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Defying the Wall, Palm Sunday demonstrators break out of Bethlehem

The demonstrators, having walked calmly through the gate, are confronted by a single security guard (Photo: Stefan / EAPPI)
BETHLEHEM: Echoing Jesus’ ride through into Jerusalem about two thousand years ago, crowds of people waving palm branches accompanied riders on a pony and two donkeys through a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem on Sunday, the Christian festival of Palm Sunday.

The march began with a small group at Manger Square in central Bethlehem. As the crowd, accompanied by music and carrying signs or Palestinian flags, moved through the town, more and more people joined until it numbered about 150 Palestinians, Israeli activists, journalists and internationals.

The march was to protest the limitations placed upon Palestinians – Christians and Muslims – to travel to Jerusalem for worship at the holy sites in the city.

The march was supposed to have stopped at the checkpoint, but once the group reached the checkpoint gate for vehicles, approximately 100 protesters made their way through the gate. Apparently the security guards were unprepared: they were far too few to be able to stop the demonstrators who managed to walk through the second gate and on to the road to downtown Jerusalem, still being led by the donkey and the horse.

About a hundered meters down the road, the Israeli police realized what had happened and blocked the way. The demonstators stopped, although they easily could have marched on as there were only a few police officers on the scene.

In response, the checkpoint was closed for all vehicles and foot traffic attempting to enter Jerusalem. According to Ma’an News, eleven Palestinians have been detained; four Israeli activists and one international person were detained and later released.

The following day, Checkpoint 300 – the main Bethlehem checkpoint – remained completely closed. All of the checkpoints along the security barrier were only open to a limited number of people (international citizens, school children and Palestinians with specific work permits, worship permits or medical permits) for the Jewish holiday of Pesach.

However, the Bethlehem checkpoint remained closed to all Jerusalem-bound traffic, foot and vehicle. Those with humanitarian concerns or who want to enter Jerusalem for worship must attempt to cross at an alternate checkpoint. There is no word yet about when the Bethlehem checkpoint will reopen. Those who want to go to the Holy City of Jerusalem for the Christian worship services during Holy Week may be forced to travel further and longer.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was launched in August 2002. Ecumenical Accompaniers monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, support acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, offer protection through non-violent presence, engage in public policy advocacy and stand in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation. The programme is coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Church News Features News

Special Honor from the Armenian Church of Kuwait to the Catholicos Elect

Kuwait: The Armenian Parish of Kuwait welcomed and specially honored the Catholicos Elect of Malankara Church, Paulose Mar Milithios, who reached Kuwait to lead Holy Week Services this year at the Malankara Orthodox Parish of Kuwait. It was an exclusive meeting convened by Arch Bishop Dr. Gorian Babian at the Armenian Parish of Kuwait in association with their Palm Sunday Services.

The Catholicos Elect remembered the recent visit of Armenian Catholicos Aram I to Malankara. “As partakers of same faith, both Churches have to discover new ways to better cooperate with each other”, reminded the Catholicos Elect.

“If Theological Seminaries of both Churches can exchange students, heritages will be shared and may such prospects come true”, the Catholicos Elect felicitated.

It was with great enthusiasm and fervor that the Armenian Parish of Kuwait received the Catholicos Elect.

Click here to view Kuwait Hassa Program

Click here to hear the Easter Message by the Catholicos Elect

Features Gulf News

Catholicate Day celebrations at Muscat Church; Mar Epiphanios calls for following St Parumala’s ideals

MUSCAT: Dr Abraham Mar Epiphanios, Metropolitan of Sultan Bathery Diocese, has called upon the faithful to follow the ideals and values of St Gregorios of Parumala. Metropolitan was presiding over the Catholicate Day (Sabha Dinam) celebrations at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church, Ruwi on March 26 after the Holy Qurbana.

“Had there being no Parumala Thirumeni, Malankara Orthodox would have been in a state of abject poverty and suffering,” said Metropolitan Mar Epiphanios. Metropolitan was one person who was greatly influenced by the life of Saint Parumala and went on to become the Manager at the Parumala Church and seminary serving faithfully for 2 years.

