Kaliningrad Wants Its Castle Back

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For years Kaliningrad has been allowed to decay as a forgotten Russian enclave surrounded by Europe. But now a movement is afoot to rebuild the city center. The castle too may soon dominate the skyline once again.

When 39-year-old architect Alexander Bazhin looks out the window of his fourth-floor office, it’s a bleak sight he sees: Shoddy concrete housing blocks constructed by the late communist regime stand next to rusted water fountains and apartment blocks from the Third Reich. A 20-story Communist Party fortress — the “House of the Soviets” — rises up in the center. The building is a ruin.

The city center of Kaliningrad is not a pretty site.

It’s not uncommon for elderly East Prussians — having arrived in a tour boat in the nearby port of Pillau — to break into tears when they see to what architectural depths their city of birth has sunk to. The destruction visited on the former pearl on the Pregel River by the bombs of World War II was immense — matched by hardly any other European city. Indeed, Kaliningrad, once known by its German name Königsberg, became a symbol not just of loss, but also of the destruction, of homeland.

Some 30 divisions and two air fleets of the Red Army attacked the surrounded city during the final battle in April 1945, remembers Otto Lasch, the German Wehrmacht’s commander in Königsberg at the time. They fired at the city “from thousands of barrels including Stalin organs for days, without interruption,” he says.

What remained was Immanuel Kant’s transcendental philosophy — and meatballs.

Bazhin, who wears a pinstripe suit and light blue tie, thinks it’s time to turn the tide. For one year now, he’s been the chief city planner in Kaliningrad, now an oblast, or region, of Russia separated from the motherland by Lithuania and surrounded by European Union countries. A friendly man, he receives visitors in his granite-decorated studio in the heart of the old city. Thirty employees also grace the office, all of them young.

No one here wants to run from the city’s Prussian German legacy. On the contrary. To restore a sense of urbanity to the ravaged city center — further wrecked by the Soviets — Bazhin is going retro.


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Israel allows minaret over Temple Mount

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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has given permission for Jordan to build a large minaret adjacent to a mosque on the Temple Mount to call Muslims to prayer at the holy site.

The minaret will stand at a site on the Mount where Jewish groups here had petitioned to build a synagogue.

A minaret is a tower usually attached to a mosque from which Muslims are called to the five Islamic daily prayers.

There are four minarets on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The new minaret will be the largest one yet. It will be the first built on the Temple Mount in over 600 years and is slated to tower over the walls of Jerusalem’s old city. It will reside next to the Al-Marwani Mosque, located at the site of Solomon’s Stables.

Aryeh Eldad, a Knesset member from Israel’s National Union party, last year drew up plans with Jewish groups to build a synagogue near the Marwani Mosque. The synagogue was to be built in accordance with rulings from several prominent rabbis, who said Jews can ascend the Mount at certain areas.

A top leader of the Waqf – the Islamic custodians of the Mount – told reporters Olmert’s granting of permission to build the minaret in the synagogue’s place “confirms 100-percent the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) belongs to Muslims.”

“This proves Jewish conspiracies for a synagogue will never succeed and solidifies our presence here. It will make Muslims worldwide more secure that the Jews will never take over the Haram al-Sharif,” the Waqf official said.

Sources in the Jordanian monarchy and the Waqf told the press Olmert earlier this month gave Jordan’s King Abdullah official permission to build the minaret. The sources said the minaret will rise 130 feet above the ancient walls of Jerusalem.

A senior Olmert adviser today confirmed that the Israeli prime minister told Abdullah he will allow the minaret’s construction.

The adviser said he could not speak on the record because Israel has been waiting for an “opportune time” to officially announce permission for the new minaret.

In October, King Abdullah announced plans to build the fifth minaret, although at the time the Jordanians reportedly did not have Israel’s permission to commence construction. Abdullah said the minaret would bear the symbol of the Jordanian monarchy.

The Temple Mount’s first minaret was constructed on the southwest corner in 1278; the second was built in 1297 by order of a Mameluke king; the third by a governor of Jerusalem in 1329; and the last in 1367.

