Tag Archives: Syria

Jesuit priest murdered in Homs Syria

Jesuit Father Alex Bassili, socius to the Provincial of the Jesuits in Middle East Province, reported earlier today, Monday, April 7, 2014, at about 8 am, Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt was been abducted by armed men, who beat him and then murdered with two bullets in the head, in front of the Jesuit residence in Homs, Syria.

Vatican Radio reports

Father Frans van der Lugt (April 10, 1938-April 7, 2014) was born in the Netherlands and entered the Society of Jesus in 1959.

He was missioned to Syria for the last 50 years working in education as a psychologist and in a project for handicapped people. With the Syrian civil war Father wanted to remain with the local population in the Centre of Homs as a man of peace.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace pray for Father Frans van der Lugt.
Saint Ignatiius, pray for us.

Melkite Patriarch lists church damage

damaged church Im Al-Zinar in Bustan al Diwan, HomsAccording to the Melkite Patriarch Gregory the Great 88 Christian churches have been destroyed or damaged in some way as a result of the civil war in Syria. The majority of the damage is within the Melkite community, but numbers do not matter as this civil war affects all Christians. War is a failure for entire world.

Words of empathy are fine but deeds of love really matter.

This is not merely a local problem but a matter of concern with the rise of radical Islamic groups working to re-establish the ancient caliphate.

As of December 21 this the breakdown:

  • Armenian Catholic 3
  • Armenian Orthodox 9
  • Evangelical 1
  • Greek Orthodox 16
  • Melkite 37
  • Maronite 2
  • Latin 10
  • Syriac Catholic 3
  • Syriac Orthodox 7

We pray that the newborn Prince of Peace makes his Presence felt.

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 AsiaNews.it: here and here.

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

Islamist rebels control Monastery of St Thekla, Maaloula, Syria

While information is not consistent and the reports are “unconfirmed,” at least in their details, numerous sources, including Vatican diplomats who have been in contact with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, say that Islamist rebels have taken control of the venerable Monastery of St Thekla in Maaloula, Syria, and have kidnapped a number of nuns, including the Abbess, and possibly set about sacking the monastery, one of the most ancient ones in Christendom. AsiaNews.it has this report.
Various reports can be accessed through the blog Ad Orientem.
Father Charles Baz writes,
“Mother Alexandra, I have been following most of the Arabic news agencies all day, thinking at first it was a rumor, but sadly it is not. Mother Pelagia Sayyaf, a dear friend of our family and to many in the US, is among them. This attack on Ma’aloula seems much worse and ferocious compared to September’s. May God pacify the situation and have these nuns released.”
He also says:
“All the news sources are mentioning only Ma’aloula, Al-Nabak, and Al-Yarbood. These three towns are clustered together and collectively are distant from Saidnaya. The news agency are clear about the fact that this battle, distinct from others, is politico-religious, since Ma’aloula and the rest of the Qalamoun region gives neither the government nor the rebels any strategic edge. Sadly, it is only a religious-motivated aggression. Let us pray for the safety of the nuns and the orphans lest any harm befalls them. Some news agencies are stating that already some nuns have been killed Monday in the Yarbood vicinity. All this has to be verified still, and hopefully not true.”
Please join in prayer for the safety of the Nuns, the soldiers who were guarding the monastery, and all concerned.

The Plight of Churches in the Middle East – Revisited

ravennaxcTheologians and bishops from the Catholic and Orthodox Church meet frequently to discuss topics of mutual concern fostering not only good friendships but also doing some intellectual work in an effort to know what each other holds to be to true and how each Church works pastorally.

There are times one gets the impression that these consultations are great for mutual understanding but lack an identifiable concrete plan for full, visible and concrete unity. Statements, discussions, lunches and other collaborative efforts are noble and worth supporting. Who could pass up good food and discussion. Yet, there has to be more. This is especially helpful in humanitarian efforts and developing a friendship in Christ as a brothers and sisters. But can we ask, what the concrete goal is for the theological consultations like this one?

What follows is the Statement of the Members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, Mississauga, Ontario October 26, 2013.

In 2011 we, the members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation* deplored the devastating losses in the Christian communities of the Middle East in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring.” Today the situation of many of the Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine has become catastrophic.

Together with the 2013 Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, we repudiate all violence and demand action by responsible authorities to end the kidnapping, torture, and killing of Christians and all civilians. We also appeal for the release of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both of Aleppo, Syria.

Pope Francis in exhorting the international community “to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation… May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.”

As the Canadian Council of Churches has stated, “We are concerned for the safety and security of all the people in the region, but in particular, the weak, vulnerable and powerless. The spread of sectarian violence puts all generations throughout the region at risk and is a menace to the hopes and dreams of the younger generations.”

With the Clergy-Laity Conference of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, we “deplore the wanton destruction of Christian churches, monasteries, convents, orphanages and hospitals throughout the Middle East….We call upon the leaders of our nation to protest these unspeakable acts of terror and to work unceasingly to bring to an end the heinous genocide of our brethren.”

When one part of the body suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26). As Orthodox and Catholic Christians, we therefore have the responsibility to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters. We call upon our communities to continue to pray for the churches and for peace in this part of the world. We urge the leadership of our churches to continue to intervene vigorously in behalf of the Christians of the Middle East, who live in fear for their lives, their communities, and the very future of Christianity in the region.

*The members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation are appointed by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America and, on the Catholic side, by both the Canadian and United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops.

Some notes:

Members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation of meet every five years in Canada. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops hosted this year’s meeting.

The Consultation was co-chaired by Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, and by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The Consultation engaged in discussions pertinent to Orthodox – Catholic relations around such matters as synodality, papal primacy, priestly celibacy and the role of the laity.

Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Ph.D., of Brown University and Sr. Susan K. Wood, SC, of Marquette University provided a summary of papers already presented on the role of the laity in the two churches; Father John Erickson, emeritus dean and professor of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, presented his paper on “Conciliarity or Synodality? Historical Notes on a Modern Issue”; Father John Galvin, of The Catholic University of America, presented a paper by Msgr. Thomas J. Green, “Lay Ministries in the Church: Comparative Reflections on the Eastern and Latin Codes”; and Father Peter Galadza, of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute summarized previously published papers on celibacy, marriage and the priesthood.

The Consultation reports that a panel discussion and meeting between seminarians from St. Augustine’s Seminary (Catholic) and The Greek Orthodox Theological Academy of Toronto. Among the many things shared, there were reflections on the Consultation’s 2010 agreed statement, “Steps Towards a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future.”

Metropolitan Sotirios, of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto host lunch and Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto also encouraged the seminarians and members of the Consultation in their important work. The next meeting is scheduled for June 2-4, 2014.

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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