The metropolitan lamented that only 5 dioceses were able to achieve their targets during the last fiscal and urged all the members in the Muscat church to contribute at least RO 5 to the Catholicate Day cover collections.

Metropolitan urged the faithful to contribute liberally and help espouse the cause of the clergy. He mentioned about the Muscat Church benevolence towards the Thanal project where 3 poor girls under the Sultan Bathery diocese were married as part of the church’s Marriage Aid Fund. The metropolitan willingly took up the reins of the Sultan Bathery Diocese to serve the poor and the needy.

Vicar Fr James Geevarghese read out the Catholicate pledge which was repeated by the church members and others on the dias. While the Sunday School children and the church choir sang the ‘Catholicate Mangala gaanam’. Chants of Jai, Jai Catholicos rent the air.

P K Thomas, Malankara Association member, in his speech wanted the younger generation to be taught the principles of Malankara Catholicate in a more orderly and lengthy manner, especially when it celebrates the centenary of its existence.

T J Joseph, Hon Trustee for 2009-10 pointed the last fiscal year saw the maximum number of metropolitans and achens visiting the Muscat church for many occasions, thus setting an all time record of sorts. He pointed the church’s 10th anniversary celebrations and the renovation work as part of it and the successful hosting of GOYC in December last.

Jacob Kuriakose, Sabha Managing Committee Member, Cherian P Thomas, Diocesan Council Member and E M Daniel, Co-Trustee also spoke on the occasion.

P K Koshy, Hon Secretary proposed a vote of thanks.

It may be recalled that Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Metropolitan of Bombay and Assistant Metropolitan of Ahmedabad during his recent visit to Muscat Church had officially hoisted the Catholicate Flag at the church parsonage premises in his role as the diocese head.

Features Gulf News

St. Thomas OCYM, Dubai marks Centenary Catholicate Celebrations with Spectacular Photo Exhibit

DUBAI:Under the auspices of the Orthodox Christian Youth Movement attached to St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Dubai, a retrospective picture exhibition was officially opened on Friday, 26th March, 2010 by Dr. Joseph Mar Dionysius, Metropolitan of the Calcutta Diocese and Asst.metropolitan of the Delhi diocese to herald the celebration of the centenary Catholicate year in 2012.

The landmark exhibition featured a remarkable collection of memorabilia including photos, paintings and historical documents covering the most significant developments in the growth of the Malankara Orthodox Church right from St. Thomas’s arrival in India in A.D. 52 to the events of the present day.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Metropolitan Mar Dionysius applauded the extensive efforts made by the OCYM members to obtain the exhibits from far flung sources to amass such a comprehensive display.

He added that many more such exhibitions should be held in the future to build up awareness in today’s youth about the determined vision and sacrifices made by the past leaders of the church to maintain its distinct identity and integrity as their legacy to future generations.

In conjunction with the photo exhibit, a seminar on the topic , “Malankara Orthodox church- yesterday, today and tomorrow” was also held tracing the evolution of the church to what it is today and discussing the direction the future of the church should take based on present day events.

The opening ceremony was also attended by other dignitaries including the vicar of Dubai parish, Fr. Biju P. Thomas, assistant vicar Fr. Pathrose Joy, vicar of the Jebel Ali parish Fr. Aju Abraham, CEO of the Parumala hospital Fr. Alexander Koodarathil, parish trustee Robinson Panicker,secretary Marydasan Thomas and joint secretary Boban Thomas.

Gulf News

Hossanna in Doha Orthodox Church

DOHA: Hossanna service was conducted in Doha Malankra Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Coorilos of Bombay diocese assisated by Vicar Fr Thomas Myalil and asst. vicar Fr T U Thomas On March 27 evening.

Articles Devotional Features

A Message For Holy Week

Lenten blessings be upon you! Nowadays many Christians prefer going for pilgrimage to the holy land and they find gratification by walking through the soil where our Lord Jesus walked on some 2000 years ago. But only the affluent people are afford to have such a pilgrimage though everyone is desirous of. Here is a God sent opportunity for each one of us to make a pilgrimage through the life- events of Christ incarnate. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, we are going for a pilgrimage in a peculiar way.

