Category Archives: Eastern Church

Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni: 3rd anniversary of death

ragheed.jpgJune 3rd is quickly becoming a date that most Christians will not forget too easily: 1) the liturgical memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga, 19th century African martyrs; 2) the death of Blessed Pope John XXIII; 3) the murder of Father Ragheed and his companions; and now 3) the murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese, OFM Cap.

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni’s death with the three subdeacons is still a rather moving memory for me, not just on the anniversary but throughout the year when thinking of the plight of the Eastern churches. But why? Because he could’ve gone the other way, avoided the situation of his people and saved his life. Instead he confronted evil head-on with courage. Like other things one remembers, the deaths of people who unknowingly become incredible, beautiful witnesses to the Presence of Christ right now (not some time ago).
Father Ragheed was a Catholic priest of the Chaldean Church in the Diocese of Mosul. Ganni was ordained a priest October 13, 2001. He was 35 years old, a young priest, and a collaborator in Truth for the Kingdom of God. He was convinced in the beauty of God’s Word and His enduring Presence in the world and that we ought not to be scared away.
More on Father Ragheed can be read here.

Pontifical Oriental Institute gets new rector: James M. McCann

Jesuit Father James McCann has been named Rector of the
Pontifical Oriental Institute by Pope Benedict XVI. Father McCann will assume
his duties in Rome in September of 2010. His academic and ecclesial
administration coupled with his expertise in Eastern churches and society (the
focus of the Pontifical Oriental Institute) makes this appointment easy to
understand why he’s a good choice. He’ll be fresh air to the Oriental Institute
like his immediate predecessor did prior to be named an archbishop-secretary
for the Vatican office for Eastern churches last year.

The Pontifical Oriental Institute was founded by Pope Benedict XV in 1917 as a center for higher studies in Eastern Christianity.

Read Father McCann’s bio here: New PIO Rector.pdf

Dolan in Syria and Lebanon: the deep sacred roots of the churches, places and people in the story of our redemption

CNEWA Syria 2010.jpegAs bishop, I am told, you are asked to sit on boards and be a voice for causes that you may not have too much interest in or knowledge of. While to the new Archbishop Dolan’s portfolio as the archbishop of New York, he is the chairman of the board of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and is learning lots of new and beautiful things about the Church in other parts of the world. He made a recent trip to the Middle East with members of the governing board which opened his eyes to a new reality of what it is like to be an Eastern Christian. John Cardinal Foley, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem accompanied the CNEWA board. The archbishop learned the beautiful horizons of the East and the limits thereof.

Read Archbishop Dolan’s reflections on his visit to the Middle East last week. I found it interesting and insightful and I hope it does the same for you.
I am going to be shameless here. When I was at the Catholic Information Service at the Knights of Columbus I commissioned my friend, Father Steven Hawkes-Teeples, SJ, professor Theology at the Oriental Institute in Rome to write a booklet on basics of Eastern Christianity. The old booklet just didn’t serve the needs of our readers and something more up-to-date was needed, especially since Catholic Church has more than one expression of herself. The booklet, The Eastern Christians and Their Churches, is worth a thorough read.

Yousif Habash as new bishop for Syrian Catholics elected

Habash.jpgThe Holy Father consented to the election of Chor-bishop Yousif (Joseph) Habash, pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Los Angeles) as 2nd bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance (Newark) by the Patriarch and bishops of the Syrian Catholic Church.

Habash succeeds Bishop Joseph Younan (and read here) who was elected Patriarch of the Syrians in January 2009.
Bishop-elect Habash was born in Iraq in 1951 and ordained a priest in 1975. He’s served the US eparchy since 2001.
A 2004 census notes the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance having 13,000 faithful.

Lent in the Western Syriac Tradition: Blessed are your guests, beautiful city of Cana

Archimandrite Manuel Nin, rector of the Pontifical Greek College, Rome, Italy, published the following article in L’Osservatore Romano English Edition on February 24, 2010. The Church is more than a western experience and Nin’s article brings a richness here for reflection and appreciation.

