Every second Saturday of the month, Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ.
4pm Divine Liturgy. Next: 13th November 2021

Very sadly, the Divine Liturgy in English at 9-30 am on Sundays at the Holy Family Cathedral, Lower Church, have had to be put on hold. Until the practicalities we cannot use the Lower Church space. Hopefully this will be resolved very soon. Please keep checking in here for details.

Owing to public health guidance, masks should still be worn indoors and distance maintained. Sanitisers are available. Holy Communion is distributed in both kinds from the mixed and common chalice, by means of a separate Communion spoon for each individual communicant.

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.

Wednesday 30 April 2014

'Free Him,' Pleads Family of Kidnapped Jesuit Priest in Syria - Meanwhile Argentine Nuns asks for posting in Aleppo | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Vatican City, April 29, 2014 (Zenit.org)

The family members of Jesuit Father Paolo dall'Oglio, abducted in Syria, on July 29, 2013, have made an appeal to the global community.

"We call on those who have him to give Paolo the chance to return to his freedom and his loved ones, and we ask all institutions to continue to work on this," they said, as reported by Ansa.it. This appeal coincided with the nine-month anniversary of his abduction in Syria.

Jesuit Father Dall’Oglio, an Italian priest who for the past 30 years worked in Syria, was kidnapped by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, a militant rebel group that has ties to Al-Qaeda. Pope Francis expressed his concern for his fellow Jesuit publicly. He said during his homily for the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola that he was “thinking of our brother in Syria."

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been following this crisis, reported Avvenire. Sources close to the negotiations allegedly "in progress" stated that contacts in Syria, at various levels, and abroad have been working for the release of the 59-year-old priest, believed to be alive.

Father Dall’Oglio engaged in Christian-Muslim dialogue, notably through the monastic community he founded north of Damascus. The priest was expelled in June 2012 after taking a position in favor of the peace plan of Kofi Annan, the UN special envoy. He was vocal against government repression and re-entered the north of Syria last summer. (D.C.L.)

(April 29, 2014) © Innovative Media Inc.

Read online here:

'Free Him,' Pleads Family of Kidnapped Jesuit Priest in Syria | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Meanwhile an Argentine sister has asked for a posting with Aid to the Church in Need, to assist the Latin Catholic bishop in Aleppo

Rome, April 29, 2014 (Zenit.org)

Sister Maria Nazareth is setting out on a difficult mission, but she has an unfailing faith in God. "We must learn to come out of ourselves in order to meet others, in order to go toward the edges of our existence, to take the first steps towards our brothers and sisters, especially those who are farthest from us, those who are forgotten."

Sister Maria Nazareth takes this call, which Pope Francis addressed to the Church as a whole when he took up office, literally. The Argentinian sister told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that she is preparing to go into the middle of chaos—to one of the hardest-fought cities of Syria. "I'm going to Aleppo in the north of Syria. There I intend to reinforce my two fellow sisters who assist the Roman Catholic Bishop of Aleppo. Furthermore I will be working in a student hostel for Christian girls."

Sister Maria Nazareth, who belongs to the Institute of the Incarnate Word, a congregation founded in Argentina, radiates calm and joy as she talks about this new phase of her life: "I trust in God and the Virgin Mary. As members of a religious order we enjoy her special protection. In addition I am being accompanied by the prayers of so many people in my order. Our priests and sisters pray in particular for the Middle East. We sense this."

Personally, Sister Nazareth says, she prays that she may have the necessary strength to fulfil her mission at so difficult a place and may remain faithful to it. Sister Nazareth has no illusions. "Of course I know that there are dangers. Something can happen. Even the journey to Aleppo is not without hazard. You need 12 hours for the not so long road from Damascus to Aleppo on account of the large number of checkpoints. But something can befall you anywhere."

She is, of course, not being sent there against her will—on the contrary. "I asked my superiors whether I can go to Syria; they didn't ask me. That's the usual way with us. Volunteers are sought for difficult missions. You are not sent by your superiors, but you yourself must ask for permission to undertake a difficult mission."

However, before Sister Nazareth could be assigned her new task in Syria she had to overcome another hurdle: she had to obtain her parents' consent. "That is a condition in our community before you can be assigned to difficult places. The superiors do not want to decide against the wishes of the family. If relatives are afraid and worried or even completely opposed to the assignment that is not a good basis. When I asked my superior whether I could go to Syria, he therefore instructed me to ask my parents. His view was that if they said no, I couldn't go. I therefore called my mother.”

“She said to me: You've been in a religious order for twenty years. Your decision is certainly not an easy matter for us. But we know that you are happy with it and that for you it's God's will. So we can't say no. We are praying for you and are with you."

Sister Maria Nazareth has already heard these words once before. For almost four years now she has been working in an area which one can also consider to be a difficult mission: the Gaza Strip, which is cordoned off by Israel and is governed by the Islamist organization Hamas. Since 2010 she has served in the Roman Catholic parish of Gaza City, for which her order is responsible.

"I find it very difficult to leave this place. It was my first assignment in the Middle East. I've had a wonderful time there. I have developed a great affection for the people of Gaza. From the very beginning they have accepted me like a member of the family. It hasn't been easy there, as you can imagine. Christians experience a variety of difficulties in their everyday lives. But their faith has always been an example to me. This thought will now accompany me to Syria."--

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.www.churchinneed.org

Read online here:

I Asked My Superiors Whether I Can Go to Syria | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Tuesday 29 April 2014

BBC News - A tale of two Jesuits in Syria - Frans van der Lugt: A Dutch priest in Homs; Paolo dall'Oglio: an Italian in the monastic desert

Paolo dall Oglio
Fr Paolo dall'Oglio SJ lived as a Christian

and worshipped among Muslims within the indigenous

Syriac monastic tradition

26 April 2014, BBC Magazine

A Dutch Catholic priest was shot dead in the Syrian city of Homs earlier this month, but who was he, and what was he doing there? Bethlehem-based writer Daniel Silas Adamson pays tribute to a
Jesuit who practised yoga, ran a farm and welcomed people of all faiths on mountain hikes.

No-one who knew Frans van der Lugt, the Dutch Jesuit priest murdered in Syria, was surprised by his refusal to leave the besieged city of Homs. He had spent almost 50 years in Syria and had been in Homs since the siege began more
than two years ago.

The last European left inside the Old City, he was sought out by journalists and became a spokesman for the trapped and starving civilian population. "I have learned about the generosity of the Syrian people," he told a reporter earlier this year. "If these people are suffering now I want to be in solidarity with them. As I was with these people in their good times, I am with them in their pain."

Frans van der Lugt and helpers at Al Ard
Fr Frans also lived as a Christian and worshipped among Muslims:
among people with disabilities, providing a place
of meditation and encounter and through running a farm for all the
community, Christian and Muslim, able and disabled.
A few years ago, I met Frans at the residence in Homs where, on 7 April, he was taken into the garden by a masked gunman and shot in
the head. We were introduced by Paolo dall'Oglio, an Italian priest who also spent his life in Syria and has not been seen or heard of since he was kidnapped by Islamist rebels in Raqqa in July 2013.

In many ways the two men were similar. Both were Jesuits. Both spoke fluent Arabic and considered Syria home. Both had been shaped by the ideals of internationalism and social justice that influenced the Catholic Church in the 1960s. In Syria, far from the rigid hierarchies of the Vatican, Frans and Paolo each found the freedom to pursue an unorthodox vision of what it meant to be a Catholic priest.

Read the full article, with pictures and video here:

BBC News - Frans van der Lugt: A Dutch priest in Homs

Monday 28 April 2014

Could Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II be patron saints of Christian unity? - Cardinal Koch speaks to Rome Reports

Could John XXIII and John Paul II be patron saints of Christian unity? - Follow the link for the text of the interview with Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in English.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Christians Face Disaster in Iraq: Patriarch Sako - AFP


Kirkuk (AFP) -- Iraq's dwindling Christian community faces "disaster," and if no action is taken they will number just a few thousand in a decade, the country's most senior church leader told AFP.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako said the daily migration of Christians from Iraq was "terrifying" and blamed a range of factors, including generally poor security in the country and worsening religious extremism.

Iraq's Christian community is a shadow of what it used to be -- once numbering more than a million nationwide, with upwards of 600,000 in Baghdad alone, there are now fewer than 400,000 across the country.

"The daily migration of Christians from Iraq is terrifying and very worrying," Sako told AFP from the ethnically-mixed northern city of Kirkuk on Friday evening.

"The church is facing a disaster, and if the situation continues along this course, our numbers in the coming 10 years will be not more than a few thousand."

Sako blamed worsening security and religious extremism, and cited death threats against Christians and the forcible seizure of their property by armed gangs purporting to be members of powerful militias.

He also reiterated criticism of "Western countries who encourage migration of Christians."

The church leader spoke after visiting Christian communities nationwide.

Though not explicitly targeted as they were in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion, Christians are among those suffering from the recent upsurge in violence across Iraq.

In addition to the bloodshed, they are vulnerable to pressure from armed groups, with local NGOs reporting several homes belonging to Christians having been forcibly seized.

Though others have suffered similar fates, Christian have been disproportionately targeted for reasons to do with tribal politics and because of the high number who have fled.

Because Christians do not retain tribal affiliations in the way Muslim Arabs do, they have little recourse for resolving disputes outside the Iraqi legal system, which is often criticised for corruption and subject to manipulation.

Online here:
Christians Face Disaster in Iraq: Patriarch Sako

Christians pawns in Syria’s power game - The Irish Times

Turkey’s Armenian Christians living near Syrian border are deeply fearful

Vakifli in south Turkey is the only exclusively Armenian village outside Armenia. It is also close to Kessab, a predominantly Christian town a short distance over the Syrian border overrun by militant rebel groups last month. The rebel offensive for Kessab was co-ordinated a short distance south of Vakifli in Turkish territory with, some Armenians here say, the explicit help or inertia of local Turkish military units.

Religious tensions
Almost all Armenian Christians in Kessab have fled the town. Those who stayed said they were prepared to die only in their own homes. Though media reports vary, locals in Vakifli say no Armenian Christians crossed the border north into Turkey, from where the rebels attacked. The assault proved to be only the most recent example of how the Syrian conflict is exacerbating religious tensions in the region.

On a recent visit, village leaders told The Irish Times of their deep fear of foreign fighters operating in the area and their militant attitude towards Christians. “We used to go there [to Kessab] and they used to come here until the war stopped that,” said one village elder who asked not to be identified. “Every day they came here.”

The families who stayed in Vakifli after the Turkish Empire’s mass deportation of Armenians in 1915 are a rare, tenacious breed.  Then, thousands relocated to Aleppo and Damascus, Syria’s two largest cities where today Armenians again find themselves under attack. Many more died during death marches into the Syrian desert. Today, locals say there are about 50 Armenian families in the hills and winding roads that make up Vakifli. “Of course we are afraid for the Armenians here. No one is asking how these foreign fighters are getting into Turkey and going to Syria,” said the elder. “Our government has stood between us and the Armenians in Kessab and we couldn’t do anything,” he said.
Zeki, a thirtysomething man who lives abroad, was shaking with rage when telling of watching a video filmed by a Syrian rebel fighter in which his own village appeared in the background. “We want to end the war and the solution is to help Bashar al-Assad keep out Nato and the EU,” he said.

For most of its 2,300-year history, the provincial capital Antakya, or Antioch as it was known, has been a paragon of tolerance. Communities of Arab and Turk Sunni and Alawite Muslims; Armenian, Orthodox and Syriac Christians; Jews and Kurds have lived and worked together for millennia.  Its long and colourful Christian history saw it become one of the most populous cities of the Roman and Byzantine empires and today Antakya boasts a vibrant if small Christian population. On a recent Friday evening, about 120 Christians gather to celebrate a Lent service at St Paul’s Orthodox Church in the heart of old Antakya. Almost a thousand years ago, crusaders from England, France and Italy stayed here en route to Jerusalem. During the hour-long ceremony, a three-person choir sings Easter hymns in Arabic, with the addressing of the congregation given in Turkish, the reason being that most young people don’t speak Arabic, one worshipper says. During the ceremony, a priest walks through the church waving an incense-filled thurible, immersing the air with spiritual scents.

Where Christ walked
“We don’t talk politics here but all I want to say is that Christians here live better than they do in Europe,” said Rizah, a well-dressed Orthodox Christian man in his 60s. Christians in this part of the world – where Christ walked 2,000 years ago – see themselves as the vanguard of their faith. A minority in all countries of the Levant, their numbers have been falling for decades due to emigration and low birth rates. The 2003 invasion of Iraq precipitated the almost total destruction of Baghdad’s Christian community and today in Syria, Christians are being used as pawns in a regional power game. When a mortar fired by Syrian rebels struck an Armenian school in central Damascus this week, one child died and more than 60 people, mostly school children, were injured, according to Syrian state media. With the war in Syria looking set to continue for years, the region’s Christians have little to look forward to. But back in Vakifli, there is defiance. “When the war is over, we’ll go there to help them rebuild their homes,” says 82-year-old Panos Chaprian of Kessab’s troubled Armenian community. “The rebels wouldn’t dare come to our village,” says Zeki. “They know what they would get.”

Online here:

Christians pawns in Syria’s power game - European News | Latest News from Across Europe | The Irish Times - Sat, Apr 26, 2014

Armenians do not want sympathy or mercy from the Turkish authorities; they demand the recognition of the Genocide and Reparations - His Holiness Aram I

Subsequent to an earlier post on these issues, the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia has issued this briefing on the forthcoming Centenary of the Armenian Genocide under the Ottoman Turks:

Antelias - 24 April 2014. On Thursday, following the Holy Liturgy at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Antelias, the faithful attended the requiem service in memory of the martyrs in front of the Memorial Chapel.

His Holiness Aram I presided over the service and, addressing the people, he delivered the following message:

The Armenian Genocide was planned and executed 99 years ago by the Ottoman authorities. As Armenians in the diaspora commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Genocide of the 20th century, the international community should understand that the Genocide continues today in different forms:

- Governments who have committed themselves to supporting all international declarations, covenants and treaties regarding human rights have cynically chosen to protect their geopolitical interests by not demanding that Turkey be held accountable for its crimes against the Armenian people.

- The Genocide created the diaspora. Practically all parts of Article two of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide apply to Turkey’s actions in 1915. The Convention stipulates the following acts as genocidal: “killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Yet certain of the 145 signatory countries, while insisting that these standards be applied in some situations, refuse to accept them in the case of Turkey. Why are they applying double standards; why?

- The Genocide continues: Not only are Armenians deprived of their spiritual and cultural heritage in Western Armenia and Cilicia, the successors of the perpetrators are trying to eliminate all signs of that heritage that might identify its owners. Why in this case is UNESCO not honoring its goal of protecting monuments, buildings and sites?

- The Genocide continues: Turkey has transformed our churches into mosques, restaurants, factories and parks. In order to placate the West, the government of Turkey has transformed a few churches into museums.

- The Genocide continues: Turkey has manipulated the 1922 Abandoned Properties laws in order to hold on to the properties and artifacts belonging to the Church, the community and individuals. Don’t they know that confiscating property is against human rights?

- The Genocide continues: In order to coerce Armenia and all Armenians into negotiating on its own terms, Turkey is cooperating with Azerbaijan in imposing an economic blockade on the state of Armenia.

- The Genocide continues: as Turkey is mobilizing its political, diplomatic and economic means to promote anti-Armenian propaganda.

- The Genocide continues: Turkey is reviving the Ottoman expansionist policy in Syria through proxy wars. Extremists in Der Zor, Yacoubieh, Tel Abeid, Ras-ul Ain and, lately, in Kessab have forced Armenians to leave their homes and their properties. Their means of livelihood and belongings have been looted and taken to Turkey. 1915 is being repeated while the world stays silent.

- The Genocide continues: Turkey continues to deny the Genocide and to describe Armenians as traitors and disloyal citizens.

Who will call Turkey to account at the International Court of Human Rights?

Why does the Arab World remain silent to Turkey’s expansionist policies?

Last night we read the message of the Prime Minister of Turkey to Armenians. Distortions of historical facts cannot silence truth. The happenings of 1915 were not a simple consequence of the war. They were planned and executed by Tala’at and Enver Pasha and their minions against our grandparents. We therefore reject Turkey’s condolences and demand justice, reparation and Turkey’s recognition of the Genocide.

With this determination we shall plan the 100th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox Patriarchs visit Ma’alula - Relics of St Thekla have disappeared - Notes from the Melkite Patriarchate

Pascha 20 April 2014, Damascus (issued 25 April 2014)

The relics of St Thekla have disappeared

After the liberation of Ma’alula from occupation by terrorist groups on Monday, 14 April 2014, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Mario Zenari, together with a Syriac Orthodox bishop representing his Patriarch, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Greek Orthodox bishops, a church choir from Damascus, the Minister of Tourism, the Governor of Damascus Countryside, local shaykhs and members of the Syrian People’s Army and journalists visited the historic town of Ma’alula on the day of this year’s common celebration of the Paschal Feast, to view the state of the holy places after some seven months of occupancy by Islamist fighters. Their Beatitudes together with the above-mentioned bishops visited four Christian holy places: the Greek Catholic church of St. George, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Elias, the Greek Orthodox Convent and shrine of St. Thekla and the Greek Catholic Monastery and shrine of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus.

A scene of devastation met their eyes at every turn. The shrine of St. Thekla was blackened and the relics preserved for centuries by Orthodox nuns had disappeared. (The twelve sisters of the convent had been kidnapped by rebels on December 2 2013 and only released on March 10 2014.) The iconostasis of St. George had been totally burned, and the sanctuaries of St. George and St. Elias had been plundered, their windows smashed, the marble altars broken and icons and furnishings burnt. The acrid stench from the charred ruins made a long stay on the sites unbearable. The worst devastation was at the monastery of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, a shrine dating back to the fourth century. Two cupolas were open to the sky and one wall of the sanctuary so severely damaged as to be on the point of collapse. The monks’ rooms were also partially destroyed. The historic icons, painted between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, have disappeared.

The people of Ma’alula, who sought shelter and refuge in Damascus over recent months, are unable to return to their homes, which have been damaged and looted so as to be uninhabitable. The Syrian Government is now restoring electricity and sanitation to the town as a first step towards facilitating the return of its inhabitants, who are famously Aramaic-speaking and predominantly Christian.

Notes from the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate

Friday 25 April 2014

Middle East patriarchs, Catholic and Orthodox, call for peace in Syria | CatholicHerald.co.uk

By on Tuesday, 22 April 2014

In their Easter messages Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East have appealed for peace in Syria and expressed hope that the region will experience a resurrection.

Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, who was born in Syria, said his country has “entered upon the fourth year of its way of the cross” but “will one day soon, we hope, reach resurrection joy.”

“I want Damascus and the whole of Syria to live again the joy of St Paul when he met Christ, risen from the dead, at the gate of Damascus,” the patriarch said in his Easter message, issued ahead of the April 20 feast.

On Easter, he visited the ancient city of Maaloula, Syria, with Orthodox Patriarch John X of Antioch and all the East.

“We don’t want any more martyrs,” Patriarch Laham said in his message. “We don’t want any more orphans. We don’t want more widows and more mothers losing their children. We don’t want any more millions of children traumatised. Enough wounded. Enough handicapped, mutilated or disfigured. Enough of people haunted by fear, hatred and bitterness. Enough kidnappings and extortions.”

He appealed to the world “in the name of the poor, weak, widows, victims, mortally wounded, mutilated, disfigured, displaced persons, refugees, homeless, hungry, children, the elderly, pregnant women, handicapped, all those in despair, pain and discouragement — such as I often encounter at the Syrian-Lebanese border when travelling from Beirut to Damascus, or during my visits to families of victims and disaster-stricken people. They are burdened by fear about the future and the fate of their families, children and young people.”

He added: “In the face of this dark and bloody image of our beloved country, Syria, I turn to the nations of the whole world and beseech them: Have pity on Syria! Leave Syria to Syrians! That’s enough of your weapons, your fighters, your mercenaries, your armed adventurers, your jihadis. Love will rebuild Syria, which will be thereby renewed. That is what Jesus teaches us in his Gospel.”

In his Easter message Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, who also was born in Syria, said: “Christian communities in the Middle East are facing today the most fearful challenge, which threatens their very survival in their own land. Innocent people, particularly vulnerable and targeted Christians, continue to suffer in the Middle East and most particularly in Syria and Iraq. They are suffering because of violent hatred exercised by many militant religious groups that are often tacitly even openly supported by Western politicians.

“Hundreds of thousands among Christians have been targeted and forced into exile inside their own country or had no other choice than to emigrate. Many among them are clergy members and faithful who have been abused, kidnapped or killed because they represent a minority still believing in the Gospel of love, justice and peace.”

He said the violence would not have happened without people looking for economic opportunism. “Let us hope that one day, with the prayers, courage and effective solidarity of the silent majority of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Western world, peoples of the Middle East (will) rediscover their true calling to spread God’s love and reconciliation for a better world,” he added.

The patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem said they were “acutely conscious of the ravages of violence in places such as Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, as well as of the struggles of countless thousands of refugees who have been displaced from their homes.” They expressed thanks for all the Church and Church-related groups providing support and said Christ’s resurrection “was the ultimate assurance that transformation by the grace of God is always possible, even in the apparently most intractable of human situations.”

They also called for prayers for peace in the Holy Land, noting: “A peace which does not seek to abolish discrimination between different communities is no peace at all.”

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, appealed for an end to the cycle of violence and for issues to be resolved “through dialogue, understanding and negotiation.” He offered prayers for people in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, and “in other countries near and far”.

“And with them and with the people of these countries we hold dear,” the cardinal’s message continues, “we raise our prayers to God for the innocent victims and the wounded, and for the families affected and displaced and homeless at home or abroad.”

The cardinal called upon the international community “to put an end to the tragedy of Syria on the basis of truth and justice” and to stop supporting and fueling the conflict with money, weapons and support, “for private, political and economic gain.”

“We ask Christ the victor over sin and evil and death” to touch the consciences of those responsible, “and stir in their hearts love and compassion,” he said.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako said in his Easter message that “despite the worrying situation that we are currently experiencing in Iraq and the challenges facing our brothers and sisters in the diaspora,” the resurrection of Christ “makes the sun rise upon us, the people of Iraq, and all humanity.”

Read online:

Middle East patriarchs call for peace in Syria | CatholicHerald.co.uk

99 Years from the Ottoman Empire's Genocide of Greeks, Assyrians & Armenian Christians - and a Statement from the present Turkish Republic

First, there follows an editorial from the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), entitled "99 Years of Turkish Genocide". In the title of this post, we changed this to make it clear that the organised persecution of Assyrian, Greek and especially Armenian Christians reflected both political upheaval and state policy in the multinational Ottoman Empire, with its heady mix of Islamic government, absolute monarchy and rising Turkish nationalism. Kurdish Muslims were also targeted in the same historical period. This was before the establishment of the post-Great War Turkish Republic, which finally overthrew both the Sultanate and its multi-ethnic Empire and the Ottoman Islamic Caliphate that had been legally responsible for the widely condemned persecution and genocide of the distinctive Christian ethnic minorities.

Secondly (scroll down), past the link to AINA, there is a report on the position of the present Turkish government, which does not regard itself as a successor state to the Ottoman Empire responsible for the atrocities. Nonetheless, the Republic founded itself on "nation-state" principles of self-determination of peoples, and following the Greek-Turkish war Greeks (even Turkish-speaking Orthodox) were largely expelled from Anatolia as were most remaining Armenians and Syriacs/Assyrians [Oriental Orthodox/Non-Chalcedonian] Christians. Interestingly, while the Turkish government, officially secularist but dominated by professing Muslims, denies state or ethnic Turkish responsibility for or involvement in a policy of genocide towards Armenians or other defined groups (it denies, too, the fact of genocide) it recognises that atrocities took place and has expressed condolences to relatives, as well as offering descendants the restoration of Turkish citizenship. In the last few years, too, Turkey has invited Syriac Orthodox Christians to return to one of their heartlands in South-Eastern Turkey, and restored (some) expropriated land to the monastery at Tur Abdin. Is this on the way to being a conciliatory gesture to the historic Christian populations, or is it to create, as some have said, a buffer zone between Turkey, Kurds and the Islamists in the Arab world with the Christians once again in the firing line as human shields? As for the Armenian cause, while passions rise high on both sides, with Armenians seeking acknowledgment of the facts by the Turkish government as well as restitution, and Turks defending their own account of history - including the sweeping away of the former state that took the wrong side in the First World War with the aggressors Austria and Germany, leading to its demise and clearing the path to a democratic secular republic - is there progress towards a reconciliation and a healing of memories (as St John Paul would have put it)? First, Armenians are recognising that the atrocities they see as a genocide of which they were, largely speaking, the target also affected ethnic Greeks (and Turkish-speaking Orthodox) and Syriac/Assyrian Orthodox? Secondly, while patriotically defending Turks' and Turkey's innocence, is the Republic moving towards acceptance that atrocities did happen, even to beginning to express regrets and to make gestures of amendment, or at least good will? Third, for all the nations directly facing the uncertain actions and intentions of the Russian Federation to the north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Romanian, Moldova, Ukraine and Turkey itself), there is need for states with both Christian and Muslim histories to come to terms out of mutual security and economic interest; and for all facing the effects of Islamism across their borders (Turkey has erected a temporary wall on parts of its border facing Syria and Iraq), is the threat to democracy, religious liberty and economic stability from without urgently pressing old rivals, with still keenly felt histories of mutual suspicion and war, to find ways to bury their differences and make common cause? BMW

AINA Editorial
99 Years of Turkish Genocide

Turkish Government Issues Message Denying Assyrian, Armenian, Greek Genocide
By Rufiz Hafizoglu, http://en.trend.az

Turkey's Cabinet of Ministers has spread a message in connection with the events of 1915, the website of the country's government said on April 23. The message says it is important not to be a captive of historical events and there is need to create a foundation for building a common future.

The events of 1915 were a difficult time not only for the Armenians, but also for Arabs, Kurds and representatives of other nations living in the country, according to the message.

"Nevertheless, it is impossible to use the events of 1915 as a tool of political pressure on Turkey," the message of Turkish government said. The message says Turkey supports the creation of a joint historical commission to investigate the events of 1915 and expresses condolences to the families of those killed in the events of 1915, including the Armenians. The message highlights that the events of 1915 are common grief.

Armenia and the Armenian lobby claim that Turkey's predecessor the Ottoman Empire allegedly carried out "genocide" against the Armenians living in Anatolia in 1915. While strengthening the efforts to promote the so-called "genocide" in the world, Armenians have achieved its recognition by the parliaments of some countries.

Read online report from Trend Axerbaijan at AINA here.

Turkish PM Does Not Acknowledge Armenian Genocide, But Sends Condolences to Families
http://www.armradio.am, Posted 2014-04-23 20:01 GMT

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has highlighted the "shared pain" endured during the 1915 events in an unexpected statement April 23 on the Armenian issue, expressing condolences on behalf of the Turkish state to the grandchildren of Armenians who lost their lives "in the context of the early twentieth century," the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

In a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office, Erdogan said April 24 carries "particular significance for our Armenian citizens and for all Armenians around the world."

Arguing that all ethnicities in the late years of the Ottoman Empire lived a hard time full of pains, Erdogan called for a just, humane and conscientious standing to commemorate all pains experienced in that era.

"The incidents of the First World War are our shared pain. To evaluate this painful period of history through a perspective of just memory is a humane and scholarly responsibility."

Erdogan's statement also stressed the importance of freedom of expression and respect of plurality regarding history.

"In Turkey, expressing different opinions and thoughts freely on the events of 1915 is the requirement of a pluralistic perspective as well as of a culture of democracy and modernity," the statement said.

"It is with this hope and belief that we wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren," it said.

The statement has been issued in eight languages, including Eastern and Western Armenian.

Read report from Radio Armenia at AINA online here.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Homes of Christians Fleeing Iraq Seized by Gangs | Worthy Christian News

Monday, April 21, 2014,  By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (Worthy News) – Gangs in Baghdad are seizing homes left vacant by Christian families who have been forced to flee from sectarian violence, according to Barnabas Aid.

"Most of them are afraid of submitting complaints to the government because they do not believe they can protect themselves if they file a lawsuit," said William Warda, head of the Baghdad-based Hammurabi Human Rights Organization.

Iraq's Christians are most at risk of having their homes seized as they lack the tribal affiliations that protect their Arab Muslim neighbors.

After the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, there was a surge in anti-Christian threats, kidnappings and murders, prompting thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee. But many who left didn't sell their properties in the hope of one day returning, but eventually they were forced to sell their homes at rates well below market value because Muslim gangs simply took over their properties.

In its 2013 human rights report, the U.S. State Department said that internal corruption prevented the Iraqi government from effectively adjudicating property restitution claims that often disproportionately affected Christian communities.

Many Christians who left their homes fled to the autonomous region of Kurdistan where most now live peacefully in their own neighborhoods.

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Homes of Christians Fleeing Iraq Seized by Gangs | Worthy Christian News

SYRIA For Gregorios III, the destruction of Ma'aloula churches is a "war crime", slams "criminal indifference" of West - Asia News

04/22/2014, by Fady Noun

The patriarch visited the village of Ma'aloula after the army took it back from the Islamist al-Nusra Front. ""An apocalyptic spectacle presented itself," he said. The West is watching the destruction of Syria "with criminal indifference".

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Gregorios III Laham, Greek-Melkite Catholics patriarch of Antioch, described the destruction of Ma'aloula churches as "a war crime".

On Sunday, he was able to visit the historic Christian village, after the Syrian army retook it from the Islamist al-Nusra Front. "It is the mystery of iniquity that one sees at work," he said, unable to find words strong enough to translate the feelings at the sight of desolation before him.

"It is the devastation of the Temple, the mystery of iniquity," he said in a telephone interview from Beirut, the night of his visit.

The Greek-Catholic patriarch travelled to the village with Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna Yazigi and representatives of the Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Syriac Catholic Patriarchates, accompanied by some journalists and security officers. A little later, he also paid a visit to the Syrian head of state, who was also visiting the village.

