||FIRST, THE NEWS:
UKRAINE CHURCH CONFIRMS ALLEGIANCE TO ROME AFTER TENSION OVER AGREEMENT WITH MOSCOW
from: The Tablet
(07 Mar) The meeting in Cuba between Pope Francis and Kirill upset Ukrainian Catholics in conflict with Russia. Amid tensions about the position of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the renewed dialogue between Vatican and Moscow, the leaders of the church met with Pope Francis in the Vatican and stressed their allegiance to Rome. “We came to reaffirm our communion with the Holy Father and to ask for his help for the suffering people of Ukraine during the Jubilee Year of Mercy,” said the head of Ukrainian Greek Catholics, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.
Ukrainian Greek Catholics are in full unity with Rome and have been a major source of friction between Moscow and the Vatican. The Russian Orthodox have long insisted the activity of the Ukrainian Catholics of Eastern rite amounted to "proselytism" and was an obstacle in mutual dialogue. The leaders of Ukrainian Greek Catholic church on the contrary accused Moscow Orthodox Partiarchate of supporting the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine and the Russian occupation of Crimea.
They urged a tougher line on Russian military involvement in Ukraine both from Vatican and the international community. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church repeatedly stressed his country was not in a civil war but facing "the direct aggression of our (Russian) neighbour." Archibishop Shevchuk recently criticised parts of the declaration between Pope Francis and the Moscow Orthodox Patriarch Kirill during their historic meeting in Cuba on 12 February, calling on "all the parts involved in the conflict (in Ukraine) to prudence." He said that "this text led to deep disappointment among many Ukrainians" but later clarified that the Pope-Patriarch meeting in Havana was "of historical importance" despite some concern on his side. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: "ISOLATE THE POPULATION"
by Mushfig Bayram: Forum 18 News Service
(18 Mar) Uzbekistan continues to raid private homes and confiscate religious literature from their owners, including Uzbek and Russian-language Bibles and New Testaments. In at least three cases known to Forum 18 News Service, and in line with frequent court practice, a court has ordered that Bibles and New Testaments be destroyed. These violations of freedom of religion or belief continue, an entire district of the capital Tashkent being searched in early March.
Local police told Forum 18 that "we have religious freedoms." And on 12 March a Christian in Fergana was jailed for 15 days after a police search for religious literature. Summarising the reason for such censorship and raids, a state news agency published an article stating that the government aimed to "isolate the population, especially young people, from the influence of various harmful movements." Uzbekistan, against its international human rights obligations, imposes strict censorship on all religious publications and all aspects of their distribution.
There is a de facto ban on religious literature of any faith in private homes and if found such literature is frequently ordered to be destroyed. State pressure is so great that for their own safety some religious believers have destroyed their own sacred texts. In July 2015 the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern over the frequent raids, as well as - among other things - religious censorship, torture and fines to punish individuals for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. It called on Uzbekistan to "guarantee in practice the freedom of religion and belief." [read more...]
(07 Mar) On the eve of Forgiveness Sunday (according to the Julian Calendar), Orthodox Christian believers issued a statement humbly asking "...their pardon for all the injustices they [Ukrainian Greek Catholics] have suffered under the cover of the Orthodox Church and we bow down before the martyrs of this Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. It is urgent for Orthodox Christians to recognize the terrible truth of March 10, 1946."
On March 10, 1946, at Lviv, the Orthodox Church of Russia, under pressure from the Soviet government, forcefully integrated the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and claimed jurisdiction over it. When the participants in the synod on March 8 and 9, voted for the “reunification” of their Church with the Patriarchate of Moscow, all the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops were behind bars in prisons. The 216 priests and 19 laymen, assembled in the Cathedral of Saint George in Lviv by the NKVD, the ancestor of the KGB, were at the mercy of an “initiative group” led by two Orthodox bishops, Antony Pelvetsky and Myhailo Melnyk, and an orthodox priest Gavril Kostelnyk. The archives reveal that it was Stalin himself who decided to eliminate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in February 1945, twelve days after the Conference of Yalta with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
All serious historians and theologians have no doubts that the 8-10 March 1946 synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church at Lviv was only a sham. Bohdan Bociurkiw, who was a professor of history at Carleton University in Ottawa, wrote a comprehensive survey on this matter and it has never been contradicted. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of it in 2006, referring to it as a “pseudo-synod” which “seriously harmed Church unity.” Nicolas Lossky, a French Orthodox theologian who is a member of the Patriarchate of Moscow, also recognized that this was a false synod. [read more...]
KAZAKHSTAN: RELIGIOUS BOOKS BANNED AS "EXTREMIST", BUT PROSECUTOR "CAN'T REMEMBER" WHY
by Felix Corley: Forum 18 News Service
(16 Mar) On 15 February a court in Kazakhstan's capital Astana upheld the Prosecutor's suit to ban four further Christian books as "extremist", according to the decision seen by Forum 18. The books were among 47 items seized when Christian prisoner of conscience Yklas Kabduakasov was arrested. Prosecutor Temirlan Adilkhanov, who led the case in court, told Forum 18 he "can't remember" in what ways the books might have caused harm to anyone. "I knew nothing about the case until the court decision came into force on 15 March," one of the authors, Pastor Manarbek Baieke, complained to Forum 18. "They concocted all this out of thin air." He fears the ban might provide the authorities with a reason to arrest him.
