FaithWorld

Turkey reopening ancient Armenian church to heal wounds

akdamar 1 (Photos: The Church of the Holy Cross, Akdamar Island, 27 June 2010/Umit Bektas)

Swallows dart around the dome of the 10th century Armenian church rising from Akdamar Island set amid the turquoise waters of Lake Van.  Tombstones with ancient Christian inscriptions and crosses lie scattered among the weeds in the garden, where day-trippers picnic in the shade of almond trees and sunbathe after a swim.

The serenity of the scene belies a traumatic past that haunts Turkey and Armenia to this day.  The Church of the Holy Cross, which is now a state museum, has become a symbol of a tortuous reconciliation process as Turkey prepares to open the site on Sept. 19 for a one-day religious service that could become an annual event.

“This church is very important for Armenians, not only in Turkey, but across the world,” said Archbishop Aram Ateshian, a spiritual leader from Turkey’s surviving Armenian community.  “For decades, we could not say mass or have a religious service because it was forbidden by the government.”

Often criticised in the West for its treatment of Christian minorities, Ankara has promoted the mass as proof of commitment to tolerance. Critics say the one-day service is a public relations campaign to improve EU candidate’s Turkey’s image.

Read the full story here.

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Vatican official visits Cuba amid local Catholic Church calls for change

cuban prisonerVatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominque Mamberti visits Cuba this week at a time when the Catholic Church is flexing its political muscle and calling for change on the communist-led island.  His five-day visit, starting on Tuesday, follows the release of one of Cuba’s estimated 190 political prisoners and the transfer of 12 others to jails closer to their homes in moves requested by church leaders.

The concessions by the Cuban government have raised hopes that more prisoners will be freed in a gesture to Mamberti, who is the third Vatican official to come to Cuba since Raul Castro succeeded older brother Fidel Castro as president in 2008. (Photo: Released prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya carried out of an ambulance at his residence east of Havana on June 12, 2010/Enrique De La Osa)

The church has moved cautiously over the years, but in recent months Cuban church leader Cardinal Jaime Ortega has become more outspoken.  In a unusually blunt interview with church publication Palabra Nueva (PDF here in Spanish) in April, Ortega said Cubans were fed up with the country’s ongoing economic difficulties and called for the government to “make the necessary changes quickly.”

With new Catholic leader in Hanoi, a breakthrough in sight?

Protesters wave banners in support of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi outside the city's cathedral, 7 May 2010/Nguyen Huy Kham

Hanoi Catholics held a ceremony last Friday to welcome the man who is expected to become their new archbishop, but for many on hand – priests and faithful alike – it was a moment of sadness. There were no flowers at the altar of Hanoi’s 124-year-old cathedral welcoming Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, 72, to the role of coadjutor bishop. Outside on the steps, several dozen people brandished banners in protest of what his papal appointment represented.

It’s not that they had anything personal against Nhon, who is head of Vietnam’s bishops conference and hails from the southern city of Dalat. But Nhon happens to be taking over for Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, 57, an archbishop who stood up to local Communist authorities by backing church groups embroiled in land disputes with the government in recent years.

Catholic Church at crossroads in Milwaukee over abuse charges

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Sexual abuse victims meet journalists outside the Cousin's Center, owned by the Milwaukee Archdiocese in St. Francis, Wisconsin March 25, 2010/Allen Fredrickson

Stung by fresh charges of priestly sexual abuse and allegations of a cover-up that reach the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States faces a crisis of empty pews and empty coffers.

Attendance was down noticeably at some Easter Sunday services in Milwaukee, reflecting the litany of troubles facing the U.S. Church and a torrent of criticism over its handling of abuse cases.

Irish cardinal ashamed over abuse cases — will he resign or not?

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Cardinal Seán Brady after Mass in Armagh, 17 March 2010/Cathal McNaughton

Cardinal Seán Brady, the Patriarch of Ireland, said at his St Patrick’s Day Mass that he was “ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in.” This sermon came after days of calls for his resignation after it was revealed that he played a small part in keeping quiet the case of an abusive priest in 1975. Although he said back in December that he would resign if it turned out he had caused any child to suffer, Brady has refused to step down over this case despite loud calls in Ireland for him to do so.

Will he resign?  He got warm support from the congregation after his sermon but victims still want to see him go.  Vatican Radio seems to think he might be going. Its German-language service, which has naturally been following these abuse cases closely because of the scandals in Germany, said that “the Primate of the Irish Church, Cardinal Seán Brady, is apparently thinking about a possible resignation.”

But John Cooney of the Irish Independent writes that “Cardinal Brady’s powerful plea for “a wounded healer” to be allowed “a new beginning”, a bridgehead towards making the church a safe environment for children, was a clear signal of his determination to stay in office.”

VIDEO: Rescuers recover body of Haiti archbishop killed in quake

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A Mexican rescuer wipes tears as he stands guard with team members beside body of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot recovered from the ruins of Port-au-Prince cathedral on 19 Jan 2010/Wolfgang Rattay

A Mexican rescue team has recovered the lifeless body of the Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince from the rubble of his residence a week after the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti. Here’s the Reuters video report:

We ran several pictures of the city’s ruined cathedral here.

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New Catholic archbishop of Brussels raises hackles in Belgium

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Archbishop Léonard and Cardinal Danneels at news conference in Brussels 18 Jan 2010/Thierry Roge

The long-awaited announcement of the successor to the retiring Catholic archbishop of Brussels, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, has sparked an unusual outcry in Belgium. The new archbishop, André-Mutien Léonard, is sometimes called  “the Belgian Ratzinger” for his conservative views. Danneels ranks as one of the last liberal prelates in a Church hierarchy that has turned increasingly traditional under Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict.

Léonard has been a controversial figure in Belgium for his critical stands on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and condom use. He has been an outspoken opponent of abortion and euthanasia, both of which are legal in Belgium, and criticised the Catholic universities of Leuven and Louvain for their research into assisted reproduction and embryonic stem cells.

Port-au-Prince RC cathedral in ruins after Haiti earthquake

Our photographers in Haiti have produced many sad images of the widespread death and destruction from Tuesday’s massive earthquake, some of which are collected in a slideshow here.  Following are shots of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince in ruins.  Among the dead in the quake was Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, who the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano reported was found lifeless “under the rubble of the archbishop’s residence.”

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(Credits: Kena Betancur, Kena Betancur, Jorge Silva, Eduardo Munoz, Reuters TV)

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