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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A plea for Pope Francis to pray at Jasenovac site

"For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox (Christian) brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of Him."
Auschwitz, Dachau and Jasenovac.

Auschwitz and Dachau are known as infamous concentration camps from World War II. But, did you ever hear of the heinous Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia that existed during World War II? In the words of Rabbi Jozef Atijas, who lost 153 family members during the Holocaust: "The word Jasenovac, which chills the blood and turns one's mouth to stone ... is the most painful, the most shameful, the saddest and most morbid place that humankind and history can remember ever."


At Jasenovac and throughout Croatia the Nazi-allied Ustasha regime waged horrific genocidal crimes against Serbian Orthodox Christians, Jews and Roma (Gypsies) to achieve a "pure" Croatian state. What is shocking is that some Catholic clergy had actively participated in this genocide. Dr. Pal Kolsto wrote in an academic religious journal in 2011 that: "In particular among Franciscans ... the Ustasha found willing executioners." Does the new pope who is honoring the name of St. Francis of Assisi know this dark history for Franciscans and the Catholic Church?
Dr. Rory Yeomans in his newly published book about the Ustasha regime comments that "relatively little has been written about this subject (the Ustasha) in the English language."

I would not know about it either had I not been a naive American tourist who rented a car in Serbia and traveled to Croatia in 2006. This trip was one of the most frightening experiences in my life. After crossing the border into Croatia, drivers of cars blared their horns and flashed their lights at me. Trucks tried to run me off the road. One man even came out of his car at a red light screaming in red-faced rage. What prompted such anger? I had a car with Serbian license plates! The Croats claimed anger over the recent war in the Balkan region in the 1990s but this hatred is much deeper against Serbs.

The primary "enemy" of the Ustasha during World War II were the Serbs living within Croatia. They were hated for their ethnicity and for their Orthodox Christian faith. The exact number of victims killed by Ustasha at Jasenovac will never be known, but historians do agree that hundreds of thousands of people were brutally killed by the Ustasha regime in Croatia. According to the Jasenovac Memorial Web site almost a third of the known victims at Jasenovac were children. The Ustasha also established for the first time in history concentration camps only for children. These camps were run mainly by Catholic nuns.


Dr Yeomans states in his new book: "Ustasha militias and death squads swept through the countryside, burning down whole villages and indiscriminately killing thousands of ordinary Serbs in a variety of sadistic ways. Armed with axes, knives, scythes and mallets, as well as guns, they slaughtered men, women and children, who were hacked to death, thrown alive into pits and down ravines, or locked into churches that were then set on fire." Yeomans further says Ustasha "closed Serb Orthodox churches and cathedrals en masse and transferred their assets to the Catholic Church or the state." Some 200,000 Serbian Orthodox Christians were forced to convert to the Catholic faith. Historical photos show Ustasha also beheaded Serbian Orthodox priests. According to Yeomans, "Jews were forced by law to wear a "Z" (Zidov - Jew) insignia on their back and front ... Serbs to wear a "P" (Pravoslavac - Orthodox)."

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What is alarming today is the rise of neo-Ustasha. I found photos online of young neo-Ustasha dressed in Ustasha uniforms adorned with a rosary. One of the most popular rock groups in Croatia today is the Thompson band (named after the Thompson machine gun). On July 11, 2007, Efraim Zuroff (Israel director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center) wrote an open letter to the leader of the band, Marko Perkovic, in the Croatian Globus newspaper and asked, "...why so many young people feel that your concerts are an appropriate place to appear in Ustashe uniforms and display Ustashe symbols." Zuroff points out that Perkovic had sung lyrics in the song "Jasenovac/Stara Gradiska" that "glorify Ustasha murderers, (and) call for the elimination of Serbs."

The Jasenovac Holocaust Memorial site has a large stone flower monument. Under the Flower Monument is a crypt of human remains of some victims exhumed from a nearby mass grave. Kolsto wrote in 2011 that "the leadership of the Croatian (Catholic) Church has so far refused to send official representatives to the Jasenovac commemorations that take place on 22 April or the closest Sunday each year." 

The commemorations take place at the Flower Monument. Croatian journalist Jelena Lovric described Jasenovac as "an open wound" because the church has not properly commemorated the victims. In 2009, a large contingent of Catholic clergy did go to Jasenovac, but not on the commemoration day. Sadly, Cardinal Bozanic failed to go to the Flower Monument and pray at the crypt of victims. Slavko Goldstein, a Croatian Jew who had been incarcerated at Jasenovac, sharply criticized the church leadership in the press for not following the example set by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who had knelt in prayer at Auschwitz.


Argentina (where Pope Francis is from) is where some 20,000 Ustasha are believed to have fled after the war was over. This included Ante Pavelic, the leader of the Ustasha, who was never tried for war crimes.
Jasenovac continues to be an open wound between Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Pope Francis has said he wants to "build bridges" to people. He has also recently called the patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, "his brother."

My hope is that Pope Francis will be the first pope to go and pray at the Jasenovac Holocaust Memorial site.
May the Holocaust cry of "Never again!" be heard at Jasenovac and around the world.

John Meinhold is a resident of Portsmouth.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sir Ridley Scott - The Vatican - New TV Drama

Filming has begun on The Vatican - a new drama from Showtime directed by Sir Ridley Scott and written by Oscar nominated Paul Attanasio (who was a producer on Hugh Laurie's TV show House).

Set in the present day, the new mini-series - a drama centering around the Catholic Church and set inside the Holy city - stars Downfall actor Bruno Ganz as the fictional Pop Sixtus VI.
The show also features Kyle Chandler - as a New York Cardinal - and British actress Anna Friel but first images from the on-location set show another Brit, Matthew Goode, in action with Swedish co-star Rebecca Ferguson.

Method acting? Would the wine in Matthews glass be real? 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Orthodox Easter in United States

Many Orthodox Christians in the United States celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Orthodox Christian date for Easter Sunday often occurs at a later date than the Easter date observed by many western churches. The day is also known as Pascha, Easter and Easter Day.


What do people do?

Many Orthodox Christian churches, including the Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox churches, celebrate the “miracle of Easter” on the Easter Sunday date in the Julian calendar. Many people see Easter as the most important event in the church calendar. Orthodox Easter preparations begin with 40 days of strict fasting prior to Easter Day. Many Orthodox Christians attend liturgies during the Holy Week that leads up to Easter Sunday.
Some Americans who are members of the Russian Orthodox Christian community still practice the tradition of laying Easter eggs and Easter bread on dead relatives’ graves. This practice is a way of greeting the dead with news that Jesus Christ has risen. Many Greek Orthodox Christians buy Easter bread, known as tsoureki, and prepare lamb for the Easter feast.
Another tradition observed in many Orthodox Christian churches is the blessing of food baskets. The baskets are usually filled with bread, cheese, meat, eggs, butter, salt, and other types of food used for Paschal celebrations. The fasting period has ended and meat and dairy products can be eaten.

Public life

The Orthodox Christian date for Easter Sunday is not a federal public holiday in the United States. However, it is held on a Sunday, which is a non-school day and non-working day for many Americans. 

Unusual Easter Traditions: Easter rocket war in Greece

This is an old tradition that routes back to the times when the Greeks were under the Turkish Dynasty. Every year on the evening before Orthodox Easter, the sky above Chios - a northern Greek island close to Turkey - is lit by hundreds of celebratory rockets fired between two rival parishes in a traditional good-natured rocket war known as "rouketopolemos." 

Villagers from rival parishes Aghios Markos and Panagia Ereithiani, in the Municipality of Vrontados, create the handmade rockets in their own homes and shops. The two rival villages compile the rockets into large salvos, which are then set off on the annual celebration marking the Resurrection of Christ, and aimed directly at each other's church bell towers. It is estimated that the yearly production of rockets produces some 70 thousand to 80 thousand small missiles. The winning village is the one which has managed to score the most direct hits on their rival's church, though it is often difficult to produce an accurate tally.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

CARTOON: Seraphim of Sarov, the Wonderworker

What is the Orthodox Church? (A Short Overview)

A very short overview of the history and beliefs of the Orthodox Church.

EGYPT: Egypt's Christian pope blasts Islamist president

CAIRO (AP) — The leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church on Tuesday blasted the country's Islamist president over his handling of recent deadly sectarian violence, including an attack on the main cathedral in Cairo.

The remarks by Pope Tawadros II underscore rising Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt. They were his first direct criticism of President Mohammed Morsi since he was enthroned in November as the spiritual leader of Egypt's Orthodox Christians. They are also likely to fuel political turmoil that has been roiling the country since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak two years ago.

Egypt is already divided between two camps, with Morsi and Islamist allies in one and moderate Muslims, Christians and liberals in the other. The political schism is essentially over Egypt's political future after decades of dictatorship, a divide that has been compounded by a worsening economy and tenuous security.

An open conflict between Morsi's government and the church could add a new and potentially explosive layer, pushing Egypt to the brink of civil strife.

George Soros urges Angela Merkel to consider quitting euro

Billionaire speculator says single currency's prospects would be better without Germany, the eurozone's most dominant member

George Soros

George Soros, the billionaire speculator best known as "the man who broke the Bank of England" in 1992, has launched a stinging critique of Germany's role in the euro crisis and suggested the single currency's prospects would be improved if its most dominant member were to quit.
In an incendiary speech made on Tuesday afternoon in Germany's financial centre of Frankfurt, the hedge fund trader told Europe's richest country it had gone too far during the bailout of Cyprus, was itself heading for recession and should either leave the euro or reverse its long held opposition to eurobonds – a form of sovereign debt that would mean each member country's borrowings were guaranteed by the whole eurozone.
"My first preference is eurobonds; my second is Germany leaving the euro," he said in his lecture, entitled: How to save the European Union from the euro crisis.
"It is up to Germany to decide whether it is willing to authorise eurobonds or not," he said at Frankfurt's centre for financial studies.
"But it has no right to prevent the heavily indebted countries from escaping their misery by banding together and issuing eurobonds.
"In other words, if Germany is opposed to eurobonds it should consider leaving the euro and letting others introduce them."
In an address which appealed over German chancellor Angela Merkel and directly to German voters, who go to the polls in federal elections later this year, Soros implored the country to change course.
"I hope that by offering you a different perspective I may get you to reconsider your position before more damage is done," he said. "That is my goal in coming here."
He added: "The financial problem is that Germany is imposing the wrong policies on the eurozone. Austerity doesn't work. You cannot shrink the debt burden by shrinking the deficit.
"In the bailout of Cyprus, Germany went too far … chancellor Merkel would have liked to put the euro crisis on ice at least until after the elections, but it is back in force.
"The German public may be unaware of this because Cyprus was a tremendous political victory for chancellor Merkel. No country will dare to challenge her will.
"Germany itself remains relatively unaffected by the deepening depression that is enveloping the eurozone. I expect, however, that by the time of the elections Germany will also be in recession.
"That is because the monetary policy pursued by the eurozone is out of sync with the other major currencies. The others are engaged in quantitative easing.
"The Bank of Japan was the last holdout but it changed sides recently. A weaker yen coupled with the weakness in Europe is bound to affect Germany's exports."
Soros, a Hungarian whose Quantum fund has stopped managing funds for outside investors, has previously criticised Germany's handling of the crisis as well as arguing for eurobonds as a partial solution.
However, his plan comes with a major problem in that Germany has long been staunchly opposed to the idea, which would increase its own cost of borrowing, as well as arguing that the process would require treaty change.
Meanwhile many Germans believe that eurozone members should live with the consequences of their own debts.
Continued German resistance to eurobonds would leave the billionaire simply calling for a German withdrawal from the euro, which he argues would benefit the remaining countries in the single currency.
"If Germany left, the euro would depreciate," he said. "The debtor countries would regain their competitiveness. Their debt would diminish in real terms and, if they issued eurobonds, the threat of default would disappear. Their debt would suddenly become sustainable … and Europe would escape the looming depression."
Soros made his name in 1992 by making $1bn (£650m) in a bet against the pound as it was forced from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM).
More than 20 years later, his views are still considered important enough to move markets, while in February he reportedly made more than $1.2bn for his family's fund betting against the yen.

Assad: Erdogan Destroying Syria by Reconciling with Israel

President Bashar al-Assad
Syria’s President charged on Friday that the improvement in the relations between Turkey and Israel, following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s apology for the deaths of Turks on the Mavi Marmara, is proof that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to destroy Syria.

"We cannot let stupid leaders destroy the relationship with Turkey," President Bashar Al-Assad attacked in the interview, which aired on Turkey’s Ulusal TV.

The Syrian president claimed that Turkey’s reconciliation with Israel is a "small part of Erdogan’s destruction of Syria."

“Because of the situation in Syria, Israel and Turkey united suddenly, this is proof," said Assad, adding, “Erdogan walked shoulder to shoulder with Israel. Our goal should be to maintain the relationship [between Syria and Turkey], not to destroy it."
Assad also attacked the Turkish prime minister over the civil war taking place in his country,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hell's Kitchen (1998) - Watch FREE Movie Online

Hell's Kitchen is a 1998 film starring Rosanna Arquette, William Forsythe, Angelina Jolie, Mekhi Phifer, and Johnny Whitworth. The film was written and directed by Tony Cinciripini.

In this hard-edged crime drama, four kids from the tough New York neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen decide to pull a robbery, but their first foray into crime does not go well....


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