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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St. Andrew the First-Called

Troparion - Tone 4

Andrew, first-called of the Apostles
and brother of the foremost disciple,
entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world
and to our souls great mercy.

Kontakion - Tone 2

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God,
the namesake of courage,
the first-called of the Savior's disciples
and the brother of Peter.
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us:
"Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"

Ethiopian Orthodox monasticism copes with a new reality

Sunrise at the Meskaye Hizunan Medhane

Alem Monastery in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's

capital and largest city, feels anything but

contemplative. A cacophony of roaring bus

and car engines interrupts the early morning

calm. A blur of red brake lights eclipses the

rising sun's soft rays. The compound, which

includes a church and an elementary and

high school, sits at the heart of the bustling

Sidist Kilo neighborhood, home to Addis Ababa

University's main campus. The neighborhood's

urban energy is palpable, even when the city

has barely awakened.

Inside the church, worshipers and monks have

filled the pews to celebrate the day's first liturgy.

Beloved: The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia

A Divine Vocation

Ethiopian monasticism struggles following Marxist nationalization of landRSSFacebookNovember 30, 2010

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is struggling to maintain its monastic traditions in the wake of the Marxist nationalizaton of monastic properties in the late twentieth century.

"Under Marxist Derg rule, which lasted until 1991, the government seized and redistributed church-owned land," ONE Magazine reports. "Monasteries, which traditionally operated relatively large farms, were forced to forfeit much of their property and, as a result, lost their economic sustainability. Stripped of their resources, monks and nuns also surrendered their vital roles as producers, employers, educators and leaders in their communities."

0.8% of Ethiopia's 77.2 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics; 51% are Ethiopian Orthodox, 33% are Muslim, and 10% are Protestant. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church ceased to be in communion with the Holy See following the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

The Turkish government now recognises us officially, says Bartholomew I
by NAT da Polis

Coming on the eve of the feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the return of the Buyukada orphanage is extremely significant for Orthodox Christians and marks an important moment for Turkish Christians. A Vatican delegation led by Card Kurt Koch attends the celebrations.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate celebrated its foremost feast day today, the day of Saint Andrew, the Apostle of Constantinople, but it also marked the successful end of a legal battle with the Turkish state over the Buyukada orphanage. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, after meeting with a delegation from the Holy See led by newly appointed Card Kurt Koch, the new president of the Council for Christian Unity, expressed his emotions in an interview withAsiaNews.
"Today is a great day for our Great Mother Church. The orphanage on Princes Island (Buyukada) has been given back to us. What we inherited from our ancestors has also been returned to us. We could not tolerate the injustice done to us. We first turned to Turkey's courts. Since we lost all of our cases, we turned to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which gave us justice," the Patriarch said.
The implications of the return to the Patriarchate of the 'Tapu' (title deed) are of great significance. "The Turkish government did not appeal against the court's ruling, starting instead the procedures to return us the orphanage," Bartholomew said. "I want to stress the tapu by Turkish authorities is issued in the name of our Patriarchate, as Rum Patrikanesi. This means not only the return of the orphanage but also the official recognition of our Patriarchate as a legal person. This is a positive step."
"Our struggle must teach us never to put down our spiritual tools and always trust Divine Providence, which knows when and how to overcome human obstacles and weaknesses," the Ecumenical Patriarch said.
Ioannis Ktistakis, one of the lawyers that represented the Fener (the Patriarchate) in the case, spoke to AsiaNews about the case after the Ecumenical Patriarch received the tapu.
"We fought to re-establish civil rights in Turkey. Our struggle was first about rights, and only secondarily about a title deed. It was about re-establishing rights in this country as in any other country since the rights of a centuries-old institution like the Ecumenical Patriarchate had been violated." (picture by Nikos Mangina).
Two Afghan converts to Christianity risk the death penalty
The two men have been in jail since June waiting for trial. A local TV station showed Afghans reciting Christian prayers and being baptised. Afghan law bans conversion from Islam to any other religion. Fr Moretti, in charge of the country's onlyCatholic church, is interviewed about the matter.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – Two Afghans accused of converting to Christianity could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer said on Sunday. Musa Sayed, 45, and Ahmad Shah, 50, are being detained in the Afghan capital awaiting trial, the prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, said.

"They are accused of conversion to another religion, which is considered a crime under Islamic law. If proved, they face the death penalty or life imprisonment," Quraishi said. Sayed, a Red Cross (ICRC) employee, has already confessed. There is also "proof" against Shah, Quraishi explained.

Sayed and Shah were arrested in late May and early June, days after local television broadcast footage of men reciting Christian prayers in Farsi and being baptised, apparently in a house in Kabul. The TV station also showed some people engaged in proselytising, which is banned in the Muslim country.

The ICRC's spokesman in Kabul, Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, confirmed that Sayed worked for the organisation since 1995. He also said that he was able to visit him in prison.

The government launched its own investigation into the matter and suspended two aid groups, Norwegian Church Aid (a Protestant organisation) and Church World Service of the US (which includes Protestants, Orthodox and Anglicans), after the TV station reported two of their members were proselytising.

The Afghan constitution, adopted after the fall of the Islamic Taliban in late 2001, forbids conversion to another religion from Islam and in theory can sentence those found guilty to death. However, no one has been executed in recent years for converting.

Fr Giuseppe Moretti, parish priest at the only Catholic church in Afghanistan, a chapel inside the Italian Embassy in Kabul, told AsiaNews that he knew nothing about the affair. He was certain that they did not convert to Catholicism.

"No one in the country was baptised by a Catholic priest because proselytising is banned by law," he said.

"The Catholic Church has been present in the country since 1923 with a mandate to take care of members of the international Catholic community living here. It has always respected that [principle] to the letter."

As for the anti-conversion law, Fr Moretti has nothing to add, except to reiterate that the Catholic community has always respected it.

"The Little Sisters of Jesus of Charles de Foucault, the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the Sisters of the Interreligious Community are present here, and they too respect the ban. We bear witness to our faith through our commitment and our lives," he said.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grand Mufti condemns extremism and violence in sermon, experts discuss it
For experts, the Hajj sermon by Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh is of great significance. In it, the grand mufti urges Muslims to fight extremism and dangerous ideologies. Hundreds of media outlets around the Muslim world pick up his remarks.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Hajj sermon delivered by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, at the Nmira Mosque in Makkah has raised interest levels among specialists because of its harsh condemnation of terrorism. Excerpts from the sermon, which condemns terrorism and urges moderation, were reprinted in hundreds of newspapers in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Some clips with English subtitles have appeared on the internet, posted onYouTube.

In his sermon, Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz urges Muslims to be united and faithful. He calls for the protection of the environment and stresses the need for security. He noted that when security is missing, women and children suffer, disorder follows and peace and prosperity vanish.

Speaking about Islam, he said that it is a religion of forgiveness and moderation. Violence is against Islamic ethics. The ultimate purpose of Islam is to spread peace and security. However, many observers focused on one interesting  part, namely intellectual security.

As he described what he meant by intellectual security, the mufti called on Muslim communities to guard against deviancy, especially extremism and fanaticism. He warned that recent advancements in media and technology have led to the spread of dangerous ideologies and cyber terrorism. He called on Muslim teachers, imams, scholars, think tanks and professors to spread the true message of Islam and fight the spread of extremism.

Experts note that the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has never been regarded as a progressive thinker. Last year for example, he insisted that ten-year-old girls were ready for marriage. However, because he is rooted in Wahhabism, Islam's most rigid and inflexible tradition, which is not very open to progress and change, his call for moderation and condemnation of extremism is of particular significance. As such, it has the potential of reaching the more radical intransigent elements in Muslim societies.

At the same time, experts believe that his sermon likely reflects a tendency towards moderation inspired by the Saudi ruling family, which is increasingly concerned about extremism and terrorist violence.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

CHRISTMAS: Culture of Life and Love

Pope: fight the darkening of consciences that leads to the violation of nascent life 
Appeal of Benedict XVI to the "protagonists of the world of politics, economics and social communication" to protect human beings in every stage of life. And even after the birth, "the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence and exploitation."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The protagonists of the world of politics, economics and social communications must do "what is in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favourable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life. " At the beginning of Advent, as the Church prepares to welcome the infant Jesus, this is the appeal launched by Benedict XVI, who presided at the Vigil for the unborn, that the entire Catholic community celebrates at the beginning of this liturgical time.

In a St Peter's Basilica in which, from time to time, the cries of small babies could be heard, the Pope once again asked politics and culture to defend children."Believing in Jesus Christ - he said - also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love. He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests. The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church's concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: "from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care ".

However, there are " are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary's womb, so it was for all of us in our mother's womb…there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception".

"Unfortunately – concluded the Pope - even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation. The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will. Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II's passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: " respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!"(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5). I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favourable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life".

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pope OKs condoms?

Don't believe ignorant TV headlines when it comes to the Catholic Church


Last Updated: November 27, 2010 2:00am

There I was, sitting at home with my bucket of holy water, crucifix in my hand, about to say a thousand rosaries, when suddenly on television came banner headlines announcing, "Pope Says Aliens Exist and Live in Vancouver," "Pope Claims President Obama Made of Cheese," and "Pope Changes Church Belief in Jesus as Messiah."

Well, you can only imagine the shock.

OK, it wasn't quite like that, but not far off.

What the television news programs did explain, with an embarrassing, creepy enthusiasm, was "The Pope Says Yes to Condoms," and "Pope Reverses Church Teaching on Contraception," which is pretty close to B.C. aliens, presidential cheese composition and jettisoning Jesus from Christianity.

Then I realized that this was, yes, television and this was media coverage of the Roman Catholic Church. In other words, with a few exceptions, a poisonous stew of ignorance, prejudice and malice.

So what did Pope Benedict really say about condoms? Not much actually.

In a fascinating book of interviews, he discusses the church during the Holocaust, the nature of faith and grace, his own devotion to Christ, and the realization that his body may simply tire to the point where he can no longer function.

In passing he re-affirms, of course, the church's commitment to natural law and the belief that sex is beautiful, precious and should be linked to love and family, and not just be a momentary spasm involving bodily fluids. To aggressively and unnaturally deny the link between sexuality and life, he says, is wrong, selfish and ultimately leads to the type of unhappiness and brokenness we see today.

But, he continued, when death, rather than life, was a likely outcome of the sex act, there is an argument to be made that condoms may be allowed. He gives an extreme example of a prostitute and argues that even that first step — where the person understands that their actions are wrong and have dreadful consequences — could lead to a greater transformation of character.

Frankly, I'm not sure if the Holy Father is right. And he makes it quite clear that this is merely his personal opinion.

No, papal infallibility does not mean that everything the Pope says is correct. Only stupid people think this the definition.

Infallibility means that on those incredibly rare occasions when the Pontiff speaks from the throne of Peter on matters of faith and morals, he speaks as the direct descendant of the first Pope, given us by Christ Himself.

This didn't prevent the usual Catholic-bashers from declaring that perhaps the church would now stop killing Africans with AIDS. Oh dear. Actually, almost 60% of Africans with AIDS are cared for by the church, and Catholics were doing so long before AIDS was even heard of in North America.

After 40 years' experience, all Catholic leaders are saying is that condoms have not helped in the Third World the way abstinence has. Compare the failure of South Africa with the success of Uganda.

So I switched off the television, had a quick prayer and remembered that the day the media treats the church honestly and intelligently is the day Barack goes cheddar and Jesus joins the atheists.

— Read Michael Coren's blog at

Thérèse of Lisieux wrote:

"I feel in me the vocation of the Priest. I have the vocation of the Apostle. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me. Considering the mystical body of the Church, I desired to see myself in them all. Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!", accessed 26 November 2010, from Catholic, .

Saint Cyprian: Let us banish the fear of death

From a sermon 

On Man's Mortality 

by Saint Cyprian, bishop
Let us banish the fear of death and think of the
eternal life that follows it

Our obligation is to do God's will, and not our own. We must remember this if the prayer that our Lord commanded us to say daily is to have any meaning on our lips. How unreasonable it is to pray that God's will be done, and then not promptly obey it when he calls us from this world! Instead we struggle and resist like self-willed slaves and are brought into the Lord's presence with sorrow and lamentation, not freely consenting to our departure, but constrained by necessity. And yet we expect to be rewarded with heavenly honors by him to whom we come against our will! Why then do we pray for the kingdom of heaven to come if this earthly bondage pleases us? What is the point of praying so often for its early arrival if we would rather serve the devil here than reign with Christ.

The world hates Christians, so why give your love to it instead of following Christ, who loves you and has redeemed you? John is most urgent in his epistle when he tells us not to love the world by yielding to sensual desires. Never give your love to the world, he warns, or to anything in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. All that the world offers is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and earthly ambition. The world and its allurements will pass away, but the man who has done the will of God shall live for ever. Our part, my dear brothers, is to be single-minded, firm in faith, and steadfast in courage, ready for God's will, whatever it may be. Banish the fear of death and think of the eternal life that follows it. That will show people that we really live our faith.

We ought never to forget, beloved, that we have renounced the world. We are living here now as aliens and only for a time. When the day of our homecoming puts an end to our exile, frees us from the bonds of the world, and restores us to paradise and to a kingdom, we should welcome it. What man, stationed in a foreign land, would not want to return to his own country as soon as possible? Well, we look upon paradise as our country, and a great crowd of our loved ones awaits us there, a countless throng of parents, brothers and children longs for us to join them. Assured though they are of their own salvation, they are still concerned about ours. What joy both for them and for us to see one another and embrace! O the delight of that heavenly kingdom where there is no fear of death! O the supreme and endless bliss of everlasting life!

There, is the glorious band of apostles, there the exultant assembly of prophets, there the innumerable host of martyrs, crowned for their glorious victory in combat and in death. There in triumph are the virgins who subdued their passions by the strength of continence. There the merciful are rewarded, those who fulfilled the demands of justice by providing for the poor. In obedience to the Lord's command, they turned their earthly patrimony into heavenly treasure.

My dear brothers, let all our longing be to join them as soon as we may. May God see our desire, may Christ see this resolve that springs from faith, for he will give the rewards of his love more abundantly to those who have longed for him more fervently.

VIETNAM: Catholics are citizens

Vietnamese Catholics: we are citizens of our country
by J.B. Vu
The urgency to build the Church's communion through dialogue with God and cooperation with the government. And the need for a "balanced view" of the entire Church in Vietnam. These are the key points of the first day of the General Assembly of the People of God, opened on Nov. 21.

 Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) The work of the General Assembly of the People of God, which opened on Nov. 21, continues. "We should have a balanced view of our Church and not see it as a social organization, nor seek to understand it through research in sociology, nor claim that is purely mystical", said Mgr. Nguyen Nang, bishop of the Diocese of Phat Diem and President of the Vietnamese bishops' conference, who spoke during the first day of meetings.

The bishop added: "The local church has existed on its own with the purpose and modus operandi that is guided by the Holy Spirit. However, our Church has made mistakes, and we must acknowledge these sins and make amends. The Church's mission is to build the faith of parishioners, helping Vietnamese Catholics to read the Bible, attend Mass, live in a humble way, maintaining a virtuous life and our faith. "

Bishop Cosmas Hoang Van Dat, bishop of Bac Ninh and secretary general of the Vietnamese bishops' conference, spoke on 24 November at the Assembly: "The Church lives and keeps our faith among our people. Vietnamese Catholics are Vietnamese citizens. Our people have contributed to the development of the nation, in culture, education, society and the defence of the country. In particular, good pastors have consolidated and strengthened the Church in Vietnam in the context of contemporary society. We need to have dialogue and cooperation with the government. Above all, we trust in the Vatican, and we are in communion with the Pope. "

The Church in Vietnam has often faced many difficulties. The history of the creation its own national hierarchy has gone through three great moments over 50 years: from 1954 to 1975, when Vietnam was divided into north and south from 1975 to 1986, the time of unification and construction of Socialism across the country, from 1986 to today, when the State has opened the door to a market economy based on the orientation of socialism.

In these 50 years, Catholic families have been practicing a religious life, such as reading the Word of God and celebrating the Eucharist. Through a public religious life, faithful and parishioners have established filial piety to God, communion with their brothers and sisters, and love among people.

Rome-Moscow meeting coming closer

Almost like clockwork, every 4 months another story comes out from an Orthodox or Catholic source on the possible meeting of the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope of Rome. Often a reporter will put together an overly sanguine story that states that a meeting is just around the corner. Rome will then say they are always open to such an event and Moscow will say that no such meeting is planned and that there are many "difficulties" that must be overcome first (proselytism in Orthodox countries, expansion of Greek Catholics, etc.). Then, about a year ago, the Moscow Patriarchate took a different approach. Metropolitan Hilarion, cognizant that the theological and ecclesiological divide separating the two Churches was too vast to be bridged any time soon, put the emphasis on fighting secularism and defending traditional Christian morality. Now, knowing reunion is not a "just around the corner" reality, the two sides can work together while not becoming mired in constant denials of a "breakthrough."

Moscow, November 26 (Interfax) - The meeting between the Moscow Patriarch and the Pope is getting nearer each day, the Russian Orthodox Church said.

"Each day brings us closer to this meeting between the Pope and Patriarch," head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, told journalists in Moscow.

"Right now we are not prepared to make known the date, nor are we engaged in any concrete preparations for the meeting, but we are certainly getting closer to it. It is a calendar and astronomical fact," he said.

The work carried out by the Russian Church with the Catholic Church is aimed "improving the general climate and achieving a higher level of mutual understanding," he added.

Friday, November 26, 2010

EGYPT: Violence escalates in church construction dispute

Violence escalates in church construction dispute

(Reuters) - Egypt's attorney general ordered the detention of 156 protesters involved in clashes with riot police after the authorities blocked construction of a church in a Cairo suburb, the official news agency MENA said on Thursday.

One Christian (latest reports now say two) was killed and dozens were wounded in Giza on Wednesday when about 3,000 Orthodox Copts hurled stones at police lines. Some officers threw them back and Muslims also lobbed rocks at the Christian protesters from behind the security cordon.

The attorney general decided to hold the 156 protesters for 15 days on suspicion of inciting the riots, MENA reported. It did not say whether they had been formally charged.

Some Christians demonstrated near the church and others near the Giza governor's office on Wednesday. Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt's 79 million people.

The Interior Ministry said at least 112 protesters had been detained in the Giza area, where the authorities had halted construction of the church although the Copts said they had an official permit.

Thirty lawyers tried to attend police questioning of 120 of the protestors late on Wednesday but were blocked from entering the public prosecutor's office in Giza, a rights group said.

Five lawyers who later managed to enter the building were told by the general prosecutor that they could attend the questioning but could not consult privately with the accused, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said in a statement.

"The prosecutors denied the lawyers' request to consult privately with the accused. They refused to put on record the lawyers' arguments questioning the validity of the proceedings and they also refused to put on record the injuries sustained by some of the accused," the group said.

Giza Governor Sayyed Abdel-Aziz said the Christians appeared to have misused a permit for a social center to build a church.

The Christians said they had the right permit and would continue to build the three-storey domed structure.

"The protection of human life [at all its stages] is the "rock solid and inviolable" foundation upon which all other human rights are based." - Benedict XVI

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The world lights candles to remember Holodomor

(RISU) - On November 27, to commemorate victims of the Holodomor and political repressions in Ukraine, everyone is invited to take part in the national event "Light a Candle for the Victims of the Holodomor."

At 4 p.m. people are asked to light candles in their homes in memory of those who perished during the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine and all those affected by the communist totalitarian regime in Ukraine in 1917-1991.

November 25-28, 11 countries will hold events to commemorate the victims of Holodomor of 1932-33.

Previously the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Churches of the United States and Canada published a joint pastoral message calling the Ukrainians of the world to honor the 77th anniversary of the Holodomor, which was perpetuated by Joseph Stalin and the Soviet regime against the people of Ukraine in 1932-33. "We will pray together for the souls of the over 7 million victims of this man-made famine. We will raise our collective voice against such oppressive measures and suffering being used in the name of any ideology," reads the address.

The Holodomor, or Hunger plague, was a famine engineered by the Soviet Union as part of a series of actions, including mass executions, designed to destroy the Ukrainian nation. Census data reveal a shortfall of 11,000, 000 in the Ukrainian population by 1937. Before and during 1937 large numbers of Ukrainians would be executed in the Great Terror which, although all the Soviet Union was affected, had a specifically Ukrainian dimension.