Ukrainian Catholic leader shares favorites, faith in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — When young Ukrainian Catholics asked the church’s major archbishop to name his favorite book of the Bible, he did not hesitate: the Gospel of St. John.

Why?

“First — shortest one,” laughed 42-year-old Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine. Then, he added more seriously, “With those few words, he speaks so profoundly.”

Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych talks to young Manitobans at St. Nicholas Church in Winnipeg Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Courtesy Synod 2012)

“Favorites” was among question topics that young people from Manitoba submitted for the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to answer during a visit to St. Nicholas Parish Sept. 7. Posed in the form of Tweets and projected onto a screen in front of the church, the questions followed a service to honor Blessed Nykyta Budka, the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop who arrived in Canada 100 years ago.

The Q and A was sprinkled with theology, personal stories and laughter. The Eastern church’s youngest bishop — and elected leader — has made a commitment to meet with young people every chance he gets.

“It’s not so easy to be young,” he told those present with a laugh, but later, he told them, “I promise that I will hear you.”

One question reflected a young person’s concern about where he fit into the church, since he did not speak Ukrainian and neither did his parents.

“This is not a church of Ukrainians, it’s a church of Christ,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “We are a global church. We are a church of the Ukrainian tradition.”

Asked how he felt in March 2011 when, as a 40-year-old he was elected head of the largest Eastern church in communion with Rome, he told the young people, “I was scared to death.

“I was scared because of the huge responsibility,” he said. “I was supposed to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I was encouraged by the bishops,” he added. “They said, ‘God will help you.’”

The archbishop was in Canada not only to visit, but to preside over the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops, which officially began Sept. 8 with participants taking at synod oath. The synod was scheduled to conclude Sept. 16.

Synod crunch time: amending final proposals

(CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — The Synod of Bishops for the Middle East has hit the crunch point.

This morning, the 185 voting members were given the first draft of the “propositions” in Arabic, French, English and Italian. The final proposals will be given to Pope Benedict XVI as suggestions for use in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation. 

There are 41 different proposals in the first draft; they are the result of a multilingual committee sifting through and consolidating the 194 propositions submitted by the small working groups. 

The fact that the committee worked until 2 a.m. on putting the list together and translating each proposal means they have to be forgiven for missing a few things — even if they’re big things — said Maronite Archbishop Paul Nabil Sayah of Haifa, Israel. 

Winnowing through 194 ideas submitted in either French, Arabic or English and translating them all into four languages overnight is a great achievement, “so we can be lenient,” the archbishop said. 

The first thing his small group did this morning, he said, was list the items that inadvertently got left out. Surprisingly, because so many synod members mentioned them as essential to the church’s work and mission, Catholic schools were not the topic of one of the 41 draft proposals. Also missing, he said, were references to young people and youth ministry, to laity in general and to the social work and medical care offered by the church in the region. 

The bishops are back in their small groups working on amendments to the 41 proposals. They are scheduled to vote Saturday on the final version to give to Pope Benedict. 

Then the real work begins, Archbishop Sayah told reporters at a briefing today. “Ultimately what matters is what we bring to our people and how it impacts their lives day to day.”

Archbishop Gregory’s address at synod for Africa

SYNOD

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta takes his seat at the opening session of the Synod of Bishops for Africa in the synod hall at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta spoke before the Synod of Bishops for Africa Oct. 5. The Vatican released the full text of his remarks today:

“I welcome this opportunity to summarize the importance that this Second Synod for Africa holds for the church in the United States of America. We Americans find ourselves increasingly drawn in by issues and events that occur on the African continent. We, like people everywhere, feel ever more acutely the impact of the intensifying global character of our world.

First and foremost, we praise Almighty God for the gift of the One Faith that binds the church in the United States to all of the other churches throughout the world.

Our Catholic community has benefited directly during the past generation from a growing number of clergy and religious from the great African continent who now serve Catholics throughout our nation and who serve them generously and zealously. We know though their presence of the deep faith and generosity of the church in Africa.

The church in the USA is also deeply grateful for the opportunity to assist the local churches in Africa, through the support of Catholic Relief Services, by the many ad varied missionary cooperative ventures that spring from the generous heart of our people and frequently bind diocese to diocese and parish to parish in mutual prayer, financial assistance, and by personal contacts.

I am happy and proud to report that agencies within the United States Conference of catholic Bishops have a long history of working with the Episcopal Conferences and associations of Episcopal Conferences on the American continent in the pursuit of peace and justice. These are very positive signs in which the church in my country and the church in the countries of Africa have engaged each other in the work of evangelization and social outreach and thus have rendered the theme for this Synod “In Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace” an important reminder of how the church in the USA and the church in African are conjoined in faith and in charity.

Yet we know that we can merely say in the words of St. Luke’s Gospel, “We have done only what we ought to have done” [Lk 17:10b]. We recognize that the greatest resource that the church in Africa has are its people. The church in the USA continues to benefit from those people from Africa who recently have come as visitors and new residents to our shores. These new arrivals come, not like those of an earlier moment in time, wearing chains and as human chattel, but as skilled workers, professionally trained businessmen, and students eager to make a new life in a land that they view as promising. Many of these new peoples bring with them a profound and dynamic Catholic faith with its rich spiritual heritage. These wonderful people challenge us to rediscover our own spiritual traditions that so often are set aside because of the influence of our secular pursuits.

While my own nation has made outstanding and blessed progress in our own struggle for racial reconciliation and justice, we have not yet achieved that perfection to which the Gospel summons all humanity. We also need to achieve reconciliation, justice, and peace in our own land until as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writing from a jail in Birmingham, Alabama paraphrased the Prophet Amos and we see the ultimate fulfillment of our great potential and [5:24] “Let justice roll down like the waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”

 This great land of Africa has many other resources that the world today lusts for and at times pursues with ravishing greed and frequent violence. Your resources are a blessing for this planet that can be used to bring not only prosperity to the peoples of Africa but properly viewed bring a sense of the oneness of the earth and the interconnectedness that people everywhere have when we wisely use the natural resources that God has placed in our hands as a common patrimony.

I am deeply grateful to our Holy Father for inviting me to engage my brother bishops from the African continent and to learn from them some of their hopes, struggles, and dreams and to share with them the deep affection and respect of the church in the United States of America.”

An opening on women lectors?

VATICAN CITY — Probably the most newsy — and somewhat unexpected — item in the final propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the Bible was a proposal to allow women to be officially installed in the ministry of lector.

The issue was raised in Proposition 17 on “The ministry of the word and women,” and on Saturday morning it passed with 191 votes in favor, 45 opposed and three abstentions, according to our sources.

“It is hoped that the ministry of lector be opened also to women, so that their role as proclaimers of the word may be recognized in the Christian community,” the proposition states in its final sentence.

What Pope Benedict XVI will do with that proposal is unclear, according to Vatican people I spoke with shortly after the synod vote.

The issue, of course, is not whether women can act as lectors, or Scripture readers, in Catholic liturgies. They already do so all over the world, including at papal Masses.

The question is whether women can be officially installed in such a ministry. Until now, the Vatican has said no: canon law states that only qualified lay men can be “installed on a stable basis in the ministries of lector and acolyte.” At the same time, canon law does allow for “temporary deputation” as lector to both men and women, which is why women routinely appear as lectors.

The reasoning behind church law’s exclusion of women from these official ministries has long been questioned. For centuries, the office of lector was one of the “minor orders,” generally reserved to seminarians approaching ordination. While seminarians still are installed formally as “acolyte” and then as “lector”  before being ordained deacons, since the 1970s service at the altar and proclaiming the readings at Mass have been seen primarily as ministries stemming from baptism and not specifically as steps toward ordination.

