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

17-20 September 2014 - Orientale Lumen UK, East-West Meeting XI, Minster Abbey - Sacred Art & Sacred Music - 50 Years Since Paul VI and Athenagoras in Jerusalem. Dr Alexander Lingas & Dr Christopher Hodkinson, Musicians East and West. Angela Maguin, Gregorian Chant & St Hildegard. Irina Lomax, Iconographer. Further details from http://www.minsterabbeynuns.org/. Bookings to Sr Benedict Gaughan osb, St Mildred's Priory, Minster Abbey, Ramsgate, CT12 4HF (deposit £5). Download booking form here.

6 November 2014 - Fr Mark Drew: The Filioque - Past Division, Journey to Reconciliation? Lessons from A 13th Century Controversy The SSJC Christopher Morris Lecture 2014. 7-15 pm at the Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Duke Street, London W1, after Divine Liturgy at 6-15pm. All welcome. RSVP johnchrysostom@btinternet.com

26-28 November 2014 - Eastern Christian Thought & Practice for 21st Century Europe,Theotokos Institute, University of Cardiff. 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/

Saturday, 16 August 2014

UGCC Responds to Patriarch Kirill's Accusations

"Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, has recently called upon the Primates of Orthodox Churches to protect Orthodox Christians in Eastern Ukraine from "uniates" and "schismatics."
Here is the official response of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church:
1 The tragedy that Ukraine is experiencing today, due to military aggression, is a tragedy for all peoples, believers of all faiths, and all social groups. Buildings, churches and monasteries of all religious and ethnic groups are being destroyed. Clergy of all faiths who exercise their pastoral ministry in the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts and Crimea have suffered, some risking their own lives.

During the months of military confrontation, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has continually called upon ways to seek a peaceful resolution. In no way should this resolution be construed as a denial of the rights and obligations of citizens of Ukraine to defend their freedom and independence. The UGCC and representatives of other Churches and religious organizations have taken concrete measures in providing humanitarian assistance to all victims of aggression in Eastern Ukraine, regardless of religious affiliation and national identity.

We strongly condemn all acts of violence against civilians in Ukraine, including its clergy, no matter which denomination, religion or ethnic group they belong to. The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations has called for an immediate cessation of violence and the disarmament of all illegally armed militia groups whose atrocities have claimed the lives of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers, policemen, civilians, women and children.

2 The assertion that the Antiterrorist Operation only affects the Orthodox faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate is a dangerous one. Its purpose is to fan the fires of divisiveness and create the illusion that Ukrainian society at large is victimizing one denominational group. It is unacceptable and evil to place the rights of freedom and independence of the Ukrainian people into a denominational framework. This provokes new tensions and turmoil in Ukrainian society - this time in the area of interfaith relations. Today Ukraine needs religious men and women to nurture peace and not to provoke violence.

3 The Ukrainian military is not structured as a denominational entity. Therefore, chaplains of various denominations serve in the zone of the Antiterrorist Operation. They exercise their ministry in conformity with the regulations of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. These regulations and guidelines were created by an interfaith pastoral council, whose membership includes representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate]. Chaplains are not permitted to interfere in the life of local religious communities. Accusations that chaplains of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church have committed acts of violence against members of other churches and religious groups are not true. We strongly reject such claims and accusations.

4 We call upon the Primates of all Christian Churches, religious and government leaders, and the international community to express their solidarity with the Ukrainian people during this difficult time. We also call upon all people of good will to honestly assess all acts of aggression against our country, regardless of how this aggression is disguised. Let us work together to stop bloodshed so that peace may reign in Ukraine, and that justice and good neighborly relations may exist between all countries and peoples of the modern world."

Protopresbyter Ihor Yatsiv
Office of Communications, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
(Translation by Father Myron Panchuk)  see the original Ukrainian here

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Plight of the Church in Iraq: Vice Chairman's Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday of Christ Walking on the Water, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, 10th August 2014, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, London
Troparion of the Resurrection, Tone 8. You came down from on high, O Merciful One, and accepted three days of burial to free us from our sufferings. O Lord, our life and our resurrection, glory be to You.

1 Corinthians 3:9-17

Matthew 14:22-34

It is difficult at the present time to think of the Church as being built, when daily news arrives of our ancient sanctuaries being destroyed, either as collateral damage in war, or as a direct act of intended destruction on the part of violent, jealous men, who hide behind religious zeal their true identity as bank robbers, as perverts that rape girls and disabled old ladies, and as psychopathic serial killers that are even now murdering our brothers and sisters in the Household of Faith, or condemning them to the searing heat of the desert without food, water or shelter. It looks like the Church is being destroyed in the lands where it first took root, Iraq - the cradle of civilisation, where different peoples (such as the Assyrians, Arabs, Turkics and Persians) and different faiths (such as Sunni and Shia Islam, Zoroastrianism, Assyrian and Syriac Christianity, Catholic and Orthodox) have lived in harmony side by side for centuries.

But somehow and somewhere in all this we are to see the work of the Lord who is faithful to his people and to all humanity, even when we are tested, as St Paul tells us, in the fire. The apostle’s words recalls to us the Lord’s own parable of the house built upon sand and the house built upon the rock. The point he is making is not about the relative strength of faith, but the strength of the grace that we rely on, as opposed to our own efforts. It almost goes without saying that the House of the Lord which is the Church of God in Iraq, led so nobly by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, is a house whose foundations are the gold and silver and precious stones that really have been tried in the fire. The buildings and everything they have may have been taken away - as St Paul says “the builder will suffer loss”; and did not our Lord say “from those who have nothing even what they have will be taken away”? – but the grace of God has been shown to be the foundation not just of an ethnic or religious identity, but of the house of their faith.
Compare this with the story of St Peter, bidden by Christ to walk on nothing more than water to meet him. Peter did not believe that it was possible, started out, thought again and began to sink. It was the Lord’s hand, not his own efforts and will power, that caught him. Jesus questions the strength of Peter’s belief in him, yet at the same time makes it clear that everything that can be achieved and withstood depends not on our strengths but on the hand of God.
Paul speaks of testing construction handiwork by fire; the construction of Peter’s foundations in faith is flooded out by water. But it is the same story. In time, with the help and grace of the Holy Spirit, he rebuilt and became the Rock on which Christ was able to build his Church. Likewise the Christians of the old Roman Empire were able to face the onslaught, knowing what was to be demanded of them, because they saw that Christ is the centre and summit of all existence and of human society, whatever the appearances. Thus Paul clearly recognised the coming of a moment when God’s temple, where the Spirit dwells in Christ’s own people, would be destroyed.
I cannot presume to know what our brothers and sisters in Iraq are going through, having lost not only everything they have but, for the second time in a century for some of them, being driven out of their historic lands and holy places. I cannot begin to enter into their grief, bitterness, desperation and mourning: now is not the time for those in the comfort of Britain to exhort them to fortitude, courage and joy in adversity. But we and they can recognise in their suffering and destruction the Lord who trod this path before and who, as he passed through death, spoke somehow of forgiveness, redemption and the promise of paradise.
Because of this, we who are Christians pin all our hopes on the resurrection, knowing that it is not some far off after-life, or a dream to console us in our pain and misery. The resurrection of Christ back then, is the same as the coming of the Kingdom of God now. For as we sing today, “You came down from on high, O merciful One, and accepted three days of burial to free us from our sufferings.” 
St Paul said that if anyone destroys God’s temple, the holy place which we Christians are, then God will destroy that person. So let our prayer today on behalf of all our suffering brothers and sisters in the temple of God, the House of Faith in which we all dwell in the Spirit, be that those who hate the Church and who hate the humanity made in the image of God’s Christ himself, may be brought not to the destruction of their lives but of all that is wrong in them. Let them now be put to the test – whether it be water or fire – so that all that is evil and vain, and resentful and unforgiving and merciless, may melt away and the underlying structure of God’s handiwork be revealed – a frame on which there can be more grace, more forgiveness, and more humanity. Let them be converted to the Lord and live.
And as for us, in this Cathedral of the Holy Family, under the patronage of St Joseph who provided a home for Our Lord and the Mother of God, which began as a Church for inspiring and consoling those in exile, and which now stands as a sign for nations and societies in whom the Temple of the Lord is being rebuilt, let us remember that we have nothing to stand on unless it is the Lord that reaches out his hand to hold us up. We stand because he has stood up having been beaten down by death. Now risen from the dead, he leaves nothing behind that calls out to him, “Lord save me.” For, seeing us, who call upon God’s help to be the human beings that God means us all to be – people of love, and grace, forgiveness and hope –the world recognises Christ and turns to him as Lord. So, hearing our words and our songs ringing true, could it be that those who do not know him and even now oppose him and would bring down his Kingship - could it be that they too - would sing:
O Lord, our life and our resurrection, glory be to You? 
In hope of this, let us say with Patriarch Louis Raphael the prayer he has just written and issued to all the world that the cries of the Christians in Iraq will be our own in complete solidarity:
Lord, the plight of our country is deep
and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening.

Therefore, we ask you, Lord,
to spare our lives, and to grant us patience,
and courage to continue our witness of Christian values
with trust and hope.

Lord, peace is the foundation of life;
Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us
to live with each other without fear and anxiety,
and with dignity and joy.

Glory be to You forever.


