A Reflection: On Lent, the Pope…and Us

In the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, like other popes before him, has the title “Vicar of Christ.” He does not have this title in my own church, the Orthodox, or in the Protestant and Anglican churches. A vicar is a representative of someone, and in this case the representative of Christ in the world. While all Christians, and in some churches especially the clergy, are to be representatives of Christ, when we hear the word “vicar,” our minds turn toward the pope. In one way, however, this particular Vicar of Christ carries a unique burden, and I don’t mean the burden of his singular ministry. And for this, I actually feel sorry for him.

You see, so many impossible expectations are put upon Francis by so many people, just like so many misplaced expectations were put on Christ when he walked the earth. When Jesus began his ministry, he proclaimed that his role was “to bring good news to the poor…proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind…let the oppressed go free…[and] proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NRSV). As his ministry gained a following, other expectations were put on him: to lead armies against the Roman Empire, to liberate the Israelites, and to establish a new kingdom on earth. These were the people’s expectations of what a messiah would do. Jesus had other ideas.

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NCC Stands With Assyrian Christians, Condemns ISIS Attack

WASHINGTON: The National Council of Churches condemns the ISIS attack against Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria. This time, in addition to killing many and forcing others to flee, the terrorist group kidnapped some 150 people, women, children and the elderly. Some reports indicate as many as 400 were kidnapped. Among the captives are reported to be Christian priests. The fate of the captives is currently unknown.

Assyrian Christians trace their ethnic roots in the region back 6,000 years, and their religious roots to the early centuries of the Christian era. The language of their communal worship is Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Despite experiencing difficulties within the wider society throughout the centuries, the Assyrian community has maintained a vital presence in the region for all this time; like other Christians in the region, they have emigrated in large numbers in recent years due to the ongoing violence there. With the rise of ISIS, their very existence, as demonstrated by this latest attack, is now threatened.

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NCC Condemns ISIS executions of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya

WASHINGTON: The National Council of Churches received with great distress the news of the execution of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS in Libya. We deplore all forms of extremist violence carried out in the name of religion, and are outraged by yet another demonstration of perverse violence perpetrated by ISIS militants in this brutal act against innocent victims.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the National Council of Churches’ 37 member communions and therefore this act of evil strikes close to home. When first reports emerged on Sunday, February 15, Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary, contacted Bishop Serapion of the Diocese of Los Angeles of the Coptic Orthodox Church and a member of the NCC executive committee to express his sadness and to learn more of the unfolding situation. Based on information received from the church's headquarters in Egypt with which he remains in close contact, Bishop Serapion confirmed the tragedy had, in fact, occurred.

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Shoulder to Shoulder: Call to Multi-Faith Solidarity in the wake of Chapel Hill

(Note: the National Council of Churches is a member of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign: Standing With American Muslims, Upholding American Values.)

On Tuesday, an act of senseless violence ended the lives of three students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; her husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Regardless of the motivation of this particular tragedy, it has very clearly highlighted concern in the Muslim community about rising anti-Muslim sentiment. Now is the time for those of us in the faith community who are not Muslim to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

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Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2015

Come to Washington, DC, April 17-20, 2015, for the 13th Annual National Gathering of Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice titled, “Breaking the Chains:  Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation. Click here to learn more and register for EAD 2015.

February 19, 2015 13:55
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February 18, 2015 14:38
We wish everyone a meaningful and enriching Lenten season.

February 13, 2015 10:56
The NCC joins with our partners at the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign in releasing this statement: