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.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 8th July, 4pm

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.

To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.


Thursday, 31 March 2011

Pope Benedict accords Ecclesiastical Communion to Archbishop Sviatoslav of Kiev Major-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church

Ecumenical Hopes Mark Beginning of Archbishop Sviatoslav

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2011 thanks to Zenit.org

Pope Benedict XVI is assuring his prayers for the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Pope greeted the major archbishop at the end of the general audience Wednesday.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Schevchuk, 40, was installed last Sunday. He had been the apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of Santa María del Patrocinio in Argentina.

"I assure you of my constant prayer, so that the Most Holy Trinity will grant an abundance of goods, confirming the beloved Ukrainian nation in peace and concord," the Pope told him.

The Holy Father continued: "Your Beatitude, the Lord has called you to the service and guidance of this noble Church, part of that people that more than a thousand years ago received baptism at Kiev. I am certain that, illumined by the action of the Holy Spirit, you will preside over your Church, guiding her in faith in Jesus Christ according to your own tradition and spirituality, in communion with the See of Peter."

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has suffered for its communion with Rome. Under Soviet rule, the Church was forcibily disbanded and compelled to join the Russian Orthodox Church. But many Catholics continued to live their faith under ground.

Archbishop Schevchuk was elected by the synod of the Church on March 23. As stipulated by the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, his appointment requires the recognition of communion with the universal Church granted by the Pope, which was given him March 25.

Representatives of the three Orthodox Churches of Ukraine were at the enthronement service Sunday. The majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox, separated into three Churches, one united to the Russian Orthodox Church, another under the patriarch of Kiev, and a third, the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  Archbishop Schevchuk greeted each of the representatives and has affirmed his hopes that his ministry will further rapprochement between the Churches, such that "the difficult period in our relationship remains in the past."

Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of the Greek Catholic Melkite Church, was also at the enthronement liturgy.  He noted his belief that his Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church "are both called to carry out a very significant role in ecumenical work, since they are the two biggest Byzantine Rite Churches in full communion with Rome."

