Rest in Peace
We were deeply saddened by the death on Easter Sunday of Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, 87, Primate of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada. Mar Athanasius was ordained Archbishop of Jerusalem and Transjordan in 1946. In 1949 he was sent to the United States to collect funds for Palestinian aid and was asked to remain. By 1957 members of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America had petitioned the Patriarch of Antioch for a permanent bishop; Mar Athanasius was then named Primate.
The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, celebrated the funeral liturgy at St. Mark’s Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, NJ.
Light of the East
Pope John Paul II has written an apostolic letter on the churches of the East, entitled “Orientale Lumen,” or “Light of the East.” The document was issued on 2 May, the feast of St. Athanasius, one of the Greek fathers of the church, to mark the centenary of Pope Leo XIII’s apostolic letter, “Orientalium Dignitas.”
In his letter, the Pope noted, “Since, in fact, we believe the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ’s church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to be nourished by it and to encourage the process of unity in the best way possible for each.”
Brother David Carroll, F.S.C., our Special Operations Officer, appeared on a recent broadcast of WWOR’s program “Point of View” to discuss Catholic-Muslim relations with Imam Abdel-Rahman Osman. Both participate in the Muslim-Catholic Dialogue of the Archdiocese of New York. Brother David noted that the topic was most timely in view of events in Oklahoma City, which initially raised some anti-Muslim and anti-Arab feeling here in the United States.
Meeting of Romanian Bishops
The meeting last spring of Romania’s Greek Catholic bishops and officials of the Roman Curia was intensive and productive. The main themes were formation of the clergy, religious life, liturgy, ecumenical activity and youth ministry. In an audience on 24 March, Pope John Paul II reminded the bishops that in their hands “has been placed a rich heritage of faith and sacrifices, a true pearl of great price of which the universal church is proud.”
Iraq’s Plight Worsens
Media attention to their plight has faded, but the condition of the Iraqi people is deteriorating at an alarming rate – most people are close to starvation.
After five years of the United Nations embargo, the people are inventing new ways to survive without food and medicines. With nothing of value left to sell in most middle-class households, many families are disassembling sections of their homes to sell the bricks and cinder block.
Meanwhile relief has steadily diminished as European benefactors find it difficult to sustain previous levels of assistance. Our Amman office has been able to ship a small but steady flow of goods to the Iraqi people.
Catholics and Assyrians
In a recent letter, John Cardinal O’Connor presented to the members of the Catholic hierarchy, superiors of religious communities and heads of scholastic institutions information concerning the signing last autumn of the Christological declaration between the Roman Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. The declaration heals a separation dating back to the fifth century.
The Cardinal noted the positive role CNEWA has played in “providing encouragement and support to the hierarchy of the Assyrian Church in the quest for unity.” He enclosed a copy of the March-April issue of Catholic Near East, which contained an article about this historic event by Assyrian Bishop Mar Bawai Soro, and a special issue of The Messenger, an Assyrian publication that also documented the event.
Spiritual Value of Jerusalem
At its recent investiture in Cleveland, Ohio, the North Central Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre heard Msgr. Stern describe at length the history and present situation of Jerusalem.
In his remarks, the Monsignor noted that “for Jews, for Christians and for Muslims, Jerusalem has a tremendous spiritual significance. Its the one city that these three great traditions of the children of Abraham all associate with the divine.”
“Our legitimate interest in Jerusalem,” he said, “not only impacts the political, but also safeguards the spiritual value of this city.”
Catholic Near East won several Catholic Press Association awards at the association’s recent convention in Los Angeles.
For the second year in a row, the magazine won second place for general excellence in the mission magazine category. In making the citation, the judges noted that the magazine “has its own distinct style and feel. This journal is not afraid to face the impact of geopolitical conflict in the region.”
Awards for best photograph and personality profile were also received.