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Letter #2, 2020: From Svetlana to Kanye, Our Top Ten of 2019

[2020-01-18]
[Engleză]
Attention all Readers: We are resending this letter due to a technical glitch which introduced errors into the prior letter without our knowledge. With apologies to Alexander Tschugguel, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, Jacob Baryła, and Father Csaba Böjte, an automatic spellcheck garbled their names after our final edit.

Letter #2, 2020: From Svetlana to Kanye

Our "Top Ten" People of the Year

By Robert Moynihan

We bring you in the January issue of Inside the Vatican the incredible story of a beautiful Russian opera soprano, Svetlana Kasyan. (To obtain a copy of the print edition, call our US office at 1-800-789-9494).

We have come to know Svetlana personally since she sang at a Concert for Peace in Rome our Urbi et Orbi Foundation sponsored and organized in November of 2013.

Svetlana is not only an extraordinary singer, but also an extraordinary soul.

In 2013, Svetlana met Pope Francis for the first time in his residence, the Domus Santa Marta.

Svetlana was at that time pregnant with her first daughter, who would be born in 2014. Her performance at the concert had exhausted her. Pope Francis took several minutes to greet her, blessed her, blessed her voice in a special way, and blessed the daughter in her womb, Natalia, who is now 5 years old.

As the years have gone by, Svetlana has returned often to Italy. We were privileged to attend her performance of Tosca in Rome, and deeply moved by her passionate performance of that tragic role.

Svetlana is a profoundly spiritual person. She has suffered greatly in her life. A Russian Orthodox Christian, she began life as a refugee in the Middle East, then made her way through many struggles to Moscow as a teenager.

Now a friend of Pope Francis — she has met him seven times — Svetlana this past summer invited Francis to visit her home in Russia, in Moscow... if diplomacy and historical events would permit such a sign of rapprochement between the still divided Christians of the Greek east and of the Latin west.

Francis said he would love to do so, but that he would have to see what would be possible....

Could Svetlana Kasyan be a "providential link" between the Church of Rome and the vast country of Russia?

We cannot know, but, for her love of the poor and marginalized, for her exemplary care of her daughter while carrying on a stressful international career in opera, for her simple Christian faith and piety, for her splendid voice trained over many years of difficult commitment, and for the beauty of her soul which shines in her eyes, we choose Svetlana Kasyan as our "Person of the Year."

We also share the astonishing story of a world-famous, and very wealthy, "hip hop" artist, Kanye West, who had a soul-excavating religious conversion and now sings of his love of Jesus Christ to young people everywhere. Could Kanye West be a "providential link" between young people seeking meaning in their lives and the very source of that meaning, Jesus Christ.

And we share the story of an intrepid French priest, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, who fearlessly entered into the blazing Cathedral of Not re Dame on April 16 and saved not only the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, but the cathedral's most precious treasure: the Crown of Thorns placed on the head of Jesus when he was crucified, and preserved for 2,000 years since by his followers. Could Father Jean-Marc Fournier be a "providential link" between a Christian Europe that preserved its Christian faith and heritage, and a post-Christian Europe that seems willing to allow that faith and heritage to slip away?

For our January 2020 issue, we at Inside the Vatican have chosen our "Top Ten" People of 2019.

Among the 10 are men and women who have struggled to find what is true, what is good, what is beautiful.

We do not intend these selections to indicate sanctity, but rather, to indicate people who have had an impact, been "in the news," and have been involved in questions of importance to the world and the faith.

Inside the Vatican looks back on the year 2019 as a year of some surprises: in secular Europe, a popular leader invokes Christianity; in secularizing Poland, a 15-year-old boy brandishes a crucifix at an LGBT gathering; in Hollywood, a famous US “hip-hop” star brings Jesus into his concerts; in post-Christian Paris, a priest risks his life to save the Blessed Sacrament.

Among our Top Ten are also stalwart crusaders for the Good, the True and the Beautiful in varying walks of life — and a humble priest who protects abandoned children; a young husband who felt a call to defend the faith; a Chinese bishop ready to face persecution for the faith; an African archbishop who ministers to pilgrims; and a trio of Irish ladies who battle the abortion juggernaut.

All of them testify to the grace of the Lord, alive in ordinary men and women: they all, like we, “have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Our "Top Ten"

#1. Svetlana Kasyan. The voice of this Russian opera star is a voice for faith and family around the world. Pope Francis awarded her the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Sylvester. “He told me to use my voice for God’s glory,” she said. Read more here.

#2. Father Jean-Marc Fournier. The fire that engulfed the Cath­edral of Notre Dame of Paris in April 2019 shocked the world. Fr. Jean-Marc rushed into the flames to rescue Christ’s crown of thorns. Read more here.

#3. Alexander Tschugguel. This young Austrian, in Rome for some of the Amazon Synod’s “indigenous culture” displays, went home perplexed: Were Vatican officials really allowing people to reverence pagan idols? He decided to return to Rome and, for the sake of his Faith, take matters into his own hands. Read more here.

#4. Jacob Baryła. In the midst of an LGBT gathering that was profaning Poland’s most beloved image of the Mother of God — Our Lady of Czêstochowa — was a 15-year-old boy who simply said, “Enough” by standing his ground and holding aloft a crucifix like Catholic heroes of old. Read more here.

#5. Father Csaba Böjte. Decades have passed and still the aftereffects of Communism’s iron grip on countries like Hungary remain. One humble priest has established homes to care for thousands of abandoned children. Read more here.

#6. Kanye West. An entertainment icon astonished Hollywood when he had his children baptized in a traditional Armenian Or­tho­dox rite and turned his life over to Jesus “the King,” extolling the freedom he has found in faith. Read more here.

#7. Viktor Orbán. The President of Hungary has attracted controversy because of his insistence on maintaining the identity of Hungary as a Christian nation. Read more here.

#8. Katie, Niamh, Cora of Ireland. After the defeat of pro-life forces in Ireland in 2018, three women vowed not to give up. Katie Ascough (left), Niamh Ui Bhriain (center) and Cora Sherlock (right) believe, “We may have lost a battle but our cause will never be defeated.” Read more here.

#9. Vincent Guo Xijin. After the Vatican signed an agreement with the Communist Chinese government, one of the bishops who had been loyal to the Vatican all along, Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin, faces ongoing pressure, including threats and imprisonment. Read more here.

#10. Archbishop Emery Kabongo Kanundowi. One Vatican archbishop insists on welcoming each and every pilgrim to the heart of the Church. His spiritual father? St. John Paul II. Read more here.

#1. Svetlana Kasyan

Opera star from Moscow, Russia

“Love and Art Should Reign Again”

“Yes, he gave me his blessing. He blessed my voice and told me to use it to give glory to God.”

Thirty-five year old Russian opera star Svetlana Kasyan celebrated her birthday this year at the Vatican with Pope Francis. Kasyan was born and raised in Georgia, and now resides with her husband and young daughter in Moscow. As an opera singer, Kasyan is accustomed to touring around the world. She sings often in Italy, and in Rome. Since 2013, she has met Pope Francis on seven occasions.

This year, after a performance in Venice, Italy, she was invited to a second private Papal Audience. Pope Francis greeted her with a birthday cake and candles, as it was her 35th birthday.

The pontiff also awarded the star of the Lady of the Grand Cross of the Pontifical Order of St. Sylvester to Kasyan.

At this meeting, after speaking with the Holy Father, Kasyan invited him to visit her in Moscow and to visit Russia.

Kasyan’s first meeting with the Holy Father took place in 2013, when Kasyan gave a solo concert in Rome in the Auditorium Conciliazione hall.

The morning after, after attending an early Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Domus Santa Marta, Svetlana was able to speak with the Holy Father for a few minutes.

“Yes, he gave me his blessing,” Svetlana told Inside the Vatican. “He blessed my voice and told me to use it to give glory to God.

"Our meeting deeply moved me. I am at a loss for words. I cannot easily describe how I felt. I admire and love him very much. He is so very simple and genuine and I am so grateful to have met him.”

Moments later, she was in a taxi and on her way to the airport.

Born in Georgia in the Caucasus, Kasyan lost her father as a young child, and with what remained of her family, she fled from Georgia and found refuge in Kazakhstan.

Eventually she found her way to Moscow where she began to study music and singing; she was then 18 years old. Kasyan eventually became a soloist with the Bolshoi Theater.

In 2013, after singing the lead role in Tosca at the Rome Opera House, Kasyan told the press, “I dedicated my Tosca tonight to the suffering people in Syria. I pray for peace and an end of violence around the globe. The people of the world should learn again to listen to each other. Love and art should reign again.”

Note: There are complete profiles of each of the Top Ten posted on our website. There are links above next to each brief profile. And here is a link to the main website article which also has within it links to each of the profiles.

https://insidethevatican.com/moynihanletters/

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What is the glory of God?

"The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God." —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.

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