Saturday, 2 August 2014

IRAQ Patriarch of Baghdad, Mosul Christians should be able to stay in Iraq, not forced into exile - Asia News


Patriarch of Baghdad, Mosul Christians should be able to stay in Iraq, not forced into exile
Mar Sako thanks France and Bahrain for the proposal to facilitate visas for Iraqi Christians, but calls for support for "a political solution" so the population is not forced to leave Iraq. Desperate need for emergency aid and shelters for refugees.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The families that have fled Mosul "must be able to stay in our homeland, Iraq". Facilitating their exile through special visas is not the real solution, rather a political effort is needed that will "allow us all to remain in this nation that we love and to live in safety, equality and dignity with everyone", says the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Raphael Louis Sako, in a message sent to AsiaNews, after the flight of about 500 thousand Muslims and Christians from Mosul, following the Islamic State's conquest of the city and its establishment of a Caliphate there under strict sharia.

In recent days, France and Bahrain reportedly stated they are willing to offer asylum to Christians from Mosul, facilitating visas for them.

The Patriarch thanked Paris and Sana'a "for their generous proposal", "it honors us and honors the countries that make it", but he stresses that "if we leave our homeland we will destroy the memory of our ancient history". Rather than a temporary, humanitarian solution to the emergency, a "political solution" is what is needed: "all components of the Iraqi nation and the international assembly needs to think about finding a lasting solution that respects everyone and can save our country from this chaos and barbarity. "

The patriarch - who yesterday returned from a visit to the families who have sought refuge in Kurdistan - says that "today, these displaced families have nothing left, the jihadists robbed them of everything and they are in a situation of insecurity, pain and dire need".

While respecting the personal decisions of each of refugees, Mar Sako says that "if France and other countries really want to help, [they should do so] encouraging these families to stay by sending them emergency aid to ease their pain and help the construction of housing in the cities where they can live in security".

He points out that on the other hand, the proposal to accommodate these families abroad, without knowing their number "is no simple thing, and certainly we must also think about the huge uprooting this entails with regard to the difference in language , culture, mentality and customs".

Source: IRAQ Patriarch of Baghdad, Mosul Christians should be able to stay in Iraq, not forced into exile - Asia News

Reflection with Fr Robin Gibbons - ICN

Saturday, August 2, 2014 11:28 am

What does it mean for a Christian in fear of their life in Iraq, a Syrian Christian bombed out of home and church or a child whose whose family has been blown to bits in Gaza or somebody with the Ebola virus, to hear those words of Paul, ‘nothing can separate us from the love of Christ?’. Would they find comfort in a pain beyond words, in a loss we can only vaguely acknowledge.

This is where pious platitudes and sentimental religion collapse, this is the point where the Christ of salvation loses his clothes and church finery, moves out of a safe sacramental world we create and becomes the bloodied Christ of the cross. The one who cries ‘ father forgive, they know not what they do!”.This is the point where the raw love of God remains our hope!

We are all complicit in the savagery of this world, we in the West have it so easy, but that cannot last. If we follow the Lord the cross is ours to carry and transformation comes through bearing one another’s burdens. Jesus in the Gospel sees the crowd and takes pity on them, but before he celebrates a meal with them he is active in curing the sick. A message for us who have weekly Eucharist, that the beginning of our sacramental celebration lies with the care of real people, there the body of Christ is first encountered. The needs of the poor, hungry, homeless come before our need for sacramental celebration which connects with our active love.

Isaiah shows us God literally calling people from want and need to life, but that, on this earth has to be through us! The scriptures are not simply pages in a book or nice poetic readings, they are God’s voice calling us to respond now!

But back to my initial question, how do people who have had far more suffering than we ever will know, who in a true sense take on sufferings far more painful than the Christ on the cross, find that love of God?

As I grow older I notice more that in the tangled mess and problems of the world, there is one thread that never snaps, somehow deep in all of this is the presence of Christ alive, loving, suffering with them. The presence of that loving Christ is our constant loving care for these little ones!

Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Chaplain for the Melkite Greek Catholics in Britain.

Source: Sunday Reflection with Fr Robin Gibbons - 3 August 2014 - Independent Catholic News

Friday, 1 August 2014

Russian-Ukrainian War: High Time to Preach Justice

Below is an abbreviated English translation of the key points from a recent interview by Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major-Archbishop (Patriarch)-emeritus of Kyiv-Halych. The complete Ukrainian-language interview may be found at credo.ua.

1. This is a war between Russian and Ukraine, which Russia began preparing 10 years ago. Those in power in Ukraine were, to some extent, agents of Russia. What is happening in eastern Ukraine today is the result of aggressive zombification. After being fed on lies for years and years, they believed them...

2. Russia worked on western Europe the same way they did with our own people. All radio and television programs, in whatever language, were pro-Russian. That's why the Maidan was something strange and fearful to them. They had no freedom and lived in fear. It will take a long time to teach them to be free...

3. We must weed out unworthy people from government, and there are very many...

4. We have 200 registered parties alone: lots of politicians but few national and civic leaders. And that is true for the rest of the world...

5. Moscow's aggression creates a similar situation to Hitler. The problem begins within the structure of Russia itself— it's an empire and Putin did not invent it, he is only fulfilling the role. The roots of this problem go back 400 years. All Russian leaders, from Peter to Stalin and now again, want to build an empire...

6. Communism/Bolshevism was just a continuation of this empire...

7. We have a a very influential body, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches, which brings together 19 of the largest religious groups, Christians, Jews, Moslems, and all want a united Ukraine. But now, brothers, it's time to preach to the people: tell them that they must be honest, not to steal, not be lazy, not wait for someone else to do your share.Let's get to work! The Church, left to itself, forms responsible people and becomes a danger to any kind of criminal, bandit or dictator...

8. Honor thy father and mother also applies to your father/motherland. This is a healthy patriotism. Unfortunately, the churches found themselves caught between political patrons, including Stalin...

9. The state must support all churches and not interfere in their internal matters. All our former presidents wanted to have at least one church at their side, just like Russia does with Patriarch Kiril.. The Ukrainian Council of churches was also a child of Kuchma who, through his representative, tried to dictate to us what we should do. This quickly ended...

10. Saint John Paul II called the situation in Ukraine an ecumenical laboratory. Despite the number of religious groups, we do not fight with one another. Alhough we are not united, we support one another...

The Priest - "Pop" (Film with English Subtitles) - YouTube

At last, this beautiful and moving film of the faithfulness and suffering of a Russian Orthodox priest and his people during both Nazi occupation and the persecution of the Communists, now on You Tube with English subtitles.

▶ The priest-Pop.(English Subtitles). - YouTube

In Ukraine, the church sets the record straight: Fr Andriy Zelinskyy SJ: Peace, human rights & nothing but love for Russians - YouTube

Source: Catholic News Service ▶ In Ukraine, the church fights back - YouTube

World on brink of third world war - Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev: Interfax-Religion

Moscow, July 31, Interfax - Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations has expressed concern over the current international situation, claiming that the world has found itself one step away from a global war.

"The current situation is increasingly reminiscent of that in the run-up to the First World War. News programs have turned into frontline news summaries, each day we hear about more and more victims. Yes, so far the conflicts have been on a local scale but whole countries and whole military-political blocs are getting sucked into the militaristic rhetoric," the metropolitan wrote in an article published in the weekly supplement to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russian Newspaper - Week) newspaper on Thursday.

Polarization has reached a critical point, the author said. "Various countries create and maintain, through mass media, an image of the enemy. And that is one step away from a declaration of global war," the article said. [Cf. His Eminence's own repeated comments to demonise the new Ukrainian government as fascist and anti-Russian, and to accuse the Catholic Church as its mover and accomplice. Ed. SSJC]

The hierarch thinks the main lesson of both world wars consists in that they had no winners. "The one hundred years since the beginning of the First World War is unlikely to prompt an ardent international response. Some places will build monuments to the heroes, others will clean up the memorial cemeteries, and festivities will be held elsewhere. But will the war anniversary become a reason for rethinking its outcomes on the global scale? Will the outcomes of the two world wars be a lesson to global leaders on whom it depends whether the third one will begin," the hierarch asked.

According to Metropolitan Hilarion, today the parties to the standoff have already used the Malaysian plane crash in Ukraine for mutual accusations, "loud political statements and calls for reprisals and retribution." [Metropolitan Hilarion has himself blamed the Ukrainian government for causing the problems that prevented international investigators to access the crash site. Ed. SSJC]

"The same as 100 years ago when a shooting by a Serbian terrorist of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne led to war. It looked as if the leading global powers had been waiting for this shot to start the global slaughter," the article said.

Source: Interfax-Religion

Assyrians Leaving Hassakah, Syria for Fear of ISIS: AINA

(AINA) -- The Assyrian population of Hassakah, Syria is leaving the region because of threats from the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), according to a report by the Adnkronos News Agency (AKI). Citing an official from the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), AKI reports that the Christian Assyrian residents are abandoning their lands and homes because of fear that what happened in Mosul, Iraq will happen here.

Electric and water service in Hassakah is now severely limited and security is precarious, with kidnappings occurring on a daily basis.

According to the ADO official, ISIS's attempt to capture the city is a threat to the Assyrians, Arabs, Kurds and Yazidis, who have lived in the city for generations. Hassakah is also a rich cultural and archaeological area, with many Assyrian sites. The images of ISIS destroying cultural sites in Mosul has cast a shadow of fear over the city's population, particularly Assyrians. ISIS has already destroyed ancient Assyrian monuments and sites in other parts of Syria (AINA 2014-05-17).

The residents of Hassakah are urging the international community to take action against ISIS, which threatens the city, with its diverse ethnic and religious population and cultural heritage.

Muslims have targeted Assyrians in Syria on several occasions. On February 11, 2013 rebel fighters from the al-Nusra Front took control of al-Thawrah (also known as al-Tabqah) and its strategic dam, the largest of its kind in the country. They also seized control of the three quarters that housed dam workers - many of whom were Christian Assyrians. Whilst they allowed the dam's original staff to remain in the city in order to continue its operation, management and upkeep, those who were not Sunni Muslim were not afforded the same privilege (AINA 2013-08-04).

"Everything is now in Jabhat al-Nusra's hands," complained one Assyrian refugee, "All the Muslims stayed there, but if any Assyrians want to go back they have to become Muslim or else they will be killed."

Assyrians reported their property being stolen, their homes being confiscated, and their possessions being sold on the black market in order to buy weapons and ammunition. In many of these cases, those forcefully dispossessed were not even allowed the chance to take with them any of their personal belongings.

Source for full report and maps: Assyrians Leaving Hassakah, Syria for Fear of ISIS

Christians a fundamental part of Iraq, ambassador observes :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

by Elise Harris, Vatican City, Jul 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News).

The Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See has lamented the ongoing persecution of Christians by ISIS forces in Iraq, stating that they are an important and historic part of the country’s origins. “Right now with the entrance of these jihadists, ISIS, they have imposed the sword and want to kill the Christians,” Habbib M.H. Al-Sadr told CNA July 24, 2014.

“This is outside of our culture, of our history, because the Christians are a fundamental, historic component of Iraq…they have origins here,” he continued, noting that “When the ISIS jihadists entered Mosul they forced the Christians to convert to Islam, pay the jizya tax, or to leave or escape, because they told them that ‘this is not your country.’”

Al-Sadr, a Shiite Muslim, has been Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See since 2010, and spoke in wake of the July 17 departure of the last Christian families in Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul.

The exodus of Christians from the city follows a June 10 initiative launched by members of ISIS, a militant group that operates in Iraq and Syria with the aim of establishing a caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, who overtook Mosul and the city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, the same day.

Since then 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.

July 17 the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate declared to the remaining Christian community of Mosul that they either needed openly convert to Islam, pay an unspecified jizya tax in exchange for their safety while observing certain conditions, leave their homes with only their clothes and nothing more or face death.

According to BBC News, the Christians had until midday to comply with the conditions of ISIS, who stated that “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.”

Following the declaration, the houses of Mosul Christians were marked with the letter “N,” signifying “Nazarenes.” As a result the few remaining Christians left the city, marking the first time in history it has been without Christians.

“These Christians have left Mosul with just their clothes on. They did not have anything else with them,” Al-Sadr observed.

“The houses of Christians in Mosul have been given to the terrorists that have come from diverse parts of the world really. They have taken the houses of the Christians.”

Speaking of the general help that citizens are receiving from the Iraqi Ministry of Migrants and Itinerants and the Ministry of Health, Al-Sadr explained that those who have fled are being provided with basic food necessities as well as one-million Iraqi ‘dinari,’ which is equivalent to 750 U.S. dollars.

Noting how there have been 1 million Iraqi citizens internally displaced by the recent uptick in conflict, the ambassador also drew attention to the 3 million who have left the country “to search for security, freedom and work” following the reign of their previous dictator, Saddam Hussein.

“Immigrants right now prefer not to come back until there is tranquility in the country again,” he said, stating that the government is searching for ways to convince them to eventually return, because they are considered “an integral part of the country and of its social fabric.”

Source: Christians a fundamental part of Iraq, ambassador observes :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Timeline of ISIS in Mosul: AINA

Posted 2014-07-29

(AINA) -- The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the city of Mosul, Iraq on June 10. Almost immediately thereafter it began to drive Assyrians out of Mosul and destroy Christian and non-Sunni institutions. Here is the status as of July 29:

  • There are no Assyrians/Christians remaining in Mosul, all have fled to the north, to Alqosh, Dohuk and other Assyrian villages.
  • All Christian institutions in Mosul (churches, monasteries and cemeteries), numbering 45, have been destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered (story).
  • All non-Sunni Muslim groups in Mosul - Shabaks, Yazidis and Turkmen - have been targeted by ISIS. Most have fled.
  • Water and electricity have been cut off by ISIS. The water shortage in the areas surrounding Mosul is now a full-blown crisis. Residents have been forced to dig wells for drinking water. Water tankers are providing some relief.
  • Mosul is now governed under Sharia law.
  • 50,000 Assyrian residents of Baghdede (Qaraqosh) fled from fighting between ISIS and Kurds. Nearly 80% have returned.

The following is a summary of the events that have unfolded in Mosul.
  • June 10: ISIS captures Mosul, occupies the Assyrian village of Qaraqosh, enters the St. Behnam Monastery, bombs an Armenian church (story).
  • June 12: ISIS issues Islamic rules for Mosul (story).
  • June 14: Assyrian, Yezidi and Shabak Villages come under Kurdish Control (story).
  • June 15: Kurds attempt to remove an Assyrian council leader in Alqosh and replace him with a Kurd (story).
  • June 18: ISIS Cuts Off Water, Electricity, Destroys Churches (story).
  • June 19: ISIS destroys statue of the famous Arab poet Abu Tammam (story).
  • June 21: ISIS begins imposing a poll tax (jizya) on Assyrians in Mosul (story), orders unmarried women to 'Jihad by sex' (story), destroys the statue of the Virgin Mary at the Immaculate Church of the Highest in the neighborhood of AlShafa in Mosul, as well as the statue of Mullah Osman Al-Musali. Shiite Turkmen in the villages of Al Kibba and Shraikhan flee after receiving threats from ISIS. ISIS arrests 25 village elders and young men who are Turkmen in the village of Al Shamsiyat; their whereabouts is still unknown. (story) ISIS orders Christian, Yazidis and Shiite government employees not to report for work in Mosul (story).
  • June 23: ISIS Rape Christian Mother and Daughter, Kill 4 Christian Women for Not Wearing Veil (story).
  • June 25: ISIS limits water from the plants in Mosul to one hour per day. Residents in surrounding areas are forced to dig wells (story).
  • June 26: Kurds Clash With ISIS Near Assyrian Town East of Mosul, forcing nearly 50,000 Assyrians to flee (story).
  • ISIS begins confiscating the homes of Christians and non-Sunni Muslims. ISIS rounds up many of the security agency members of the police and army in Sabrine Mosque and asks them to declare "repentance" and surrender their weapons and other military equipment. After doing so, all of the prisoners are tried and sentenced according to Sharia law and executed. ISIS has prevented delivery of government food rations to Tel Kepe and other areas not under their control (story).
  • June 28: ISIS kidnaps two nuns and three Assyrian orphans. They are eventually released (story).
  • July 3: ISIS seizes the house of the Chaldean Patriarchate and the house of Dr. Tobia, a member of Hammurabi Human Rights Organization and an Advisor to the Governor of Nineveh on Minority Affairs and General Coordinator with International Organizations (story).
  • July 8: ISIS Removes Cross From Church in Mosul (story).
  • July 10: ISIS bars women from walking the streets unless accompanied by a male. Nearly all barber shops and womens' salons are closed (story).
  • July 15: ISIS Stops Rations for Christians and Shiites in Mosul (story).
  • July 17: ISIS issues statement ordering Christians to convert or die (story).
  • July 18: ISIS in Mosul marks Christian homes with the Arabic letter "N" (for the word Nasrani, which means Christian) (story).
  • July 19: ISIS plunders Assyrians as they Flee Mosul; families march 42 miles (story).
  • July 22: ISIS and Kurds clash near Assyrian town, 2000 Assyrian families driven from Mosul (story).
  • July 25: ISIS destroys the tomb of the Prophet Jonah (story).

Timeline of ISIS in Mosul

All 45 Christian Institutions in Mosul Destroyed or Occupied By ISIS

Mar Behnam (St. Behnam) Syriac Catholic monastery in
the Ancient Assyrian town of Nimrod is now occupied by ISIS.

Assyrian International News Agency, 2014-07-29

(AINA) -- Since taking over Mosul on June 10, ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.

The following is the complete list of the Christian institutions in Mosul, grouped by denomination.

Syriac Catholic Church
1. Syrian Catholic Diocese - Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul
2. The Old Church of the Immaculate - Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul (The church goes back to the eighth century AD)
3. The New Church of the Immaculate - Maidan Neighborhood
4. Church of Mar (Saint) Toma - Khazraj Neighborhood
5. Museum of Mar (Saint) Toma - Khazraj Neighborhood
6. Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation - Muhandiseen Neighborhood
7. Church of the Virgin of Fatima - Faisaliah Neighborhood
8. Our Lady of Deliverance Chapel - Shifaa Neighborhood
9. The House of the Young Sisters of Jesus - Ras Al-Kour Neighborhood
10. Archbishop's Palace Chapel - Dawasa Neighborhood

Syriac Orthodox Church

1. Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese - Shurta Neighborhood
2. The historic Church of Saint Ahodeeni - Bab AlJadeed Neighborhood
3. Mar (Saint) Toma Church and cemetery, (the old Bishopric) - Khazraj Neighborhood
4. Church of The Immaculate (Castle) - Maidan Neighborhood
5. Church of The Immaculate - Shifaa Neighborhood
6. Mar (Saint) Aprim Church - Shurta Neighborhood
7. St. Joseph Church - The New Mosul Neighborhood

Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East

1. Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East - Noor Neighborhood
2. Assyrian Church of the East, Dawasa Neighborhood
3. Church of the Virgin Mary (old rite) - Wihda Neighborhood

Chaldean Catholic Church of Babylon1. Chaldean Diocese - Shurta Neighborhood
2. Miskinta Church - Mayassa Neighborhood
3. The historic Church of Shimon alSafa - Mayassa Neighborhood
4. Church of Mar (Saint) Buthyoon - Shahar AlSouq Neighborhood
5. Church of St. Ephrem, Wady AlAin Neighborhood
6. Church of St. Paul - Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
7. The Old Church of the Immaculate (with the bombed archdiocese) - Shifaa Neighborhood
8. Church of the Holy Spirit - Bakir Neighborhood
9. Church of the Virgin Mary - Drakziliya Neighborhood
10. Historic Church of Saint Isaiah and Cemetery - Ras AlKour Neighborhood
11. Mother of Aid Church - Dawasa Neighborhood
12. The historic Church of St. George- Khazraj Neighborhood
13. St. George Monastery with Cemetery - Arab Neighborhood
14. Monastery of AlNasir (Victory) - Arab Neighborhood
15. Convent of the Chaldean Nuns - Mayassa Neighborhood
16. Monastery of St. Michael - Hawi Church Neighborhood
17. The historic Monastery of St. Elijah - Ghazlany Neighborhood

Armenian Orthodox Church

1. Armenian Church - Maidan Neighborhood
2. The New Armenian Church - Wihda Neighborhood

Evangelical Presbyterian Church

1. Evangelical Presbyterian Church - Mayassa Neighborhood

Latin (Roman Catholic) Church

1. Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and Convent of Katrina Siena Nuns - Sa'a Neighborhood
2. Convent of the Dominican Sisters, - Mosul AlJadeed Neighborhood
3. Convent of the Dominican Sisters (AlKilma Monastery) - Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
4. House of Qasada AlRasouliya (Apostolic Aim) (Institute of St. John the Beloved)


1. Christian Cemetery in the Ekab Valley which contains a small chapel.

Source: All 45 Christian Institutions in Mosul Destroyed or Occupied By ISIS

France offers Iraq Christians asylum - Orthodox Patriarch resents,says "stay"

France offers Iraq Christians asylum after Mosul threat, BBC 28 July 2014

The French government says it is ready to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians forced to flee by Islamist militants in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 

Many fled Mosul after the Islamic State (IS) group which seized much of northern Iraq told them to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.

Iraq is home to one of the world's most ancient Christian communities. Two top ministers said, "We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory." It was a joint message from Laurent Fabius and Bernard Cazeneuve, respectively foreign minister and interior minister in the Socialist government.

A senior Christian cleric in Iraq, Patriarch Louis Sako, estimated that before the advance of IS, Mosul had a Christian community of 35,000 - compared with 60,000 prior to 2003. 

According to the UN, just 20 families from the ancient Christian minority now remain in the city, which Isis has taken as the capital of its Islamic state. "Islamic State" was previously known as Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

Source: BBC News - France offers Iraq Christians asylum after Mosul threat

Eastern church shuns France's asylum offer, The Lebanon Daily Star, July 30 2014

BEIRUT: The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Levant has strongly criticized France’s offer to grant Iraqi Christians political asylum, describing the move as an attempt to empty the region from the adepts of Christ.

In a statement Wednesday, the church said “helping the people of the Levant, Christians and Muslims, can be done by uprooting terrorism from their land and stop nurturing the takfiri groups.”

The church charged that Muslim extremists persecuting Christians were being supported logistically and militarily by states through undeclared alliances.

“We are keen to emphasize that the difficult phase through which the Levant is going does not justify attempts to portray the conditions of the Christians in the Orient similar to that of religious and racial minorities in other parts of the world,” the statement said.

“The best way to help the Christians of the Levant as well as Muslims is through pushing for peace through dialogue and political solutions, and curbing all reasons that fuel extremism, notably the injustice done to the Palestinian people."

It stressed that the only place to be for Christians was their home and land.

The French government said it was willing to facilitate asylum to Iraqi Christians who fled persecution by the Al-Qaeda-inspired jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

After seizing control of Mosul and other areas in northern Iraq in mid-July, ISIS, which renamed itself the Islamic State, ordered those Christians who had not yet fled to either convert to Islam, pay a religious tax levied on conquered non-Muslims or face death.

In a related development, Future Movement MPs expressed solidarity with Iraqi Christians Wednesday and called for providing them with aid similar to that given to Syrian refugees.

“We came here to express our solidarity with our Christian brethren in Iraq who were persecuted and displaced at the hands of terrorist groups that committed the ugliest crimes against them, amounting to crimes against humanity,” MP Atef Majdalani said, after a meeting with Chaldean Archbishop Michel Kassarji.

Majdalani, who headed a seven-person Future delegation, called for extending all types of assistance needed by Iraqi refugees, revealing that the parliamentary committee for health would meet in a week to discuss the issue of Christian refugees from Mosul with the health, interior and social affairs ministers.

The majority of Iraqi Christians belong to the Chaldean Church, which has representation in Lebanon.

Source: The Daily Star :: Lebanon News

Moscow’s Orthodox Churches Deserted While Streets are Filled with Muslims | The Interpreter

Paul Goble
Staunton, July 30 – This year, the Russian Orthodox ‘Day of the Baptism of Rus’ coincided with the Muslim holiday of Uraza Bayram [The Sugar Feast, when Muslims traditionally break the fast - Ed. The Interpreter]. On Monday, in what many will see as symbolic, Moscow’s churches, with the exception of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, were largely empty, while the streets around the capital’s five mosques were filled with Muslims.

In a commentary for the religious affairs site, Portal-Credo.ru, Feliks Shvedovsky says that this picture “would be funny if it were not so sad” and if it were not the case that this is “nothing new but on the contrary typical” of the situation in the Russian capital, all the talk about the return of Orthodoxy notwithstanding.

The Union of Muftis of Russia has been emboldened by this to renew its request that the Moscow authorities reverse themselves and allow the construction of at least one mosque in each of the ten administrative divisions of the city, something Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said he will not do because of the reaction of Muscovites.

At the same time, of course, Sobyanin has gone along with the Russian Orthodox Church’s plans to build 200 new churches in the Russian capital, even though there have been at least as many protests about what such construction projects will do to parks, neighborhoods and traffic patterns as there have been about the possible building of mosques.

But, feeling themselves increasingly numerous and thus strong, Shvedovsky says, many Muslims in Moscow are now joking at least among themselves about “the fate of numerous Orthodox churches in Constantinople, which is now called Istanbul,” after the Muslims took over that city and made it the capital of the caliphate.

Unfortunately, the Russian religious commentator says, Moscow officials are nonetheless unlikely to accede to the Muslim requests. They rather adopt what he calls “a ‘Crimean’ scenario,” in which, instead of optimizing what already exists, “the authorities will unite new territories under the control of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

Moreover, they will invest ever greater funds “into propaganda of ‘Orthodox-patriotic values’ which have nothing in common with faith and spiritual life” and which does not oppose “the further demonization of the image of Islam at the day to day level.” This reflects a judgment by those far above Sobyanin’s pay grade that can re-ignite Islamophobia after Ukraine.

Within the Russian Orthodox Church, one might have expected believers and hierarchs to be most concerned by the passing of the Metropolitan Vladimir on July 5, as Vladimir had been the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. But instead, it appears, most were upset that Patriarch Kirill hadn’t been able to travel to Kiev for this anniversary.

As a result, Shvedovsky says, the center for the celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus had to take place in Moscow where “it immediately became obvious that this is already almost a Muslim city and that the chimeras of ‘the Russian world’ [the concept of "Russkiy Mir", promoted by Patriarch Kirill and Vladimir Putin, to project Moscow power outside Russia over Belarus and Ukraine, as well as other neighbouring states. Ed. SSJC] ... haven’t existed since Crimea was taken from fraternal Christians.”

“Nature” in this, as in all things “abhors a vacuum,” the commentator says, “and in place of a transparent chimera” of Russian Orthodoxy that is offered by the Moscow Patriarchate, it came in the shape of a vital and energetic Moscow Muslim community which includes the immigrant workers. That is a contrast few in the Russian government or the Patriarchate can be comfortable with.

Source: Moscow’s Orthodox Churches Deserted While Streets are Filled with Muslims | The Interpreter

Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Locum Tenens (Moscow Patriarchate) awards Jewelled Cross to convicted Rusyn separatist

During the Liturgy on July 13 in Uzhgorod, the Archbishop of Mukachevo and Uzhgorod in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Fedor (Mamasuyev), officially awarded the dean of Uzhgorod Cathedral, Archpriest Dmitri Sidorov the Jewelled Pectoral Cross (second class). The award took place with the blessing of Metropolitan Chernivtsi and Bukovina, locum tenens of the Kiev metropolitanate of the UOC (MP) Onufriy (Berezovsky), on the recommendation of Bishop Theodore (Mamasuyeva) and with the active support of Metropolitan of Borispol and Brovarskiy, rector of the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary, and chancellor of the UOC (MP), Anthony (Pakanycha). It is reported on his Facebook page for services in the community "towards one national church."

According to reports, it is surprising that in Transcarpathia, at the same time that the Putinist policy in Moscow is to wage an undeclared war against Ukraine, the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) awards its highest honour for which clergy are eligible - the Jewelled Cross (second class) - to Archpriest Dmitry, who was recently prosecuted and sentenced for anti-state activities against the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as one of the main separatists in Transcarpathia.

"Dmitry Sidorov has long been an active supporter of the anti-Ukrainian Rusyn separatist political movement, organized by the former KGB from Soviet times to the present day. He is the self-confessed unofficial head of Transcarpathia for Russia, based in Soymy, and the self-confessed ally of Prime Minister Peter Rusyniyi Getsko, who has called upon Russian troops to annexe Transcarpathia, and who is currently hiding in Moscow. Notwithstanding all this, Bishop Theodore (Mamasuyev), in violation of ecclesiastical custom, has publicly announced that from the moment of the presentation of the Jewelled Cross (second class), Archpriest Dmitri Sidorov is to be second in precedence after the Secretary of Mukachevo eparchy at all worship services and other special church events.

