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.


Friday, 29 November 2013

The Eponymous Flower: Islamists Attack Cherubim Monastery with Giant Jesus Statue, Which Stopped the War for Three Days

By Giuseppe Nardi in Katholisches.info, translated by "Tancred Vekron99", with grateful acknowledgement
 
(Damascus) Islamist rebels have launched an offensive north of Damascus to Deir Atieh. In the city with a population of 25,000 there is a strong Christian minority. On 22 November the attack began with two suicide bombings. With the second attack wave, the hospital was taken and the patients and staff were taken hostage. The Islamists took time to destroy a museum with thousands of archaeological finds.

Christians in Prison

The Greek Orthodox Church is concerned about the fate of Christians in Deir Atieh. The churches of the city were targeted by the Islamists. The same applies to Alawi mosques. Civilians have been abused by Islamists in the street fighting being used as human shields. The attacks seem to be made according to a certain scheme. Conquest of the hospital, destruction of Christian and Alawite places of worship and hostage-taking. Also, in Deir Atieh the Christians of the city, which the Islamists were getting hold of, were prevented from escaping the city and held hostage. A Greek Orthodox priest succeeded in fleeing under adventurous circumstances, so that he could report on the situation in Deir Atieh.

Jesus statue

The Islamist attack on Deir Atieh is part of a larger offensive against the Qalamun Mountains after the Syrian army managed to retake the strategically important town of Qara. There is the city Sadnaya with several monasteries dating back to the first millennium AD. The rebels tried to take the monastery Cherubim, which is located at the highest elevation in Saidnaya. The monastery at about 2000 meters above sea level dates back to its origin from the Byzantine period. Above the monastery a 39 meter high statue of Jesus Christ was consecrated and erected on October 14th. In order to deliver the statue, the Christians had reached a truce of three days between the army and rebels. Meanwhile, the Islamists seem to have, however, changed opinion. The monastery is no longer considered a combat-free zone for them.

Repelled Attack

With the battle cry of Allahu Akbar, Islamists stormed the monastery, which was guarded by a small unit of the Syrian army with a tank. They were able to fend off the attack. "Currently, the location is quiet. We were attacked for two days. The rebels continued here also include snipers. The attack was repulsed, "said one soldier.

Read online here:
The Eponymous Flower: Islamists Attack Cherubim Monastery with Giant Jesus Statue, Which Stopped the War for Three Days

New Liturgical Movement: The Traditional Mass and Litrugical "Reform" in the Christian East: "There is no need to imitate the failures of others"

New Liturgical Movement: The Traditional Mass and the Christian East: A Series by Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society

Turkish official wants Hagia Sophia to become mosque; Greece reacts sharply : News Headlines - Catholic Culture

Bülent Arinç, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said that the famed Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul should again become a mosque – prompting a sharp reaction from Greece’s foreign ministry. Dedicated in 537, Hagia Sophia served as the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople until 1453, when the city fell to Ottoman Turks. It then served as a mosque until 1935, when the secularizing Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made it a museum. “Recurrent statements made by high ranking Turkish officials about converting Byzantine Christian churches into mosques are offending the religious feeling of millions of Christians,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement.    The Turkish government replied that it had “nothing to learn” from Greece about religious freedom, Agence France-Presse reported. “Unfavorable treatment of Ottoman-era cultural artifacts and places of worship by Greece is well known by all,” the government said in a statement.  99.8% of Turkey’s 80 million residents are Muslim.
Read online here:
Turkish official wants Hagia Sophia to become mosque; Greece reacts sharply : News Headlines - Catholic Culture

ASIA/TURKEY - The oldest Christian place of worship will become a mosque in Istanbul - Fides News Agency

Istanbul (Agenzia Fides) - The ancient monastery of Saint John of Stoudios, currently classified as a museum complex, will be transformed into a mosque in 2014, once the restoration work in progress are completed. The news was given by Turkish sources. This building, built as a place of Christian worship, seems destined to follow the fate of the ancient churches of Hagia Sophia (St. Sophia) in Trabzon and in Iznik.

The Christian Greek - Orthodox entrepreneur Lakis Vingas, a member of the General Directory of Foundations, commented on the news by pointing out that "cultural heritage is universal", and turning it into the soil of sectarian antagonisms ends up damaging large-scale civil coexistence.

The monastery was founded in Constantinople in 463 by consul Studio, who placed it under the protection of St. John the Baptist. The community of "Studite" monks represented a bulwark in defense of doctrinal orthodoxy, opposing the monophysite thesis, the schism of Acacius and Iconoclasm. In 1204 the complex was sacked by the Latins during the Fourth Crusade. After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, the monastery church was transformed into a mosque in Imrahor, to become a museum in 1946. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 28/11/2013)

Read the report on line here:
ASIA/TURKEY - The oldest Christian place of worship will become a mosque in Istanbul - Fides News Agency

See the Wikipedia article here:

ASIA/SYRIA - A parish priest: "The exodus of civil Christians from Qara, invaded by foreign jihadists" - Fides News Agency

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - Christian and non-Christian villages, in the north of Damascus, are targeted by foreign jihadist armed groups, bringing only death and destruction. This is what was stated by Fr. George Louis, a Greek - Catholic parish priest of the Church of San Michele in Qara, which was ravaged and burned. The priest explains: "Maalula, Sednaya, Sadad, then Qara and Deir Atieh, now Nebek: the armed jihadist apply the same model: they target a village, invade it, kill, burn and devastate. For Christians or non-Christians, life is always more difficult. The militia act outside the control of our foreign Syrian compatriots of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who instead are respectful towards everyone, and do not want to raze the entire country".



Fr. Louis reports what happened in Qara between 16 and 20 November. For months, the village lived in a particular "status quo", in a regime of "semi-autonomy", with the tacit agreement between the FSA and the Syrian army. There was no conflict although the town was under the control of the FSA. The state meanwhile continued to supply electricity, and water services to the population.
When made things worse, says Fr. George, is when "on November 16, more than 3,000 jihadists entered the village, turning it into a battlefield.

Read the full report here:
ASIA/SYRIA - A parish priest: "The exodus of civil Christians from Qara, invaded by foreign jihadists" - Fides News Agency

The Vatican and the Holodomor, the Ukrainian genocide, eighty years later - with Fr Athanasius McVay of our Society's Committee




Read the Rome Reports article, here:
The Vatican and the Holodomor, the Ukrainian genocide, eighty years later

ISLAM - CHRISTIANITY For Muslim scholar, Islam does not know how to engage in dialogue, must learn from Christians - Asia News


by Idris Tawfiq

The first Muslim guest at the World Council of Churches, a professor from Al Azhar is struck by the mutual respect and willingness to listen shown by Christian delegates. He would like to see Muslims behave this way. As am ambassador of Islam, he calls on Muslims to "open up to the issues of poverty and care for creation."
Cairo (AsiaNews) - The Muslim world "has yet to learn mutual respect and to listen to others because violence and aggressiveness are not even useful roads even if one wants to proselytise. I learnt from Christians that we can be together, faithful of different religions or traditions, without condemning or damning each other to hell," this according to Idris Tawfiq, a professor at the prestigious Islamic university of Al Azhar, who attended the assembly of the World Council of Churches, which took place recently in South Korea. Here is his full testimonial.

Read the full interview here:
ISLAM - CHRISTIANITY For Muslim scholar, Islam does not know how to engage in dialogue, must learn from Christians - Asia News

Middle East: Cracking Up - Financial Times

When Arabs started pouring on to the streets to challenge dynastic despots almost three years ago, a wave of euphoria swept over their world as its citizens dared to dream they were finally on their way into the 21st century.

Now, it looks as if they have been pitched back almost a century, to the period after the first world war when the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire were dismembered. Then, it was the imperial machinations of Britain and France that carved up their lands and future. Now, a raging civil war in Syria that is spilling over into neighbouring countries threatens to bulldoze post-Ottoman borders.
Are the states of the Near East coming apart -- especially along faultlines between Sunni and Shia Muslims that run from Beirut to Baghdad? Are the frontiers in the Levant about to shatter, spawning the Arab equivalent of a post-Soviet jigsaw?