Prominent Israeli archeologist Gabi Barkai of Tel Aviv University blasted the new minaret plans.

“I am against any change in the status quo on the Temple Mount. If the status quo is being changed, then it should not just be the addition of Muslim structures at the site,” Barkai said.

Rabbi Chaim Rechman, director of the international department at Israel’s Temple Institute , said Olmert’s decision to allow the minaret “is repugnant to anyone who knows what it is to be a Jew.”

“The decision and Israel’s general attitude toward the Temple Mount is the manifestation of spiritual bankruptcy in the country’s leadership. Olmert is turning his back on our Jewish heritage while the rest of the world looks at us with amazement at how we can be so insensitive to our own spiritual legacy.

Al Aqsa Mosque built by angels?

 The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. For Muslims, it is Islam’s third holiest site.

The First Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.

The Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s “presence” dwelt. The Al Aqsa Mosque now sits on the site.

The temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.

The Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed around A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark the place where Muslims came to believe Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven.

Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque,” and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque later became associated with Jerusalem.

Most Waqf officials deny the Jewish temples ever existed in spite of what many call overwhelming archaeological evidence, including the discovery of Temple-era artifacts linked to worship, tunnels that snake under the Temple Mount and over 100 ritual immersion pools believed to have been used by Jewish priests to cleanse themselves before services. The cleansing process is detailed in the Torah.

According to the website of the Palestinian Authority’s Office for Religious Affairs, the Temple Mount is Muslim property. The site claims the Western Wall, which it refers to as the Al-Boraq Wall, previously was a docking station for horses. It states Muhammed tied his horse, named Boraq, to the wall before ascending to heaven.

In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, which will take part in the podium installation ceremonies, claimed the Al-Aqsa Mosque was built by angels and that a Jewish Temple may have existed, but not in Jerusalem. The Movement, which works closely with the Waqf, is the Muslim group in Israel most identified with the Temple Mount.

“When the First Temple was built by Solomon – God bless him – Al Aqsa was already built. We don’t believe that a prophet like Solomon would have built the Temple at a place where a mosque existed,” said Hatib.

“And all the historical and archaeological facts deny any relation between the temples and the location of Al Aqsa,” he continued. “We must know that Jerusalem was occupied and that people left many things, coins and other things everywhere. This does not mean in any way that there is a link between the people who left these things and the place where these things were left.”

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Charola de Tomar vai ser recuperada

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É um apoio único para uma obra única. A Cimpor investe 750 mil euros na recuperação da charola do convento de Cristo, em Tomar, o maior montante até hoje disponibilizado por uma empresa ao abrigo da lei do mecenato. O Ministério da Cultura agradece e lança o recado a outras empresas para que façam o mesmo.
O acordo foi firmado, no dia 19, junto ao espaço a ser intervencionado pelo IPPAR. O trabalho de conservação e restauro da charola, a “jóia da coroa do Convento”, deverá estar concluído em 2011 e está orçado em 1,5 milhão de euros, cabendo à cimenteira Cimpor 50%, sendo a restante parte proveniente de verbas do PIDDAC e do Feder.

A ministra da cultura classificou o protocolo entre o Estado e a Cimpor “um compromisso histó-rico” devido ao montante do “apoio mecenático inédito”. “É 1 gesto de grande generosidade, que reflecte o posicionamento cívico e social exemplar das empresas portuguesas. A defesa e conservação de um imóvel é uma tarefa morosa e muito exigente do ponto vista dos recursos e por isso o Estado não deve assumir a exclusividade. O património é de todos nós, uma das nossas maiores riquezas e cabenos zelar pela sua dinamização numa saudável conjugação de esforços. É o caminho que temos que percorrer no futuro”, referiu Isabel Pires de Lima, na ocasião.

Isabel Pires de Lima afirmou que o convento é um dos nossos projectos com “prioridade no âmbito do próximo Quadro Comunitário”, que disponibiliza, segundo a governante, verbas para animação de espaços culturais.