According to highly placed sources in the Mukachevo diocese, it is at Uzhgorod Cathedral, of which Dmitry Sidorov is in charge, that the UOC (MP) seminary and academy is to be relocated by its rector of Bishop Theodore (Mamasuyeva). This would provide the Russian Orthodox Church with a centre for future theological training, and shows its exceptional concern to establish a rival in opposition to the existing Uzhgorod Ukrainian Divinity Academy of Saints Cyril and Methodius, whose rector, Archimandrite Professor Victor Bedya the Synod of the UOC (MP) has sought to remove from his post. However, the Academy's academic board has issued an official statement, saying that Uzhgorod Ukrainian Divinity Academy of St. Cyril and Methodius of the Carpathian University will continue to offer theological education and conduct its research activities, with the same level III_IV accreditation levels as other the religious and theological higher education institutions, "under the direction Archimandrite Victor Bedya."

The explanation is simple: "Because after taking monastic vows and being elevated to the rank of Archimandrite by the holy Anthimos, Metropolitan of Thessaloniki at Thessaloniki (Greece) on 20 March 2010, Archimandrite Victor (Bedya) is an Orthodox cleric of the Greek Church and thus the department is answerable to two authorities: those in Ukraine and also the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople."

Source: Місцеблюститель УПЦ (МП) нагородив головного русинського сепаратиста Закарпаття хрестом

Iraq’s persecuted Assyrian Christians are in limbo - UK Daily Telegraph

Romsin McQuade, 30 Jul 2014

Tim Stanley writes: The religious persecution in Iraq has seen one of the most vibrant Middle East Christian communities almost wiped out – forced to convert, driven from their homes or murdered. Conditions deteriorated after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, improved a little with the US-led surge in 2007 and now, with the advance of Isis, has descended to what might be described as genocide.

However, Romsin McQuade, a university student in America and a descendent of Assyrian Christians, argues that his particular community has always been subject to terror. The Assyrian Church of the East gained official recognition in the 4th century AD. It faced repression under the Ottoman Turks and shuffled around the region as a diaspora for much of the 20th century: moving between Iran and Iraq, while a large contingent found refuge in America. In this article charting the historical challenges facing his people, McQuade offers a solution: the creation of an autonomous safe haven.

At the dawn of the first millennium, the scattered Assyrian people placed all of their faith in Christianity.

Years later, they were court physicians, merchants, and top advisors to various Islamic Abbasid caliphs, while simultaneously managing to become the scapegoat du jour of that very Caliphate. Their houses were marked with pictures of Satan, hundreds of thousands of them murdered, and accused of pledging loyalty to the Romans, their coreligionists, to bring down the Caliphate.

Determined to remain in their ancestral lands – Ashur, Mosul, Tikrit– they found themselves in an all-too-familiar predicament: fleeing – but this time, from the first butcher of Baghdad, Timur, the Mongol ruler bent on exterminating them for being Christian.

Reduced to no more than a mere hundred thousand, most fled their cities to the mountains of Kurdistan in the Ottoman and Persian Empires.

Then, after the Ottoman Army has finished massacring 50 per cent of their population, 20th century Iraq also turned its back on its own natives, executing 3,000 of them in less than five days.

And somehow, those people – the Assyrians, the indigenous Aramaic-speaking people of northern Iraq – took a cursory glance at their wounds, said a prayer, and returned to their daily lives.

But on June 10, the Islamic State reminded Assyrians that those wounds were never closed: they were always open.

Read in full here: Iraq’s persecuted Assyrian Christians are in limbo - Telegraph

Bravo, France! And shame on you, David Cameron! | CatholicHerald.co.uk

By Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith on Wednesday, 30 July 2014, The Catholic Herald

France has offered asylum to the Iraqi Christians forced to flee from Mosul. The BBC reports this, and so does Al Jazeera.

There can be no doubt either that this offer is authoritative, as it comes from the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, and the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, in a joint statement. Moreover, they are not simply offering asylum, but taking practical steps to help these who may wish to come to France. The Al-Jazeera reports says:

“We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them,” both ministers said. So, these are not cheap words, or political posturing. Something is actually being done.

Bravo, France! You are a secular republic that sees, in true secular fashion, the human needs of people in distress, and wants to do something about it.

Bravo, France! You have form in this matter already. For France it was that received thousands of refugees from Russia in the aftermath of the revolution there, and also took in thousands of Armenians who survived the Ottoman genocide of 1915. Now, once more, you are helping those who need a safe haven.

Bravo, France! You have expressed outrage at the treatment of the Christians of Mosul, and you have not taken the line that these are merely one oppressed group among many: there has been no ‘universalise to minimise’ strategy here.

Italy and the Vatican acted over the case of Meriam Ibrahim; France is now prepared to act over the persecuted Christians of Mosul. (Entry to France may well give them entry to the entire European Union.) Over to you, David Cameron and William Hague.

Source: Bravo, France! And shame on you, David Cameron! | CatholicHerald.co.uk

The Arab Christian revolt against Jerusalem's Orthodox Patriarch - Vatican Insider

07/30/2014, Gianni Valente, Rome

The Israeli military offensive has reignited conflicts within the Jerusalem Patriarchate which has organized a Catholic-Orthodox theological summit on supremacy to be held in Amman this coming September
The growing tensions between Arab faithful and the high clergy of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem has now turned into a full-fledged war. The Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip and the tragedy of the growing Palestinian civilian death toll is catalyzing the showdown between Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land: Greek Orthodox Arabs blame the Patriarch and other Orthodox prelates of Greek origin of colluding with the instigators of Israel’s “genocidal war” as it is referred to it in their communiqués. The conflict going on within the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem – which is purely internal - could potentially have consequences for ecumenism: between 15 and 23 September, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem will be hosting the Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches’ plenary session. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss the issue of supremacy.

The Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, chose the Jordanian capital Amman as the venue for the meeting. Amman is inside the Patriarchate’s canonical territory and seemed like a stable place to hold the meeting given the climate of uncertainty that has rocked the region as a whole. But now there are protests in Amman against the Patriarch and the Synod which they claim is being hegemonised by Greek bishops. Last week, a movement for the reform and revival of the Patriarchate was formed in the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom. A group of over 700 representatives from Arab Orthodox communities, led by a few bishops and Arab Orthodox archimandrites, met at the Orthodox Club to address and announce the goals and strategies of what they presented as a reform battle aimed at saving the Patriarchate from decline. 

The ecclesial revolt’s programmatic “manifesto” published after the meeting was based on controversial arguments, which Arab faithful have resorted to in the past to criticize the dominance of Greek patriarchs and bishops – all of them picked from the monastic Congregation of St. Michael - over the Orthodox Church in the Holy Land. 

The Arab bishop Atallah Hanna, together with the archimandrites, priests and Arab faithful once again spoke out against the “racist domination over the Church of Jerusalem” and the decline caused by a lack of pastoral care for its faithful. This has led to a drastic drop in the number of Orthodox Christians is recent years as they are choosing to switch to other Christian Churches.  

The statement’s authors are protesting against the squandering of money donated to the Church by previous generations. They criticize the dereliction of patriarchal schools and ecclesial courts and the corrupt administration of the Patriarch’s assets, which totally lacks transparency. The statement also recalls the restrictions placed on advocators of an apparently urgent reform. 

But given the events currently being witnessed in the Holy Land, the points which stand out the most are those relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Today our people are being exterminated by the army of Israeli occupation while a priest comes to us with a plan to compel Christians to mandatory service in the army of Zionist occupation, under the cover and with the blessing of the Greek patriarch who has not once looked at the suffering of his people and his flock.” There is an implicit reference here to Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest serving in the Nazareth region. The priest has become the main ecclesiastical supporter of the campaign, which is backed by Israeli political circles in order to make military service in the Israeli army obligatory for Arab Christians. Patriarch Theophilos also comes under fire for “award[ing] medals to an officer in the army of occupation while our people-- women, children and elderly-- are being targeted by the occupation's artillery.”

In their statement, the Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land stress their Arab identity, mentioning their partnership with their “Muslim brothers” “in the unity and defence of our nation.” “The Arab Orthodox clergy … call for an Orthodox ecclesiastical revival that preserves the teachings of the fathers, the canons of the Church and her spirituality in its pastoral and patriotic dimensions.” They set out eight concrete demands for their “reform” programme. Amongst other things, they demand an end to the sale of Church property, the modification of the Synod’s membership to include Arab members and the formation of an elective body composed of priests and lay people who would contribute to the ordinary administration of the Church. The Orthodox “rebels” are seeking political support for their ecclesial offensive, declaring their loyalty to Jordan’s King Abdullah II, asking the Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas for help and paying tribute to the Hashemite monarchy as custodian of the Muslim and Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem.

Indian Malankara Orthodox Liturgy Celebrated after a gap of 59 years at the Historic Mission field of Metropolitan Alvares Julius : Mission in Dindigul Revamped - News | Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE

Memorial Prayers
30 July 2014

Dindigul/Tamil Nadu/India: It was a golden moment in the history of the Indian Malankara Orthodox church as well as churches with the Apostolic Succession of MAR JULIUS I (Arch bishop of Goa, Ceylon and India excluding Malabar) when Orthodox Liturgy was served by the prelates of the Chennai Diocese of the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church on 29th July 2014 at the historic Mission field in Dindigul after a gap of 59 year. (In 1889 July 29 Fr. AFX Alvares Ramban was consecrated as the Arch bishop and primate of Independent catholic mission (Latin rite of Church of Malabar) at old Seminary Kottayam by HE Mar Joseph Dynosious, HG Mar Paul Athanasious, HG George Ivanious and HG St.Gregorious)

The historic event of 125th anniversary was celebrated on a joint initiative by the Madras diocese of Indian Malankara Orthodox Church (IMOC) and Orthodoxy Cognate Page (OCP) society in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, India on 29th July 2014.

IMOC & OCP have now officially revamped the Dindigul Orthodox Mission of Saintly Metroploitan Alvares Julius I after a gap 57 years by holding holy liturgy. The chief celebrant is Fr. Sam (Vicar Padi Church, Chennai) in the presence Metropolitan Diascoros (Primate of the Chennai Diocese of IMOC). The OCP Society was represented by Ajeh T Phillip (Chief Project Coordinator – MARP). It was Ajesh wo rediscovered the lost community of St Gregorious in Dindigul as well as the Independent Catholic Church in Sempatty.

Events at Dindigul and Sempatty

As the part of the of 125th anniversary of the consecration of Metropolitan Alvares, evening prayers were held on 28-07-2012, 6:00pm at St. James Mission Church Sempatty, by Rev. Fr. Pradeep Ponnachan (Principal Secretary to the Metropolitan of Chennai). On 29th July 2014 The Divine Liturgy was held in the temporary chapel (St Gregorious Chapel) at PARUMALA AYYA Nagar, Ambadurai, Tamil Nadu. The liturgy was served in Tamil language.

Special memorial prayers were held for of Metropolitan Alvaruz Julius I, Fr. J M D Alvares, Fr. J D Mello, Sri I. Savarimuthu Pillai, and former leaders of the Mission. More than 30 members from the Tamilain community in the area attendant the prayers and took part in the Liturgy. Nearly ten priest from various parts of Chennai diocese were present for the historic occasion. After the Liturgy breakfast was served and ended up with photo session. Metropolitan Yuhanon Diascorous of Chennai honored Mr. Xavier (St Gregorious community in Dindigul) and Mr. Anthonisami (Trustee of St James Church in Sempatty) Metropolitan also made house visits. All necessary steps are underway to start a mission center and chapel in Parumala Ayya Nagar. The Mission will be known by the title – St. Gregorious Mission – Dindigul. Two Mission coordinators are already appointed for the area.

Metropolitan Alvruz Julius I

Fr.António Francisco Xavier Alvares, also known as Padre António Francisco Xavier Alvares, who hailed from Goa, a state of the Indian Union located on the west coast, was an editor, writer, founder of educational and social institutions, patriot and, above all, a dedicated social worker who had proved by his actions that the church was “the community of Faith, hope and charity,” and aspired to make the civil and ecclesiastical administration of Portuguese Goa likewise. In the pursuit of this ideal, of bringing about the spiritual and socio-political uplift of his people, Padre Alvares was branded seditious by the colonial Government of Goa and ex-communicated by the Roman Catholic Church, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Unable to see eye to eye with the Archbishop of Goa, Padre Alvares left the Roman Catholic Church in which he had been ordained to join the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church(earlier known as Syrian Church of Malabar) which consecrated him Archbishop of Ceylon, Goa and India (excluding Malabar) with the title of Mar Julius I.


Dindigul was the one of the oldest center of Christianity, from the latter half of 1600s. In 1887 more than 6,000 people joined with the ‘Church of Malabar’ (Indian Malankara Orthodox Church) along with Padre AFX Alvarez. The Church of Our Lady of Seven Dolors, Begamboor Dindigul was under the jurisdiction of the Independent Catholic Mission of Goa, Ceylon and India, till 1910. A chapel was also there in Muthalagu Petty run by Fr. L M Soares until his death in 1903. Due to the influence of Madurai mission and the formation of Trichy diocese of Roman Catholic Church and scarcity of Orthodox priests, the church became under the jurisdiction of Roman Catholics. But a fraction of the church was shifted to Shempatty (a village near to Dindigul) and existed under the jurisdiction of Saintly Julius Alvarez and the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church till 1958. Again due to the lack of proper care from the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church, improper Implementation of Syriac liturgy, and due pressure from Roman Catholics most of the people returned to Roman Catholic Church. Now after a gap of several many years the Missionary community of Saintly Alvaruz Julius have been revamped jointly by the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church and the Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Society.

For research articles visit MARP:

For the article on line and splendid photographs: Orthodox Liturgy Celebrated after a gap of 59 years at the Historic Mission field of Metropolitan Alvares Julius : Mission in Dindigul Revamped - News | Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE

Patriarch Aphrem II from the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “We demand the major countries to investigate the crimes against humanity that are committed against the Christians in the East”.

His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, called the major countries and the international community to investigate the crimes against humanity that are committed against the Christians in Mosul and more generally in the Middle East.

This call was launched after the meeting convened by the invitation of Minister Bassil on Friday July 25, 2015 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lebanon. The invitation was sent to the ambassadors of the five countries with permanent membership in the Security Council and Mr. Derek Plumbly the personal representative of the UN General Secretary. The invitation was extended also to all the participants of the Meeting convened by His Holiness Patriarch Aphrem II two days before in Atchaneh.

In the opening address, Mr. Bassil described the danger of what is happening against Christians in Mosul and its consequences on the region in general. He expressed his discontent at the forced immigration of Christians from Mosul. He told that the Lebanese Government and he personally is ready to make all necessary efforts and multiple calls with the embassies to reach a solution that protects the religious minorities in the region. He is preparing a complete dossier that shall be presented by the Lebanese Government to the International Criminal Court (ICC) about the war crimes and crimes against humanity that are being committed against Christians in the East.

In turn, Patriarch Aphrem II addressed the ambassadors of the five countries of permanent membership in the Security Council and the personal representative of the UN Secretary General and presented some important and pressing demands, most important of which is to provide the Christians of Mosul and in Nineveh Plain international protection. He asked for immediate humanitarian aids for the relief of those who were forced to leave their houses. Moreover, he communicated the fear of the people there with the absence of a safe haven; he also demanded to provide one soon to insure that Christians remain in the Levant. In relation to international contacts, he requested from the personal representative of the UN Secretary General to get an appointment with the General Secretary Ban Kee Moon in the soonest to submit a report on the situation and convey a true image of what is currently happening. Patriarch Aphrem II called the ambassadors present in the meeting to work together as permanent members in the Security Council and individually to resolve the humanitarian crisis and pressure those who support and finance terrorism, violence and war.

Moreover, the representative of Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, Bishop Shlimon Wardoni who came especially from Baghdad spoke of the current situation in Iraq. He stressed that “we are demanding our rights; we are not foreigners, we are the children of this land before Islam. Now Mosul is without Christians… why all this fierce attack?”

Mr. Derek Plumbly, the personal representative of UN General Secretary reassured that the UN is closely following the dangerous events of the region and the assaults that are taking place. They will work out the fitting solutions and implement them to help the needy and eliminate injustice.

Every ambassador present in the meeting conveyed the view of his country in this matter; they condemned the violation of human rights and liberties, especially the freedom of belief and religion. They assured that they reject violence and terrorism and they will offer the help that they can.

At the end of the meeting, His Holiness Patriarch Aphrem II spoke in a short press conference assuring that we will not remain silent in front of what is happening in Iraq and the Middle East in general. We invite all to assume this historical responsibility and help protect the existence of the components that gave this East its civilization.

Source: Patriarch Aphrem II from the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “We demand the major countries to investigate the crimes against humanity that are committed against the Christians in the East”.

Is There a Place for The Russian Orthodox Church in Post-Maidan Ukraine? | Authors | RIA Novosti

28/07/2014, RIA Novosti

28th of July is celebrated in Russia as the Day of Baptism of ancient Rus (the proto-state of Eastern Slavs with the capital in Kiev). Although the original event took place in the 10th century A.D., its importance is being exalted today, as Russia is facing multiple challenges over the civil war in neighboring Ukraine, whose capital Kiev happens to be now.

On this day, the Russian Orthodox Church marks the 1025thanniversary of Kiev’s residents being baptized by St. Vladimir, the Kievan prince who opted for Orthodox Christianity, the Eastern branch of Christian faith. According to the legend, St. Vladimir was visited also by representatives of the Roman Catholic Pope and of the Islamic religion, but he chose Constantinople, which was at the time the most civilized city in Europe and the cradle of Eastern Christianity.

In 1988, the celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of Rus’s baptism marked the “rehabilitation” of the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union, where it had faced enormous pressure from the officially atheist state until then. So, the holiday is rich in symbolism for the middle-aged generation of Orthodox believers. However, for the first time in many years the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, which unites millions of Orthodox believers in both Russia and Ukraine, was unable not travel to Kiev, the original site of baptism. The reason was the poor state of relations between Russia and Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill was strongly recommended not to visit the Ukrainian territory by the Ukrainian ministry of culture. In the Ukrainian nationalist circles Patriarch Kirill is dismissed as “Putin’s ally” and a carrier of anti-nationalist ideology of the “Russian world” (this ideology, stressing the “spiritual unity” of Orthodox nations of the former Soviet Union became anathema to the new authorities in Kiev).

Kirill, who marked the day by officiating at a church service in Moscow, was visibly disappointed about not being able to travel to Kiev. Formally, his sotracism by Kiev is undeserved. Throughout the months of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict he did not say a single word in support of Crimea’s merger with Russia, he also left the Orthodox churches in Crimea under the jurisdiction of Kiev’s metropolitan. The branch of Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (officially called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate) expressed its dissatisfaction with the Ukrainian culture ministry’s interdiction of the Patriarch’s visit to Kiev, calling it an interference into the Church’s internal affairs.