As we meditate upon the life stories of Christ especially his passion, crucifixion and resurrection through the liturgies on the holy week, in an experiential realm, we feel the very presence of Christ amidst us and are able to imbibe the grace of healing.

On Palm Sunday, we are called to sing Hosanna like the large multitude did on the street of Jerusalem glorifying Jesus while on His arrival mounted on a colt (Mat21:9). Let us pray Hosanna meaning ‘Save us’ so that our present world may be saved from eternal perish.

On Maundy Thursday, let us come close leaning on our master Jesus for holy supper(Holy Qurbana) and receive his holy body and blood not as Judas Iscariot did (Mark 14:20) but as his favourite disciple Saint John did (John21:20).

On Good Friday, when we participate in the procession of the way of cross around the church , let the same attitude of Simon Cyrene reign over us in carrying the Cross of Christ (Mark15:21). And while we chant lengthy prayers and hymns, let us cry aloud like the women of Jerusalem did by lamenting of our sinful lives and of our children. Let us kneel down on the floor of the Church as if we were at Calvary. Let us bring myrrh and frankincense with all devotion and sincerity to the holy altar for the burial service as a mark of paying homage to our Lord as Joseph and Nichodimus did for the burial of Christ (John 19:39).

On Gospel Saturday, let our memorial service for the departed souls go deep down into the Sheol heralding the joy of victory of our Lord over death as our out- reaching mission in tandem with that of Christ (1 Peter 3:19, 4:6).

On Easter Sunday, let us run like St.Peter and St. John to the tomb of Christ (The Holy Altar) so as to make us believe that indeed ‘Christ has risen’  (John20:3-8).

One of the greatest prophetic themes of the old testament concerning the promised Messiah is that the Father would send His son “to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind (Isaiah 49:8; 61:1) and we read in the gospel of St.Luke 4:18 that it was fulfilled in Christ Incarnate. The ministry of Christ was one of numerous healings of “all kinds of sicknesses and all kinds of disease” (Mat 4:23). In addition, Jesus healed darkened hearts and minds as he released people from demonic oppression.

Like their Mater before them, the early apostles participated in God’s work of healing as well, attributing their miracle to the risen and ascended Christ. “Jesus the Christ heals you, “Peter told a newly restored man who had been bedridden for eight years  (Acts9:34).St.Paul identified healing as a gift of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:9). Thus, the New Testament foundation was established for the healing ministry to be a part of the sacramental life of the Church (James 5:14-15). The Orthodox Church has never believed or behaved as though the gifts of the spirit or the healing miracles of Christ have somehow passed away. Did not Jesus promise, “He who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my father (John 14:12). As we do the prayer of healing, it doesn’t mean that we are commanding God to heal nor doubting His ability to heal, but pleading for His promised mercy on all who are ill.

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles 3:1-10, we see that the apostles participate not only in preaching and teaching but in healing as well. The sacrament of healing manifests God’s presence in the Church and confirms the message of the gospel.

Let me quote some verses from the holy Bible which throws a light into the importance of having the holy service of the anointing of the sick. “My son, do not be negligent when you are sick, but pray to the Lord and He will heal you. Depart from transgression and direct your hand aright, and cleanse your heart from every sin. Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice and a memorial of the finest wheat flour; and pour oil on your offering, as if you are soon to die. And keep in touch with your physician, for the Lord created him; and do not let him leave you, for you need him. There is a time when success is also in their hands, for they will pray to the Lord to give them success in bringing relief and healing, for the sake of preserving your life” (Wisdom of Sirach 38:9-14).

The sacrament –healing prayer and service of anointing the sick– known in Greek as evchelaion (the oil of prayer), is intended for all who suffer from any physical and mental illnesses. In many orthodox parishes and monasteries of the Eastern Orthodox Churches it is the custom to celebrate the evchelaion in Church on holy Wednesday evening or Maundy Thursday morning during holy Week, and everyone present is invited to approach for anointing, whether physically ill or not; for, even if we don’t require healing of the body, we are all of us in need of healing for our soul. All too often in orthodoxy the anointing of the sick has become a forgotten sacrament: we orthodox need to make far greater use of it.