See the article, describing the ancient Christian communities ground between the rivalries of others, here:
Middle East: Cracking Up

Rabbi Sorka - "My dear friend Bergoglio" & Peace in the Holy Land: Terrasanta.net

He is considered one of the figures closest to Pope Francis and he is one of the very few people who can define the Pope «mi querido amigo». “From Pope Francis, I expect a concrete contribution to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians: with the foundation of Israel in 1948, 50% of the dream of the Jews came true. Now there’s the other 50%: to live in peace,” Rabbi Abraham Skorka explains in an interview published by Terrasanta.net.



Click here to read the interview.

Terrasanta.net

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Vatican launches team effort to help young Syrian refugees



Read Rome Reports article here:
Vatican launches team effort to help young Syrian refugees

SYRIA - LEBANON In Lebanon, more than 800,000 Syrian refugees living in the open or shacks - Asia News

Asia News - By the end of December, at least 3 million Syrians will have found refuge in neighbouring countries. For the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the situation is likely to get worse with the arrival of winter. In Lebanon, most refugees live in 960 makeshift camps. The most serious situation is in the Bekaa Valley. About half of the 800,000 refugees are under 17. Cor Unum, Caritas Lebanon and Rome's Bambin Gesù Hospital for Children launch a health mission for Syrian refugee children.
 Beirut (AsiaNews) - The war in Syria continues to drive hundreds thousands of people across the border into Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. By the end of 2013, the number of refugees fleeing the conflict could rise to more than 3 million, this at a time when winter is setting in.

In Lebanon, the situation is even more serious according to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), whose November report, AsiaNews received today.

According to the World Bank, since the refugee emergency hit Lebanon in 2011, Lebanon has spent US$ 2.6 billion to cope with it.

Read the full report here:
SYRIA - LEBANON In Lebanon, more than 800,000 Syrian refugees living in the open or shacks - Asia News

VIS news - Holy See Press Office: GREEK-CATHOLIC AND UKRAINIAN FAITHFUL: BE COMMITTED EVERY DAY TO BROTHERLY COMMUNION

Vatican City, 27 November 2013 (VIS) – At the end of the catechesis at today's general audience, the Holy Father greeted Ukrainian pilgrims, Major Archbishop [Patriarch] Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the bishops and faithful of the Greek-Catholic Church, in Rome to venerate the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul at the end of the Year of Faith, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the translation of the relics of St. Josaphat to the Vatican Basilica. For this reason, the reading preceding the catechesis was given in Ukrainian.

Full report here:VIS news - Holy See Press Office: GREEK-CATHOLIC AND UKRAINIAN FAITHFUL: BE COMMITTED EVERY DAY TO BROTHERLY COMMUNION

The Tablet - Ukrainian Catholics protest at lack of EU deal

Ukrainian Catholics have protested against the Government’s refusal to sign the planned association agreement between Ukraine and the EU and called for a renewal of talks with Brussels.

“The national interests of Ukraine are in its entry into the European space. We call on the president and the Ukrainian Government to urgently review the decision and re-engage with European diplomats in order to sign the carefully prepared agreement,” wrote the professors and students of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Kiev in their open letter.

Read the full report here:
The Tablet - Ukrainians protest at lack of EU deals

Famed sermon by Ukrainian Catholic prelate is 'extremist' literature, Russia rules : News Headlines - Catholic Culture

A famous sermon delivered in 1900 by a leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has been classified as “extremist” literature, the Forum 18 news service reports.    The sermon entitled “The True Faith,” by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, was classified as “extremist” along with 15 other texts by Ukrainian nationalists. These texts are now banned in Russia. In the sermon Metropolitan Sheptytsky argued that the Catholic Church is the true faith, and that the Church is essential for salvation. At the same time he argued against “purely national institutions,” saying that the Church is universal. Both in its concentration on matters of faith and in its rejection of nationalism, the sermon is radically different from the other 15 condemned texts, which are works of political nationalism.

Read the full report here:
Famed sermon by Ukrainian Catholic prelate is 'extremist' literature, Russia rules : News Headlines - Catholic Culture

Ukrainian Catholic leader sees growth of 'bottom-up' ecumenism : News Headlines - Catholic Culture

Ecumenism is growing “from the bottom up,” the leader of the world’s largest Eastern-rite Catholic Church said in an interview with Vatican Insider.  Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said that ecumenism cannot be left “in the hands of diplomats, politicians, or theologians alone; we need to preach it in the parishes.”     In Ukraine, the patriarch said, Pope Francis has given a new impetus to ecumenical work, capturing the attention of Orthodox as well as Catholic believers. He reported that Catholics in Ukraine are “trying to be witnesses of unity amongst ourselves” by encouraging solidarity between the Latin and Byzantine Catholic communities. At the same time Catholics are working to strengthen spiritual ties with the Ukrainian Orthodox community, which itself is splintered into different groups. “Many Christians are tired of divisions and are asking for unity,” the patriarch said.

Read the report online:
Ukrainian Catholic leader sees growth of 'bottom-up' ecumenism : News Headlines - Catholic Culture

After Retaking of Delga, Christians Terrorized in Other Towns in Egypt

Three months after the Egyptian Army liberated Delga from militant Muslims, Islamists and criminals are terrorizing Christians in other towns across Egypt, human rights activists said.

Islamists in the towns are again charging Jizya, a Koranic fine on non-Muslims also known as the "submission" or "humiliation" tax, after a lull following the retaking of Delga on Sept. 16, said human rights activists within the country. In several towns across Egypt, Muslim extremists and criminals have set up a cottage industry persecuting Christians for profit, the activists said.

Extortionists using the threat of kidnapping, torture and murder are seizing money, land and other property from Christians throughout the southern part of the country but mainly in Minya and Assiut governorates.

"What you are dealing with now is some criminals attacking Christians -- Christians who own shops and things like that," said Mina Thabet, founding member of the Maspero Youth Union. He added that in the case of militant Islamists, persecuting Christians is seen "as a religious duty."

Although exact numbers of the crimes are difficult to estimate, human rights activists say the attacks are both common and widespread, affecting Christians in dozens of towns. Almost every week, there are reports of Copts kidnapped and held for ransom.

Full report from Morning Star News & AINA here:
After Retaking of Delga, Christians Terrorized in Other Towns in Egypt

Egypt Rejects Quota for Women and Copts in Parliament

The constituent committee amending Egypt's suspended constitution will not introduce a quota for women, Coptic Christians or youths in parliament, committee member Mohamed Abla said in a press statement on Tuesday.

Abla added, "In the committee's closed session, there was a consensus not to allocate a quota for any marginalised group in all representative houses."

Read full report:
Egypt Rejects Quota for Women and Copts in Parliament

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Defending Christianity in the Middle East (Part 1) | ZENIT interview with Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I

"We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.” This was the call made by Pope Francis last week during an audience with participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.


Prior to that audience, the Holy Father met with the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Middle East to discuss the violent situations faced by many in countries such as Syria and Iraq. Attacks targeted toward Christians have caused many to flee their homelands, prompting some to fear a near total loss of Christian identity in the Middle East.

Louis Raphaël I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, is one of the many voices urging Christians to stay in their homeland. Patriarch Sako spoke with ZENIT on his recent meeting with Pope Francis and the current situation facing the Church in the Middle East

ZENIT: The Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches were here in Rome to discuss the future of Christians in the Middle East. What were some of the challenges discussed during those three days?

Patriarch Sako: The atmosphere was really very positive and it was very relaxed. We were encouraged to discuss all the problems facing the Oriental Churches with the cardinals, the Curia and the members of the Oriental Churches. I would like to thank Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and his collaborators for that. There is a feeling of the importance of Christians in the Middle East. Maybe our problems and also the communities of people living outside their countries in the diaspora help people to be sensitive to our existence and how Christians can survive there.

Read Part One of the full interview here (Part Two comes tomorrow):
Defending Christianity in the Middle East (Part 1) | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Pope's Address to Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Pilgrims on St Josaphat | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

A Divine Liturgy was held on Monday at the Altar of the Confession of the Vatican Basilica, in honor of Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr, whose relicts were placed exactly fifty years ago under the altar of Saint Basil the Great. The Divine Liturgy was presided over by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, together with the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk. Concelebrating were the Bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, who are accompanying the pilgrimage made up of some 3,000 faithful from Ukraine and Byelorussia.


Pope Francis arrived in the Basilica and gave the address to the pilgrims which Zenit translates below.


* * *
Dear Pilgrims from the Ukraine, (words in Ukrainian)
I gladly accepted the invitation of His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, and of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, to join you in this pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr, on the fiftieth anniversary of the translation of his relics to this Vatican Basilica. I also receive with joy the delegation of Byzantines of Byelorussia.

