Current Issue
June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
5 January 2016
Greg Kandra

The video above, from late December, describes the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping of the Rev. Dhiya Aziz, who was finally freed in Syria several days after his disappearance.
(video: Rome Reports)

Kidnapped Franciscan priest reportedly freed in Syria (Vatican Radio) The Custody of the Holy Land announced late Monday that the Rev. Dhiya Aziz, OFM has been liberated, and the Custos, Franciscan Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa confirmed the announcement in brief remarks to Vatican Radio. “The situation remains very grave and dramatic in Syria, though we are doubtless happy and relieved that Father Dhiya [Aziz] has been released,” he said...

Syriac church leaders angered by ISIS attack in Qamishli (Catholic Register) Syriac church leaders denounced the year-end terrorist attack that targeted Christian-owned restaurants in Qamishli, Syria. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the 30 December attack, which killed 20 people, 13 of them Christian, and injured more than 40. “Most victims were young people willing to welcome the New Year with hope and joy,” Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service from the patriarchate in Beirut. Instead, he said, “In tears and gloomy hope, Christians of Qamishli welcomed 2016...”

Ukraine debates whether to celebrate Christmas twice (Reuters) Ukraine, which marks Christmas on 7 January, according to Orthodox Christian tradition, has embarked upon a national debate about whether it should also celebrate on 25 December a step that would bring it in line with Western Europe. The debate — which reflects a re-examination of national identity under the impact of the falling-out with Russia — could sharply divide opinion and comes amid a heightened battle for influence between the Russian and Ukrainian branches of the Orthodox Church...

Russian Orthodox Church becoming more visible in Putin’s Russia (Christian Science Monitor) The 1993 Constitution strictly defines Russia as a secular state, in which no religion is the official or obligatory one. But many people in post-Soviet Russia yearn for ideological certainties to fill the void left by communism. And with the ascent of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s new order, the Russian Orthodox Church, an ancient institution that was nearly annihilated during seven decades of Soviet rule, is returning to a highly visible and central role in the life of the country...

Cleemis praises multiplicity of voices in India (The Hindu) Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, has stressed the rich heritage of Hindu society in keeping tolerance and protection of smaller communities which is a way of life for society...

Pope’s monthly prayer intentions to be released on video (CNS) Pope Francis will deliver his monthly prayer intentions on video over social media as part of a Jesuit-run global prayer network. The new video messages, featuring the pope asking for prayers and action on various challenges facing the world today, will begin on 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord...

4 January 2016
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus as he arrives to celebrate Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican 1 January 2016.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

4 January 2016
Greg Kandra

Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius Naickamparambil was nominated to be the first bishop of the newly-erected Syro-Malankara Eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of the United States and Canada.
(photo: Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis erects new Syro-Malankara eparchy in the United States (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday erected the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of the United States and Canada, nominating Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius Naickamparambil as its first Bishop. The Eparchy consists of 11,500 faithful, especially in the US states of Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C., served by 19 priests in 19 parishes or missions. Three women religious Institutes also operate within the Eparchy’s territory. The Eparchy’s seat will be at St. Vincent de Paul Malankara Catholic Cathedral in Elmont, New York...

Saudi execution has “catastrophic effects” throughout Middle East (Fides) The sentencing to death of Shiite Imam Nimr Bakr al-Nimr, commissioned by the Saudi government on 2 January “has as immediate effect the worsening of the Lebanese institutional crisis, but its catastrophic effects are already being registered on all the scenarios of conflict that plague the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq and Yemen.” This is how Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, describes the consequences triggered following the execution of the Shiite religious leader...

Holy See, State of Palestine Comprehensive Agreement goes into force (Vatican Radio) The Holy See announced on Saturday (2 Jan 2016) that the Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine has come into full force. The Comprehensive Agreement was signed by the Holy See and the State of Palestine on 26 June 2015. It “regards essential aspects of the life and activity of the Church in Palestine, while at the same time reaffirming the support for a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict in the region...”

Ukraine bans Russian food products Ukraine says it will ban food products from Russia starting on January 10 in response to a similar measure taken by Moscow. The announcement comes amid East-West tensions over clashes in Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists...

Starvation as a tool in the war in Syria (Al Jazeera) Fighting from within, bombed from above, and now starvation. Syria's struggling population continues to dwindle as lives are lost to war and hunger. More than half of all Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN says it is unable to help around two million children because they're blocked by fighting or siege. In some areas, the price of food has skyrocketed so that a kilogramme of rice now costs $100. While civilians are starving in Syrian towns, the international community is stalled on a political solution...

Earthquake rocks northeast India (Reuters) A powerful earthquake struck northeast India and Bangladesh on Monday, killing at least 11 people and injuring nearly 200, with efforts to reach remote areas where people may be trapped hampered by severed power lines and telecommunication links. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.8 magnitude quake was 57 km (35 miles) deep and struck 29 km (18 miles) west of Imphal, capital of India’s Manipur state, which borders Myanmar...

22 December 2015
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2004, four young carolers pose in their home-made costumes in front of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kosmach, Ukraine. To learn more about the seasonal traditions and history of Christians nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, read “Faith and Tradition” from the November 2004 edition of ONE. (photo: Petro Didula)

22 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Young displaced Iraqis try to dig a drainage trench after heavy rains in November at a camp
in Baghdad. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jalil, EPA)

Patriarchs encourage hope amid suffering in Middle East (CNS) Catholic patriarchs from the Middle East encouraged their trouble people to find inner peace at Christmas and urged the world to remember them. “In Iraq, we will celebrate the birth of Christ who comes into our hearts in silence and tears,” said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. However, he said, “We remain sustained by (an) inner peace that perpetuates the joy of faith and hope that we will, despite the trials, work toward a fairer country and a better future...”

Two Christian villages bombarded by jihadists (Fides) At least two civilians were killed and another twenty injured by grenades on Monday 21 December by anti-regime jihadist fighters against the villages of Maharda and Sqelbyia, in the province of Hama. The two towns, currently controlled by the government army, are inhabited by Orthodox Christians...

Canada to double number of Syrian refugees in 2016 (Time) Canada announced it will double the amount of Syrian refugees it admits in 2016. The country had initially pledged to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of February, but John McCallum, the minister of immigration and citizenship, said that number would be upped to 50,000 by the end of 2016, the BBC reports...

Syriac Christians in Palestine keep hope alive (Middle East Eye) In an unassuming room off a quiet alleyway connecting the Armenian and Jewish quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City, the self-described mayor of this city’s tiny Syriac community holds court. A prominent local tailor, Sammy Barsoum has for decades campaigned for the recognition of the approximately 5,000 Syriac Christians that call Palestine home...

Report: Newly crowned “Miss Iraq” receives kidnapping threat from ISIS (Jerusalem Post) Iraq’s new beauty queen received a threatening phone call on Tuesday telling her to join the ranks of ISIS or she will be kidnapped, according to a report by the Kuwaiti daily al-Watan. Shayma Qassim, 20, won the first beauty pageant to be held in Iraq in 40 years on Saturday. According to the report, following her win, Qassim received a threatening phone call in which she was warned that if she refused to join the ranks of the Islamic State movement she would be kidnapped...

21 December 2015
Greg Kandra

As part of a pre-Christmas tradition, children bring figurines of the baby Jesus to be blessed in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Francis leads the Angelus on 20 December. (photo: Vatican Radio)

21 December 2015
Greg Kandra

A displaced Syrian woman holds her ten-day-old twin grandchildren in a town on the outskirts of Damascus where they have taken shelter on 20 December 2015.
(photo: AFP/Amer Almohibany/Getty Images)

Pope appeals for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for peace in Syria on Sunday, calling on the international community to realize in concrete action and genuine fact the endorsement of a UN-sponsored roadmap toward peace in the war-torn nation...

Christians disappearing from Gaza (USA Today) Dim lighting and candles softly illuminate decorative tapestries as the smell of incense fills the air and the harmonic sound of hundreds singing in unison drifts onto a busy street next to an overflowing church on a wet and windy Sunday morning. Despite the packed pews at Gaza’s Church of St. Porphyrius just weeks before Christmas, Christianity is not booming here. Rather, the worshipers at the 1,600-year-old shrine believe they may be the last group of Christians in Gaza, where they have lived and prayed since the birth of Jesus. The ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the highest unemployment rate in the world are prompting Christians to leave the besieged area in droves, some using the holiday season to their advantage...

Pope prays for flood victims in India (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed for the victims of massive flooding in India on Sunday. Speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square after the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said. “My thoughts turn in this moment to the dear populations of India, recently stricken by a great flood.” The city of Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state in southeastern India, was overwhelmed earlier this month after a series of record-breaking rainfalls triggered the flooding, in which some three hundred people perished. Much of the city’s 4.8 million population remains exposed to the threat of disease outbreak as a result of the flooding. Meteorologists fear unusually intense weather patterns could bring more rain...

President Assad visits a Catholic church (Fides) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the Melkite Catholic parish of Our Lady of Damascus, in the Damascene district of al Qussur, with his wife Asma. Of the presidential visit, which took place on Friday evening, 18 December, the official Syrian media released photos and video the next day...

Russia confirms food embargo against Ukraine (AFP) Russia will introduce a food embargo against Ukraine next month over Kiev’s trade deal with the EU, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Monday, extending punitive measures already in place against Western countries. “These measures will be extended to Ukraine too,” Medvedev said at a government meeting. “I have just signed the relevant decree...”

Visiting a monastery in Ethiopia (Daily Mail) The rope being tied around my waist by a monk comprised lengths of scraggly old leather attached to each other by granny knots. I have a fear of heights, and as I looked up, the cliff seemed to topple towards me by degrees. But this was the only way to visit the 6th century monastery of Debre Damo, which perches on a plateau in northern Ethiopia, a true wilderness...

Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

18 December 2015
Greg Kandra

The Rev. Francis Eluvathingal performs a wedding ceremony at the Jyotis Care Center in Navi Mumbai. To learn more about the growing church in Mumbai, read A Church of Their Own from the January 2012 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)

Tags: India Indian Christians Mumbai

18 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Jasan Zided of Hebron, West Bank, waits to sell Santa hats to tourists in an empty Manger Square on 15 December in Bethlehem, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Middle East situation dampens Christmas in Bethlehem (Catholic Register) Though the Christmas tree was lit in Nativity Square in the traditional ceremony, and some traditional pre-Christmas parades have taken place, the Christmas spirit this year in Bethlehem has been dampened by the political situation, which, since October, has taken the lives of almost 100 Palestinians and 22 Israelis. Few pilgrims are visiting the holy sites — or the souvenir shops that line Manger Square — and there is none of the customary festive caroling at the square in the evenings leading up to Christmas Eve…

Israel and Turkey agree to restore diplomatic ties (The New York Times) Israel and Turkey have reached a preliminary agreement to begin restoring full diplomatic relations after years of deep freeze, Israeli officials said on Thursday. The two countries, once close regional allies, fell out after a deadly confrontation in 2010 between Israeli commandos and Turkish activists on a passenger vessel seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip…

Syrian refugees snared in poverty (UNHCR) Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are facing dire levels of poverty, with the situation expected to worsen in the near future, a study published today by the World Bank Group and the UN Refugee Agency revealed. Nearly 1.7 million Syrian refugees registered in Jordan and Lebanon live in miserable conditions, often unable to afford the very basics including sufficient food, clothes and medicine. The majority are women and children who live on the margins in urban and rural areas, often in substandard accommodation, rather than in refugee camps…

Mother Teresa to be declared a saint (Vatican Radio) Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is to be made a Saint. Pope Francis on Thursday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree regarding a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa (née Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu)…

Coptic monasteries will not close over jihadist threats (Fides) Historical Coptic monasteries in the Wadi Natrun region will not suffer any closure for security reasons, after the jihadist threats aimed in particular against the monastery in Baramos, dedicated to the Virgin Mary…

Indian government assures justice for country’s Christians ( India’s government has assured the country’s Christian community of justice and protection against persecution. “We have always been with the Christian community and will always remain with them. There should be no confusion regarding this,” said Rajnath Singh, federal home minister, and second-in-command to India’s prime minister. Singh was speaking at a Christmas dinner organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in New Delhi on 17 December...

Tags: Refugees Israel Turkey Indian Christians Bethlehem

17 December 2015
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis blows out the candle on a birthday cake presented by a young member of the Italian branch of Catholic Action during an audience with the group at the Vatican on 17 December. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

Today marks the pope’s 79th birthday — and celebrating with him are young members of Catholic Action, a lay organization:

To follow a path toward Christ, one must follow the good path of forgiveness, peace and solidarity, and avoid following the evil path of vengeance, war and selfishness, Pope Francis told hundreds of Italian children.

The members of Catholic Action’s children’s section, parish-based groups of young people from 4 to 14 years of age, spent the year on various projects that aided migrants in the Italian diocese of Agrigento.

Upon the pope’s arrival, the youth sang “Happy Birthday” and presented him with a cake for his 79th birthday Dec. 17 during his traditional pre-Christmas audience with them.

The pope blessed and thanked the youth for their work with migrants, saying that they welcome in an exemplary way “so many brothers and sisters who arrive full of hope, but are also wounded and in desperate need of so much, including peace and bread.”

“You can offer a special contribution to this initiative with your enthusiasm and prayer, which I advise you to accompany with a small sacrifice, to share their essentials with others who do not have them,” he said.

Departing from his prepared speech, the pope asked the youth what would they do if they had two candies and their friend had none. “I’ll give him one,” a child responded.

“And if you have one candy and your friend has none, what do you do?” he asked. “Half!” another child exclaimed.

“Yes, half. Very good! Go forward this way,” the pope said.

After thanking the leaders of Catholic Action’s Italian branch, Pope Francis led the group in praying the “Hail Mary” and thanked them for their “commitment and dedication to Christian education.”

Happy birthday!

Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Migrants Youth

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