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||FIRST, THE NEWS:
CARDINAL SIMONI TO CONSECRATE CHURCH OF MOTHER TERESA IN KOSOVO
from: Catholic Register
(17 Jul.) Pope Francis on Saturday appointed Cardinal Ernest Simoni to be his delegate at the consecration of a cathedral dedicated to St. Teresa of Calcutta in Pristina, the capital of the self-declared state of Kosovo.
The consecration will take place Sept. 5, 2017, the 20th anniversary of the death of St. Teresa of Calcutta, and just one year after her canonization in Rome by Pope Francis. Though in use by Catholics in the area since 2010, the consecration will mark the shrine’s formal dedication to Mother Teresa.
Cardinal Simoni, 88, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Shkodrë-Pult. He is one of the last survivors of the communist persecution in Albania. Cardinal Simoni was a seminarian in December 1944, when an atheistic communist regime came to power in Albania. In 1948, communists shot and killed his Franciscan superiors. He continued his studies in secret and was later ordained a priest.
Four years later, communist leaders gathered together priests who had survived and offered them freedom if they distanced themselves from the Pope and the Vatican. Cardinal Simoni and his brother priests refused.
On Dec. 24, 1963, as he was concluding Mass, four officials served him an arrest warrant and decree of execution. He was handcuffed and detained. During interrogation, they told him he would be hanged as an enemy because he told the people, "We will all die for Christ if necessary." [read more...]
TAJIKISTAN: PROTESTANT PASTOR JAILED FOR THREE YEARS
by Mushfig Bayram: Forum 18 News Service
(20 Jul.) Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov of Khujand's [Khojand's] Sunmin Sunbogym (Full Gospel) Protestant Church has been jailed for three years, Protestants who wish to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 on 14 July. Prisoner of conscience Kholmatov was jailed in early July by Khujand City Court in Tajikistan's Sogd Region.
Prisoner of conscience Kholmatov was first held in NSC secret police custody after his 18 April arrest. While on trial he was held in a police detention centre, and he has now been moved to an unknown prison. The authorities have threatened family members, friends, and church members with reprisals if they reveal any details of the case, trial, or jailing to anyone. "We are afraid of more arrests or other punishments", Protestants told Forum 18.
The National Security Committee (NSC) secret police, together with the State Committee for Religious Affairs (SCRA) and other law-enforcement agencies, raided Sunmin Sunbogym's affiliated congregations in Sogd Region in early February. Officials closed down the congregation in the town of Konibodom in March after interrogating and torturing church members, and NSC secret police officers pressured employers into firing church members from their jobs. The NSC arrested Pastor Kholmatov on 10 April after they raided his Church also, and harassed and physically tortured its members with beatings. [read more...]
OSCE HOLDS A SEMINAR ON PEACEFUL RELATIONS BETWEEN UOC(MP) AND UOC(KP) IN LVIV
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(19 Jul.) A weekly seminar on peaceful relations between religious communities and inter-confessional dialogue began in Lviv.
The initiator of the project was the OSCE mission in Ukraine, which has been monitoring the situation in areas where inter-denominational disputes have been acute during past two years.
OSCE staff from different countries invited representatives of the religious communities of the UOC-MP and the UOC-KP from Rivne and Ternopil regions to cooperate and discuss.
The program of the seminar provides an overview of the national legislation on religion and beliefs, the establishment of interfaith dialogue, practical advice on legal issues.
The event lasts almost a week, during which participants will be able to listen to lectures and advice from experts from Scotland, Poland, Italy, and the USA, to discuss and dialogue with each other within the specified topics. [read more...]
IN UKRAINE, CARDINAL SANDRI SAYS THERE’S HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
(14 Jul.) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri visits Ukraine in the midst of ongoing upheaval in the country, largely the result of political instability and tensions surrounding the Russian invasion of their eastern region in 2014, which prompted a conflict that has endured three years, claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions of others.
Shortly after Pope Francis donated money to help those suffering from Ukraine’s ongoing conflict, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri arrived in the country, saying that while pained, he sees hope for the future.
In comments to local media after landing in Ukraine July 11, Sandri recalled that when he made his first trip to the country several years ago, it was because "in this land was born and is growing, a great hope, a great vision of the future for this Christian country."
"Today, unfortunately, I also bring pain for a country that ought to be the vanguard of peace in the life of Europe, but which instead is suffering, in all of its inhabitants, many deprivations and many victims of this situation," he said, referring to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine’s eastern region. [read more...]
182,000 BELIEVERS GO ON PILGRIMAGE TO NICHOLAS THE WONDERWORKER'S RELICS IN ST. PETE IN FIRST WEEK
(20 Jul.) According to the press center for the operative headquarters for the bringing of the holy relics, the number of pilgrims increased in the course of the past week. Some 13,000 people went on pilgrimage to the relics of Nicholas the Wonderworker in St. Petersburg in the first days and over 33,000 people came to the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra on Wednesday.
According to earlier reports, the relics of Nicholas the Wonderworker, which arrived in the city on July 13, will remain in St. Petersburg until July 28. Almost two million pilgrims visited the relics of Nicholas the Wonderworker during their presence in Moscow in the period between May 21 and July 12. The reliquary brought to Russia from Bari, Italy, contains part of the left rib. [read more...]
LAST RUSSIAN TSAR AND FAMILY COMMEMORATED BY LARGE PROCESSION
from: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
(18 Jul.) Large numbers of people marched near the Russian city of Yekaterinburg before dawn on July 17 to mark the 99th anniversary of the killing by Bolsheviks of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Marchers carried Russian Orthodox icons and crosses in the procession from the site where Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Aleksandra, and their five children were killed in 1918 - months after the Bolsheviks seized power - to the spot where their bodies were buried.
In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicholas, Aleksandra, Crown Prince Aleksei, and Grand Princesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. A procession honoring the royal family has been held in Yekaterinburg each July 17 since then. Russian news agencies said tens of thousands of people marched this year. They included Natalya Poklonskaya - a controversial lawmaker who has aired monarchist views - as well as Romanov relative Olga Kulikovskaya-Romanova and delegations from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and New Zealand.
Special services and prayers commemorating the last tsar and his family were held in Orthodox Churches in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other Russian cities. A substantial majority of Russians consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but surveys show that only a small fraction attend church regularly. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
PAROLIN’S VISIT TO RUSSIA KEY STEP IN POPE FRANCIS’S COURTSHIP OF PUTIN
REPORTAGE ON A VISIT TO CHINA AND THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
ACTIVE CHRISTIANS OF EUROPE: HOW TO ACT IN THE SITUATION OF SECULARIZED SOCIETY
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
MINISTRY HELPS WITH PRO-LIFE TRAINING IN EAST EUROPEAN COUNTRIES WITH HIGH ABORTION RATES
from Mission Network News
ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH CALLED THE DONBASS CONFLICT A "FRATRICIDAL WAR" AND PRAYED FOR PEACE IN UKRAINE
ORTHODOX THREATEN ARSON AGAINST THEATERS SHOWING MOTION PICTURE DEPICTING TSAR NICHOLAS II
ALIMA’S TESTIMONY: OUTREACH TO MUSLIM STUDENTS IN KYRGYZSTAN
from Mission Eurasia
RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LIQUIDATION OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES, EU ISSUES REBUKE
ROMANIAN PM'S ADVISER LAID OFF AFTER SAYING CHURCH SHOULD PAY TAXES
from Romania Insider
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In my Daily News post "Richard Dawkins Now A Heretic To Progressives" above, I wrote - "We need to understand what lies at the foundation of leftism (Marxism): it is fundamentally against the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation: 'the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.' Marxism, like Islam, has borrowed the Christian teachings of caring for the opopressed, the poor, the sick, for widows and orphans. They both view Jesus as a great moral teacher. But without the Logos, there is no logic to caring for the opopressed, the poor, etc."
Several of the news articles today point to the efforts of various Christian confessions and governmental agencies to work toward peace in Ukraine. This country certainly is in need of peace. But it must be peace with justice and healing. The territories occupied by Russia must be given back to Ukraine. There can be no real "shalom" peace when a foreign power is occupying one's country.