On November 22, 1963, Pope Paul VI had Saint Josaphat’s body placed under the altar dedicated to Saint Basil the Great, near the tomb of Saint Peter. The holy Ukrainian martyr, in fact, chose to embrace the monastic life according to the Basilian Rule. And he did so totally, committing himself also to the reform of the Order to which he belonged, reform that led to the birth of the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat. At the same time, first as a simple faithful, then as monk and finally as Archbishop, he employed all his strength for the union of the Church under the leadership of Peter, Prince of the Apostles.

Dear brothers and sisters, the memory of this holy martyr speaks to us of the Communion of Saints, of the communion of life among all those who belong to Christ. It is a reality that gives us a foretaste of eternal life, because an important aspect of eternal life consists in the joyful fraternity of all the Saints. “Each one will love the other as himself – teaches Saint Thomas Aquinas – and because of this will enjoy the good of the others as his own. Thus the joy of one will be that much greater the greater is the joy of all the other Blessed” (Conference on the Creed).

If the communion of the Church is such, every aspect of our Christian life can be animated by the desire to build together, to collaborate, to learn from one another, to witness the faith together. Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, who is the center of this path, accompanies us on this path. This desire of communion drives us to seek to understand the other, to respect him, and also to receive and offer fraternal correction.

Dear brothers and sisters, the best way to celebrate Saint Josaphat is to love one another and to serve the unity of the Church. We are supported in this also by the courageous witness of so many martyrs of recent times, who constitute a great richness and a great comfort for your Church.

I hope that the profound communion that you desire to deepen every day within the Catholic Church will help you build bridges of fraternity also with the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the Ukrainian land and elsewhere, where your communities are present. With the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Josaphat, may the Lord accompany you always and bless you!
Blessing
And please do not forget to pray for me. Thank you!

[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]
Pope's Address to Ukranian Greek-Catholic Pilgrims | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

ASIA/IRAQ - Concrete proposals to preserve the demographic balance in the Christian -majority areas - Fides News Agency

Erbil (Agenzia Fides) - The first conference sponsored by the "Friends of Bartala" organization to denounce the tampering of the demographic balance in areas where historically indigenous Christian communities in Iraq were concentrated (Erbil, 23-24 November) was concluded with the proposal of a package of concrete demands to address this emergency. In particular, the organization calls for the creation of a Joint Committee which brings together representatives of the Federal Government, of the regional in Kurdistan and local authorities in the province of Nineveh to develop and implement legal and administrative measures designed to encourage the return of native Christian families who left the region, to protect the Christians in the area of Mosul - still exposed to bullying and targeted violence.

Read the report in full here:
ASIA/IRAQ - Concrete proposals to preserve the demographic balance in the Christian -majority areas - Fides News Agency

The ‘Muslim’ Jesus Demands Sharia Law and Jizya tribute

From the American Conservative journalist, Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Islam's New War on Christians.

The 'Muslim' Jesus Demands Sharia Law and Jizya tribute

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Metropolitan Tikhon marks 80th Anniversary of man-made famine in Ukraine - A Russian Orthodox Church Website : A Russian Orthodox Church Website

On the occasion of the 80th Anniversary of the Holodomor—the man-made, Stalin-era famine in Ukraine and adjacent Cossack territories in 1932 and 1933, during which millions died of starvation—His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon sent a letter to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Volodymyr of Kyiv and All Ukraine (Moscow Patriarchate), expressing “heartfelt solidarity” with the Ukrainian people.

Metropolitan Tikhon marks 80th Anniversary of man-made famine in Ukraine - A Russian Orthodox Church Website : A Russian Orthodox Church Website

Pope meets with Russian president Vladimir Putin, urging him to protect 'human dignity'



During their 35 minute meeting the Pope urged Vladimir Putin to protect human dignity. As a gift, the president gave the Pope an Byzantine icon of Our Lady of Tenderness. Even though this is the first time both leaders have directly met, they had addressed each-other before.

More here:
Pope meets with Russian president Vladimir Putin, urging him to protect 'human dignity'

Also from Zenit::


VATICAN CITY, November 25, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Russian President Vladimir Putin was received in the Vatican Apostolic Palace by Pope Francis this evening.




The meeting is the first between the Russian head of state and the Holy Father.

During the meeting, which was said to have lasted roughly 35 minutes, President Putin and the Holy Father discussed several topics of interest, including the fundamental contribution of Christianity in Russia.

A communique released by the Holy See stated that particular attention was placed on current situation in the Middle East, especially in Syria. President Putin, the communique continued, expressed thanks for the letter addressed to him by the Holy Father on the occasion of the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg.”

“They underlined the urgent need to end the violence and to bring necessary humanitarian assistance to the population, as well as promoting concrete initiatives for a peaceful solution to the conflict, which privileges the path of negotiation and involves the various ethnic and religious components, recognizing their indispensable role in society.”

At the traditional exchange of gifts between the two leaders, the Holy Father gave the Russian President a mosaic of the Vatican gardens. Presenting his gifts, President Putin gave the Holy Father an icon of the Madonna of Vladimir, an image venerated by Russian Orthodox Christians.

“Do you like the icon?,” President Putin asked the Pope, to which he simply replied: “Yes.” Sources present at the meeting said that the Russian president then made the sign of the cross and kissed the icon, to which Pope Francis followed and kissed the image as well.

Following the meeting, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, briefed journalists, noting that the meeting was “cordial” and “constructive”. Fr. Lombardi also said Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to President Putin who conveyed the greetings of the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill I.

The director of the Holy See Press Office confirmed that there was no discussion whatsoever of a possible papal visit to Russia in the future.

Pope Francis Unveils Fragments Believed to Be Apostle Peter's Bone


By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor
November 25, 2013|9:35 am
 
At a mass that marked the end of the Vatican's year-long celebration of the Christian faith, Pope Francis on Sunday unveiled for the first time bone fragments believed to be that of Apostle Peter.
The pope prayed before a jewel box that carried nine pieces of bone – each measuring about an inch long – inside a bronze display case kept beside the altar during the mass at St. Peter's Square on Sunday, according to The Associates Press.

Francis clutched the case in his arms for several minutes after his homily at the mass that was attended by around 1,200 cardinals, patriarchs and archbishops from around the world.

It was Pope Paul VI who had announced in 1968 that the fragments found in the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica belonged to Peter, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, "in a way that we can consider convincing."

Catholics consider Peter to be the first pope. The bone fragments were found during excavations after the death of Pope Pius XI in 1939. Pius had asked to be buried in the grottoes where dozens of popes are buried. Archaeologists discovered there a funerary monument with a casket with an engraving in Greek reading "Petros eni," or "Peter is here."

Pope Francis Unveils Fragments Believed to Be Apostle Peter's Bone

A&B News Blog: Catholic Deacon Helps to Bring Voice of Syrian Christians to UK


Melkite Patriarch Gregorios, Fr Deacon Richard Downer (Melkite Greek Catholic Church), Fr Dominic Robinson SJ


A&B News Blog: Catholic Deacon Helps to Bring Voice of Syrian Christians to UK

Pope calls on Ukrainian Greek-Catholics to build bridges with other Churches



November 25, 2013. (Romereports.com) More than 3,000 pilgrims from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church welcomed Pope Francis, amid applause at St. Peter's Basilica. The ceremony took place to mark the 50th anniversary since the relics of Ukrainian martyr St. Josaphat were transferred to the Basilica.

“Blessed Father. Beloved by all Ukrainians, Pope Francis!” 

The enthusiasm from the major archbishop for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, was evident as he greeted Pope Francis in the Pope's native language. 