In tandem with the present need, I feel it necessary to have a special healing service on the eve of Maundy Thursday in our church as well. Let us pray for all the sick around us and submit ourselves before God to be healed. When we pray for others, it is true that we also get healing. We read in the book of Job42:10 ff that when Job, the righteous, did pray for his friends, he regained his health and wealth. The prayer of the erstwhile people of India had been: “Loka Samastha sukhino bhavanthu”! See what a broader outlook was it that of our forefathers! Let this same attitude reign over us! No fervent prayers remain unanswered. God bless us.

Gulf News

Severius Metropolitan to be Chief Celebrant at Salalah St Stephens for Passion Week

MUSCAT: Dr Mathews Mar Severius, Metropolitan of Kandanad West, will be the chief celebrant of this year’s Holy Week services to be held at St Stephens Orthodox church in Salalah (Oman).

Salalah is the second largest city in the Sultanate of Oman, and the largest city in the southern Omani province of Dhofar and is situated over 1,000 kms from Muscat, the capital.

Severius Metropolitan arrived from Kerala on March 24th and will be the chief celebrant for the Passion Week.

Metropolitan lad the congregation for the Vachanippu Perunnal on March 25 (Thursday) and will take part in the Palm Sunday Service, Pessaha service, feet washing service, Good Friday Service and also Holy Qurbana for the Holy Easter Service.

There will also be evening prayers and devotional address by the metropolitan.

After the Passion Week, Severius Metropolitan will fly to Muscat and deliver Holy Qurbana on April 9 for the First Sunday (Friday) at Muscat Gregorios Orthodox Church

Elaborate arrangements have been made for the Holy Week services in the Salalah church.

The Metropolitan will be in Salalah till April 14 and leave for Kerala the next day.

Metropolitan Dr Mathews Mar Severius was given a warm welcome upon arrival at the Salalah International Airport by Vicar Fr Saju Palachira, managing committee members and parishioners.

News Southwest America

Mar Eusebius Conducts Passion Week Services at Houston St. Gregorios

HOUSTON: Alexios Mar Eusebius, the Metropolitan of Southwest diocese of America will conduct the Holy week services at St. Gregorios Orthodox church, Houston. During the holy week there will be evening prayers on all days at 6:30 PM followed by a message by the Metropolitan.

March 28 Sunday Hosanna services at 8.00 AM followed by Holy Qurbana.
March 31 Wednesday Passover – Evening prayer at 6:30PM followed by Holy Qurbana at 7:00PM
April 1 Thursday at 6:30 PM – “Feet Washing ceremony ”
April 2 Good Friday at 8:30 AM Good Friday service.
April 3 Holy Saturday- at 8:30 AM followed by Holy Qurbana.
April 4 Sunday Easter celebration at 6:00 AM followed by Holy Resurrection service and Holy Qurbana.

For more information contact the Vicar Fr. P.M. Cheriyan (281) 242-6638 / (281) 216-4347.

News Northeast America

Mar Barnabas Conducts Passion Week Services at Dover St. Thomas

NEW JERSEY: Metropolitan Mathews Mar Barnabas, will lead Holy Week Services at St. Thomas Orthodox Church of Dover, New Jersey from March 27 to April 4, 2010.

Lazarus Saturday, March 27 Evening Prayer – Devotional Message
Palm Sunday, March 28 9AM HQ and Blessing of Palm Leaves
Monday, March 29 Evening Prayer 6:30PM, followed by Devotional Message
Tuesday, March 30 Evening Prayer 6:30PM, followed by Devotional Message
Wednesday, March 31 Evening Prayer 6:30PM, followed by Divine Liturgy
Thursday, April 1 Feet Washing ceremony at 5:30PM, Evening Prayer
Good Friday, April 2 ` 8:30AM fGood Friday service & Sthoro 6:30PM
Holy Saturday, April 3 10AM, HQ & Suthoro at 6:30PM
Easter Sunday 8:30AM followed by Announcement of the Resurrection

The Church is located at 360 W. Blackwell Street (On Route 46) Dover, NJ 07801
Contact Vicar Fr. Shibu Daniel (Vicar)for more information: (845) 504 5178

Church News News

Malankara Withdraws the Approval and Acceptance of Mor Severius Moses Gorgun

KOTTAYAM: Baselios Marthoma Didimos I, the Catholicose of the East, on the throne of St. Thomas, had withdrawn the approval and acceptance granted to Metropolitan Mar Severios Moses Gorgun, vide order no, 131/2010. The withdrawal of the acceptance was announced in respose to the explanation submitted to the Catholicos by Mor Severius Moses Gorgun, which became unacceptable to the Malankara Church.

Read the full text of the Order given below

H. E. Metropolitan Mor Severius Moses Gorgun
Syrian Orthodox Church of Europe
Ahornstr, 24b, CH-9240 Uzwil.

Blessings to Your Eminence in the name of the Triune God.

Amidst all the spiritual bliss of the season, some of the recent actions of Your Eminence, cause us great distress and pain. We are referring to the event of the consecration that Your Eminence has done and the responses that Your Eminence has sent to our successor His Beatitude Paulose Mar Milithios Metropolitan on his query about the event

Initially We were rather reluctant to accept the ‘website’ news that you have consecrated a Metropolitan for the Diocese of Ankamali and South Kerala, as a factual one but now that you have confirmed it, we try to come in to terms, with this unpleasant news. To add on, your irreverence and immaturity, you have again puzzled and agonized me by sending such an irresponsible answer as if it is your right.

If you would gratefully recollect yourself about your own consecration as a Metropolitan, with out the due consent of our Holy Episcopal Synod; but then later on; considering the integrity of our Church and in compassionate ground though reluctantly we approved it; with all those sensitivity that had caused, you wouldn’t have attempted that would cause pain.

It was quiet evident in our letter No. 237/ 2009 dated May 12th 2009, that you have no right to interfere in the affairs of the Malankara Orthodox Church and your ecclesiastical jurisdiction is confined only to the Syrian Community in Europe. You have not only wilfully violated that by consecrating a metropolitan to the Malankara Church but also viciously tried to condone it by sending this response to our successor His Beatitude Metropolitan Paulose Mar Milithios.

Let us again reiterate the fact that with this we have lost all confidence in you. It is our responsibility that we should safe guard the holiness, discipline and integrity of the Holy Church and this left me with no further choice other than withdrawing our approval and acceptance for you.

We would like to let you know that we withdraw the recognition and previlage,that we have confirred on you as the primate of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Europe.vide No. I42A /2009 dated March 16,2009. It goes without saying that all the consecrations that you have done are against the faith and practises of the Orthodox Church hence would be deprived of its validity.

We do hope and that you would refrain yourself from harming the Church by spitefully engaged yourself in vicious actions in the future.
May God bless your Eminence.

Baselios Marthoma Didymus I
Copy to:
1. Heads of all Oriental Orthodox Churches
2. H. E. Cardinal Walter Kasper
3. Members of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Malankara Orthodox Church

Explanation Letter from H. E. Metropolitan Mor Severius Moses Gorgun

Greetings to Your Beatitude Mor Milithios in our Lord Jesus Christ:

In brotherly love I want to respond to your e-mail. The Syrian Orthodox Church of Europe wants to help all the people who are asking for help. Its my duty as the Primat and Father olthe Syrian Orthodox Church of Europe to help those who asking us. The consecration of the Indian Bishop for Angamaly and South Kerala took place because there is a big need for it.

Be assured that as the Primat of our Church I am very sincere to the Church which consecrated me Metropolitan and elevated me to the head of our Church. We are now through that a own Church in the Oriental Orthodox family and have the holy rite to consecrate bishops according to the need we have without asking other Churches. The new Bishop is told to keep away from the problem between the two factions and he has the order to serve the poor and those who asking our Church for help. What we did should be considered as a brotherly act and not as an act against anyone.

As you also already know I wrote to you during the last two years letters without receiving any answer from your Grace. Through my answer to you you have to know that I have nothing against you. I look forward to have deeper brotherhood and relationship with the Malankara Orthodox Church.

Be assured of my love to His Holiness and the whole Synod. I am open for more conversations.

Yours in the love of Christ our Lord.
+Primat and Metropolitan Mor Severius Moses