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 10th June, 4pm
SSJC Committee Open Meeting: Monday 19th June, Cathedral of the Holy Family. 6-15 Liturgy, Talk at 7-15, followed by meeting.
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 email@example.com for details.
Thursday, 31 October 2013
ASIA/SYRIA - Chief of the Lebanese Security Confirms: the two bishops kidnapped have been localized - Fides News Agency
Ahram Online reports that the committee working on amending the suspended 2012 constitution on Sunday adopted a transitional article that will nullify current restrictions on the construction of new churches. The 50-member committee adopted another article calling for "absolute freedom of belief" for all Egyptians.
Read more here:
Egypt Set to Make 'Major Changes' Related to Christian Churches
Sheik Gleefully Smashes Statue of the Virgin Mary in Syria: ‘Allah Alone Will Be Worshipped…’ | TheBlaze.com
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - News of an exchange of visits between Metropolitan Christoforos of Karpasia and the Grand Mufti of Cyprus after 18 months has met with positive reactions worldwide.
But the good intentions and the good will of groups and individuals aside, the small but vital world of Greek and Turkish Cypriots remains divided 40 years (1974) after Turkey's invasion. The continued occupation by 40 thousand Turkish soldiers of the northern part of the island, accounting for 37 % of the territory, has also had serious consequence, such as the forced Islamization of the north.
Read more here:
TURKEY-CYPRUS Forced Islamization of northern Cyprus continues unabated - Asia News
Patriarch Gregorios: Traditional Greeting to Muslims as Ethnarch of the Melkite Catholic Christians of the Middle East
Read the essay here:
The Catholic Voyager: Could this lead to Orthodox-Catholic unity on the papacy and beyond?
The causes celebres are Marian doctrines, and possibly the declaration that the sacrament of priestly order cannot be conferred on women; but Entile also identifies moral teaching, such as the declaration on the grave moral disorder of abortion, which is the papal putting together and extrapolation of pre-existing teaching but the papal summing up of express, consistent and universal teaching of the bishops and the belief of the faithful. Entile says that this is not the pope acting on his personal initiative or an independent prerogative, but fulfilling a moral obligation as protos to consult his fellow bishops and declare their common teaching. While the pope is not legally obliged to consult, such that his office is not subject to constraint from the authority of councils or other forces, including those external to the Church - and there is ancient witness to the role of the Bishop of Rome vis-à-vis the other churches as faithful custodian of the faith of the apostles and thus the authoritative witness that can be called upon to keep the Church to the truth of Christ - respecting the moral obligation to consult and declare the faith with the other bishops is important to the Orthodox, who see it as integral to their understanding of the nature and purpose of the Church and its hierarchy. This is not simply because it is "their" tradition, as distinct from "ours", but because it a providential given in the life of the Church from the days of apostles onwards, rooted in their life together with Christ as his disciples, and firmly established in the ecumenical councils and a large body of canons that belong in common with the Roman West. In a unified Church, they want to the pope not only to consult the other bishops, specifically the Eastern patriarchs and primates, but to be seen to consult, and thus to act accordingly as protos, not as an independent power.
In fact, the moral obligation to consult on the two Marian dogmatic definitions amply fulfil the moral obligation. Pius IX widely consulted the Catholic episcopate about establishing the widespread belief of Catholics in the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God through formal definition as Catholic faith. Likewise, Pius XII consulted the episcopate before declaring the defined Catholic teaching on the Virgin Mary's Assumption. Starting out from different theological standpoints, these teachings are shared with the Orthodox Church, although the definitions that she is immaculate through her Son or exalted in heaven with her Son are liturgical, not hierarchical. As they are in the worship of the Church and thus taught already, why define them doctrinally? Similarly, at Vatican II an attempt to secure a definition of the Mother of God as Co-Redemptrix, not encouraged by the Popes in any case, failed to attract the support of all the bishops. And although there was to be a separate teaching document on Mary as "type" of the Church, which would have explored her place in the scheme of salvation, including her role in the mediation and redemption worked by her Son, strenuous representation from the Orthodox (consulted for instance by the monks of Chevetogne) and the Eastern Catholics, particularly the Melkites expressing their own faith as well as that of the Orthodox in the patriarchate of Antioch, a presentation of Mary as Mother of the Church which might imply that she was above the Church rather than belonging to it as the community of the redeemed was avoided as a risk to intensifying the schism, and thus the Marian teaching was placed within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, and there was no doctrinal definition of the Divine Motherhood.
Where Entile slightly misses the point in his essay is that in praising the Ravenna Statement (on the papal primacy in the first millennium, as an established first step on piece together East-West communion again, coming from the Joint International Theological Commission of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches) as a template for reconstructing unity on a shared basis in theology, history. tradition and ecclesiology, he has not weighed that it is not an agreed statement of the Churches, but of the participants present. It has been repudiated by the Moscow Patriarchate, which was not party to the talks for other reasons, owing to precise problems it has with the philosophical reasoning of first principles for communion argued in the expression of the Commission's Orthodox chairman -Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamom. Indeed the Russian Orthodox Church has gone to the lengths of writing its own statement on papal primacy in the first millennium, although without its own dialogue with Catholic interlocutors. This Statement has apparently been agreed but not issued by the protos - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. It is understood to be a position paper, based on historical Church experience as well as theology. As the Russian Church has no direct experience or corporate memory of the first millennium, it nonetheless identifies with the historical Byzantine and other Slavic churches that did. Some leading non-Russian, Orthodox figures believe that the Ravenna Statement -which in any case came to light as a leak before it was settled and this leakage added to the Russian sense that they were not physically or theologically part of what had been discussed - emphasised principle and theory and that there is now a need to look at historical reality and how that is remembered. In other words, the next stage in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue is in fact an Orthodox-Orthodox dialogue to establish the shared view in which all are confident, taking into account both Ravenna and Moscow's forthcoming document, prior to a renewed Orthodox-Catholic encounter at the world level. In other words, valuable work as Ravenna was, it is not acceptable to all Orthodox, and the discussion has moved on from seeing the Statement as an authoritative Agreed Statement of the Joint Commission.