“It’s important to emphasize that any proposition for women lectors would simply arise from their baptism and not from any presumptive opening for orders,” said one Vatican source.

The synod took up the question because some have suggested that in promoting greater scriptural preparation and presentation, the church designate “ministers of the word.” Lectors were seen as natural candidates.

It’s interesting that this proposal, while passing overwhemlingly, drew the greatest number of “no” votes than any of the other 54 propositions, most of which passed with fewer than five opposing votes.

After the synod, how will you use your Bible?

Now that the world Synod of Bishops has said that Catholics should each own — and use — a Bible, what ideas can you give for all of us to accomplish that in our busy lives? Just open and fill out the comments form below. (Comments are moderated for spam, etc., but, if you stay on topic, yours will eventually show up.)

Brother Guy

Brother Guy

P.S.: Hope you’re following our Bible Blog in conjunction with the synod. And if you’re not, make sure you come back here next week. (Though the synod will be over, the Bible Blog will continue.) Our next guest blogger will be Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has been associated with the Vatican Observatory since 1993. He’ll write about how stars are mentioned in the Bible and other questions about our universe and God’s creation. Don’t miss it!

Women in the Bible

Deborah, Mary Magdalene and Esther are depicted in stained-glass windows.(CNS/Crosiers)

Deborah, Mary Magdalene and Esther are depicted in stained-glass windows.(CNS/Crosiers)

Don’t miss our feature, just posted this afternoon on our synod page, on women in the Bible. As the story notes, numerous women from the Old and New Testaments appear in the Bible as inspiring examples of faith and leadership.

This was only one piece in a series of stories we offered to our clients in connection with this month’s world Synod of Bishops in Rome. Scroll down the synod page for news from the gathering and other stories we wrote highlighting the importance of the Bible in the life of the church.

And don’t miss the continuing installments in our Bible blog. Coming next week: Luke.

CNS Bible Blog: Ruth, Chapter 2 – Love and integrity

By Uta Sievers
Special to Catholic News Service

I sat down with the Book of Ruth and started reading Chapter 2. Following what is described as an Ignatian method for reading and praying with the Scriptures, I imagine myself as a character in the story.

I am Boaz. The potent one. I know who I am, I know what I have. I count my blessings and give thanks to God every day. But I am not young anymore and I have been waiting for something to happen. When I watch over my slaves, I pray. When I walk my fields, when I touch my gold, I pray. Sometimes I gently ask, sometimes I howl in pain and longing, sometimes I whisper under my breath, sometimes I rage in frustration. I am asked to wait; the time will come.

She is not a girl anymore. She arrived yesterday and I already know everything about her. Ruth had been married for 10 years. Now she is widowed. What she has done makes my heart beat faster: left everything out of love for her mother-in-law. She is a passionate one. One who follows a dream. Maybe the foreigners’ dreams are bigger than ours. How far have I ever walked for a dream?

Someone will have to marry her, that’s the law. It will be a bit of a haggle since I’m not first in line. She is on offer, though, and I can be the buyer.

I get all confused when she takes the initative. She just lies there at my feet at night, offering freely what I thought I had to buy dearly. I tremble. Then I remember how she said, when we first met: “You have comforted me with your consoling words; would indeed that I were a servant of yours!”

Does she feel what I feel? Or is she doing what she has to do to get a husband, any husband? How will I ever know?

As I step out of the story, I pray for all those who have to do whatever it takes to get by. Who find themselves in situations and systems not of their own making, and still make the best of it. That they may find love and understanding, and keep their integrity.

CNS Bible Blog: Ruth, Chapter 1 – Guided by a dream

By Uta Sievers
Special to Catholic News Service

Today, I sat down with the Book of Ruth and started reading Chapter 1. Using a method for reading and praying with the Scriptures that is attributed to St Ignatius Loyola, I took a step inside the story.

I am Ruth. I went with my mother-in-law Naomi and never looked back.

