing - we trust respectfully and eirenically - against his statements point by point, writes Fr Mark Woodruff, vice-chairman. (See hereherehere, and here.)

It follows an outburst from Patriarch Kirill himself, accusing the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of Russophobia and repeating Metropolitan Hilarion's earlier spin. Here is the link to the Intefax/Pravmir report with our point by point answers.

It is still worth, however, contrasting Metropolitan Hilarion's latest repetition of his now familiar, partisan theme with the Truth of the Matter
  1. Metropolitan Hilarion: "The UGCC supported the Euromaidan protests". What Patriarch Sviatoslav, primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, supported by his entire Patriarchal Synod, has consistently said from the outset is repeated in a May interview given to Catholic World Report: "We as a church, as the Churches—we did not call the people to protest. We were not those who would encourage such a protest. Yet we followed our people, because we recognized that those people were standing at the Maidan for ... human dignity, rule of law, rejection of violence and corruption—we as a Church have a duty to recognize the moral power of such claims. It is why churches, not just the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but Orthodox, Protestant, as well as Jewish and Muslim communities, were all present with their people on the Maidan. In some way, the people were leading us. For those three months, we were trying to be with our people and to keep the protest peaceful."
  2. Metropolitan Hilarion: "In conditions of social tensions, instead of urging to reconcile and start political dialogue they urged protesters to take radical steps." In the same interview, Patriarch Sviatoslav repeated what he and his Church have said all along: "Not just the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but Orthodox, Protestant, as well as Jewish and Muslim communities, were all present with their people on the Maidan ... For those three months, we were trying to be with our people and to keep the protest peaceful. I felt I needed to be a “preacher” of peace in order to reach the goals of the Maidan and emphasize peaceful methods were always more powerful and transformative in society than any other form of demonstration." Contrary to the spurious assertions of Metropolitan Hilarion about the words and actions of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church hierarchy and of its priests, here are the instructions issued by Patriarch Sviatoslav regarding the conduct of the pastoral clergy in the midst of the political situation in Ukraine, in February 2014: The primary task of the priest is to preach the Word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to administer the sacraments, and to lead the people in prayer, fasting, and serving the needy... The Church is an active participant of societal and not the political processes. Hence, the priest has no right to be a leader in political actions or deliver political homilies ... The church pulpit should be used only to preach the word of God and Christian morality ... The priest, under all circumstances of life, is to be a peacemaker, and especially in a civil conflict. Therefore, it is strictly forbidden to proclaim calls to violence ... The calling of each priest, in all frightening circumstances – is not to abandon his flock and to be with them.
  3. Metropolitan Hilarion: "After January's events, leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church started blaming the Russian state in all troubles happening in Ukraine. Some Greek-Catholic hierarchs represented Russia in demonic shape in their speeches." What Patriarch Sviatoslav actually believes and has consistently stated is this: "The Maidan was neither a religious nor ethnic protest. It was a “social” protest and almost half of the protesters were Russian-speaking citizens who were faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Of course the Greek Catholics were present along with the Orthodox of the “Kyiv Patriarchate” as well as Jews and Muslims. The Maidan was a sort of “mirror” of the Ukrainian society without any aggression toward the 'Russian' nation or 'Russia' as a state." 
  4. Metropolitan Hilarion: "Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk carried out several foreign trips, speaking ... at various international platforms not as a Christian pastor, but rather as a political figure ... often accompanied with attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church." What Patriarch Sviatoslav actually says is this: "Last year, before the Maidan movement, the Ukrainian Council of Churches visited Brussels twice and sent several appeals to Ukrainian society concerning the discussion of European values. As churches, we were involved in promoting that discussion and were trying to be, as a church, part of civil society in order to awaken the people. To help them undertake their responsibility for their own country. No one expected that, when our president suddenly changed his mind, such a large protest would emerge. So we as a church, as the churches—we did not call the people to protest. Yet we followed our people, because we recognized that those people were standing at the Maidan for those values, which we were promoting. If people take a stand for human dignity, rule of law, rejection of violence and corruption—we as a Church have a duty to recognize the moral power of such claims. It is why churches, not just the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but Orthodox, Protestant, as well as Jewish and Muslim communities, were all present with their people on the Maidan ... For those three months, we were trying to be with our people and to keep the protest peaceful." He also said, "Almost half of the protesters were Russian-speaking citizens who were faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Of course the Greek Catholics were present along; with the Orthodox of the “Kyiv Patriarchate” as well as Jews and Muslims. The Maidan was a sort of “mirror” of the Ukrainian society without any aggression toward the 'Russian' nation or 'Russia' as a state. Unfortunately, I have to say that there are no direct and open relations between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate and it is a pity. For the last three years, my heartfelt desire has been to establish such a direct dialogue. However, we are not able yet. But I am still open and I am praying that one day we can sit at the same table...to start to discuss our disagreements and problems." Furthermore, in an interview given to the distinguished North American author and journalist, George Weigel on May 2, 2014, he specified these two sentiments with respect to Russian and the Russian Orthodox Church: "To the Russian people: We in Ukraine wish to be good neighbours. Do not attack us. We are not your enemies, and we have no aggressive intentions. And to the Russian Orthodox Church: The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is not an enemy of the Russian Orthodox Church. We are your brothers; we have been born from the same spiritual womb. From the holy city of Kiev, where our peoples were baptized, we are sending you a message of peace. Do not let politicians provoke hatred and bloodshed among us.” Indeed, he had visited the EU Commission President in March to promote peace for Ukraine, but not at the expense of Russia or its Church. This is what he said: "In our country there is no discrimination based on language, nationality or religion. Over the last three months, Ukraine has demonstrated to all our trust in democratic values and our choice for Europe. Our deep and sincere desire is only for the reestablishment and development of our fraternal relations with Russia in friendship and in the spirit of mutual respect."
  5. Metropolitan Hilarion. "The UGCC continues demanding that Rome should officially recognize its status of a patriarchate, which was self-proclaimed in 2002. This ... disguises a pretense of the initially regional Church, [whose] believers live mostly in the Western Ukraine, for a national status and promotion of their mission in those Ukrainian regions where there have never been Greek Catholics. The UGCC actively develops its diocesan structures in south and east of Ukraine. There is information that Greek Catholic clerics are openly involved in Proselytism in these regions." The reason that there are fewer Greco-Catholics in Eastern Ukraine is the same as why there are few in Russia itself or in Belarussia where they once outnumbered Greco-Orthodox: they were oppressed by the Tsardom and then by the Soviets, forcibly converted to Orthodoxy, their property, monasteries and churches expropriated, their clergy, religious and bishops persecuted, exiled and even executed, martyrs. When the Soviet Union annexed Western Ukraine after the Second World War it liquidated the Ukrainian Catholic Church, extending the policy of expropriation, forced conversion and martyrdom. Who was awarded the dioceses, property and faithful of the Catholic Church? The Russian Orthodox Church, which has never once expressed its repentance for even enforced complicity in the midst of its own terrible suffering - a suffering which earned it the love and support of all the Christian world, including the remnant of the Ukrainian Catholic Church despite the injuries it had endured. Russia is supposed to respect freedom of religion, speech and conscience, yet does not allow the Russian Catholic Church to organise in the necessary way to serve its faithful, many of whom were exiled to Siberia and now live under the aegis of the Dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church, also established in the teeth of resentment from the Moscow Patriarchate. (And see here news of the restrictions recently experienced by Catholics and non-Russian Orthodox in Ukraine.) Meanwhile, the Russian Church organises dioceses in Western Ukraine, where it never existed before, other than by 60 years of state imposition, and all across the world in diaspora, despite the canonical rule of the Orthodox Church that this is the responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate alone. This includes Russian dioceses permanently established in the territory of the Latin Church in Europe, and in the territories which are the responsibility of other Orthodox patriarchates. The Ukrainian Catholic Church has a right and a duty to ensure that its faithful are served wherever they may be - in the worldwide diaspora it keeps to the rules of the wider Church, not only for right relations with the Latin Church but also with the other Byzantine Catholic Churches and other Eastern Catholics. In Ukraine, where its faithful are living and working everywhere, it has not only the obligation but the prerogative to ensure the order and sacraments of the Church are in place for the pastoral and sacramental care of the faithful but also, as with every Church which follows the path of Christ, for evangelisation and the constant announcement of His good news. No Christian, no Catholic, worthy of the name undermines the  proclamation of Christ by weakening another part of His Church through proselytism. In evangelisation, even when the churches are in disagreement and our communion is but partial, we are nonetheless partners. And, as Patriarch Sviatoslav's words above show amply and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church's actions and statements have shown throughout the crisis alongside the leaders of other Churches - including the minority Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate - this harmony, reconciliation and loving collaboration is the Catholic's plain desire and the real truth in this matter.
The Interfax report with His Eminence Hilarion's comments is at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, here is a masterly post from Seraphim, in his blogsite Reeling but Erect, written in response to the Metropolitan's and other's objection to the existence and spiritual life and history of Eastern Catholic Churches, lest there be no ecumenism, and none of the unity on which Christ insisted in his prayer the night before he died.