So, in answer to Entile's question, Ravenna, and its interpretation by Metropolitan Kallisos (Ware) indeed could lead to Orthodox-Catholic unity, and Entile's discussion of how the existing Catholic system, modified and developed at Vatican II could be modified and developed further in ways that would be true to the Catholic teaching on the office of the pope, but also to Orthodox tradition and ecclesiology. But it will lead to it by revealing that, in fact, steps will need to be retraced as the Orthodox Church as a whole comes to a common view that will enable a dialogue with the Catholic Church to be on clearer respective lines and thus fruitful.
Come polling day we will not forgive our leaders for their silence over Egypt’s Christians | CatholicHerald.co.uk
Egyptian Christians Continue to Face Attacks | ZENIT interview with John Pontifex, of Aid to the Church in Need UK
Another incident of violence came last week when gunmen opened fire on a Coptic Christian wedding, killing four people – including two children – and wounding a dozen more.
A series of violent protests followed the removal of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi from office on July 3, some culminating in acts of persecution and attacks against Coptic Christians and their places of worship.
John Pontifex is the editor-in-chief of the Religious Freedom in the World Report created by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International. Speaking with ZENIT, he explained what this act of violence means for Christians in Egypt. Read the interview here:
Egyptian Christians Continue to Face Attacks | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
In September, senior clerics from a dozen different Christian denominations all over the Middle East met in Amman, Jordan, for a conference organized by King Abdullah II. The subject was the crisis facing Christianity in the region, and what to do about it. Missing from the meeting were two prominent Arab prelates from Aleppo: Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, the city’s Syriac Orthodox bishop, and Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, his Greek Orthodox counterpart. Both had been abducted by unidentified gunmen somewhere between Aleppo and Antioch in April, and their whereabouts were still unknown.
The Assad regime and the Syrian rebels predictably blamed each other for the high-profile abduction. But Turkish intelligence sources were quoted as saying that it had been the work of Islamic Chechens who operate in the opposition-held territory in northern Syria. Refugees in Jordan and Turkey have told Christian humanitarian groups that jihadist revolutionaries have declared a caliphate in areas they control and imposed sharia law, with Saudi judges brought in to administer it. (Saudi Arabia and Qatar finance the rebellion in Syria, and the West supports it—but that’s another story.) Non-Muslims are only tolerated if they pay jizya, a heavy tax imposed on dhimmini, or nonbelievers, under Islamic law. Those who refuse to pay have two choices: they can quit their homes and have their property and most of their possessions confiscated, or they can face execution.
Syria today is a country of blurred facts and wild rumors, but the abduction and in some cases murder of Christian clerics is real enough. The Jesuit missionary Paolo Dall’Oglio was kidnapped in July and may have been executed in al-Raqqah, a northern town said to be an al-Qaeda stronghold. Dall’Oglio, had gone to al-Raqqah in an attempt to negotiate the release of Christian hostages, relying—foolishly, as it worked out—on his reputation as an outspoken critic of the Assad regime to guarantee his safety. In June, the Franciscan priest François Murad was killed in a convent in Gassanieh by members of the Syrian jihadist group Nusra Front. The Vatican had initially reported that Father Murad was one of three men shown being beheaded with a kitchen knife in a viral video online, while the crowd chanted “Allahu akbar,” but later issued a correction saying that Murad had actually been shot.
Read the full essay here:
Forced Exodus: Christians in the Middle East | World Affairs Journal
The meeting, which will take place from 19 to 22 November, will take as its general theme the debate “The Eastern Catholic Churches fifty years after Vatican Council II”.
Read more here:
Grand Mufti of Syria: The kidnapped Orthodox bishops are alive and in Turkey
Monday, 28 October 2013
Rabbi Lau: Meeting Melkite Archbishop Elias to Assure a Peaceful Yom Kippur - Inside Israel - News - Israel National News
“This was one of the most important meetings I have ever participated in,” Rabbi Lau said after the discussion. “We committed now and in the future to remain in contact and develop solutions to problems that will help alleviate confrontations and violence. I thank the Archbishop for his hospitality and wish the members of all religions a happy and prosperous year,” he added.
Sunday, 27 October 2013
Saturday, 26 October 2013
The region of Raqqa was the scene of clashes between the army of Assad and the militias of the opposition in March. After the withdrawal of the government army, internal clashes between the anti-regime Free Syrian Army battalions and groups of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant began. The stated purpose of this faction is the creation of an Islamic caliphate in the areas which have fallen under its control. To do this, civilians are subjected to campaigns of indoctrination and fanaticisation - based on jiahdist ideology. Already in September several videos circulating online had documented the vandalism committed against the two churches in the city of Raqqa by militants of ISIL, with the destruction of crosses, statues and sacred images.
In Raqqa, in late July, the Roman Jesuit Paolo Dall'Oglio was kidnapped. As reconstructed by Fides Agency (08/26/2013) the main suspects in the kidnapping of father Paolo are the affiliates of ISIL. (GV) (Agenzia Fides25/10/2013)
In the course of the meeting, and especially within the context of the Year of Faith, the bishops wanted to make together their profession of faith by reciting communally the profession of faith which Blessed John Paul II included in Slavorum Apostoli.
During the meeting, the participants were received by the Latin Bishop of Kosice, Mgr Bernard Bober, they met the Mayor of the city and visited the Exhibition of Byzantine Art displayed in Košice’s Theology Faculty.
The meeting took place in a cordial and friendly atmosphere, enriched by moments of prayer and the daily celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The liturgy, always carefully prepared and with great participation, ensured that the words exchanged in the meeting were also an expression of a lived experience.
The 2014 meeting will take place in Lviv, in the Ukraine, from 23-26 October, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the legalisation of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine.
The Eastern Catholic bishops of Europe, gathered for their annual meeting under the patronage of CCEE, in the city of Košice, European Capital of Culture 2013, at the invitation of the local Greek-Catholic Eparch, on the joyful celebration of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius among the Slav peoples, examined the theme of the evangelisation of culture, with a re-reading, too, of the evangelising mission of the two Greek brother saints, bearing in mind the challenges which their Churches in Europe must face at the local level.
At the end of their meeting, the bishops wish to address their faithful and all people of goodwill with this message of hope, charity and love. Once again we come to affirm and recall the Christian roots of Europe, profoundly convinced of the topicality of the message of Saints Cyril and Methodius. A civilisation and a European culture, where the salvific gospel of Christ has been uprooted, will be unable to build a robust human society, founded on ethical, moral values and on the family which guarantees justice and peace between peoples. A Godless culture leads the human person to desperation and death. We advocate a culture of life and hope: a culture capable of embracing the human person in all their aspects and creating fraternity, love, friendship and solidarity, especially towards the poor, the emigrant and the abandoned. A culture worthy of the name is that which includes worship of God, a God who loves humanity, every person for who He has given his life and has overcome death by his glorious resurrection.
We are well aware of the problems of our peoples, the crisis sweeping across the European continent and the world, terrorism and the various armed conflicts, the political struggles and racism. The crisis is not just economic, but above all spiritual. We Christians, in our identity as Eastern Catholics, are called to be more authentic witnesses of the rich heritage of our fathers verified by the martyrdom of so many of our pastors and brothers.
We want to proclaim the Good News of God’s Love for everyone with joy and enthusiasm. We need God to re-discover the meaning of our existence on this earth. No one can carry their own cross alone, but only with God and with their brothers and sisters. So, we want to reaffirm that Christ is not distant from our affairs. He asks us to trust Him. In life’s affairs we find in Him the rock on whom we can rely.
The living experience of the Risen Christ was the source from which sprang Christians’ commitment to building European culture. Today, just like yesterday, we Eastern Catholic bishops of Europe, confirm our goodwill in collaborating to build a culture of encounter and dialogue based on truth, freedom, justice, respect and tolerance.
In the European context, our Eastern Catholic Church communities and every person of faith is called personally by Divine Providence to continue the evangelising mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius, achieving the necessary internal renewal and systematic progress desired by the Second Vatican Council. In this way our rich traditions will not remain a monument to admire and recall, but a source of life to heal European culture which more and more is becoming secularised and de-Christianised.
During our meeting, we looked with apprehension at the dramatic situation of suffering of our Christian brothers and faithful in the Middle East, especially in Syria. United with the Holy Father and the local bishops, we pray that the path of dialogue might be embarked upon more decisively and that to prayer may be united political decisions based on justice and respect for the various religious communities leading to an immediate ceasefire, the abandonment of any form of violence and an end to arms shipments which feed the war in the country.
Through the intercession of the Mother of God and Saints Cyril and Methodius, we ask our Lord send peace on all the people on the continent.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress National Holodomor Awareness Committee and the Ukrainian World Congress launched a new project on September 4 marking the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor titled Share the Story.
This project features the stories of Holodomor survivors on a web site www.sharethestory.ca. One story is being posted daily for 80 days leading up to International Holodomor Memorial Day on November 23, 2013.
Lord, grant that I may meet the coming day with spiritual tranquillity.
Grant that in all things I may rely upon your holy will.
In each hour of the day, reveal your will to me.
Whatever news may reach me this day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul, knowing that all is subject to your holy will.
Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions.
In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down by you.
Grant that I may deal firmly and wisely with every member of my family and all who are in my care, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Syrian-Orthodox Bishop Silvanus Boutros Naame issued an appeal on behalf of the 3,000 or so residents of Sadad and Hofar, in the Qalamoun region (western Syria, near Lebanon), asking that they be spared and relieved from the siege which they are currently under, and moved to safe places near Homs.
The bishop's appeal is for all religious leaders of the world and for all the leaders of nations, as well as to men of good, that the residents, who have been forced to remain locked up in their homes without food or medicines, be allowed to escape the siege.
The Qalamoun area is under the control of Islamist insurgents from the Liwa al-Islam group, which is led by Zahran Aloush and backed financially and militarily by Saudi Arabia.
The occupation of Qalamoun is the starting point for a new war against the Syrian army and the Lebanese Hizbollah, that would place the Bekaa Valley and the lines of communication between Homs and Damascus under Jihadist control.
Read the Bishop's appeal here:
SYRIA Syrian-Orthodox bishop appeals to rescue the innocent people of Qalamoun - Asia News
Thursday, 24 October 2013
Full of Grace and Truth: St. John Maximovitch the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco
Unknown elements attacked Coptic Christians in front of a church in Warraq while a wedding party was taking place, leaving four Copts dead, other nine injures. Security services have not yet arrested the perpetrators.
