Category Archives: Eastern Church

Saint Saba

St SabaPrayer and simple living characterize the saint Mother Church offers to us today. Saint Saba (439-532) is known for simple things, died at 93 of natural causes, dedicated himself to God; it is said that his vocation was to the anchorite way of life; he’s not a well-educated man. The Byzantine Church calls Saba “the Sanctified.” In monastic circles Saba is honored as being one of the great Patriarchs of Eastern monasticism. Said before on these pages, saints beget saints, Saba was a spiritual son of Saint Euthymius the Great and a collaborator with Saint Theodosius.

Saint Saba was the founder of a now famous lavra named after him in the Kidron Valley, close to Jerusalem, and  Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found). Saba’s lavra is the second oldest continually functioning monastery in the world, after that of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. Under Saba’s direction  several famous saints are counted, men like Saint John of Damascus.

He is an intercessor for rain, healings, and against temptations from the devil.

A previous post on Abbot Saint Saba is here.

Pope calls for prayer for kidnapped Syrian nuns

As a follow-up to a blog I made the other day, “Islamist rebels control Monastery of St Thecla, Maaloula, Syria,” there is this call for spiritual closeness, prayer, for the plight of the Syrian nuns and some lay collaborators by Pope Francis.

Read the brief note here. Listen to the brief  Vatican Radio report is here.

Here is the perspective of Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo (Audo is the bishop for the Chaldeans).

A few other reports have been filed on here and here.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for the nuns and all Christians in Syria.
Saint Ephrem the Syrian, pray for us.

Pope to Patriarch: pursue fraternal relations

For decades there has been an exchange of greetings between the Pope and the Archbishop of Constantinople. This is what you may say is a traditional expectation between brothers. Rome sends a message through a delegation on the feast of Saint Andrew (today) and the Orthodox do the same on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29). This year, the feast of Saint Andrew is the first time Pope Francis is able to write to Bartholomew. You’ll note that Pope Francis is keen on working for improved fraternal relations with the Church in Constantinople. Here is a Vatican Radio report.

To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith,
from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 (Eph 6:23)

andreaAfter welcoming with joy the delegation which Your Holiness sent to Rome for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, it is with the same joy that I convey, through this message entrusted to Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, my spiritual closeness on the feast of Saint Andrew, Peter’s brother and the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. With the heartfelt affection reserved for beloved brothers, I offer my prayerful best wishes to Your Holiness, to the members of the Holy Synod, to the clergy, monks and all the faithful, and – together with my Catholic brothers and sisters – join your own prayer on this festive occasion.

Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, this is the first time that I address you on the occasion of the feast of the Apostle Andrew, the first-called. I take this opportunity to assure you of my intention to pursue fraternal relations between the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is for me a source of great reassurance to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, the fruit of a grace-filled journey along which the Lord has guided our Churches since the historic encounter in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, the fiftieth anniversary of which we will celebrate shortly. God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us throughout these years to regard one another as members of the same family. For indeed we have one Lord and one Saviour. We belong to him through the gift of the good news of salvation transmitted by the apostles, through the one baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, and through the holy ministry. United in Christ, therefore, we already experience the joy of authentic brothers in Christ, while yet fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion. In anticipation of the day in which we will finally take part together in the Eucharistic feast, Christians are duty-bound to prepare to receive this gift of God through prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue.

Our joy in celebrating the feast of the Apostle Andrew must not make us turn our gaze from the dramatic situation of the many people who are suffering due to violence and war, hunger, poverty and grave natural disasters. I am aware that you are deeply concerned for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain in their homelands. Dialogue, pardon and reconciliation are the only possible means to achieve the resolution of conflict. Let us be unceasing in our prayer to the all-powerful and merciful God for peace in this region, and let us continue to work for reconciliation and the just recognition of peoples’ rights.