Prolegomena to Ecumenism, July 28, 2014
The recent and continuing expressions of outrage by the Moscow Patriarchate over "Uniatism", Catholic "proselytization" in Slavic countries, over the Catholic Church's recognition of St. Josaphat of Polotsk and a few other saints, and quite often simply the existence of Eastern Catholics call for the recognition of some much-needed prolegomena to ecumenical discussion. 
Ecumenical discussion must be grounded in mutual respect for each other. It will accomplish nothing and go nowhere if we cannot come to grips with the fact that each other exists, that each other has saints who have suffered at our hands, that we have mistreated each other in the past, and that each communion takes its own ministry seriously and cannot reasonably be expected to shut itself down to avoid offending the other party. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one group complains about the existence of a minority rite in the other communion. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one group takes offense at the existence of another jurisdiction and insists that they not be mentioned. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort so long as one patriarch demands that another patriarch suppress an entire jurisdiction (to go where, exactly?), or that any jurisdiction within either the Orthodox or Catholic communion is a "stumbling block" to reunion. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group takes offense at the self-designation used by faithful of the other group. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group demands that the other cease ministering to its faithful or preaching the Gospel, whether universally or in any particular region. 
There will be no ecumenical progress of any sort if one group takes offense at discussion of the other group's saints and martyrs. 
These are a bare minimum needed to talk to each other. If you do not respect the person or church you are talking to, whether you are a layman, priest, or patriarch, you should not be talking at all. 
Source: Reeling but Erect: Prolegomena to Ecumenism

The Russian Church criticizes Greek-Catholics for anti-Russian outbursts and proselytism

Moscow, June 26, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate official speaks about strong political involvement of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

"The UGCC not only supported the Euromaidan protests from the very start, but its parishioners and clerics participated in them. It is no secret that the main moving force of the Kiev events were residents of the Western Ukraine where the major part of Greek Catholics live," head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion told Interfax-Religion in his interview on Thursday.

According to him, in conditions of social tensions, instead of "urging to reconcile and start political dialogue they urged protesters to take radical steps."

"After January events, leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church started blaming the Russian state in all troubles happening in Ukraine. Some Greek-Catholic hierarchs represented Russia in demonic shape in their speeches," the interviewee of the agency said.

He points out that UGCC hierarchs openly urge western countries to take "tough actions" against our country and the UGCC supreme Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk carried out several foreign trips, speaking "at various international platforms not as a Christian pastor, but rather as a political figure." According to the metropolitan, the UGCC head's anti-Russian discourses "are often accompanied with attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church."

The hierarch further said that at the same time the UGCC continues demanding that Rome should officially recognize its status of a patriarchate, which was self-proclaimed in 2002.

