17 September 2015
An overflow crowd of Ukrainian Orthodox believers gathers for the Christmas liturgy in
Kosmach, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)
Confusion characterizes Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine. Not one but three groups claim legitimacy as the national church of a land that traditionally identifies with Eastern Christianity.
Led by Metropolitan Onophry Berezovsky, the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate” is an autonomous jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Russia. Canonically, it is the only Orthodox jurisdiction recognized by the rest of the Orthodox world, maintaining the largest number of parishes in Ukraine (perhaps some 11,300). It prevails, however, in the country’s Russian-speaking areas in the central, southern and eastern portions of Ukraine, where religious identity is weakest. Church Slavonic is the predominant language used in the celebration of the sacraments.
The “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate” is led by Patriarch Filaret. Once a rising star of the Moscow patriarchate, he was excommunicated for advocating a national and independent Orthodox church in Ukraine. According to the 2006 findings of the Razumkov Centre — a Ukrainian think tank — about half of the Ukrainians who claim a religious affiliation belong to this community, which uses both Church Slavonic and modern Ukrainian in the celebration of the sacraments. Since the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, the Kiev Patriarchate has grown at the expense of the church associated with the Moscow Patriarchate, which is considered pro-Russian.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, his wife Maryna and son Mykhailo, light candles on 23 August as they attend a service in the mother church of Ukraine, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Kiev, commemorating Ukrainian Independence Day. (photo: CNS/Mikhail Palinchak, pool via EPA)
The “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” is the smallest of the three Orthodox bodies. It is led by Metropolitan Makariy Maletych, who formerly led an eparchy in the western city of Lviv, which is the epicenter of Ukrainian nationalism and where the church of three million is strongest. This community, which also uses Church Slavonic and modern Ukrainian in the liturgy, is in active dialogue with the Kiev Patriarchate seeking unification.
In its well-regarded survey on religious affiliation in Ukraine, the Razumkov Centre found more than 62 percent of the country’s 44 million people did not declare any membership in any of the churches listed above. The authors report that, while many who did not self-identify with any group were Orthodox Christian, most were unaware either of the issues or of the divisions embroiling Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
Why then this schism among Ukraine’s Orthodox Christians? In short, the polarization of the Ukrainian church reflects questions of Ukrainian identity and of Ukraine’s relationship to its domineering neighbor to the east, Russia, with which it now finds itself at war.
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17 September 2015
A Caritas day care center in Tbilisi, Georgia offers classes in traditional Georgian carpet weaving, teaching new skills to young people. To learn more, read “A Child’s Rights Restored” in the
March 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Molly Corso)
17 September 2015
A migrant child wakes up to a more peaceful morning on 17 September after the previous day's friction at the border crossings in Horgos, Serbia. (photo: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Pope: no one can remain oblivious to atrocities in Syria and Iraq (VIS) “One of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades are the terrible consequences that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have on civilian populations as well as on cultural heritage. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need. They are forced to leave their native lands. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey today carry the weight of millions of refugees, which they have generously received. Faced with such a situation and conflicts that are expanding and disturbing in an alarming way the internal and regional equilibrium, the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests.” With these words the Pope addressed the participants in the meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq, organised by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, attended by Catholic charitable bodies and the bishops of the region, among others, and to which more than thirty organisations have lent their support...
Aleppo archbishop: only 50,000 Christians left in the city (Vatican Radio) The Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, warned this week that only 50,000 Christians are now left in the city which has seen some of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s ongoing civil war. He urged the international community to provide help to enable Christians to remain in Syria and carry on bearing witness to their faith...
Syrian refugees flee to Gaza (International Business Times) In a coffee shop in Gaza City, Syrian refugee Anas Katerji bursts into a well-known Palestinian song: “Palestine my homeland, my victory bath, Palestine stays my heart’s passion.” The 28-year-old fled his home in Aleppo in the face of vicious fighting between rebel forces and Bashar al-Assad’s army and after eventually reaching Egypt, he did not receive the welcome he had expected. He and a group of other Syrians made the dangerous trip across the Sinai and into Gaza through smuggling tunnels...
Refugees facing tear gas, water cannons (The Washington Post) Refugees blazed a new pathway through Europe on Wednesday, with hundreds hiking through cornfields to reach welcoming Croatia even as others faced tear gas and water cannons from Hungarian police determined to turn them away. The contrasting scenes along the Serbian border highlighted both the make-or-break resolve of the asylum seekers and the growing friction facing Europe, which has failed to create a coordinated policy for the unprecedented influx of economic migrants and war refugees from the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “We hit a stone and we flow around it,” said Arazak Dubal, 28, a computer programmer from Damascus, who had been on the road for 18 days...
16 September 2015
Outside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, a young Arab Israeli Christian boy holds a banner reading in Arabic: ‘Me too.. my school is not for sale’ during a rally against what they said was state discrimination in funding their schools, which prompted them to declare an
open-ended strike. (photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian schools in Israel have been on strike since 1 September, as a result of budget cuts imposed on the schools.
This week, the patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem released a statement, saying in part:
It hurts to see 33,000 students from all faiths and denominations out of their classrooms, while hundreds of teachers and employees are watching their schools empty. This situation is a grave inconvenience to the parents as their children remain at home, while education is a basic human right that no child should be denied.
The struggle for justice and equality for our schools started almost two years ago, after serious budget cuts imposed upon our schools caused a financial deficit. Negotiations between the Office of Christian Schools in Israel and the Ministry of Education failed and all solutions presented by the Ministry were unrealistic and would cause further financial burden on parents of our students.
...The struggle of our schools is a just cause, in seeking not only equal rights, but also recognition of the outstanding services that are offered.
You can read the full statement here.
16 September 2015
Sawy Abdullah Joda makes shoes at the Jesuit Fathers’ vocational training center in Minya, Egypt. To learn more about projects bringing jobs and education to Egyptians, read “From Dust to Dignity” in the November-December 2002 edition of the magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)
16 September 2015
Syrian refugees wait at the mosque courtyard at the Istanbul bus terminal as they try to get tickets to go to Germany through Greece on 16 September 2015.
(photo: Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syria’s Assad blames West for refugee crisis (Reuters) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed Europe’s refugee crisis on Western support for “terrorists,” as people fleeing his country’s civil war stream towards the European Union. In his first public comments on the mass migration, broadcast on Wednesday, Assad said Europe could expect more refugees. Countries including the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia want to see Assad gone from power and have supported the opposition to his rule during the four-year-old war, including some of the armed groups fighting him...
Obama weighs talks with Putin on Syria (The New York Times) For more than a year, President Obama has resisted meeting one on one with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and only reluctantly taken a phone call, freezing out the Kremlin leader over his intervention in Ukraine in their own personal cold war. But this month, the two leaders will be in the same city at the same time amid rising tension in Syria, and the White House is divided by a debate over whether they should meet to try to work out their differences before the tumult in the Middle East escalates even further...
Power cuts prompt protests in Gaza (The New York Times) Several hundred Palestinians demonstrated in central Gaza on Monday evening over increasing power cuts, the latest in a series of protests that appear to have erupted over the issue. The demonstrations, which began Saturday in Rafah, a southern city in the Gaza Strip, are the largest in years. Still, it is uncertain if the protesters can sustain their momentum, and it is unclear if they will pose a challenge to Gaza’s Hamas rulers...
European bishops hold assembly in the Holy Land (Vatican Radio) The Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) this week is holding its Plenary Assembly in the Holy Land. The meeting came at the invitation of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. By accepting the invitation for the Holy Land to host their meeting, the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences said it allowed for the meeting to be a pilgrimage to the very roots of European culture...
Ethiopia says hundreds of “Eritrea-backed” rebels have surrendered (Channel NewsAsia) Hundreds of Ethiopian rebels have fled their base in Eritrea and surrendered to authorities, handing over their weapons, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.The little-known Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) says it launched an insurgency 14 years ago seeking to “establish a popular democratic government” in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has previously dismissed the group as “puppets” acting under the orders of arch-foe Eritrea, with whom it is embroiled in a border dispute...
15 September 2015
Tags: Syria Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Russia
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, greets the mother of a deceased soldier in July 2015. (photo: John E. Kozar)
“Reborn” and “renascent” are frequently used to describe the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. While such adjectives may describe correctly the situation of the church in Ukraine since it resurfaced from the catacombs of the Soviet Union, they fail to describe the circumstances for the entire church, which has flourished in the Americas, Oceania and Western Europe for up to a century. No longer the faith community of a central European people, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a worldwide body bonded by tradition and perseverance.
Modern Ukrainians share the same origins as Belarussians, Carpatho-Rusyns and Russians, all of whom regard the realm of the Kievan Rus’ as their own.
In the ninth century, the Varangians — a Scandinavian tribe known for their ferocity and piracy — swept into central Europe, settling among and intermarrying with the Eastern Slavic natives. Collectively called the Rus’, they established towns along the Dnieper, Dniester and Don rivers, asserted control of the trade routes from the Baltic to the Black seas and developed uneasy commercial relations with Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Eastern Roman Empire, commonly known as Byzantium.
A young man is ordained a priest in the Church of the Transfiguration in Kolomyja, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)
One such town, Kiev, became dominant and its leader took on the title of grand prince. The grand prince controlled the city and its surroundings, while Rusyn relatives scattered from Novgorod (a city near modern St. Petersburg) to Halych (now a town in southwestern Ukraine) swore him allegiance.
According to the 12th-century Rus’ Chronicles, Grand Prince Vladimir I (956-1015), eager to abandon the polytheistic beliefs of his people, sent out emissaries to learn about Christianity, Judaism and Islam. But Christianity as practiced in Byzantium had the edge: Olga (879-969), Vladimir’s grandmother, had embraced Christianity while in Constantinople. But Olga had failed to instruct her son or her people in the Byzantine Christian faith.
Another likely source for Vladimir’s interest in Byzantine Christianity was the work of two missionary brothers, Cyril and Methodius. Charged by the patriarch of Constantinople to work among the Slavs of Moravia (862), the brothers created a Slavonic alphabet, translated scriptural works into Slavonic and introduced a Slavonic liturgy based on the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. While the disciples of Sts. Cyril and Methodius were later banished from Moravia, they established Byzantine Christianity among the Southern Slavs and Bulgars of the Bulgarian kingdom. Buttressed by this church, the Bulgarian state developed into a powerful empire that rivaled Byzantium and Kiev.
Ultimately, it may have been Vladimir’s interest in an alliance with Byzantium that led to his baptism in the Byzantine tradition. Yet the Rus’ Chronicles credit the Divine Liturgy, as celebrated in Constantinople’s Church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), as the inspiration for Vladimir’s acceptance in 988 of Byzantine Christianity: “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth,” the annals record the emissaries as saying, “surely God dwells with the Greeks [as the Byzantines were known].”
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15 September 2015
The sisters at Bediani in Georgia keep bees to supplement their income. To learn more about life in their community, read “Alternative Lifestyles” in the September 2007 edition of ONE.
(photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
15 September 2015
A picture taken on 14 September 2015 shows smoke billowing from the Syrian rebel-held area of Douma, east of the capital Damascus, following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces. The besieged area east of Syria’s capital suffered one of its bloodiest months in August, with ‘intense’ regime bombing attacks that killed and wounded hundreds,
Doctors Without Borders said. (photo: ABD Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)
For those who remain in Syria, daily life is a nightmare (The New York Times) Every morning, at the dawn call to prayer, women and children move silently from the Damascus suburb of Douma to the surrounding farm fields, seeking safety from the day’s bombardments by the Syrian government. The walk is part of a surreal routine described by the fraction of Douma’s residents who remain: shopping on half-demolished streets, scavenging wild greens, carrying out mass burials. But not even the fields are safe; recently, medics said, bombs killed two families there — 10 people, including seven children. As crowds of Syrians transfix the world with their flight to Europe, this kind of life is one of the many nightmares they are fleeing...
Vatican welcomes Iran agreement (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has welcomed Iran’s efforts to reduce or convert its nuclear facilities to peaceful purposes in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. In a statement delivered to the 59th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Monday, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the Vatican “values positively” Iran’s recent agreement with the European Union and the so-called ‘P5 plus 1’ group of nations because “it considers that the way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation”...
Canadian troops arrive in Ukraine to train soldiers (The Globe and Mail) The Canadian training mission is taking place 1,200 kilometres away from the front lines, but the Kremlin nonetheless sees the exercises as part of a NATO buildup on its doorstep. The Russian embassy in Ottawa has criticized the mission as “counterproductive and deplorable.”
Conference looks at impact of social media in Middle East (Fides) In the tragic events that plague the people of the Middle East, an undeniable and growing role is also played by communication through social media. In order to address this emergency and rediscover social media as a space for dialogue and understanding among different identities, the Kaiciid has organized the first training program for operators in this sector in Amman, entitled “United Against Violence in the Name of Religion”...
Catholic activist reportedly receives death threats in India (Fides) The well-known Catholic intellectual and human rights activist John Dayal has received death threats by radical Hindu groups. This is what Fides learns from sources in the Indian Catholic community. Dayal has denounced the threats to the police in New Delhi. According to information confirmed to Fides by Fr. Savari Muthu, a priest in New Delhi and spokesman of the Archdiocese, Hindu radicals started threatening Dayal on 12 September with telephone intimidations and on social networks, with derogatory and offensive comments towards Dayal and the Christian faith...
14 September 2015
In this image from 2014, an Ethiopian Christian carries a cross on the Via Dolorosa in the
Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Today, 14 September, marks the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Some background:
Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. She razed the second-century Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior’s tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.
The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus’ head: Then “all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on.”
To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica’s dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.
When he marked this feast two years ago, Pope Francis spoke of the cross as a mystery, and drew parallels between two trees — the one that led to man’s downfall in Eden, and the one that saved the world on Calvary:
“The one tree has wrought so much evil, the other tree has brought us to salvation, to health. This is the course of the humanity’s story: a journey to find Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who gives His life for love. God, in fact, has not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. This tree of the Cross save us, all of us, from the consequences of that other tree, where self-sufficiency, arrogance, the pride of us wanting to know all things according to our own mentality, according to our own criteria, and also according to that presumption of being and becoming the only judges of the world. This is the story of mankind: from one tree to the other.”