Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I pray in Istanbul for unity between Churches  

Posted by Heisan

Istanbul, Nov. 29, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Istanbul this afternoon and prayed with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Patriarchal Church of St. George. The two leaders offered conciliatory words and mentioned the steps in ecumenism already taken by their predecessors.

Following a short welcome in the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew processed into the gilded church amongst a pack of prelates, photographers, and security forces and to the continuous ringing of bells.

The two took their place at the head of the Church as Orthodox cantors intoned traditional Christian prayers. Following the ceremony Bartholomew formally welcomed the Pope to Istanbul, “with sincere joy and satisfaction.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch recalled the tremendous significance the city of Constantinople/Istanbul has had in the life of the Church, as well as the previous visits of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to his Orthodox predecessors. “We are, both of us, as their successors and as successors to the Thrones of Rome and New Rome equally accountable for the steps - just, of course, as we are for any missteps - along the journey and in our struggle to obey the command of our Lord, that His disciples ‘may be one,’” Patriarch Bartholomew said.

“It was in this spirit, too,” Bartholomew reminded, “that we traveled to Rome only months later to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul.”

“We are deeply grateful to God that Your Holiness has taken similar steps today in the same spirit,” Patriarch said to the Pope. “We offer thanks to God in doxology and express thanks also to Your Holiness in fraternal love.

“Beloved Brother, welcome,” Bartholomew concluded, “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord."

Following the Patriarch’s words Pope Benedict offered his own, using Bartholomew’s fraternal welcome as a starting point and beginning his with a line from the 133rd Psalm, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity" (Ps 133:1).

The Pope also began his remarks by recalling the various steps already taken in reconciling the two Churches. “I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054,” the Holy Father said, referring to the act by which Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras removed the mutual excommunications of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople - excommunications which signaled the final break between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Benedict noted that the joint declaration of Paul VI and Athenagoras, “written in a spirit of rediscovered love,” in 1965 was read in a celebration held simultaneously in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George.

“It is on this foundation of mutual love that new relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have developed,” the Pope added.

The Holy Father also noted the deep history of the Church of Constantinople and the,
“rich harvest of martyrs, theologians, pastors, monastics, and holy men and women which those Churches brought forth over the centuries.”

“May this meeting,” Pope Benedict concluded, “strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the Churches.”

Following their remarks the two prelates reverenced the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory of Nanzianzus. Both Saints had served as Bishops to the Church of Constantinople and are revered by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

During his remarks, Patriarch Bartholomew mentioned the relics and noting the step taken by Pope John Paul II to return the relics to the possession of the Patriarchy. The relics had been carried to Rome during the Fourth Crusade.

Bishops loyal to the Pope detained, forced to take part in unlawful ordination...  

Posted by Heisan

29 November, 2006

Bishops who refuse to disobey the Holy See are forced by hook and crook to take part in unlawful ordinations. The latest candidate to the bishopric is in complete isolation and cannot even be reached by phone. Government is promising huge sums of money for bishops ordinations but then fails to pay up.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Two bishops in Hebei province have been detained to force them to take part in the ordination of a bishop tomorrow in Xuzhou (Jiangsu) without the permission of the Holy See. The two bishops belong to the official Church but their ordinations were approved by the Vatican. They are Mgr Peter Feng Xinmao, ordained on January 3, 2004, as bishop coadjutor of Hengshui, and Mgr Li Liangui of Cangzhou (Xianxian), ordained in March 2000.

Source in Hebei told AsiaNews that the two bishops were driven away by officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau, ostensibly to check on some Church property in Hebei confiscated by the state in the past and that the two dioceses want back.

Instead of going to property’s location, the car went straight to Xuzhou where they are to be forced to take part in the ordination of Wang Renlei, scheduled for tomorrow morning at 8 am. At present it is impossible to get in touch with the them.

Other bishops expected to take part in the ceremony are in isolation and subjected to physical and psychological pressures. They are Mgr Joseph Zhao Fengchang, bishop of Liaocheng (Shandong) and Mgr Joseph Xu Honggen, bishop of Suzhou. They were both ordained with the permission of the Holy See.

Detaining bishops under duress is becoming the Chinese government’s only way to get bishops to attend unlawful ordinations (i.e. without Holy See’s blessing), because pastors in China’s official Church have stopped ordaining and are refusing to be ordained in the official Church without the Vatican’s permission.

Back in April and May, two ordinations were made in Kunming (Yunnan) and Wuhu (Anhui). At that time as well ordaining bishops were tricked into performing the ritual since they were told that the ordination had received the Holy See’s permission.

However, the Holy See responded with a clear statement denouncing the fact that “bishops and priests were subjected to duress by bodies foreign to the Church in order to get them to take part in Episcopal ordinations”

Even tomorrow’s candidate, Fr Wang Renlei, is in total isolation and cannot be reached by phone. Hong Kong sources said that he was isolated to prevent him from communicating with anyone from the Holy See.

