It seems that, in order to obey Our Lord's command to be one, we need a crisis! Here are a couple of crises that are helping us on the road to unity. Thank God for Divine Providence!! Firstly there is the migrant crisis, and we will see the Pope, the Patriarch and the head of the Greek Church reacting to the refugees; followed by the witness of the Prior of Taize on the same subject . Then there is another kind of crisis, the Tomb of Christ needs ecumenical collaboration if it is not going to collapse.
POPE, ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH AND GREEK CHURCH HEAD TO VISIT REFUGEES ON LESBOS
April 5, 2016
Plans are for Roman Catholic church head Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolomeos and the head of the Greek Church, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Hieronymus, together to visit refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.
This emerged after a meeting on April 5 of the Holy Synod, the governing body of the Church of Greece, over which Hieronymus presided.
Hieronymus told the Synod that Pope Francis had expressed a desire to visit Greece, to build awareness among the international community of the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the wider Mediterranean area and in the Middle East that were strongly affecting Christian communities, but also had led to a major humanitarian crisis for desperate refugees seeking a better future in Europe.
A Greek Church statement said that the Holy Synod had accepted the proposal for the Pope to visit an Aegean island because it would be a one-day, non-protocol and “clear humanitarian and symbolic visit”.
The Holy Synod decided to propose a visit to Lesbos, which it described as one of the many islands that had deeply experienced and still experienced the tragedy of the refugee problem.
It noted that this was at a time that Greece, in spite of major problems, was bearing on its shoulders the brunt of refugee flows.
“A Greece called upon to prove, even alone, that Europe principles and values still exist,” the Holy Synod said.
The Synod said that it further decided, especially given that the unity of the Orthodox Christian churches was being tested, to invite Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolomeos. In the world Orthodox Christian community, among the leaders of the church, the Ecumenical Patriarch is officially regarded as “first among equals”.
The personality and authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch, together with the gravity of the presence of Pope Francis, would send the world a very strong signal about alleviating the problems of refugees and simultaneously, a call for appropriate action to protect Christians suffering cruelly in the wider region of the Middle East, the Greek Church said.
No date for the visit has been announced but Greek media reports said that April 14 and 15 were possible dates.
Posted: 04 Mar 2016
REPLACING FEAR WITH FRIENDSHIP
Migrants greatly enrich Western culture, and should be welcomed, argues Brother Alois
A new place: some of the young migrants in Taizé, who have come from Darfur and Afghanistan via the “Jungle” in Calais
AROUND the world, women, men, and children are being forced to leave their land. It is their distress that creates in them a motivation to leave. That distress is stronger than all the barriers that impede their move. I can vouch for this because recently I spent a few days in Syria.
In the city of Homs, the extent of the destruction caused by the bombing is unimaginable. Much of the city is in ruins. I saw a ghost town, and I felt the despair of the inhabitants of the country.
Today, Syrians are flooding into Europe; tomorrow, it will be other peoples. The large flows of migration which we are seeing are inevitable; not realising this would be short-sighted. Looking for ways to regulate the flow of migrants is legitimate — necessary, even; but to want to prevent it by building walls bristling with barbed wire is useless.
When we are confronted by this situation, fear is understandable. Resisting fear does not mean that it has to disappear, but that it should not paralyse us. We must not allow the rejection of foreigners to take root in our minds; for the refusal of the other is the seed of barbarism.
AS A first step, the rich countries should acquire a clearer awareness that they have their share of responsibility for the wounds of history that have caused, and continue to cause, massive migration, particularly from Africa and the Middle East. Today, some specific political choices remain a source of instability in these regions.
A second approach should cause them to go beyond the fear of foreigners, of cultural differences, and courageously begin to shape the new face that migration is already giving to our societies in the West.
Instead of seeing foreigners as a threat to our standard of living, or our culture, we should welcome them as members of the same human family. And we shall find that the flow of refugees and migrants, although it creates difficulties, can also be an opportunity.
Recent studies show the positive impact of migration on the population and the economy. Why do so many speeches emphasise the difficulties so much, and never highlight the positive aspects? Those who knock at the door of countries richer than theirs cause these countries to learn solidarity. Do they not help them to gain a new vitality?
I WOULD like to mention here our experience at Taizé. It is humble and limited, but real. Since November, in association with the local government, the community of municipalities to which our village belongs, and local associations, we have been hosting at Taizé 11 young migrants from Sudan — most of them from Darfur — and Afghanistan, all coming from the “Jungle” of Calais.
Their arrival has sparked an impressive show of solidarity in our region: volunteers come to teach them French, doctors treat them for free, and neighbours take them on outings in the area and for bike rides.
Surrounded by friendship in this way, these young people, who have gone through tragic events, are rebuilding their lives. And such a simple contact with Muslims changes the outlook of those around them.
In the village, these young people have also been welcomed by families from various countries — Vietnam, Laos, Bosnia, Rwanda, Egypt, Iraq — who have come to Taizé in past decades, and who are now an integral part of our wider community. All have experienced great suffering, but bring vitality to our village as a result of the richness and diversity of their cultures.
IF SUCH an experience is possible in a small region, why can’t it be undertaken on a much larger scale? It is wrong to think that xenophobia is the sentiment most widely shared — often, there is above all a great deal of ignorance.
Once personal encounters are possible, fears give way to fellowship. This involves seeing things from the other’s point of view. Mutual friendship is the only way to prepare for a future of peace.
By taking on, together, the responsibilities required by the wave of migration, rather than playing on people’s fears, political leaders could help the European Union regain a momentum that has been greatly slowed down.
A whole younger generation in Europe aspires to this openness. We are aware of this, because for years we have been welcoming, on our hill of Taizé, for week-long international meetings, tens of thousands of young people from across the continent. They see that the building up of Europe finds its true meaning only if it shows solidarity with other continents, and with the poorest peoples.
Many young Europeans have difficulty understanding their governments when they declare their intent to close their borders. These young people ask, rather, that the globalisation of economics be associated with a globalisation of solidarity, and that it should be expressed, in particular, by a dignified and responsible welcome for migrants. Many of them are ready and willing to contribute to this.
Brother Alois is the Prior of the Ecumenical Community of Taizé, in Burgundy.
Risk of Collapse at Jesus’ Tomb Unites Rival Christians
By DIAA HADIDAPRIL 6, 2016
The shrine holding the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem’s Old City. The shrine, an unsteady 206-year-old structure held together by an iron cage, has become an uncomfortable symbol of Christian divisions. Credit Gali Tibbon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
JERUSALEM — It was a typical day at the shrine around what many believe is the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem’s Old City. A Greek Orthodox choir sang inside a room facing the baroque structure. But the voices were drowned out when chanting Armenian priests and monks circling the shrine raised theirs.
“Sometimes they punch each other,” Farah Atallah, a church guard wearing a fez, observed with a shrug.
Mr. Atallah is a seasoned witness to the rivalries among the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic communities that jealously share — and sometimes spar over — what they consider Christianity’s holiest site, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Amid the rivalry, the unsteady 206-year-old structure, held together by a 69-year-old iron cage, is an uncomfortable, often embarrassing symbol of Christian divisions, which have periodically erupted into tensions. In 2008, monks and priests brawled near the shrine, throwing punches and pulling one another’s hair not far from the tomb where Christians believe Jesus was resurrected.
But in recent weeks, scaffolding has gone up a few feet from the shrine in the gloomy shadows of the Arches of the Virgin, the first step in a rare agreement by the various Christian communities to save the dilapidated shrine, also called the Aedicule, from falling down.
The March 22 agreement calls for a $3.4 million renovation to begin next month, after Orthodox Easter celebrations. Each religious group will contribute one-third of the costs, and a Greek bank contributed 50,000 euros, or $57,000, for the scaffolding, in return for having its name emblazoned across the machinery.
The idea is to peel away hundreds of years of the shrine’s history, clean it and put it back together. Simple enough, but delayed for decades because of the complicated, centuries-old rules and minute traditions — called the status quo — that define the way Jerusalem’s holy sites are governed, in which the very act of repairing something can imply ownership.
“One of the serious issues in the church is that the status quo takes place over every other consideration, and it’s not a good thing,” said Athanasius Macora, a Franciscan friar. “Unity is more important than a turf war.”
|A woman praying at the tomb where most Christians believe Jesus was placed after he was crucified. Renovations at the tomb, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, will begin in May. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times|
A woman praying at the tomb where most Christians believe Jesus was placed after he was crucified. Renovations at the tomb, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, will begin in May. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times
The inspiration for this unity was the threat of losing the shrine altogether. Alarmed by reports that the shrine was at risk of collapse, the Israeli police barricaded it for several hours on Feb. 17, 2015, throwing out the monks who guard it and preventing hundreds of pilgrims from entering.
The message was clear: Fix it, or else.
So after a year of much study and negotiation, monument conservation experts plan to first remove the iron cage that Jerusalem’s colonial British rulers built in 1947 in a prior effort to keep the Aedicule from collapsing, after a 1927 earthquake and rain left the structure cracked, its marble slabs flaking.
They will take apart, slab by slab, the ornate marble shell built in 1810, during Ottoman rule of Jerusalem. The conservationists will then tackle the remains of the 12th-century Crusader shrine that lies underneath. That was erected after the Shiite ruler of Egypt, al-Hakim, destroyed the first Aedicule in 1009. The original was built by Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, the Christian Roman emperor who did much to elevate the status of Christianity through the empire.
Finally, the workers will repair cracks in the remains of the rock-hewed tomb underneath, where most Christians believe Jesus was placed after he was crucified. (There is a rival Tomb of Christ just outside the Old City walls, patronized mainly by Protestants. But that is another story.)
Antonia Moropoulou, the conservation expert heading the project, said the shrine would remain open to visitors during most of the painstaking process.
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Hundreds of pilgrims waited to enter one recent day as Catholics said Mass near the Aedicule, blocking the entry with wooden pews. The shrine is topped with a large gray cupola, and it is decorated with gold, icons, pillars, candles, heavy bronze lamps, inscriptions and a large painting of Christ.
“This is a very super experience of my spirit,” said Anil Macwan, 30, a lay Catholic preacher from India. “The world cannot give me the feeling I get from this tomb, this place. It is a very sacred place.”
Two women from the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim, in Nigeria, wearing matching blue dresses and head scarves, walked shoeless into the Aedicule, crossing the Chapel of the Angel, with its walls of elaborately carved marble and proclamations in Greek. They bent through the low door into the Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, where, under oil lamps, two white marble slabs denote the location of Jesus’ rock tomb.
The two women fell to their knees, raised their arms in supplication and fervently whispered prayers. They wiped their hands and photographs of children on the slabs.
|Pilgrims waiting in line to visit the tomb. The site will remain open to visitors during most of the painstaking renovation, the conservation expert leading the project said. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times|
Pilgrims waiting in line to visit the tomb. The site will remain open to visitors during most of the painstaking renovation, the conservation expert leading the project said. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times
Another day, a line of Indian Muslims squished against South Korean tourists, Indian nuns and Arab-American Christians stretched past the Chapel of the Copts, a room attached to the back of the Aedicule, where a monk guarding the site was engrossed in his smartphone.
The three Christian communities vigilantly guard the property they already control to an extent that can feel baffling to outsiders coming to the Holy Sepulcher, a cavernous jumble of Byzantine and Crusader architecture, with soaring domes, sunken rooms, gloomy light, heavy bronze lamps, squat buttresses and elegant arches.
In the church entryway is a gaudy gold mosaic on a wall, owned by members of the Greek Orthodox Church, that distracts from the nearby Stone of Unction, the marble slab covering the site where Jesus was anointed.
Beside the mosaic is a ladder owned by Catholics, who will not move it. It is next to an Armenian-controlled walkway of a few feet leading to the Aedicule, where non-Armenian priests in vestments may pass, but not stand, because that would suggest they are challenging Armenian control.
The last significant renovation began in the 1950s, when the Jordanian authorities who controlled East Jerusalem at the time pushed Christian representatives into forming a technical bureau to address the 1927 quake damage. But the process broke down more than a decade later, according to Father Macora.
After the last embarrassing dust-up, in 2008, which was captured on YouTube, the rival communities began trying to fix their relations in earnest, repairing the toilets as a good-will measure. In 2014, Pope Francis met the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, at the Aedicule, to promote unity.
Still, “somebody had to push us,” said the Rev. Samuel Aghoyan, the Armenian Patriarchate’s representative at the Holy Sepulcher, who took to fisticuffs with a previous Greek Orthodox patriarch, Irineos I, inside the Aedicule on Holy Saturday, before Easter, in 2002. “If the Israeli government didn’t get involved, nobody would have done anything.”
Ms. Moropoulou, the conservationist leading the renovation, said she hoped it would maintain the intangible spirit “of a living monument.”
“This tomb is the most alive place,” Ms. Moropoulou said. More so, she added, “than anything I have seen in my life.”
She continued, “The greatest challenge is to preserve that.”