Along with the much larger Ukrainian group, a smaller Greek-Catholic delegation from Belarus attended. The Pope spoke about how St. Josaphat is an example of the communion of saints

Pope calls on Ukrainian Greek-Catholics to build bridges with other Churches

Holy See Press Office: ST. JOSAPHAT, EXAMPLE OF BROTHERLY LOVE AND UNITY IN THE CHURCH

Patriarch Sviatoslav at St Peter's

Vatican City, 25 November 2013 (VIS) – “St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that each person will love his neighbour as he loves himself, and will therefore enjoy his neighbour's goods as if they were his own. Thus, the joy of one will increase inasmuch as the joy of others increases”. With these words, this morning Pope Francis received three thousand Greek Catholic pilgrims from Ukraine and Belarus, in Rome to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the translation of the relics of St. Josaphat to the Vatican Basilica. In the morning Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, celebrated the Divine Liturgy along with the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

At midday, the Holy Father went to the Basilica to greet the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, and said that “the best way to commemorate St. Josaphat is to love each other and to love and serve the unity of the Church. We are supported in this by the courageous witness of the many more recent martyrs, who constitute a great richness and great comfort for your Church”. Francis expressed his hope that “the intense communion that you wish to deepen every day within the Catholic Church may help you also to build bridges of fraternity with other Churches and ecclesial communities in Ukraine and in other countries where your communities are present”.

Read report online:
VIS news - Holy See Press Office: ST. JOSAPHAT, EXAMPLE OF BROTHERLY LOVE AND UNITY IN THE CHURCH

VIS news - Holy See Press Office: ANGELUS: FRANCIS REMEMBERS THE HOLODOMOR, THE GREAT UKRAINIAN FAMINE, AND THE GRACE OF THOSE WHO COLLABORATED IN THE YEAR OF FAITH

Vatican City, 24 November 2013 (VIS) – Following the closing Mass of the Year of Faith, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

“Before concluding this celebration”, he said, “I would like to greet all the pilgrims, families, parish groups, associations and movements who have come here from many countries. I greet the participants in the National Congress of Mercy and the Ukrainian community, which commemorates the eightieth anniversary of the Holodomor, the great famine provoked by the Soviet regime, which claimed millions of victims”.
Full report here:
VIS news - Holy See Press Office: ANGELUS: FRANCIS REMEMBERS THE HOLODOMOR, THE GREAT UKRAINIAN FAMINE, AND THE GRACE OF THOSE WHO COLLABORATED IN THE YEAR OF FAITH

ASIA/SYRIA - The village of Deir Atieh invaded by Islamists: Christians identified and detained - Fides News Agency

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - Militants of Islamist factions have invaded the town of Deir Atieh, north of Damascus, spreading terror, death and destruction. As Fides sources in the Greek Orthodox Church report, the attack took place on 22 November. The militants entered the municipal hospital and took hostage the sick. The museum of Deir Atieh that welcomed thousands of works and precious archaeological finds was devastated. Mosques and churches were hit and damaged. Numerous homes were looted and civilians captured and used as human shields.

 The situation is particularly worrying for Christians. The population, about 25 thousand people, have begun to flee. The militiamen examine the identification documents of those who intend to leave the city and retain those who have Christian names. To be able to leave the village, a Greek Orthodox priest had to say he was married and present himself with a woman: he was allowed to go just because he had an Arab name and had no ancestry or Christian reference.

 Fr. F.H., who in a note sent to Fides requested anonymity for security reasons, pleads the international community and the Holy See to mobilize in order to arrange for the release of the hostages and save the village of Deir Atieh. It is not clear, notes the source of Fides, what prompted the armed gangs to penetrate the village. Even hundreds of people from Qara, another Syrian village in the mountains of Qalamoun, 90 km from Damascus had found refuge. In recent weeks, Qara had been attacked by Islamist fighters from the city of Arzal. Among the refugees of Qara, who moved to Deir Atieh, there is also the Greek-Catholic priest Father George Luis and all his parishioners. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/11/2013)

Read online here:
ASIA/SYRIA - The village of Deir Atieh invaded by Islamists: Christians identified and detained - Fides News Agency

How was the Hagia Sofia transformed into a museum? | Islam | World Bulletin

Ömer Aymalı / World Bulletin - History

One of the most prestigious houses of worship in the Byzantine Empire, the Hagia Sofia, was transformed into a mosque after the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II conquered Istanbul. With the intention of maintaining the mosque, Sultan Mehmet II turned the Hagia Sofia into a foundation, and built a market, an inn, a public bath and shops in the area surrounding it to cover its expenses.

After serving as a mosque for 500 years, it was transformed into a museum in 1934. Celal Bayar's claims are some of the most important explanations as to why and how the Hagia Sofia became a museum. According to Celal Bayar, Turkey was in the process of forming a pact with the Balkan countries in order to ward off a threat from Italy. During this process, Celal Bayar visited Greece, only to be told by the Greek prime minister that turning the Hagia Sofia into a museum would convince the other nations to include Turkey in the pact. Celal Bayar passed on the Greek prime minister's message to the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who responded by saying "The Director of Foundations was here just earlier. He said that he couldn't find the funds to renovate Hagia Sofia. It is currently in ruins, neglected and a dump. If we turn the Hagia Sofia into a museum, could we save it from decay? In doing the Greeks this favor, could we also save the Balkan pact? If we can, then we should do so."

Read more here:
How was the Hagia Sofia transformed into a museum? | Islam | World Bulletin

Syrian Rebels Used Civilians as Human Shields, Bombed Churches, Says Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch revealed that Syrian rebel forces have committed war crimes including the killing of civilians and the targeting of churches, during their attack on the Christian village of Sadad in late October.

According to the testimonies of villagers, the rebel fighters refused to allow them to leave their homes in areas with active fighting, while others said that the fighters used civilians as human shields.

Residents confirmed that opposition fighters also stole the possessions of some residents - looted and vandalized property in at least three local historical churches.

"Opposition fighters came into Sadad claiming they would not harm civilians, but they did just that," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement. "There is no excuse for indiscriminate or targeted attacks against civilians or civilian sites."

Opposition fighters should never execute or directly target civilians or anyone in their custody or target civilian sites, including religious sites, HRW said. HRW identified the names of 46 people from Sadad killed in the village during the weeklong operation. Residents told HRW that 41 of the dead were civilians, including 14 women and two children.

Read full report here:
Syrian Rebels Used Civilians as Human Shields, Bombed Churches, Says Human Rights Watch

Copts Need Full Rights Under Egyptian Law After 'Centuries of Persecution,' Says Egyptian Journalist

Dr. Abdel Halim Kandil, a prominent Egyptian journalist, expressed his rejection of a quota system for Copts and other religious minorities to ensure their representation in parliament that is being considered in the new draft of the country's constitution.

Kandil insited that they should be treated as Egyptian citizens with full rights with the understanding that Copts in the country have been suffering for centuries.

"Copts have been suffering from religious discrimination since Ottoman rule in Egypt," Kandil told Mideast Christian News. "The displacement of Copts is a major crime," he added.

"In addition to the sectarian conflict existing in the community, Gamaat Islamiya burned several churches following the breakup of Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins, and in retaliation for Copts' participation in the June 30 revolution."

Read full report here:
Copts Need Full Rights Under Egyptian Law After 'Centuries of Persecution,' Says Egyptian Journalist

Statement on the Opening of the Plenary Session of the Oriental Churches Congregation: Patriarch Gregorios of the Melkite Church

Meeting of Pope Francis with the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs,
Assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches

Gregorios III: “Frank, constructive conversations for the good of our Churches.”

 
Last Thursday 21 November 2013, the Feast of the Presentation of the Mother of God in the Temple, was the day when the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches who had gathered together in Rome met with Pope Francis. This meeting followed in the wake of one organised by Benedict XVI in September 2009. Welcoming the Holy Father to Jordan in May of that year, Gregorios III had asked him to enable the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs to meet regularly with him. 

The meeting of 21 November, which was characterised by ecclesial brotherliness, listening, frankness, sincerity and simplicity, took place during the work for the General Assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches held from 19 to 22 November. On 24 November the Patriarchs will be with Pope Francis to celebrate the closure of the Year of Faith as “a sign of their determination to live out in full communion with Peter’s successor the mission entrusted to their Churches by the Council: generously witnessing witness to faith in order to foster Christian unity, especially in the East.”

The Eastern Catholic Churches fifty years after the Second Vatican Council was the central theme of the Assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Five talks illustrated the theme: the role of Eastern Christians and their influence on Vatican II: ecclesial and ecumenical issues; pastoral mission between East and West; the diaspora of Eastern Christians; the impact of Vatican II on the relations between the Eastern Churches and Rome, and on the daily life of the Eastern Churches.

The work of the meeting allowed everyone to talk simply and frankly without any taboo or forbidden topic and this lead to a constructive dialogue which touched on critical issues such as: patriarchal authority outside patriarchal territories, the authority of patriarchs in the Gulf, lifting the prohibition on Eastern Churches appointing married priests outside their patriarchal territories, working relations with the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

The meeting with Pope Francis began with a joint prayer, at the end of which Cardinal Leonardo Sandri addressed the Holy Father, who greeted all the participants. Cardinal Rai, Patriarch of the Maronites then took the floor to present to the Pope the various documents of the Assemblies of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs. The discussion was then opened up and everyone was able to talk simply and frankly.

No press release was issued after this meeting. The matters broached and addressed have to be further explored and studied before being re-submitted to the Holy Father, and only then will decisions be able to be taken.

What was important in this meeting was simply the quality of the debate and the possibility given to each one to speak directly to the Holy Father in a frank and constructive dialogue. The situation in Arab countries was obviously at the heart of all the issues discussed. All the Patriarchs had gratefully hailed Pope Francis’ call for 7 September to be a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and in the Middle East, as they had requested constant efforts and appeals for prayer and peace and for them to be the subject of continuous focus on the part of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Holy Father.

Peace is the primordial condition for the sustainability of Christians’ presence and role in their countries in the Middle East for everyone’s benefit; for curbing the exodus of Christians and its tragic consequences; for Muslim-Christian dialogue and knowing how to live together with Islam; for preserving liberties.

On the evening of 21 November, and on the occasion of Lebanon’s national day, Gregorios III together with the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rai, the Armenian Catholic Patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX, and the Syriac Catholic Patriarch, Ignatios Joseph III Younan, went to the Lebanese Embassy to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of Lebanese independence.

 

Patriarch Gregorios to Pope Francis

At the Vatican, 21 November 2013

Most Holy Father

1. The Patriarchate of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has its headquarters in Damascus, capital of Syria, the country that Your Holiness has often described as “beloved,” in your repeated appeals to the international community, for which we can never thank you enough, as they prevented a potentially disastrous military attack from abroad.

As President of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria, I should like to talk to you about the tragic situation, which is a real way of the cross for our faithful and other Christians in this country, without in any way forgetting the problems of our brothers and sisters in Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

All we Christians and Muslims are implicated as victims in this bloody conflict, which has lasted now for over two and a half years.

2. In Syria, all Churches and all Christians are in favour of reforms, but not through violence. The Patriarchs and other church leaders have unanimously and frequently called for reconciliation. It is important for Europe to be aware of this and take it into consideration.

But of the one million seven hundred thousand Christians living in Syria three years ago, nearly half a million are now internally displaced inside the country or temporarily living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, some sixty churches have been destroyed or damaged, without counting the wrecking of several of our schools and hospitals, and millions of homes and businesses.

There are also one thousand two hundred dead from among our communities (out of over one hundred and twenty thousand dead since March 2011), some of whom were real martyrs, notably at Ma’alula. 

3. Right from the beginning of the crisis, the Churches placed themselves at the service of all in need in all our eparchies, and especially in our Patriarchate in Damascus. Caritas-Syria co-ordinates aid throughout the country, and should be the European Community’s preferred partner for humanitarian aid in Syria.

In August, welcoming a delegation from the European Community, I told them, “Give us peace, not weapons.”

At stake are the lives of hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens, not to mention the continuation of Muslim-Christian dialogue in the Middle East and throughout the world.

4. Until recent weeks, the vast majority of Syria’s Christians wanted to remain in the country and not leave, despite the dangers that threatened them. 

Apart from being at risk from crossfire between snipers or artillery and deadly attacks from car bombs, dangers that threaten all Syrians and Christians in particular, are the chaos that prevails over part of the country, dastardly kidnappings accompanied by demands for exorbitant ransoms and being used physically as human shields and their churches as impregnable hideouts.

So far, our communities by and large have heeded the advice of Catholic and Orthodox bishops and refused to take up arms or form their own militias to resist the attacks of some two thousand various different groups that make up the forces hostile to the regime and which are often controlled by terrorist organisations.

Since last month, we have noticed a wave of panic, signalled by an escalation in requests for baptismal certificates with a view to emigration following the false rumour that Russia had offered asylum to fifty thousand Syrian Christians: 736 requests in October (64 last April, 135 in August and 181 in September.)

5. A diplomatic and political (not a military) solution of the Syrian crisis, not to mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the deliverance awaited by millions of Christians, Muslims and others, not only in Syria, but also in the whole Middle East. This solution is the only one capable of lessening Muslim fundamentalism and extremism, thereby solving half the region’s problems.

This is also the requisite condition for a resumption and continuation of dialogue and living together in our countries, and productive relations between the Arab world and the Western world, in order to promote basic freedoms and human rights in the Muslim world, in the context of secular rather than sectarian regimes.

That is why the presence of Christians in our countries is very useful, since, as your unforgettable predecessor, Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul II said, our mission is to be salt, light and leaven in Arab society.

6. We have to co-ordinate a common approach among our Churches in the Arab world with regard to the movements and revolutions that have been spreading there for the last two years, in order to assure maintenance of the Christian presence and continuation of Muslim-Christian co-existence. As you know, what has happened in Syria (and in Iraq, Egypt and Palestine) constrains us to work for this with a sense of urgency. 

In the wake of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of 2010, we ought also to let the Episcopal Conferences of Europe and America know about our current situation, our urgent needs and our immediate future prospects. With respect to Europe therefore, it would be expedient for our Plenaria here in Rome to be followed by a meeting of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe, and I should like to volunteer to talk about this with HE Cardinal Péter Erdő.

7. The Christian presence in the predominantly Muslim Arab world (15 million Christians out of 300 million people) is the leitmotiv of our Church’s role in Arab countries, and in emigration countries too. We bear a unique responsibility in and to this Arab world.

I illustrated that through perhaps over-ambitious turns of phrase, by saying that we are not just an Arab Church, but also “Church of the Arabs” and even “Church of Islam.” I mean by that, that we Arab Eastern Christians, living in a predominantly Muslim society have a unique, irreversible, irreplaceable, imperative, almost exclusive mission to it, because we have been living together for the last 1434 [Islamic] years. We have the same language and culture. Furthermore, some aspects of Christian culture have elements deriving from Islam, just as some part of Muslim culture has a Christian content. This role is assured through our presence and witness in the Arab world, and is especially significant in Lebanon and Syria.

8. Finally, Most Holy Father, please allow me to express our joint wish that today’s meeting be repeated annually, or biennially at least; the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The Family next year, would provide an excellent opportunity for so doing.

It would also be desirable for the Eastern Catholic Churches to have the possibility of taking part in discussions on the primacy, in the context of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. A special study day on this issue would be very appropriate and useful.

I think that it would be equally appropriate and useful for the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs to be able to take part in examining problems such as Muslim-Christian dialogue, dialogue with the Orthodox Churches and problems of justice and peace.

Thank you, Most Holy Father


Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Greek Catholic Melkite Church

Putin to discuss Syrian peace process with pontiff - A Russian Orthodox Church Website : A Russian Orthodox Church Website

Moscow, November 21, Interfax – Syrian settlement prospects will be an item on the agenda of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican on November 25.
“The issue will be touched upon at the audience with the Pontiff,” Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said.

Pope Francis sent a message to Putin before the G20 St. Petersburg summit of September 2013 to laud Russia’s chairmanship in the Group of Twenty and to oppose the use of force in the settlement of the Syrian conflict. “The message created a constructive background for the discussion of the Syrian crisis at the St. Petersburg meeting of the G20 leaders. Interesting and rather positive developments occurred later on, in the light of the initiatives put forward by our president,” the Kremlin representative observed.

Full report here:
Putin to discuss Syrian peace process with pontiff - A Russian Orthodox Church Website : A Russian Orthodox Church Website

As Pope Meets Putin, Expectations High for Syria Resolution

11:30AM EST 11/21/2013 Eric J. Lyman/RNS
Next week’s summit between Pope Francis and Russian President Vladmir Putin may be the most important meeting between a pontiff and a visiting head of state in nearly a quarter of a century, with war-torn Syria expected to be the top priority.

Francis has met with more than a dozen heads of state or government as pontiff, and Putin has met with both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II. But this meeting stands out. It’s been just four years since full diplomatic ties were re-established between Russia and the Holy See, set against a backdrop of centuries of tension between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Now, because of the period of reform Francis has ushered in at the Vatican, and a list of priorities that range from Syria to a desire to strengthen ties between the world’s largest country and one of the smallest, the Nov. 25 closed-door encounter will take on a dramatically increased importance.

“The last time a meeting at the Vatican has outweighed this one in terms of importance was in 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev met John Paul II as the Cold War was drawing to a close,” said Franco Pavoncello, a political scientist and president of Rome’s John Cabot University.

Full article here:
As Pope Meets Putin, Expectations High for Syria Resolution

‘Largest Massacre of Christians in Syria’ Ignored | FrontPage Magazine

The worst Christian massacre--complete with mass graves, tortured-to-death women and children, and destroyed churches--recently took place in Syria, at the hands of the U.S.-supported jihadi "rebels"; and the U.S. government and its "mainstream media" mouthpiece are, as usual, silent (that is, when not actively trying to minimize matters).

The massacre took place in Sadad, an ancient Syriac Orthodox Christian habitation, so old as to be mentioned in the Old Testament. Most of the region's inhabitants are poor, as Sadad is situated in the remote desert between Homs and Damascus (desert regions, till now, apparently the only places Syria's Christians could feel secure; 600 Christian families had earlier fled there for sanctuary from the jihad, only to be followed by it).

In late October, the U.S-supported "opposition" invaded and occupied Sadad for over a week, till ousted by the nation's military. Among other atrocities, 45 Christians--including women and children--were killed, several tortured to death; Sadat's 14 churches, some ancient, were ransacked and destroyed; the bodies of six people from one family, ranging from ages 16 to 90, were found at the bottom of a well (an increasingly common fate for "subhuman" Christians).

The jihadis even made a graphic video (with English subtitles) of those whom they massacred, while shouting Islam's victory-cry, "Allahu Akbar" (which John McCain equates to a Christian saying "thank God"). Another video, made after Sadad was liberated shows more graphic atrocities.

Full article here:
‘Largest Massacre of Christians in Syria’ Ignored | FrontPage Magazine

Maronite Archbishop Nassar in Syria: Only Project We Have Is Building a Bigger Cemetery | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) |

Christians in Damascus are clinging to hope despite the rising death toll in the ongoing conflict in Syria.


In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus pleaded for support and solidarity to Christians in Syria. “There has been war [in Syria] for three years, and it is destroying the whole country,” he said. “The people feel lost and without support.”

Full report here:
Maronite Prelate in Syria: Only Project We Have Is Building a Bigger Cemetery | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Carmelite nun from Syria describes pain of civil war :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

.- Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, a Lebanese-born nun who has lived nearly 20 years in Syria, is travelling the U.S. advocating for peace and reflecting on how the conflict has affected life in the region.

It is “terribly, tremendously” difficult to be living away from her community in Syria, she reflected Nov. 17. “We have a very, very familiar way of communitarian life, and our community is in need, it's a new community. We were founded in 2000, so they need their superior, they need their mother. But the Lord has supplied: they are like heroes; I consider this community to be heroes.”  Mother Agnes is the superior of St. James the Mutilated monastery in Qarah, located 60 miles north of Damascus on the road to Homs.

Qarah, which was captured by the Syrian regime two days after Mother Agnes spoke with CNA, had been under the control of the Free Syrian Army, a moderate rebel group, for over a year.
The monastery is home to 20 nuns of the Unity of Antioch, and is also sheltering 32 Sunni refugees from al-Qusayr, she told CNA. Because of the violent unrest in the area, she cannot return to the monastery.

Read full report from CNA here:
Carmelite nun from Syria describes pain of civil war :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

VIS news - Holy See Press Office: THE CATHOLIC EAST COMMITTED TO DAILY INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

This report addresses the important question of the Eastern Catholic Patriarch's direct and unmediated patriarchal jurisdiction for their faithful in the diaspora, regardless of the Latin Church whose primate is the Pope. After all, the Pope has direct jurisdiction for his faithful in their diaspora in among the Eastern Churches, regardless of their patriarchs (cf Ukraine, India, Jerusalem). Does this indicate that the Oriental Congregation is distinguishing between the Pope's two roles as Latin Primate/Patriarch and as Universal Pastor? If so, in line with Pope Francis anticipated reform of the Roman Curia, will the Oriental Congregation become less a dicastery of the Bishop of Rome for overseeing the Catholic Eastern Churches, and more of a joint commission from all the Patriarchs, the Roman Pontiff among them as protos/primus?

Vatican City, 22 November 2013 (VIS) – The Congregation for the Oriental Churches today concluded its plenary session, held from 19 to 22 November, which focused on the balance of conciliar ideas regarding the Catholic East fifty years after Vatican Council II.

The harmonious climate in which work was carried out was unanimously appreciated, according to a communique issued by the dicastery. The synodal experience, profoundly rooted in the oriental tradition, was demonstrated to be a fruitful working method. Appreciation was expressed for the beauty of conciliar ecclesiology and the value of diversity in unity, also underlining that the recognition of the apostolic origin is a theological and juridical affirmation. A further theme was the migratory phenomenon, which represents a challenge as it poses serious problems for the situation of Christians in the Middle East, harshly penalised by the effects of the war in Iraq and by the current conflict in Syria, without forgetting the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian question and Egypt's troubled rebirth as a pluralist nation.

A further problem is that the full dignity of the heads of the patriarchal and the major archiepiscopal Churches, also known as 'Fathers', requires that they are considered as such wherever their 'sons' may be, nowadays well beyond the borders considered to be their own, and with their own respective traditions and discipline. Alongside the significant representation of the Latin archbishops who are also ordinaries for the Oriental faithful without their own hierarchy, specific ecclesial administrative structures must be considered and progressively developed. The ecumenical dimension must always be maintained, assuming a fruitful attitude of authentic brotherhood and patient reconciliation, without however penalising those who by their existence bear daily witness that one may be in communion with the Bishop of Rome, recognising his primacy, without renouncing one's one method of governance and of living the mystery of the liturgy.

Finally, the plenary reiterated that the Catholic East is committed to ensuring that interreligious dialogue is lived as a daily experience in the countries of the Middle East.

View online here:
VIS news - Holy See Press Office: THE CATHOLIC EAST COMMITTED TO DAILY INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

Friday, 22 November 2013

ASIA/JORDAN - Minister of Tourism to the Heads of Churches: promote pilgrimages to the Holy Places - Fides News Agency

Amman (Agenzia Fides) - A strong appeal to promote and concretely support pilgrimages to Places of Christian memory in Jordan was addressed on Thursday, November 21 by the Jordanian Minister for Labour and Tourism Nidal Katamine to the heads of local Christian Churches. The invitation was expressed during an ad hoc meeting convened in Amman, at the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Archepachy.

More here:
ASIA/JORDAN - Minister of Tourism to the Heads of Churches: promote pilgrimages to the Holy Places - Fides News Agency

EUROPE/ITALY - In Rome, a prayer vigil for peace in Syria and the release of the hostages - Fides News Agency

In Rome on November 27 - in the Diocese of Westminster, the Day of Prayer will be December 4th, the feast of St John of Damascus

EUROPE/ITALY - In Rome, a prayer vigil for peace in Syria and the release of the hostages - Fides News Agency

Egypt Introduces Quota for Women and Copts in Parliament

The constituent assembly amending Egypt's suspended constitution has decided to introduce a quota for women, Coptic Christians and youths in parliament, sources said. The sources added that the assembly has formed a subcommittee to decide on the ratios before presenting them to the general committee for vote.

The committee decided late on Tuesday to cancel the 50 percent quota of workers and farmers, and a member suggested on Wednesday that the 50 percent be divided among the marginalized factions.

http://allafrica.com

See report here:
Egypt Introduces Quota for Women and Copts in Parliament

Flight of Iraq Christians Resumes Amid Surge in Unrest

AFP) -- Awshalim Benjamin is desperate to leave Iraq, where a sack of faded photographs is all that remains of the happy life he and his ancient, dwindling Christian community once knew.
The 74-year-old waits by the phone for the call that will tell him he can finally depart Baghdad to join his family in the United States -- and leave behind a 2,000-year-old community that has shrunk by more than half since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

The patriarch of the Iraq-based Chaldean church, due to join other Middle Eastern Christian leaders at a meeting with Pope Francis this week, has urged Christians to stay and spoken out against Western countries offering visas to the rapidly shrinking minority.

