Russian Icons Discovered in Egypt

Conservators say Sinai’s climate helped preserve art and artefacts.

Fantastic! The Art Newspaper reports:

Researchers attribute the unique climate of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as a leading factor in the preservation of a treasure trove of Russian icons and liturgical objects recently found in St Catherine’s Monastery. The discovery of around 100 Russian icons and decorative objects dating from the 16th to 19th century at the Unesco World Heritage Site was reported in Russia last month. Almost all of the works were unknown to scholars, according to Natalia Komashko, a research project manager at Moscow’s Andrei Rublev Museum of Early Russian Art and Culture.

St Catherine’s Monastery is famous for its library, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of ancient manuscripts and codices, as well as for its sizable collection of sixth-century icons that survived the wave of Byzantine iconoclasm that destroyed most at that time.

Condition and climate control

Komashko said the climatic conditions at Sinai played a significant role in the preservation of the icons. “In order for an icon to [remain in good condition] for as long as possible, it must have stable temperature and humidity [levels]… There is no problem with this [at] Sinai, which has unique natural conditions for the preservation of icons.”

She said that the icons, which were on view in the Chapel of the Burning Bush before being hidden away in the sacristy several decades ago, showed signs of light restoration. “They were cleaned of their slightly darkened original coating and re-coated with a very distinctive lacquer,” said Komashko. She noted that the icons kept in the sacristy remained in almost perfect condition, compared with those housed in the monk’s cells and used daily. These suffered from wear-and-tear and paint loss and were crudely restored in the 19th century.

From Russia with love

How did this ancient monastery come to be a repository for such a large number of Russian treasures? According to scholars who have traced the links between Russia and Sinai, the first recorded Russian pilgrim to the monastery was a 15th-century monk. He was subsequently followed by a stream of Russian merchants and officials, all of whom came bearing gifts. The monks also sent emissaries to Moscow from 1519, and continued to send envoys into the 17th and 18th centuries. These envoys returned to Sinai laden with gifts, some of which came from the tsars.

The recent expedition to Sinai, headed by Komashko, included other researchers from Moscow including staff from the State Tretyakov Gallery as well as the State Research Institute for Restoration. Previous expeditions conducted by the Andrei Rublev Museum in 2004 and 2005 sought to catalogue Russian works in the monastery’s churches and sacristy. Komashko said that there may be more Russian works yet to be discovered within the monastery’s walls as researchers are not allowed to enter the sacristy and the monks might not be able to distinguish Russian items from other works of art.

The Russian Orthodox Church also participated in the most recent expedition and will be publishing a photographic book about its results.


Police Car and Officer Hit: Caught on Dashcam

Police in Surrey, England near London released dramatic dashcam video showing a BMW crashing into a police car, then hitting a barrier. The driver was later caught after a foot chase.

The Policeman is very fortunate to be alive.


Two Maltese Priests Jailed for Sex Abuse

A court in Malta on Tuesday handed down jail sentences to two Roman Catholic priests convicted of sexually abusing minors at an orphanage in the late 1980s, dpa reported.

Father Charles Pulis was jailed for six years while Father Godwin Scerri received a five-year sentence.

The two men, both in their 60s, were charged with abusing 11 boys, aged between 13 and 16, who were in their care at St Joseph’s Home in Santa Venera.

The priests stood expressionless in the dock as the judgment was read out, local media reported. Both said they would appeal the court decision.

Another priest, Father Joe Bonett, 63, who had also been charged, passed away in January.

“I’m very satisfied. Many victims were scared of speaking out and this will help the truth come out in more cases,” one of the abuse victims, Lawrence Grech, said after the sentencing.

“They did a lot of harm, some of the victims ended up taking drugs, some have died. That hurt will never go away,” he added.

In April 2010, Grech and seven other victims met privately with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Malta. The pontiff expressed “shame and sorrow” and promised effective measures to protect young people in the future.

The eight men have however, accused the church of delaying tactics with its own internal investigations, pending the outcome of the criminal court case.

The case first came to light eight years ago when Grech decided to break his silence. Since then a 11 other men who had resided in the same orphanage, also spoke out, shocking the predominantly Catholic Mediterranean island nation.

Grech said on Tuesday he hoped the church’s internal investigation would be concluded soon and that the two priests would be defrocked.

The above was here.


Iraq: Car Bomb at Church Injures 15

In via Yahoo News:

Kirkuk, Iraq – Fifteen people were wounded on Tuesday by a car bomb targeting a Syrian Catholic church in Kirkuk in northern Iraq, a police officer and a priest said.

The bomb exploded at the Holy Family church in the north of Kirkuk at about 5:30 am (0230 GMT), wounding 15 people including church staff and people in neighbouring houses, the high-ranking officer in the Kirkuk police said.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that 30 homes in the area were damaged.

Imad Hanna, a priest, said it was the first time the church had been targeted.

“Women, children and men from this neighbourhood were wounded in the explosion,” he said, added that two of the wounded were in critical condition.

The wounded were taken to Kirkuk General and Azadi hospitals, he added.

An AFP correspondent said that the doors, windows and generators at the church were destroyed, as well as pews inside.

Some cars in the area were also destroyed, he said.

Several old women gathered to pray inside the church after the blast, while other people gathered outside.

Some residents searched for belongings among the rubble of houses.

Ethnically divided Kirkuk lies at the centre of a tract of territory which Kurdish leaders want to incorporate in their autonomous region in the north over the opposition of many of the province’s Arab and Turkmen residents and of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The number of Iraqi Christians has dwindled to about 400,000 from an estimated figure of between 800,000 and 1.2 million before the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Most of them live in Baghdad, Kirkuk, the area surrounding the northern city of Mosul and parts of the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north of Iraq.

On October 31, 2010, militants stormed Our Lady of Salvation church in central Baghdad, leaving 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security force personnel dead, in an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq.

It was the worst attack against Iraq’s Christian community since 2003, and countless members of the minority have since fled the country.

Please continue to travail in prayer for our persecuted brethren in Iraq. Conditions must simply be ghastly for the beleaguered Christian population in that place.

Look at these horrific photos here, and weep!