Friday, April 21, 2017

The Promise, a film about the Armenian Genocide

Some months ago I posted another trailer for this film and I was able to see The Promise this evening. It was quite good. If you are interested in history or are a parent who wants to inform your children, this is a solid choice; my only caveat being a single romantic scene early in the film. You learn about what it was like to be of Armenian descent before the Turks turned to war, nationalism, and genocide in short order. The religious aspect of life as a non-Muslim in the last days of the Ottoman Empire are not painted with a heavy brushstroke, but you do see their respect for clergy, marriage ceremony, etc. throughout the movie. As with much of the Armenian way of things, they have many unique practices you might not be familiar with which add to the immersive nature of The Promise.

It's suitable for church groups, homeschoolers of older children, and adults alike. Please do go see it and never forget the Armenian Genocide (or the Pontic Genocide for that matter) in which millions of people perished.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Greek Catholics have new Chicago bishop

WASHINGTON (CNS) - Pope Francis has named Ukrainian-born Bishop Venedykt "Valery" Aleksiychuk as bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago.

Bishop Aleksiychuk, 49, has been auxiliary bishop of the Archeparchy of Lviv, Ukraine, since 2010.

The appointment was announced April 20 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

He succeeds Bishop Richard S. Seminack, who died Aug. 16, 2016, after a long battle with a heart ailment. Bishop Aleksiychuk will be the fifth head of the eparchy.

The Eparchy of St. Nicholas of Chicago has 46 parishes and missions in 16 states. About 70 priests and deacons serve the eparchy, which has a Catholic population of about 11,000.

Valery Aleksiychuk was born Jan. 16, 1968, in Borshchivka, Ukraine. He pursued seminary studies and was ordained a priest March 29, 1992. He is a Ukrainian Studite monk. He was named auxiliary bishop of Lviv Aug. 3, 2010, and ordained a bishop Sept. 5, 2010.

"The hierarchy, clergy, religious and faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in USA joyfully rejoice" about the pope's appointment of Bishop Aleksiychuk to the Chicago-based eparchy, said Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia, who is metropolitan of U.S. Ukrainian Catholics in the United States.

"Let us offer prayers of thanksgiving to almighty God for the blessing of a new chief shepherd for the St. Nicholas Eparchy," he said in a statement. "Let us offer prayers for Bishop Venedykt as he joyfully undertakes this new journey, under the protection and guidance of the mother of God."

Pascha in Poland

Pascha in Albania

"Egyptian Christians are made of steel!"

Energetic Procession is back!

Longtime readers will know that I've been a devotee of the Energetic Procession blog for some time. It was a blow to see it go into hiatus some years ago, but today there is a timely resurrection in content. Please do head over there, bookmark or RSS/ATOM subscribe to it, and enjoy forthcoming posts.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Government funding and the DMZ of religious organizations

What we have in the non-profit space right now is an unfair playing field. Two organizations can be feeding the homeless, or caring for children, or any other manner of charitable acts and the one that is secular can receive funding and the religious organization is forbidden from being helped. Certainly some groups will get around this by promising to not "be religious" when offering services, but that doesn't detract from their central argument: Government shouldn't get involved in religion even when religious people are doing things for the betterment of their communities.

So it's interesting to see the Supreme Court take on what is effectively a silencing of religious organizations by siding with secular agencies when it's time to fund programs.

(Washington Post) - Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed sympathetic to a Missouri church that claimed its exclusion from a state playground improvement program was a violation of constitutional rights.

Even some of the court’s liberal justices expressed concern that the state had drawn too hard of a line in barring a day-care and preschool site from the program simply because it is controlled by a church, Trinity Lutheran in Columbia.

“You’re depriving one set of actors from being able to compete in the same way everybody else can compete, because of their religious identification,” Justice Elena Kagan told a lawyer for the state. In such a case, she said, the state’s interests “have to rise to an extremely high level.”

Missouri’s state constitution, similar to those of a majority of states, directs that “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.”

That should mean the state should not be forced to write out a check to “Trinity Lutheran Church,” said James R. Layton, a Jefferson City lawyer representing the state.

But he seemed to face an uphill battle in defending the exclusion of church groups from a program with only a secular goal — making playgrounds safer — and for which Trinity would have been otherwise approved.

The hour-long argument suggested justices could coalesce around a narrow ruling that would affect programs that are generally applicable to the public, provide only secular benefits promoting health and safety, and perhaps forbid religious discrimination, which was raised as a concern by some justices but was not an issue in Trinity’s case.

The case has been complicated by an announcement last week by the state’s new Republican governor, Eric Greitens, that he was reversing the policy that denied Trinity’s application in 2012 and that churches will be eligible to participate.

But attorneys for both sides told the court that Greitens’s actions did not make the case moot, because the policy could be changed again in the future. Justices spent little time on that issue and more on the merits of the arguments.

Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai fired upon

(Pravmir) - One of Christianity's holiest sites came under attack, during a fire exchange between Egyptian police and ISIS gunmen at Mount Sinai. The incident took place at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine, a site of pilgrimage for christianity

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which started when gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian police checkpoint near the monastery killing one policeman and wounding four others. According to the officials, the gunmen were shooting from an elevated hilltop overlooking the police checkpoint just outside the monastery, which is located in a remote desert and mountainous area in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, where, according to scripture, God spoke to the prophet Moses from a burning bush.

Only monks and clergy were inside the monastery at the time, since the site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was once a popular destination for pilgrims, has been closed to the public since 2015, for security reasons.

There are no reports of damage to the compound, which is heavily fortified (the walls were built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 527) and guarded by security forces. After the initial fire exchange, the gunmen rereated.

The attack on the monastery comes just over a week after suicide bombers attacked two Coptic Christian churches in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria, killing 45 people on Palm Sunday.

Pope, Ecumenical Patriarch heading to Cairo next week

(The Tablet) - Patriarch of Constantinople and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, set to meet Francis next week

Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was scheduled to attend a peace conference in Cairo with Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University.

While Patriarch Bartholomew's office did not release a detailed schedule of events he would be attending during the pope's April 28-29 visit to Cairo, the Vatican confirmed reports April 19 that Patriarch Bartholomew was invited to take part in the conference and was planning to attend.

Pope Francis also was scheduled to meet Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, soon after the conference April 28, making it a day the heirs of the Apostles Peter, Mark and Andrew all would be present in the ancient land of Egypt.

While Pope Francis is the successor of St. Peter, the Orthodox ecumenical patriarchate traces its lineage to St. Andrew and the Coptic Orthodox Church has St. Mark as its patron. The Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches are not in full communion with each other, although they have been working closely together and have been engaged in theology dialogue aimed at unity.

The Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople is called the ecumenical patriarch and is considered "first among equals" for the Eastern Orthodox churches, even though his primacy does not entail direct or ultimate jurisdiction over them.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of six Oriental Orthodox churches that trace their roots to apostolic times, but distanced themselves from the rest of Christianity after the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rick Steves covers Pascha in Nafplio

To no one's surprise, Old Believers do Pascha right

St. Seraphim of Sarov in Santa Rosa, CA becomes a cathedral

(OCA-DOW) - In recognition of the dedication of the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox community of Santa Rosa, California and their attention to and care for the beauty of the Liturgy and church arts, effective this day, the temple of St. Seraphim of Sarov is elevated to the status of cathedral.

Archbishop of San Francisco and the West

Pascha at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow

Monday, April 17, 2017

Copts ask: "We're still burying our dead" so don't politicize.

(NPR) - Egypt-born Bishop Angaelos, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K., talks to David Greene about Sunday's attacks on Coptic Christian services in Egypt, and the security of the Coptic minority.

DAVID GREENE, HOST: And this is the holiest week on the Christian calendar. And yet, some Christians will not be celebrating. Egypt's Coptic Christians were the victims of horrific attacks this week. Suicide bombings at churches in two cities on Palm Sunday killed nearly 50 people and caused Egypt's president to declare a state of emergency. Those churches will not hold celebrations after tomorrow night's Easter services.

Coptic Christians have been around since the dawn of Christianity. Almost all of them live in Egypt. They are a minority in a Muslim dominated country. They have often been persecuted. And now they seem to be a special target of Islamic State militants.

The general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, Bishop Angaelos, spoke with us from London. He was born in Egypt and is in constant contact with the Coptic community there.

Well, let me start by saying I am so sorry about what your community in Egypt has been through. This has been quite a tragic week.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ah! The Paschal spirit!