Priest Boules Eweida, ecclesiastical law professor, said fingers point to the Muslim Brotherhood, which might have been involved in the incident, after what he calls their failure to provoke the Copts by assaulting Egyptian churches, which have now pressured them to remount their attacks.
The shooting is not an attack on Copts, Eweida stressed to Egypt Independent, but all of Egypt. "They don't seek progress for Egypt but rather want to turn the clock backwards, which will not happen," he said.
Church Accuses Muslim Brotherhood of Involvement in Church Shooting
In the days after a sharpshooter put his brother in the crosshairs and pulled the trigger, Jalal Gazouha lived as if in a cloud. "I almost went crazy with grief," the Syrian explained on the telephone. The connection crackles. The 29-year-old's brother was killed by al Qaeda fighters in the western Syrian city of al-Qusayr, close to the Lebanese border. Gazouha is convinced that his brother was killed because he was Christian. "They want to drive us out of Syria," he told DW.
By "they," he's referring to Jihadists from countries neighboring Syria - with a few hundred from Germany mixed in - who have joined in the Syrian civil war to fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to Gazouha, they're also targeting Christians. Twenty of his family members have been murdered, he says. When Gazouha received death threats, he fled the country. "I saw my name on a list on the Internet. That list contained names of Christians who were supposed to be killed, he says, written by "the terrorists of al Qaeda."
Jean Kawak, an Aramaic bishop from Damascus, chose his words carefully when he spoke about the subject with DW. "We Christians have recently felt threatened by particular radical Islamist groups," he said.
Kawak's own sister was forced to flee Ma'loula, a small, largely Christian village just an hour's drive north of Damascus. Islamist rebel groups attacked that village, carried out fire attacks on two churches in Rakka in north central Syria and also kidnapped two Syrian bishops in April; the culprits behind the latter attack, eyewitnesses said, were foreign Jihadists. All of these things, the Aramaic bishop says, "affect our Christian presence within Syria." One-third of Christians have fled the country in the last two years due to the civil war - with numbers increasing.
These radicalized groups are not only targeting Christians though, Kawak says. "Moderate Muslims are also being threatened."
Read more here:
Syria's Christians Flee Rebel Crosshairs
Patriarch Gregorios addressing Aid to the Church in Need UK Supporters at Westminster Cathedral, 19 October 2013
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Catholic humanitarian organisations have allocated US$ 72 million to cope with the crisis in Syria and neighbouring regions, with help sent to 20 Syrian cities. Aid was also delivered to refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Cyprus, and Egypt.
"These are the data recorded on 9 October, as a result of the mapping of aid distributed in Syria, carried out following the meeting for the co-ordination of Catholic charitable associations present in the Syrian situation, convened by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum from 4 to 5 June 2013," the Council said in a statement. Altogether, "55 entities [are] working in the field [. . .] and 32 Catholic institutions [are] involved so far".
VATICAN - SYRIA Church provides US$ 72 million in aid to 20 Syrian cities - Asia News
Read more here:
EGYPT Cairo, police fled before the attack on the church of the Virgin Mary - Asia News
Wednesday, 23 October 2013
|Egyptian Copts carry one of four coffins down the aisle of the Virgin Mary Coptic Christian church in Cairo’s working class neighbourhood of Al-Warrak, on October 21, 2013, as thousands attend the funeral of the victims, gunned down as they attended a wedding the previous evening at the same church. ( AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI|
Families of church shooting victims compensated EGP 5,000 - Daily News Egypt
SYRIA - LEBANON -QATAR Maronite Patriarch in Qatar raises fate of the two kidnapped Orthodox bishops - Asia News
Beirut ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai is in Qatar since yesterday, on an official visit at the invitation of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al- Thani. He will raise the question of the two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria last April with the Qatari authorities and ask for their cooperation. Qatar is one of the military sponsors of the rebel troops in opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"I hope - said the Patriarch - that the Qatari authorities will use all their influence to reveal what happened to the two bishops, together with that of three other priests who have been kidnapped and whose fate s unknown."
The head of Lebanese security , Gen. Abbas Ibrahim has also traveled to Syria to find a way to free the two bishops.
Read more here:
SYRIA - LEBANON -QATAR Maronite Patriarch in Qatar raises fate of the two kidnapped Orthodox bishops - Asia News
New York City, N.Y., Oct 22, 2013 / 12:01 am (CNA).- While calling for dialogue between Syria’s Assad regime and moderates among the opposition, a Maronite Catholic bishop has stressed the necessity of a continued Christian presence in the Middle East.
“We need the solidarity of people and governments in the West to ensure the ongoing presence of Christians in Syria and throughout the Middle East,” Bishop Elias Sleman of the Maronite Eparchy of Latakia told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need Oct. 17.
Bishop Sleman is visiting the U.S. to raise support for his people as well as internally displaced Syrians. He hopes to purchase livestock and agricultural equipment and gain funding to establish a residence for women attending school in Latakia.
Read more here:
Syrian bishop calls for dialogue, continuing Christian presence :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)
SYRIA - EU Peace Conference on Syria at risk - Asia News
Read more here:
Growing Concern In Egypt After Attack on Coptic Church | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome
These were the thoughts of the Eastern Rite Catholic bishops in Europe in drawing up a final message at the end of their four-day annual meeting, which concluded Sunday. About thirty European Eastern Catholic bishops met in Košice (Slovakia).
Read more here:
Eastern Catholics Note Role of Culture in Proclaiming Gospel | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Monday, 21 October 2013
Holy Synod of Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch: new Archdiocese for Britain and Ireland - Problems with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem - the Situation in Syria
17th October 2013
The Holy Synod of Antioch held its second session from October 15th through 17th, 2013. His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X presided over the meeting, with the participation of their Eminences, the Metropolitans and Fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch: Spyridon of Zahleh and its dependencies; George of Jbeil, Batroun and their dependencies; Yuhanna of Lattakia and its dependencies; Elias of Beirut and its dependencies; Iliya of Hama and its dependencies; Elias of Tyre, Sidon; and their dependencies, Damaskinos of Sao Paulo and Brazil, Saba of Hawran and all Jebel al-Arab; George of Homs and its dependencies; Antonio of Mexico and Venezuela and their dependencies; Sergio of Chile; Silouan of Argentina; Basilios of Akkar and its dependencies; and Ephrem of Tripoli, al-Koura, and their dependencies. His Grace Bishop Ephrem (Maalouli), Patriarchal Vicar and Secretary of the Holy Synod, and Economos Georges Dimas, Record-keeper of the Synod, also participated in the meeting. Their Eminences Metropolitans: Philip of New York and North America, Paul of Australia and New Zealand and Constantine of Baghdad and Kuwait and their dependencies gave their regrets for not being able to attend. Metropolitan Boulos (Yazigi) of Aleppo and Alexandretta and their dependencies was present in the prayers and invocations of the Synod Fathers, despite his absence caused by his captivity.
The Recent Engagements of the Patriarch
After prayer and calling upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, His Beatitude opened the meeting by hoping that the Lord God may shower His blessings upon all the participants, so that they may rightly divide the Word of God’s Truth to the believers and to all those who are thirsting for hope. His Beatitude gave an account concerning the pastoral visits he made to the Archdioceses of Lattakia, and to the city of Tartous in the Archdiocese of Akkar, and to the German section of the Archdiocese of Europe. He had the opportunity to meet the faithful, their pastors, and the various archdiocesan committees. His Beatitude expressed the joy which he felt upon seeing the believers abiding on the rock of faith and living in the love of the Church and Her Master. His Beatitude thanked the Archbishops of these archdioceses for their wise and loving care towards their parishioners. He emphasized the importance of giving continuous care to our good people, through love, thoughtfulness, and vision for their growth in Christ, and steadfastness in their Church and land, and their continuous witness to Jesus Christ wherever they reside. Also, His Beatitude briefed the members of the Holy Synod about his recent visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to participate in the conference on: "The Challenges facing the Arab Christians," and to meet His Majesty Abdullah II, the King of Jordan. In his meetings, His Beatitude expressed the position of the Church of Antioch concerning the events that are taking place in the region, stressing the need to work for peace, freedom and human dignity of the Arab people, and indicating how Christians are well rooted in their homelands, their commitment to their countries’ causes, and how they have interacted with their Muslim brothers throughout history.
Also, His Beatitude briefed the Synod members on his visit to the Vatican, where he met His Holiness Pope Francis I, and participated in the conference organized by St. Egidio Community on the theme: "Courage and Hope, Religions and Cultures in Dialogue," where the position of Antioch regarding the issues raised was clearly presented, particularly the suffering of the Syrian people and the role of the Christian witness in the Middle East. The visit was an opportunity to review the prospects for cooperation between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, in order to make more effective the witness of Christians in the Middle East and in the world today, for the dignity and nobility of human beings, and to consolidate the values of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
Visits to the Russian and Serbian Churches
The Synod Fathers reviewed as well the reports submitted by the delegations that participated in the one thousand and twenty fifth anniversary of the Baptism of Russia and the one thousand and seven hundredth commemoration of the Decree of Milan. The Fathers congratulated the Russian and Serbian Churches, lifting up the prayers to God to send them His many graces and embrace their parishioners with His Light, Peace and Love. The Synod Fathers discussed some issues of concern for the universal Orthodox Church. They stressed the need for continued coordination between all Orthodox Churches in order to promote the Orthodox presence in the world and for a living testimony of Christ for contemporary man. In this regard, the Fathers stressed the need for cooperation between the Orthodox Churches to show the unity of the Church of Christ in a more effective way, and to facilitate the meeting of the Great and Holy Orthodox Synod.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem - Withdrawal from Episcopal Assemblies in the Diaspora
The Fathers discussed the crisis caused by the election of the Church of Jerusalem an Archbishop on Qatar. They sadly contemplated the persistence of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s violation, in spite of all the initiatives and mediations conducted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Government of the Hellenic Republic in order to resolve this crisis in accordance with the ecclesiastical laws and in a peaceful spirit. The Synod Fathers reiterated their desire to give priority to the peaceful solution over other solutions. However, they stressed the need to find a solution to this crisis in no less than two months from today’s date. They delegated His Beatitude, in the event of lack of response from the Church of Jerusalem to the rightful demand of the Church of Antioch, to remove the aforementioned violation on its canonical territory, to take all necessary measures including severing of communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Synod also decided to suspend the Church of Antioch’s participation in all the Assemblies of Canonical Orthodox Bishops abroad (in the Diaspora) until the removal of the violation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Three New Archdioceses for the Diaspora and Faithful in Europe: including one for Britain and IrelandThe Synod Fathers discussed the state of the Archdiocese of Europe which became vacant with the election of His Beatitude to the See of Antioch. They recognized that this Archdiocese had a growing number of parishes, a widespread territory, a multiplicity of languages used within its territory, and the increasing number of parishioners. All these factors require the reconsideration of its territorial boundaries in order to have an effective pastoral care. They decided to establish three new Archdioceses and a Patriarchal Vicariate in Europe as follows: the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of France, Western and Southern Europe; the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Germany and Central Europe; the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of British Isles and Ireland; the Antiochian Orthodox Vicariate of Sweden and Scandinavian countries. They elected the following Metropolitans: Ignatius (Al Houshi), Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of France, Western and Southern Europe; and Isaac (Barakat), Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Germany and Central Europe. They also delegated the Patriarch to appoint a Patriarchal Vicar over the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of British Isles and Ireland, until a Metropolitan is elected.
St John of Damascus Institute
The Synod Fathers listened to a report about the St John of Damascus Institute of Theology presented by Deacon Porphyrios Georgi, the Institute of Theology Dean. Deacon Porphyrios gave a presentation about the current progress of the Institute, its vision and mission. The Fathers thanked the Dean for his presentation and blessed his efforts, giving him their proposals for further growth.
The Situation in Syria - the abducted Bishops
The Synod Fathers looked into the suffering of Syria and its people because of the violence plaguing the homeland, destroying the country and causing the killing and displacement of its people. They stressed that the language of violence and murder is a language alien to the traditions of the Syrian people who aspire to live in freedom and dignity in their own land, under one state, in which everyone is involved in upholding and in consolidating the values of democracy, freedom, justice and coexistence based on respect for others regardless of differences, and the need to follow the logic of dialogue and a peaceful solution to overcome all the crises. The Synod Fathers appealed to their parishioners to abide in the hope "that does not fail," and by the evangelical values, which calls on them to renounce violence and respect the image of God in every person, wipe away the tears from the face of all the sufferers in the earth, and remain in their own lands, and not give it up in whatever hard circumstances they encounter, because the Lord wants them as witnesses in their homelands. They implored them not to give away their land to solve the current material problems, because this land is mixed with the soil of saints. This land will remain throughout time their only refuge. They encouraged them to intensify their prayers for peace in Syria and in the whole world, and the collaboration among them to mitigate the impact of the crisis, especially on the neediest among them.
In this area, the Synod Fathers send their gratitude to the churches and organizations, associations and individuals for their cooperation with the Patriarchate for the relief of the needy brothers. Also the Fathers thanked their parishioners who responded to the call of the Patriarchate and gave generously to support the relief work in the Patriarchate, through their offerings on the occasion of the Day of Solidarity of Antioch in order to support the relief work set by the Holy Synod on September 15, 2013. The Fathers remembered their parishioners in the city of Aleppo, which misses its Metropolitans, and asked them to remain firm in hope, because the ashes of various trials will not conceal the face of the ever Beloved One. The Fathers addressed the international community, hoping that it would turn to the pain of the Syrian people and their agonies, and halt the fuelling of war, and contribute to the consolidation of the values of peace, justice, and democracy, and invest in rebuilding what has been destroyed and develop the potential of the Syrian people, rather than invest in iron and fire. The Synod Fathers urged the international organizations and non-governmental organizations, and all bodies concerned about the displaced, to secure the essential necessities of life for those on the doors of winter, so that they might spend their time and live in dignity while awaiting upon their return to their towns and villages. The Synod Fathers reiterated their condemnation of the terrorist operations that affect peaceful citizens and the destruction which does not exclude places of worship, in addition to historical and cultural monuments witnessing to the nobility of the Syrian civilization. They sadly pointed out the vagueness surrounding the issue of the kidnapped bishops, Paul Yazigi and John Ibrahim. They called on the Arab and international communities to assume their responsibilities in this regard to establish the truth and to uncover the fate of both bishops and all kidnapped people and ensure their safe return to their families and loved ones. The Synod Fathers prayed for the divine mercy on the souls of the innocent martyrs who died during this devastating war, especially the priests who died while soothing the wounds of their parishioners.
The Synod Fathers turned to Lebanon, and its citizens who are suffering from a severe economic crisis and a deep concern over their fate as a result of the persistent state of the disabling of Lebanese governmental institutions. They appealed to all parties and officials to carry out their responsibilities in order to save Lebanon and the advance of its citizens. They encouraged them to maintain the values of democracy, freedom, and the devolution of power that has long characterized Lebanon, and called them to fortify Lebanon and spare it the risks encompassing it from every direction by getting over their narrow interests and overcoming their current differences and returning to dialogue in a spirit of openness and reconciliation, and national and historic responsibility, through forming a national unity government that is able to ward off risks and maintain stability in order to avoid falling into the vacuum and preserve civil peace. The Synod Fathers discussed the state of national activities undertaken by their parishioners in Lebanon, stressing respect for their political diversity and reminding at the same time that the Church, although not dictating to her parishioners uniform political positions, yet nonetheless committed through the Holy Synod and its head, the Patriarch, the official authority that expresses the position of the Orthodox Church in all that clarifies, by the light of the Gospel, the way forward for Her parishioners in their commitment to the affairs of their homelands .
Iraq & Palestine
Suffering Iraq did not go unnoticed in the concerns of the Holy Synod Fathers, as well as wounded Palestine. We should pray that the Lord God confirm Iraq and Palestine and all the Arab countries on the road to stability and peace. They stressed the need to find a just and comprehensive solution to the legitimate Palestinian issue. The Synod Fathers asked their parishioners to face the challenges posed by their societies and our contemporary age, in order to test it against the light of the values of the Gospel. They also asked them to work for political, social and economic peace, wherever they are, and to renounce sectarianism and abhorrent racism in all its forms, and to coexist in a sincere way with their co-citizens, and to work for human dignity and freedom, and to stop the bloodshed and commitment to the affairs of the suffering on earth with whom Christ united Himself.
The Synod Fathers concluded their session by reminding their parishioners of the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: "Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11).
Sunday, 20 October 2013
He movingly described the faith and hope of the Christian people, but emphasised how strongly they still stand united with their fellow citizens in Syria, a country until recently renowned in the Middle East as a majority-Muslim land for its mutual respect and religious harmony. The war is not a civil war among the Syrians, who would not tolerate the atrocities against people and the desecration of sanctuaries, but inflicted on the population by extremist Islamists coming from far away who know nothing of Syria, Arab society and its values shared by Christians and Muslims alike, or the history together of the Christian faith and Islam in a place that is also part of the Holy Land.
Patriarch Gregorios mentioned the school he had set up on the outskirts of Damascus for the Aramaic Christian children ejected from their villages, so that their language, faith and hopes might not be lost but one day restored to their home. He also told us that the day before, a bomb had exploded by the Thomas Gate of Damascus and killed a large number of people, including a 5 year old girl, the daughter of the mayor of Maloula. He described how Maloula, where the language of Christ himself is still spoken, is now a ghost town, with its churches and monasteries overrun by foreign invaders - not so-called Syrian rebels - homes looted and the Syrian government bombarding the village still further to dislodge the Islamist fighters. The mayor, with his people, had brought his family to Damascus in the hope of safety, only to endure a more terrible tragedy.
In a longer address in Westminster Cathedral Hall after the mass, he showed pictures of the funeral Liturgy he had offered for the three Melkite men who had been confronted by Islamists with an invitation to convert and deny Christ. One of the young men had said, "I am a Christian. We have always followed Christ. If you want to kill me for Christ, do it now." And so he was immediately murdered, a martyr.
In thanking Aid to the Church in Need for its help, spiritual and material, he pleaded for the support not to come not just for the Christians, but for what the Christians offer to others - the ministry of reconciliation that the Church in Syria had learned from its great teacher, St Paul. He also made it clear that, whatever the Western media says about Syria, and rebels and civil war against the government, Christians are the bridgebuilders, they serve as Christ, they witness to him as people of peace. Along with the other Syrian Christian leaders (Patriarch Gregorios is president of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria), he has urged Christians not to take up arms and fight, but to defend peace, by staying, by loving and serving and hoping, worshipping Christ with faith and joy.
He challenged the Western view that Christianity has no real place in the Muslim Arab Middle East. Yet, he said, the Church came to Syria three weeks after Pentecost: among those who heard the apostles speak in their own tongue were people from Damascus. One of these was the elder Ananias, who took in St Paul, healed, baptised and instructed him. Thus, said the Patriarch, while Christ was born in Bethlehem, Christianity was born in Syria.
The Patriarch announced that on November 21, the Melkite Catholic bishops will make a synodal visitation to Pope Francis in Rome, calling on the various dicasteries for assistance in the strengthening of the Christian presence and life in the Middle East. In the same tour, the Patriarch will be participating in Geneva II, the forthcoming conference to bring peace to Syria, and hopefully to Israel and Palestine in the end too.
In the following film, senior clergy in Syria and displaced Christians describe what is happening in Syria and the desire for peace to come and the fighters to go.
After the presentation from the Patriarch and Sister Hanan of the Good Shepherd Sisters, operating a pharmacy and clinic in eastern Lebanon, John Pontifex presented his remarkable report on the intensified persecution of Christians around the world, but especially in the interface with Islam. Here is the link to the ACN UK report, Persecuted but not forgotten, with a telling map of the countries where persecution of and discrimination against Christians is on the rise to severe levels. And here is that John Pontifex is presenting:
Red = Extreme Persecution
Black = High Persecution
White = Moderate Persecution
See http://www.acnuk.org/persecution for more explanation.
The Patriarch announced that Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has called a Day of Prayer for the Church in Syria for December 4th, the feast of St John of Damascus.
Saturday, 19 October 2013
As Middle East Christians migrate, Chaldean Patriarch Raphael of Babylon offers to merge with the Assyrian Church of the East
As Middle East Christians migrate, Chaldean Patriarch Raphael of Babylon offers to merge with the Assyrian Church of the East
The area is a destination for Syrians fleeing the fighting, Muslims as well as Christians, the latter having fled Damascus, Aleppo and Homs (which is part of the Latakia Eparchy) in great numbers, the majority of them currently stranded in Lebanon.
Bishop Sleman is on a visit to the US to rally support for his local community, not only to help him cope with the needs of the internally displaced—whose status, unlike that of refugees, make them ineligible for UN aid—but to give local Christians a chance to sustain a livelihood through farming. He is aiming to buy livestock and machinery for agricultural production, such as cheese-making.
”If Christians cannot make a living here, they will leave, and most of those who leave—particularly for the West—do not return,“ the prelate said, adding that “their enduring presence here and throughout the Middle East is vital for the well-being of Muslim society,“ serving as an indispensable antidote to fanaticism and extremism.
Also high on the bishop’s wishlist is the establishment of a residence for young women attending school and college in Latakia, a haven that will ensure parents of the safety of their daughters, whose education is critical to the future of Syria. The bishop spoke with Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, on Oct. 11, during a stop in New York.
Read more here: Syria - In the Muslim world, the genius of Christianity - Aid to the Church in Need
ASIA/MALAYSIA - The Government: the judgment on "Allah" only applies to the weekly Herald, not the Bible and the liturgy - Fides News Agency
As if it were defensible: The Malaysian Government says: the judgment on "Allah" only applies to the weekly Herald, not the Bible and the liturgy - Fides News Agency
Meanwhile, our friends at Aid to the Church in Need which has developed a children's bible for beleaguered Hausa Christian families in Nigeria, the word shared by Christians and Muslims in Hausa is, of course, "Allah".
ASIA/SYRIA - Maronite Bishop: With regard to the conflict in the Middle East, Western Christians are poorly informed - Fides News Agency
Friday, 18 October 2013
Council of Catholic Bishops' Conferencesin Europe: Meeting of the Eastern Catholic Bishops - Evangelising culture and inculturation of the Gospel
|St. Giragos Church, located within the historic walls of the city of Diyarbakir, has been renovated. (photo by armradio.am)|
Armenian Life Returns to Diyarbakir - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
I walked with Armin around the church. The building, which was meticulously built seven centuries ago, has been renovated, adding a touch of beauty to the impoverished neighborhood. We went to a hall where the walls were decorated with photographs of the Armenian way of life in Diyarbakir before the great massacre. There hung a photo of two Armenian schools, one for boys and one for girls, and a photo of the newspaper Independent Tigris with pictures of craftsmen, coppersmiths, jewelry makers, weavers and a brass band. There was also an old postcard in French portraying the Armenian neighborhood and the high church bell towers. The black-and-white photographs created a sad memorial, not only because they brought back memories of the past, but because they remind us that an entire way of life has been wiped away.
There was once a large Armenian community in Diyarbakir. Most of its members were craftsmen and traders. In 1915, when the Committee of Union and Progress, the powerful party that pushed the Ottoman Empire to fight in the First World War, decided to get rid of the Armenians living in the empire. Approximately 120,000 Armenians in the province were sent outside the city walls and massacred. The survivors, mostly women and orphans, went to camps in the Syrian desert. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Armenians living in villages and towns in the province moved to Diyarbakir to form a new, small community. More left the villages after the war broke out in the southeast of the country between the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Turkish army. Today, a descendant of the survivors is forming a new Armenian community in this historic city.
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2013/10/turkish-armenians-rediscover-roots.html#ixzz2i9MosEjs
The report examines the situation of Christians in 30 different countries, including Afghanistan, China, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. In particular, it analyses the situation in a number of majority Islamic countries and in those states whose political systems have a pronounced authoritarian character. The reporting period covers the past 30 months.
"The principal finding of the report is that in two-thirds of the countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, the problems have become arguably even worse. In fact the Church's very survival in some parts -- notably the Middle East -- is now at stake," said John Pontifex, ACN UK's Head of Press and Information.
For Christians the so-called "Arab spring" has in many cases become what the report calls a "Christian winter." Although the political upheavals have brought suffering to people of all faith communities, nonetheless it is above all the Christian confessions that have experienced the most open hostility and violence.
Christians have become victims of every kind of political, economic, social and religious conflict, most notably the conflicts between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, the report says. As a result, a great many Christians have been forced to flee. The study describes the Christian exodus from the Middle East as reaching "almost biblical proportions."
As Pontifex explains, "from all accounts, the incidents of persecution are now apparently relentless and worsening; churches being burned; Christians are under pressure to convert; there is mob violence against Christian homes, as well as abduction and rape of Christian girls; there is anti-Christian propaganda in the media and from governments, in addition to discrimination in schools and in the workplace.. Persecuted and Forgotten? asks hard questions about the international community's commitment to standing up for religious freedom."
According to the report, the influence of fundamentalist Islamist groups has increased sharply in the past 30 months. They represent possibly the greatest threat to religious freedom in the world today. Their goal is the elimination, or at the very least the subjugation, of Christians. In communist countries efforts to exert control over the Christian population have also increased. However, in these countries Christians tend to be persecuted above all on account of their contacts with dissidents and with the West, and not because of their faith alone.
Please click here to download the report.
By Joop Koopman
Aid to the Church in Need
Report Finds Persecution of Christians Sharply Increased Around the World
Bombs have been planted in the confessional box of one of the world's oldest churches in a Syrian town hailed as the country's last remaining centre of religious tolerance, Syria's most senior Christian leader has disclosed.
More here: Bombs planted in confessional box of Syrian church - Telegraph
The Syrian government has damaged one of the oldest churches in the world in a shelling attack that, residents say, was designed to deepen sectarian divisions.
Read more, with more pictures here:
The damage done to 'Syria's oldest church' seen first hand - Telegraph
LIBYA With the country at the mercy of Islamists and criminals, Libya asks the Church to leave - Asia News
Thursday, 17 October 2013
Assyrians and Arab Regimes
Wednesday, 16 October 2013
ASIA/SYRIA - Archbishop Marayati: the policies of the international community encourage the exodus of Christians - Fides News Agency
It was a great pleasure to make contact with a recent new member of the Society, Dr Martin Anthony from Chester. He is an active member of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and we are delighted to link to his interesting blog on the Saint Thomas Christians, with roots from the earliest times in the ancient Churches of Persia and Iraq-Syria.
Dr Anthony presented me with the newly published "The Legacy of the Apostle Thomas in India" by the Revd Dr Andrews Mekkattukunnel, of the Oriental Institute of Religious Studies India, in Vadavathoor, Kottayam (Kerala) and the DVD by the distinguished priest-musicologist Dr Joseph Palackal, "Kerala, the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia", issued by the Christian Musicological Society of India.
Dr Anthony pointed out that, in view of ongoing Malaysian court decisions to forbid Christians to address God as "Allah", in the classic Syriac version of his Church's liturgy which predates the emergence of Islam, in the Thrice-Holy Hymn God is addressed as Holy God - "Qamdish Allaha".