September 15th, 2013
07:54 AM ET

Jerusalem's 5 most contested holy sites

By Daniel BurkeCNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

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(CNN) -  Heaven and Earth are said to meet atop Jerusalem’s sacred mounts, but the city’s stony streets have seen more than their share of violence.

King David subdued the Jebusites, the city's Canaanite founders. The Babylonians and Romans routed the Jews. Muslims booted the Byzantines. Christian Crusaders mauled Muslims and were, in turn, tossed out by the Tartars.

The Ottomans followed, then Britain, then Jordan, before finally, in 1967, the city came nearly full circle when Israel annexed East Jerusalem. That sparked another cycle of violence, this time between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It’s easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world,” says Anthony Bourdain, who visits Jerusalem in the season premiere of “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” which debuts Sunday night on CNN.

“And there’s no hope - none - of ever talking about it without pissing someone off.”


- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown • Belief • Christianity • Greek Orthodox Church • History • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Israel • Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism • Middle East • Muslim • Religious violence • Sacred Spaces

July 13th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

In Queens, carver tells religious stories through wood

By Effie Nidam, CNN

New York (CNN) - The sounds of hammers and saws fill the air in the small workshop of the Byzantion Woodworking Company in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria. The smell of sawdust and wood polish is thick.

At the center of it all, woodworker Konstantinos Pilarinos lovingly chisels elaborate carvings destined for Greek Orthodox churches across the country.

“The pieces I make by hand, that people pray upon in church, are like my children,” he says.

A series of tragedies brought Pilarinos to this city and this profession.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Greek Orthodox Church

Inside an ancient monastery
CBS correspondent Bob Simon interviews Father Matthew, one of the monks on Mount Athos.
April 22nd, 2011
04:42 PM ET

Inside an ancient monastery

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - It was two years in the making for a television crew to get access inside one of the holiest sites of the Greek Orthodox world, the monasteries on Mount Athos in Greece. The cluster of 20 monasteries has remained perched on the cliffs high above the Aegean Sea for centuries.

In the monasteries, also known collectively as the Holy Mountain or The Garden of the Mother of God, the monks spend most of their time in prayer and are purposefully isolated from the outside world.

"A woman hasn't been allowed on the mountain for over a thousand years," said Bob Simon, correspondent for CBS News' "60 Minutes."


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Europe • Greek Orthodox Church • TV

Port Authority sued over still-unbuilt church near ground zero
February 15th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Port Authority sued over still-unbuilt church near ground zero

By Chris Kokenes, CNN

A lawsuit claims that the owners of the World Trade Center reneged on an agreement for rebuilding a Greek Orthodox church destroyed in the collapse of the twin towers after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Manhattan, cites "...arrogance, bad faith, and fraudulent conduct" on the part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in an agreement that would have allowed St. Nicholas Church to rebuild at 130 Liberty St., adjacent to the church's original location.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Belief • Christianity • Church • Courts • Greek Orthodox Church • New York • United States

The last patriarch?
December 10th, 2010
12:45 PM ET

Turkey reaches out to Greek Christian minority

By, Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN

Within the last 15 days, several Greek Orthodox bishops have crossed oceans and continents to travel to a police station in Istanbul where they picked up an unexpected gift: Turkish passports.

Since September, the Turkish government has granted passports and Turkish citizenship to at least 17 senior foreign clerics from the Greek Orthodox Church.

"This is a real surprise," said Father Dositheos Anagnostopulos, a spokesman for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in an interview with CNN on Friday.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Church and state • Greek Orthodox Church

October 19th, 2010
10:16 AM ET

Opinion: Saving souls and the planet go together

Editor's note: His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, is 270th successor of St. Andrew the apostle who founded the 2,000-year-old church of Constantinople. His work for environmental protection has earned him the title "Green Patriarch." He was named by Time magazine as one of the world's most influential people and has been honored with the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal. The author of "Encountering the Mystery" and "In the World, Yet Not of the World," he is being honored October 19 by the interfaith organization The Temple of Understanding.

By Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Special to CNN

Last October, the Ecumenical Patriarchate convened an international, interdisciplinary and interfaith symposium in New Orleans on the Mississippi River, the eighth in a series of high-level conferences exploring the impact of our lifestyle and consumption on our planet's major bodies of water.

Similar symposia have met in the Aegean and Black Seas, in the Adriatic and Baltic Seas, along the Danube and Amazon Rivers, and on the Arctic.

At first glance, it may appear strange for a religious institution concerned with "sacred" values to be so profoundly involved in "worldly" issues. After all, what does preserving the planet have to do with saving the soul?

Read the full story here.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Coptic • Environment • Greek Orthodox Church • Opinion

September 10th, 2010
05:58 PM ET

That other worship space at ground zero

Editor's Note: CNN's Mary Snow and Alexia Mena bring us this report on the only place of worship destroyed on 9/11 and their hopes to rise at ground zero.

(CNN) -  The unassuming three-story St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
stood dwarfed in the shadow of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Built
in 1916 in the style of the old village parishes in Greece, its location in
what became the glass and steel jungle of New York's financial district was
curious, to say the least.

The church had a congregation of about 70 families. They vowed to rebuild
it after the South Tower, engulfed in smoke, collapsed and crushed it on
September 11, 2001. But no real progress has been made.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • 9/11 • Christianity • Church and state • Greek Orthodox Church • Houses of worship • New York • United States

September 9th, 2010
04:33 PM ET

That other worship space at ground zero

Editor’s Note: CNN’s Mary Snow is filing a story tonight on the Situation Room about St. Nicholas Church, the only church destroyed at ground zero on 9/11. She filed this report from New York. You can watch Mary’s piece on the Situation Room today on CNN between 5pm-7pm EST and tell us what you think.

Here in New York City, there’s been much focus on the Cordoba House that’s near ground zero, but did you know there was a church destroyed on 9/11 that has yet to be rebuilt?

St Nicholas is a Greek Orthodox Church. It was a tiny three-story church that sat on a lot 22 feet by 50 feet in the shadow of the south tower at the World Trade Center site. When the tower fell it crushed the church building. Rebuilding efforts have gone nowhere.  The church has been negotiating with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for years, but both sides accuse the other of walking away from negotiations.

The Port Authority says, in essence, that a window has passed for the church to rebuild at a nearby location with tens of millions of dollars of public money because construction at a security center at ground zero couldn’t wait. Now, if the church wants to rebuild at its original location, it’ll have to wait until 2013, when construction is complete.

What do you think? Should a third party get involved to find a solution?

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Christianity • Church and state • Greek Orthodox Church • New York • TV • United States

The last patriarch?
August 27th, 2010
12:28 PM ET

The last Orthodox patriarch in Turkey?

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the living embodiment of an ancient tradition. From his historic base in Istanbul, Turkey, the 270th Patriarch of Constantinople claims to be the direct successor of the Apostle Andrew.

Today he's considered "first among equals" in the leadership of the Greek Orthodox church, and is the spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians around the world. But few of them are in his own home country.

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Greek Orthodox Church

About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.