Religious believers have expressed concern over a list of 254 "radical" religious books, including Christian, Muslim, Ahmadi Muslim, Hare Krishna and Jehovah's Witness items. Shortandy District Administration said that Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department gave them the list in late 2015 for publication. Asked the status of books on the list, an official of Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department explained to Forum 18: "If it is on the list it is banned." [read more...]
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CITES DEEP DIFFERENCES WITH HOLY SEE
(11 Mar) The Moscow Patriarchate has stated that profound differences have persisted in relations with the Holy See. "Despite the reached understanding on many vital problems of modernity, profound differences remain between Orthodox and Catholic Christians, in particular in their views on our common history full of tragic events," the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations head Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said in an interview with Interfax-Religion.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (Uniates) has remained a stumbling block in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, he said. "This block again and again ruins attempts to establish dialogue, to bolster mutual understanding and to bring our positions together. Events of the recent past - the destruction of three Orthodox dioceses by Uniates in western Ukraine in the early 1990s and the seizure of several hundred churches - and of the distant past prove this," he said.
Actions of Ukrainian Uniates have remained the main problem between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Holy See. The issue concerns the destruction of three Orthodox dioceses by Uniates in western Ukraine in the late 1980s - early 1990s, the relocation of the center of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Lvov to Kiev, its desire to attain patriarchate status, the proliferation of Uniates' mission to traditionally Orthodox lands of eastern and southern Ukraine, and Uniates' support of schismatics. This is accompanied by insults of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church against Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church after the beginning of the Maidan. [read more...]
(18 Mar) Two years ago today, Russia unlawfully annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, cynically using the Orthodox “culture, civilization, and human values” that Russia and Ukraine supposedly share to justify this invasion. On this anniversary, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reiterates its concern about Russian authorities’ violations of religious freedom in Crimea, and urges the international community to take a stand against these abuses.
“The human rights and religious freedom situation in Crimea has deteriorated dramatically since the illegal March 2014 Russian occupation,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George. “Religious minority communities, particularly Muslim Crimean Tatars, suffer because of Russia’s application of its more restrictive criminal and administrative codes, notably its onerous registration requirements and notorious anti-extremism law.”
In order to gain legal operating status, Russia requires all Crimean religious communities registered with the Ukrainian state to re-register under Russia’s more stringent requirements. Of the over 1,500 religious communities with Ukrainian legal status, only 400 were re-registered under Russian authority. Unregistered religious groups, including the Ukrainian Catholic Church – banned by the Kremlin 70 years ago – and Armenian Apostolic parishes, cannot open bank accounts, own property, issue invitations to foreign guests, and publish literature. In view of the Kremlin’s hostility, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate did not even apply for registration.
“Russia has spread its net of intolerance to Crimea and freedom of religion or belief has been its victim. The international community must not be silent in the face of these abuses,” said Chairman George. “Moscow must reform its anti-extremism law, cease its application to Crimea, grant legal status to the 1,500 religious groups that operated before the Russian annexation, and stop harassing religious minorities and those the Moscow Patriarchate views as rivals. USCIRF also urges the U.S. government to apply provisions of the Magnitsky Act and continue to identify Russian government officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom and human rights, freeze their assets, and bar their entry into the United States.” [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
BELARUS: PLENIPOTENTIARY ATTACKS CATHOLICS, NO RELIGIOUS RADIO
from Forum 18 News Service
PIONEERS MISSION MINISTERS TO ALBANIANS IN GREECE
from Mission Network News
THE COUNCIL OF KHARKIV-POLTAVA EPARCHY OF UAOC TO DETERMINE WAYS OF REUNITING THE ORTHODOX AND GREEK CATHOLICS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
MOSCOW CITY GOVERNMENT JOINS FIGHT AGAINST "NON-TRADITIONAL" RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
from Moscow Agency of City News
PATRIARCH KIRILL BELIEVES THAT PROGRESS IN SYRIAN SETTLEMENT IS RESULT OF MEETING WITH POPE FRANCIS
EASTERN CHRISTIAN LEADERS FACE ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE GRUMBLES AS THEY PREPARE FOR A SUMMIT
from The Economist
GEORGIA: PROJECT AIMS TO BOOST RELUCTANT ORTHODOX SUPPORT FOR EU INTEGRATION
MARCH 10, 1946: A SORDID ANNIVERSARY, TO BE REMEMBERED
from First Things
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
"WILKINSBURG, Pa. — The search continues for gunmen who ambushed a backyard get-together Wednesday night in Wilkinsburg, claiming the lives of six people, including an 8-month-old fetus, and wounding three others." On Wednesday evening, 9 March, 2016, an unusually warm evening, a family was having a backyard barbeque when two gunmen, one with an assault-style rifle, shot and killed six people and seriously wounded three others. It is terribly sad but true to include the "8-month-old fetus" - an unborn child - as a person among the six people who were killed.