"An apocalyptic spectacle presented itself. Other churches have been destroyed in Syria, but I have never seen anything like this. I cried and I sought in vain a moment of solitude to pray. I am heartbroken," the prelate said again. "Ma'aloula's four historic churches were hit. Our parish church, dedicated to Saint George, is riddled with bullets. The convent's dome was damaged in two places. The walls were ripped open by cannon fire. Some parts of the convent is in danger of collapsing and must be rebuilt. The icons are scattered on the floor, dirty, or stolen. It is currently completely uninhabitable."

"In the Convent of Saints Sarkis and Bakhos (pictured), the historic pagan altar, converted into a Christian altar, the only one of this kind, is broken in two." The same spectacle of devastation can be seen in the Greek-Orthodox churches of St Elijah and St Tecla. In Gregorios III's opinion, Ma'aloula's devastation is "an organised crime," a "war crime."

The London Charter (1946) defines war crimes as "plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity".

"There is no military justification for the vandalism," the patriarch said. "There is an impression that it was orchestrated."

"Why did they turn our churches into defensive positions?" he wondered, as he tried to understand all these destructions. With bitterness, Gregorios III accuses the Western world of being blind about the truth of the war in Syria. In his view, this is absolutely not a "Syrian War" or a "civil war." Of course, the conflict partly involves Muslims fighting among themselves, but it is not a war between Islam and Christianity. It is an "organised crime."

In terms of security, Ma'aloula residents can now think about returning, the patriarch said, despite the uncertainty surrounding the situation of utilities (electricity, water, telephones). Some young people, he added, are returning to inspect the homes and study the possibility of coming back. However, Gregorios III draws attention to the difficulties that there will be "in repairing the social bond" between Ma'aloula Christians and Muslims. Some Muslim families in the village sided with Islamist insurgents and the rebuilding of trust will be a problem. Many young people do not want a superficial reconciliation, and "hypocritical hugs."

The Church has a duty to prevent that the entire Muslim population be assimilated with what some have done. Christians, he believes, should not live in a ghetto.  For him, this is the real conspiracy. It aims at tearing apart the social fabric of Syrian society, which never had discord between Muslims and Christians. Some behaviours, in his eyes, have been barbarous and can only be explained by a desire to destroy "deep" Syria.

In support of his views, he mentioned the atrocious death, in front of witnesses, of a baker in Adra, a small town near Damascus. The unfortunate man was thrown alive along with his children into the bakery oven in which he had freshly baked bread for the Islamist fighters.

Gregorios III slams the "criminal indifference with which the Western world, under the false pretext of defending democracy, continues to watch this spectacle of destruction." Noting that there still is no news about six abducted Ma'aloula residents, or the Greek-Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox bishops of Aleppo, who have been missing for more than a year, he ended saying, "We must absolutely prevent the virus of hatred from spreading".

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SYRIA For Gregorios III, the destruction of Ma'aloula churches is a "war crime" - Asia News

The Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, reads the Easter Gospel following Metropolitan Methodios of Boston at the Paschal Liturgy in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of New England

The Pappas Post Photos: Good Friday Procession Permitted in Izmir (Smyrna) First Time in 92 Years - The Pappas Post

April 19, 2014

For the first time since 1922, the Greek Orthodox Church of Agia Fotini was granted the permission to hold its Good Friday Epitaphio Service outside on a public street in Izmir, Turkey.

A wonderful turnout was in attendance, including joint-friendship assistance from the Catholic Archdiocese, where the Epitaphion was taken from the Greek Church and escorted over to the Catholic Church of St. John.

The street was blocked off by local police and the people took the streets in joy.

According to Chrysovalantis Stamelos, who shared the photos from the epic liturgy, it was “a wonderful sight to see in this beloved city. Truly a mind-blowing event to which I am incredibly honored to be a part of…Kali Anastasi to all.”

Agia Photini was once the focal point of Greek religious life in Smyrna, a cosmopolitan city that was majority Greek whose residents were victims of the war between Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Like much of the city, it was burned during the war in 1922, when tens of thousands of Greeks fled.

The current Agia Fotini is a Dutch chapel from 1920s-era that survived the fires and was donated to the Greek Consul General’s office in order to hold religious services when needed.

For the first time since 1922, the church now runs independently from the Greek Consulate, functioning as a local church for the local Greek community under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Photos by Chrysovalantis Stamelos, a Greek American filmmaker living in Turkey whose film, Hello Anatolia chronicles his journey from New York City to Izmir, in search of his family roots.

   smyrni7 smyrni6

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The Pappas Post Photos: Good Friday Procession Permitted in Izmir (Smyrna) First Time in 92 Years - The Pappas Post

Cyprus Good Friday Celebration Showing Interfaith Bridges Christians And Muslims Are Building In Ethnically Split Cyprus


FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus (AP) — An unexpected moment during the Good Friday service in a long-abandoned church in Cyprus' breakaway north illustrated how religion is helping to bring together Christian Greek Cypriots and Muslim Turkish Cypriots on this ethnically divided island.

It came when Turkish Cypriot Umit Inatci handed the key of the church of Agios Georgios Exorinos in the medieval center of Famagusta to the city's Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Vasilios, saying: "This is not gift, it's something that is surrendered to its owner."

Rapturous applause greeted the announcement by Inatci, who helped make possible the first Holy Week service at the 14th-century church in nearly 60 years.

Among the hundreds of faithful there was Mikis Lakatamitis, who was baptized at the church eight decades ago. Tears welled up in his eyes as worshippers lined up nearby to kiss an embroidered cloth depicting Christ's preparation for burial.

"I want to live in this moment because I don't know if I'll relive it again," said Lakatamitis, whose family abandoned their nearby home at the start of ethnic strife in the late 1950s.

Cyprus was divided along ethnic lines in 1974 into a Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north after Turkey invaded following a coup aiming to unite the island with Greece.

For decades, there was no contact between the religious leaders of the two communities. In the north, about 500 churches and monasteries — many hundreds of years old — were left to ruin, looted or converted for other uses. In the south, only eight of about 110 mosques still operate.

But that changed in 2009 with a kind of faith-based diplomacy that has quietly been conducted between the leader of the island's Greek Orthodox Christian Church Archbishop Chrysostomos II and Turkish Cypriot Muslim Grand Mufti Talip Atalay.

"We have to give a good example to the Middle East," Atalay told The Associated Press. "This is our gift to the Middle East."

The Good Friday service was the result of a grassroots initiative by ordinary Greek and Turkish Cypriots seeking to chip away at the wall of mistrust built up over decades.

Visit here for full report and photo gallery:

Good Friday Celebration Showing Interfaith Bridges Christians And Muslims Are Building In Ethnically Split Cyprus

Sunday 20 April 2014

Fr Frans van der Lugt SJ - Obituary in the Daily Telegraph, Easter Monday

Father Frans van der Lugt was a Jesuit priest who displayed courage, humanity and faith under siege in the Syrian city of Homs. Executed by a single masked gunman, he remained with the people he served, Christians and Muslims alike, faithful to the end.


Easter Sunday: Pope Francis prays for peace in Ukraine, Venezuela and Syria

Before giving his Urbi et Orbi blessing, the Pope prayed for peace in the world. "Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible,” he said.

"We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent”.

"We pray in a particular way for Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!”

"We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela”.

By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future.

Easter Sunday: Pope prays for peace in Ukraine, Venezuela and Syria

Easter Message of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

Christ is risen!

Yesterday we were buried with Thee, O Christ, -
Get up now risen with thee,
Because yesterday we were crucified with You.
Therefore, glorify us, our Saviour, In Thy Kingdom
(Song 3 Canon, Resurrection Matins).

Beloved in Christ!

Despite this year's trial and uncertainty, Easter - "the day which the Lord hath made" (Ps. 117, 24) - is the time for us of unspeakable joy and hope. In the light of the Resurrection Feast the holy Church sings the mystery of the combination of opposites: burial and resurrection, death and life, crucifixion and glory, sorrow and joy. In that lies the great Paschal mystery that the Son of God became one of us, dies, just like us, that we may rise again, as He has! Christ is passing his Way of the Cross for us and for our benefit, giving us His bright resurrection and new life in God. Thus, the cross and resurrection are inseparable. They relate not only to Christ: in the sacramental way affect all the humanity and all of us in particular. The event, which took place in the life of Jesus Christ - His death and resurrection - has incorporated the history of mankind, all the suffering, both past and future, and transfigures them into a new life, a new joy. The Risen Christ enters the heart of the personal history of each of us, He, can say, going through our suffering and humiliation: we also crucified with Him and convicted, and with him mount out of the tomb and resurrect. Yesterday we were buried with Him, and today - we get up with him, resurrected.

Yesterday we were buried with Thee, O Christ... yesterday we were crucified with You.

Jesus Christ is the power and action of the Holy Spirit is present in the history of our Church and our nation. We know that is His and our Way of the Cross. In the recent past, our church and our people were tortured and crucified, falsely testified against, we were shot and thrown into prison. But we all survived and, thank God, reborn to a new life of the community of Christ's disciples. Just this year, is passing the 25th anniversary of the legalization and the revival of the Church in its native land. So we send prayers to the throne of the Almighty, thanking Him for the grace and strength that has helped our people to stand among the awful trials and suffering. This victory – is a sign of the effective presence of the risen Saviour among us in the distant and recent past, and at the same time is the guarantee of the invincibility of our people in the future.

Today Christ is with us! He takes our pain as though He was personally wounded. It was He, despised by youth beating on Maidan ... It's He - the first victim of Heavenly Hundred

Today again we are threatened and intimidated by weapons, the separation of the country and the seizure of churches. But Christ today is with us! He takes our pain as though He was personally wounded. It was He, despised by youth beating on Maidan ... He was made needy when the people’s property was looted by the corrupted government. He was imprisoned and unjustly condemned, exposed naked in the cold and tortured stolen. It is He - the first victim of Heavenly Hundred. His words on the cross, that sound today in the conscience of Ukrainian believers - "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23,34) - especially relating to those government and church leaders, ours and neighbouring, which incite people to hatred and blind aggression, "Crucify him, crucify him" (Luke 23,21). However, the power of human malice, lies and violence is nothing compared to the power of God's truth and love. It is Christ, who raises us today, and as a church and as a people. Like good overcomes evil in the Resurrection, and in our history love will win malice and hatred, and peace - all sorts of threatening by war.

Get up now risen with You.
Power arms droop before the honour of Risen, because "we now stand up with thee risen". We all feel it on our native land and in the settlings. The power of Christ's resurrection is our hope today in church, social and personal life. We have no more certain and more powerful help - in international diplomacy or military force, in human powers or agreements that are ready for thirty pieces of silver to put a price for Invaluable. In his resurrection, Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit has united people who once opposed each other: "There is neither Jew nor Greek..., neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3, 28).

Let’s respect and love a person that is different from us: thinks differently, follows other customs or speak a different language - that it is a testament to the glory of the Risen!

A sign of our "rising" with the risen Saviour who brings us out of the "grave" sin, let become our renewed with God's love attitude to all people without exception. Let’s love and embrace everyone who is near in our village, town, city, and our region and throughout our Earth. Let’s respect and love a person that is different from us: thinks differently, follows other customs or speak a different language - that it is a testament to the glory of the Risen! All people, even those with malice in their heart and those who unjustly accuse us, today we proclaim the good news of the Resurrection. For the sign of resurrection is to conquer the forces of evil and hatred with God's love and mercy.

Therefore, glorify us, our Saviour, in Thy Kingdom

According to ancient church retelling, St.Andrew, standing on the hills of Kyiv, predicted great glory of God for our country: "Do you see those mountains? The grace of God will shine on them, there will be a large city, there will be many buildings and the God will raise many churches". The radiance of the grace of God, which is mentioned by our apostle, is the light of Christ's resurrection, which never ceased to shine over our land, even in the darkest periods of our national and church life. We were filled with evangelical words that we hear in the Paschal Liturgy: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it" (cf. Jn. 1, 5). The reflection of the heavenly glory of the risen Saviour is our Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, which we have blessed the last year. It is for us the living testimony of Christ's victory, the key to immortality of our people and a sign of unity of all the children of the Church - in Ukraine and the settlings.

Wherever we were - whether in Ukraine or in the settlements - remember our calling, stemming from our Christian and national experience, namely, to indicate the irresistible power of Christ's resurrection, the inevitable triumph of truth over falsehood.

Today, on this joyous day of Resurrection, let’s beseech our Saviour, so that the light of his resurrection with a new force shine over our land, overcome the darkness of sin, disagreement, fear, discouragement and strengthen all of us with the power of the Holy Spirit to build a truly free and blessed by God state. Let us pray especially for the gift of unity and unanimity for our people. And this spiritual unity will allow us to restore and update all state institutions on the basis of God's truth and God's law. Wherever we were - whether in Ukraine or in the settlements - remember our calling, stemming from our Christian and national experience, namely, to indicate the irresistible power of Christ's resurrection, the inevitable triumph of truth over falsehood, love over hate, good over evil, life over death.

With such thoughts I unite with you in prayer and Easter joy, love and hope, wishing all of you a peaceful and blessed Resurrection. With Easter greeting I hug you all! Let this upset day be glad, alarmed feel certainty of Christian hope. With the prayer I flow to the wounded and pained, imprisoned and expelled from their native homes, our soldiers and all who are on the lookout of the dignity of the human person in Ukraine. I wish all of you generously presented by Lord Easter gifts.

Let the grace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the Eucharist of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Christ is risen! - He is risen indeed!


Given in Kiev
At the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ
The feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
April 7, AD 2014

Easter Message of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

Good Friday Celebration Showing Interfaith Bridges Christians And Muslims Are Building In Ethnically Split Cyprus


Posted: 04/19/2014 8:19 am EDT Updated: 04/19/2014 8:59 am EDT
FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus (AP) — An unexpected moment during the Good Friday service in a long-abandoned church in Cyprus' breakaway north illustrated how religion is helping to bring together Christian Greek Cypriots and Muslim Turkish Cypriots on this ethnically divided island.

It came when Turkish Cypriot Umit Inatci handed the key of the church of Agios Georgios Exorinos in the medieval center of Famagusta to the city's Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Vasilios, saying: "This is not gift, it's something that is surrendered to its owner."

Rapturous applause greeted the announcement by Inatci, who helped make possible the first Holy Week service at the 14th-century church in nearly 60 years.

Among the hundreds of faithful there was Mikis Lakatamitis, who was baptized at the church eight decades ago. Tears welled up in his eyes as worshippers lined up nearby to kiss an embroidered cloth depicting Christ's preparation for burial.

Good Friday Celebration Showing Interfaith Bridges Christians And Muslims Are Building In Ethnically Split Cyprus

PASCHAL MESSAGE by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia / OrthoChristian.Com

Beloved in the Lord
Your Graces the archpastors,
all-honourable pastors and deacons,
God-loving monks and nuns,
dear brothers and sisters!

On ‘this chosen and holy Day’ when the world ‘that is visible and invisible’ (see: the Canon of Holy Pascha) glorifies the Prince of life and Victor over death, I send my heartfelt greetings to all of you through the Paschal exclamation: CHRIST IS RISEN!

From year to year the good news of the Resurrection resounds victoriously, encouraging us to render praise to God and the Saviour, who has trampled down death by death and has made us co-participants in the life eternal which is to come.

As we celebrate this ‘Feast of feasts and Triumph of triumphs,’ it is with a special spiritual feeling that we recall the redemptive act of the Saviour of the world, his sufferings on the Cross and bright resurrection. Pascha is not some beautiful legend, not some theoretical theology and not a nod towards a popular custom established in the distant past. It is the essence and kernel of Christianity. It is the victory that God has granted to us.

From the time of the apostles and up to the present the Church has preached Christ’s resurrection as the greatest miracle in the history of humanity. She speaks of this miracle not only as a fact of the Gospels, but – and what is especially important – as a moment of destiny for all those who have received the Paschal good news. This feast bears the most direct relationship to us, for Christ’s resurrection, the Lord’s redemption of the fallen world, is the greatest joy which the human person can experience. No matter how difficult our life, no matter what everyday troubles besiege us, no matter what grief and imperfections we have to endure from the world around us – all of this is nothing in comparison to the spiritual joy, to the hope of eternal salvation that God gives us.

As St. Paul says, ‘he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in us’ (cf. Rom 8:11).

On the radiant day of Christ’s resurrection the souls of millions of the faithful are replete with thanksgiving to the Creator, and our earthly life acquires true meaning. Christ’s Passover is the greatest triumph of life, the triumph over death bringing love, peace and spiritual transformation.

In celebrating Pascha we each time open up a new period in our lives, for the risen Lord renews human nature, fortifies us in tribulations, and grants to us the strength to accomplish good deeds.

The Paschal message, which has transformed the whole course of world history, encourages us to be morally transformed, to be spiritually renewed, which is so essential for modern-day society. It reminds all people of the sources of Christianity, as well as of the coming eternal Kingdom where ‘God may be all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28).

During these radiant days of the Paschal feast we are called upon to share our joy with our relatives and those close to us, to show them active love and mercy. Such are the traditions sanctified over the centuries, and in following them we testify to our participation in Christ’s heritage and belief that the Lord has truly risen.

Now, as before, the Russian Orthodox Church diligently carries out her saving mission, tirelessly proclaiming God’s truth, affirming the importance of the Gospel commandments, calling for peace and harmony, serving the spiritual unity of nations living in the countries under the pastoral care of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Our special prayer today is for the peoples of Russia and Ukraine that peace will reign in the minds and hearts of our brothers and sisters by blood and in faith so that the ties that have been lost and co-operation which is so needed may be restored.

In proclaiming the love of God which surpasses all knowledge (cf. Eph 3:19), Christianity brings people together by overcoming national, cultural and state boundaries, for ‘the light of Christ illumines all’ (cf. Jn 1:9).

May the risen Lord grant that we may all with benefit for our souls continue our earthly pilgrimage in recalling our lofty Christian responsibility and vocation to create within ourselves and those around us a strong faith, sincere love and steadfast hope. May the joy of this feast day strengthen and inspire us to accomplish good works, grant to us the courage and strength amidst the stormy waves of the sea of life to retain our endurance and calm, to withstand temptation and trials, to overcome, in the words of St. Sergius of Radonezh, ‘the hateful divisions of this world.’

May the light of Christ’s glory that has shone forth from the Life-bearing Tomb abide with us and illumine our hearts, extending to those who are close to us and those far removed from us, and upon all who are in need of our care and support.

In congratulating all of you on the great feast of Holy Pascha, I prayerfully wish for you generous spiritual gifts, physical strength and the gracious aid which is from above in the triumphant journeying with Christ. Amen.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

2014 AD

19 / 04 / 2014

PASCHAL MESSAGE by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia / OrthoChristian.Com

Saturday 19 April 2014

The Sacrificial Love of Lebanon's Christians - The American Spectator

By Jordan Allott
American Spectator
Posted 2014-04-18 18:24 GMT

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (photo: Jordan Allott).I recently returned from the Middle East, where I captured stories for a film project about Christians living their faith in the face of crippling persecution. In Beirut, Lebanon, I spoke with two Lebanese Christians, Georges Maalouly -- a 48-year old, Orthodox father of three -- and his friend Father Joseph -- a priest at St. Tetla's Catholic Church. They explained how Christians in Lebanon are coping with the arrival of more than a million refugees from Syria.

Most Syrian exiles are Sunni Muslims, and their arrival has started to drastically alter Lebanon's delicate sectarian balance of Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. Economically, Syrian workers are driving down wages, and refugees place a severe burden on Lebanon's already overtaxed and underfunded infrastructure. Despite this, many Lebanese Christians are choosing to help meet the needs of these refugees.

Jordan: The civil war in Syria has been raging for over three years. How has the conflict affected the Lebanese people? What challenges have you faced? How do you balance fear and compassion?

Fr. Joseph: In the last five to ten years we have had so many people coming from Iraq and now Syria and they have not found many opportunities. But we have done many things to help both Muslims and Christians. We pray with them, we adopt them, we encourage them and we feed them. We will always be here for them.

Georges: If we think in a political way, it's difficult for the Christians of Lebanon to absorb a high number of Muslim refugees because then they will become the majority and everybody knows that it is the wish of other Middle Eastern Muslim countries to transform Lebanon from a Christian country to a Muslim country. In this way Christians will lose all their rights and will not stay free. Also, Muslim refugees will get all the job opportunities and our salaries will become low and prices for food and housing will rise. Despite this, we are ready to receive the Muslim refugees and host them and help them in order to show the love and mercy of Jesus.

Read the full article on AINA here:

The Sacrificial Love of Lebanon's Christians

The Middle East War on Christians - UN Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor, Wall Street Journal

By Ron Prosor, Wall Street Journal
This week, as Jews celebrate the Passover holiday, they are commemorating the Bible's Exodus story describing a series of plagues inflicted on ancient Egypt that freed the Israelites, allowing them to make their way to the Holy Land. But over the past century, another exodus, driven by a plague of persecution, has swept across the Middle East and is emptying the region of its Christian population. The persecution is especially virulent today.

The Middle East may be the birthplace of three monotheistic religions, but some Arab nations appear bent on making it the burial ground for one of them. For 2,000 years, Christian communities dotted the region, enriching the Arab world with literature, culture and commerce. At the turn of the 20th century, Christians made up 26% of the Middle East's population. Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 10%. Intolerant and extremist governments are driving away the Christian communities that have lived in the Middle East since their faith was born.

In the rubble of Syrian cities like Aleppo and Damascus, Christians who refused to convert to Islam have been kidnapped, shot and beheaded by Islamist opposition fighters. In Egypt, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood members burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way they once obliterated Jewish synagogues. And in Iraq, terrorists deliberately target Christian worshippers. This past Christmas, 26 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a crowd of worshipers leaving a church in Baghdad's southern Dora neighborhood.

Christians are losing their lives, liberties, businesses and their houses of worship across the Middle East. It is little wonder that native Christians have sought refuge in neighboring countries--yet in many cases they find themselves equally unwelcome. Over the past 10 years, nearly two-thirds of Iraq's 1.5 million Christians have been driven from their homes. Many settled in Syria before once again becoming victims of unrelenting persecution. Syria's Christian population has dropped from 30% in the 1920s to less than 10% today.

In January, a report by the nondenominational Christian nonprofit organization Open Doors documented the 10 most oppressive countries for Christians; nine were Muslim-majority states noted for Islamic extremism, and the 10th was North Korea. These tyrannical regimes uphold archaic blasphemy and defamation-of-religion laws under the guise of protecting religious expression. In truth, these measures amount to systematic repression of non-Islamic groups.

Last year in Saudi Arabia, two men were prosecuted for the "crime" of converting a woman to Christianity and helping her flee the Islamic kingdom. According to the Saudi Gazette, one of the men, a Lebanese, was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes, and the other man, a Saudi, was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes. Those are relatively mild sentences in Saudi Arabia, where conversion to another religion is punishable by death.

The "justice system" in other Islamic nations is not particularly just for Arab citizens, but it is uniquely oppressive for Christians. Radical Islamists in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa are using an ancient law called the "dhimmi pact" to extort local Christians. The community is faced with a grim choice: pay a tax and submit to a list of religious restrictions or "face the sword."

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressions of political dissent are regarded as acts of blasphemy. Last summer, three Iranian Christians caught selling Bibles were found guilty of "crimes against state security" and sentenced to 10 years in prison. They were relatively lucky. The regime has executed dozens of people for the so-called crimes of "waging war against God" and "spreading corruption on Earth."

The scene unfolding in the Middle East is ominously familiar. At the end of World War II, almost one million Jews lived in Arab lands. The creation of Israel in 1948 precipitated an invasion of five Arab armies. When they were unable to annihilate the newborn state militarily, Arab leaders launched a campaign of terror and expulsion that decimated their ancient Jewish communities. They succeeded in purging 800,000 Jews from their lands.

Today, Israel, which I represent at the United Nations, is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded.

From courtrooms to classrooms and from the chambers of Parliament to chambers of commerce, Israeli Christians are leaders in every field and discipline. Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab Israeli, has served as a Supreme Court justice since 2003 and Makram Khoury is one of the best-known actors in Israel and the youngest artist to win the Israel Prize, our highest civic honor.

Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest living in Israel, recently told me: "Human rights are not something to be taken for granted. Christians in much of the Middle East have been slaughtered and persecuted for their faith, but here in Israel they are protected."

Nations that trample on the rights of their people sow the seeds of instability and violence. The uprisings that have erupted across the Middle East are evidence that the region's Holy Grail has become the pursuit of freedom, democracy and equality. Let us hope that this quest bears fruit before it is too late for the region's remaining Christians.

Ron Prosor is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.

The Middle East War on Christians

Rate of Christian Girls Abducted and Attacked By Extremists on the Rise in Egypt - Fox News

By Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News

Read online at AINA here:

Rate of Christian Girls Abducted and Attacked By Extremists on the Rise in Egypt

Patriarchal Encyclical for Holy Pascha 2014 - Patriarch Bartholomew

By the mercy of God
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
to the plenitude of the Church
Grace, Peace and Mercy from Christ risen in glory

Christ is Risen!

Come, brethren and children in the Lord, receive the light from the unwaning Light of the Phanar, the Holy Center of the Orthodox, and let us all together and jointly glorify "Christ, Who is risen from the dead."

The emotional state of the Lord's disciples was grim after His Crucifixion, because by the Lord's death on the Cross the hopes of His disciples were dispersed that He and they would one day prevail as political power. They had perceived the triumphant entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, following the resurrection of Lazarus and the miraculous feeding of five thousand men, with additional women and children, by five loaves of bread and two fish, as a prelude of their conquering of secular authority. The mother of two of them moreover requested that her two sons sit by each side of the Lord, when He came to power. All these, however, dissipated as childish imaginations on account of the awful execution of Jesus Christ.

But, one Saturday morning, the Myrrh Bearers found the tomb empty and heard from an Angel that Jesus was risen from the dead. Shortly after, they saw Him in a different state not allowing the Myrrh Bearers to touch Him. This unexpected development of the situation caused the people close to Jesus to wonder about what was to happen next. They did not receive the answer right away. They were told to wait with patience and endurance until they received strength from above. Obeying the command, they waited until Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down and revealed to them, in fullness, their new mission. This mission did not call for the liberation of one nation from its slavery bondages by another nation; instead it called for the liberation of all humanity from its enslavement by the master of evil and evil itself. This was another great mission and different from the one they had dreamt about.

The inconceivable commandment calling for the preaching of the message of man�s deliverance from the slavery of death took them by surprise; nevertheless they undertook it with zeal and preached the message everywhere and saved and continue to save many from death. There is the first among the dead, the risen Jesus, Who offers to all the gift of resurrection and eternal life, a life that is not subjected any longer to corruptibility, because man in the resurrected state is like an angel of God in heaven who no longer has a fleshly body but a spiritual one.

We experience already the foretaste of this blessed resurrected state when we carry our fleshly garment in a way by which we do not taste the substance of death, that is the distancing from God�s love, but feel that we transition from the natural death of our fleshly body to the higher life of our spiritual body through the loving knowledge of the Person of the Lord, a knowledge which equals towards eternal life.

Therefore, we are not simply in anticipation of the resurrection of the dead as an event that will take place in the distant future, but we partake in it now, and are jubilant and cry out along with Saint John Chrysostom: Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory? We were resurrected alongside Jesus Christ and experience the end of times as present reality and present reality as the end of times. The resurrection permeates our being and fills us with joy. Exactly like the joy the disciples felt when they were saying that the Lord was risen.

We continue the work of the Apostles. We convey to the world the message of the resurrection. We preach knowingly that death must not have a place in our life for it offers no benefit to humanity. The ones who seek to improve social life by killing fellow humans do not offer good service to the living. They rather serve the proliferation of death and prepare their own devouring by death.

In our times, the drums of death and darkness beat frantically. Some fellow men believe that the eradication of other fellow men is a praiseworthy and beneficial act, but they are seriously mistaken. Unfortunately, the annihilation and suppression of the weakest by the strongest dominates in the secular pyramid of today's reality. Often we are shocked by the cruelty and lack of compassion exhibited by the powerful that hold the reins of the world, believing that they are actually the ones ruling it.

However, Christ, by His death on the Cross, reversed this secular pyramid and placed on top of it His Cross. He sits atop, because He suffered most than any man. There was no man in the world who suffered as much as God-Man Christ did: And being founding appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross. Therefore God, the Father, also has given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth (Philippians 2:8-11).

Oftentimes in the history of humanity we see as prevailing forces the darkness of death, injustice over justice, hatred and envy over love, and we see that man chooses the infernal hatred over the light of the Resurrection. Despite the apparent technological progress of human societies, despite the declarations of human rights and religious freedom, racial and religious hatred swells universally and causes dangerous tensions, which exacerbate the dominion of the kingdom of death, Hades, and evil. Unfortunately, people can not tolerate diversity in their fellow human beings. They can not tolerate the different racial origin of other men, the different perceptions and beliefs of them, be it political, religious or social.

History, though, has proven that real progress can not exist without God. Not one society can be truly progressive and happy if there is no freedom. True freedom though is acquired only with our staying close to God. The history of the 20th C. tragically confirms this truth. Humanity experienced a horror that originated from Central Europe and produced millions of victims during WWII and racial persecutions. At the same time, it also experienced the horror that was sown by these so called progressive forces, which committed crimes of equal magnitude and cruelty in Eastern Europe in the name of freedom. Therefore, totalitarianism as an offspring of a humanity without Christ, does not recognize political parties and its natural conclusion becomes destruction and death. All of the above confirm that every attempt to reach freedom without God shall be doomed to tragedy.

To this dominance of the forces of darkness, the Church responds with the grace and power of the Risen Christ. He, Who took upon Himself the afflictions and infirmities of each man, offers to the world through His Resurrection also the certainty that death is vexed.

Resurrection and life are thegifts and the light of Jesus Christ, which "shines upon all." Let us all honor this gift. Let us all thank the Giver Who by His flesh shone in the world like in a mirror, and has presented the light of the resurrection to the world. Let us then receive the light from the unwaning Light of Life. Let us receive and welcome the gift of the resurrection and cry out from the bottom of our hearts:

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death, and to those in the grave bestowing Life! Rejoice nations and be happy!

Holy Pascha 2014

+Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God