"This aspiration disguises pretense of the initially regional Church, which believers live mostly in the Western Ukraine, for a national status and promotion of their mission in those Ukrainian regions where there have never been Greek Catholics. The UGCC actively develops its diocesan structures in south and east of Ukraine. There is information that Greek Catholic clerics are openly involved in Proselytism in these regions," the Russian church official said.

According to the metropolitan, the UGCC leaders maintain close relations with the "Kiev Patriarchate," which is not recognized in the Orthodox world.

"We should confess that all these things don't help establish direct contacts with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. And recent developments in Ukraine when Greek Catholic hierarchs practiced anti-Russian rhetoric and attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church make a possibility of such contacts even more problematic," Metropolitan Hilarion summed up.

Source: Interfax-Religion

Friday, 18 July 2014

Iraq Now ‘Chaos,’ Says Chaldean Patriarch | Daily News | NCRegister.com

Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako urged Shiites and Sunnis in parliament to compromise on their differences and unite to save Iraq.

VATICAN CITY — Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Iraq has written a letter urging Iraqi government officials to “waste no more time” in electing new leaders, and he lamented the grim possibility of finding a peaceful solution to conflict.

“Only the president of the parliament was elected; and later, maybe next week, there will be an election for the president of the republic and also the prime minister,” Patriarch Sako told CNA July 16, following the July 15 election of Salim al-Jubouri as the new speaker of Iraq’s parliament.

“But you know many cities are not controlled by the government. It’s really chaos.”

Salim al-Jubouri’s election marks the end of a three-month deadlock in Iraqi elections, which have remained drawn out in the wake of the attacks waged by militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). ISIS now styles itself as the “Islamic State” and has carved out a sizeable amount of territory in northwestern Iraq in addition to its territorial holdings in eastern Syria.

“There is a political solution” to the violence, Patriarch Sako affirmed, stating that “if they wanted to form a government of national unity, they can”; however, “it’s difficult.”

“The jihadists, the extremists, are controlling several of the capital cities, so the government should have a professional army … to put them away, to change them,” he continued.

Members of ISIS, a militant group that has been fighting to establish a new Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, overtook the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, and the city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, on June 10.

The group had seized portions of Ramadi and Falluja earlier; Tal Afar was seized by ISIS June 16; and the group briefly held parts of Baquba, 37 miles outside of Baghdad, the following day.

ISIS currently controls much of the Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq, as well as cities along the Euphrates River in northwest Syria.

In his July 16 letter to members of the Iraqi parliament, the patriarch joined his voice to “the honorable Shiites and Sunnites” in “begging” officials “to accelerate the elections of the three presidencies to save the country.”

Referring to the elections as a “national, historical and moral responsibility,” he encouraged parliament to “start in presenting some ‘giving ups’ and work hard to elect the three presidencies very quickly, because the lives of the Iraqis, and the unity of Iraq, are in danger.”

A Fragile Future

“The future is very fragile, is very critical,” the patriarch told CNA, “and in some cities, Christians are very few. For instance, in Mosul, they left the city; there are only about 200 people ... and, now, really, immigration is going on.”

“The situation is not stable, the future is unknown, and everyone is waiting: not only Christians, but also Muslims.”

According to U.N. figures, acts of violence and terrorism have killed at least 2,400 Iraqis and 1,500 civilians in June alone. The violence has also driven more than 1 million people from their homes.

Kurdish forces have separately moved into cities like Kirkuk and other areas abandoned by the Iraqi Army. BBC news reported Monday that a political rift has opened between Iraq’s Kurdish leaders and others in the government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“So Christians are a minority, and they want a solution, but where is it?” Patriarch Sako said.

“In Iraq, it’s a little bit difficult,” the patriarch noted. “Really, for the moment, I am not feeling that” a peaceful solution is possible, because “the culture is a little bit different.”

In his letter to parliament, Patriarch Sako encouraged officials to pray together at the beginning of their next meeting that God will help them to “use the dialogue between us and that we may understand each other to resolve the misunderstanding between us, far from restriction and sectarianism.

“God help us to spread the peace and tranquility between our people, so that Iraq may come out from its problem victorious. Amen.”

Read more: Iraq Now ‘Chaos,’ Says Chaldean Patriarch | Daily News | NCRegister.com

Married Clergy, Monastic Celibacy: The Eastern Balance - Catholic Exchange

July 17, 2014, Benjamin Mann    

My perspective on celibacy is an unusual one. Shortly after I became a Christian, at age 21, I began thinking about forgoing marriage – even though I was strongly attracted to the prospect of marriage, and belonged to a non-denominational Protestant group with no formal concept of “consecrated life.” Nonetheless, from the witness of Scripture and tradition, I could see that the unmarried state was a great gift, and one that God might possibly desire to give me.

However, when I entered the Catholic Church, not long after my initial Christian conversion, I did so in the Byzantine Catholic (or “Greek Catholic”) tradition – one of the Eastern Catholic ritual traditions, in which parish clergy are normally married. For reasons I will discuss shortly, this is not currently the standard practice among Byzantine Catholics in North America. But it is allowed in some cases; and I myself was received into the Church by a married Byzantine priest, Fr. Chrysostom Frank.

So, on the one hand, I have always had a high view of apostolic celibacy: as a witness to the Kingdom of God, and as the source – for some people – of a greater freedom to serve the Lord. I believe I am one of those people; and so I am pursuing a celibate vocation, working toward becoming a monk at Holy Resurrection Monastery. On the other hand, I have felt quite at home for almost eight years in a parish led by a married priest together with his “matushka” (our term for a priest’s wife in the Slavic tradition).

The question of celibacy and marriage, and the balance between them, has been in the headlines recently – particularly in relation to the Eastern Catholic churches. In June 2014, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation – an organ of ecumenical work between the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Orthodox churches – recommended that the Vatican lift all restrictions on the ordination of married men among the Eastern Catholic jurisdictions of North America.

This recommendation came on the 85th anniversary of the Vatican decree “Cum Data Fuerit,” which imposed clerical celibacy on the Byzantine Catholic jurisdictions of North America. Although married clergy continued to serve in the historic Greek Catholic homelands, they could not serve in Western countries; nor could married Greek Catholic men be ordained here, for fear that this would confuse the larger Roman Catholic population. This issue, and prior tensions related to it, caused two lasting schisms.

The once-total ban on married Byzantine Catholic priests in North America has been relaxed in recent years. Married clergy from overseas may now serve here, and the Greek Catholic jurisdictions in North America may ordain married men with approval from Rome on a case-by-case basis – an option that is increasingly exercised. There is talk of petitioning Rome to remove even this restriction, a proposal that has received new momentum with the recommendation of the Orthodox-Catholic Consultation.

It is clear to me that this should occur as soon as possible. A blanket permission for married Eastern Catholic clergy in North America would be an important act of ecumenical reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Orthodox churches, which have always allowed the practice. It would also accord with the mandate of the Second Vatican Council, which called on all the Eastern Catholic churches to recover the fullness of their traditional ethos.

However, this conclusion does raise a further question. Apostolic celibacy – the choice to forgo marriage for the sake of God and his Kingdom – is still an essential part of the Byzantine Christian heritage, as it is part of every traditional, historic expression of the Christian faith. Thus, it is entirely legitimate to ask: if a married priesthood is fully permitted (as I believe it ought to be) among Greek Catholics in North America, where will the witness of apostolic celibacy come from in our churches?

This question is not hard to answer, if we look to tradition: alongside the custom of married parish clergy, Byzantine Christians have historically maintained the evangelical witness of celibacy in their monasteries. Monasticism began among Eastern Christians, and its later Western forms drew heavily from Eastern sources. Monastic celibacy is fundamental to our heritage – so much so that, out of respect for their presumed spiritual authority, the Eastern churches traditionally choose only monks to become bishops.

Read full article here: Married Clergy, Monastic Celibacy: The Eastern Balance

DECR chairman meets with Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church | The Russian Orthodox Church

On 6 June 2014, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), met with the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Syrian Catholic Church, Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younan, who was on a visit to St. Petersburg and Moscow together with a group of pilgrims.

Metropolitan Hilarion warmly greeted the guests at the DECR premises on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and noted a particular importance of His Holiness’ visit to Syria and Lebanon in 2011, when he met with the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East. The DECR chairman underscored that the protection of Christians in the region drawn in the armed conflict is a priority for the Russian Orthodox Church. Her authorities try to do anything possible to help Christians by rendering them spiritual support and material aid and by taking part in the processes of peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Patriarch Joseph III Younan thanked Metropolitan Hilarion for hospitality and expressed deep gratitude to him and to Patriarch Kirill for the efforts undertaken by the Moscow Patriarchate for supporting the suffering Christians. As political and religious leaders of the West do not pay enough attention to the situations of Christians in the region, Christians in the Middle East are particularly grateful to Russia and the Russian Church for defending their interests and aid.

Metropolitan Hilarion assured the high guests that the Moscow Patriarchate in close cooperation with the Russian state will exert efforts for the achievement of peace and wellbeing of Christians in the Middle East.

Source and photos here, where Catholics are tagged as one of the "heterodoxies" - contrast that with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: DECR chairman meets with Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church | The Russian Orthodox Church

Orientale Lumen Conference XVIII - Ancient Faith Radio Podcasts

Sessions from this year's conference run by our sister Society of St John Chrysostom in the USA are featured on Ancient Faith Radio. The theme was the Ecumenical Dimensions of Marriage.

Click here to visit the Orientale Lumen Foundation store, and here to visit the Orientale Lumen Conferences web site, with links to SSJC, etc.

Here is the link to Ancient Faith Radio, for podcasts of the Sessions from such figures as Metropolitan Kallistos, Archimandrite Robert Taft SJ, Sister Vassa Larin and Archpriest Peter Galadza.

Source: Orientale Lumen Conference XVIII - Ancient Faith Radio

▶ Love Wins - An Orthodox View of the Atonement compared with a Protestant View - YouTube

A comparison of the Evangelical Protestant substitutionary view of the Atonement and the Orthodox view of salvation - illustrated with chairs. It is worth saying that the Evangelical position derives from St Anselm, doctor magnificus of the Latin Church, and is one of a number of explanations of the Atonement to be found in the Latin West, including those similar to that presented in the video as Orthodox.

But the insistence on holding this view as the normative or even exclusive theological truth marks out Evangelical Christians and their churches from others and lies at the heart of Protestant-Catholic and Protestant-Orthodox separation. In the West, this is little realised for two reasons: the tendency of English-speaking Protestants to move from an Augustinian view of salvation which marks the Reformed, Anglican and Latin Catholic traditions, towards a more universalist, Arminian position often associated with Wesleyan Methodism; secondly the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation resolving after dialogue one of the great theological differences in the 16th century that caused the Protestant-Catholic split that led to the rise of separate confessional churches and denominations (The World Methodist Council has subscribed this Declaration as its own faith, but the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Anglican Communion, with its Reformed roots, and have not).

Thus the tendency is to assume that the Catholic-Protestant disagreement over the doctrines of grace and atonement have been resolved, or are at least no longer to be seen as necessarily Church-dividing, whereas the dogmatic declaration of (eg in Britain) the Evangelical Alliance that the Anselmian position must primarily be maintained and taught by members excludes other Protestants, including the main post-Reformation Church in England, the Anglican Church, and of course the Catholic Church (whatever the current vogue for Catholics to self-describe as Catholic Evangelicals). In practice, however, many Protestants, including Evangelicals, would tend to preach the Atonement using any of the classic theologies, including that described in the film as "Orthodox", or indeed a combination of them. Indeed all have their roots in the Fathers, in the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church when East and West were not in disunion - whether Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian, Latin-Byzantine, or Catholic-Protestant.