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

"The Church is Young" The Election of Sviatoslav Shevchuk


“The Church is Young”
Pope Benedict XVI (2005)
The announcement that the Synod of Ukrainian Hierarchs had elected their youngest member, 40-year old Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, as Major-Archbishop (Patriarch) hit world news like a lightening bolt. Yet every Ukrainian Greek-Catholic felt this jolt to be a powerful sign from God and more than one of his electors remarked: “we felt the hand of the Holy Spirit” in the selection. His Beatitude Sviatoslav's life journey is a powerful reflection on God's hand upon the Church which Shevchuk has become Father and Head.
Sviatoslav Shevchuk was born in 1970 to pious Greek-Catholic parents in the Western-Ukrainian city of Stryj. At the time, his homeland was part of the Soviet Union and and his family were forced to practice their faith in secret. Pope Pius XII had referred to the underground Church in communist countries as the Church of Silence. When Gorbachov began his glasnost reform, the Church of Silence rose up to loudly proclaim the Faith. After 45 years of state oppression, the Greek-Catholic Church came forth from its catacomb existance and took its rightful place in the public life of Ukraine. During a key period of his youth, Shevchuk experienced both the anxieties and the joys of his fellow Ukrainians and fellow Catholics. He was among the generation of Ukraine’s sons and daughters who entered adulthood in religious freedom in a free country. Recently he remarked that, as one of the last generation to serve the Soviet Army (and the only Major-Archbishop to have done so), his Catholic Faith served as the foundation of his human dignity and that of his people.
Shevchuk’s personality speaks volumes: it reflects youth combined with mature virtue; friendliness and even familiarity with profound gravitas; unfeigned humility coupled with a clear word and a strong will. He is a scholar who naturally speaks the language of ordinary people. He is completely at ease on a sportsfield or in the great pomp of solemn pontifical rites. He also posseses a healthy Ukrainian patriotism, tempered by an understanding of his nation’s role among her neighbours and his Church’s role in the Universal Church and vis-à-vis other Churches. Such awareness comes not only from having lived and studied in East and West (and one could add North and South) but also from a profound contemplation of a single, unified Christian theology which has diverse modes of expression in East and West. If authentically Christian, these must always be complementary; never exclusive of one another. Shevchuk is a man of two ecclesial lungs, combining tradition and modernity, a man of and for today.
Ukraine’s ancestor, the ancient state of Kyivan-Rus’, stood poised between East and West: possessing the spirituality of Eastern Christianity but open to influence from Western European culture, acting as a bridge between the two sides. Svaitoslav Shevchuk has become the successor of the ancient primates of Rus’, the Metropolitans of Kyiv, who re-entered into complete ecclesial communion with the Roman Pontiff and the Church Universal in 1439 at Florence and 1596 at Brest. But a Catholic metropolitan had not been enthroned in Kyiv since the eighteenth century, when another child of ancient Rus’, the Russian Empire, absorbed the Ukrainian lands and eliminated any trace of Eastern Catholicsm. For this reason, in 1807, the Roman Pontiff transferred the Catholic primatial see of Rus' from Kyiv to Lviv, where it remained until 2004. What is now Western Ukraine became a province of the Austrian Empire. Austria gave the Uniate Church (an Orthodox Church in full union with Rome) a new name, Greek-Catholic. With national awakening in the nineeenth century, the old terms Rus’ or Ruthenia gave way to the geographical description Ukraine, so the Ruthenian nation could distinguish itself from Russia.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Shevchuk’s iconic predecessor, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, led the Greek-Catholic Church to rediscover its ancient Byzantine identity, in order to take its rightful place among the Oriental Churches. Sheptytsky’s sucessor, Josyf Slipyj, was a confessor of the Catholic Faith, enduring eighteen years of emprisonment under the atheistic Soviet regime. Upon his relase in 1963, Pope Paul VI raised the See of Lviv from that status of metropolia to that of a Major-Archbishopric, in recognition of the autonomous character the Roman Pontiffs had always accorded to the Ruthenian-Ukrainian primates. For this reason, Sheptytsky had begun to discuss the idea of a patriarchate and Slipyj, created cardinal in 1965, brought the discussion to the floor of the Second Vatican Council. In 1975, he began to use the title of patriarch, thereby hoping that the Roman Pontiff would deem the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches to be fully mature. Pope John-Paul II took the first step by granting synodal, semi-patriarchal structure to the Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1980. The second step was the normalization of the Church in its home territory. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Slipyj’s successor, Cardinal Lubachivsky, was free to return to his see of Lviv and begin the reconstruction of the Church in Ukraine. The next Major-Archbishop, Cardinal Husar, established the patriarchal curia and permanent Synod. In 2004 Pope John Paul reversed the decision his predecessor Pius VII by returning the primatial see from Lviv to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Husar thus became the first Major-Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, Metropolitan of Kyiv and Bishop of Kamianets Podilsk (the latter a courtesy title historically held by Ukrainain primates).
The enthronement ceremony of Major-Archbishop Shevchuk represented another step in the maturing process of his Church. He was the first Catholic primate to be enthroned in Kyiv since the Russian Empire suppressed the Uniate Kyivan Metropolitante. The ritual itself combined elements ancient and new. Ancient Byzantine ritual was celebrated in the modern Ukrainiann language. The still-incomplete sobor (arch-cathedral) displayed elements of contemporary architecture but was decorated with traditional furnishings and traditional Byzantine vestments were worn by the clergy. Three periods of Ukrainian iconography were present: traditional Byzantine, eighteenth century and twentieth century styles. The musical arrangements also represented a section of compositions by Ukraine's prominent composers of sacred choral music. Historically, Latin-Rite bishops have always been present at such enthronements. This ceremony made another innovation with the presence of the heads of Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Melchite Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch and Slovak Metropolitan Jan Babjak. Of profund ecumenical significance was the presence of prelates representing all three Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, each of which received and returned the sign of peace from Patriarch Sviatoslav. Important Ukrainian notables were also present in the church and at the reception, including former President Viktor Yuschenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Patriarch Sviatoslav has announced an ecumenical strategy, that his Church will be a help, not a hindrance to unity. At the same time, he emphasized that it is only just that the Church which suffered for unity not be be treated simply as an ecumentical object. His Beatitude begins his mandate by manifesting the most important sign of unity. On 30 March, together with the Metropolitans and bishops of his Permanent Synod, he was received in audience by Pope Benedict XVI. A private audience took place the following day. These are historic meetings between the Father and Head of a Particular Church with the Father and Head of the Universal Church. While such meetings are a sign of the maturity of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, they also bear witness to two essential characteristics of this Particular Church: unity and martyrdom. And indeed, at the first papal audience, Pope Benedict called this to mind, that Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has and must always be an icon of unity with Peter (cum et sub Petro) even unto the shedding of blood.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Pope Benedict affirms Ecclesiastical Communion with the new Maronite Patriarch

ROME, MARCH 28, 2011 thanks to Zenit.org.

Benedict XVI has officially affirmed communion with the new patriarch of the Maronite Church, who was installed in the office Friday. Bishop Bechara Boutros Rai, 77, succeeds Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, becoming the 77th patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites. Cardinal Sfeir has resigned at age 90.  Ten days before the patriarch's installation, Benedict XVI granted "Ecclesiastica Communio."

"It is a motive of pride for your Church to be united from the beginning to the Successor of Peter," wrote the Pope in a letter granting the official recognition of communion, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches. "Peter was called by Jesus to preserve the unity of his one Church i n truth and in love. Following a beautiful and ancient tradition, Peter's name is added to the patriarch's."

In the letter, the Holy Father said he hoped the new patriarch would be able to have "all the ardor, illumined by wisdom and tempered by prudence, to guide the Maronite Church."  He spoke of the glory of St. Marone, who established this Church, as well as the "array of Lebanese saints."

"May the Lord assist you in your ministry as 'Father and Head,'" continued Benedict XVI, "to proclaim the Word that saves, so that it is lived and celebrated with mercy according to the ancient spiritual and liturgical traditions of the Maronite Church! May all the faithful entrusted to you be able to find consolation in your paternal solicitude!"

The Bishop of Rome expressed his prayer that Our Lady would make the patriarch a "messenger of unity," so that Lebanon would "be able to carry out in the East and in all the world her role of solidarity and peace."

The Maronite Church has always been in communion with Rome, even while maintaining its own liturgy and calendar. Their liturgy is celebrated in Arabic, except in ancient songs and ancestral prayers of the Eucharist, for which Aramaic is used. The Church was established by St. Marone, who lived between the 4th and 5th centuries as a hermit on Mount Tauro, an ancient city of northern Syria. Today the Maronite Church has more than 3 million faithful and is present in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, and in countries of the diaspora, such as Argentina and Australia.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Greetings to Patriarch Sviatoslav of Ukraine from Patriarch Gregorios of Antioch


 

 

Prot. 173/2011D                                                                   Damascus, 23/3/2011

 

Greetings of H. B. Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

for the enthronement of the new Major Archbishop

of Kyiv-Halyč of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

H.B. Sviatoslav (Shevchuk)

(Kyiv 27 March 2011)

 

Your Beatitude, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč of Ukraine!

 

Blessed be the new Pastor whom the Holy Spirit has given to the Church of Christ in this holy land of Ukraine!

Dear brother, Sviatoslav, I have the joy and honour of offering you, Your Beatitude, my fraternal good wishes on the occasion of your consecration as Major Archbishop, Head and Father of the beloved sister Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

I offer you these good wishes in my own name and in that of the Holy Synod of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem. With me on this auspicious occasion, are two bishops from our Holy Synod (Archbishop Michael Abras and Metropolitan Emeritus John Haddad) and our Patriarchate’s Economos General, the Secretary of the Liturgical Commission, Rev. Fr. Elias Shatawi.

Today these greetings and good wishes reach you, through us, from Jerusalem, the Mother Church of all Churches, and from the Holy Land, where our Lord Jesus Christ was born and from the Middle East, cradle of Christianity.

I greet you in the name of the Church of the East, Church of the Arabs, and in the name of my colleagues, the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches, who constitute the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs.

Personally, I am very happy at how the ecclesial, brotherly communion between our two (Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Melkite Greek Catholic) Churches has developed, largely due to a long-standing friendship (of more than twenty years) with our dear brother and friend, His Most Eminent Beatitude Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, that great hero of the Christian East, its tradition, heritage and ecumenical mission! He will always be known as a Father of this Church of yours and a great defender of the ecumenical mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches, that are in full communion with the Church of Rome that presides in charity and with the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, (who showed his love for the Christian East by holding the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops), while remaining faithful to the Eastern tradition and maintaining cordial relations with the Orthodox Churches that are our sisters, ever present in all ecumenical work.

We have come to strengthen our brotherly communion with this Church that we love and respect, through you, dear brother, Your Beatitude, Sviatoslav! I think that the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church are both called to play a very significant role in ecumenical work, since they are the two largest Churches of the Byzantine rite (Greek and Slavonic) in communion with Rome.

We shall remain in contact with each other, since we ought to integrate our efforts for that greatest service to the Church and to the world, which is to realise Christ’s prayer, “That they may be one...that the world may believe.”

Axios! Eis polla eti, Sevasmiotate! Makariotate, mnohaya lita!

 

 

                                                                                                Gregorios III

 

                                                                        Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Friday, 25 March 2011

Patriarch Gregorios: the impact on Arab Counries of the Middle East Synod


Meeting about the impact on Arab countries of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops (22 March 2011)

 

H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III’s invitation to a lunch hour meeting on 22 March 2011 about the impact on Arab countries of the Synod of Catholic Bishops’ Special Assembly for the Middle East was accepted by several ambassadors.

 

Participating were their Excellencies:

-          Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See;

-          Dr. Maria Kunz, Ambassador of Austria;

-          Mrs. Françoise Gustin, Ambassador of Belgium;

-          Mr. Mark Bailey, Ambassador of Canada;

-          Dr. Eric Chevallier, Ambassador of France;

-          Dr. Andreas Reinicke, Ambassador of Germany;

-          Mr. Achille Franco Luigi Amerio, Ambassador of Italy;

-          Mr. Rolf Willy Hansen, Ambassador of Norway;

-          Mr. Michał Murkociński, Ambassador of Poland;

-          Mr. Niklas Kebbon, Ambassador of Sweden;

-          Mr. Martin Aeschbacher, Ambassador of Switzerland;

as were Mrs. Sydma Aguiar Damasceno, First Secretary of the Brazilian Embassy

and Mr. José María Davó Cabra, Secretary of the Spanish Embassy.

 

The Patriarch opened the meeting with a presentation on the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Christian presence in Syria which goes back to the time of Saints Ananias and Paul, immediately after Pentecost, and which occasioned President Bashar al Assad’s remark that Syria is the cradle of Christianity, as the Church of Antioch was indeed the first after Jerusalem’s to receive the message of Jesus.

 

 The Patriarch went on to explain the meaning of the three names of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church:

  • Melkite was the name given by the opponents of the Council of Chalcedon (451) to the Byzantine Christians of the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, a name adopted and made official by Arabs from the time of Saint Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • Greek (or Roman) since its original language was Greek, which gave way to Syriac and then Arabic; Greek is Rūm in Arabic, because the first members of the Church were subjects of the Roman Empire
  • Catholic, due to being in communion with Rome from 1724 onwards.

 

Thanks to this triple title, the ecumenical role of the Church can be seen both on the religious level and with regard to relations with Arab countries.

 

Then the Patriarch illustrated this role during the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), on the topic of papal infallibility: Patriarch Gregorios II sought to put forward an Orthodox perspective on this new doctrine. At the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), one of the main members of Council speaking on collegiality was Patriarch Maximos IV. Recently, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops (October 2010) emphasised the relation of the region’s Christians with the Arab world. This Synodal Assembly could be said to have been for the Arab world and Islam in the Arab world.

 

As a member of that Assembly, Patriarch Gregorios III was very concerned to draw attention to this situation through writing two letters to Arab Heads of State before and after the sitting of the Synod, to explain its purpose and the propositions relating to Arab countries.

 

The Patriarch also gave a series of explanatory talks in Beirut, Saida and especially in Damascus, in the context of the International Congress held there on 15 December, 2010, organised in conjunction with the Syrian Ministry of the Awqaf (Islamic endowments), in order to show the impact of the Synodal Assembly on the Eastern Churches in Arab countries and with regard to the future of the Christian presence in the region.

 

Similarly, the Patriarch also wrote a letter to the Latin Cardinals, bishops and theologians who participated in the Synodal Assembly, and another to the Heads of State of several European and American countries, to tell them about the importance of the Christian presence and its preservation for the region and for the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If this conflict is not resolved, there is great danger for this Christian presence, threatened by demographic (lower birth rate) and political factors, particularly as a result of tensions weighing on the small Christian communities: hence the importance of peace, especially for the countries of the Middle East and particularly for Syria, where all the country’s inhabitants really do live together.

 

It is important for European and American countries to put pressure on Israelis and Palestinians to reach peace.

 

Certain European and American Heads of State had replied positively to the Patriarch’s letter.

 

The Patriarch’s talk was followed by a discussion and exchange of views. The French Ambassador, H.E. Dr. Eric Chevallier, emphasised that the country’s Christians, and the Patriarch, through his influence, should make Syria’s importance better known, in the context of the current unrest; and he supported the wish, voiced by the Patriarch, for the international media not to adopt a hostile tone towards Syria but rather help Syria to surmount and move beyond this turmoil in order to safeguard its pattern of living together.

 

The Ambassadors for their part, had also voiced the wish for a conference in the near future to make better known the situation of Syria’s Christian Churches and  were keen to affirm that the Syrian model of living together that they had observed, ought to be preserved and supported. They wanted the Patriarch to make his voice heard to that purpose.

 

The Patriarch was very grateful for that stance and in turn asked the Ambassadors to make this known to their governments. Rather than pursuing the way of discord, dissent and violence, leading to the clash of civilizations, dialogue between religions should continue to be fostered in order to build peace on strong foundations.  

 

The Patriarch spoke to the media to ask them to immunise Syria against revolutionary contagion, as Syria, whilst realising that there still remains much to be done, has already given plenty of evidence of development, and since President Bashar al Assad is ready to go much further along the road that he has embarked upon, towards openness, greater freedom (of ideas and movement) and more employment opportunities.

 

The Patriarch spoke to the European countries represented in Damascus and asked them to lend their support to the Syrian model and allow the crisis, which has begun to penetrate Syria, to subside, so that this model which he characterised as “faithful, positive, democratic secularism” can be protected as a pattern for Syria’s future and that of the Middle East as a region.

 

At the end of the meeting, the Patriarch led a brief tour of the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, and then hosted a meal for his guests.  

 

Bishop Sviatoslav elected Archbishop & Primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Churches

KIEV, Ukraine, MARCH 25, 2011 thanks to Zenit.org


Benedict XVI granted ecclesial communion to Archbishop Sviatoslav Schevchuk, 40, as the ordinary of the Archeparchy of Kiev, Ukraine, and primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, meeting in Kiev, elected Archbishop Schevchuk on Wednesday as the successor of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, 78, who tendered his resignation for reasons of health in February.

As the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches establishes (Canon 153), the appointment requires the recognition of communion with the universal Church granted by the Pope. Archbishop Schevchuk (Rome has not yet assigned the title of patriarchate to this Church) was the youngest bishop taking part in the synod and is the fourth youngest bishop of the Catholic Church.

He will be the pastor of a Church of five million faithful, the largest of the Catholic Eastern Churches. The Church was united to Rome after the Union of Brest (1596), and it was particularly persecuted for this reason during the Soviet period, when Stalin ordered its dissolution in 1948. The legal persecution and marginalization ended in 1989 when, after the fall of Communism, this Church again received juridical recognition.

Bishop Sviatoslav Schevchuk was born in Styj, near Lviv, in 1970. He entered the seminary in 1983, and was ordained a priest in 1994, at the age of 24. He received a doctorate in moral theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

In 2009, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Eparchy of Santa María del Patrocinio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and in 2010 was named its apostolic administrator. Archbishop Schevchuk will take possession of the See of Kiev on Sunday.

Benedict XVI addresses Bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church

This is the address of Benedict XVI to bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church, who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

Dear Brother Bishops,

I welcome all of you here today on the occasion of your pilgrimage ad limina apostolorum. I thank His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis for the devoted sentiments which he has addressed to me in your name. Through you, I extend greetings to all the priests, religious and lay faithful of your eparchies, and I wish to assure them of my prayers for their spiritual and material well-being. This time together is a privileged occasion to deepen the bonds of fraternity and communion between the See of Peter and the Syro-Malankara Church, happily promoted to Major Archiepiscopal Church by the Venerable John Paul II in 2005.

The apostolic traditions which you maintain enjoy their full spiritual fruitfulness when they are lived in union with the Church universal. In this sense, you rightly follow in the footsteps of the Servant of God Mar Ivanios, who led your predecessors and their faithful into full communion with the Catholic Church. Like your forefathers, you too are called, within the one household of God, to continue in firm fidelity to that which has been passed down to you.

All Catholic Bishops share a proper concern for faithfulness to Jesus Christ and are desirous of that unity which he willed for his disciples (cf. John 17:11), while preserving their legitimate diversity. So it is that "the Catholic Church wishes the traditions of each particu lar Church or rite to remain whole and entire, and she likewise wishes to adapt her own way of life to the various needs of time and place" ("Orientalium Ecclesiarum," 2). Each generation must confront the challenges to the Church in accordance with its capacities and in harmony with the rest of the Mystical Body of Christ. I encourage you, therefore, to foster an affection among your priests and people for the liturgical and spiritual heritage that has come down to you, while steadfastly building upon your communion with the See of Peter.

The deposit of faith handed down from the Apostles and faithfully transmitted to our times is a precious gift from the Lord. It is that message of salvation which has been revealed in the person of Jesus whose Spirit unites believers of every time and place, giving us fellowship with the Father and with his Son so that our joy may be complete (cf. 1 John 1:1-4). You and your priests are called to promote this fellowship th rough word and sacrament, and to strengthen it by a sound catechesis, so that the Word of Life, Jesus Christ, and the gift of divine life - communion with him - may be known throughout the world (cf. "Verbum Domini," 2). 

Due to its ancient roots and distinguished history, Christianity in India has long made its proper contribution to culture and society, and to its religious and spiritual expressions. It is through a determination to live the Gospel, "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Romans 1:16), that those whom you serve will make a more effective contribution to the entire body of Christ and to Indian society, to the benefit of all. May your people continue to flourish by the preaching of God’s word and by the promotion of a fellowship based on the love of God.

I note the particular challenges to many of your parishes in providing proper pastoral care and mutual support, especially when there is not always a par ish priest at hand. And yet, smaller parishes, bearing in mind the social reality Christians face in the broader cultural context, present their own opportunities for truly fraternal upbuilding and assistance. Small Christian communities have often, as you know, given outstanding witness in the history of the Church. Just as in apostolic times, the Church in our age will surely thrive in the presence of the living Christ, who has promised to be with us always (cf. Matthew 28:20) and to sustain us (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:8). 

It is this divine presence which must remain at the centre of your people’s life, faith and witness, and which you their Pastors are called to watch over so that, even if they must live far from their community, they will not live far from Christ. Indeed, it is important to remember that Christian communities are "the proper setting where a personal and communal journey based on the word of God can occur and truly serve as the basis for our spi ritual life" ("Verbum Domini," 72).

One of the ways in which you exercise your role as teachers of the faith to the Christian community is through the catechetical and faith formation programmes taking place under your direction. Since "instruction should be based on holy scripture, tradition, liturgy, and on the teaching authority and life of the Church" ("Christus Dominus," 14), I am pleased to note the variety and number of programmes that you currently employ. Along with the celebration of the sacraments, such programmes will help ensure that those in your care will always be able to give an account of the hope which is theirs in Christ. Indeed, catechesis and spiritual development are among the most important challenges which pastors of souls face, and so I warmly encourage you to persevere along the path you have chosen as you seek to form your people in a deeper knowledge and love of the faith, aided by God’s grace and by your h umble trust in his providence.

With these thoughts, I renew my sentiments of fraternal affection and esteem for you. Invoking the intercession of Saint Thomas the Apostle, India’s great patron, I assure you of my prayers and willingly impart to you and to those entrusted to your care my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.



© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Pope Benedict addresses Church Delegation from Blugaria and Macedonia on Feast of SS Cyril & Methodius


VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2011 thanks to Zenit.org

Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today to Gjorge Ivanov, president of Macedonia, whom he received in audience together with a Catholic-Orthodox delegation from the country. The Pope received delegations from both Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to celebrate the feast day -- May 11 in the East and Feb. 14 in the West -- of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the co-patrons of Europe.


Mr. President,
Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,
Venerable Brothers Representatives of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church

I am particularly happy to receive you and to address my cordial greeting to each one of you, in particular to the president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius is a motive of joy for us all. These holy brothers sent to the Slav peoples proclaimed the Gospel amid many difficulties, but always sustained by an indestructible trust in the Lord. They were animated by the passion to make the Gospel of Christ known and for that reason they spent themselves in teaching the Christian doctrine, reproducing it in books written in the Slavic language. Without a doubt this was a decisive event for the growth and development of the Slav civilization and culture in general. The testimony and teaching of Sts. Cyril and Methodius are still current both for those who are at the service of the Gospel as well as for those called to govern the destinies of nations.

The life of these men was totally dedicated to apostolic activity, and the divine intuition to make the message of Revelation comprehensible and accessible to the peoples was the reason for unity for different traditions and cultures. In acceptance of God's salvific plan, peoples can rediscover the foundations on which to build civilizations and societies imbued with the spirit of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. There can be no real unity without respect for the dignity of every person and his inalienable rights. Sts. Cyril and Methodius understood well that the Gospel of Christ is able to illumine every ambit and dimension of the human experience, to make it fully human. The Word of God calls constantly to conversion of heart, so that every decision, every choice is purified of egotistical interests; and it is precisely from this permanent conversion to God that it is possible to have a new humanity born.

May your annual pilgrimage to Rome be the occasion to renew the bonds of friendship between your nation and the Catholic Church and, at the same time, to reinforce and promote the commitment for the good of your country. Let us invoke the intercession of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, so that the Lord may give you his peace and bless the peoples of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

***

And here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address to Tsetska Tsacheva, chairwoman of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, whom he received in audience together with a Catholic-Orthodox delegation from the country.

Madam President of the Parliament,
Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,
Venerable Brothers of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church,


I wish to address my deferent greeting to the official delegation of Bulgaria -- headed by Mrs. President of the Parliament -- which has come to Rome as customary, in the context of the liturgical feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. This welcome meeting, which is renewed also this year, gives me the opportunity to reaffirm the spiritual and cultural relevance of these two illustrious and notable pioneers of the evangelization of Europe, whose figures are honored both in the East as well as the West. Thanks to their courageous preaching through the streets of the Continent, they fostered a vast spiritual renewal and laid the basis for an authentic promotion of the liberty and unity of Christian Europe. Cyril and Methodius were "living Gospels" and eloquent signs of the Lord's goodness, that is why their witness reached the men of their time more readily.

To European peoples, who are opening these years to new prospects of cooperation, these two great saints remind that its unity will be firmer if it is based on their common Christian roots. In fact, in Europe's complex history, Christianity represents a central and defining element. The Christian faith has molded the culture of the Old Continent, and is indissolubly intertwined in its history, to the point that the latter would not be comprehensible if it did not make reference to the circumstances that earlier characterized the great period of evangelization, and afterward the long centuries in which Christianity took on an ever more relevant role.

Hence, it is important that Europe grow also in the spiritual dimension, in the wake of its best history. The unity of the Continent, which is progressively maturing in consciences and is also being defined in the political aspect, represents a prospect of great hope. Europeans are called to commit themselves to create conditions of a profound cohesion and an effective collaboration between nations. To build the new Europe on solid bases it is not enough to appeal solely to economic interests, but, rather, it is necessary to begin from authentic values, which have their foundation in the universal moral law inscribed in every man's heart.

It is my heartfelt wish that the moral and cultural legacy of Sts. Cyril and Methodius will always nourish in each one of you the desire to appreciate the spiritual patrimony of your lands and, at the same time, openness and communion in reciprocal respect. May this meeting of ours be the motive for further relations in fraternity and solidarity. May the Lord bless your dear country and all its citizens.



[Translation by ZENIT]



Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mary of Nazareth Centre in Nazareth

NAZARETH, MARCH 22, 2011 thanks to Zenit.org


On the feast of the Annunciation, just across from the Basilica of the Annunciation, an international, interreligious centre dedicated to Our Lady is set to open. The International Mary of Nazareth Centre will be inaugurated Friday by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal. A place for biblical reflection, the center puts technology at the service of the encounter with Mary and the discovery of the Christian faith.

During the inauguration, the Mary of Nazareth Association, which built the centre, will hand the keys to Father Laurent Fabre, founder of the Chemin Neuf Community, which will manage the centre. At 5 p.m., an ecumenical celebration will bring together representatives of the Churches of the Holy Land. The following day, the centre will open its doors to the public.

Pilgrims will be able to submerge themselves in "a multi-media show, with the aesthetic and pedagogical resources of modern audiovisual techniques, and to review on passing through its four great halls the essential moments of the history of salvation and the Virgin Mary's place in Scripture," explained Olivier Bonnassies, executive director of the Mary of Nazareth Association.

In an area of 4,400 square meters (43,000 square feet), one will be able to visit the Chapel of Adoration, which has a unique view of the Basilica, the biblical gardens in panoramic terraces that dominate the whole of Nazareth, the cafeteria recreated from a hall with arches, and a shop.

A statement from the association noted that during the construction and renovation, a unique archaeological discovery was made: a house from Jesus' time and several cisterns and hiding places excavated from the rock.



The International Mary of Nazareth Center has an ecumenical aim and promotes interreligious dialogue, showing in one of the rooms the way in which the Virgin Mary is perceived by the Eastern Churches, in the Quran and as a Jewish woman.



"This vocation of unity explains why the initiative is supported unanimously by the local Churches of the Holy Land," the association statement reflected. "Bishop Marcuzzo, who is supporting the project, has given his unwavering support to this work of unity, hope and peace."


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Bishop Bechara Rai elected Maronite Patriarch

BKERKE, Lebanon, MARCH 18, 2011 thanks to Zenit.org
Bishop Béchara Raï has been elected as the 77th patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites. He was elected Wednesday, receiving more than two-thirds of the votes of the 39 bishops participating in the Holy Synod. He succeeds Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, 90, who held that post since 1986.

Bishop Raï, 71, has been bishop of Jbeil, Lebanon, since 1990. Previously, he served as an auxiliary bishop of Antioch since 1986. He was ordained a priest in 1967, and from that year until 1975 he was responsible for the Arabic-language edition of Vatican Radio.

Bishop Raï will be inaugurated on March 25 in Bkerke, Lebanon, the see of the Maronite Catholic Church. The majority of Christians in Lebanon are Maronite, approximately 930,000. The Maronite diaspora is far greater in number with nearly 3 million spread around the world.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Cardinal Koch visiting Russian Orthodox Church

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2011 thanks to Zenit.org.

On Saturday, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity will begin a visit of great ecumenical importance to the Russian Orthodox Church. Cardinal Kurt Koch will begin in Moscow the trip that will end on Thursday, and will include visits to significant places of worship of the Russian Orthodox Church. The cardinal, who will be accompanied by Jesuit Father Milan Zust, will also meet the Catholic community and celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of the Mother of God in Moscow.

In an interview on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Koch said that in the first instance it is about "making contact with the Patriarchate of Moscow." He noted that he will have an audience with Patriarch Kirill and meetings with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, who is chairman for the patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations. "For me it is extremely important, after the visit I made in November to Constantinople, to have personal relations," the prelate said. "In fact, in the whole of the dialogue with the Orthodox, the dialogue of love always presupposes the dialogue of truth."

Speaking about the history of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, the cardinal said, "From our part was the strong accentuation of the Papacy, whereas from their part was the strong development of autocephaly; a further development obviously consists in the fact that a very great part of today's Orthodoxy lives in the diaspora in the West." He added, "We must examine together these new developments, so that we can reach the ultimate purpose of this dialogue, namely full ecclesial community."

Monday, 7 March 2011

Patriarch Gregorios attends Retirement of Maronite Patriarch

Patriarch Gregorios III attends Maronite Patriarch’s Diamond Jubilee of Priesthood

On Saturday, 05 March 2011, Patriarch Gregorios III, in company with the Syrian Catholic and Armenian Catholic Patriarchs, attended the Jubilee and farewell celebration of the Maronite Divine Liturgy in Bkerkeh, Lebanon, for Maronite Patriarch Emeritus, Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who, sixty years after his ordination as priest, and almost fifty as bishop and twenty-five as Patriarch, has just retired from his official functions at the age of ninety.

Also attending were the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Bishop Gabriele Caccia, presenting a gift from the Pope, and many bishops from the Maronite and other Catholic Churches, the Orthodox Churches and representatives of Protestant communions. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Designate Najib Mikati were also present, together with other political figures and officials.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter of 26 February 2011, accepting Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros’ resignation “made freely and generously, expressing great humility and profound detachment,” wrote that he was “sure that [the Cardinal Patriarch] would always accompany the way of the Maronite Church, through prayer, wise counsel and sacrifices.”

The Synod of Bishops of the Maronite Church will begin meetings to elect a new leader on 9 March. The process, including several days of spiritual retreat, may take up to fifteen days.

Valerie Chamberlain

Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches visits Melkite Patriarch’s

Lebanese Residence

 

On 6 March, 2011, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, together with the Congregation’s Undersecretary, Mgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, and in company with the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Bishop Gabriele Caccia and his Adjutor, visited Patriarch Gregorios III of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church at the patriarchal summer residence of Ain Traz. Cardinal Sandri and the other visiting clergy admired the restored residence, which, among its other functions, is very well adapted for meetings of the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Later this year, the Ain Traz residence will be celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of its foundation.
 
Valerie Chamberlain

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Patriarch Gregorios' Pastoral Letter for Great Lent 2011


Prot. Nº 96 /2011D

                                                       Damascus, 24 February 2011

 

 

 

Letter of H. B. Gregorios III,

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem,

for

Great and Holy Lent 2011

 

[ Icon ] The Prodigal Son and the Compassionate Father

 

 

Divine grace and apostolic blessing

To our brother bishops, members of the Holy Synod,

And to all the clergy and people,

 Members of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church

In Arab countries and throughout the world! 

 

 

 

It is a spiritual delight to speak to you through this short quadragesimal letter, to encourage the faithful clergy and people of our Church to observe the sacred rule of fasting.

 

In the rules of the Church I find a programme for these blessed days.  This is a propitious occasion to remind ourselves of these rarely discussed rules, seven in number:

  1. Attend (or participate in) the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and appointed holy days
  2. Fast during Great Lent and other appointed times
  3. Observe abstinence on Wednesdays and Fridays
  4. Confess in the presence of a priest at least once a year
  5. Receive Holy Communion at least during Paschaltide
  6. Pay the tithe or tenth
  7. Abstain from getting married at seasons when it is disallowed.

      

It will be seen that these rules have a general character, although they are mostly linked to the Great forty-day Lent that precedes Pascha and to the other fasting seasons of the liturgical year (preceding the Nativity, the Apostles and the Dormition.)  