Your Holiness, the memory of the martyrdom of the apostle Saint Andrew also makes us think of the many Christians of all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities who in many parts of the world experience discrimination and at times pay with their own blood the price of their profession of faith. We are presently marking the 1700th anniversary of Constantine’s Edict, which put an end to religious persecution in the Roman Empire in both East and West, and opened new channels for the dissemination of the Gospel. Today, as then, Christians of East and West must give common witness so that, strengthened by the Spirit of the risen Christ, they may disseminate the message of salvation to the entire world. There is likewise an urgent need for effective and committed cooperation among Christians in order to safeguard everywhere the right to express publicly one’s faith and to be treated fairly when promoting the contribution which Christianity continues to offer to contemporary society and culture.

It is with sentiments of profound esteem and warm friendship in Christ that I invoke abundant blessings on Your Holiness and on all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, asking the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God and of the holy apostles and martyrs Peter and Andrew. With the same sentiments I renew my best wishes and exchange with you a fraternal embrace of peace.

Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk offers Liturgy at St Peter’s

Sviatoslav offering Divine LiturgyPatriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainians offered the Divine Liturgy on 25 November with the special permission of Pope Francis at the altar of the Vatican Basilica. The Ukrainian Church is observing the 50th anniversary of the laying of the relics of Saint Josaphat, martyr for Church unity.

The praying of the Liturgy in Saint Peter’s is a terrific sign of diversity and unity of the Catholic Church. The Byzantine Church exists in Rome, Catholic and Orthodox. The beauty of the faith in all its specificities.

This week another group of Byzantine Catholics are meeting in Rome with their Patriarch and some bishops, that of the Melkites. A delegation from the USA just arrived in Rome today. The eternal city is being overrun with the Eastern Church.

Sviatoslav offering Liturgy at St Peter'sTwo notes: 1) it is a rare circumstance that a bishop other than the Bishop of Rome offer Mass on the altar of Saint Peter’s because it is a reserved altar. When John Paul was ailing we saw designated cardinals offering Mass at this altar. Recall that Major Basilicas belong to the Pope and have certain privileges; 2) In Church law and ecclesiastical custom (at the moment) the Ukrainian Church has a leader who does not officially carry the title of “Patriarch”; he holds the title of Major Archbishop —and there is no canonical difference in titles, but…— yet in a variety of places the Ukrainian faithful rightly use the term Patriarch as a few Vatican news agencies did today to relate the event. I hope that Sviatoslav will be granted the official use of the title of Patriarch, as he ought to have.

Saint Josaphat, pray for us.

Ecumenism from the bottom up, Svjatoslav Shevchuk advocates

Svjatoslav ShevchukYou will think I am silly for saying this, but who cares: I think that Archbishop Svjatoslav Shevchuk is a good man for Christ’s Church.

Who is Archbishop Svjatoslav Shevchuk you ask? Please recall that he is the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (a major archbishop is the equivalent of a patriarch in church law without the title of patriarch).

He’s now 43 and he’s been a priest for nearly 20 years, a bishop for nearly 5 years and he’s been the head of the largest Eastern Catholic Church for the since March 2011. Shevchuk is a man to watch. I just hope he’s not going to cave the to bourgeois mentality which afflicts many ecclesiastics.

The archbishop is in Rome now for a month for a series of meeting, not least was the recent meeting of the Plenary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a meeting with the Holy Father and other Eastern Catholic Patriarchs. Using his time wisely, the archbishop spoke with Andrea Tornielli of the Vatican Insider (who is a friend of Pope Francis); Tornielli’s interview, “Ecumenism from the bottom up: Now Vatican II is coming into effect.”

In the Tornielli interview you’ll read about his connection with Pope Francis, the desire of the faithful for a deeper unity (a ecumenism that’s full & visible) and note of contrast on marriage between the churches. Perhaps you’ll learn something. I did. You don’t have to agree with everything the interview reveals, but you would be wise to read carefully and between the lines.

To get a flavor of this young Father of the Church, please read and watch the following:

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]
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