December 2021 #2 – Pope visits Cyprus and Greece

News in brief.

Pope visits Cyprus and Greece. This week Pope Francis visited Cyprus and Greece, and used his trip to highlight the plight of refugees and migrants. He visited the island of Lesbos, where he spent time with migrants and urged politicians to find more humane and coordinated solutions to the challenges facing refugees. In Athens, 2000 police were deployed to quell protests from hardline members of the Orthodox who still blame Catholics for the 1204 sacking of Constantinople. 

Protests stop organ recitals in Nantes and Paris. A planned organ recital by Swedish organist Anna von Hausswolff at the church of Notre-Dame de Bon-Port in Nantes had to be called off when around 100 young Catholic protesters blocked the doors of the church. They were objecting to the controversial lyrics and style of von Hausswolff’s “doom metal” music, and were particularly angry that the concert coincided with the important Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

Mother of God star for the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. A 5.5 ton star has been hoisted into position on the Mother of God tower of the famous basilica in Barcelona this week. In a message welcoming the star, Pope Francis said as we raise our eyes to the star that crowns the tower, we are invited to contemplate our Mother, because “every time we look at Mary we believe anew in the revolutionary nature of tenderness and affection.”

Spotlight on Odessa.

Church of St Luke and the Archangel Michael (Tenistaya, 8A) Built in the grounds of the Odessa State Medical University, this unusual wooden church was constructed without a single nail. The modern church complex contains a gym, library, meeting space, and a Sunday school. 

Ionnes Suchavsky Underground Church (Vulytsya Shabsʹka, 13, Bilhorod-Dnistrovs’kyi). This small underground church was built to commemorate a Genoese merchant, Ioannes who was killed by Tartars when he refused to give up his faith. In the nineteenth century, an Armenian Orthodox church was built above the underground church, so you now enter the underground church through the Armenian chapel dedicated to St George.

St Paul’s Cathedral, German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (Novosel’s’koho St, 68). In a city filled with Orthodox churches, the typically German style of St Paul’s Cathedral stands out. It was built in the nineteenth century for Odessa’s sizeable German population. Vandalised then destroyed during Stalin’s time, the church was rebuilt after the fall of the Soviet Union by contributions by Odessa citizens, and donations from Germany. Leon Trotsky had attended school at St Paul’s.

Saint of the week: Saint Othilia

Medieval painting of Saint Othilia

Saint Othilia was born blind and for this reason rejected by her family, but she regained her sight when she was baptised at an abbey in Burgundy. After more family heartache and tragedy, she was finally reconciled with her father who built an abbey in Hohenburg for her. She went on to found another abbey and hospital at Niedermünster, where a local well is still believed to cure eye diseases. She died in 720 but came back to life briefly to tell the nuns of the abbey about heaven, then she took Communion and died again. The Hortus Deliciarum manuscript was produced in Hohenburg Abbey in the twelfth century. This is the first recorded encyclopedia produced by a woman, and the lavishly illustrated compendium comprises theological and philosophical writing, poems, and songs.

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Picture credits. Saint Odilia – Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom – CC BY | Photo of the Sagrada Familia by Toa Heftiba | Photo of Odessa by Ddddddarya (Unsplash) | graphic design by European Churches Chronicle.

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