 

As I do every year, I should like to refer to the Canon of Holy Lent, according to the ancient, original discipline as follows:   

 

-          The days of fasting and abstinence are Wednesday and Friday of Meatfare Week before Cheesefare Week and Monday through Friday of the weeks of Great Lent and of Great and Holy Week, unless one of those days coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March)

-          Great and Holy Saturday is the only Saturday on which one must keep a fast. It is forbidden to fast on the other Saturdays of the year, because Saturday (Sabbath) is a holy day linked with the day of the Resurrection (Sunday)

-          Days of abstinence are for the whole time of Great Lent, including Sundays and during all of Holy Week, unless the Annunciation falls then, except for Palm Sunday, when fish may be eaten.

-          Abstinence is abstinence from meat and gravy, dairy products, eggs, milk, cheese and butter, whilst fish is permitted on some days: 25 March and Palm Sunday. Wine and oil are permitted on certain days.

-          Our Holy Synods have more than once dealt with the question of fasting and abstinence, especially between 1949-54. General guidance was given, above all, after Vatican II, that each local bishop organise the discipline of fasting and abstinence suitable to his eparchy.

-          Despite different dispensations which were put in place for different situations in life, the discipline of fasting according to the old, Eastern tradition remains firm and, thank God, fairly well practised in many monastic religious institutions, among the clergy and faithful.

 

The rules of the Church recall, besides Lent, other obligations. I exhort everyone to observe them, especially during Great Lent, as follows:

 

1.       Attend the Divine Liturgy on every Sunday of Lent.

2.       Confess and practise the sacrament of Penance, which seems to be disappearing from the spirituality and practice of our Christian life.

3.       Prepare for Holy Communion with fervour. In fact, Holy Communion is becoming something of an external, social observance, for one sees the faithful lining up, but without an appropriate inner preparation.

4.       Pay the tithe! We are aiming at the projected restoration of the practice of this rule, which has spiritual as well as social and humane aspects. Indeed, by observing this rule, we are practising charity to the poor, sick, sufferers, students, unemployed and anyone in need and penury. Besides, through the tithe, we support the social, cultural and health projects of our Church, parish and community. Further and above all, through the tithe, we put into practice the commandment of Our Lord, and all the spiritual and social values of the Gospel.

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

Through fasting, prayer, penitence, alms-giving, works of charity and mercy, we accompany the birth-pangs of several of our Arab countries, shaken from the beginning of this year (2011) by painful events. So we can help our people’s way of the cross, sufferings and endurance to become the way of resurrection, through the realisation of social justice, rectitude in government, service for the well-being and development of Arab citizens and their spiritual, human and social progress in faith. In that way, those who govern and bear responsibility in our Arab countries, will put into practice what Jesus affirmed, describing the aim and goal of his Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection, “I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly.”  (John 10: 10)

 

The Word of God and fasting

 

When the tempter tested our Lord Jesus Christ, saying to him, "Command that these stones be made bread,” Christ answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4: 3-4)

 

That is why we encourage all our faithful to read the Word of God in Holy Scripture, especially during the time of Great Lent. That is what we read in Propositio 2 of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops:

 

The Word of God is the soul and foundation of the Christian life and of all pastoral work;

we hope that every family would own a Bible.

 
The synod fathers encourage daily reading of and meditation on the Word of God, especially “lectio divina,” and the creation of a website about the Bible, including Catholic explanations and commentaries which are easily understood by the faithful. We would also like to see the preparation of an introductory booklet to the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, which could offer a simple way to help people read the Bible.


They also encourage eparchies and parishes to introduce and promote Bible studies in which the Word of God is meditated upon and explained in such a way as to answer the questions the people have, and help them to become more familiar with the Scriptures, deepening their spirituality and apostolic and missionary commitment.

 

Fasting together – celebrating Pascha together

 

Christians throughout the whole world celebrated Pascha together in 2010.  We shall again celebrate the Feast of Feasts together in 2011. Everyone wishes to be able to celebrate the great Feast of the Resurrection together always.

 

It should be noted that the Synod for the Middle East dedicated Propositio 28 to inviting all Christians to work “for a common date for the celebrations of Christmas and Easter.” Similarly, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon has adopted this proposition of the Synod.

 

Syria is the next candidate for taking the decision to celebrate Pascha together. I ask especially our Christians of Syria to pray that Christ, risen and living in our Churches, may inspire our dear pastors to decide to celebrate together forever! 

 

The Example of the Venerable Beshara Abu Mrad

 

We have the joy of proposing to one and all a magnificent monastic and priestly example for the blessed days of Great Lent, which is that of the Basilian Salvatorian monk, Father Beshara Abu Mrad, who has just been declared Venerable on 10 December, 2010. He is the example of fasting, prayer, mortification, ascesis and the practice of Christian virtues and the evangelical beatitudes.

 

A five-year plan

 

Lastly, we ask all our faithful, all our sons and daughters, to collaborate with their pastors, the bishops and priests, and their lay collaborators, to act upon the proposals of the Synod for the Middle East and to set up together a five-year plan to be submitted to our next Synod (June 2011) for our whole Patriarchal Church in Arab countries and throughout the world.

 

       To everyone, I wish a Holy Lent!

       With my love, my blessing and my prayer,

      

    

 

+ Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem