Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

New Ukrainian Orthodox head to face questions of independence

Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug 19, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The newly elected head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate must decide whether that Church can be independent from Russia, Ukraine’s eastern neighbor with which it is in conflict, analysts say.

On Aug. 13, Metropolitan Onufriy was elected Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, making him the primate of the UOC-MP, which is one of the three primary Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. He was enthroned at his Church’s Kyiv cathedral Aug. 17.

In addition to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate – which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church – there is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

“The greatest dependence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Moscow is ideological,” Anatoliy Babinskyj, an analyst of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine told CNA, adding that “98 percent of the literature which is sold in the churches of the UOC-MP are published in Russia with a clear idea of ‘the Russian world’.”

“Ukraine is not only a huge market for Russia  but also a field for ideological influence through books, websites, magazines, and priests who teach theological, cultural, and mental traditions in Russian.”

Ukraine has experienced significant unrest this year: its president was ousted in February and a new government appointed; in March, Crimea was annexed by Russia; and pro-Russian separatist rebels have taken control of eastern portions of Ukraine, around Donetsk and Luhansk, since April.

Fighting in the country continues: at least 2,119 have died in the violence since mid-April. More than 155,000 are internally displaced, and 188,000 have become refugees in Russia, according to the United Nations.

Against this backdrop, Metropolitan Onufriy’s election last week was due to his excellent reputation, experts say: he has not been involved in scandals in the past, and is known for his true prayer.

He was born in 1944 to a priest in western Ukraine. He became a monk in Russia in the 1970s, and was ordained a priest in 1972. He later returned to Ukraine, joining a monastery in his homeland. He was consecrated a bishop in 1990.

In 1988 Metropolitan Onufriy graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy, which belonged to one of the most conservative schools of theology in the Soviet Union; in contrast, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, studied at the liberal Leningrad Theological Academy.

“The Church has chosen prayer and ministry, and clever conservatism has never been harmful,” Fr. Gregory Kovalenko, spokesman for the UOC-MP, told CNA regarding Metropolitan Onufriy’s election.

While the metropolitan has 40 years experience as a monk, some experts are hesitant that this will help him be a good manager, a necessary talent for exercising control over his Church.

He had, in fact, been elected locum tenens for the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine – thus acting head of the UOC-MP – in February. He acted on behalf of Metropolitan Volodymyr, who was primate of that Church from 1992 until his July 5 death.

According to Fr. Kovalenko, Metropolitan Onufriy speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, and English.

“The bishops’ choice (of Onufriy) is very logical; we are not ready for radical steps today” the UOC-MP Metropolitan of Vyshneve and Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyy, Oleksandr Drabynko, told CNA.

Prior to the election, the electors gave the future primate three tasks: unification of Ukrainian society; gaining autocephaly for the Church, that it could be united with the UOC-KP; and union within the Church, which has been troubled by the recent unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Metropolitan Volodymyr had been able to balance the factions within the Church, according to Babinskyj.

“(While) staying a rather pro-Ukrainian leader, he didn’t prohibit pro-Russian priests from working,” he said. “And the situation in eastern Ukraine is, in a way, their fault. Even now, when there is war with Russia, the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate continue to agitate for ‘the Russian world’ in the churches of Luhansk and Donetsk.”

This spring, Fr. Vitaliy Eismonth, a priest of the UOC-MP, served a Divine Liturgy with the UOC-KP, for which he was removed from ministry for a month.

Following the election of Metropolitan Onufriy, he joined the Kyiv Patriarchate.

According to the Information Center of Razumkov, a Ukrainian analytics center, the number of believers adhering to the UOC-KP now exceeds the those with the UOC-MP, while in 2013 the Churches’ numbers were about the same.

This month the UOC-MP community in Soloniv, a village in western Ukraine’s Rivne province, joined the Kyiv Patriarchate when its priest refused to pray for the Ukrainian military serving in the country’s east; and the Kyiv Patriarchate recently announced that about 10 parishes have transferred to their jurisdiction this year from the UOC-MP.

Despite these moves, the UOC-MP does not see a danger in losing its faithful.

Metropolitan Drabynko said it is not a catastrophe, and that the situation is highly dependent on what region of Ukraine one is in.

Metropolitan Onufriy told journalists shortly after his election that “we remain, and have always been, open to dialogue among different branches of Orthodoxy. And we want to see union between us, but we have our principles – a canon of the Holy Orthodox Church and association can only be in accordance with these canons; no other argument can be sufficient. We will communicate with our Orthodox brothers.”

Patriarch Kirill affirmed the metropolitan’s election, and Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, congratulated him, saying, “I am sure that you will do everything to establish and maintain peace, to strengthen the Orthodox unity, and to revive  spiritual and moral values,” according to RIA Novosti.

The Kyiv Post reported Aug. 14 that Patriarch Filaret, head of the Kyiv Patriarchate, reacted to the election his new counterpart won’t advocate for Ukrainian interests, and that he will discuss unification of the Churches “only with the patriotically-minded clergy” of the UOC-MP.

Metropolitan Onufriy was elected on the second round of voting, by 48 of the 74 bishops voting in the council. Fr. Kovalenko said the decisiveness of the vote shows that the new primate will be able to united the faithful of the UOC-MP.

“He is honored in the monasteries of our Church. People in different regions like him, and it will help him to stabilize the life of Church,” Fr. Kovalenko said.

Metropolitan Oleksandr said that “I don’t see any pro-Russian branches of bishops, (though) there are some who still think in Soviet and imperial stereotypes. But Russia is not the example for them, rather, union with the Russian Orthodox Church. They are afraid of anything new, and an unpredictable future. Unity with Moscow is what they see as a guarantee of canonicity and stability – that the path they stand on is the right one.”

The analysts who spoke to CNA, however, are hesitant whether or not Metropolitan Onufriy is the person who can maintain balance within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, noting the changes in Ukrainian society which the patriarchate has ignored.

“Before the future head of the Church was placed a goal: union with the Kyiv Patriarchate. But now there is the question, can Metropolitan Onufriy integrate the atmosphere of the UOC-MP? Even if there are some bishops and priests who do not agree with the policy of the authority, they will not make such  radical steps. But the UOC-MP cannot just get rid of a significant number of parishioners,” Babinskyj said.

Babinskyj also noted that “no official dialogue” has occurred between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – to which most Catholics in Ukraine belong. There been only “private conversations, and cooperation at various commissions,” he said.

While Metropolitan Onufriy has not made any statements about his attitude toward Ukrainian Greek Catholics, analysts expect he will maintain his conservative views.

“The school of theology to which Metropolitan Onufriy belongs holds that the UGCC is a Western project to capture Ukraine in a union. I think that such a statement can be expected very quickly,” Babinskyj added.

Metropolitan Oleksandr concluded that “the biggest impact on the future vector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the outlook of its bishops and priests will be had by the tears of the mothers who have lost their children, sacrificed to keep Ukraine integral.”

Italian bishops call on faithful to pray for Iraqi Christians

Rome, Italy, Aug 14, 2014 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the plight of Christians and other religious minorities intensifies under the spread of the Islamic State, Italian charities and dioceses are putting into action a series of initiatives to help displaced Iraqis.

The Italian bishops have designated Aug. 15 as a special day of prayer for the persecuted Christians in the world.

In calling the day of prayer, the Italian bishops stressed that they “cannot remain silent” in front of the Calvary of suffering people in places such as Iraq and Nigeria, where they are “branded because of their faith and targeted for continual attacks by terrorist groups, chased from their homes and exposed to menaces, vexations, and violence.”

The special day of prayer is intended to “show concretely the Italian Church’s closeness to those who are suffering religious repression,” an Aug. 3 statement reads.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, who is president of the Italian bishops’ conference, said Aug. 8 that the dioceses of Italy are ready to welcome Iraqi refugees.

The Italian bishops’ appeal was put into action by Italian Caritas: its 220 local branches in Italy have networked to assist the refugees.

According to Avvenire, the Italian bishops’ newspaper, Caritas Italy is giving its Iraqi counterpart assistance enough for 300,000 displaced families, and is supporting Caritas Lebanon and Caritas Turkey in their efforts to welcome refugee families.

Caritas Italy’s efforts are supported by a $1.3 million extraordinary fund allocated by the Italian bishops for meeting the immediate needs of the displaced.

The international charity Aid to the Church in Need has recently offered a donation of $135,000, and gave another of $186,000 at the beginning of June, in order to provide food and shelter to the displaced persons of northern Iraq.

AsiaNews, the press agency of the Italian Pontifical Institute for the Foreign Mission, launched the subscription “Adopt a Christian,” a collection of donations that will be given to the Patriarchate of Babylon, which will in turn deliver the money to displaced families most in need.

As a response to the day of prayer, the Focolare Movement launched the initiative “Dialogue to unlock,” which includes an appeal for dialogue and a subscription for the Christians in need, which will be sent to Caritas Iraq.

“We strongly believe that we cannot achieve any form of peace through the use of weapons, convinced that the right and lasting peace is better achieved through negotiations and dialogue, during which everybody is acknowledged as a peer in dignity,” an Aug. 9 Focolare release stated.

The Sant’Egidio Movement also will honor the special day of prayer called by the Italian bishops with a vigil of prayer in the Roman Basilica of Saint Bartholomew, which is dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of the 20th century, and is managed by the movement.

“In the basilica, the relics of two victims of the anti-Christian repression in Iraq are secured: those of Fr. Ragheed Ganni, killed in Mosul June 3, 2007 together with three sub-deacons; and those of the Chaldean Bishop of Mosul Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped and died while imprisoned in March, 2008,” noted a statement of the movement.

Students of Benedict XVI to discuss theology of the cross at encounter

Rome, Italy, Aug 13, 2014 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The annual meeting of Benedict XVI’s students from his time at the University of Regensburg will gather next week to discuss the theology of the cross, a member of the circle has said.

The Ratzinger “Schuelerkreis,” or “students’ circle,” has met to discuss topics in theology and the life of the Church since 1978, when their professor was pulled from academia to become a bishop.

This year’s encounter will be held at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 21-24.

“As usual, the members of the Schuelerkreis presented Benedict with three possible issues to be discussed, and Benedict chose one from among them,” Fr. Stephan Horn told CNA Aug. 11.

Fr. Horn, a Salvatorian, was Ratzinger’s academic assistant at the University of Regensburg from 1971 to 1977, and is now organizer of the annual Schuelerkreis meeting.

He related that after choosing the general topic of the theology of the cross, Benedict “gave total freedom to the general relator for the development of the topic.”

This year’s general relator is Karl-Heinz Menke, “a German theologian whom Benedict esteems greatly.”

Menke teaches dogmatic theology at the University of Bonn. The author of several papers in christology, the theology of the cross, and dogmatics, Menke gained prominence when, in 2011, Ratzinger quoted from his “Jesus Gott der Sohn” (Jesus, God the Son) in the second volume of “Jesus of Nazareth.”

The idea for the annual meeting arose in 1977, when Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and when he moved to Rome in 1981 to take up the post of prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it continued.

When in the spring of 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome, his former students thought their annual tradition would stop, but were proved wrong, when Benedict continued to meet with his former students.

“He always took part in our meetings, even when he had been elected Pope,” Fr. Horn explained. “But after his resignation, Benedict has always chosen to remain at his enclosure.”

While he no longer attends the Castel Gandolfo meeting, Benedict does say Mass at the Vatican for his schuelerkreis following their encounter.

“As he did the last year, Benedict will say the concluding Mass of the schuelerkreis,” Fr. Horn said.

The topic of the meeting varies each year; last year was the question of God amid secularism, and the year prior to that, ecumenism was the subject chosen.

The Ratzinger schuelerkreis is formed by about 50 people who studied for their doctorates under Ratzinger, but usually between 25 and 30 are able to make it to any given year’s meeting.

The circle has enlarged in recent years, establishing a “youth branch” composed of academics who had not studied with Ratzinger, yet who are studying and developing upon his theological work.

Korean faithful show God is ‘alive, powerful’ in Asia

Rome, Italy, Aug 12, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The rich history of martyrdom in South Korea and the thousands of young people slated to gather this week for Pope Francis shows the beauty and power of the faith, says a local bishop.
Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon will host Pope Francis in his diocese Aug. 15, when the pontiff takes part in the Sixth Asian Youth Day by celebrating Mass in the World Cup Stadium.
The bishop told CNA that around six thousand young people are anticipated to join Pope Francis for the event, and “will come from 22 different countries, and among those Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Indonesia.”
“Asian Youth Day is so important,” he said in an Aug. 11 interview. “This meeting shows the future of the Church.”

Announced by the Vatican in March, the Pope’s Aug. 13-18 trip follows an invitation from the president of the Korean Republic, Park Geun-hye, and the bishops of Korea.

“Korean people, both believers and non believers, are praying that Francis may bring the Lord’s peace in the whole land of Korea,” Bishop You said.
Despite the “diplomatic tension between” North and South Korea, the news of Pope Francis’ visit has “already opened our administration’s heart, who had invited young North Korean people to take part” in the youth event.
North Korean authorities have declined the South Korean invitation to take part at least at the concluding Mass the Pope is scheduled to celebrate Aug. 18 at Myeongdong Cathedral, seat of the Archdiocese of Seoul – but there is no news about North Korean young people taking part to the Asian Youth Day.
“We are still waiting for their response, and we will look forward to it until the very end, with our heart open,” Bishop You said.
He then reflected that Pope Francis’ visit may restore the spirit of Korean martyrs which he says is represented by “the joy of the Gospel.”
The “Korean Church has developed with no missionaries, with no priests…it started with people in search of truth, which they found with great joy in the Word of God,” he said.
Bishop You underscored that the “Korean Church shows that the Word of God is alive and powerful also in Asia.”

He explained that the sanctuary of Haemi, where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass with young people, “is the place where many martyrs have died because of the joy of the Gospel and of the truth of the word of God.”
“Pope Francis’ visit will transform the word of God in lived life, and so, like our martyrs, we will be able to learn that Christian life means choosing the Word of God for anyone’s life,” the bishop added.
This message is even more important today, he noted, given that South Korea “is now a wealthy country, and because of this we have lost the good teachings of our ancestors, such as sharing, loving the neighbors, compassion for poor and sick people.”

“We are facing the temptation of materialism that suffocates the good spiritual values,” he said.

Faithful drawn by accessibility of St. Clare, basilica priest reflects

Assisi, Italy, Aug 11, 2014 / 05:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Aug. 11 Feast of Saint Clare is an occasion for the people of Assisi to show their devotion to the beloved saint, with whom they feel a profound connection, said a local priest.


Priest from Nineveh: ‘Christianity is finished in Iraq’

Rome, Italy, Aug 8, 2014 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest hailing from what used to be Iraq’s largest Christian city has lamented the exodus of over 100,000 Christians from the city, many of whom are fleeing on foot with no food, money or wa…

Nun who won ‘The Voice Italy’ renews religious vows

Rome, Italy, Aug 8, 2014 / 02:51 pm (CNA).- Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia, the young Italian religious who won the last season of The Voice Italy, renewed her temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on July 29 at one of the congregation&rs…

Social networking prayer site holds contest to share faith

Madrid, Spain, Aug 6, 2014 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- The social networking site May Feelings, dedicated to sharing prayers and messages, has announced a new contest to reward the “most original, creative and effective” efforts that challenge youth…

European pro-life effort petitions court to be considered for vote

Brussels, Belgium, Aug 4, 2014 / 04:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A European Union citizens’ initiative to ban human embryo-destroying research has filed a court petition after being denied a legislative proposal despite acquiring nearly 2 million sign…

Firing of Polish doctor over abortion refusal sparks outcry

Rome, Italy, Aug 2, 2014 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The removal one of Poland’s top doctors as director of Holy Family hospital in Warsaw for refusing to perform an abortion has drawn widespread criticism, with many stating the act violated legal grounds.

“The official council in his institution has not found any miscarrying of procedures or breaking of the rules within the hospital,” Catholic advocacy group member Professor Bogna Obidzinska told CNA July 23.

“His decision not to commit the abortion was perfectly within the law, and he had the right, according to the Freedom of Conscious Act,” to refuse.

“The only breech they found that he was guilty of was not referring the lady to another abortion clinic, which in fact was not among his obligations because he was not the leading doctor of this woman.”

A representative of Catholic Voices in Poland and professor at the local Bogdan Janski academy, Obidzinska offered her comments in wake of the July 23 dismissal of Doctor Bogdan Chazan from his position as director of Warsaw’s Holy Family Hospital. Chazan was fired after refusing to perform an abortion on a deformed baby who had been conceived through in vitro in a fertility clinic.

Catholic Voices is an international organization dedicated to improving Catholic media representation, and has supported numerous petitions advocating on the professor’s behalf, including one on CitizenGo that has obtained more than 85,000 signatures.

Although Polish law protects the right of mothers to abort babies conceived in rape and those who are fatally ill up to full term, under the country’s conscience clause no doctor is required to participate in or perform an abortion.

However following his refusal to perform the requested abortion, Chazan’s hospital was fined 70,000 zloty, roughly $23,000. Warsaw’s vice-mayor removed the physician on the grounds that he had not used the conscience clause correctly, which states that if a doctor refuses an abortion, they must refer their patient to another abortionist.

“In Poland, every pregnant woman has a doctor who looks after her throughout the pregnancy,” and for the woman in question “that was not professor Chazan,” Obidzinska stated.

“She actually had her doctor, and that doctor later on did provide her with the information she asked.”

Chazan has been given on a three month grace period – which took effect immediately after his July 23 dismissal – and he will be required to officially step down when the hospital appoints a new head.

The doctor, who is being represented by Polish organization “Ordo Iuris,” has said that he will launch an appeal, despite the fact that the Warsaw city council stated their ruling cannot be appealed.

“It’s very hard to say why all this is happening, because he’s a successful doctor and he wasn’t even responsible for the woman, she just consulted with him,” the media representative explained, stating that there could be “some kind of jealousy between clinics” due to Chazan’s success.

Numbers found in the committee of the city of Warsaw’s official report on the clinic “state that the number of patients who have used the clinic have tripled over the time when Professor Chazan was appointed, which is about 10 years.”

“There has been only one abortion carried out in this clinic over those last 12 years, and the number of caesarian sections has dropped (at least) by half, which means that the quality of the medical care in this hospital must be truly extraordinary.”

In light of this, the professor’s dismissal “looks quite artificial, there really seem to be no reasons,” Obidzinska continued.

“The baby was born, the woman is healthy,” and although the baby died as expected a few days after birth, “Professor Chazan actually offered the woman full care in a special unit of the clinic with hospice and with special psychological care for her and for her husband, so she was not just left alone with the problem.”

Referring to how Chazan is being called a “hypocrite” by some due to a previous change in his stance on abortion, Obidzinska noted that “the hypocrisy of those criticizing Dr. Chazan is awful because he has been a well-known doctor for saving lives for at least 15 years now.”

“People, women in Warsaw know that if they want an abortion they simply don’t go to him. This is common knowledge as well,” she said.

“He is famous for doing extraordinary things in order to save life, and he’s also known and famous for having saved life where other doctors had thought that pregnancies would naturally end in tragedy,” the media representative observed.

“He did save lots and lots of babies. If someone goes to ask him for an abortion that sounds like a provocation. I can’t believe that the woman wouldn’t know he would refuse.”

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