Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Antioch

A Catholic Church in one of the oldest centres of Christianity gets its own website. Via Fides. (Site is available in English, Italian and Turkish.)
Antioch (Agenzia Fides) - The Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Antioch has opened its own web site with information on the history, activities and spirit of the small Catholic community present in that city.
The site illustrates the architecture of the church but, more important, welcomes the visitor into the community of Franciscan Capuchins ith a chronicle step by step, month by month of the life of the local community.
A part of the web site is dedicated to martyr Fr. Basilio da Novara Ofm Cap (+1851), remembered as the “ modern founder of the Catholic Church in Antioch”. Fr. Basilio was assassinated by Islamic extremists for his faith.
Antioch on the Oronte was the cradle of the first Christian community mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. It was here that the followers of Jesus were called Christians for the first time. Today the small Christian community is composed of ten families, and a good number of Arab speaking Greek Orthodox Christians. The Catholics come together to share the faith and grow spiritually, nourishing themselves with the Word and the Bread of Life. In the early Christian times Antioch, capital of the Roman province of Syria, was the third largest city after Rome and Alexandria, with a population of almost half a million. Today 200,000 people live in Antioch. With support from Italian Capuchin communities this Christian community has social and pastoral initiatives to help Christians to remain rather than emigrate for economic reasons.
The feast of Saints Peter and Paul is an important celebration in Antioch of the Oronte, an opportunity for ecumenical prayer and dialogue and to intensify relations with all Christian confessions in Turkey. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/5/2007 righe 27 parole 273)
The Catholic Church was started in the mid 19th century by the Capuchins. A page on the site (Italian only) acknowledges the continuous presence of the Orthodox in the area -- apparently, they use an Arabic liturgy [the area was part of Syria until 1939] -- and the Orthodox community is the most numerous in town, numbering about 1000-1200. That's should give one pause. The most numerous Christian community in one of the oldest centres of Christianity is barely a thousand souls.

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