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.
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

9 September 2014 - Coptic Lecture by Bishop Angaelos, 6-45 pm, St Mark's Coptic Church, Allen Street, London W8 (following the AGM at 6 pm of the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association)

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/

27 November 2014 - Constantinople Lecture of the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association and the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius - Fr John Behr, Dean of St Vladimir's Seminary, New York USA: Take Back Death! Christian Witness in the Twenty-First Century. St Mellitus College, 24 Collingham Road, LONDON SW5 0LX. 6 pm Evening Prayer, 7pm Lecture. All Welcome.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Bleeding Wound in a Political Heart

The Russian Army tries to force Eastern Catholics of Pratulin
 to abandon communion with the Apostolic See of Rome
The Maidan revolution of dignity was supported by all Churches and religious groups of Ukraine. It was opposed by the Kremlin and its allies. In a recent article for First Things, Ukrainian Orthodox (Moscow Patriarchate) Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun identified the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) as a prominent and visible moral support to the justice movement. For this, the UGCC earned the ire of Putin and his cohorts. In January, the Russian strongman revealed his hand when, at a press conference in Paris, he lamented what he claimed had been agitation by "clergy from Western Ukraine" (read UGCC). Since that time, the rhetoric of the Russian state Church has taken on an increasingly hostile tone toward the UGCC (whom it continues to label "Uniate," an historical term which, already in the 18th century, had strong pejorative overtones), as well as to other religious groups in Ukraine. Such was the tone of a message by the Patriarch of Moscow, a close ally of Putin in his allegedly 'conservative,' anti-western crusade. 

The Moscow Patriarchate's chief of external affairs, Metropolitan Hilarion, a protégé of Kirill, has been consistent with Putin's anti-Ukrainian politik and its strong dose of anti-Catholic rhetoric. His statements resulted in him being banned from entering Ukraine, for a time, as persona non grata. For the past several years, Hilarion has attempted to smear Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in the eyes of, in his words, his "contacts in Rome." At the same time, the prelate has remained silent when asked, by the Apostolic See of Rome, to substantiate such claims.

The latest attack from the head of the Patriarchate's External Affairs Department comes directly on the heels of Russia's annexation of the Crimea and its invasion of Ukraine, accompanied by savage brutality toward (including execution of) non-Moscow churchmen. In a recent statement, the Metropolitan suggested that Catholic-Orthodox dialogue:

should revisit the issue of church unia, the discussion on which was not completed in 2000 due to sharp differences between the two sides concerning pastoral and canonical consequences of unia“Since unia still remains a bleeding wound on the body of the Christendom, as the recent events in Ukraine and extremely politicized statements of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic leaders have shown, this theme needs to be revisited.
In this statement, Metropolitan Hilarion expresses an anti-ecumenical line, linking the ecclesial reality of Eastern Catholics with political objectives. At the same time, the Moscow Patriarchate continues to ignore the accord reached by Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants at Balamand in 1993. Issued by the Joint International Commission, the Balamand Statement condemned proselytism by all sides while, at the same time, it officially affirmed the right of Eastern Catholics to exist and flourish.

The Patriarchate's anti-ecumenical agenda manifests itself in its attempts to place wedges, at the ecumenical table, between Catholics and Orthodox, between Western and Eastern Catholics, and to refuse to recognize Eastern Catholics at all, just as the Kremlin (true to a centuries-old imperialistic politik) adamantly refuses to recognise the Government of Ukraine, or even its existence as a nation.

Orthodox and Catholics have made great strides in their pilgrimage of mutual understanding and have shown themselves capable of engaging in fruitful ecumenical dialogue. Orthodox and Eastern Catholics frequently sit down together at the table of ecumenical fellowship, where they are capable and willing to express mutual respect and recognition. Sadly, time and again, Moscow's representatives chose to act as obstacles to that mutual-respect and to ecumenical progress. They do this by politicising ecumenical issues, while simultaneously accusing everyone else of doing so.

If it is true, as Hilarion claims, that "Unia [Eastern Catholics to civilized folk] remains a bleeding wound," then this wound is not to be found at the heart of Christendom, as he claims, but rather at the political heart of an Evil Empire which he serves.

Ecumenical engagement is built upon a foundation of truth in charity. In seeking to pursue Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, Church officials face a serious moral imperative, not only for the honour of the Apostolic See, but also out of respect for those Orthodox Churches willing to dialogue and, finally, out of respect for the least of their brethren, the Eastern Catholic Churches. That imperative is to ask the Moscow Patriarchate to send a worthy, ecumenically-minded, and ecumenically-behaved representative, not a persona non grata to churches and states alike.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Beginning of the Indiction - Homily at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, London

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Beginning of the Indiction, Venerable Symeon the Stylite and Martha his Mother
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family of London, 1 September/14 September 2014

1 Corinthians 1.21-2.4 - Matthew 22. 2-14


At the height of the Christian Roman Empire, the great legal reformer Emperor Justinian, issued a decree (that is, an indiction) to ensure that everyone use a common dating system for contracts, official acts and legal documents. This had the remarkable consequence of moving the date of the imperial new year from its date from time immemorial - the Birthday of Augustus, pagan founder of the Empire, on September 23rd - to September 1st.

You will recall that St Luke describes how the Birth of Jesus took place in the context of another administrative decree from that very same Caesar Augustus, at a time which St Paul identified (Galatians 4.4-7) as “the fullness of time”, when there was peace throughout the known world of the Empire. So it is significant that, by the mid sixth century, the prestige of the founding Emperor was no longer common ground for the citizens of the Empire, or part of its identity. Instead, it is Jesus Christ himself. To this day, September 1st is the first day of the monthly Calendar for the Byzantine Churches of the Christian East. It remains programmatic for us all, because September is still the beginning of our academic and school years, and all of us feel the new working year really begins after the summer, with the burden of work to be done with the coming of the season of the harvest. This is reflected in the chants for today, which celebrate the bounty of God’s providence towards the people in the fruits of the creation: “Fashioner of all creation,” we sing in the Troparion for today, “Bless the crown of the year, O Lord, with Your goodness…”. Recently, September 1st has thus become for a large part of the Byzantine tradition a day of celebration and prayer for the environment, its careful stewardship and protection.

But today is also Sunday, a day when we think not only of this world, and its chronology and destiny, but of the Kingdom that is to come. In this Sunday’s Kontakion, in praising Christ our God, we go one further than this creation to the next: “With Yourself … You raised the dead and shattered the sting of death, and delivered Adam from the curse, O Lover of Mankind”. As St Paul reminds us, we set our affection on the things that are above, and not the things of the earth, because likewise we have died and our life is hid with Christ, in God (Colossians 3.2). In other words, we have to be whole people, leading holistic lives. Just as we are not complete persons if we live only with our material preoccupations, ignoring the human dimension that is spiritual, our soul; so we cannot live in the Resurrection of Christ, which became our defining characteristic when we were baptised in him, if we withdraw ourselves from the physical fact of the world and the body, as though they do not exist.

We have a clue to managing this seemingly impossible dual identity of ours - being citizens of the Kingdom of God, at the same time as active participants in the bountiful, beautiful and hopeful world he has created - in the words of today’s other observance, the feast of St Symeon the Stylite, of whom we have sung: “Seeking things above, you joined yourself to those on high; you made your pillar a fiery chariot, through which, O venerable one, you became a companion of the angels. With them, unceasingly implore Christ God on our behalf.” (Kontakion of St Symeon). Living in the company of the beings of heaven, he was also dwelling into advanced old age in the world, facing God at the same time as being seen by people, inspiring them and never forgetting to intercede for them.

We can put it another way. The great country, blues, and Gospel singer Johnny Cash captured an old saying, when he wrote a song about people who let their own light shine, without shining the light for others; who go to stand on the spiritual high ground for themselves, but don’t take the hands of those reaching to be lifted up there too. He sings, “You’re so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good” (The Rambler, 1977). This is precisely it: Christ wants it that, the more heavenly minded we are, the more earthly good we will be.

We can put it another way still. In today’s Gospel, we have the extraordinary tale of the guests who are too grand or ignorant to attend the wedding of their king’s son. The doors are thrown open for all to attend, not just the chosen few, even to the extent of gathering in the people who live on the streets. Then the king throws someone out of the banquet for not wearing the appropriate finery. At first sight, it looks unjust that the king rounds up last-minute guests in the middle of what they are doing, and then punishes them for coming unprepared. Many scholars explain this away by saying that St Matthew has just added together two separate stories with a wedding theme; but I think they are missing the point. For Jesus begins by telling a story with a popular theme, familiar to us from the Magnificat: the rich put down and sent empty away, while the humble and poor are exalted in their place – a typical “them-and-us” story. But then he gives it a twist to surprise us all out of our complacency and self-satisfaction, rich and poor, powerful and powerless alike. In the Epistle, St Paul explains what Jesus means: “God establishes you in the Anointed Christ, and anoints you by putting His seal on us, and giving us His Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment.” So there you have it: first, God the Father compels us to come into the wedding feast of His Son and seals our adoption as His own sons and daughters, co-inheritors with Christ of the whole Kingdom itself. Then the Spirit is bestowed in our hearts as the first instalment of our new way of living. But those who misuse or waste this first flow of grace will lose when it comes to the ensuing graces, whoever they are: “Many are called,” Jesus observes, “but few are chosen.”

What in us has become of this first instalment of grace? Has it simply got stuck in our hearts, or does it show in our minds in the way we decide things; does it show on the outside through the way we act? Where is the grace upon grace? Where are the signs of spiritual progress, after receiving not only the King’s invitation, but the honour of a new standing in His Kingdom? Why do we look and behave and think as before? In the case of that unchanged wedding guest, something showed the king that everything he had been given had made no difference, for there was no sign of new growth in grace beyond that “first instalment” from the Holy Spirit. Either he was living in the world, cutting himself off from the heaven that had been planted in his heart; or he was living on a personally fulfilled religious plane, with no sign to show for it in the world and for the world. The guest thrown out was not fit for the Kingdom, not because he had made no effort, but because he was enjoying heaven for himself, and living as though nothing had changed. He was not, as the Lord’s Prayer implores, seek the Kingdom to come “on earth, as it is in heaven”. He was not a whole person, living spiritually and holistically in the world. He was unable to be what the Christian must always be seen to be: a new creation in Christ, a different way of humanity.

So what is this difference to humanity that, for instance, an astonishing saint like St Symeon, or a new Church Year resolves us to seek and emulate? Well, first, St Matthew reports how, even when we fast and lament, we should not put on the act of sorrow and penitence for public consumption, but anoint ourselves with the oil of gladness (Matthew 6.17), just like at a wedding. Joy and confidence in Christ as the centre of all things, then, are the first signs to the world of the presence of God in our midst. Secondly, as we face the prospect of war and the vicious destruction of Christianity in the lands that cradled the Church from its birth, the only point of Christians is that we are people not of revenge and ancient hatreds, of self-pity and recrimination, but of persevering forbearance and inexhaustible forgiveness, people serving reconciliation and bringing healing, people of faith in Christ’s promises, hope in His ever coming Kingdom, and unconditional love for God and neighbour - and enemy.

These are the precepts of heaven for a new Church Year: the more heavenly minded we are, the more earthly good we will be in serving the coming of Christ’s Kingdom on earth as it is in

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Bishops in Synod: Ukraine is flowing with blood

We, the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church from Ukraine and from countries of Ukrainian settlements in North and South America, Australia, and Europe, gathered at the annual Holy Synod in Lviv, conscious of the responsibility entrusted to us for our flock, raise our voice on behalf of the people of Ukraine and call out to the people of the world: "Ukraine is flowing with blood!" This peaceful sovereign nation has been subjected to a direct military intervention by a northern neighbor. Hundreds of units of heavy weaponry and technology, thousands of armed mercenaries and soldiers of Russia’s standing army are crossing the borders of Ukraine, sowing death and destruction, in disregard for the terms of the ceasefire and recent diplomatic efforts. At the same time, propaganda continues at an unprecedented level of hatred and distortion of the real state of affairs, which is no less damaging than weapons of mass destruction.
The entire world has been able to witness how, over the last months, the aggressor commits crimes against humanity on the territory of Ukraine. The whole world was shocked with the criminal act of the downing of the Malaysian plane, in which 298 people from 10 different countries died. Thousands of people, especially women and children, have been recklessly killed; and it has not been possible to even bury them with dignity. Many of the wounded are forced to simply wait for death due to the inaccessibility of medical assistance. Thousands of people are being kidnapped and subjected to torture and public humiliation against their human dignity.. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are being forced to flee their homes due to threats against their lives and the danger of death. If these crimes are not stopped immediately, with the onset of the winter cold, the death toll will increase tenfold. Those, who kill people in Ukraine today, will not hesitate tomorrow to turn their weaponry against anyone, in their own country and beyond its borders, or attack any other nation in the world.
In the face of such grave crimes we call out to the consciences of believers of all religions and faiths, we appeal to all people of good will, to heads of state, and members of the international community: "Stop the bloodshed in Ukraine!" Today, silence or inaction, reluctance to recognize the gravity of the situation, which has arisen in our country, can not only turn everyone into a mute or indifferent witness, but also into an accomplice of the sin of murder, which cries to heaven for justice as the Scripture says: "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground" (Genesis 4:10). How can we not recall the words of Saint John Paul II, who in the distant year of 1979, in the vicinity of the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, said: "War is caused not only by those who wage it directly but also by those who do not do everything in their power to avoid it." We especially call for responsible action from those whom the Lord has given authority, to take the necessary decisions at the political level in order to restore peace and security in Europe. And once again we call all believers and people of good will to urgent prayers for the end of aggression and the restoration of a lasting and comprehensive peace in Ukraine.
Convinced that God is with us in our sufferings and troubles, that He will hear our common pleas and prayers, and with the coordinated efforts of the international community, we will be able to stop the bloodshed, to defend human dignity, and restore life-giving peace.
His Beatitude Sviatoslav
Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halych
His Grace Ihor (Vozniak)
Metropolitan of Lviv
His Grace Volodymyr (Viytyshyn)
Metropolitan of Ivano-Frankivsk
His Grace Vasyl (Semeniuk)
Metropolitan of Ternopil
His Grace Ivan (Martyniuk)
Metropolitan of Przsemysl and Warsaw
His Grace Lawrence (Huculak)
Metropolitan of Winnipeg
His Grace Stephen (Soroka)
Metropolitan of Philadelphia
His Grace Volodymyr (Kovbych)
Metropolitan of Curitiba and Brasil
His Excellency Borys (Gudziak)
Bishop of Eparchy of St. Volodymyr in Paris for Ukrainians of the Byzantine rite
in France and Benelux 
And all the Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Saturday, 30 August 2014

An Appropriate Response to the Crisis in the Christian East

The well-known and tragic crises unfolding in close proximity to our European home is showcasing the plight and, to some extent, the character of many of the ancient Eastern Churches. In my recent article for RISU, I argue that it is every Western Christian's responsibility to respond in charity, and that this charity must include knowledge and understanding.

After all, "Ecclesiarum Orientalium also states that ‘Those who, by reason of their office or apostolic ministries, are in frequent communication with the Eastern Churches or their faithful should be instructed according as their office demands in the knowledge and veneration of the rites, discipline, doctrine, history and character of the members of the Eastern rites.’ In other words, the Second Vatican Council envisages nothing less than that Christians in the West should be well-versed in the life of the Eastern Churches."

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Letter from His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) on the difficult situation in Ukraine

To the Catholic Episcopal conferences
То the World’s Religious and Political Leaders
To All People of Good Will
For nine months Ukrainians, have been on an arduous pilgrimage from post-Soviet fear to freedom and God-given dignity. Traumatized by twentieth century World Wars, brown and red totalitarianism and genocide, they seek a just society and a democratic, European future. With patience, endurance, and great human sacrifice they overcame in February the brutal regime of Viktor Yanukovych. This moral triumph was answered in March by Russia’s territorial annexation of Crimea. Now, for months the country endures foreign supported destabilization, separatism, and terrorist activity in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, in one word: war. Tragically, as became manifest in the criminal shootdown of Malasian Airlines Flight 17, the Ukrainian trial affects the global community.
All of the Churches and religious organizations of Ukraine stood together against the violence of the Yanukovych regime, the annexation of Crimea, and the division of the country. On the Maydan-Square for months, every day, and hourly in the night, in common prayer they insisted on respect of civil rights, non-violence, unity of the country, and dialogue. This civic ecumenical and inter-religious harmony and cooperation has been an important source of moral inspiration and social cohesion in Ukraine.
In annexed Crimea and in the Eastern war zone some of the Churches and religious communities have been targeted for discrimination, enduring outright violence. In Crimea the most exposed have been the Muslim Tatars. The Tatar community as a whole is in daily danger. Some of its leadership has been exiled, barred from their homeland. The existence of Greek and Roman Catholics ministries, Orthodox parishes of the Kyivan Patriarchate, and the Jewish community in Crimea has been variously menaced.
In April violence was instigated in eastern Ukraine.  According to Ukrainian authorities some1000 people, including international journalist and peace monitors, were kidnapped or detained; dozens were tortured or killed. The anti-terror operation launched by the Ukrainian government faces a foreign aggression that co-opts local rebels and local and international criminal delinquents.  As a result today there are over thousand civilian casualties in the densely populated cities, with the number rising by 50 deaths or more daily, not to mention the 298 victims of MA Flight 17. The infrastructure of the cities including roads and bridges, electric substations, coal mines, and industrial installations are being destroyed to cripple the economy and future reconstruction that will become the responsibility of the Ukrainian state. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee the warfare that has been brought into the heart of the cities by the so-called separatists.
Amidst the horrors of war the tiny Ukrainian Greek and Roman Catholic minority experience oppression on the territories controlled by the “separatists.” Three Catholic priests were kidnapped: Pawel Witek and Wiktor Wąsowicz (Roman Catholic), Tykhon Kulbaka (Greek Catholic). The later was kept in captivity for 10 days and deprived of medicine he needed. The episcopal residence of the Greek Catholic bishop in Donetsk was robbed and sealed, depriving him of his chancery and all documentation. The Cathedral yard was hit by “separatist” rocket fire damaging the building and windows with shrapnel. The bishop and almost all Greek Catholic priests were forced to leave the environs of Donetsk. Armed representatives of separatist regime entered the church and desecrated the sanctuary. They “allowed” priests to stay and conduct services but put them on travel restrictions. Terrorists blackmail the clergy by threatening to harm their parishioners.
Most recently, on Saturday, August 16, the small monastery of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Donetsk was seized and violated. The sisters who generously and humbly served the community and who were on a summer retreat or at summer camps for children outside of Donetsk cannot now return to their home now being used by the “separatists.”
Protestants are targeted by pro-Russian terrorist groups and have suffered the gravest violence: two sons of the pastor of the Evangelical Church “Metamorphosis” Alexander Pavlenko and two deacons of that church, Victor Brodarsky and Vladimir Velichko were taken from a church service, tortured, and killed by the terrorists. Their bodies were exhumed from amass grave in Sloviansk.
Unfortunately, the beleaguered Ukrainian Catholics, Greek and Roman, faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and Protestants in the east of Ukraine are further endangered by the rhetoric of the Orthodox leadership in Russia, which is becoming increasingly similar to the propaganda of Russian political authorities and media.
In recent documents issued in Moscow at the highest level of the Russian Orthodox Church, particularly in a letter to the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, Greek Catholics and the Ukrainian Orthodox of the Kyivan Patriarchate, disrespectfully called "Uniates" and "schismatics”, are defamed. They are held responsible for the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine and are accused of generating the warfare, especially the violence against Orthodox clergy and faithful endured as a result of military operations. Russian Orthodox leaders spread libelous information about Greek Catholics and other confessions thereby putting them in danger from the separatist militants who identify themselves as warriors for Russian Orthodoxy.
We strongly reject these claims and accusations. The Ukrainian military is not structured as a denominational entity. Therefore, chaplains of various denominations serve in the zone of the Antiterrorist Operation. 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.
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 damaged or destroyed. Clergy of all faiths who exercise their pastoral ministry in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and Crimea have suffered, some risking their own lives. Two Orthodox priests who were killed in the region are among more than a thousand civilians killed during the conflict and their terrible deaths are not connected with their religious beliefs. They were accidental victims of shelling.
We pray for all the innocent victims and for peace in Ukraine. And our Church is doing everything to bring peace and alleviate the suffering of those affected by this terrible conflict.
Ukraine needs the effective support of the global Christian community and support of all people of good will. In a media context rife with propaganda we ask you to evaluate information critically. We need your prayer, your discernment, your good words and effective deeds.  Silence and inaction will lead to further tragedy. The fate of MA Flight 17 is an example of what may happen if the terrorist activity is allowed to continue.

+ SVIATOSLAV
Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych
Primate of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

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





08/02/2014

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)



Cemeteries


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