Full report from AFP here:
Flight of Iraq Christians Resumes Amid Surge in Unrest

Ancient Box Supposedly Containing the Remains of Jesus' Brother "Vandalized" by Israeli Officials

The James Ossuary, a limestone box that held the purported bones of Jesus' brother, is one artifact at a forgery case that has spanned a decade in Israel.

By Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter
November 13, 2013|7:20 pm
 
A disputed limestone box believed by some to contain the remains of James, the brother of Jesus Christ, has allegedly been vandalized by Israeli officials who had been analyzing it for forgery.
 
"It could be the earliest inscription of the word 'Jesus' ever found, but we may never know. In their fruitless zeal to prove that the inscription 'James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus' was forged by Oded Golan or an Egyptian craftsman working under his direction, the Israel Antiquities Authority permitted a series of destructive tests that proved nothing and may have destroyed the chances of ever knowing the truth," wrote Jerusalem-based journalist Matthew Kalman in a blog.

The inscription on the 2000-year-old burial box was initially suspected by Israeli officials to be a forgery by Golan, a private collector, who said that he obtained the box along with an ancient tablet from Arab traders in East Jerusalem about a decade ago.

A three-judge panel of Israeli Supreme Court justices finally decided to return the item to the private collector after a decade-long legal battle, which had more than 100 hearings and 12,000 pages of documents, admitting that it was unable to find evidence that the inscription is a forgery.

Full report here:
Ancient Box Supposedly Containing the Remains of Jesus' Brother Vandalized by Israeli Officials

Saint Theodore of Tarsus' Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Cardiff

Congratulations to our good friend, Fr James Siemens of the Eparchy of the Holy Family here in the UK, and to his people, who have founded a new Byzantine Catholic (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) in Cardiff, capital of Wales. The Latin Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wales, Most Revd George Stack, entrusted the Church of St Cuthbert, not far from the River Taff near Cardiff Bay, to the new Ukrainian parish of St Theodore of Tarsus earlier in the year.

Fr James is director of the Theotokos Institute in the University of Cardiff - "theology before division" - and writes on his blog, Symposium, on the importance of the work of outreach and evangelisation by the Eastern churches in diaspora, especially as they become indigenous in new lands and form integral parts of the Church wherever they are. At Theophany 2013, the Ukrainian Church community in Great Britain ceased to be an Apostolic Exarchate when Pope Benedict established as an Eparchy in its own right, truly an integral particular church member of the Catholic Church in England & Wales (and Scotland and Ireland, too).


See all the links on the parish website, and encourage the new parish by signing the Guestbook:
Saint Theodore of Tarsus' Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Cardiff

Pope's Address to Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches and the Major Archbishops | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 203 hits
At 10 o’clock this morning, Pope Francis met with the Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches and the Major Archbishops in the Hall of the Consistory of the Apostolic Vatican Palace. The following is a translation of the words the Pope addressed to those present at the meeting.

* * *
Beatitudes,
I receive you with joy and a spirit of fraternity in this meeting, in which I have the opportunity for the first time to converse with the Fathers and Heads of the Oriental Catholic Churches. Through your faces I see your Churches, and I would like to assure you, first of all, of my closeness and prayer for the flock that the Lord Jesus has entrusted to each one of you, and I invoke the Holy Spirit, so that He will suggest what we must learn together and put into practice to serve with fidelity the Lord, His Church and the whole of humanity.

Our coming together offers me the occasion to renew our great esteem for the spiritual patrimony of the Christian East, and I renew the great esteem for the spiritual heritage of the Christian East, and to recall Benedict XVI's description of a Church leader in his post-Synodal exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente”. “You are, he said 'watchful guardians of communion and servants of ecclesial unity'”. (n. 40). This unity, which you are called to realize in your Churches, responding to the gift of the Spirit, finds its natural and full expression in “indefectible union with the Bishop of Rome” (Ibid.), rooted in the ecclesiastica communio, which you received on the day after your election. To be inserted in the communion of the whole Body of Christ makes us aware of the duty to reinforce the union and solidarity within the various Patriarchal Synods, “fostering always consensus on questions of great importance for the Church in view of a collegial and unitary action” (Ibid.).
In order for our testimony to be credible we must always seek justice, piety, faith, love, patience and clemency, adopting a sober manner of life in imitation of Christ, who embraced poverty so that we might be enriched; with tireless zeal and with the charity, both fraternal and paternal, that the bishops, priests and faithful, especially those who are alone or marginalised, expect of us. I think, above all, of our priests who are in need of understanding and support, also at the personal level. They have a right to receive our good example in things that regard God, as in every other ecclesial activity. They ask us for transparency in the management of goods, and concern for every weakness or need. All this, the committed application of that authentic synodal practice distinctive of the Oriental Churches”.
With the help of God and of His Most Holy Mother, we know we are able to respond to this call. I ask you to pray for me. And now I am happy to listen to all that you wish to communicate to me and, as of now, I express to you my gratitude.

[Translation by ZENIT, with grateful acknowledgment)
Pope's Address to Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches and the Major Archbishops | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Pope's Address to Participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 188 hits
At 12 o’clock today, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Vatican Palace, Pope Francis received participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. After the address of the Congregation Prefect, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Pope Francis gave the following address which Zenit translates below.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Christ is the light of the peoples”: so exhorts the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. From East to West the whole Church renders this testimony to the Son of God; this Church that, as the same conciliar text evidences immediately, “is present in every nation of the earth […], in fact, all the faithful scattered throughout the world are in communion in the Holy Spirit” (n. 13). “Thus, it then adds, quoting John Chrysostom – one who is at Rome knows that the Indians are her members” (Homily on John 65, 1: PG 59, 361).

The memorable Second Vatican Council also had the merit of explicitly mentioning that in the ancient liturgies of the Oriental Churches, in their theology, spirituality and canonical discipline 'there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church’ (Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 1).

Today I am truly happy to receive the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops, together with the Cardinals, the Metropolitans and the Bishops members of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. I thank Cardinal Leonardo Sandri for the greeting he addressed to me and I am grateful for the collaboration I receive from the Dicastery and from each one of you.

Read the full address on Zenit here:
Pope's Address to Participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pope Francis: Eastern Patriarchs as Guardians of Communion

Authentic Synodal Governance of the Christian East

Vatican City, 21 November 2013 (VIS) – At 10 a.m. today, in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father received in audience the Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches, along with the Major Archbishops. It is the first time since the beginning of his pontificate that the Bishop of Rome has held such a long meeting with the Heads of the Oriental Churches and he therefore took the opportunity to “renew the great esteem for the spiritual heritage of the Christian East, and to recall Benedict XVI's description of a Church leader in his post-Synodal exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente”. “You are, he said 'watchful guardians of communion and servants of ecclesial unity'”.

Francis to Eastern Patriarchs at their Plenary Meeting

We must not resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians

Vatican City, 21 November 2013 (VIS) - “The memorable Vatican Council II also had the merit of explicitly mentioning that in the ancient liturgies of the Oriental Churches, in their theology, spirituality and canonical discipline 'there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church'”, said Pope Francis this morning, as he received in audience the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Oriental Churches, along with the cardinals, metropolitan archbishops and bishops of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The Congregation, whose prefect is Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, is holding its plenary assembly in these days, on the theme of the magisterium of Vatican Council II with regard to the Christian East.

Read full report here:

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

ASIA/TURKEY - Deputy Premier Arinc: Ayasofya could once again soon become a mosque - Fides News Agency

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinc again hinted at the imminent possibility of reopening the Islamic worship, the Ayasofya Museum in Istanbul. This was announced by Turkish press sources consulted by Fides Agency. The statements made by the deputy prime minister arrived on November 16 on the occasion of his participation at the inauguration of a carpet museum that are part of the artifacts kept in Ayasofya, recently restored by the Turkish General Directorate of Foundations. The influential Turkish political leader reiterated that in his eyes the ancient place of worship - the Byzantine basilica of Santa Sophia, converted to a mosque in 1453 and then into a museum by Kemal Ataturk in 1935 - today appears "sad" , while soon it will be "joyful" again when it returns to host the prayers of Muslims.

 According to Arinç, the use of places of worship for other purposes has been prohibited by various laws. The Turkish parliament, in recent months, has agreed to consider the different applications submitted for the redevelopment of the museum in the mosque of Ayasofya in Istanbul.