In Public, Patriarch Kirill himself did not say a word about his own pain, but from the very beginning of the rule of the new nationalist government in Kiev, he did not make a secret out of his opposition to pressure on Moscow-connected Orthodox church of Ukraine.

Here is what he had to say regarding the “cold war” between the state and Orthodox Church in Ukraine: “I want to address all of the Ukrainian people today. The authorities, the state bodies should not interfere into the Church’s internal affairs. Church issues can’t be resolved by force and pressure. Church‘s unity cannot be brought about by violent action. Never in human history were spiritual problems successfully resolved by coercion.”

In this speech of the Patriarch, he was referring to several attempts by Ukrainian nationalist activists to seize from the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church several important premises belonging to it, including the famous Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. (In translation it means “Kiev Monastery on the Caves” and includes several important relics of Holy Rus’s saints.) The attempt failed because of resistance from the parishioners and monks, but the attitude of the Ukrainian state to the Moscow-connected church has been deteriorating since the moment of the Maidan revolution in February this year.

Archpriest Andrei Tkachyov, formerly the head priest in one of Kiev’s biggest parishes, had to move to Moscow after speaking critically about the violent takeover of power in Kiev by the nationalist activists from the Maidan movement. Now archpriest Andrei Tkachyov is concerned about the future of his fellow Orthodox priests in new, reportedly “European” Ukraine.

“As far as the church is concerned, I think the infantile nationalists, who came to power in Kiev, they will put on the church all the blame for what they perceive as Ukraine’s backwardness. Those Ukrainians inside the church who accept this view, they will soon reject all of the church’s traditional ties to Moscow. There will be some who disagree, who will just try to wait it out keeping silence. As for those who are openly and strongly opposed to severing ties with Moscow – these people will become open enemies of the new regime. I shudder at the thought of what will await them, I am too scared to imagine the details of that”, archpriest Andrei Tkachyov said.

The fate of archpriest Andrei Tkachyov is not a unique one. Several other dissenting Ukrainian priests, who fell out with the new regime, also had to leave Ukraine and move to Russia. For instance, Maxim Volynets, a priest from the embattled Lugansk region, had to leave the region with his wife and five children. He now lives in the Moscow region. The most painful consequence of the civil war for him was his quarrel with the parents who live in Kiev and share the new government’s point of view. The civil war in Ukraine divides not only churches and confessions, but even the priests’ families.

This article was written by Vyacheslav Tyapkin

Source: Is There a Place for The Russian Orthodox Church in Post-Maidan Ukraine? | Authors | RIA Novosti

"The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai" with Dr. John Andrew Morrow. on Vimeo

Source: "The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai" with Dr. John Andrew Morrow. from ACMCU on Vimeo.

March 5, 2014 – Briefing. The Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai boasts one of the greatest libraries in the world. One of the most important documents in its collection is the famous "Achtiname of Muhammad," a covenant concluded between the Prophet Muhammad and the monks from the monastery. Is it authentic? Is it a forgery? Dr. Morrow examined the pros and cons of this controversial patent of protection.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Monasticism, Clericalism, and the Priesthood of All Believers | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views

The essence of monasticism is not clerical service—which is possible only for some—but a radically converted way of life, available to all.

July 29, 2014, Benjamin Mann, Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis (Holy Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Monastery, Wisconsin)

“In the church, the [consecrated] religious are called to be prophets in particular by demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth, and to proclaim how the kingdom of God will be in its perfection. A religious must never give up prophecy … Let us think about what so many great saints, monks, and religious men and women have done, from St. Anthony the Abbot onward. Being prophets may sometimes imply making waves.” — Pope Francis, La Civilta Cattolica interview, September 2013. “When there is no prophecy among the people, clericalism fills the void.” — Pope Francis, daily Mass homily, December 16, 2013.

In an unusual, perhaps surprising turn of events, we now have a pope who speaks often and explicitly against clericalism: that is, against the erroneous assumption that the Catholic clergy are spiritually superior to the laity and automatically more important to the Church’s mission.

This development is not wholly novel. Past popes have also known that giving laypersons a second-class status causes paralysis, not healthy order. The opposite of clericalism is not chaos, but responsibility: it means a Church in which all believers take responsibility for learning, living, and transmitting the faith.

The backlash against clericalism has spawned false solutions, however. Some laypersons think they should oppose clericalism by taking on priest-like functions, or demanding access to ordination. But this “clericalized” behavior feeds into the very error it opposes.

To overcome clericalism, we must recover some deep truths of faith. Among these truths is the Catholic doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers,” or the “universal priesthood.” Different from the ordained priesthood, but no less important, this is the share in Christ’s priesthood which all the baptized possess.

Aspects of this universal priesthood are already implicit in Christian prayer and practice. But many faithful seemingly do not grasp the importance of the priesthood of all believers, or they lack models for living it.

We need not invent new spiritual models to fill this gap. Christian tradition already contains the resources for understanding and living this universal baptismal priesthood. One resource is the monastic tradition.

For cultural and historical reasons, monasticism has typically not served as a model for lay spirituality in the Christian West, at least in recent centuries. This is a significant loss—especially since monasticism originally developed among laypersons, as a means for living out their baptismal calling to its fullest.

Monasticism is fundamentally a lay movement. Its great founders, like St. Benedict and St. Anthony of Egypt, were not priests, and did not envision communities of priests. The essence of monasticism is not clerical service—which is possible only for some—but a radically converted way of life, available to all.

Many Western Christians see monasticism as remote and inaccessible, very different from ordinary Christian life. Often they associate monasticism with the ordained priesthood—as though ordination were the goal of monastic life, at least for men. Women’s monasticism, meanwhile, is almost off the radar.

All of these impressions are incorrect. Monasticism is a way of life for both men and women. Its goal is not ordination, but the fulfillment of one’s baptismal consecration to God. This is why monasticism can, and should, be a model for the “priesthood of all believers.”

In our Eastern Christian tradition, monastic life is more readily understood as a universal spiritual paradigm—a model of discipleship for all Christians, in any state of life. Not all are called to formal monasticism, but all believers can take lessons and inspiration from this spiritual path.

St. John Paul II noted this in Orientale Lumen, his apostolic letter on the Eastern churches: “…in the East, monasticism was not seen merely as a separate condition, proper to a precise category of Christians, but rather as a reference point for all the baptized…a symbolic synthesis of Christianity” (9).

As representatives of Eastern Catholicism, we believe monastic spirituality can help the laity to live out the priesthood they possess by baptism. This, in turn, can help solve the problem of clericalism in the Church, as laypersons come to understand the holiness and importance of their baptismal calling.

In a deeper sense, too, monasticism is antithetical to the spirit of clericalism that would divide the Church into “superior clergy” and “inferior laity.” Monasticism is profoundly egalitarian: open to both sexes (albeit separately), placing all on the equal footing of humility before God.

Clericalism will not be overcome by shallow or politicized measures, but by a deeper consciousness of our identity in Christ. The monastic tradition offers a means of growing in this awareness—not only for consecrated monastics, but for anyone committed to a shared life of prayer and spiritual discipline.

Clericalism and the “clericalization of the laity”

Though our focus is on this universal application of monastic spirituality, we must begin elsewhere: with a synopsis of clericalism, as well as the false solution that has been called the “clericalization of the lay faithful.”

Clericalism is based on a distortion of certain truths. The ministerial priesthood, conferred by ordination, does convey responsibilities and rights which do not belong to laypersons. The ordained priesthood differs, not just in degree but in kind, from the priesthood of all the baptized (Lumen Gentium, 10).

Nonetheless, Christianity is not a religion centered on the clergy. The baptismal vocation of laypersons is not inferior to the vocation of those ordained. A differentiation of roles in the Church is not a stratification of “important clergy” and “unimportant laity.”

Still, clericalism makes some laypersons feel like spectators—rather than protagonists in salvation history—simply because they are not ordained, and often cannot be ordained, to the ministerial priesthood.

Even consecrated life has suffered from clericalism. Deviating from tradition, medieval Western men’s monasteries became clericalized: divided into “choir monks” chosen for ordination, and lower-ranking “lay brothers” focused on manual labor. This division has long affected the Western Church.

Along with the problem of clericalism, the Church now also faces a misguided backlash against this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, this overreaction to clericalism has not promoted a proper understanding of gifts and vocations within Christ’s Body. Instead, we have witnessed power struggles, confusion about the priesthood, and what St. John Paul II called the “clericalization of the lay faithful” (Christifideles Laici, 23).

Ironically, the backlash against clericalism often proceeds from the same basis as clericalism itself. Many opponents of clericalism implicitly accept the false premise that ministerial service within the Church—in liturgical, sacramental, and pastoral contexts—signifies superiority and importance.

Rather than rooting out this error, these opponents demand that such ministries be open to laypersons. They desire to take up priestly or priest-like duties—distributing Communion, serving in the sanctuary, or exercising pastoral governance—in order to prove their importance and worth in the Church.

In the worst case, this mindset generates tension between clergy and clericalized laity, who see themselves as competitors for status and influence. Such misunderstandings reach their height in the demand for women’s ordination, often framed in terms of “equal dignity” or “equal worth.”

Sadly, these protests stem from basic misconceptions: not only about the ordained priesthood, but—more fundamentally—about the source of dignity and worth in the Church, which is found not in ordination but in our common baptism.

Holiness is one single reality, the reality of our transformation in—and into—Christ. By baptism, all are called to this holiness. Yet the Lord desires the differentiation of gifts and roles in his Church: “that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).

Laypersons should not try to approximate or appropriate the clerical state—either by demands for ordination, or by the “soft clericalism” that demands special roles in the sanctuary and the parish.

Instead, all Church members—clergy and laity—should reflect on the tremendous baptismal calling of all the faithful. Our shared baptismal vocation is a priesthood in its own right, the “priesthood of all believers” in the authentic, Catholic sense.

Though different from the ordained ministry, this priesthood is not inferior. Indeed, it is more fundamental: the whole Church comprises “a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). This universal priesthood is a participation in the mystery of Christ, who is “priest, prophet, and king” (CCC 783-784).

The consecrated monastic vocation emerged as a way for both men and women to live this universal priesthood. Later developments or distortions notwithstanding, this is still the essence of monasticism.

Furthermore, it is the reason why monasticism can serve as “a reference point for all the baptized.” To see how this is possible, we must first examine the priesthood of all believers.

The universal priesthood of the baptized

Though it is an authoritative teaching of the Church, many Catholics seem unaware that there is a universal priesthood of all believers, in which we share because of our baptism into Christ the Eternal High Priest.

This priesthood—like the entire reality of Christ and his Church—is a great mystery. But we can grasp several of its essential aspects. These include: intercession, sacrifice, mediating grace to others, offering creation back to God in thanksgiving, and the contemplative work of “standing before God.”

Individually, these aspects of the universal priesthood will be more or less familiar. What is lacking is a vision of the whole, connecting these spiritual practices through our participation in Jesus’ priesthood.

Our intercessory prayer is a participation in the priesthood of Christ, “who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34). Hebrews 7 makes this clearer: “[H]e holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (v. 24-25, RSV-CE)

Since the Church prays “in Jesus’ name,” our prayers are joined with that single, definitive divine-human intercession which Christ makes before his Father for the world. Since Christ is both God and man, we pray both to him and, in a sense, with him—in union with this eternal intercession.

Likewise, our sacrificial acts and redemptive sufferings are a participation in Christ’s priesthood. Jesus suffers in the members of his Mystical Body (Acts 9:5); and while his sacrifice alone redeems us, our struggles can sanctify the Church and bring the grace of Christ’s Passion into the world (Col. 1:24).

Similarly, our share in the priesthood of Christ makes us mediators of God’s grace. We become “sacraments” of God’s love: signs which embody the very reality that they signify. Baptized into Christ, we live for others as tangible manifestations of the grace given to us.

Jesus himself is the singular, absolute “sacrament” of God’s love in this sense. But we, in him, are transformed into reality-bearing signs of the same grace. Through our incorporation into Christ the One Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), our presence also becomes a conduit of grace between God and the world.

Another universally-shared aspect of Jesus’ priesthood is the work of thanksgiving: to receive God’s creation as a gift, and to respond by rendering it back to God, with gratitude and rightful use.

In this respect, Jesus—in his incarnate priesthood—succeeds where Adam failed. Creation was made for man’s use and God’s glorification, with the intention that all gifts would be referred and offered up to the divine Giver. But mankind shattered this relationship by transgressing against God’s generosity.

In Christ—and subsequently, his Church—the relationship is restored: creation shows forth its meaning as a sign of God’s grace, and mankind can offer creation back to God. Though it is not among the Seven Sacraments, our grateful reception and blessing of God’s gifts is “sacramental” in this broader sense.

We end our summary of the priesthood of all believers, with the work that St. Edith Stein called “standing before God for all.” Rooted in the Old Testament and Christian mysticism, this is the simple yet profound task of bringing the world into God’s presence, and God’s presence into the world, within oneself.

Because of the original unity and solidarity of the human race (cf. CCC 404), one person’s presence before God brings grace, in some way, to the whole world. All prayer, and especially that prayer which consists in simply “practicing the presence of God,” is implicitly offered “in behalf of all and for all” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Anaphora).

But what makes this possible? Again, it is the grace of Christ—in whom we are united with one another and with God. Belonging fully to eternity and time, to the world and the Trinity, he makes each present to the other. It is the Eternal Word who first “stands before God for all.” Yet in him, the same work is ours.

Monasticism and the universal priesthood

A deep connection exists between monasticism and the “priesthood of all believers.” In the West, this link was obscured by the later clericalization of men’s monasteries—the ordination of nearly all monks judged capable of priestly service—and by the functional specialization of later, semi-monastic religious orders.

These developments are at variance with the original monastic tradition—which was devoted to prayer, and involved celibacy, but which had no essential connection to the priesthood or any other ordained ministry. Early monks were in fact strongly discouraged from seeking or desiring ordination.

Open equally to both men and women, in a spirit of true Christian egalitarianism, monasticism is not essentially ordered toward the ordained priesthood. But it is very much ordered toward the universal priesthood shared by all believers through their baptism.

Having enumerated some central facets of our common priesthood—its intercessory, sacrificial, mediational, offertory, and contemplative aspects—we can see how this is so. For we find the same elements present in monastic life, only in a more developed and explicit form.

Every Christian can offer intercessory prayer in union with Christ “who indeed intercedes for us.” The intercessory prayer of monks has no more inherent power than that of laypersons; but both derive their strength from our share in Jesus’ priesthood and his divine-human mediation.

Monastics offer intercession regularly, in the daily cycle of services. But any layperson can perform the same work—by praying some of the canonical hours, or simply following a personal prayer rule with an intercessory dimension. Indeed, intercession for others should be part of the laity’s daily prayers.

Through physical asceticism, and especially the discipline of fasting, monks and nuns learn to consecrate the entire experience of human life—including its inevitable struggles and sorrows—to God through Christ. Yet this work, too, belongs just as properly to all the baptized.

The Christian East and West offer fasting traditions which should be robustly revived among Catholics and other Christians. But asceticism is not an end in itself, either for laypersons or monastics: through it, we share in Christ’s priesthood, by entering into his solidarity with the sufferings of all humanity.

It is said that consecrated religious men and women are “signs of grace” in the world. This is more deeply true than some realize: for they should be “signs” in the sacramental sense, encapsulating and transmitting the reality they signify. Yet we must not think this task belongs only to consecrated religious.

Every Christian is, by baptismal adoption, a “son of God” (CCC 460, 654, 2782). Thus, all believers—not only consecrated religious—ought to be, like the eternal Son of God, a “light to the nations” and a channel of grace between God and mankind. Christian life and social activism should be rooted in this awareness of our status as channels of grace.

The material simplicity of monastic life has an ascetical purpose; yet it is also oriented toward the original “offertory” purpose of creation, in which we receive all things as gifts from God and offer them back to him in gratitude. Simplicity reminds us that all things are gifts, to be received with appreciation.

Non-monastic laity share equally in this sacred task. By cultivating a measure of monastic simplicity in their lives, all believers can participate more deeply in Jesus’ incarnate priestly work of receiving and blessing creation. Every gift of God can be received and offered back, in a “sacramental” spirit.

Even the contemplative work of “standing before God for all”—bringing the world into the Lord’s presence, and vice versa, within oneself—is not limited to a particular group or class of Christians. It is an aspect of Christ’s priesthood which he shares with all members of his Mystical Body.

The essence of inward prayer is simply being present to God, opening ourselves to his transcendent love. Yet one cannot really do this without including, in some way, the whole of humanity in the same act. All true prayer is prayer for all: even a simple prayer—such as, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”—includes all people, in all times and places, when offered “in spirit and truth.”

To intercede with God in prayer; to be a mediator of grace, and a “living sacrifice”; to receive and offer up creation as a sacramental gift, and to “stand before God for all”: these tasks belong to monks and nuns, but also to all believers. They are priestly works, but not the privilege of a particular subgroup. They are the extraordinary, grace-filled, eternally-consequential tasks of the ordinary, everyday Christian life.

Monasticism offers a structure in which those works—the works of the universal priesthood—are the main substance of life. Yet such a life is always possible—for all who, in baptism, “have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). This is how monasticism serves as a model for the priesthood of all believers.

Overcoming clericalism, appreciating baptism

Lived out on a Church-wide scale, this spirituality of the universal priesthood would render clericalism obsolete.

Clericalism is, above all, a diminution of baptism and an over-valuing of ordained ministry. The answer to clericalism is not in “clericalization of the laity,” or struggles about who may be ordained. Without diminishing the ordained priesthood, we must take a higher view of baptism.

Sharing actively in Christ’s priesthood, as well as his royal anointing and prophetic office, laypersons would feel no need for special, quasi-clerical tasks within their parishes. Nor would they be inclined—alternatively—to rest in complacency, letting priests and bishops do the spiritual “heavy lifting.”

As a “reference point for all the baptized,” monasticism offers the means for a true, spiritual empowerment of the laity: not a usurpation of ministerial duties, but a growth toward “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

The Church needs men and women who will follow God’s call to formal, consecrated monastic life. But the Church also needs those who, without renouncing property or marriage, will look to the monasteries for inspiration in living as baptized members of Christ, participants in the mystery of his priesthood.

Monks and nuns are not a special, elite class of Christians. Fundamentally, they are baptized believers who have renounced certain natural goods to pursue the supernatural end to which all people are called: union with God, and with one another, in Christ.

Their vocation, in that sense, is simply the one Christian vocation—the universal human call that went out from the Upper Room at Pentecost:

In practice…there is only one vocation. Whether you teach or live in the cloister or nurse the sick, whether you are in [consecrated life] or out of it, married or single, no matter who you are or what you are, you are called to the summit of perfection: you are called to a deep interior life, perhaps even to mystical prayer, and to pass the fruits of your contemplation on to others. And if you cannot do so by word, then by example. (Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain)

Source: Monasticism, Clericalism, and the Priesthood of All Believers | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views