Ainda sobre o Convento, a ministra sublinhou ainda a negociação “exemplar” entre o IPPAR e a Cimpor que decidiu investir a maior verba de sempre na conservação e restauro do património português. Recorde-se que a multinacional cimenteira, que emprega seis mil pessoas em todo o mundo, já se tinha lançado no apoio mecenático há algum tempo. Deve-se à Cimpor o financiamento privado das obras de conservação do Mosteiro de Mafra, da Torre de Belém, do claustro do Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, das Igrejas de Madredeus e da Encarnação, do jardim do Palácio de Queluz, este último conta com uma comparticipação de 250 mil euros em 5 anos. A Cimpor conta já 2, 3 milhões de euros investidos na cultura portuguesa. Incluindo os 750 mil euros para o Convento de Cristo, que serão pagos em cinco tranches, e foram conside-rados “um apoio único para um projecto único”.

“O valor deste património justi-fica o nosso envolvimento. Contamos com a dedicação e rigor dos que venham a participar, para potenciar este monumento como uma referência perante portugueses e estrangeiros”, disse Ricardo Bayão Horta.

A jóia da coroa do convento

O Convento de Cristo é um conjunto monástico e monumental de referência obrigatória no panorama do património arquitectónico português, desde a fundação de Portugal (1160), recebendo o patrocínio do rei D. Afonso Henriques. Assumiu desde sempre um papel de relevo na história do país, nas descobertas marítimas, na arte, na arquitectura e na cultura portuguesa, tendo sido classificado como Monumento Nacional, em 1907, e como Património Mundial, pela UNESCO, em 1983;

A charola, primitiva igreja templária do castelo, data da fundação do Convento, construída no século XII, por iniciativa de D. Gualdim Pais, e teve como modelo a mesquita de Omar em Jerusalém, constituindo um exemplo da atitude dos templários, perante outras culturas e crenças, caracterizada pela busca do saber e assimilação dos conhecimentos de outras religiões, culturas e civilizações.

Considerado um “monumento ímpar na nossa herança patrimonial”, não apenas pela sua planta octogonal, mas também pelas campanhas artísticas que enriqueceram, ao longo dos séculos, o seu interior. Recorde-se que no século XVI, a charola transformou-se em capela-mor da igreja manuelina, simbolicamente limitada a poente pela janela do coro, invocada como símbolo dos Descobrimentos.


Para Jorge Custódio, director do Convento de Cristo, a assinatura do protocolo com a Cimpor “protagonizou o encerramento de uma fase imprescindível de conservação e restauro, sem a qual o património reintegrado não receberia a valorização e o significado que lhe fora transmitido na Idade de Ouro quinhentista. Ao encerrar, em 2011, o ciclo, iniciado em 1985, de descoberta e tratamento das superfícies murais desta Nova Jerusalém e, cumulativamente, com o restauro dos bens em contexto, que compõem o programa manuelino, o ministério da cultura, a Cimpor, o Ippar e o Convento de Cristo devolverão à herança cultural do país um tesouro artístico de transcendência universal”.
O responsável do Convento agradeceu especialmente à Cimpor “pelo alcance da decisão tomada e pela consciência exemplar de investimento”.

Jorge Custódio deixou ainda um recado à ministra da cultura: “O monumento precisa de modernizar-se para responder aos desafios que se avizinham, em termos de recursos humanos, científicos e tecnológicos.”, referiu, deixando em seguida outro recado, desta vez para o director do IPPAR. “O Convento de Cristo necessita em permanência de uma equipa técnica que estude, programe e projecte as respostas quanto à sua valorização, conservação preventiva e manutenção dos espaços interiores e exteriores, tudo de acordo com os desígnios da Carta de Cracóvia e do seu estatuto de Património Mundial”, concluiu.
De acordo com o protocolo, os trabalhos irão desenrolar-se entre 2007 e 2011, passando por estudos e investigações iniciais, seguindo-se a conservação e restauro de pinturas murais e estuques do deambulatório exterior (até 1009) e a conservação e restauro das pinturas murais e estuques do tambor central (2009-2010). A partir de 2010, terão início os trabalhos de conservação e restauro no arco triunfal e intra-dorso, bem como de outras pinturas, esculturas e talhas. Serão pos-teriormente executados o projecto de iluminação do interior da charola e os planos de protecção e manutenção da charola.

Paiva quer Mata dos Sete Montes

A Mata dos Sete Montes apresenta sinais acentuados de degradação. De acordo com o presente da Câmara de Tomar o Instituto de Conservação da Natureza (ICN) não possui dinheiro para cuidar do espaço, permitindo o crescimento de vegetação rasteira e a morte de algumas espécies seculares. António Paiva mostrou-se preocupado, alertou a ministra para a situação e reafirmou a abertura da autarquia em assumir a gestão da mata, que fazia parte do conjunto monumental do convento.

“Trata-se da mata do Convento e sentimos que deve constituir a principal ligação do Convento à cidade de Tomar”, disse Paiva.

Em 1837, a mata foi vendida a um nobre e os seus bens foram depois adquiridos no século XX pelo Estado, através de uma venda em hasta pública. Mas em vez de a colocar à guarda da tutela da Cultura, o Estado integrou-a no Serviço Nacional de Parques, Reservas e Conservação da Natureza, constituindo-se como património natural classificado.
A ministra da cultura revelou que existem conversações “em ritmo acelerado” com o Ministério do Ambiente para ceder a tutela daquele espaço à Câmara local.

Com a entrega do espaço à autarquia, a ministra espera dar um exemplo da abertura da administração central à cooperação com os agentes locais, até porque sem eles “não é possível garantir a vida dos monumentos”.

in: Regiões

Ancient Papyrus Donated to the Vatican

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Pope Benedict XVI received as a gift to the Holy See one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospels, an artifact that demonstrates Scripture’s historical actuality.

The Pope was given the 14-15 Bodmer Papyrus (P75), dated between A.D. 175 and 225, on Monday by Frank Hanna and his family, of the United States.

“The papyrus contains about half of each of the Gospels of Luke and John. It was written in Egypt and perhaps used as a liturgical book,” explained Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, during the audience.

The manuscript previously belonged to the library of the Bodmer Foundation in Cologny, Switzerland, and is now in the Vatican Apostolic Library.

“The Pope’s library possesses the most ancient testimony of the Gospel of Luke and among the most ancient of the Gospel of John,” added the cardinal.

The Bodmer Papyrus contains 144 pages and is the oldest manuscript that contains the text of the two Gospels in one papyrus.

L’Osservatore Romano commented that “almost certainly it was destined for a small community, a Greek-speaking Egyptian ‘parish’ that, as is habitual in all Christian liturgies, read the Gospel during the Eucharistic celebration.”

The oldest transcription of the Our Father, as recounted by Luke, is found in this papyrus.

Participants in the meeting explained that experts see the joining of Luke and John in one papyrus as a demonstration that for the first Christians communities, the Gospels formed a unity.

The document agrees with the Codex Vaticanus, a fourth-century edition of the Bible. The Bodmer Papyrus demonstrates, therefore, that the oldest versions of the New Testament that are preserved in their totality correspond with the Gospels that already circulated among the Christian communities centuries earlier.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, Bishop Raffaele Farina, prefect of the Vatican Library, and Gary Krupp, founder of the Pave the Way Foundation, which worked to bring about this gift, were present when the papyrus was donated to the Vatican.

By Zenit.org

Assembly of the Priory of Brazil

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A General Assembly of the Priory of Brazil has been called for the 10th of February. The main point in the Agenda of the day is the election of the new Prior General of Brazil. The Assembly will take place in the Itaici Monastery, in Indaiatuba, São Paulo.

The only candidate is Sor. Rosali de Oliveira Gato, Dame of the Temple and currently Seneschal of the Priory of Brazil. We wish her luck in the election and hope the event to be a good occasion for fraternal friendship to be lived by our Brazilian brethren.

So, if you are a Templar and you are in São Paulo around the 10th of February, and wish to attend the meeting, do contact Sor. Roasli at rosaligato@uol.com.br.


 Uma Assembleia Geral foi convocada no Priorado do Brasil para o dia 10 de Fevereiro. O ponto principal da agenda é a eleição do novo Prior Geral do Brasil. A Assembleia terá lugar  no Mosteiro de Itaici, em Indaiatuba, São Paulo.

 A única candidadta é a Sor. Rosali de Oliveira Gato, Dama Templária e actualmente Senescal do Priorado do Brasil. Desejamos-lhe muita sorte para a sua eleição e esperamos que o evento seja uma boa ocasião para um fraternal e amistoso convívio entre os Irmãos Brasileiros.

Por isso, se é Templário, está em São Paulo por volta do dia 10 de Fevereiro, e deseja estar presente no reunião, por favor contacte Sor. Rosali em rosaligato@uol.com.br.

Spiritual Ecumenism, a Task for Everyone

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Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, held a briefing for journalists last month on the current state of ecumenism. The event was timed to coincide with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in January.

The meeting, held in the Holy See Press Office, was also attended by Bishop Brian Farrell L.C. and Msgr, Eleuterio F. Fortino, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

Cardinal Kasper affirmed that last year had been particularly fruitful in ecumenical terms, with the Pope’s trip to Turkey, during which he signed a joint declaration with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople; and the resumption of work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox.

Currently, one of the main themes is the primacy of Peter, with all the theological, canonical and even emotional problems it brings. “It is necessary to continue to pray and be patient to ensure progress in this area,” said the cardinal. “For now, replies have been received from various Churches, and these are being analyzed and discussed.”

On the subject of a possible meeting between Benedict XVI and Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, Cardinal Kasper indicated that “for the moment nothing concrete has been decided.” Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church are improving, close collaboration also exists with various dicasteries of the Roman Curia and various dioceses.

The president of the pontifical council denied that the Holy See has abandoned relations with Protestant communities, describing such rumors as “groundless insinuations.” Various ecumenical delegations have been received by the Holy Father and have participated in the Wednesday general audiences.

As for forthcoming ecumenical events, the cardinal mentioned the European ecumenical meeting, due to be held at Sibiu, Romania in September; the plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, due to be held in Ravenna, Italy in 2007, at which it is possible the Pope may be present; and the second ecumenical congress of communities and movements, “Together for Europe,” to be held in Stuttgart, Germany.

At the end of his press briefing, Cardinal Kasper presented his new book entitled “A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism, guidelines for its implementation,” which has just been published in Italian, English and French. It contains practical and pastoral suggestions to strengthen spiritual ecumenism, “which is,” the introduction reads, “the soul of the entire ecumenical movement.” The book is addressed to everyone involved in ecumenical activities in various dioceses and parishes, although each and every member of the Church is called to make their own contribution, above all through prayer.

By the Vatican Information Service (adapted)

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque gets new Saladin pulpit

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JERUSALEM – A replica of a wooden pulpit given to Al-Aqsa by Saladin after his 1187 conquest of Jerusalem has been installed in the mosque, almost four decades after the original was destroyed in a fire, a reporter said Wednesday.

The pulpit was transported overnight Tuesday from Jordan, where it was constructed over a period of four years.

It was transported under security, with several streets around the Old City of Jerusalem closed and a helicopter hovering overhead, Israeli police said.

“The burnt pulpit was destroyed into pieces,” said Adnan Husseini, a senior official in the Waqf, which oversees Muslim religious sites.

“The new one was constructed on the model of the original. Once the plans were drawn up, it took four years to construct it,” Husseini said.

The cost of the new pulpit stood at 1.5 million dollars (1.15 million euros), donated by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, said Luay Dabbur, a deputy dean at Jordan’s Balqa Applied Sciences University where the pulpit was built.

The original pulpit, brought by Saladin from Allepo in today’s northern Syria, was destroyed in a fire set by a Christian extremist from Australia, Michael Dennis Rohan, inside the mosque on August 21, 1969.

Al-Aqsa mosque compound is Islam’s third-holiest site, after Mecca and Medina. According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the site.