Here we go again. Read Agenzia Fides' full report here:
ASIA/TURKEY - Deputy Premier Arinc: Ayasofya could once again soon become a mosque - Fides News Agency

Chaldean Patriarch Rafael to UNCHR: Over 1 Million Christians Forced to Flee Iraq

The rise of religious extremism has pushed religious communities to migrate from Iraq, especially Christians, according to Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldeans in Iraq.

The patriarch called on the Iraqi government to extend security and protection of religious freedoms and ethnic diversity as well as to promote reconciliation and social cohesion between all components.
In his speech recently at a conference held by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in coordination with the United Nations Mission "UNAMI " and the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights, and sponsored by Iraqi Parliament Speaker on the International Day for Tolerance, under the title of "Rights of Minorities in Iraq, Reality and Ambition", Patriarch Sako said the reality of the situation in Iraq is still concerning.

Read more from Middle East Christian News, posted on AINA, here:
Over 1 Million Christians Forced to Flee Iraq

Syria’s Christians Flee Kidnappings, Rape, Executions

Running from assault, abduction, and assassination at the hands of jihadists and FSA rebels, Syria’s ancient Christian community fears a religious pogrom is set to erupt.
 
Traumatized by what they have endured inside Syria and fearful for their future, Christians fleeing the 32-month-long civil war say the persecution of Christians is worsening in rebel-held territories in the country’s north—and that the kidnapping, rape and executions of Christians aren’t just being carried out by jihadist groups, but also by other Sunni Muslim rebels, including those affiliated with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Christian refugees who have recently arrived in southeast Turkey—many of whom are retreading the steps of their forebears, who fled persecution in southern Turkey during the last century—say Christians are being seen as fair game by an assortment of  jihadists and Islamist rebels, including FSA-affiliated fighters and others with the Army of Islam. Most of the targeting of Syrian Christians has been blamed on al Qaeda affiliates Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Syria and Sham (ISIS), but refugees like 45-year-old school director Rahel say the picture inside is more confused.

Read Jamie Dettmer's full report in The Daily Beast here:
Syria’s Christians Flee Kidnappings, Rape, Executions

Russia's Interest in Protecting Christians in the Middle East: Putin's Visit to Pope Francis

Edward Pentin of Terra Santa (the news service of the Custody of the Holy Land) writes:

(Rome) - When Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Pope Francis on Nov. 25th, persecuted Christians in the Middle East will be central to the discussions, potentially acting as a catalyst towards warmer Catholic-Orthodox relations.

The foreign interests of both the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Kremlin are both dedicated to helping persecuted Christians, with the Kremlin increasingly disposed to being a mediator between East and West, especially when it comes to Syria.

Read the full article here:
Terrasanta.net

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Lahham slams ‘cowardly’ acts against Christian Syrians | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

I’m not sure whether Western countries hear my appeal or have lost their sense of humanity. This was belongs in the battlefield, not in schools, churches and homes

BEIRUT: Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorius Lahham III denounced Monday “cowardly acts” targeting children, students and the elderly, particularly Christians in Damascus.

“I’m following ... with great concern the bloody and painful violent events targeting our [Syrian] citizens in general, and especially our Christian children, particularly in Damascus, where shells are falling on churches, patriarchates, homes, cars, property, charity institutions and general places of worship,” Lahham said in a statement.

“Victims are falling without discrimination – elderly, disabled, young men and women, children and students in schools and universities,” he added.

Lahham referred to a Nov. 11 mortar attack that killed several schoolchildren in the Syrian capital of Damascus. He also referred to similar attacks on Sunday that hit areas in central Damascus, killing at least two people.

"This war," which he said particularly threatens the educational journey, “should be in the battlefield and not in schools, churches and residential areas.”

Lahham lamented the absence of worldwide condemnation, except from Pope Francis, and urged both the Western and Arab worlds to “raise their voice against this cowardly war against innocent, unarmed [people].”

“I’m not sure whether Western countries hear my appeal or have lost their sense of humanity,” he added.

The patriarch also said that “we have become convinced that the war is aimed at us [Christians] after a survey conducted by [the patriarchate] showed that shelling is targeting our neighbourhoods that house our churches and institutions.”

Read more in the Lebanon Daily Star here:
Lahham slams ‘cowardly’ acts against Christian Syrians | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

IRAQ Patriarch Sako: Task of government and religious leaders to unite Iraq - Asia News

Speaking to Parliament in Baghdad on human rights, His Beatitude describes a reality that is "a source of concern." Security has "deteriorated" as have divisions of a confessional nature , fanned by " regional and international" powers. He calls for an end to the divisions and asks for greater courage from political and religious leaders to "unite the people."

Full AsiaNews report here:
IRAQ Patriarch Sako: Task of government and religious leaders to unite Iraq - Asia News

ASIA/LEBANON - President Sleiman: Christians in the Middle East do not follow the theories regarding "alliance among minorities " - Fides News Agency

Bkerké (Agenzia Fides) - The Christians of Lebanon and the Middle East, worried about their future, should avoid giving credit to fallacious theories such as the "alliance among minorities" and would do well to choose their own guidelines as those present in the two apostolic Exhortations addressed to them by Popes John Paul II (1997) and Benedict XVI (2013). These suggestions were expressed by the Lebanese President, Michel Sleiman during a ceremony held on Friday 15 November in Bkerké, at the seat of the Maronite Patriarchate, on the occasion of the publication of a book on Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon (13-15 September 2012). "As Christians", said President Sleiman "we should apply the apostolic Exhortations rather than trying other ways, other mechanisms and other projects". "This", added Sleiman "means safeguarding the 'establishment' of the Lebanese in the Arab world in which they find themselves".

Full report here:
ASIA/LEBANON - President Sleiman: Christians in the Middle East do not follow the theories regarding "alliance among minorities " - Fides News Agency

AINA: MPs Debate Persecution of Christians

MPs raised concerns over the increasing persecution of Christians in the Middle East in a debate held in Westminster Hall this week.

"Extreme suffering"

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who led the debate, warned that in relation to Christian persecution virtually every country around the Middle East region "reported suffering of either high, high to extreme or extreme suffering," according to a 2011 report published by Aid to the Church in Need.
She added: "That includes Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan across to Pakistan. In virtually every one it has got worse since their last report in 2011, except Iraq and there only because there was such large scale attacks in the period of 2009 to 2010."
"More than one comment has been made to me that to address this particular issue, the persecution of Christians, could be seen as promoting some sort of colonial or neo-colonial attitudes.

"May I respectfully say I really do think we must get over that. We must find a way round that. It must not inhibit us from acting. Millions of people's lives and livelihoods are at stake here."

Conservative MP David Burrowes said that 80 per cent of all persecution is aimed at Christians, whilst Ms Bruce warned that the presence of Christianity in five continents could soon be lost as a result of the on-going atrocities.

Tortured and murdered

MPs were told that Christians are persecuted in an estimated 130 countries around the world, with a Christian being tortured and murdered every hour.

Responding to the statistics, Ms Bruce told MPs: "We should be crying out with the same abhorrence and horror as we have towards the terrible atrocities against the Jews of Kristallnacht and at other times in Germany at the time of the Second World War."

Ms Bruce said that examples of persecution included the recent treatment of four Iranian Christians who were sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking wine for Communion, whilst Ceredigion Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams said that 450,000 Christians in Iran are denied access to Bibles in their language.

"Illegal to publish Bible"

He said: "Christians are not allowed to express their faith openly, whether through the written or spoken word. Indeed, it is illegal to publish the Bible in Farsi, which means that Christians are forbidden from worshipping in their own language.

"A couple of weeks ago, my church celebrated Bible Sunday; in Wales, we were celebrating the translation of the Bible into Welsh. I find it difficult to imagine what it must be like to have to practise religion in a foreign language."

He added: "Christian men and women in Iran are treated as foreigners in their own land, particularly converts from Islam, who are considered more than simply foreigners or second-class citizens; they are considered traitors and are routinely sentenced to death or face trumped-up charges for converting.
"It is no small wonder that so many have been forced to flee Iran. One of the greatest exoduses of people across the modern world has been people fleeing Iran."

Also contributing to the debate, shadow Foreign Office minister Ian Lucas, called on governments of the countries involved to be reminded to follow their commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948

Mr Lucas said: "The irony in all of this is many of the signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 are the countries that we've referred to. Egypt, Iran, Syria - all countries that have signed up."

MPs Debate Persecution of Christians