Vatican sources noted that they are still hoping that tomorrow’s ordination might not happen even though it would difficult to stop it since everything is ready for the go-ahead. Even the booklets for the ceremony have been prepared with the future bishop’s logo (the sun, the moon and the dove) and motto (“Let us manifest the glory of God”) already printed in them. In the pledge the bishop will have to swear allegiance to the Chinese constitution, safeguard national unity and commit himself to building a Socialist society.

It is also alleged that government authorities have pledged six million yuan (€ 600,000, US$ 760,000) to cover the ceremony’s expenses, a huge sum for a diocese of 20,000 people, but which might be used for works in the diocese.

However, the government had promised large sums of money at the time of the ordinations in Kunming and Wuhu but has not yet paid up.

Taken from
Let us all pray for the persecuted Church in China who wants to remain loyal to the Holy Father and the Church despite the odds of being jailed and put in a forced labor as a matter of State sanctioned discipline to deter allegiance to Rome.

Issues for the papal visit to Turkey  

Posted by Heisan

Spero News
Issues for the papal visit to Turkey
A Turkish delight: Pope Benedict will not only have encounter with Orthodox Christianity, but also a so-called secular state that suppresses religion and religious minorities.

Sunday, November 26, 2006
Diego Contreras

The seventy-two hours Pope Benedict XVI will spend in Turkey, from November 28 until December 1, will mean not only a dialogue between Christianity and Islam, but also a step towards bettering relations with Orthodox Christianity. The pope’s visit will focus a spotlight on the Christian minority in Turkey. The papal visit will serve to focus world attention on Turkey as it attempts to burnish its international image and integrate itself with the European Union.

The Patriarch of Constantinople (of the city Turks call Istanbul), Bartholomew I, renewed an invitation to Benedict XVI that he had issued to John Paul II during a visit to Rome in June 2004. In reality, the pope’s trip had been planned for November 30, 2005. However, because the invitation had come from the patriarch, the local Turkish authorities were ill-disposed. Besides, the climate was less than serene. Still in the air were certain statements made by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in the French newspaper “Le Figaro” in which he pointed out the effective lack of religious freedom in Turkey, among other things. The government of Turkey preferred to emit an invitation to the “head of the Vatican State” to visit the following year.

While the underlying reason for the visit is the encounter with Bartholomew I at the seat of the patriarchate, the ecumenical nature of the visit has taken a back seat over the last few weeks. The various media have focused, on the one hand, on tensions with Islam that emerged from the pope’s speech at the University of Regensburg, Germany, in which the pontiff recalled the words of Manuel Paleologos – Emperor of the defunct Byzantine Empire.

On the other hand, there are the prickly relations between the Holy See and the government of Turkey, symbolized by the absence of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will be traveling to Europe for a meeting of NATO (however, Erdogan will greet the pope on the final day of the visit). The Holy See was informed many months ago of Erdogan’s absence.

A number of newspapers – writing with a good dose of exaggeration – have spoke of the “flight” of political figures before the papal visit, while also citing the eclipse of the Turkish Minister of Religious Affairs and of Istanbul’s municipal mayor. In any event, the visit (which, after all, is a state occasion) will be handled by the President of the Turkish republic, Ahmet Necder Sezer.

Ecumenism and personal relations

The defining moment of this fifth international trip by Benedict XVI will be the signing of a joint declaration with the Patriarch on November 30, the feast of St. Andrew – the patron saint of the Orthodox Church. The contents of the joint declaration are still unknown, but it is expected to go a long way towards improving relations between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The pope will also undertake a symbolic gesture: the unveiling of a plaque in memory of the three pontiffs who have visited the see of the Patriarch: Paul VI, in 1967; John Paul II, in 1979; the current Benedict XVI; and Cardinal Angelo Roncalli as papal nuncio to Turkey, who became Pope John XXIII. This is a detail that shows that personal relations have improved substantially over the last few decades, despite obstacles to institutional dialogue. In this regard, Patriarch Bartholomew recently revealed that his personal testimony will be included in the process of beatifying Pope John Paul II. This is, possibly, an event without precedent.

That some hard feelings may arise on the part of some of the other Orthodox churches cannot be denied: the Russian church in particular. Among these, the Patriarch of Constantinople is first in dignity, but not in fact. He is not “the Orthodox Pope.”

The importance of the Patriarch of Constantinople grew, paradoxically, during Ottoman rule which gave the patriarch jurisdiction over all Orthodox faithful living under Muslim rule (even at the same time that the influence of the other historic patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria waned in influence). But this subjection to Ottoman power, which implied a loss of autonomy, meant the provoking of autocephalous movements: it was thus that were born the Orthodox churches of Russia (1589), Greece (1833), Bulgaria (1870), and Albania (1937).

Christians: a vanishing minority

The number of Christians in what is now Turkey was greater at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was probably about 30% of the total population. But it was two dramatic events that were to almost completely exterminate them: the genocide of the Armenians (perpetrated by the Young Turks, who were more Masonic in inspiration than Muslim) and the exchange of Greeks and Turks that was sanctioned by the 1923 Treaty of Laussane. Therefore, the 1927 census counted 900,000 Christians or 7.5 percent of a total population of 12 millions.

Nowadays, Christians number approximately 50,000 of a total population of 72 million people in Turkey. The most numerous (about 100,000) are Armenian Orthodox. The Greek Orthodox, who are under the Patriarch Bartholomew, number about 5,000. There are also Syrian Orthodox, a few hundred Nestorians, and several thousands of Protestant Christians. Catholics of the Armenian, Latin, Chaldean, and Greek Catholic rites, number about 32,000.

Historical Memory

The above numbers indicate that the presence of Christianity in Turkey is in danger of becoming an antique curiosity. This is a very somber reality, given that this is land where eight ecumenical councils were held (Ephesus, Nicea, and Constantinople, among others). It was the native land of St. Paul and the backdrop for his preaching. It was also where the lives of other saints played out, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch and the Martyrs of Sebaste. It was where the followers of Christ were first called ‘Christians’.

Christian heritage is fast disappearing. The shrinking number of Christians has been concomitant with the suppression of their places for worship. Almost all historic Christian churches are now museums, mosques, schools, or simple garages or granaries.

The contrast is notable especially on the island of Cyprus, the eastern sector of which has been occupied by Turkish forces since 1974 even while the other sector, mostly Greek, is a member-state of the European Union. In the part of Cyprus occupied by Turkey, there were once 250 Christian places of worship: today there are only four open.

The president of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, presented Pope Benedict XVI with very detailed photographic documentation of the situation. He emphasized that, unlike the Turkish sector, his government has actually maintained the Muslim heritage of the island having restored even the mosques. The November 10 meeting between the pontiff and the Cypriot president was deemed “a provocation” by the Turkish government.

Keeping the Faith

The depiction of Christianity’s plight in Turkey would be incomplete without alluding to another reality: the determination of many people to preserve the testimony of the Christian faith. This is in regard to the Christian communities that are surrounded by Muslim majorities. For example, there is the case of three Italian religious women who live in Tarsus, the native city of St. Paul. Ten years ago, they rented a small apartment where they have a small chapel. Twice each year, January 25 and June 29, there is celebrated a Mass in honor of St. Paul in what is now a church-museum. Attending the liturgy are Catholics of various rites who come from the southern part of Turkey.

Also visible in Turkey is the charitable work twenty-four Christian and Muslim volunteers of CARITAS – the worldwide Catholic humanitarian organization – to which many flocked after the disastrous earth tremors of 1999.

A little-known phenomenon is the community of Crypto-Christians. These are the descendants of Christian families who converted to Islam nearly a century ago in order to avoid humiliation and discrimination for their faith. Some have received catechism and have returned to the faith of their fathers. In any event, it is a reality that is quite circumscribed: in the last five years there have been 400 converts to the Christian faith. The accusations that emerge from time to time that Christians are pushing a proselytism that destabilize the country appear ridiculous.

A mosaic, not a monolith

In February 2006 was the assassination Fr. Andrea Santoro, a Roman Catholic priest from Italy who had lived in Turkey for five years. The young perpetrator of the crime received a sentence of twenty-five years in prison. It appears to have been an isolated deed that received no backing by Turkish politicians or public opinion, although a segment of the Turkish press printed improbable conjectures about possible Mafia ties to the murder. What cannot be denied, nonetheless, is certain anti-Christian propaganda, asserted in Turkish schools, that the Gospels have been manipulated by the papacy.

Despite a monolithic image that it likes to project to outsiders, Turkey is a patchwork of cultures, peoples, and religions. This refers not only to the Kurds. Even within Islam there is a very strong Alawite minority, (Ed. note: an offshoot of Shia Islam; President Assad of Syria is an Alawite) which takes its name from Ali – the cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed. It is calculated that there are 15 to 20 million Alawites. Appearing to outsiders as Sunnis (since non-Sunni Islamic minorities are not recognized), the Alawites follow a syncretistic faith that includes Christian and pre-Islamic elements, and attend their own prayer centers (where women are admitted) rather than mosques.

Secularism: sui generis

Islam has not been the official religion of the Turkish state since 1928. The constitution establishes the equality of all citizens without distinction, and outlaws religious discrimination.

Practical application of its secular principles, nevertheless, appears to be more complicated. The Turkish government supervises Muslim religious activities through its Department of Religious Affairs. The 76,000 Muslim religious leaders (imams who lead prayer) and the 9,700 muezzin who call the faithful from the minarets are employees of the state. Islamic teaching programs are controlled by the government. Religious activities may be carried out only in places of worship.

Another government department, the Office for Foundations, supervises the operations of religious minorities. The Catholic Church has not wanted to submit to this control; it is for this reason that it is not recognized as a religious institution. The Vatican’s ambassador, the papal nuncio, is a private citizen. Places of worship that go unused become property of the state. Since 1970, the Church has been asking for formal and legal recognition.

This is Turkish secularism in practice: it is not a separation of Mosque from State, but a subjugation of Religion to the State. This situation, as well as other reasons, explains why Christians in Turkey are so fervently applauding Turkey’s accession to the European Union: in order to be accepted, Turkey will have to modify its laws in areas such as the freedom of religion.

Translator: Martín M. Barillas

Full Vatican statement on Curia meeting  

Posted by Heisan

Nov. 17 ( - The following is the entire text of a statement released by the Vatican press office regarding the Pope's November 16 meeting with the leaders of the Roman Curia:

In the Apostolic Palace this morning, November 16, the Holy Father presided at one of the regular meetings of the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, for a moment of shared reflection.

The participants in the meeting had at their disposal detailed information concerning requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy presented during recent years, and concerning the possibility of readmission to the exercise of the ministry of priests who currently meet the conditions established by the Church.

The value of the choice of priestly celibacy in accordance with Catholic tradition was reaffirmed, and the need for solid human and Christian formation was underlined, both for seminaries and for ordained priests.

Another firm stand of the Magisterium regarding priestly celibacy. Regarding the controversy on optional celibacy it is only pride and personal satisfaction that motivates those who are pushing for this option. Celibacy if only understood and followed is the most noble and gloriuos offering man can offer to God in His service.
It is the true denial of oneself, the leaving of everything in order to follow the footsteps of our Lord. The road of celibacy as we know is not an easy one it is a task that is not easy, a burden that is not light in the perspective of man, but dear seminarians and priest our Lord said "be not afraid it is I." He is the one that will carry you and will ease your burden and ligthen your load, for you have dedicated yourselves to his service God will provide you the strength you need to continue in that ministry of consecrated life.

News taken from

A short reflection  

Posted by Heisan

You should feel and see the creatures, every creature.

Why take such an interest in a dewdrop appearing on the Virgin's eyelash in a painting, yet not see all the dewdrops of a morning in spring?
Why go miles and miles to see the dubious stigmata on someone or other's hands, yet not move a step to contemplate the sore-covered hands of the poor?
Begin feeling God in creatures. See his beauty in the beauty of the sun as it rises on your human day. Hear his voice in the voice of the brother beside you, trying to communicate with you.
Waste no more time, seeking God in your own fantasies.
Once you realize how miraculous it is that a bee can find the door of its hive, you will feel that God is near you and near your silence.
Try and sing.
For the sky that you have given us, alleluia!
For the sun that you have given us, alleluia!
For the sea that you have given us, alleluia!
For the friends that you have given us, alleluia!
Yes, alleluia, even if the sky is sometimes cloudy.
Alleluia, even if the sun is sometimes scorching
Alleluia if sea is sometimes stormy
Alleluia, even if your friends do not always see eye to eye with you.
All is grace
All is God, loving me.
God is in all, moulding me.
God is in all, making me his son.

(Taken from Carlo Carretto's "Summoned by Love", p60)

Another accusation ?  

Posted by Heisan

15 November, 2006
Turkish nationalist paper accuses Bartholomew and Benedict XVI
The patriarch is accused of monopolising the event’s TV coverage and the Istanbul press room even though the Patriarchate’s involvement in this aspect of the visit’s organisation is due to a lack of interest by Turkish authorities.

Ankara (AsiaNews) – In the latest in a series of actions taken by Turkey’s religious-nationalist camp against the visit by the Pontiff to that country on November 28-December 1, a photo is travelling the net showing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Pope Benedict XVI with the caption saying: “The alliance between the two Christian leaders attacks Islam”.

Tercüman, a nationalist daily, has gone a step further and published the photo on its front page. In large fonts, the title and subtitle respectively say: “Here is Sir Patriarch” and “He attacked Turkey’s power by allowing the Hilton Hotel to be turned into a church for journalists coming for the Pope.”

In the article, the paper denigrates the Ecumenical Patriarch accusing him of being “power-hungry”, daring to “bypass for a second time” the Turkish government by imposing the invitation to the Pope and his visit.

Two years ago Bartholomew I personally invited the Pope to Turkey for the Feast Day of St Andrew (November 30). The Turkish government did not join its (necessary) invitation to that made by the Patriarch until this year.

The Turkish paper accuses the Patriarch of wanting to create a “state within a state”, but most seriously charges Bartholomew I of giving exclusive worldwide TV rights to the Patriarchate itself (hence to Greek channels). To make matters worse, all telephone and internet lines will depend on the Patriarchate, not the Turkish state. This means that the Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM) will be excluded and have no say in the matter.

In fact, the article’s author writes that even Turkish news media will have to get accreditation with the Patriarchate and use the services made available to them in a press room, set up for the occasion in Istanbul’ Hotel Hilton by the Patriarchate itself.

For many Turks this represents a loss of authority, whilst for the Greek Orthodox patriarch it is a matter of freedom.

By contrast, sources in Rome say off the record that if there is anyone to blame it is Turkish TV which decided not to cover the papal visit and so left the organisation to others. The same is true for the press room which Turkish authorities chose not to set up. Hence in both Ankara and Ephesus, the first two stops in Benedict XVI’s visit, there will be no press room. The one in Istanbul is being set up by the Patriarchate.

Following the controversy over the Pope’s Regensburg speech and the false interpretations given to it, tensions had seemingly died down.

In fact, in Turkey many newspapers explained to the population that the Pope’s security will be provided by Turkish police and law enforcement agencies.
This is taken from

Who is power hungry then? The Patriarch who wants to welcome his fellow Bishops and brother in the Christian faith or the Turkish government and the so called nationalist who wants a good image of Turkey for their European Union inclusion campaign. It is just right and fitting for the Patriarch to do in welcoming his fellow Bishop and brother. Isn't it?

Information on religious freedom in Qatar!  

Posted by Heisan

So far this the source I have gathered re on how religious freedom was introduced and implemented here in Qatar. This is taken from International Religious Freedom Report Home Page  of the US Department of State website.

"International Religious Freedom Report 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The constitution provides for freedom of worship in accordance with the law and the requirements of protecting the public system and public behavior; however, the Government continues to prohibit proselytizing by non-Muslims and places some restrictions on public worship. The state religion is Islam, as interpreted by the strictly conservative Wahhabi order of the Sunni branch.

The status of respect for religious freedom improved somewhat during the reporting period. The constitution explicitly provides for freedom of worship, including the adoption of laws that provide for the freedom of association and public assembly. On April 25-27 2006, the country held its fourth conference on interfaith dialogue. In April 2006, construction began on the first Christian church to be built since the coming of Islam. The Government regulates the publication, importation, and distribution of all religious books and materials. However, in practice, individuals and religious institutions were not prevented from importing holy books and other religious items for personal or congregational use.

The generally amicable relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total land area of approximately 4,254 square miles and its population is an estimated 900,000, of whom approximately 200,000 are believed to be citizens. Of the citizen population, Shi'a Muslims accounted for approximately 10 percent and Sunni Muslims 90 percent. The majority of the estimated 600,000 noncitizens were individuals from South and Southeast Asian and Arab countries working on temporary employment contracts, along with their accompanying family members in some cases. They belonged to the following religious groups: Sunni and Shi'a Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baha'is. Most foreign workers and their families lived near the major employment centers of Doha, Al Khor, Messaeed, and Dukhan.

The Christian community is composed of Indians, Sri Lankans, Filipinos, Africans, Europeans, Arabs, and Americans. It includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Anglican, and other Protestant denominations. The Hindu community is almost exclusively Indian, while Buddhists include South, Southeast, and East Asians. Most Baha'is come from Iran. Religion is not indicated on national identity cards and passports, nor is it a criterion for citizenship according to the Nationality Law. However, nearly all Qatari citizens were by definition either Sunni or Shi'a Muslims, except for a Syrian Christian and a few Baha'is and their respective families who were granted citizenship.

No foreign missionary groups operate openly in the country.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of worship in accordance with the law and the requirements of protecting society and public behavior. However, the Government continued to prohibit proselytizing by non-Muslims and placed some restrictions on public worship. The state religion is Islam, as interpreted by the strictly conservative Wahhabi order of the Sunni branch. Shi'a Muslims practice most aspects of their faith freely, and they may organize traditional Shi'a ceremonies and perform rites such as self-flagellation. The nationality law does not impose any restrictions on religious identity.

The Government and ruling family are linked inextricably to Islam. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs controls the construction of mosques, clerical affairs, and Islamic education for adults and new converts. The emir participates in public prayers during both Eid holiday periods and personally finances the Hajj for pilgrims who cannot afford to travel to Mecca.

The Government has granted legal status to Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Coptic, and many Asian Christian denominations. It maintains an official register of approved religious congregations.

The following Islamic holy days are considered national holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Converting to another religion from Islam is considered apostasy and is technically a capital offense; however, since the country gained independence in 1971 there has been no recorded execution or other punishment for such a crime.

The Government regulates the publication, importation, and distribution of non-Islamic religious literature. Individuals and religious institutions are allowed to import Bibles and other religious items for personal or congregational use. In addition, religious materials for use at Christmas and Easter are readily available in local shops.

Religious services were held without prior authorization from the Government; however, congregations may not publicly advertise them in advance or use visible religious symbols such as outdoor crosses. Christian services are regularly held and open to the public. Some services, particularly those on Easter and Christmas, drew more than one thousand worshippers.

Hindus, Buddhists, Baha'is, and members of other religious groups do not operate as freely as Christian congregations, because they have not sought official permission from the Government. However, there was no official effort to harass or hamper adherents of these religious groups in the private practice of their religion.

No foreign missionary groups operated openly in the country. In June 2004, a new criminal code was enacted that established new rules for proselytizing. Individuals caught proselytizing on behalf of an organization, society, or foundation for any religion other than Islam, may be sentenced to a term in prison of up to ten years. If proselytizing is done on behalf of an individual, for any religion other than Islam, the sentence is imprisonment of up to five years. According to this new law, individuals who possess written or recorded materials or items that support or promote missionary activity are imprisoned for up to two years.

Discrimination in the areas of employment, education, housing, and health services occurred, but nationality was usually the determinant more than religion.

Islamic instruction is compulsory in public schools. While there were no restrictions on non-Muslims providing private religious instruction for children, most foreign children attended secular private schools. Muslim children were allowed to go to secular and co-educational private schools.

Both Muslim and non-Muslim litigants may request the Shari'a courts to assume jurisdiction in commercial or civil cases. In 2005, a new panel was established in the courts for the Shi'a. The panel decided cases in the following areas: marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other domestic disputes. Convicted Muslims may earn points for good behavior and have their sentences reduced by a few months by memorizing the Qur'an.

The official interpretation of Shari'a imposes some restrictions on Muslim women. Muslim wives have the right to inherit from their husbands. Non-Muslim wives inherit nothing, unless a special exception is arranged. Shari'a is also applied in cases of divorce. Both parents retain permanent rights of visitation; however, local authorities do not allow a non-citizen parent to take his or her child out of the country without permission of the citizen parent. Women may attend court proceedings. They are generally represented by a male relative; however, they may represent themselves. According to Shari'a, the testimony of two women equals that of one man, but the courts routinely interpret this on a case-by-case basis. A non-Muslim woman is not required to convert to Islam upon marriage to a Muslim; however, many make a personal decision to do so. A non-citizen woman is not required to become a citizen upon marriage to a citizen. Children born to a Muslim father are considered to be Muslim.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

The emir and top Government officials strongly supported the swift construction and establishment of churches. The Government assigned a coordinator in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to speed up the process and facilitate all required building procedures and related matters, although some restrictions have been imposed on the use of certain religious symbols on buildings.

In May 2005, representatives of Christian churches in the country signed an agreement with the Government for a fifty-year lease on a large piece of property on the outskirts of Doha on which they intend to erect six churches at their own expense. The churches were expected to pay nominal lease fees of a few hundred dollars a year, renewable after ten years. The property was expected to include an Anglican church that may also be used by other Protestant denominations, a church to serve thirty four Indian-Christian congregations, a church for the country's small but influential Coptic community, and a site for two Orthodox churches, one Greek and one Eastern Rite. In December 2005, the foundation stone for the Catholic Church was laid and the ground-breaking took place at the end of April 2006. This would be the first church built since the coming of Islam. Other groups were in the process of raising funds for the construction of their churches. Also, a board composed of members of all the Christian churches was formed to liaise directly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding church matters. Previous barriers stemming from religious and cultural sensitivities were eased, and church representatives could now directly approach any Government agency to conduct their church affairs.

Each church was granted permission to apply for visas for visiting clerics to preside over and assist in church services. Non-Muslim religious figures were seen in public.

The Fourth Conference for Religious Dialogue took place on April 25-27, 2006, in Doha. Representatives from the three largest monotheistic religions--Christianity, Islam, and Judaism--were invited. Invitations were extended to the Anglican Church, Coptic Church, Middle East Churches Council, Orthodox Church, the Vatican, and Jewish rabbis, among others. Rabbis from the U.S. and other countries attended and were full participants.

My first Easter experience in the Land close to the ancestry of my Lord Jesus Christ!  

Posted by Heisan

It is Saturday evening about 10:45 pm we are gathered outside the church building preparing for the Easter Vigil in the Latin Rite. About 2,000 people of different nationality gathered outside to witness the blessing of fire and to participate in the celebration of the Easter Vigil Mass, isn't it more catholic in the sense of the word we are all gathered Asians, Arabs, Indians, Europeans and Americans side by side celebrating the Feast of all Feast. As the events unfold I feel I am participating in the celebration of the ancient liturgy of the catholic church because it is in the Middle East a land close to where my Lord is born, preached, suffered, died, buried and finally rose from the dead. It was an ecstatic experience -the liturgy is sung by the priest though in English for everyone to understand but the solemnity and the sacredness is very present and felt by everyone. The anaphora was sung and the response of the faithful was also in song. In this events I could imagine the first christians celebrating Easter in the same way though in there Aramiac language and it really convince me more of the orthodoxy of my catholic faith and gives more reason to cling to this faith handed down to us by the Apostles through the succession of Bishops. These is my first hand Easter experience in the land close to where my Lord is born, preached, suffered, died, buried and rose from the dead. It really lift my spirit and give me strenght to give witness to my faith in my daily life as a contract worker here in Doha, Qatar.

Short Info on the Church present in Doha, Qatar!  

Posted by Heisan

This is the location of the State of Qatar a small peninsula in the outskirt of Saudi Arabia. Here the ruling family is headed by the Emir Sheik Hamad ibn Khalifa al-Thani.These small country though majority here are Muslims the Emir issued a decree allowing freedom of religion though for your religion to be allowed you must first register it in there Ministry of Religious Affairs as I've known it and the Catholic Church is one of the recognized religion here in Qatar and has been given a portion of land to build its Church building for the faithful catholics to gather and express their faith. Here the Catholic church is really catholic in the sense of the word because all Rites of the Catholic church are being celebrated here. Catholics present here are of Indian, Arabic and Asian in composition. Catholic Rites here are the Maronites of Lebanon, Syro-Malabarese of India, Syriac rite and the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic. All Catholics here in this small state be it Eastern or Latin Rite is under the administration of the Vatican with a Latin Bishop as its head in the person of Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Arabia. But still there is some restrictions imposed on all religions here other than Islam. First christians here are not allowed to put a cross on top of there Churches as you have noticed the plan of the Chruch. Display of the Cross here outside is not allowed perhaps to avoid offending muslim sensibilities(you know!). Second Christians here are not allowed to proselytize as some of our brethren are doing under the penalty of imprisonment and deportation. Anyway we catholics don't proselytize so on the second restriction we are not included only our protestant brethren.

Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Doha, Qatar  

Posted by Heisan

This is the design of the new Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Church here in Doha, Qatar. The church here is run by the Franciscan Missionaries from India and the Philippines. The new parish accomodates all the Catholic Rites that are present here in Doha. We have here a Maronite Catholics, Syro-Malabarese Rite Catholics and the Roman Rite Catholics all belongs to this parish. It is of joy that all the Rites of the Catholic Church is being celebrated here in these new Parish and what a great work of the Holy Spirit indeed. I was able for the first time to observe the Maronite Rite of the Holy Mass being celebrated and the Syro-Malabarese rite and it is very much a new experience of being a true catholic in the sense of the word because of the different traditions of the Church I have encountered here and it is the same though different in it's cultural orientations. Praise the Lord for the presence of the Church here in this part of the world. Pray that all the faithful here be a light and a beacon of the Gospel of love and peace.

A new beggining.(Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Doha, Qatar)  

Posted by Heisan

This is a simple ceremony in the desert of Qatar for the laying of the foundation stone of the new church to be constructed in the small State of Qatar. This is officiated by the Vicar Apostolic of Arabia and the recent Bishop of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Doha His Excellency Bishop Paul Hinder with him on the right side is the Cardinal of the Syro-Malabarese Rite Catholic His Eminence Varkey Vithayathil, C.Ss.R. Please pray for the faithful here in Doha, Qatar that we may be a light and a salt to the people here in this part of the world where majority are followers of the Prophet Mohammad. May we be a witness to the Gospel of Christ here in this land. Pray for the new and emerging church in the muslim world.

How Old Is Your Church?  

Posted by Heisan

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex- monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1829.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1605.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as 'Church of the Nazarene," "Pentecostal Gospel." "Holiness Church," "Pilgrim Holiness Church," "Jehovah's Witnesses," your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past century.

If you are Catholic, you know that your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God, and it is still the same Church.


Posted by Heisan

11-November-2006 -- Vatican Information Service

VATICAN CITY, NOV 11, 2006 (VIS) - Made public today was the program of the Pope's forthcoming apostolic trip to Turkey, which is due to take place from November 28 to December 1.

At 9 a.m. on November 28, the Holy Father will depart from Rome's Fiumicino airport bound for Ankara, where he is due land at Esenboga international airport at 1 p.m. On arrival, he will visit the Mausoleum of Ataturk, after which the welcome ceremony will take place. Pope Benedict will then pay a courtesy visit to the president of the republic before meeting with the vice prime minister, the president for religious affairs and the diplomatic corps.

On Wednesday, November 29, Benedict XVI is due to celebrate Mass at Ephesus. That afternoon he will travel to Istanbul where he will visit the patriarchal church of St. George and hold a private meeting with His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch.

The following day, November 30, the Holy Father will participate in the divine liturgy at the patriarchal church of St. George, where he will pronounce an address and sign a joint declaration with His Holiness Bartholomew I. The Pope will then go on to visit the museum of Santa Sophia, and the Armenian cathedral where he will meet with His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian patriarch of Istanbul.

Later the same day, he will meet the Syro-Orthodox patriarch and the chief rabbi of Turkey. That evening, he is scheduled to dine with members of the Catholic episcopal conference.

On Friday, December 1, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass in Istanbul's cathedral of the Holy Spirit before travelling to the city's airport where the departure ceremony will take place. The papal plane will take off at 1.15 p.m., and is due to arrive in Rome at 2.45 p.m.

November 1, 2006

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation joyfully anticipates the coming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on November 29 and 30, 2006. This meeting will coincide with the celebration of the feast of Saint Andrew, the First-Called Apostle, the Patriarchate’s Patron Saint. It will take place in Istanbul, ancient Constantinople, a historic crossroads of peoples, cultures and religions.

The meeting of Pope Benedict and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will continue a tradition begun in 1964 when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem, and later in Rome and Istanbul. Since that time, meetings of Popes and Ecumenical Patriarchs have become more regular but no less significant.

These meetings have both expressed and deepened the renewed relationship between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which has been developing since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the Pan-Orthodox Conferences (1961-1968). Since then, both churches have affirmed their desire to overcome historic differences through prayer, theological dialogue, and acts of reconciliation.

The meeting of Pope Benedict and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will occur following the recent meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church that took place in Belgrade from September 18 to 25, 2006. Our own North American Theological Consultation, begun in 1965, has now held its 71st meeting in Washington, DC, from October 26 to 28, 2006. Both consultations were established by the churches to examine the theological factors underlying our division and to recommend steps to heal it.

The Pope’s pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate provides us with an opportunity to express our concern regarding the situation in which the Patriarchate finds itself today. From the fourth century, the Church of Constantinople has exercised a significant ministry in the life of the Church, especially in the East. This ministry has continued to our day, despite drastic changes in the political, demographic and religious context. Today the Ecumenical Patriarchate serves the pastoral needs of Orthodox Christians within its jurisdiction in Turkey and a number of other countries. In addition, it provides a point of unity among the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and coordinates their common witness and service.

We are deeply concerned that the Ecumenical Patriarchate today is subject to severe restrictions placed upon it by the Turkish government. For example, by decisions reached in 1923 and 1970, the government imposed significant limitations on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Even today, the Turkish state does not recognize the historic role that the Patriarch plays among Orthodox Christians outside Turkey. The Turkish government closed the Patriarchate’s Theological School on the island of Halki in 1971 and, in spite of numerous appeals from governmental and religious authorities, still does not allow it to reopen, severely limiting the Patriarchate’s ability to train candidates for the ministry. In addition, the Patriarchate has recently suffered the confiscation of a number of its churches and other properties by the government.

We very much regret these restrictions placed on the ministry of the Ecumenical Patriarchate both within Turkey and abroad. At the same time, we commend those Turkish government leaders and citizens who advocate greater human rights and religious toleration within the country. The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in late November will highlight once again the crucial role played by the Ecumenical Patriarchate for many centuries not only among the Orthodox Churches but also in the broader Christian world.

Both Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have affirmed their desire to heal the division between our churches, and to contribute to healing the wounds of our societies. They have affirmed the need for Christians to be people of reconciliation and peace. They have called for mutual understanding among all faiths, and for the elimination of misunderstanding, prejudice and injustice wherever they may be found. We pray that the meeting of the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch will contribute to the unity of the churches and to the reconciliation of all peoples.

October 28, 2006
Saint Paul’s College

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has created a website for the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI this November.

Islamic hackers again fail to disrupt Vatican web site  

Posted by Heisan

Nov. 10 ( - For the second time in as many months, computer hackers affiliated with a radical Islamic group tried and failed to penetrate the Vatican web site, the Italian AGI news service reports.
Islamic militants who identified themselves as "leaders of the electronic jihad" announced on their own internet sites that they would launch a "large-scale battle" against the Vatican site this week, in response to what they saw as insults against Islam by Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news). The exact form of the attack was not explained.
According to the AGI news story, an attack was launched on November 9, but thwarted by security measures on the Vatican site. A similar effort to disrupt the Vatican internet site was made in October-- again without any significant effect.
The Vatican web site-- one of the busiest on the internet-- has tight security measures in place, informed sources say. And Vatican computer-security personnel had ample warning of the Islamic hackers' plans.

These news is taken from CWNews.
St. Michael won the battle again! Alleluia!

Sunday's Gospel: 32nd week; Ordinary Time; Year B  

Posted by Heisan

The Gospel according to St. Mark 12:38-44

"As he was teaching, he also said to them, "Beware of those teachers of the Law who enjoy walking around in long robes and being greeted in the marketplace, and who like to occupy reserved seats in the synagogues and the first places at feasts. They even devour the widow's and orphan's goods while making a show of long prayers. How severe a sentence they will receive!"
Jesus sat down opposite the Temple tresury box; and many rich people put in large offerings. But a poor widow also come and dropped in two small coins.
Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all those who gave offerings. For all ot them gave from their plenty, but she gave from her poverty and put in everything she had, her very living."
Here I see why God called the poor before anybody else, because only the poor give all they have to live on. I am not saying that the rich aren't being called by God? We are all invited by God to walk with Him everyday of our lives but the challenge for us today is that can we be like the widow in the Gospel who are willing to give everything we have to God. Here God speaks to me about being humble in everything, to be able to share what I have not what the excess like the rich people who give what is in excess of their wealth. Here God speaks to me that humility is truly the guardian of all virtues. This widow is the very personification of every Catholic like me in everyway. Humility means obedience to the Church and its teachings despite the many frailties she has knowing that the Church is not "my church" where I can accomodate what I want only but formost it is Christ Church built by Him upon Peter.

A Seconder!  

Posted by Heisan

I've been journeying in my faith as a Catholic since my childhood but honestly I started appreciating the beauty of my beloved Catholic faith when I am in my highschool days up to now and still hungering to know more of my faith handed down by the Apostles. As I go along the way I found all the hidden treasure of my faith and still searching and longing for more. One of the most important find I have is the Eucharist which is central to my Catholic faith. Eucharistic Sacrifice is the highest form of worship in the Catholic Church because there we encounter the Real Presence of our Savior and Lord. It is in the Eucharist that man enters the mystery of the Divine as I begin to understand. As my years passes by I become inlove with the Eucharist though I still struggle to with my human frailties God is able to sustain me through His Real Presence. There are many other treasures hidden in my Catholic faith that I still need to discover and God is able to lead me into those treasure. Today I now appreciate the Nicene Creed recited at every Mass. I can now say with certainty and pride that - I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church of Christ for I now better understand my blessed Catholic faith in its fulness.Amen!

For Starter  

Posted by Heisan

In the past few days I am thinking of creating this blog to give witness to my Catholic faith. I am born catholic and enjoying it up to now and appreciated it more and more as the days and years of my life pass by. For a start let me quote this words taken from the book "Crossing the Tiber" by Stephen Ray here it goes - "Catholicism is ancient, yet forever young; it is constant and firm, yet forever lively and robust; it is old, yet always new and vital. It is simple enough for a mouse to wade in, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim in."For me these words describes best what the Catholic Church is all about.