Source: ▶ Love Wins - An Orthodox View - YouTube

The Ecumenical Laboratory of Ukraine: The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Moscow, Rome and the Orthodox | Catholic World Report

June 16, 2014, Brett R. McCaw
A conversation with His Beatitude Lubomyr Cardinal Husar about the Maidan movement and relationships between Catholics and Orthodox - and the Roman Catholic Vatican's attitude to Eastern Catholics
On June 7th, Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated as Ukraine’s first elected president since the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych in late February. As Poroshenko’s presidency will take on the challenges of a country whose interests straddle both East and West, the pivotal role of churches within the Ukraine’s contemporary political developments cannot be overlooked. While culturally Orthodox, contemporary Ukraine is one of Europe’s most ecclesiastically pluralistic countries with the historical presence of Eastern-rite Catholic, Latin-Rite Catholic, Protestant, and smaller Jewish and Muslim communities along with its Orthodox majority, which is represented by three churches: Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
What St. John Paul II would once refer to as the “Ecumenical Laboratory of Ukraine” during his 2001 Papal visit to the country was very much manifest within the Maidan movement over the past seven months. The ecumenical presence of clergy along with public liturgies and prayers were quintessential to the “Maidan” gatherings on Kyiv’s Independence Square that began in late November of 2013.
Among the most notable religious figures within post-Soviet Ukraine is His Beatitude Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern-rite Church in communion with Rome, from 2001 until his retirement in 2011. During his decade of leadership, Cardinal Husar became a unanimously respected moral and ecumenical voice in the country. Nevertheless, his leadership faced significant challenges posed by the legacies of Soviet Communism and the historical enmities between Ukraine’s Catholic and Orthodox faithful.
In this interview with the Catholic World Report, Cardinal Husar offers his characteristically candid, yet wise, insight into the role of the Church in Ukraine’s Maidan movement, the question of ecumenism in Ukraine, and the oftentimes complex relationship between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.
CWR: Do you feel that the experience of the Maidan movement has created an opportunity for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to show its solidarity for the whole of Ukraine?
His Beatitude Lubomyr: The Church was not an agent, but served. And we made a point of it. We were there to serve the people who had come on their own. We had done nothing consciously to advise people—to “convince” them to go. I addressed the Maidan a couple of times in order to emphasize that the Church supported the Maidan and for what it stood.
At last, the people of Ukraine would live in a truly democratic society. We have always spoken simply—welcoming what has happened simply in the sense of serving and not in the intention of taking lead to become a leader in this entire movement, but to serve people and serve their religious needs.
CWR:During your leadership, you made strong efforts to strengthen ecumenism between your Church (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) and Orthodox churches of Ukraine. In particular, how would you assess the relationship of your church with the Russian Orthodox Church—Moscow Patriarchate?
His Beatitude Lubomyr: Well, I did try to maintain contacts. But, I did not think we made great achievements. At least we did not fight one another. So I think we have been very peaceful, albeit very divided society. Concerning the Ukrainian Orthodox under the Moscow Patriarchate, as long as the former, pro-Russian government (under Viktor Yanukovych) was in office, it was very difficult to speak with many of them. Now, since the truth, so to say, is well known to everybody regarding the attitude of Russia toward Ukraine, I think that speaking with our confreres within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow patriarchate has become much easier.
Nevertheless, the situation is still settling and we will have to wait. There are still many positive signs. For example, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, is in close contact with the Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitans Volodymyr (of the Moscow Patriarchate), Patriarch Filaret (of Kyiv Patriarchate), and others. Moreover, between our churches as of late, there have been numerous common documents and declarations. Hence, there seems to be much more mutual understanding between us. Over the last few months, there have hardly been any attacks from anyone against anyone else. So, I think this is a very interesting, but a very difficult period. We hope that the Orthodox in Ukraine will find and re-establish unity. At that point, we will see ecumenism in Ukraine as a very promising thing. During his 2001 visit, Pope St. John Paul II spoke of Ukraine as an “ecumenical laboratory”.
Yet, I do not think that we should fall into some spirit of unjustified euphoria, thinking that tomorrow everything will be set. It will take much, much, time. I have no doubts about that. With the help of God, the situation is neither tragic nor hopeless. However, concerning formal, ultimate, real re-unification—well, this is something for the long-term future.
CWR: In the Vatican’s ecumenical outreach to the Russian Orthodox Church—Moscow Patriarchate, has your Church been incorporated in any way?
His Beatitude Lubomyr: Well, no. Since the time of Cardinal Casaroli, the Vatican has been in contact with the Russian Orthodox Church—Moscow Patriarchate on a speaking-basis, which is not bad. Pope St. John XXIII once wisely said that “no matter what, its good to speak to one another.” Now, as you know, politics has played a major role here. The Moscow Patriarchate insists that it cannot meet the Pope until the Vatican has “put in place” the “[Ukrainian] Greek Catholics”. Even President Putin, several years ago, has spoken of our Church as being a problem—as being an enemy—as being unjustly nationalist and so on. Moreover, he claimed that we were persecuting the Orthodox faithful in western Ukraine, but nobody can prove anything, because there is no such “persecution”.
As a matter of fact, the Vatican realized this, because at the beginning, the Vatican believed that, but we made it clear that this was not the case. The Vatican knows now that we are not persecuting anybody—that the Orthodox, be it the Moscow Patriarchate or the Kyivan Patriarchate, are perfectly free in western Ukraine.
CWR: So, the response of the Vatican with regard to your role with the Moscow Patriarchate has been supportive, generally?
His Beatitude Lubomyr: Well, you see, when I was still in office, there was a project that would allow us to discuss with the Orthodox. The Vatican does not recognize the other Orthodox churches in Ukraine, just the Moscow Patriarchate. So, the Vatican and Moscow would be like elder “brothers” who would sit in on the discussion. I said, "No, we do not need the elder brother—if we want to, we can speak for ourselves.” I don’t think that that some in the Vatican were terribly happy about that—or so I heard, I don't know. But we did not wish to enter into this. The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, on at least two occasions, has encouraged us to maintain contacts, but also strongly urged us to take our own tradition very seriously concerning the fact that we are an Eastern Church—Catholic, yet Eastern.
The present Pope as well as Pope Benedict have been supportive of us. The Vatican Curia has always tried to maintain contacts with Moscow as many high officials of the Curia visit the Moscow Patriarchate. In itself, this is not something bad.
CWR: Has Rome made any effort to reach out to the other Orthodox Churches of Ukraine—the Kyiv Patriarchate or Autocephalous Church?
His Beatitude Lubomyr: Somehow, they never wanted to … There was Cardinal Cassidy, Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Koch—they always avoided, very consciously, contacts with the “non-canonical” Orthodox. The idea was to not offend Moscow. I think something more could have been done. The Holy Father [St. John Paul II], in this sense, when he was here in 2001, spoke with all, without making any distinction. The Pope did a great thing because he showed that he was open—equally open to everybody and I think this left a good impression. But somehow, the politics are the way they are. I am not happy with it, but there are many other things that I do not know, so I don't presume to make judgment on anybody.
CWR: With regard to Russia, could you tell me a little bit about the situation of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the Russian Federation and the obstacles to providing adequate pastoral ministry for them?
His Beatitude Lubomyr: Neither the Russian Catholic (Eastern-rite) nor the Ukrainian Greek Catholics are able to officially register. The attitude of the government is that Russia is supposed to be Orthodox and if you are not Orthodox, you are a traitor. And here are Catholics—Eastern Catholics—be it Russian or Ukrainian, who are good Christians as well as good citizens and thus contradict what the government officially says on this matter. Technically, the Russian Catholic (Eastern-rite) Exarchate exists—even though there is no current Exarch, it’s nevertheless in the books.
Our Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church exists in Russia, but our priests operate as part of the Latin Church. The Bishop of Novosibirsk was appointed by the Holy See as a sort of “protector” and is trying to help, but they have many difficulties. It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not easy. In Russia, those who are further from Moscow and who are not under the eye of the 'elder brother' seem to manage better. Such priests working there should certainly be admired.

The Ecumenical Laboratory of Ukraine | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views