Rector's Corner

Updates, writings and thoughts from our rector,  Fr. Russ McDougall, C.S.C.  

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Pentecost in Jerusalem: Realities and Aspirations

Published May 29th, 2015

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The season of Pentecost is upon us!  Last Sunday for Western Christians, this coming Sunday for most Christians here in the Holy  Land and for Orthodox Christians around the world, the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit received by the first disciples of Jesus, the gift that healed the confusion of languages at Babel, uniting men and women of different races and tongues in the praise of God.

Here in this holy city, our reality to all appearances is still the reality of Babel, divided and confused.  But at Pentecost we recall that the Spirit of God is at work even now, overcoming divisions and bringing men and women together in mutual understanding.  As we celebrate this great feast that brings the Church to life, let us pray for a greater openness to the Spirit’s gifts, in our own hearts, and in the hearts of all peoples.


Reflections on the Canonization of the Armenian Martyrs

Published April 27th, 2015

Rector's Corner 2015 Armenian Canonization

As the Israeli celebration of Independence Day drew to a close this past Thursday evening, April 23rd, services began here in Jerusalem to commemorate the hundredth centenary of the Armenian genocide that was carried out in what is now Turkey in the period from 1915 to 1923, and to give thanks for the canonization of those who died.

At 18:15, just after the canonization ceremony at Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia had concluded, church bells in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land tolled one hundred times in remembrance of those who were killed, and who are now honored as martyrs.  Following the tolling of the bells, Armenian seminarians sang the Sanctus and the Lord's Prayer before those gathered in St. James Cathedral here in Jerusalem. Then, holding torches, we processed together to the Church of St. Gregory in Emek Refa'im where a choir composed of Israelis and men and women of other nationalities sang psalms and other hymns in Hebrew.

On Friday afternoon, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the Church of the Resurrection), the Armenian, Greek and Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem presided at an ecumenical prayer service to honor those who had been proclaimed martyrs the previous day.  It was moving to be part of this vesper service that united all the Christians of Jerusalem in remembrance and prayer.

Though many, including Pope (now St.) John Paul II and Pope Francis, have referred to the massacre of Armenians that took place as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated as “the first genocide of the twentieth century,” many countries, including the U.S. and Israel, have been reluctant to use the “g-word” for fear of offending Turkey, an important ally.  Prominent Turks who have acknowledged the genocide have faced criminal charges for “insulting Turkishness.”

Reconciliation between Turks and Armenians—as well as between Turks and Assyrians and Greeks, who were also massacred in large numbers—will become possible only when the Turkish people and their government acknowledge this dark period in their history.  As the experience of Germans and Israelis, and of black and white South Africans, has shown, when guilt is acknowledged, a path toward reconciliation is opened. 

May the prayers of the Armenian martyrs help to bring such reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples closer.


His Good Deeds Go With Him 

Rev. Ted Hesburgh, "The Father of Tantur," May 25th, 1917 - February 26th, 2015

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On March 4th the Notre Dame community gathered in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to give thanks for the life of Fr. Ted Hesburgh, president of the university for 35 years, from 1952 to 1987.  The community here at Tantur has special reason to be thankful for his remarkable life.  Though Pope Paul, Patriarch Athenagoras, Archbishop Michael Ramsey and other church leaders offered the vision for what they hoped Tantur might become, it was Fr. Ted’s energy that helped nurture the vision to life.  Through the network of relationships he cultivated, he was able to gather the financial and human resources that enabled Tantur’s doors to open in 1972.

Fr. Ted would often say that he wanted the University of Notre Dame to be the place where the Church did its thinking.  And he hoped Tantur would be the place where the Churches came together to think through together the hard questions we face on the road toward closer communion with one another.

We still have a long way to go.  There are important ethical and theological questions, as well as questions of church discipline and order, that cause divisions both among and within the Churches.   Fr. Ted’s hope, and our continuing hope, is that the scholars and pastors and laypeople who form the Tantur community might help Christians to offer a thoughtful response to the difficult questions that have led to divisions between us, and between the Christian Churches and men and women of other faiths.

Here at Tantur we join with the Notre Dame community and with men and women around the world in giving thanks to God for Fr. Ted’s remarkable life.  His good deeds go with him, and bless us still.  May God embrace him in love that knows no end.

Fr. Russ McDougall's statement can also be viewed at Tantur's Youtube Channel