 

Lent in the Western Syriac tradition is preceded by a tradition that begins with the Fast of the Ninevites, which has as its reference and model the people of Niniveh who converted after hearing the Prophet Jonah’s preaching.

 

In these days of fasting the deceased -priests, foreigners and faithful– are commemorated and this means that the Church and Western Syriac liturgical tradition are closely bound to pilgrimages to the holy places and the tombs of martyrs.

 

The Lenten Liturgy begins with what is called the “Monday of oil” and one of the hymns of St Ephrem gives us the key to its interpretation: “stained bodies are anointed with sanctifying oil with a view to expiation. They are purified but not destroyed. They descend marked by sin and arise as a child.”

 

This was originally a rite of anointing for catechumens that was later extended to all the faithful: the Liturgy also links it to the anointing at Bethany: “How gentle is the voice of the sinful woman when she says to the perfumer: “Give me the oil and tell me the price; give me the best quality oil and with it I shall mingle the sorrow of my tears, the better to anoint the first-born of the Most High; I trust in the Lord that through this oil he will forgive me my sins. The Lord see her faith and forgives her.”

 

The six Sundays of Lent take the name of the Gospel passage that is read: the miracle of Cana, the healing of the leper, the healing of the paralytic; the healing of the Centurian’s servant, the raising of the son of the widow Nain; the healing of the blind Bartimaeus. The Syriac Liturgy is intended to shed light light on the thaumaturgical and judicial aspects of Christ.

 

Rabbula Cana Feast.jpgThe miracle of Cana of Galilee begins the series of miracles contemplated in Lent to indicate mercy, forgiveness, salvation and life, which are given to us by Christ, the physician of humankind.

 

At Vespers of the First Sunday of Lent this aspect is developed at length: “Good Physician who heals all through repentance, Lord, sovereignly good and the First Physician, source of life and fount of healing, who heals our souls through our physical illness. You who have been called our true Samaritan and who, to deliver us from the wounds of our sins, have poured upon them mysterious oil and wine. You, Doctor of hearts and Healer of suffering, have marked us with the sign of the Cross, sealed with the seal of the holy oil, nourished with your Body and your Blood; embellish our souls with the splendor of your holiness; protect us from every fall and every blemish and bring us to the blessed inheritance reserved for those who have done acts of penance.”

 

Furthermore, the Syriac tradition sees in the miracle of Cana the spousal union of Christ with his Church, and with the whole of humanity; at Cana the true Spouse  is Christ himself who invites suffering and sinful humanity to be united with him in order to bring it to the true nuptial chamber which is the Garden of Eden.

 

St Ephrem.jpgSt Ephrem sings: “Blessed are your guests, beautiful city of Cana! They enjoy your blessing and the jars filled with your word proclaim that in you are found the heavenly gifts that gladden the heavenly banquet.”

 

The new wine that unites the fellow guests at the banquet is a symbol of the precious Blood that unites us with Christ himself: “You who, as the promised Spouse redeem the Church with your Blood, you who gladden the wedding guests of Cana, may you make your Church rejoice with your Body.” The Syriac Liturgy still sees the jars as a model of the soul that becomes the place of a wonderful transformation in which Christ himself renews all that is old.

 

On all the Sundays in Lent prior to the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, death and Resurrection, the Western Syriac tradition wishes to celebrate the miracles with which the Savior desired to manifest his divine mission among human beings. The Morning Office of all the Sundays in Lent contains this prayer:

 

“Merciful Lord, who came down to earth, in your compassion for human nature, you who purified the leper, opened the eyes of the blind and raised the dead, obtain that our souls may be purified and bodies sanctified; that the eyes of our hearts may be opened to understand your teachings so that, with repentant sinners, we may raise our praise.”

 

The miracles recounted and celebrated on these Sundays lead us to contemplate the wonders of divine grace in human souls; thus many of the liturgical texts of Lent always end with the same conclusive refrain:

 

“We, too, Lord pray to you: touch our spirit and purify it from every stain, from every impurity of sin, and have mercy on us.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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