It was an easy decision for me. It was much harder for her to accept my decision. I love her and always will. There is no sacrifice in this decision for me. I feel closer to her than I have ever felt to my own mother; I love her more than my life. Naomi and I, we walk hand-in-hand, even though we might not touch each other. We brave the desert storms. We have the same direction: her people, who — through my love for her — are my own people. Her God is my God.

(CNS photo by Cindy Wooden)

(CNS photo by Cindy Wooden)

Naomi isn’t always the easiest woman to be with, especially since her whole family died in Moab. She has been taking this as a sign that God is unhappy with her, but I think that’s not true. I’m sure God just had other plans for her. That’s as far as I know him, this God. The strong one. The one who saves. The one who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. The one who has dreams for us. I am following one of those dreams. I have always been the dreamer in our family, my husband never really understood that. But his God did. Praying to the God of Israel felt easier than praying to our gods in Moab. So I followed Naomi to be with a people that knew their God, a people who had met him, personally. Apart from praying with them, I also have to find work there. And possibly a husband. Someone with my kind of spirituality would be nice.

As I step out of the story, I pray for all those who leave everything behind, guided only by a dream.

CNS Bible Blog: Judith 12-13 – A woman serving God

By Uta Sievers
Special to Catholic News Service

Continuing with the Book of Judith, I focused on Chapter 12 and Chapter 13. Using the method of praying with Scripture known as Ignatian contemplation (or Ignatian imagining), I continued to read and pray, imagining myself as Judith.

As I step into Holofernes’ tent, all eyes are on me. I lie down for the banquet and General Holofernes, supreme commander of 170,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry, looks enraptured. I rejoice inwardly, as this is exactly the state I need him in to execute my plan. I do my best to fire his imagination, sending him flirtatious glances, smiles, gestures, while he is getting more and more drunk. For some reason, I’m deeply enjoying this game – with the two of us expecting completely different rewards from it. My God has a fine sense of humor. I sigh in sadness as I remember the looks I used to get from my husband, Manasses. Oh, how I still miss him. He would thoroughly approve of my being here.

I’m a little nervous. Holofernes, so drunk that he has passed out, is lying on his bed, right in front of me. The moment has come. I gather myself, I gather my years on the rooftop of my house, years spent in prayer and fasting, spent soaking up energy for this moment. I grab his sword with both hands and whisper: “God of life, God of Israel, one man has to die so that your people can survive and remember your Holy Name for generations to come. Guide my hands.” Then I strike with all my strength.

I stand there, my still muscles shaking from the effort, while my whole being is taking in what I have just done. What God has just done. Using a woman, the beauty of a woman. I am amazed. Men can’t do that, end a war. They have to retaliate, they have to keep going, an eye for an eye. But through the beauty of a woman, God can end wars. Oh, the joy! Now quick, let me take his head and get out of here. My Israelites have to be told about the greatness of God!

As I step out of the story, I pray for the unique gifts of women, that they may be appreciated and cultivated every day in the church and elsewhere.

Pope Benedict as Bible blogger?

VATICAN CITY — The Synod of Bishops on the Bible heard an unusual suggestion Tuesday morning when a Hong Kong observer asked Pope Benedict to start up his own daily blog on Scripture.

Agnes Kam Leng Lam, president of the Catholic Biblical Association of Hong Kong, said people need to experience Scripture in small but significant doses.

“To put it in a nutshell, I’d like to suggest to you Holy Father to start a multi-language blog to shepherd today’s world by scriptural verses, daily verses,” she said on the synod floor. The pope’s blog should include simple reflections that relate Scripture to real-life situations, she said.

Lam included advice that’s probably good for any blogger: “Remember, brief texts, Holy Father, and plentiful images, and this will be very attractive to the young generation and to today’s people.”

The talk apparently provoked a positive reaction and some laughter, but the pope, who was presiding over the Oct. 5-26 assembly, didn’t say whether he’d be blogging anytime soon.

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