"The Church needs to find new ways of influencing the modern society, it is necessary to form new communities in a new cultural and social environment. The Church must mobilize the youth and create a new community" - states the article mentioned in our news headline ACTIVE CHRISTIANS OF EUROPE: HOW TO ACT IN THE SITUATION OF SECULARIZED SOCIETY. The Church, the Body of Christ, is supposed to be that "new community." But we have passively allowed the state to take over much of the community or social aspects of what the Church should be doing. We are often left with only the ritual acts of "worship," baptisms, weddings, and funerals. But the New Testament word for "worship" is "leitourgia" that comes from the practice of serving the community. We have lost much, so there is much territory to be regained.
Our news headline MINISTRY HELPS WITH PRO-LIFE TRAINING IN EAST EUROPEAN COUNTRIES WITH HIGH ABORTION RATES takes you to the article that says - "42 out of every 1,000 women in Eastern Europe had an abortion. In North America, that rate is 17 abortions in every 1,000 women." That's three times as many abortions there as here. One abortion is too many, but for women in Eastern Europe abortion is the only method of birth control they have. Pray for these women and the ministry mentioned in the article!
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The Incarnation Leads to Ministry
The natural and logical result of the Incarnation leads to ministry to the Christian community of faith, as well as to the larger community of the secular society in which we live. And true Christian ministry to the community is based on the agape-love of God toward us, which we then demonstrate toward one another.
There are many "one anothers" in the Bible: "love one another," "forgive one another," "care for one another," "bear one another's burdens." All these point to the fact that when "the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us," when God took on our broken human nature, He restored the broken relationships, the exploitive ways we manipulate each other.
A serious problem developed in Old Testament Israel: the Lord had commanded them to never charge interest from a fellow Jew but they often broke that command, resulting in deep indebtedness and slavery. This form of exploitation was to be eliminated in the New Community, the Christian Church. And Christians should not borrow money: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8). How often do today's Christians break this command?
In the New Community, the Church, the Levitical priesthood was eliminated. In the Old Testament and in Christ's time on earth, the priesthood had become a way to exploit and control Jewish society. How often did Jesus excoriate the priests, scribes, and Pharisees! But in the Church we are all "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9). When a believer is baptized and chrismated into the Church, that person is also tonsured as a priest.
Of course, there are different gifts: some are called to be bishops, evangelists, pastors, or teachers - "to equip the saints to do the work of ministering to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature, perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13). The goal for all Christians - not just the clergy or a few saints - is to reflect the fullness of Christ's glory.
The Incarnation of Christ led Him to "empty Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8-9). Christ's servant-nature is an example for us: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (verse 5).
We have freedom in Christ, being freed from our selfish sinful nature, but freedom doesn't mean we can do whatever we want: "For you, brothers, were called to freedom. Only don't use your freedom as an excuse to gratify the flesh, but serve one another through love" (Galatians 5:13).
The Greek word for "ministry" in the New Testament is "diakonia" - it also means service or serving. A good expression of this is "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). This doesn't mean, however, that some people should just lean back and let others carry the load: "But let each man test his own work, and then he will take pride in himself and not in his neighbor. For each man will bear his own burden" (verses 4-5).
St. Paul wrote - "But we exhort you, brothers, that you abound more and more; and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we charged you; that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing" (1 Thes. 4:10b-12).
Also, "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: 'If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.' For we hear of some who walk among you in rebellion, who don't work at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are that way, we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread" (2 Thes. 3:10-12). Those who refuse to work, St. Paul says, are rebelling against God's established order of things. If they needlessly rely on "charity" they are in effect stealing someone else's bread.
The classic passage some Christians quote against works is - "for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). But from the context. it should be clear that St. Paul is referring to the ritual works of the Mosaic Law.
Some Christians, though, conveniently leave out the very next verse - "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them" (verse 10). In the same letter, St. Paul goes on to write - "Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need" (Ephesians 4:28).
God is not an arbitrary tyrant, choosing some to be saved no matter what they do, and others to be damned in spite of their being good people. He is a loving God Who rewards good and punishes evil - "For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). If there is no free will to choose good or evil, then there is no moral responsibility for sin and no reward for being good. God Incarnate, Christ the Living Word, calls us to live responsibly, to love our fellow believers, and to serve one another in love.
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Please remember to pray for Christians in Socialist countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.