Category Archives: Eastern Church

Coptic contribution to Christianity, don’t forget

Coptic of Christ and evangelistsSignificant roots of Christianity exist with the Coptic Church. Liturgy, theological reflection, the monastic witness, culture and education are gifts to the entire worldwide Christian community. These desert Christians are living testimonies to a vital faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior and victor over sin and death. It is difficult to exaggerate the contributions of Coptic Christians.

It is estimated that at there about 8.5 million Copts but that equals about 10% of the Egyptian population. It is not just fear that’s running through the hearts and minds of the Coptic about Islamic persecution of Coptic Christians, it is a reality. There are documented attacks on Coptic people but just there are on the Coptic institutions of church, monastic life, school, economy and culture.

The 60 Minutes news organization made this presentation, The Coptic Christians of Egypt. This presentation is OK. It lacks some substance and nuance, and it is slanted toward the Coptic Orthodox Church while there are Coptic Catholics who face similar struggles and aspirations. But the report of 60 Minutes ought to open for you an interest to know more, and to pray for Christians in Egypt. One of the unique pieces about the Coptic Orthodox Church is the manner in which the Pope is elected (you’ll have to watch the presentation).

May the Holy Family bless the Coptic Christians, Catholic and Orthodox.

Saint Anthony and Saint Mary of Egypt, pray for us.

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.

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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