This happened just a few blocks from our home, on a street we drive along almost every day on our way to our volunteer work at FOCUS+Pittsburgh, to church and grocery shopping. The house where this tragedy took place still has dozens of bunches of flowers, balloons and other items on the porch, steps and fence to remember the six slain victims. This is the reality we live in the with here-and-now. My heart groans and cries out every time we drive past that house: "WHY, LORD? Black, White, Grownup, Unborn - All Lives Matter!" Please pray with us for the souls of these innocent victims!
Our lead news article UKRAINE CHURCH CONFIRMS ALLEGIANCE TO ROME AFTER TENSION OVER AGREEMENT WITH MOSCOW and our third news article THE ORTHODOX APPEAL FOR RECOGNITION OF THE 1946 LVIV ‘SYNOD’ AS A SHAM both seem to indicate that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic ("Uniate") Church as well as many Ukrainian Orthodox people feel the UGCC was "thrown under the bus" again, just as it had been when international political leaders carved up Central and Eastern Europe into "spheres of influence" at the Yalta Conference near the end of WWII. The only difference: is it international religious leaders who are doing the carving this time... in behind-the-scenes coordination with political leaders? In the last one hundred years TENS OF MILLIONS of innocent Ukrainian lives - babies, children, mothers, fathers, grandmas and grandpas - have been sacrificed to these "spheres of influence." WHY, LORD?
The Russian Orthodox Church appears to be back-pedaling a bit, after Patriarch Kirill's meeting with Pope Francis last month: see our fifth news article RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CITES DEEP DIFFERENCES WITH HOLY SEE. Many Russian Orthodox believers are very conservative and anti-Catholic, because this attitude has been inculcated into their thinking for the last several centuries, fending off the Teutonic Knights, the Polish-Lithuanian Empire and the Hapsburg Empire. Not only the Russian Orthodox, but also Georgian and Cypriot Orthodox are very wary of any reference to "other Christian churches" in the proposed agenda of the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council in June: see our "Other News Headlines" articles EASTERN CHRISTIAN LEADERS FACE ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE GRUMBLES AS THEY PREPARE FOR A SUMMIT, and GEORGIA: PROJECT AIMS TO BOOST RELUCTANT ORTHODOX SUPPORT FOR EU INTEGRATION - the EU is working to overcome conservative Georgian Orthodox resistance to globalization's lowering of moral values.
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So, Why Does It Matter?
Today is the "Sunday of Orthodoxy" on which Orthodox Christians celebrate the victory of Orthodoxy over the Iconoclasts. For over one hundred years around the eighth century, the icon-smashers ripped down and burned all the icons they could get their hands on, destroying not just magnificent works of art, but objects personifying Christ, as well as beloved saints and martyrs who were personally known to many Christians of that time. And the icon-smashers also murdered thousands of priests, monks and lay-people who defended the belief that we should venerate and honor the images of Christ, the saints and martyrs. So, why does it matter?
It matters precisely because matter matters! "God created man in His own image" (Genesis 1:27). "Image" is "eikon" in Greek. We were created as material beings, with bodies as well as souls. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were glorious beings: I can envision that their bodies glowed, clothed only in the glory of God, as they walked in the Garden of Eden with the pre-incarnate Christ. They were young and innocent, like teenagers, curious to learn all about this wonderful garden paradise, and even more curious to know God more and more, being transformed from one degree of glory to another in the presence of the Lord. But then the deceiver Satan tricked them to go beyond the limits that God had set for them. They took the bait: they ate, and their eyes were opened to see the glory fade away and and their nakedness appear.
Ever since Adam and Eve lost the glory of God in their bodies, mankind has created a false dichotomy, a dualism that opposes soul and body, mind and matter. All over the world and throughout human history, religions have sprung up teaching that the soul or spirit is good but the body or matter is evil. Some, called Ascetics, taught that the body isn't important, so we should deny our bodily needs. Others, called Epicurians, taught that the body isn't important, so we should eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we die. Just as there is a bit of truth in every lie, there is a bit of justification for this false dualism: the soul lives forever, but the body eventually dies and decays into corruption - at least in our fallen, sinful state.
The body is important: we ought to take care of it, getting enough exercise, rest and nourishment, but not too much of any of those. The glorious image of God that we ought to possess in our bodies has been sullied by sin - gluttony, fornication, drunkenness, drugs and sloth that destroy our bodies: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). So God forbade mankind to make and worship images that try to depict God, because it was impossible: the image was always imperfect, defective and corrupted due to sin, and thus not worthy of God. But then, all of that changed....
Continue reading in our Hosken-News Blog.
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Worry's like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere!